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Complete Guide on When To Replace Your Commercial HVAC System

Table of Contents

When to replace your commercial HVAC system

Thousands of business owners ask themselves: “When do I need to replace my commercial HVAC system?” 

If you’re already certain that your commercial HVAC system is in need of either a replacement or a regular maintenance plan, we recommend calling an HVAC technician immediately to prevent any further damage done to the unit and the building’s duct system.

And if you’re not certain that your commercial HVAC system is in need of a replacement, we highly recommend reading on to get a better understanding of your situation. And also to hear what several HVAC experts have to say about specific commercial HVAC systems!

To provide a more clear-cut understanding, we’ve provided an actual example one of our clients experienced before coming to us for a system replacement:

When to replace your commercial HVAC system
  • Imagine you’re driving to work in the morning during one of California’s record-breaking heat waves that happen every year. You get to work and ride up the elevator and when you enter your floor you get greeted with a whiff of hot air. 

The commercial HVAC system in your building is acting up again…

No air circulation, no breathability, and a disgustingly humid stench surrounding your workspace. You ask yourself, “Why does the temperature in my home have to be the only thing that I can control?” 

There could be a number of reasons why this problem has been left unnoticed, all of which are completely understandable: 

  1. Everyone is busy maintaining a profitable business, no time to take care of the HVAC units
  2. The commercial HVAC unit is out of sight out of mind, no reason to fix something that doesn’t take up much of your space.
  3. You can’t bring yourself to allocate funds towards something like this right now.
  4. You have no idea the first step to fixing your HVAC system.

Whatever the reason may be,

We want you to use this guide as a reference book, instruction manual, or definitive guide to help you make the right financial decision for your commercial HVAC system replacement.

The main point is to provide a public educational understanding of the importance and benefits of replacing your commercial HVAC system.

Now let’s get into the real meat of the subject!

Most Common Reasons for a Commercial HVAC Replacement

Our resident HVAC technicians have assembled a list of the most common reasons for a commercial HVAC replacement after over 20 years in the industry. 

The number one reason for needing a commercial HVAC replacement is old equipment. If your system is around 10-12 years old, it’s most likely to run its course and either needs a fine tune-up or a complete replacement. And if that’s the case please call us immediately. 

We’ve structured the list from the easiest commercial HVAC problem to the most complex problem. The more complex problems would require an HVAC technician to come in for a diagnosis and replacement plan immediately, while the easier problems would take a quick 30-45 minute session with an HVAC specialist to really take care of it.

when to replace commercial HVAC system

Simple Common Reasons 

Dirty Filters:

This is one of the most common reasons for replacements in every unit regardless of the system. Depending on the amount of use per year, you should be replacing the air filters on your commercial HVAC systems ranging from 4 times a year to once a month. 

When an air filter is dirty, its clogging will prevent air to flow through it efficiently. Because of this, the system will work twice as hard to achieve the same result as a clean filter. 

Clogged Drain:

This problem occurs from continuous use without a regular maintenance plan. When the refrigerant converts the liquid to a gas with the correct coils, moisture is collected and forms condensation. After this occurs, without the proper maintenance, gunk builds up in the drains and your air quality will drop aggressively. 

Leaking Refrigerant: 

Another extremely common reason why people replace their system, leaking refrigerant occurs when there is oil around your valves. Another example of leaking refrigerant is when your ac unit stops blowing cool air completely. 

If these leaks are not addressed quickly, they can lead to even bigger and more complex problems stated below. 

Complex Common Reasons 

Short Cycling: 

This reason is easy to diagnose, you’ll be able to hear if your compressor begins to short cycle. There are a few reasons as to why your system is short cycling, to begin with, and by figuring out which issue is really occurring you can save yourself plenty of money from consultation fees! 

It could be a blocked air filter, a faulty thermostat, or even low refrigerant levels due to the leaks we mentioned earlier. 

Faulty Economizer: 

The economizer helps reduce the energy consumption for cooling. From a study shown by the New Building Institute, this reason for a commercial HVAC replacement is very probable. The study states that out of the 500 RTUs examined nearly two-thirds had faulty economizers to any degree.

The main reasons for the economizer being faulty results in the air temperature sensors failing and dampers being stuck. 

Unusual Odors:

A more broad problem that occurs for a multitude of reasons, if you notice an unusual odor coming from your commercial HVAC system it almost always accompanies faulty air quality being released. This problem is usually accompanied by airborne diseases. 

According to multiple HVAC technicians, unusual odors indicate at least a partial system failure and should be checked by an expert immediately. 

