Commercial HVAC Equipment

How preventive maintenance can lead to huge savings in commercial buildings

Thursday, January 5 2017 3:10 PM
By Jon Goering

experts estimate that preventive maintenance practices can be up to 30 times less costly that deferred maintenance.

It’s no secret that it takes a significant amount of time, money and effort to maintain a commercial building. When budgets tighten, facility managers must do more with less, performing what must feel like miracles to keep systems operating properly.

In these instances, facility managers look for ways to reduce spending, and that sometimes leads to deferring maintenance, even when those tasks are needed.

While putting off maintenance may save money in the short term, this approach often costs more down the road. And we all can agree that’s not a good thing.

In this post, we’ll discuss the cost of deferred maintenance and why taking a preventive maintenance approach over time makes more sense.

Building Life-Cycle Costs

When commercial building maintenance goes undone, repairs often become replacements. Why? Because whatever needs to be repaired has become too far damaged and needs to be replaced. In most cases, replacements cost more than repairs.

In fact, industry experts estimate that preventive maintenance practices can be up to 30 times less costly that deferred maintenance. Still not convinced? Let’s look at an example.

Chillers and boilers are made up of dozens of long tubes necessary for heat transfer. These tubes should be cleaned regularly to remove deposit buildup. Ignoring this critical task leads to said deposit buildup, which forces machines to work harder. Machines that work harder use more energy and experience mechanical failures more quickly.

And all of this ends up costing you – the end user – more.

So what should you do, clean the tubes on a scheduled basis (preventive), or ignore tube cleaning and save a few bucks because, hey, the machine appears to be running fine (deferred)? Only now your machine must be replaced five, seven maybe 10 years sooner than expected because it’s worn out (years just a guess).

The answer is obvious.  

Planning for Maintenance

In some instances, neglect is not the issue. Rather, funds for ongoing operational costs were not set aside during the construction of a commercial building. According to a Stanford University report, in a building’s 30-year life cycle, the cost of maintaining it – maintenance, operations and utilities – nearly equals the initial cost of building it.

When maintenance budgets are underfunded or not created during the construction phase, buildings suffer. Over time, this leads to buildings that underperform. Systems break down unexpectedly, energy costs increase and occupant comfort suffers.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  

When commercial building maintenance goes undone, repairs often become replacements.

Making a Plan

And that leads us to the burning question: How much money should building owners budget for preventative maintenance to keep pace with building deterioration?

Experts suggest spending between two and six percent of an annual operating budget on preventative maintenance. When repairs are needed, they have been accounted for in advance and can be treated as such, avoiding costly capital expenditures.

Furthermore, facility leaders should implement a process whereby they assess the condition of their building and its systems. This should include mechanical and electrical systems, the building envelope (windows, doors, and roof), interior structure, grounds and fleet.

Once they have completed the assessment, next managers can create budgets and plan for repairs or replacements as needed (see the BUILDINGS website for a detailed preventive maintenance checklist).

Maintenance Advocate

Facility leaders who have been tasked with cutting their maintenance expenditures must make a case for preventive maintenance. Here are a few things to consider:

  • - Unwanted breakdowns: Deferring maintenance can save money for a little while, but eventually it will cost you more when a critical system cannot be repaired and instead needs to be replaced. Consider also the cost of unwanted downtime.
  • - System inefficiencies: Building systems that have not been maintained properly often don’t operate at their peak efficiencies. This costs more in energy use and reduces a system’s lifespan.
  • - Occupant Comfort: Inefficient building systems also lead to occupant discomfort. Employees complain more and don’t perform their best work when uncomfortable.


Maintaining a commercial facility takes thought and planning. Create a process to assess your building’s current condition and identify areas where improvements should be made. Advocate for the implementation of a preventive maintenance plan, if none exists.

Avoid the mindset that deferring maintenance is the only way to accept tightening budgets, and you will be ahead of the game. Preventive maintenance saves money and unplanned downtime and sustains the comfort of building occupants.

Do you practice preventive maintenance at your facility, or is your list of repairs growing steadily? Is comfort an issue in your building? For more information, please email Jonathon Goering by clicking here or call 316-265-9655.

Knipp Services works with commercial and industrial building owners to identify solutions to reduce downtime and increase building efficiency. We provide services that enable building owners to have a high-performance building. “Making Buildings Better” sums up the mission statement of Knipp Services.


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Buildings Preventative Maintenance Checklist

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