Hashish companies can’t afford to skip HVAC preventive upkeep

Peter McGrath

Many cannabis companies may think of HVAC systems as simple heaters or air conditioners, but the reality is very different.

HVAC is a highly complex system of interconnected devices that must work in harmony to create the exact temperature, humidity, and air quality conditions that marijuana plants need to thrive.

A lack of comprehensive HVAC planning in both new and re-commissioned facilities, as well as infrequent maintenance, can lead to a myriad of problems in these complex systems.

Even small changes in temperature, humidity and air filtration can significantly affect product quality and consistency, resulting in significant lost time, production and sales.

In today’s highly competitive cannabis industry, businesses simply cannot afford to neglect regular preventative maintenance at the risk of significant revenue losses.

It is vitally important that marijuana business owners consider their HVAC systems a key element in the success of their business.

Prioritizing regular preventive HVAC maintenance is the best way to ensure systems are operating at peak performance and to prevent problems before they can occur.

Preventative maintenance can even save money by reducing energy costs and helping to avoid costly repairs or equipment failure.

Spring is an ideal time for growers to ensure their HVAC systems are effectively regulating the indoor growing environment despite varying weather conditions outside.

Here are six steps of a preventative maintenance process to ensure your system is running efficiently:

1. Clean condenser coils

Without regular maintenance, dust and dirt can accumulate on the condenser coils.

Over time, this buildup can cause your device to work harder and run longer, resulting in reduced system efficiency and higher energy bills.

It’s especially important to keep the coils clean in the spring, as airborne plant debris can attach to your coils and clog them.

If neglected for an extended period of time, dirty coils can eventually corrode, causing refrigerant leaks and even causing a system failure.

2. Clean and test cooling towers and water tower filtration systems

Although cooling towers are an essential part of many commercial HVAC systems, they are often overlooked.

Regular cleaning and inspection of cooling towers is crucial after periods of non-use during the winter months as they can become breeding grounds for bacteria.

In addition, cooling tower efficiency can drop by up to 40-50% if the tower is not properly maintained.

3. Flush cooling water systems and reheat hot water systems

Even a small problem with a chilled water or post-heating hot water system can significantly reduce efficiency and increase operating costs.

Over time, chilled water system plumbing can accumulate contaminants such as minerals, scale, and sludge.

In hot water systems, rust and scale can clog control valves.

It is important to regularly remove this debris to ensure consistent flow and proper temperature and humidity control.

4. Check the systems for refrigerant leaks

To ensure your ventilation and chilled water systems can effectively cool your environment, it is important to maintain refrigerant levels as specified by the manufacturer.

When the refrigerant level drops, the compressor works harder to compensate.

Refrigerant leaks not only affect system efficiency and stress the compressor, but are also subject to strict environmental regulations.

5. Check economizer function

Economizers are particularly valuable in the spring as they use the outside air to ‘free cool’ your building when the temperature and humidity are appropriate.

Without preventative maintenance, sensors will go out of calibration, dampers will stick, linkages will break, seals will fail and actuators will stop working properly.

When economizers work properly, they effectively reduce energy costs, often on the order of hundreds or thousands of dollars a month.

6. Change filter and belt

Dirty or clogged filters can lead to underperforming HVAC systems and poor air quality.

Over time, fan belts can become worn and loose, affecting the proper operation of the air conditioner.

Belts should be checked at every preventative maintenance and generally need to be replaced once or twice a year.

These six steps provide a basic guide to preventive maintenance of HVAC systems.

Of course, every building’s HVAC system is unique, which means that no two approaches to preventative maintenance are exactly the same.

Working with a commercial HVAC professional with experience in mission-critical environments on a customized preventive maintenance plan can give cannabis business owners peace of mind that their system is operating at peak performance while providing a safe environment for plants to thrive.

Peter McGrath oversees technical sales, equipment replacement and design/engineering at Mechanical Service Corp. based in Whippany, NJ. He can be reached at marketing@mscnj.com.

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