Your facility’s HVAC system is central to operations, occupant comfort and revenue. It is also one of the largest capital building investments. The right system coupled with the right maintenance can be a source of operational satisfaction, running smoothly, efficiently, and cost-effectively. Here’s a look at how HVAC-system health can be a help or a hindrance to long-term facility operations.


HVAC Replacement: The Big Ticket Item 

The cost range for replacing a commercial HVAC system can be from around $8,000 to $40,000, depending on the system type and size requirements. There are many variables that contribute to the costs, including labor, material, industry, building size, and equipment brand or tier. For example, existing buildings can present installation challenges that differ from ground-up construction projects. Manufacturing facilities will have very different HVAC requirements than office buildings. And top-tier equipment that requires long-distance shipping will yield different pricing than readily available standard brands.

2Commercial building size is one of the most significant factors in HVAC replacement cost. When a system or integrated devices fail, the replacement system needs to address potential causes, such as system sizing. In buildings where renovations or other improvements have occurred, the facility expansion may have exceeded the HVAC system capacity. An experienced design-build team can help navigate through the process of system replacement. 


HVAC Systems: What to Expect for Equipment Lifespan 

Even if your HVAC system is operational, you may be anticipating the need to repair, upgrade or replace part or all of your current system. Aged equipment, facility changes, or deferred maintenance all contribute to the lifespan of an HVAC system. All of these factors can weigh heavily on facility managers’ budgeting and scheduling capacity. 

1Typically, a commercial HVAC system can be operational for one to two decades, somewhere between 12 and 20 years, with many factors at play. The longevity of your system depends heavily on proper system sizing, calibration and regular maintenance. Even simple routine maintenance, like changing air filters, can have a tremendous impact on the long-term functionality of your system. 


Weather and exposure also play a role in system longevity. Extreme hot or cold, humid or dry conditions can strain HVAC system components with demand. Corrosive environments, such as coastal locations, can impact parts and cause the deterioration of components, such as coils. Indoor environments that contain gases or fumes can also create wear and tear at an accelerated pace. 


Another factor in system lifespan is the quality of the initial installation and commissioning. When a system is properly sized, installed and commissioned, it will outlast those that weren’t. If improperly designed, a system will operate under more strain, taking years off of its functional lifespan and reducing energy efficiency.


Maximizing System Performance and Longevity

While there are many types of heating and cooling systems, all serve a common purpose: to provide a safe, healthy indoor environment at optimal efficiency. As a facility manager, you are aware of how that simple intent can be extremely complicated with building type, size, age, condition, occupancy levels and myriad other variables.


Lowering the Cost to Replace HVAC Systems

The best strategy for getting the most out of your HVAC system, whether new or existing, is to create a maintenance plan that enlists a team of HVAC professionals. Many inspections can be performed in-house, but an HVAC expert will be able to identify potential issues, diagnose pending defaults and provide professional advice on extending the system’s functionality. The investment in regular maintenance will have a much higher return than the cost to replace HVAC systems before their time.


In facility management, HVAC maintenance is an essential factor in operational efficiency. Contact Therma today and learn more about how a professional HVAC team can maximize your HVAC system performance.


Ali Kriscenski was trained in high-performance building design at Boston Architectural College. She has worked with leading architecture and construction firms in NYC and New England and served on the executive team at the Forest Stewardship Council International. She was the managing editor at Inhabitat and has worked pro bono for the Green Building Institute, ISEAL Alliance and Habitat for Humanity.



Environmental and Energy Study Institute — Buildings and Built Infrastructure

Building Efficiency Initiative — HVAC System Maintenance Saves Energy