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October 12, 2023

The Ultimate Guide to Commercial HVAC Systems

A property owner and construction site manager at a commercial building site

Your commercial building is only as good as your HVAC system! 

Canadian business owners and property managers should never overlook their commercial heating and air conditioning units; they keep their people comfortable by improving air quality and regulating temperatures. Whether it’s an office building, restaurant, hotel, or retail store, high-quality HVAC can make a huge difference. 

Understanding the fundamentals of your commercial heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is essential if you want to make informed decisions, reduce energy costs, and maintain its condition for years to come.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or new to HVAC management, this resource will equip you with everything you need to know about commercial HVAC basics.

Everything You Need to Know About Commercial HVAC Systems
  1. Commercial HVAC Systems Explained 
  2. Types of Industrial HVAC Systems 
  3. Assessing Your Commercial HVAC Needs
  4. Energy Efficiency and Environmental Impact 
  5. Installation & Maintenance 
  6. Industrial HVAC Troubleshooting Issues
  7. Finding Reliable Commercial HVAC Contractors
  8. FAQs

Commercial HVAC Systems Explained

Each of the components that make up your HVAC system—heating, ventilation, and air conditioning—work together to maintain a comfortable indoor air temperature and air quality year-round.

Let’s briefly dive into each of these elements and discuss how they contribute to the overall operations of your HVAC system.

1. Heating

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Furnaces, boilers, or heat pumps handle heating in an HVAC system. After being signalled on by the thermostat, their fuel source—be it gas, water, or electricity—delivers heat to the heat exchanger to create hot air, which it then distributes accordingly.

Maintaining a comfortable and safe environment for occupants, preventing frozen pipes, and preventing structural damage depends on heating. 

💡 Read more: Ultimate Heat Pump GuideUltimate Furnace Guide

Ventilation involves the exchange of indoor and outdoor air to maintain quality and provide a continuous supply of fresh air. A ventilation system filters and circulates air, removing pollutants, odours, and excess moisture.

Proper ventilation supports occupant health, reducing the risk of indoor air quality-related issues like allergies and respiratory problems. It also helps control humidity and prevent buildup of harmful substances, such as mould and carbon dioxide.

Air conditioning systems draw in warm air and direct it toward their evaporator coils filled with refrigerant, which cools it down. This cooled air then travels to the air handler, where a blower disperses it through the ductwork.

Air conditioning is essential for maintaining a comfortable temperature, reducing heat-related discomforts, and preventing equipment and electronics from overheating.

Get a Customized Commercial HVAC Solutions Quote

Rows of packaged rooftop units on top of a commercial building

Types of Industrial HVAC Systems

Selecting the right commercial HVAC system depends on factors like building size, layout, energy efficiency goals, and budget. It’s essential to to consult with HVAC professionals to determine the most suitable system for your specific commercial space prior to making any decisions.

The table below evaluates the most common types of industrial HVAC systems, their characteristics, and recommended use. 

Type Defining Characteristics Recommended Use
Single-Split Systems ➡️ Split into single indoor unit (furnace or air handler) and single outdoor unit (condenser)

➡️ Controlled by single thermostat

➡️ Simple and cost-effective

☑️ Perfect for small commercial spaces such as individual offices, small retail shops, or server rooms where a single room or zone requires heating and cooling

☑️ Requires ductwork

Multi-Split Systems  ➡️ Multiple indoor units are connected to a single outdoor unit

➡️ Reduced outdoor footprint

➡️ Allow for zoned temperature control

☑️ An excellent choice for medium to large commercial spaces, including restaurants and office suites

☑️ Requires ductwork

Packaged Rooftop Units (RTUs) ➡️ All HVAC components packaged into a single unit

➡️ Compact system, making them easy to install and maintain

☑️ Frequently used for single-storey commercial spaces, such as retail stores, restaurants, and small office buildings

☑️ Requires ductwork

Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) ➡️ Allow for zoned temperature control

