By Brian Hale

Last time we talked about electrical systems inside your practice.  Let us now delve into another major factor in the comfort of your staff and patients: the Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning systems (HVAC) in your office.  A HVAC system installed correctly the first time in your space will result in much needed relief for years to come from the extreme hot and cold temperatures that North Texas has to offer.  Only a state-licensed professional can specify and install a system that is adequate for your office’s needs.

Most small to mid-sized medical offices in the North Texas region are conditioned with either or two types of systems: Split- systems or package units.  A split- system is two separate pieces of equipment.  One of which is mounted in the outdoors, commonly called the condensing unit, and the second one that is mounted in the indoors, which is typically referred to as the furnace or fan coil unit.  A package unit is a single piece of equipment mounted in the outdoors that includes the condensing and air handling unit altogether in one package.  Both types of systems have their variations, advantages, and disadvantages, and have practicality in different scenarios.  Both types essentially perform the exact same function: The heating, cooling, cleaning, and dehumidification of the air in your space.

Now let’s consider the important questions: how much and how many?  The HVAC system in your space will be sized and zoned based on the exterior glass exposure, ceiling heights, insulative properties, and estimated heat loads from both people and equipment inside your space.  System sizing will be determined by what we commonly refer to as “tonnage” of air.  This relates to the amount of cubic feet per minute (CFM) of air delivered from each system.  Too little CFM will result in an under-cooled or under-heated space.  Too much CFM will result in short cycle times which will result in excessive wear on equipment components and uncomfortable humidity levels inside the space.  System zoning is typically controlled by the amount and location of thermostats inside your space.  The correct amount and placing of these thermostats is vital entire space being consistently at the relative same temperature throughout the day so that there are no hot or cold spots at different times of the day.  There will typically be 1 thermostat per system in your office.

Let us speak now about how to plan to remove unwanted air out of your space.  Everybody knows that most restrooms we typically see have an exhaust fan that can be switched on- and- off or is tied into the light switch.  Not everybody knows that exhaust fans can be very useful tools in the effective removal of unwanted, over-heated air from any other room.  Exhaust fans can be placed in mechanical and IT closets to simply pull hot air out of these rooms from heat- generating equipment into the outdoors.  These fans can be integrated with a thermostat as well so that when the temperature reaches a certain degree, the fans come on so that the temperature does not become unbearable for your staff or hot enough to damage valuable equipment.  These fans also come in different CFM ratings so that the correct amount of air is being removed from the desired areas.

If you are considering leasing or purchasing a space with existing HVAC systems, you may think to yourself “This place already comes with all the air conditioning I need”.  However, only a licensed professional can make that determination based on the new usage of your practice and existing conditions of the space.  Alterations to your system may- or- may- not have to be made.  The existing systems will also need to be serviced and tested before they are deemed to be usable.  Please remember to stay cool this summer and next time let’s consider the plumbing system in your new office.

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