• Dennis Griffin

Upgrading Your Air Handling System: Avoid Pitfalls and Practice Informed Decisions


No matter how fastidiously your air handling system has been maintained, its lifespan is ultimately finite. Replacement becomes inevitable when equipment and components are failing all too often, energy, maintenance, and repair costs are mounting, and occupant complaints increase to an unsustainable level. But air handler replacement can be quite challenging, so meticulous planning with the assistance of a quality HVAC contractor like PJM Mechanical Contractors, Inc., is particularly important to the project’s outcome and level of success.


Air handler upgrades present a number of choices and challenges that require system knowledge and careful consideration. First, these AHU systems are usually large and often located within confined spaces with a variety of components, making them logistically difficult to remove and replace. Poor planning usually leads to problems that should have been avoidable, resulting in higher costs and disruptions that go on far longer than necessary.


Determining the correct air handling system capacity is highly specific to your building’s use of space and unique needs. In addition to the usual factors that go into the calculations, it is important to consider changes in the use of space that may occur in the future. Building codes may influence air distribution requirements and must be taken into consideration as well. PJM works closely with clients to ensure all bases are covered when it comes to determining system capacity.


Once capacity has been established, it’s time to examine system components such as blowers, coils, filter racks, controls, dampers, ductwork, etc., to determine whether they require replacement. Consider wisely; while reusing components may save money at the time of system upgrade, failing to replace aged or unreliable components may be far more expensive shortly down the road. Additionally, reused components might not have the necessary capacity for future space requirements. PJM assesses component age and reliability on every air-handling system upgrade project and helps you understand the pros and cons of reuse vs. replacement.


Replacement of an air-handling system takes time, so PJM’s planning process includes developing strategies for minimizing disruption to building activities. Temporary cooling arrangements, such as rental air conditioning units or spot coolers, may be necessary if operations can’t be relocated during the upgrade project.


Decisions are sometimes made to only replace parts of an air handler that may be at the end of useful life due to age. For example, a client may choose to change coils or drives and allow other original parts to run until they fail as well. Air handlers can be completely rebuilt in circumstances where the unit cannot be economically replaced due to equipment room configurations from the original installation.


PJM has the knowledge and vast experience to guide you through what might seem like a daunting process to ensure the project proceeds smoothly and successfully achieves its ultimate objective: a high-performance, energy-efficient air-handling system that performs reliably and economically for many years to come. For more information on upgrading your air-handling system, please contact PJM at (609) 496-8696.

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