On occasion, Frigi-Temp meets a customer who tries to find a low-price provider to do their maintenance. It is not uncommon that this choice increases their total cost of ownership. This week we had the opportunity to partner again with one such customer to help bring their mechanical systems back under better control. One of our Frigi-Temp service professionals sent us this video to show us how clogged the customer’s return grills had become. A dirty return grill can have a catastrophic effect on a facility. This one non-mechanical part of the system, when neglected, can lead to poor indoor air quality, increased utilities, and a number of mechanical failures.
Indoor air quality: In a commercial environment, North Carolina Mechanical Code mandates regular air exchanges throughout the space. This is done to ensure that fresh air is routinely introduced for a building’s occupants. When a return grill is clogged with dirt, it negatively affects this process and does not allow for the clean outdoor air to be fully circulated through the building. To make matters worse, a mechanical system’s filters are positioned after the air passes through the return grill. This means that when the return is clogged with dirt, there will be significantly less air that is being properly filtered before it is re-introduced into a building’s breathable air.
Increased utilities: One of the main components in any mechanical system is the indoor blower assembly. The motor that drives the blower wheel in this assembly will run with an increased amp draw, and higher amps always equal higher utility usage. A system that fails to move enough air through a space will cause the unit to run for longer periods of time to achieve comfort.
Mechanical failures: A restricted return grill, if left unattended, will end up causing significant mechanical damage to a system. In air conditioning mode, an air flow restriction can cause the evaporator coil to turn into a block of ice. This block of ice can prevent the refrigerant from circulating through the system as designed and puts the compressor at risk for being fed refrigerant in a liquid state. When this occurs, it does not take very long before the compressor fails. It is also common that dripping water from the melted ice inside the unit will find its way into a building—damaging ceiling tiles and sheetrock. On furnaces in the heating season, the restricted airflow can cause heat exchangers to get too hot or lock out the unit with any number of high-temperature safeties. On heat pumps in the heating season, the system will run at a high pressure (which is also harmful to the compressor).
A quality maintenance program helps keep utilities in line and increases system uptime while reducing costly mechanical failures. It’s hard to believe something as simple as cleaning a return grill is often excluded on commercial maintenance plans, but it is. Frigi-Temp utilizes a set of quality maintenance best practices that account for often overlooked items like return grills. If you have a commercial facility with filters or returns that look like the ones in the video, then please give us a call. We would love to partner with you to ensure your mechanical systems maintain optimum performance.