Renovations are a costly undertaking, and there’s a lot riding on the outcome. To prevent expensive mistakes, don’t neglect the careful planning of the air conditioning installation that’s necessary to ensure long-term comfort, reliability and energy efficiency.
1. Going with the status quo.
This is the most common error with air conditioning installation and the one that will cost you the most. You may assume that replacing the HVAC system with one of the same type and size is a safe bet, but it’s very often a mistake. For one thing, many older systems are oversized to start with because they were installed in the days when “bigger is better” was the rule of thumb. This thinking was misguided, as it turns out. HVAC systems that are oversized for the space don’t provide consistent comfort, they break down more often, and they drive up your energy bills.
Many factors go into calculating the correct load requirements of an HVAC system, and it’s likely that almost all of those factors will change during and after the renovation. These factors include the layout of the space, the usage and occupancy of the various rooms, and materials used in the construction. In many cases, load requirements go down after a remodel. If you automatically replace the HVAC with the same size system, you’ll wind up with an oversized unit that performs poorly and costs you more money.
Related Article: New York HVAC Systems: 8 Reasons Why Bigger Isn’t Always Better.
2. Not accounting for energy efficiency improvements
Chances are, your renovation will result in a more energy-efficient space if you’re installing new windows, adding insulation, and using new lighting technology. If you replace the HVAC system without taking these improvements into account, again you will end up with an oversized system.
3. Failing to consider new equipment technology
HVAC technology has made major strides since that existing air conditioning system was installed. If you replace it with the same old technology, you may be missing out on an opportunity to improve performance, enhance the comfort of the space, and save on energy costs.
Today’s systems use more precise, digital controls and designs that can adjust the level of heating and cooling to individual rooms or areas within the space. A good example is variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems, which not only do a better job of providing consistent comfort, but also use less energy. These systems can provide supplemental heating in addition to air conditioning. They can cool some areas while simultaneously heating others.
New systems are designed for integration with computerized building management systems, which provides the ability to consistently monitor and adjust for better performance.
4. Designing for full-load performance
Full-load means the highest amount of heating or cooling that may be required from the HVAC system. During those 95 degree days in summer, your air conditioning is probably operating under full load conditions for much of the day. But systems typically don’t operate like that all the time (if they’re working properly that is).
If your system is designed for peak efficiency at full-load, it won’t be as efficient at partial load, which is how it operates most of the time. Partial load efficiency needs to be considered when calculating the size and the design of the system. One solution is to choose a system that can adjust to changing cooling requirements, such as a VRF system.
5. Only replacing part of the HVAC system
Depending on the type of HVAC systems currently in place, there are probably several different components to the system, which may include condenser units and air handlers, packaged systems or chillers and water towers. In the interest of saving cash, you may be tempted to replace only one or two components of the system.
Doing a partial air conditioning installation like this would result in a mismatched system that can cause you all kinds of headaches, including uneven heating and cooling, wear and tear on the parts resulting in increased breakdowns, and a failure to see the improvements in energy consumption that you were expecting. HVAC system components need to be matched for optimum performance and reliability.
6. Failing to allow for future changes
Even though today’s systems are built to last 15 to 20 years, it’s unlikely that the needs of the space will stay the same over that period of time. The occupants and the usage of the space may change, and with them the heating and cooling needs. Choosing a flexible system that can accommodate changing needs means that the system can last for a longer period of time.
7. Not planning the air conditioning installation for maintenance needs
Don’t forget to consider what happens after the renovation is complete and the building occupants begin to use the new equipment. All new systems require maintenance to keep working effectively, and you need to plan for that in the design and installation of the equipment.
Make sure the building plans include access to HVAC equipment and ductwork for maintenance purposes. This includes access to air handlers, control valves, dampers. Coils must be accessible for cleaning, ideally with access to water nearby. If this access is not provided, maintenance will be expensive, or it may be skipped altogether, which is even more expensive in the long run.
Once your new air conditioning system is up and running, keeping your investment working efficiently and reliably means having it maintained at least twice per year. You’ll get the best deal on this maintenance by taking out a service contract with a qualified company. Make sure to shop around, since not all contracts (or service providers) are created equal.
To learn more about how to get the right contract for your needs, grab a copy of our free guide: HVAC Preventative Maintenance Contracts: How to Find the Right One for Your HVAC Infrastructure.