The specific air conditioning requirements for a commercial property can drastically vary from one building to the next. This depends on the layout, what the building is used for and a variety of other factors. It makes determining exactly what size and type of cooling system will work best much more difficult than when installing AC in a residential building. The process of installing and testing commercial AC systems also tends to be more difficult since they are often much more complicated. In this guide, we’ll take you through the different steps involved in designing and installing commercial AC systems to help you understand what to expect and why each step is essential.
1. Evaluating the Building
The very first step is for the HVAC technicians to carefully look at and analyze the building plans or blueprints to calculate the total size of the space. They will then go through the plans or walk through the building room by room to determine the specific factors that will affect the cooling requirements. For instance, high ceilings in part of the building or lots of large windows and skylights in some areas will increase the cooling needs. For this, a standard central system may not be adequate as it would lead to some parts of the building being too warm while other areas may be uncomfortably cold.
As such, it is sometimes necessary to split the building up and determine the specific cooling requirements for each of the different spaces individually. Many larger commercial buildings will require multiple AC units or even several separate systems depending on the design and layout and how each space will be used. Nonetheless, calculating the total space and the total volume of air in the building is always the first step. This is for approximating the number of BTUs the system or systems need to produce to cool every room and space effectively.
2. Assessing the Ambient Temperature
Some commercial buildings have lots of different equipment, machinery and electronics that give off heat. This ambient heat gain needs to be factored in to ensure that the contractor can design a system or systems that work effectively and as efficiently as possible. On the other hand, commercial properties like doctor’s offices or retail businesses typically won’t have many things that contribute to increased heat gain.
The cooling requirements for a restaurant will obviously be different from an office building since all of the stoves, ovens and other kitchen equipment will add heat to the space. In a restaurant, you’d want to make sure that the system kept the kitchen sufficiently cool without making the dining area too cold.
Some office buildings have their own server room that can get extremely hot. That room may need to be on a separate system or at least have a separate thermostat that regulates the temperature in the server room only. Similarly, a business that has both office facilities and a warehouse or loading dock will have vastly different cooling requirements in the different spaces.
Assessing the level of insulation in all parts of the building and how much air can come in from outside is also important. The doors in a warehouse or loading dock will continually open and close throughout the day or possibly remain open. This would allow lots of hot air in and increase the ambient temperature. At the same time, you may not be as concerned with keeping that space as cool as you would the offices. The cooling requirements would obviously be different for each space.
3. Choosing the Right Type of Cooling System
After evaluating the specific cooling needs for every room or part of the building, next is to determine what type of system would work best and keep every space sufficiently cool. This is important for ensuring the system is energy efficient and keeping every part of the building comfortable or as cool as it needs to be. Zone-control systems are often the preferred choice for many commercial buildings as they allow you to set the temperature higher or lower in each room or part of the building. This type of system will typically always run off the same units, but each zone will have a thermostat that works independently.
In an office space, you may want to consider a mini-split system instead of a standard central AC system. A mini-split system has separate air handlers in each room that only work for that space. This way everyone can not only set their office to a different temperature, but also just shut off the AC to their office whenever they want. Mini-split systems are also great for buildings that have areas or rooms that typically get a lot of heat gain. This could be from sunlight through windows and skylights or machinery that gives off heat. In this case, a mini-split system would be much more energy efficient since you wouldn’t always need to cool the whole building at one time. You could instead just cool the specific areas as needed.
4. Determining the Necessary System Size
Once you’ve worked with the technicians to determine what type of system will work best, the technician will perform a load calculation. That takes into account all of the various factors like the size of the building, level of insulation and heat gain or loss in different areas. The formula used when performing a load calculation for a commercial building can be extremely complex. But it is essential for determining what size of unit or units are needed. It will also help the technician to determine the placement of the various units and other components in the system.
5. Installing, Commissioning and Testing the System
If you’re simply upgrading to new cooling units, the technicians will need to fully inspect and analyze the existing ductwork. This will ensure it is properly sized, in good condition and will allow air to effectively flow to each part of the building as needed. In new buildings, the technicians will need to design and fully install the ducts based on the specific parameters and requirements. This can be one benefit to choosing a mini-split system as they don’t require ductwork. So the job will take less time and the system will be easier to install.
Once the ductwork is ready to go, the contractor will then mount the various AC units and all of the thermostats. They’ll then connect everything and begin the process of commissioning the system. Commissioning any HVAC system is a complicated process that involves testing all of the components. This makes sure everything is operating within the manufacturer’s specifications and meets the building’s specific requirements. This means testing various factors like air pressure, temperature drop, blower speed, thermostat settings, etc. and then adjusting and recalibrating the different settings and specifications as needed. Depending on the size and type of the system, the process of commissioning, calibrating and testing if the system functions properly could take a day or up to a week. This is since there are so many different things that need to be tested and adjusted.
Call the Professionals
If you’re looking to upgrade your commercial property with air conditioning, Emergency Air Heating Cooling & Plumbing is ready to help. We have years of experience in commercial and residential AC installation for customers in Chandler and the Phoenix Metro area. Our team will work with you to design the ideal system for your business or home. We also offer professional heating installation and can help with your HVAC repair, maintenance and indoor air quality needs. To schedule a consultation and learn what type of commercial AC installation is best for your business, give us a call today.