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NOVEMBER 18, 2014

With the purchase of an older building, you get a lot of history as well as a number of problems inherent in older infrastructure. Vintage plumbing, knob-and-tube wiring, and an ancient heating system are all likely issues, especially if the building is around a century old. When it comes to retrofitting your HVAC system, there are a number of things that you need to consider in making the right choices for an upgrade.

Looking at Code

Choosing the upgrades on your commercial building will depend quite often on the local code. If you are in one of the parts of the country that requires air conditioning, for example, this may limit your options. Either window A/C units will need to be used, or a central heating/cooling system will be the best choice for an HVAC system.

Number of Users

If you own a multi-tenant building, the HVAC choices may make more sense if you allow each tenant to control their own heating and cooling. Whether this is a rental property or a multi-business space, there are a number of advantages to having individual thermostats. First, it increases the appeal of your unit to lessees, because the individual heating and cooling needs may differ. Second, though the up-front cost is borne by you, it allows you to place the billing for heating and cooling into the hands of your tenants, lowering your overall monthly cost on your rental, and eventually increasing your profit margin. If you have a single user, it may make sense to keep a low-cost radiator system in the building instead.

Optimize Your HVAC

One of the most important things to consider with your heating and cooling system is the construction of your building and its insulation. Old windows and buildings without proper insulation can make spending money on a new HVAC system less economical overall. It may be worthwhile to do a cost analysis, first, to see whether more money is saved over time in a new heating and cooling system, or in a window and insulation upgrade. Both will make a difference, of course, but working with a professional may help you to see which step should be taken first.

Create a Big Picture Plan

When you inherit or purchase an old building, it is always a good idea to create a roadmap over the next few decades with the building. Get the analysis of an engineering company to see what jobs will need to be done over the next few decades, so that money can be saved for these items, and you won’t be caught unaware with a big bill.