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Troubleshooting HVAC in NYC Buildings: 9 Tips to Save You Money

Last Updated on 

Last Updated on March 12, 2019


troubleshooting hvac

This is an update to one of our most popular and helpful blog posts. Here’s the original: 5 HVAC Maintenance Troubleshooting Tips That Could Save You Money

As a manager of commercial or residential buildings in NYC, you probably are all too familiar with the stress and aggravation that follows a major HVAC system breakdown. Tenants do not usually take in stride equipment failures that result in an uncomfortable living or working environment.

By troubleshooting HVAC problems quickly, you may be able to make simple repairs and adjustments and avoid the wrath of tenants who expect you to maintain a comfortable climate in their home or commercial establishment. Let’s take a look at troubleshooting HVAC tips that can help you identify the causes of some common problems and possibly dodge expensive repair bills.

Troubleshooting HVAC problems – AC or heat won’t turn on

Tip 1: Do the easy stuff first
If your air conditioning or heat fail to turn on; the problem could be simple and not require a visit from a repair technician. If you have no air conditioning, check your circuit breaker box. The lack of power could mean a blown use or tripped circuit breaker. It might just be a matter of resetting the circuit breaker or replacing the bad fuse.

Learn more: Tips for Troubleshooting AC Electrical Problems

If your heat won’t turn on, it could also mean your gas is turned off. You should check your gas valve at the meter installed by your gas company, and check the shutoff valve at the furnace. If the gas is shut off at the meter, contact the gas company to turn it back on.

Learn more: Heat Pump Troubleshooting: 3 Common Problems & Solutions

Troubleshooting HVAC difficulties – thermostat out of control

Tip 2: Check your thermostat
If your air conditioning or heat won’t turn on or is cycling on and off too frequently, your thermostat may not be calibrated correctly. A recalibration or a replacement of the thermostat are the likely solutions.

An easy to fix and often overlooked thermostat issue involves its location relative to heat-generating appliances. Heat from electrical devices such a TV sets and lamps could affect the operation of you air conditioning system. The thermostat senses heat from these machines, which could cause your air conditioning to run longer, so make sure these domestic accouterments are not too close to your thermostat.

If your air conditioning or heat seem to be running non-stop, you may not have properly sealed windows. Windows not sealed tightly allow hot air inside in the summer or cold air inside in the winter. Resealing will solve the problem.

Troubleshooting HVAC problems – dirty or blocked registers equals poor air and heat flow

Tip 3: Clean your REGISTERS (vents)
If your home is heated and cooled by a forced air system, dirty vents can block hot and cold air flow. Make sure you vacuum the  registers regularly to remove dust and check to see if airflow is impeded by objects such as furniture located in front of the vents.

Troubleshooting HVAC glitches – clogged filters

Tip 4: Change your filters
Replacing air conditioning filters is one of the simplest things you can do to prevent several air conditioning problems. If there is no airflow or reduced airflow it could mean your filter is clogged. Clogged filters can also cause air quality issues, which is especially detrimental to allergy sufferers.

Learn more: Why and How to Change an HVAC Air Filter

Troubleshooting HVAC – frozen evaporator coils

Tip 5: Clean the evaporator coil
If the air conditioner is not providing enough cooled air and the temperatures are on the warm side, a frozen evaporator coil could be the culprit. This coil contains refrigerant that absorbs heat. When diminished airflow occurs, a layer of ice can form on the evaporator coil. If this happens, you could end up with warm air or no air from your air conditioner supply registers. To avoid freezing coils, you need to clean the coils to provide an adequate flow of refrigerant.

Learn more: AC Troubleshooting: FROZEN HVAC System? Don’t “Let it Go!”

Troubleshooting HVAC: grimy condenser coils

Tip 6: Clean your condenser coil
The condenser coil, located in the outside unit, discharges the heat removed from the inside air by releasing it outside the building. When the coil gets caked in dirt and debris, the transfer of heat is inhibited and makes it harder for the HVAC system to do its job. If the coil is dirty, your air conditioner will cycle on more frequently and at longer intervals in its attempt to reach set temperatures. So, if your air conditioner rarely cycles off, check the condenser coils because a good cleaning might be overdue.

Learn more: AC Losing Its Cool? Try Air Conditioning Coil Cleaning

Troubleshooting HVAC: don’t forget about ducts

Tip 7: Fix your leaky ducts
Though a central air conditioning system is designed as a sealed system with the ductwork running through walls and ceilings, it is not unusual for tears to develop in your ductwork sometimes as the result of rodents or inattentive workers. If there’s a rip in the ducts, the cool air will escape inside your walls, which is not beneficial to your residents’ comfort or wallet. You can repair the holes with metallic foil tape.

Troubleshooting HVAC: drainage difficulties

Tip 8: Unclog your condensate drain/line
Have you noticed a pool of water by your HVAC unit? It could mean a clogged condensate drain, which is something you want to  address immediately to avoid damage to your system or building and its contents. Your HVAC unit is designed to remove moisture from your space through a drain line into a pan, which funnels the water into a drain. If the drain is clogged and the pan overflows, the water will back up and damage your system. The clog could also cause leaks in your drain line, which could result in damage to walls, ceilings and furnishings.

Troubleshooting HVAC: AC blowing warm or furnace blowing cold

Tip 9: Check refrigerant levels
If you notice your AC is blowing warm air, a depleted refrigerant level could be at fault. If the refrigerant level is low, it usually means it has leaks. It is advisable to call in an HVAC expert to check levels and address refrigerant leaks.

If your furnace is blowing cold, there are quite a few possible causes. Read this to learn more: Furnace Blowing Cold? 13 Common Causes

Commercial HVAC Preventative Maintenance Checklist

Although fixing refrigerant leaks or unclogging condensate lines may be beyond your skill set, you can tackle some of the above-mentioned tasks more easily. Still, many building managers are not comfortable with working on HVAC systems or already have a full plate of responsibilities and are too busy to take on HVAC work. While troubleshooting HVAC problems and engaging in maintenance and small repair work is useful and promotes cost-savings, wouldn’t it be better not to have to manage by crises? One way to do that is to hire a reputable HVAC company, like Arista Air, to do routine maintenance.

Find out what you stand to gain from preventative maintenance with this helpful guide: HVAC Preventive Maintenance Contracts: How to Find The Right One For Your HVAC Infrastructure.

Refrigeration Preventative Maintenance Contracts

Here are seasonal maintenance tasks typically completed when you sign a maintenance contract with a vendor.

Spring and summer commercial HVAC preventative maintenance checklist:

  • Replace filters on cooling equipment
  • Check electrical connections
  • Check belts and pulleys and replace if necessary
  • Clean condenser and evaporator coils
  • Check refrigerant charge and inspect for leaks if charge is low
  • Clear drain pans and lines
  • Check fan and blower motor operation
  • Check thermostat and other controls for proper operation
  • Lubricate motors, bearings and other moving parts
  • Check for adequate air flow

Fall commercial HVAC preventative maintenance checklist:

  • Replace filters on heating unit
  • Check conditions of belts and pulleys and replace as needed
  • Check electrical connections
  • Clear drain lines and pans
  • Check fan and blower motor operation
  • Inspect ignition and burner assembly
  • Lubricate motors, bearings and other moving parts
  • Check thermostat and other controls for proper operation
  • Inspect heat exchanger

As you can see, there is a lengthy list of tasks undertaken at preventative maintenance appointments and a lot of equipment maintenance that should be performed routinely to avoid resorting to an urgent round of troubleshooting HVAC problems.