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What Is HVAC Retrofitting?

Modern-day methods for heating and cooling have existed in their current form for well over 50 years. This means that, whatever building your business happens to operate out of, it likely already has everything it needs to transport warm or cool air into every room. Despite the fact that the basic concept behind HVAC hasn’t changed much in the past half-century, however, the technology itself has continued to progress a great deal.

This means that while your building might have the infrastructure in place for effective heating and cooling, the actual technology you’re using might be a bit behind the times. It may even be wearing out, begging to be replaced. If this is the case, you have several options.

Many building operators choose to opt for a simple in-kind replacement. This means they simply replace old, malfunctioning equipment with the exact same model. While, at first glance, this makes sense—surely, it must be cheaper to just replace components as they break down—it fails to take into consideration the progression of technology.


Others choose to replace the whole system, in its entirety. In an attempt to keep pace with the latest trends, they have their entire building essentially gutted in favor of what will no doubt be a massive project. This also makes sense at first glance—a new, upgraded HVAC model will save a great deal on energy costs, while boosting the building’s value—but it isn’t usually the most efficient method of getting the job done either.

That’s why many building owners—both in the commercial and residential sectors—opt for a retrofit. This is the best of both worlds: replace certain components while keeping others. This minimizes the amount of work needed for the project while still ensuring the building is heated and cooled by the latest technology.

Why Retrofit?

The fact is that heating and air conditioning systems have a limited useful life. When they’re properly maintained, this can be a long time: often as much as 25 years. Even so, parts will eventually begin to wear out, while technological progress marches along the entire time. It’s simply not practical to replace the original air conditioner in a 40-year-old building with the exact same model. However, some of those 40-year-old parts are probably continuing to do their jobs just fine, so by the same token, it’s not necessary to replace them.

Including some new technology in your HVAC system will save you a good deal on your energy bill. It will also extend the life of the system you have in place. With regular care and maintenance, you’ll be able to avoid having to do a costly full replacement while still reaping the benefits of an upgrade.

How Does It Work?

Most buildings are heated and cooled by a forced-air system. On a cold day, a furnace utilizes some sort of fuel source to heat air. A large fan then blows this air through a system of ducts. By way of the vents that you see above you in each room, the air circulates until those rooms are heated to the desired temperature. The thermostat notes when this temperature has been achieved and shuts the blower motor off. Cooling works much the same way, except that instead of a furnace, a chiller is used.

The basic concept behind this technology hasn’t changed much since the 1960s. That means that if you are in a building that’s brand new, it’s likely to be heated in the same basic way as one constructed in the 1970s. However, what will be different are those furnaces and chillers themselves. In the last 50 years—or even in the last 10—there has been a revolution in the efficiency of HVAC systems. If you’re stubbornly still using a furnace that became obsolete 20 years ago, you are needlessly wasting money on your energy bill.

A retrofit, as opposed to a full replacement, will simply replace parts that are out of date. If your furnace is too old, that can be replaced. If your chiller has seen better days, your HVAC professional can replace that too. But maybe your blower motor still works perfectly; perhaps the duct system that was put in place in the 1970s is just as efficient as ever. If that’s the case, why replace them? A retrofit will only replace parts that need to be replaced, leaving other ones alone.

Who Can Do the Retrofit?

Having a retrofit performed is something you should discuss with a qualified HVAC professional. HVAC—meaning heating, ventilation, and air conditioning—is the science of bringing your building to the desired temperature in a safe and healthy manner. It’s a complex discipline, and men and women who work in HVAC must be highly trained to do so. They should carry certifications from organizations such as the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers, or ASHRAE. Make sure that any HVAC contractor you are considering retaining the services of is properly certified.

You will also need to read testimonials and check references. It’s important to verify that the HVAC professional performing your retrofit is experienced and has a good record of satisfied customers. Entek HVAC is a great example of such a company, having been in business for nearly 75 years. In that time, they have worked on the heating and cooling systems of nearly every type of building you can imagine, including many retrofits.

Once the retrofit process is complete, make sure you retain the services of your HVAC professional for regular maintenance. A retrofit will extend the working life of your heating and cooling system but only if the parts are regularly inspected, cleaned, and repaired when necessary. A check-up of all the parts, new and old, in your retrofitted HVAC system should be performed approximately once a year.

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