➡️ Two types: Heat Pump VRF (for heating or cooling) and Heat Recovery VRF (for heating and cooling simultaneously)

➡️ Highly flexible and energy efficient

☑️ Best for medium to large commercial buildings with varying cooling and heating needs, such as hotels, hospitals, or mixed-use developments

☑️ Requires ductwork

Air-Source Heat Pumps ➡️ One outdoor unit with one or more indoor units

➡️ Provide both heating and cooling

➡️ Allow for multi-zone temperature control

➡️ Cost-effective and energy efficient

☑️ Small commercial spaces

☑️ No ductwork required

Boilers ➡️ Uses fuel to heat a fluid that is pumped through a hydronic heating system

➡️ Heated fluid is distributed through radiators or in-floor heating loops

➡️ Zoning capabilities

☑️ Recommended for large commercial spaces, such as warehouses, factories, hotels, and healthcare facilities that require a high heat output

☑️ No ductwork required 

How to Assess Your HVAC Needs

A well-informed assessment of your commercial HVAC needs will help you select the most appropriate system, optimize energy efficiency, and ensure your commercial space remains comfortable year-round. Here are the top considerations to help you assess your HVAC requirements:

1. Determine the Building Size and Layout

Sizing and capacity matter when choosing an industrial HVAC system, as systems that are too small or too large won’t run efficiently—they’ll just run up your bills. Measure the square footage of the area that needs climate control and consider the layout, including open spaces, separate rooms, and high-ceiling areas. This information will guide you in determining the type and capacity of the HVAC system required. 

Example: You’re the owner of a small restaurant. Your establishment has a total floor area of 2,000 square feet, with a dining area and an enclosed kitchen. The dining area is open with high ceilings, while the kitchen requires efficient ventilation and cooling due to heat generated by cooking equipment.

  1. Dining Area: Given the spacious, open layout and high ceilings, it’s essential to choose an HVAC unit with sufficient cooling capacity to maintain a comfortable temperature during peak dining hours. A multi-split or VRF system with zoning capabilities may be a good choice to ensure even cooling in this area.
  2. Kitchen: The kitchen demands a separate solution, focusing on ventilation and cooling to handle heat generated by stoves, ovens, and other equipment. A specialized exhaust system and HVAC unit designed for commercial kitchens are necessary to maintain air quality and comfort.

In this example, by analyzing the size and layout of your restaurant, you’ve determined that a combination of HVAC solutions is necessary to meet the distinct needs of different areas within the same building. This tailored approach ensures efficient climate control for your specific requirements, whether it’s maintaining a pleasant dining atmosphere or providing a comfortable workspace for kitchen staff.

💡 Read more: How to Calculate What Size of HVAC Unit You Need

Get a Custom Commercial HVAC Solutions Quote

2. Consider Zoning Needs

When installing an industrial HVAC system, you also need to consider the need for zone-specific temperature control. Assuming you want this, you will need to install dampers and programmable thermostats to manage temperatures. 

When evaluating commercial HVAC zoning possibilities, we recommend implementing the following to ensure the best results:

  • Don’t create zones larger than one floor
  • Install individual thermostats in rooms used most often
  • Group rooms with similar heating and cooling loads

3. Identify Your Local Climate

The geographical location of your business is an important factor to consider. Certain types of commercial HVAC systems won’t perform well in freezing conditions while others will excel. Check local climate data and consider variables like seasonal temperature extremes, humidity levels, and the number of heating and cooling days.

4. Analyze Occupancy and Usage

Take into account the number of people who occupy your commercial space and their activities. Spaces with high occupancy density, like restaurants or conference rooms, may require additional ventilation. Poor air quality affects productivity and can make guests uncomfortable, so ensuring air quality in commercial HVAC systems is a non-negotiable.

Also, consider whether your business operates during extended hours, as this affects HVAC usage and energy consumption.

💡 Read more: Care for Your Air: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality

A busy office space filled with employees

Energy Efficiency and Environmental Impact

Efficiency is at the heart of a well-managed commercial HVAC system. Maximizing energy efficiency not only reduces operational costs, but also minimizes your environmental footprint.