Types of Commercial HVAC Systems

Here are the three main types of HVAC system configurations for commercial buildings. These systems can be installed in a multitude of ways depending on the range of benefits wanted by the clients. 

We recommend shopping between 2-3 different HVAC companies that offer installation and replacement to get the perfect quote for you. The goal is to achieve the most profitable deal possible with the requirements your commercial building has.

Packaged Systems 

When to replace your commercial HVAC system

These systems are most beneficially used for hotels, senior homes, townhouses, and mixed-use properties. Packaged units are all-in-one units (hence the name) with the compressor, condenser, evaporator, and fan coil all integrated into one. 

These systems provide cooling and heating control for numerous rooms and require residents to control their room’s temperature and air quality. 

Packaged systems can also be used for residential properties but would be installed at a much smaller scale. 

Split Systems 

when to replace your commercial HVAC system

These systems generally benefit commercial buildings like small offices, small stores, restaurants, or hospice care. These systems are connected to the building’s original ductwork and can be controlled via a thermostat or through DDC. 

Pros of this unit consist of quiet operations, pretty easy installations (which means you save money), extremely reliable performance, and low maintenance cost.

These systems have two cabinets, one indoors and one outdoors both of which hold different equipment within them.  

Rooftop RTU 

when to replace your commercial HVAC system

These systems contain all the required gears and units needed to provide AC in one compact unit. You will typically see these types of systems benefiting retail and industrial properties. (Looking at you, wholesale warehouse owners). 

The following components usually consist inside of a Rooftop RTU system: 

  • Evaporator
  • Compressor
  • Air-cooled condenser
  • And expansion device 

These systems connect through ductwork originally installed into the commercial building itself. And distributes both hot and cool air through space and returns it to the packaged rooftop unit. 

Benefits of Replacing a Commercial HVAC System

when to replace your commercial HVAC system

With the cost of regulations increasing, maintenance and product prices are directly increasing as well. As each year passes, it will become more and more costly to get your commercial HVAC system replaced. Because of this, if you ask any HVAC technician they’ll tell you to replace your system ASAP if you begin noticing common problems. 

The following are a list of benefits that you will receive when replacing your commercial HVAC system: 

Saving Money:

Who doesn’t love seeing their energy bills decrease month-by-month after getting their systems correctly replaced? That costly upfront charge for getting the replacement will eventually pay for itself when you see those bills begin to come down.

These days, the latest commercial HVAC systems are built for energy efficiency, and with efficiency comes money in your pocket every month! 

Healthy Air Quality:

A new commercial HVAC system has state-of-the-art components and unit products that will greatly improve air purification processes. On top of this, the air/duct filters that come with the new system will pretty much kill all contaminants and airborne diseases/bacteria present in the air.

Eventually, your employee health and air quality as a whole within your building will increase. 

Reduced Repair and Maintenance Costs:

The older your HVAC system is, the higher the maintenance costs will become. Having to replace specific components, do extensive duct cleaning, and detailed tune-ups eventually add up. Before you know it you’d have been in a better position by just replacing your old commercial HVAC system with a new one. 

In contrast, with newer HVAC system programs, there are specific technological advances that can notify you if there’s a problem before the system breaks down and requires more extensive maintenance. Thus, saving you loads of money!


We created this definitive guide to help those looking to get their commercial HVAC system replaced. We understand that it’s not a cheap process, and it’s important to make sure that the person purchasing the new system has all the information necessary to make the most profitable decision. 

Our goal with this guide and the rest of our articles is to create an informational hub of public knowledge within the HVAC industry. We spend hours researching the hard-hitting questions that the public wants the answers to and spend more hours interviewing experts, getting testimonials, and doing deep dives into case studies. 

All of this information is provided for you so that when you get multiple estimates from multiple different HVAC technicians, you’ll come equipped with the knowledge to make the right decision (and hopefully the most profitable one). 

We urge you to save this article, and during your consultations with HVAC experts, ask them these questions and cover all the fundamentals shown above. By doing so, you’re empowering yourself and your business with better odds of acquiring the perfect commercial HVAC replacement system. 


How often should commercial HVAC systems be serviced? 

  • Depending on the size and usage of the HVAC system itself, on average service should be done every 5-6 months.

How long does it take to replace a commercial HVAC system? 

  • Both residential and commercial jobs are done within 1-2 days normally. 

What is the cost of a commercial HVAC system replacement? 

  • Anywhere from $6,000-$20,000+ depending on a lot of variables like size, additional mechanics needed with the unit, complexity of installation location, etc. 

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