Spring is right around the corner. Are your HVAC and refrigeration systems up to the task? Restaurant customers often ask us “do I really need the annual air-conditioning and refrigeration tune-up?” Without a second thought, our answer is always “yes”. However, several experts in equipment performance have recently begun to challenge this long held assumption. The answer is now “maybe” and it depends on a combination of the business type, volume and the types and ages of the equipment. There simply is no right or wrong answer, but an answer that is best for your situation.
The age and type of the equipment, service history, location, and condition of equipment all play a role in determining if you are better off having that spring tune up. That said here are a few points you should consider before deciding on getting your AC and/or refrigeration equipment serviced.
1. Do not perform any major service on the equipment yourself besides basic cleaning. Period!
No, it’s not rocket science, but there are high refrigerant pressures, voltages and high currents involved. Let a professional do it.
2. You can check the air filters monthly, and clean or replace them as needed, usually monthly or quarterly.
Clogged, dirty filters block normal airflow and reduce a system’s efficiency significantly. Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can decrease your air conditioner’s run time and increase the ability to cool your restaurant by 5% to 15%.
3. Inspect your condenser and evaporator coils for surface dirt
If you see dirt decide if you can remove this on your own, or if you need a professional.
4. If you are the type of person who doesn’t want to do anything, or can’t remember the last time you changed your air filters, cleaned coils or had the systems inspected…
Then you will want to have a professional come out and clean and tune up your systems.
5. Likewise, if your equipment is over 10 years old, it’s recommended that annual service be performed.
In NYC, the average air conditioner lasts 10-15 years. Most of the major components of an air conditioner have a 5-10 year or greater manufacturer warranty.
6. A complete service or tune-up should last about 30 to 60 minutes on-site per unit.
If much less, than they’re probably taking short cuts. If much more, than either the service technician found something wrong (and should tell you about it), or is having troubles getting access to the equipment or putting something back together, or is just not working fast enough.
Now’s the time to conduct a seasonal start-up, to make sure you’re able to provide reliable, efficient cooling throughout the warmest months of the year. Having a Spring equipment tune up from an experienced professional, you’ll be positioned to:
- Ensure correct temperatures to meet food safety requirements and avoid fines.
- Increase uptime and reliability.
- Maximize comfort for your guests.
- Detect system problems before they cause catastrophic failure.
- Extend equipment life.
Take the first step and perform the following tasks yourself.
Air Conditioning Equipment:
- Check and replace, as needed “all” air filters to ensure proper airflow.
- Turn on all air conditioning units and let them run for 15 minutes.
- Take the temperature of the air going into the system and the air coming out of the system and a good rule of thumb there should be around a 15-degree difference. If you have less than 15 degrees, there may be a problem with the system.
- Always keep the cooler or freezer clean. Soap and water are the best methods; harsh chemicals may harm the metal surfaces. Sweep or mop surrounding floors and keep free of debris. Make sure to clean up any spills immediately to prevent dangerous freezing.
- Routinely clean evaporator fan coils and blades. Schedule a quarterly cleaning and be sure to inspect them for dirt, ice and damage as well.
- Inspect door seals and hinges quarterly. Make sure hinges are lubricated quarterly and that seals are closing properly. Do not prop the door open for extended periods and make sure that the door is always closed (except when entering or exiting of course).
- Check condensing unit for proper operation. Always keep the areas around your evaporators and condensing units clear to ensure proper airflow. Do not allow trash or other debris to accumulate around the walk-in.
- Monitor temperatures daily. Fluctuations can be an indicator that something is not working properly. Consider having temperature alarms installed to warn you of temperature problems.
Refrigeration is just one of the important pieces to your successful business operations. Since refrigeration is often forgotten about, it is a good idea to make calendar appointments with yourself or your staff as a reminder of the importance in maintaining a working system.
As the resident Certified Facilities Management Professional at SendaGuy Now, I recommend to all of our restaurant clients that they carefully consider their options for getting HVAC and refrigeration equipment tuned up for the upcoming warmer temperatures. Taking simple measures now to ensure a trouble-free cooling season will reduce the likelihood of costly equipment malfunction and downtime for your restaurant in the coming months.
Click here to read more of Eric’s articles for Total Food Service.
The SendaGuy Now app is free and is available for download at the Apple App Store and Google Play App Store. Interested restaurant operators and potential repair service partners can also go to sendaguy.com or call 800-214-5410 for service.