Here are the HVAC basics when it comes to sustainability: 

Upgrade to High-Efficiency Equipment

When shopping for industrial HVAC units, always look for the ENERGY STAR certification label. Their blue star logo signifies a product has met strict energy-efficient guidelines set by Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency. Approved models are designed to help you save money and energy while reducing your carbon footprint. 

Some HVAC systems are equipped with variable speed compressors and fans to adjust their output to match the current cooling or heating demand, which saves energy compared to fixed-speed systems. Additionally, more advanced models can recover waste heat, using it to warm other parts of your building or for water heating, increasing overall efficiency!

Strategies for Reducing Energy Consumption

     1. Efficient Ductwork and Insulation

Leaky ducts and poor insulation can lead to energy waste. Inspect and seal ducts, and improve insulation in your commercial space to reduce energy losses and enhance HVAC performance.

     2. Install Programmable Thermostats

Set temperature schedules that align with occupancy patterns. This prevent unnecessary heating or cooling when your space is unoccupied.

     3. Conduct Regular Maintenance

Scheduled maintenance, including filter replacement and system checks, keeps your HVAC system running efficiently.

💡Read more: Why Is Energy Conservation Important?

Upgrade Your Heating and Cooling System and Save Up to $8,400

Professional HVAC Installation and Maintenance

You should always leave the installation and maintenance of commercial HVAC systems to the professionals. Proper care is paramount for the performance and longevity of your unit.

Here’s what you can expect from professional industrial HVAC installation at LG Home Comfort:

Commercial HVAC Installation Process

  • Custom Design Options: LG Home Comfort offers custom designs for specific HVAC systems, tailored to the needs of your business.
  • Initial Assessment: An HVAC technician will measure and assess your space, then calculate the appropriate unit size based on their findings. 
  • Unit Placement: The indoor and outdoor units are strategically placed based on the system type and the building’s layout.
  • Ductwork Installation: If needed, ductwork is installed or modified to distribute conditioned air effectively throughout the space.
  • Electrical and Plumbing Connections: Wiring and plumbing connections are made to ensure the HVAC system’s functionality.

Post-Installation Checks 

  • Testing and Balancing: The system is thoroughly tested to verify that it operates correctly, including checking for refrigerant leaks, air balancing, and safety tests. 
  • Commissioning: A final check and commissioning process are performed to ensure the system’s performance meets the design specifications and provides optimal heating and cooling.
  • User Training: The last step in the process involves ensuring you know how to operate the commercial HVAC system for peak efficiency and results.

an HVAC contractor inspecting the vents in a commercial building

The Importance of Maintenance and Preventative Care

Regular maintenance and preventative care significantly extends the lifespan of your HVAC system, making it less prone to breakdowns and costly repairs.

Of all the HVAC basics a business owner needs to know, this is one of the most important.

Scheduled, professional HVAC maintenance can improve air quality, maintain your system’s warranty coverage, reduce your energy consumption, energy bills, and carbon emissions, and prevent unexpected breakdowns.

As with installation, commercial HVAC maintenance should be left to the professionals due to their specialized training and industry expertise. DIY efforts often lack the knowledge required to perform thorough inspections, diagnose complex issues, and calibrate equipment effectively. Professionals possess a deep understanding of HVAC systems, ensuring they can identify and rectify problems before they escalate. They also have access to the right tools and equipment to maintain safety and performance standards.

By prioritizing professional and consistent maintenance, you’ll secure the long-term performance of your commercial HVAC system, fostering a productive and energy-efficient workspace.

Schedule Professional Commercial HVAC Maintenance

Common Industrial HVAC Problems

Business owners need to stay on top of these common commercial HVAC issues to prevent disruptions in operations, discomfort and inefficiencies from happening.

