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Planned HVAC Replacement


Unexpected heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system repairs or breakdowns can result in unplanned store downtime or customer comfort issues for retail stores. With comfort such an important part of the customer experience, one that can impact sales, HVAC systems are indeed a critical component for retail stores.

In addition, HVAC systems are one of the largest sources of energy consumption in retail stores. According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program, heating and cooling systems make up approximately 38% of a building’s energy usage, and retail companies spend nearly $20 billion on energy annually. What’s more, Energy Star states that every 10% in energy savings is equal to a 1.26% increase in sales.

Aging HVAC equipment is more likely to run inefficiently or break down, leading to unbudgeted replacement or expensive repairs. Taking a proactive approach the replacement of old, worn-out or underperforming units with new, energy-efficient HVAC equipment can help stores maximize savings, minimize hassles and ensure reliable operation.

Benefits of replacement: Significant improvements in HVAC systems can allow a company to cut monthly costs and reduce its environmental impact. Energy Star reports that replacing air-conditioning units that are just 10 years old may save 20% to 40% on cooling costs. Planned replacement offers other benefits beyond energy savings. It can also help improve a store’s bottom line through better indoor air quality (IAQ) and customer comfort and retention, which can result in improved sales.

The ability to plan and budget for equipment replacement also helps avoid unexpected emergency repair time and materials, which can be more costly.

Steps to take: The first step in planning for HVAC unit replacement is to track and gather data to evaluate the condition of the current equipment fleet. While repair and maintenance become more common in the last five years of a unit’s life, age is not the only factor in determining whether planned replacement is an appropriate solution.

Other factors to consider are environmental conditions within the facility, the IAQ impact on sales if the unit breaks down, repair time and material costs, compressor run times, and emergency replacement costs. Retail and restaurant businesses can get help in this evaluation and in the overall process of planned replacement from equipment manufacturers or servicing agents. Manufacturers and agents can provide planned replacement programs and expert guidance to help gather and analyze information.

Once a business has an inventory list and knows the make, model, type and age for each unit, the second step is prioritizing which units need to be replaced. This process should take into account age, costs, repair and downtime for each unit, among other factors, so a store can determine which replacements can have the most impact on the bottom line.

The third step is to find the right-sized equipment for a store’s specific needs. Often, like equipment doesn’t have to be replaced with like equipment — a store with a 10-ton unit may be able to replace it with a smaller unit, thanks to technology improvements that have resulted in greater energy efficiency. Use this process as an opportunity to re-evaluate the space and actual energy needs.

Once the list is prioritized, the fourth step is budgeting for and fulfilling the replacement plan. Map out the plan using budgetary and timing guidelines. Planning for replacement in the winter and spring, for example, can help save costs since it’s not the prime season for contractors. The last step is to perform an air balance once any new equipment is installed. This provides a store with benchmark information on airflow, air quality and temperature that can help gauge if a system is working optimally.

Leverage financial benefits: Organizations that install new HVAC equipment may be eligible for energy incentives and rebates, which can help offset the upfront costs of a new rooftop unit. A store can also reduce operating expenses thanks to technology innovations that offer more efficient operation. For example, new HVAC products offer variable speed technology, which operates more efficiently for a faster return on investment.

Implementing a planned replacement program for HVAC equipment can help a store increase efficiency, control comfort costs and keep customers coming back.

Greg DuChane is retail and restaurant vertical market leader for Trane.

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