air duct in office having trouble

Troubleshooting Common Issues With Commercial HVAC Systems

September 5, 2023

Whether you’re managing an office, a retail store, or a large commercial facility, HVAC systems are pivotal in creating a comfortable, efficient, and productive environment.

If your air conditioner isn’t working at an optimal level, your visitors, employees, or guests will likely feel uncomfortable, impacting everything from work output to brand perception!

Air conditioner equipment can encounter various issues due to its complexity. Recognizing and addressing these HVAC problems promptly can save you from costly repairs, energy inefficiency, and uncomfortable working conditions.

In this blog, we’re helping you troubleshoot the most common air conditioning problems for commercial premises, so you can prevent, diagnose, and repair them.

12 Common Problems with Commercial Air Conditioners

Unlike their residential counterparts, commercial HVAC systems are designed to meet the more challenging demands of businesses.

These systems usually feature multiple thermostats, intricate wiring, zone controls, and modular designs, ensuring they can efficiently maintain the desired temperature in larger spaces and adapt to the fluctuating needs of a business.

However, their complexity can make them susceptible to a range of air conditioner issues that may hinder their normal operation. Let’s take a look at the 12 most common HVAC problems and what you can do about them.

#1 Aging Systems

All HVAC systems have a finite lifespan. As the system ages, it’s common for essential components such as belts, bearings, and motors to wear out and fail. Regularly scheduled maintenance by a trained service technician can significantly extend the lifespan of your system, ensuring it functions efficiently for as long as possible.

#2 Circuit Breaker Trips

One common issue with commercial HVAC systems involves the tripping of a circuit breaker. There are many reasons for circuit breakers tripping, but the main one is that blocked-off air registers, or a dirty air filter can restrict airflow within your HVAC unit.

This obstruction forces the blower motor to work harder, generating more heat and ultimately tripping the circuit breaker. Regular cleaning of air vents and replacement of every air filter can help maintain the airflow and prevent such issues with your air conditioning.

#3 Dirty Air Filter or Condenser

Dirty condenser coils and air filters can drastically impact the efficiency of your air conditioning system.

These conditions force the AC unit to work harder to cool the air, leading to increased energy consumption and potential system damage. As part of regular maintenance, an HVAC professional should clean the condenser coils and replace dirty filters.

#4 Ignition Issues

The regular operation and aging process can gradually degrade vital components of the system, such as burners, flame sensors, and the pilot light, leading to ignition problems.

Regularly scheduling a professional service call can help maintain these critical components in peak condition, ensuring your system starts and operates reliably.

#5 Thermostat Problems

Your HVAC system’s thermostat controls are essential for maintaining the desired temperature.

Unfortunately, something as simple as drained batteries can lead to malfunctioning thermostat settings, affecting your HVAC system’s ability to regulate temperatures efficiently. Regular battery replacement can keep your thermostat functioning as expected.

Poor installation, possible corrosion, loose wiring and power issues can all cause thermostat problems.

#6 Water Leaks

Water leaks in an HVAC system can stem from clogged or cracked drain lines, issues with the collector box, heat exchanger, or evaporator coils. Left unchecked, water leaks can result in significant damage. Trained service technicians can help identify and mitigate these issues during preventative maintenance visits.

#7 Uneven Temperature Distribution

Uneven cooling or heating across different zones of your commercial building can be a symptom of various HVAC issues.

It could be due to blocked air vents, dirty air filters, or an improperly sized HVAC system. Regular inspection and maintenance by a trained HVAC technician can help rectify these issues, ensuring every room in your building is at an equal, comfortable temperature.

#8 Refrigerant Leaks

Over time, your air conditioner or heat pump may develop leaks in the refrigerant lines, leading to less efficient cooling and higher energy consumption.

It’s essential to call in an HVAC professional to fix refrigerant leaks because handling this substance requires specialized tools and knowledge due to its potentially dangerous elements.

Don’t forget to check out our other blog while you’re here, 7 Benefits of a Commercial Energy Audit.

#9 Blower Motor Failure

The blower motor is critical for circulating cool or warm air throughout your building. If it fails, it can result in inadequate airflow, leading to uncomfortable conditions and higher energy bills.

Regular maintenance checks by a trained HVAC professional can catch blower motor issues before they escalate into major problems.

#10 Inadequate Maintenance

One of the most common HVAC issues is simply a lack of proper maintenance. HVAC systems need regular check-ups to ensure all components are working correctly.

Without this, minor issues can escalate into significant problems. Establishing a regular maintenance schedule with a reliable HVAC service provider can prevent this issue.

#11 Dirty Evaporator Coils

A dirty evaporator coil can play a crucial role in your air conditioner’s cooling process. When they become dirty, they can’t transfer heat effectively, leading to decreased cooling efficiency and potential system damage.

During regular maintenance, a technician will clean the coils to ensure optimal performance.

#12 Duct Leaks

Air loss through duct leaks can significantly impact your HVAC system’s efficiency, leading to uneven temperatures and higher energy bills. Regular inspections by an HVAC professional can identify and seal these leaks, enhancing the system’s performance and energy efficiency.


The Vital Role of Preventive Maintenance in Commercial HVAC Systems

Understanding the common problems that can plague commercial HVAC systems, as well as the role of regular maintenance in preventing these issues, is crucial for all businesses.

At GMS, we have the expertise, specialized tools, and reliable maintenance plans to ensure your HVAC system functions optimally, saving you from unexpected repair costs while keeping your energy bills in check.

Whether you’re dealing with equipment failure, uneven temperature distribution, or are interested in transitioning to an energy-efficient system, we’re here to help.

Serving commercial clients across DC, Maryland, and Virginia, our highly trained technicians are ready to assist with all your heating and cooling needs. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for your HVAC concerns – we’re here to help ensure your HVAC system is always performing at its best.

Greg Lilly

about the author

Greg Lilly, President and Owner of General & Mechanical Services, LLC

Greg Lilly is a Johns Hopkins University graduate with over 30 years of experience in mechanical services focused on providing energy efficient solutions and strategies within facilities, central plants and data centers.