Many large, older condominiums rely on a two-pipe water source heat pump system for heating and cooling. These systems use a fan coil to blow air over a coil of pipes filled with water.
In the summer, cold water chills the air, and in the winter, hot water provides heat. Unfortunately, the system can only provide hot or cold air, limiting each unit’s ability to control the temperature as the seasons change. This means the condo board has to decide the best time to change between heating and cooling.
Larger condo buildings rarely have consistent temperatures from one floor to the next. Units with consistent sun exposure are typically warmer than north-facing units. Higher floors farther from the heating system are often colder in the winter. These inconsistencies make keeping all of your residents happy an impossible balancing act.
On top of that, it’s virtually impossible to predict when the weather is right for the change. So what can condo managers do to help plan the best time for the change?
Timing the Switch Over
Ultimately, the condo board of directors determines when to make the switch over. The board may consider several factors, including weather predictions, to make their decision. Once they set a timeframe to implement the switch, the condo manager is responsible for scheduling and implementing the change.
Heating and cooling systems for condos can be complex. The condo manager will need to schedule a technician to make the changeover. Contractors are in high demand during switchover season, and they are often booked weeks in advance. Additionally, the process can take hours, and it may be up to two days before the system is running efficiently.
The condo manager will need to ensure the board is preparing for the changeover with plenty of time in advance, so they can respond to the notice and still have plenty of time to schedule the change.
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Schedule HVAC Maintenance Seasonally
The condo manager is responsible for coordinating repairs and maintenance for all the common areas. Ideally, routine HVAC maintenance should happen in advance of peak demand. The heating equipment needs cleaning and servicing towards the end of summer, and the cooling system needs an inspection towards the end of winter.
This will allow your contractor to make repairs before your residents are stuck without a working system when they need it. The condo manager should also communicate with the board when the time for replacement is coming to make room for it in the budget.
In many cases, your HVAC technician can perform these duties in preparation for the switchover. This can help you save costs on having separate service calls, as well as prevent minor issues from becoming major repairs.
Keeping Residents Comfortable
When residents complain about temperature issues, there are a variety of solutions you can suggest. Shades, window coverings, and film coatings can help prevent heat transfer within individual units. Ceiling fans and space heaters can also help sensitive residents stay comfortable before the switchover.
Each owner will be responsible for their own solutions, but the condo manager can work with them to keep them comfortable. Condo managers that keep communication open and transparent can help condo owners remain patient by showing compassion and understanding.
Consider an Upgrade
The traditional water source heat pump units are so popular because they are easy to install and have excellent efficiency. They also require less upfront cost to purchase. However, the lack of control for residents can create conflict. Transitioning to newer HVAC technologies is worth considering, but it isn’t always the right choice for every building.
Newer luxury condos often use a four-pipe HVAC system that has a constant supply of both hot and cold water. This allows residents to control the temperature in the apartment to their liking during the seasonal shifts, and they respond rapidly. The drawback with these systems is the larger budget for common expense fees, and each unit requires individual billing for usage.
Alternatively, condo corporations can install air-cooled heat pumps in each unit. This would eliminate building-level systems, and energy use for each resident is easy to monitor. Unfortunately, many owners don’t like the aesthetic of a condenser coil on each unit. They can also be noisier.
How Condominium Property Management Can Help
Hiring a property management firm for condo communities can take the guesswork out of scheduling your switchover, as well as ensure your HVAC system is up-to-date and well maintained. On top of that, property management firms can help you communicate changes to residents to keep them up-to-date on all the latest happenings.
ICC offers nearly 30 years of experience offering white-glove property management services. We provide constant attention to each of our clients, offering complete oversight for all your management, accounting, and finance needs for condominium buildings. We are on call 24/7 to address the needs of residents as well as the condo board.
Contact us today to streamline your changeovers and keep your residents happy.