Preventative Maintenance Tips for High-Rise Buildings
By: Rodney Riepenhoff, Corporate Engineer, FirstService Residential, West Coast Region
Spring will be here soon and it’s time to start thinking about our spring Preventive Maintenance (PM’s). Getting a high-rise building ready for spring and ready to blow appropriate volumes of cold air to everyone is not as easy as going over and flipping a switch from heat to cool. High-rises and large scale buildings take much more preparation. Most all of these buildings have complex systems and many things need to be checked, serviced and adjusted. Because of the high volume of high-rise buildings managed by FirstService Residential, we understand the importance of preventive maintenance and our Engineering Department has developed best practices in this area.
As the first step, the building equipment should be inventoried. Check with each manufacturer to ensure you have the proper and most current Maintenance Schedule in your maintenance plan.
Next, FirstService Residential engineering experts suggest beginning with an inspection of the cooling tower, since it is a vital component to the overall operation of your air conditioning system. The tower should be drained and the baffles cleaned to ensure adequate air flow. Most towers, if your crew has been spraying them down, will look clean on the outside but still have a lot of buildup in the coil restricting the air flow. Be sure that they are flushed out and the cells are cleared for maximum air flow. This is also the perfect time to scrape the pans, check for leaks and reseal if needed. Greasing the fans and checking amp draws are additional considerations. Checking the amp draw will let you know if a motor is pulling too many amps that may cause a failure in the middle of summer. Vibration over the long term can cause looseness and damage. Check and tighten all the bolts on the tower and motors. Once you have cleaned and greased everything, it's time to fill the tower back up. Check the float and water levels. Again, it’s much easier to replace or repair items now rather than waiting until it breaks at the worst possible time. Once the tower is in top shape, check the other components.
Chiller service is quite important, but often we fail to dig deep enough. Make sure that the vanes are clear and that no build up is present. Topping off the Freon levels, greasing moving parts and checking all bolts are good practices here as well. Some buildings have rack systems with multiple compressors. Checking for leaks, burned or bad wires/connections and overall cleanliness helps to keep operations efficient and reduce the chance of failure. Taking amp draws on the chiller compressors and motors also can predict future issues for repair now instead of finding yourself with downtime at a critical point in the summer season.
With closed loop water systems, make sure the pumps are cleaned and serviced, strainers are cleaned and water treatment is optimized. Always be sure the make-up water system is working properly. This is a perfect time to check your water chemical program and make sure everything is clean and that the current settings and formula are giving the desired result.
This is a good time to check and replace gauges. Gauges on a system are so important yet time and time again when FirstService Residential inspects buildings we find gauges not working. You can’t know what’s going on with your systems if your gauges are not working.
Many buildings have areas with split systems and package AC units. These units also need a spring preventative maintenance program involving cleaning the coils, checking the compressors, fans, wiring and contactors. You would be surprised how many compressors fail from a bad contactor. If a contactor gets burned over long use, the connections do not meet fully which increases the electrical resistance and will not allow the proper amperage to pass through. This causes damage to the compressor. If you are servicing a unit and find a contactor with even a little build up on the contacts, consider replacing it. It’s a small cost to pay now rather than buying a new compressor in the middle of the hot season.
The final large factor in a building’s spring preventative maintenance is air filters and fresh air. Change all of the air filters and check fresh air intakes. Make sure the air provided to the building is clean, of the proper volume and free of non-hygienic organisms. This is crucial to operating efficiently and in providing a healthy environment for those living and working in the building.
These are just a few tips that our associates at FirstService Residential have found useful when checking the buildings we manage. It is better to do the correct maintenance now rather than paying a heavier price and dealing with significant customer dissatisfaction later in the year. After all, this is called PREVENTIVE maintenance.
About the Author:
Rodney Riepenhoff serves as the Corporate Engineer for FirstService Residential where he provides engineering support for condominium and high-rise associations for all west coast regions. Support to these areas includes engineering assessments, training programs, energy audits, reserve study consulting, project management consulting and construction defect support. Rodney has been with FirstService Residential for over 6 years and also oversees the day-to-day operations for FirstService Residential, Nevada’s engineering team.
Rodney has over 26 years in the industry and currently holds certifications in HVAC, electrical, plumbing, welding, water treatment, Haz-mat and many others. He completed the Nevada Community Association Manager License program in 2012 and will be a licensed Reserve Study Specialist in 2014.