  • Poor Airflow: Inadequate air circulation can result from clogged filters, blocked ducts, or faulty fans, leading to uneven heating or cooling.
  • Refrigerant Leaks: An air conditioning failing to do its job is often attributable to refrigerant leaks. 
  • Faulty Thermostats: Inaccurate thermostats can lead to temperature discrepancies, wasting energy and affecting occupant comfort.
  • Ignition Issues: Your furnace not igniting properly (and therefore not heating your building) could be the result of fuel supply problems or a faulty ignitor. Neither of these are things you should try to fix yourself. 
  • Odd Noises: Loud banging, clanging, or buzzing is your cue to call a technician. These are often the cause of issues with fans, motors, or other components. 

The Cost of Commercial HVAC Systems

It’s no secret that commercial HVAC units are expensive, with prices ranging from $6,000 to $50,000. This variability is based on several factors:

  • Unit size and capacity
  • Brand, type, and efficiency rating 
  • Additional components to cater to your building’s heating and cooling needs
  • Labour costs and installation fees 
  • Market competition in your area

The good news is that commercial HVAC systems are built to last a minimum of 15 years. This can easily be extended to 20 years and beyond with regular maintenance.

Finding Reliable Commercial HVAC Contractors

Now that you understand the value of professional maintenance and installation, you’re probably wondering how to evaluate HVAC companies. Selecting the right service provider is critical for the long-term health and efficiency of your HVAC system, so we recommend you choose one based on the following factors: 

Licensing & Certification

You want the best of the best when it comes to installing and maintaining your commercial HVAC system. A license, bond, and insurance will give you peace of mind that they know what they’re doing. You can also check for certification from industry organizations as a sign of expertise and professionalism.

References & Reviews

Ask for references from past clients and read online reviews. Positive feedback and a strong reputation are indicative of a trustworthy contractor.

Industry Experience

We recommend choosing an HVAC company with a proven track record of working on commercial HVAC systems. Experience with similar systems to yours is a valuable asset.

Partner With Commercial HVAC Experts at LG Home Comfort

When it comes to your commercial HVAC needs, trust the expertise of a family-owned HVAC company with a legacy of excellence.

At LG Home Comfort, we’re proud to be a Canadian-owned and operated business with decades of experience in the industry. Our dedicated team specializes in serving the unique requirements of commercial buildings, ensuring optimal climate control and energy efficiency.

We do everything—from property assessment to custom design, installation, maintenance and repairs—so that you can focus on what you do best; running a business. As one of the most reliable HVAC companies in Ontario, it’s our mission to always be available, 24/7/365, so that your operations aren’t impacted by unforeseen equipment breakdowns. 

Don’t compromise on the comfort and performance of your commercial space, call LG Home Comfort today to learn more about our commercial HVAC services. 

Commercial HVAC FAQs

What Are the Key Parts of a Commercial HVAC System?

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A commercial HVAC system includes cooling equipment (air conditioner, chillers), heating equipment (furnace, boiler), ventilation components (air handlers, exhaust fans, ductwork), control systems (thermostats, building automation systems), air filtration and purification (air filters), refrigerant lines and components, zoning equipment, dampers and louvers, pumps, valves, and piping.

What Commercial HVAC Unit Type Should I Get for My Business?

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Choose an HVAC unit based on your business needs and commercial space requirements. Usually, small businesses use single split systems, while large corporations will use variable refrigerant flow systems. Our team can help you choose the right one!

How Can I Save on Energy as a Business Owner?

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Business owners can save on energy bills and lessen consumption by switching to energy-efficient industrial HVAC systems. These products are designed to use less energy to deliver heating and cooling for buildings efficiently. To learn more, refer to the HVAC basics on energy ratings and certifications in this guide.

Terms and Conditions

  • Once an initial service has been completed, the customer will be on a one-year commitment
  • After the initial 12 months, the contract will be renewed on a month-to-month cadence
  • If a service is completed for the next year, it automatically renews the commitment for an additional year
  • Customers can cancel at any time after the 12-month initial commitment as long as the following year’s service has not been completed.
  • Customers need to provide 30 days written notice in order to cancel their plan