ACHRNEWS

Proper maintenance enhances efficiency

September 18, 2000
Fact No.1: service calls can enhance a company’s bottom line. But they also serve alternate purposes.

Every time a servicing dealer rings a customer’s door bell, the company’s reputation — and the products it represents — hang in the balance. It all depends on how well the customer is satisfied when the service truck pulls off the job.

Several factors affect customer satisfaction, including the performance of a heating and air conditioning system. Today, the hvacr industry makes the most energy-efficient systems ever. Manufacturers engineer equipment as complete systems, with matched components that reduce operating costs and ultimately save consumers money.

Consumers can realize additional savings by taking advantage of utility rebates in certain geographical areas. Rebate amounts usually depend on the installed equipment’s efficiency, which is determined by various eligibility criteria. These criteria include seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER), British thermal units (Btu), heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF), and coefficient of performance (COP).

Airflow plays role

Airflow is another crucial factor in determining energy efficiency and performance. Most consumers don’t fully understand the concept of airflow. They can feel air moving inside the conditioned structure, but they give little thought to airflow outside the structure.

That’s why it’s important to perform preventive maintenance on key outside components, including the condensing unit or outdoor heat pump unit. These units contain the compressor, along with other electrical components and controls, surrounded by a tube-and-fin coil assembly.

The assembly dissipates heat that’s been absorbed from inside the conditioned space and produced by compressing the refrigerant gas, or heat of compression. The outdoor heat pump assembly, in the heating mode, also absorbs ambient heat from the outside air, and adds heat of compression.

Outdoor coils are frequently subjected to flying grass clippings, weeds, tall grass, and plants, as well as dirt and other debris. In addition, the fins on most outdoor units are prone to bending because they’re made of thin strips of aluminum.

Both scenarios limit airflow over coils and through fins. This dramatically reduces energy efficiency and increases operating costs because the unit must run for longer periods to satisfy comfort settings. What’s more, the fins become extremely corroded when subjected to ammonia, a byproduct of animal urine.

Dirty fins can lead to a variety of other problems. For example, the compressor, fan motor and other components can draw a higher amperage under a heavier-than-normal load, decreasing the life expectancy of the equipment. A higher amp draw and additional heat can also cause a breakdown in compressor oil viscosity, leading to premature compressor failure. As a result, the customer can be left with a unit that provides less heat transfer (and less cooling), as well as less humidity control.

All of this leads to Fact No. 2: A dirty outdoor unit will operate at a higher pressure and temperature and, therefore, perform less efficiently and effectively.

Educating customers

Servicing dealers are responsible for ensuring that customers are comfortable with their purchases. That’s why customer education is so important.

Dealers need to frequently refer customers to the owner’s manual, reminding them of the importance of preventive maintenance. And dealers should recommend that customers’ hvac systems be checked and cleaned at least twice a year, preferably in the spring and fall.

If servicing dealers routinely educate customers, customer satisfaction will increase. Customers will brag about, defend and promote the service company and its product lines to friends, family and neighbors. Additionally, their equipment will last longer and cost less to operate.

Customer referrals are the best and least expensive advertising that any company can get. But it all starts with service. Good service enhances a company’s bottom line — and that’s a fact.