In the latest edition of the Condoboss Q&A series, Salvatore J. Sciacca sat down and interviewed Michael Carpenter, the VP and GM of service at YMI Mechanical and asked him questions on how to help community associations properly maintain their HVAC equipment AND save time and money.
Condoboss (CB): What are the best ways to properly prepare HVAC equipment for the winter months?
Michael Carpenter (MC): Most importantly, you should have your HVAC system inspected by a professional contractor. This will help identify any potential problems and ensure your system is working as efficiently as possible. Ideally, these inspections should take place in the fall when HVAC demand is lowest. Technicians will check for reliable, efficient and safe operation of all HVAC equipment, including the following on your furnace:
Taking advantage of an HVAC maintenance agreement is a great way to keep your system running at peak efficiency. Not only will such an agreement ensure that your seasonal checkups are done on schedule, but having an HVAC maintenance agreement means you will receive priority service in the event of equipment failure or other problems. An HVAC maintenance agreement will provide you with peace of mind while also saving you money in the long term.
(CB): What are the risks in NOT preparing or winterizing HVAC equipment?
(MC): Lack of heating is considered “Life Threatening” as compared to a lack of cooling. This is not meant to scare anyone, but there are more items that can go wrong which can affect the health of the tenant. For instance,
Heat exchangers are designed to provide safe operation of the furnace during its life expectancy – typically 15-18 years. However, there are many factors that can accelerate the wear and tear on a heat exchanger that they fail much sooner.
So what causes them to fail? Sometimes it’s just age and use. Where we live, furnaces see nearly 900 hours of use every winter. If we assume the average heating cycle is 15 minutes long, that heat exchanger is heating up and cooling down over 3,000 times per year So, sometimes heat exchangers just wear out with time and age and need to be replaced with a new furnace. Sometimes that’s 15 years, sometimes it’s 20 and sometimes they never crack and have other expensive repairs or the efficiency gain is enough to warrant replacement of the furnace.
More commonly, the cause of a cracked heat exchanger is misapplication or poor maintenance of the furnace. All too often, furnaces are grossly oversized or used incorrectly which causes the heat exchanger to fail prematurely. When a furnace is oversized, a number of problems can exist including short cycling and cycling on limit. Both of those cause the heat exchanger to heat up and cool down far more often than if the furnace was closer to the proper size for the home.
Another heat exchanger killer is airflow, or more specifically, a lack of it. The primary cause of low airflow in a furnace is a dirty filter. It can be hard to remember to change that filter or at least check it every month (which is why we recommend an air cleanerthat can go for much longer without changing) If your filter gets clogged up with dust and dirt and the air simply can’t get through, your furnace will cook itself to death. Your heat exchanger will go through a lot of stress when it is constantly overheated and cooled back down.
If your furnace/rooftop unit/duct furnace has a crack in its heat exchanger, carbon monoxide may enter the airstream should your equipment not fire properly. It is our opinion, and one shared by the American Gas Association (AGA), that any crack, hole or other failure of the heat exchanger is reason to replace the heat exchanger or the unit.
(CB): How can Condo Associations save when it comes to HVAC equipment?
(MC): 1) High-efficiency equipment – pay more up front, but save more in the long run.
2)Maintenance program – make sure you know what you are paying for. Have the service contractor state how many hours of maintenance they will be performing, and make sure they have checklists that they will be filling out each time they perform maintenance. Many Condo Associations simply go with the “low number,” but do they really know what they are getting for their money. “Flash Light” service, where someone just looks at the equipment is not giving the customer, and their equipment, what they need to have.
(MC):1) Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance
2) Upgrade controls system – schedule it to run, or run fully, only when it needs to.
3) Proper Sizing of Equipment – too small of equipment means it will run more often than it should; and, therefore, it will breakdown much earlier than anticipated. If it’s too large, it will short-cycle. This will mean more wear-and-tear on the compressor and other key components in the unit. It will also lead to higher humidity, as the unit will not run long enough to dry the air.
(CB): What are ways to save energy, especially with HVAC systems and equipment?
(MC): 1) Automation – schedule it only when it’s needed.
2) Variable frequency drives – allow for fan and pump motors to work only as hard as they are needed.
(CB): What are the risks in not making scheduled replacements of HVAC equipment?
(MC): 1) Less dependency.
2) Less energy efficient.
(CB): What are the types of systems that YMI maintains?
(MC): Our Technicians are qualified to service and maintain the following equipment:
(CB): What words of wisdom would you like to share to board members and property managers when it comes to HVAC systems and equipment?
(MC) Comfort before cosmetics. In other words, take the time to investigate how your mechanical systems could be upgraded to provide you better comfort and energy savings. Often, mechanical systems are put at the bottom of the list for priorities. This is true until there is a problem, and then everyone wonders why their equipment is the way it is. Energy savings could be used to fund that next cosmetic upgrade to the building. . . . . . . . . think about it!
(CB): What do you see in the future for HVAC systems?
(MC): 1) Continued offerings of energy efficiency.
2) Less centrifugal, and more modular, chiller offerings.
3) HVAC systems as part of Energy Management Systems will continue to grow.
(CB): How is YMI different and better than other mechanical companies?
(MC): “Quality without Compromise” is our motto. We work hard to keep our customers happy, and we believe that you can’t communicate enough. We have found that customers simply want be kept informed on the status of their service call. If they know you are working on it, they know their solution is coming.
YMI’s Construction and Service Groups perform work in many area hospitals. As you can imagine, cleanliness and thoroughness are a pre-requisite to working in these facilities. We make sure that is followed through on; and, therefore, we are highly recommended by them.
We believe in the 3 R’s . . . Problem Resolution, Quick Response, and Repeatable Service . . . Al Youna, our Owner, demands it and guarantees it.
About the Authors
Salvatore J. Sciacca aka “Condoboss” is one of the nation’s leading experts in the community property management industry and is also recognized for his blogs and insight on personal and organizational transformation. He is also the President and Founder of Chicago Property Services, Chicago’s #1 community property management company specializing in management and operations of condos/townhomes/HOA’s of 100 units and under. Salvatore is also the founder of managmycommunity.com (MMC), which is a state-of-the-art online support portal for community associations.
With over 20 years of industry experience, Salvatore is recognized for his extensive knowledge of capital planning, preventative maintenance, cost-saving measures and community building techniques. He holds industry stature as a Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA), the designation of Association Management Specialist (AMS) and is fully licensed as a manager (License #: 261.001386) through the State of IL.
Salvatore can be reached at: 312.455.0107 x102 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He can be reached at 630-501-4365 or email@example.com
“Quality without Compromise”