Pivoting to HVAC Predictive Maintenance: Using Data to Guide Maintenance Decisions

Advanced digital technologies like smart HVAC units, smart thermostats, and advanced algorithms fed to an insight-rich dashboard enable HVAC predictive maintenance. Contractors are now using digital HVAC tools to pivot from reactive or scheduled maintenance to predictive maintenance. This pivot positions the contractor not as a tactical commodity, but as a strategic business partner with commercial building owners and managers. In addition, the use of data creates significant opportunities to improve and guide maintenance and service decisions. Let’s break down in this blog how data is a fantastic guide for contractors to make this digital transformation to HVAC predictive maintenance. 

Planned Maintenance Versus Predictive Maintenance 

To unlock HVAC predictive maintenance, it’s best to start with first understanding the terms reactive, scheduled, planned, preventative, and predictive maintenance. First and foremost, reactive maintenance isn’t much of a maintenance plan at all. Simply running HVAC equipment until it breaks costs more money and has a great deal of unscheduled downtime that is hurtful to businesses. Scheduled, planned, and preventative maintenance, are all one and the same as they rely on pre-determined, generalized schedules based on a long history of assumptions about when maintenance is needed. Reality tells a different story.  

Not every unit runs for the same duration and not every environment puts a unit through the same stress. In today’s world, the better option lies in collecting and analyzing data to understand what each unit needs to maximize performance, so maintenance is only performed when the unit needs maintenance. This is predictive maintenance and provides an improved outcome for both the HVAC contractor and their customers as the contractor is now trusted as the maintenance is driven by objective facts, and the customer is happy as they are only paying for what is needed. 

According to ACHR News“in the thriving IoT era, commercial HVAC products are now expected to provide value and equipment protection. This is done through technology that provides real-time data, such as scheduling, service and maintenance alerts, and energy usage reports. These features allow more system visibility and help prevent costly downtime later. Commercial customers are looking for intelligent features that facilitate communication with the industry-standard BMS systems.” 

Smart Data-Driven Units Prevent Downtime thanks to Predictive Insights 

Data-driven units effectively prevent the risk of downtime by keeping HVAC contractors informed of asset status. Through remote-linking capabilities, contractors become experts at understanding the performance of units and better eliminate the challenges associated with unplanned downtime. Think about it; even HVAC predictive maintenance may require a downtime period to complete work orders. If a malfunction that results in the shutdown of the system occurs during regular business hours, it can bring the entire use of the building to a stop.  

No one wants to eat dinner in a hot restaurantEven office workers lose productivity when uncomfortable. However, using data to know when these issues will arise before they break allows for better planning of when to shut down the unit. In other words, HVAC contractors pivot to focus on maintenance performed when it’s best for the facility. Now the facility manager sees a disruption-free HVAC predictive maintenance program and the HVAC contractor gets more work by proactively handling maintenance when the data indicates it’s needed. 

HVAC Predictive Maintenance Taps the Value of Alerts to Further Reduce Back-Office Work 

HVAC contractors realize another benefit from data-driven HVAC predictive maintenance. Instead of wondering who needs maintenance, contractors can see the data in real-time and know when to dispatch technicians or schedule service calls. Additionally, fewer annual visits for scheduled maintenance, which is again based on an arbitrary schedule, results in lower overhead for HVAC contractors. In turn, the contractor becomes a true partner with commercial building owners. Even added features, such as smart thermostats, can bring down the total cost of ownership (TCO) of an HVAC unit further and reduce its runtime. As a result, contractors are less likely to need to repair the unit as frequently. Combined with a data-rich scorecard, like HYTECH 24/7’s HYLTH E-card, contractors can go a step further, recognizing the likely number of maintenance needs per unit for a given facility and further considering workload based on that data. 

HYTECH 24/7 Use Case: How Predictive Maintenance Enabled Data-Driven RTU Planning 

Take this example of a HYTECH 24/7 client with six rooftop units in Central Tennessee that had a quarterly preventive maintenance contract. After installing controls to track runtime, HYTECH 24/7 found two units ran constantly, and another two units barely ran at all, less than five hours quarter! The facility was comfortable during this time, but unit operation was not succinct with two requiring excessive maintenance while others didn’t need maintenance at all 

Armed with the HYTECH 24/7 data, the client adjusted temperature setpoints to even out the runtime of all six units on the roofThis adjustment maintained the comfort of the space, lowered the TCO of all unitsextended the longevity of the high runtime units, and improved the HVAC contractor’s labor efficiency by only needing roof access two times a year for work they knew was necessary for ALL units. Achieving these goals would not have been possible with an arbitrary, analog maintenance schedule. With data, the company was able to switch to a predictive maintenance contract that increased the value of the HVAC contractor and created a strategic business partnership long-term. 

Avoid Schedule-Driven, Preventive Maintenance. Use Data-Driven Predictive Maintenance Instead 

Reactive maintenance is a run-until-it-breaks method of putting out endless fires and constantly responding to extra service calls. Planned maintenance is better but involves commoditization of HVAC contractors and a higher risk of delaying maintenance in favor of finding a better deal on pricing. However, contractors are pivoting to HVAC predictive maintenance—where technicians can see the performance, receive automated alerts, and work together with building owners and managers to reduce maintenance altogether and save resources. It’s the ultimate win-win for HVAC maintenance strategies. Find out how to get started by contacting HYTECH 24/7