Facilities engineers and managers tend to wear many hats, sometimes changing them over the course of hours. Since they have so many different responsibilities, especially within complex facilities such as hospitals, they welcome the assistance that maintenance and service contracts provide.
Commercial heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) vendors offer maintenance and service contracts for a set fee, providing 24/7 emergency service for outages and other urgent needs. These contracts allow facilities engineers to have peace of mind that their critical HVAC equipment is being inspected and serviced regularly and that they have someone who will respond immediately in the case of a breakdown. For hospitals running temperature-sensitive medical equipment, this can mean the difference between life and death.
Typical Maintenance Agreement Components
Most maintenance agreements cover a span of one year, and contracts outline the type and frequency of regular service, inspections, and maintenance that will be delivered. They will also detail how the 24/7 emergency service calls will be handled, and they frequently include discounts on repair fees, waivers for premium service, or a reduction on the cost of new equipment.
Maintenance and service contracts for hospital HVAC systems will usually include regular air filter replacement, lubrication and tightening of various components, safety checks for leakage and backup systems, and general cleaning and inspection of equipment. Regular maintenance and service can help hospitals stay ahead of potential problems, minimizing or even eliminating some emergency repair situations.
Benefits of Maintenance and Service Contracts
Besides helping facilities engineers and managers stay on top of maintaining their critical HVAC systems, maintenance and service contracts deliver a host of other benefits to hospitals.
- Reduce Equipment Failures. Perhaps the number one benefit of maintenance and service contracts is the reduction of equipment failures, especially when it comes to temperature control for sensitive medical equipment. An HVAC issue can cause a dangerous domino effect in a hospital, and a service contract can effectively mitigate that risk.
- Extend Life of Equipment. Taking care of any complex piece of machinery or equipment will help extend its overall lifespan, saving money for hospitals in the long run. Replacing a commercial HVAC system requires a significant capital outlay. Being able to safely extend the life of the current system can help defer that expense for years.
- Decrease Energy Usage. Well-maintained equipment uses less energy, which both helps the environment and reduces utility bills for hospitals. A percentage of the money invested in maintenance and service contracts will be recouped from lower monthly energy consumption.
- Tap into Professional Expertise. Since commercial HVAC professionals work with the same complex equipment every day, they bring a wealth of experience, training, and knowledge that individual hospital staff technicians generally do not have. Service and maintenance agreements allow hospitals to tap into that knowledge base.
- Take Advantage of Extended Warranties. In some cases, maintenance and service contracts include extended equipment warranties as part of the overall package. Some HVAC companies offer different levels of service agreements. Premium levels may be more expensive but deliver even more benefits.
- Receive Fee and Price Discounts. Most service and maintenance agreements will offer reduced fees for repairs, emergency service calls, or new equipment, if needed during the course of the contract. If facilities managers discover that it’s more cost-effective to replace a piece of equipment than to continue to repair it, this savings could be significant.
- Establish Predictable Budgets. Facilities engineers or managers who choose to use service and maintenance contracts can better predict monthly expenditures. Since regular maintenance will likely eliminate or at least reduce the number of repairs and emergency calls needed, those unexpected expenditures will occur less frequently.
Contracting Out vs. Using In-House Resources
For hospitals considering whether to contract out their HVAC service and repair or maintain in-house expertise to handle the work, looking at the advantages and disadvantages of each option can be helpful.
Pros and Cons of Contracting Out
The biggest advantage to using a third-party vendor for maintenance and service is the expertise and experience they have with particular equipment. For example, most HVAC service providers will train their technicians in servicing the equipment they carry, often through a manufacturer-sponsored certification program. It is hard to replicate that level of training, especially when the internal team is not working on the equipment on a daily basis.
Outside contractors also work to provide value-added services, such as extended warranties, emergency services, and discounts on complimentary products, that are not available to hospitals that rely on an in-house team.
The main disadvantages of contracting out maintenance and service are the added cost, which is potentially higher than the partial salary of an internal technician, and the extra administrative coordination required when working with an outside company. The possibility of some technicians not being aware of a piece of equipment’s history could also be an issue.
Pros and Cons of In-House Resources
The main advantage to having in-house staff manage machinery and equipment maintenance is the intimate knowledge that they gain of the hospital’s particular systems. Assuming the same individual or team stays with a hospital over the course of many years, they will know the ins and outs of a specific system that can help keep it operating well. An internal technician may also be able to take on other responsibilities, stretching salary dollars.
One disadvantage of in-house maintenance and service is related to the advantages. If a knowledgeable technician leaves and has not documented the maintenance and service work that has been completed in the past, much of that knowledge may leave with the individual. Another disadvantage is that it may be difficult or impossible to have internal emergency service unless a team of employees rotates on-call duties for such situations. In addition, in-house technicians are often pulled into higher priority projects, leaving routine maintenance undone.
The bottom line is that maintenance and service contracts are an important part of a well-maintained hospital building system. They are particularly helpful for complex equipment and systems such as HVAC, as third-party vendors are well-versed in regular maintenance and service tasks. Most HVAC companies provide many services, discounts, and advantages to hospitals with annual service contracts, which can deliver a host of benefits to facility engineers and managers.