When we spend a significant amount of money on something like a car or an appliance, it’s pretty common for us to pitch in a little extra to make sure that item is covered under a warranty of some kind. After all, investments deserve protection: it gives us peace of mind and ensures we’ll be able to keep our purchase in top form for as long as possible.
The same reasoning prompts most commercial building owners to choose one of two HVAC maintenance programs for their commercial buildings: planned maintenance and full service maintenance.
Why is building maintenance important?
Before discussing the differences between these maintenance programs, let’s establish why any building owner or facility manager would want to spend money on a maintenance program rather than just handling maintenance on their own.
The decision really comes down to a cost/benefit analysis and your own comfort level as an owner or manager. By purchasing a building maintenance plan for your HVAC system, the overall cost of your investment goes up. However, there are a number benefits that come with that purchase. Ask yourself: “Is it worth it to me to pay for these benefits for my building?”
A building maintenance program:
- Reduces the time you spend managing repair quotes and approvals, processing purchase orders, invoicing, and coordinating accounts payables related to the HVAC system. This time can then be focused on other core business functions.
- Reduces the overall cost of building operation because trained commercial HVAC technicians can take a more proactive approach to maintenance and operations – repairs are more predictable and planned versus being reactive and frequently done in emergency situations.
- Reduces energy costs, since the system will consistently run longer at peak performance and efficiency.
- Shifts risk to the HVAC contractor who is responsible for maintaining, repairing, and replacing the maintainable components (although actual benefits vary between a planned maintenance program and a full service contract.)
- Extends the life of the equipment since it is properly maintained, your investment in quality HVAC equipment lasts longer overall.
- Aids with capex planning, maintenance facilitates proactive planning for replacement when equipment is reaching the end of its useful life, rather than allowing emergency repair issues to force a large unplanned purchase.
What is a planned building maintenance program?
A planned building maintenance program is a standard contract for professionally maintaining your HVAC system, keeping all its major components running properly.
It includes a schedule for preventive maintenance over the course of the contract that’s based on seasonal best practices as well as your building’s unique usage patterns. The maintenance plan is customized for each client’s specific equipment and needs. Trained technicians stay alert for warning signs of any additional needs while handling routine maintenance tasks, so you always know that a professional has recently inspected the system.
A planned maintenance program can be a cost-effective way to keep your HVAC investment operating at maximum efficiency for years, and it can greatly increase the life expectancy of covered components.
Importantly, however, a planned maintenance program does not include coverage for service calls, emergency repairs, or replacements, which will be handled separately if they become necessary.
What about the full service HVAC maintenance program?
A full service maintenance program expands on the basic planned maintenance contract by including both time and materials for repairs as needed. The initial cost is higher, but in return, anything and everything that can possibly go wrong with your commercial HVAC system is covered, from routine cleaning and maintenance, to emergency service calls, repairs, and proactive planning for necessary replacements down the road.
With both time and materials covered for applicable systems, your maximum HVAC expense for each contract period is set in stone, facilitating a more predictable operating budget.
The full service maintenance program has been set up for companies that prefer a fixed cost contract and a more complete collaboration with their HVAC provider. Success is measured through key business indicators, offering a more granular view of the results.
While a full service plan isn’t the right choice for every building, an energy engineer can help you complete a financial review and building cost-benefit analysis to determine if it fits for your property. Choosing an appropriate maintenance plan requires a deep understanding of the building systems, repair costs, operating costs, energy spend, and usage.
Having the full service plan in place also saves facility managers a tremendous amount of time and effort that would otherwise be spent:
- Soliciting quotes on repair work
- Approving quotes
- Bidding jobs out
- Collecting and processing invoices
The full service plan also engenders a strong level of trust between a commercial property's management team and the HVAC services provider: since the provider is taking on a financial risk, the client can rest assured knowing they have a vested interest in keeping the equipment in top shape and avoiding all unnecessary expenses. These contracts can range anywhere from 5-15 years in length, so it’s also indicative of a long-term partnership.
If your Chicago HVAC system needs a maintenance program, contact us to discuss your options with one of our experienced HVAC engineers and we'll help you decide which program is right for you.