Practically Speaking about Retail FM

Don’t Lose Your Cool Over HVAC Issues Lingering into October

fandogKeeping customers cool, without blowing the budget, is a never ending challenge for retailers of all sizes, even in the fall months.  As some recently shared at a PRSM-sponsored event, there are plenty of problems, and solutions, to go around.

If your merchandise is sensitive to heat, consider a replacement interval of 5-8 years, for instance, keeping the units under warranty when possible.  According to the PRSM 2012 Benchmarking Report, the average age of most rooftop HVAC units across the retail industry is 5-10 years, with most replacements coming when units cross the 15-year mark.    

HVAC is easily your biggest expense, in some cases averaging $1200-$1500 a month to run a system … deploying multiple units per store is a reliable strategy to help defend against high interior temps when one unit fails.

Other types of retailers typically utilize single units, and if it’s working and in good condition, repairs are made until it’s no longer feasible to maintain.  Lease renewals factor into the replacement strategy, partnering with real estate helps everyone understand where action is needed.

Across the industry retailers agreed there is a chronic shortage of parts and there is no solution in sight.  Typical delays run 3-5 days, most reported, which further supports the multiple, smaller-unit strategy. 

Is there an average cost for unit replacement per ton?  Most agreed $1500 per ton is a reliable average, representing an increase over the past few years. 

Is coil cleaning considered regular maintenance?  Coil cleaning is typically done during spring start up, most have this built into contracts as required maintenance. 

Is there a preference for self-performing HVAC contractors?  Yes, most agreed … there’s added value in a bona-fide specialist working on the units, but optimally if the company also has a team of electrical contractors, they come in handy when wiring problems occur between the units and the source.

What happens when you experience repeat problems with a unit?  After two or three calls on the same unit, it’s probably time for a second opinion.  Which always presents an opportunity to evaluate the service you are receiving.  Alternatively, in some cases the solution might be at the thermostat control.

Learn more about what PRSM members have to say about managing HVAC issues in the 2012 Benchmarking Report, which provides retail-specific metrics regarding three key areas of HVAC management: operations practices, cost by store type and location analysis and component repair information.

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