Is Your HVAC in Ship-Shape? - Dakota Safety

One of the most important components of a commercial building is its heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system – or HVAC. If your property’s HVAC system is performing the way it’s supposed to, your organization can enjoy several benefits.

HVAC Advantages

First of all, when running at optimal levels, your HVAC helps your company save energy. You don’t have to worry about driving up your utility bill. It also helps your organization do its part to reduce emissions. Large properties and commercial buildings emit more harmful greenhouse gasses and use more resources than smaller residential buildings. But if your company makes sure your HVAC is running well, you can reduce your carbon footprint.

An HVAC system that is working properly can also make your building more comfortable. Your workers will feel more content in a climate-controlled environment that isn’t too hot or too cold. Additionally, it can create an ideal setting for your business to do its best work without having to worry about humidity levels or temperature changes that could impact your productivity.

On the other hand, an HVAC system that isn’t working properly can increase your yearly energy usage and cost you more money. It’s also possible for HVAC problems to cause potential safety and health issues for your employees.

Here are some ways to see if your commercial HVAC system is up to the task.

Examining Your Thermostat

Determining the efficiency of your HVAC system starts with a complete evaluation of all the major parts and functions. Before you evaluate your HVAC unit, make sure your thermostat isn’t the problem. Sometimes, an old or malfunctioning thermostat can cause serious temperature discrepancies throughout your building.

To help your HVAC unit run more efficiently, use a digital thermostat that’s programmable for different zones of your commercial building. This way, you can have greater control over the specific temperature and climate conditions you want your building to maintain. For even more control, look into smartphone or computer-paired thermostat apps that allow property managers or owners to closely monitor conditions, even remotely.

Checking Around the Furnace

The next step to take is to survey the area around your furnace. Be sure to remove any debris or flammable items. Keeping items too close to your furnace could lead to a disaster like a fire.

Additionally, check out the area around the chimney. Make sure the chimney is clear and air flow is not restricted. Over time, the chimney may get dirty and filled with soot. Be sure to schedule regular chimney cleanings to keep the air circulation flowing.

Furnace Function

The furnace also needs to be completely checked over to make sure your HVAC system is running safely. Inside the furnace, the flame (also called the “pilot flame”) that powers the appliance should be blue. If you see a different color, this may be a sign of a problem.

You also need to look for signs of soot or residue along your furnace. There shouldn’t be any material like this along the appliance, but if you see soot, that may be a sign of incomplete combustion. This problem could be potentially dangerous, so it may be necessary to consult a professional for help.

Clearing Vents and Ductwork

Then it’s time to do a walkthrough of your entire building. Your goal is to get an idea of how all the vents look throughout your facility.

Look to see that all vents and ducts are clear of debris and dust. If you spot major piles of dust or other materials, it may be wise to hire a professional duct cleaner. Doing so could help boost your HVAC system’s efficiency. With clear ducts and vents, your airflow will be freed up and your indoor air quality could improve.

Checking Air Filters

The next step is to check out the space between your ductwork and your system’s air handler. You’re looking for your HVAC’s air filters. You can easily remove the air filter and check it out for problems. If the filter is dirty, take a few minutes to clean off any dust or other messy particles attached to the filtering material. You’ll soon notice a difference in air quality.

Some air filters are designed to be replaced instead of cleaned. Depending on your system, you should replace them or clean them every month for ideal system performance. Improved air flow with a fresh air filter ensures your system will not work as hard, which saves you money in the long-term. This essential maintenance step can also help extend the life of your system.

Looking at Fan Belts

While you’re inside looking at your air filter, another place to pay careful attention to is your system’s fan belt. The fan belt helps keep your HVAC’s blower running at all times. If your fan belt fails, the blower could stop and any cooling or heating circulation would essentially be dead in its tracks.

The fan belt is inside the blower and is wrapped around the pulley and wheel that powers the forced air through your system. If the belt is cracked or brittle, that’s a huge sign that it needs to be immediately replaced. Ideally, the fan belt should be flexible and able to bend easily. Additionally, the belt cable should have enough tension to operate.

Refrigerant Levels

Another spot that could potentially cause serious problems if not routinely monitored is along your HVAC’s cooling component. Inside this space, a typical system is loaded with liquid refrigerant. This refrigerant is used to help maintain a cool temperature during the hot months of the year.

Leaking refrigerant could wreak havoc on your HVAC system and indoor air quality. Additionally, a refrigerant leak could cause your unit to not reach the right temperature. If you suspect a leak, get a licensed HVAC technician to help. Chemicals like refrigerant can be toxic and get onto your skin if not handled properly.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

The final important tip for keeping tabs on your HVAC system is to get a carbon monoxide detector for your building. The best way to keep workers safe is to have a systematic carbon monoxide detector that includes individual units throughout your building to ensure a leak can be quickly detected.

Carbon monoxide, also known as the silent killer, is a product of a malfunction in your furnace’s combustion. Without a detector, you would never know there was a leak as the gas is odorless and colorless. An entire building filled with people could be infiltrated with this poisonous gas as it spreads throughout your building.

With a detector, you get a useful warning system that picks up on the dangerous fumes. If your detector alarm sounds, evacuate immediately and call 911.

HVACs and Safety

We’ve established the importance of keeping your HVAC up and running at its peak. But what about safety around your system?

Most HVAC units will be housed on the roof of a business facility and therefore, OSHA’s guidelines outlining employee safety and roof work apply. It’s important to ensure you’ve installed proper warning systems or other safety features for a rooftop environment.


Guardrails are a great way to keep your rooftop safe. If any units are near an edge, especially if workers could potentially be exposed to a 4-foot drop, you should consider adding guardrails and train your staff on active fall protection methods so that workers are safe and compliant.


If you work to maintain your commercial HVAC unit and provide routine preventative maintenance, it will do its job efficiently and without wasting your company’s money.


Contact us today to get more information about how to make your facility safe and efficient for your workers.

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