Should I Retrofit or Replace?


While it is obvious that mechanical systems deteriorate and performance declines over time, knowing whether to retrofit a system or replace it is not always clear. The process of retrofitting involves keeping an existing system but improving an application within it so long as the system can still function as intended. Alternatively, replacing a system means the full removal of it along with the installation of a new one. If a system is at the end of its functional life, replacement is a practical option. To make this complex decision more straightforward, though, there are several factors to consider. 

Know the comprehensive assessment of the building 

Since a building’s systems cooperatively work with one another, it is important to take inventory of all the systems within a commercial building and how they are controlled. Some may be digital, while others are pneumatic, working in conjunction with a building’s automation system.  

Equally important is knowing the building’s renovation history since renovations can affect a system’s performance. For example, a building’s HVAC system serves the space’s original dimensions at the time of installation; however, renovations that change the dimensions of the space can create comfort issues and spikes in energy consumption.  

This leads to two important questions: Would the system’s intent, design, and application be different if the renovated building space had a new system? If the answer is yes, what then needs to be done to modify the existing system to accommodate the needs of the space? The decision whether to replace or retrofit a system should take into account the difficulty of each, the required investment, and potential paybacks.  

Additionally, other factors can influence the decision to retrofit or replace: 

  • Maintenance history: how the system has been maintained up to this point 
  • Age: the system’s overall age and useful life expectancy 
  • Performance: the system’s performance efficiency and any downtime 
  • Redundancy: available systems in the event of a system failure 
  • Urgency: the system’s value to the organization’s mission 

Take an audit of the systems 

Beyond the considerations mentioned above, an audit of the commercial building’s systems provides a more in-depth assessment to help determine whether to retrofit or replace. An audit involves a system analysis with an audit partner, focusing on energy efficiency, comfort, and the goals of the organization.  

Along with the factors noted above, the audit process takes into consideration utility bills, historical budgets, and capital-budget plans to gauge the system’s efficiency, importance, and deferred maintenance. All of which help determine the true cost of operations. 

Make an informed decision 

With so many factors to consider when deciding whether to retrofit or replace a system, ultimately, the decision should align with increased operational and utility savings, as well as help the organization meet business objectives. This decision can affect how the building is marketed along with the commercial building’s resale value. Reduced operational and energy costs mean a reduction in the true cost of operations. This means lower production costs and higher profits. Ultimately, the decision to retrofit or replace a system should be a cost-effective investment.  

Protect the investment 

After the decision to retrofit or replace a system, the work is far from done. Proper maintenance can protect the investment by extending the system’s life. With advances in technology, new ways of extending a system’s life have emerged, including smart devices and cloud-based technology to monitor, manage, and optimize a system by utilizing software and analytics in real-time to evaluate performance, identify issues, analyze trends, and predict failures. 

With ongoing system diagnostics, an organization can ensure that the system continues to operate as intended. By removing the guesswork, maintenance visits can be scheduled based on the exact needs of the system while issues are prioritized and addressed fittingly.  

Why Choose McIntosh Corporation? 

Rapid technological changes are a common reality in building systems. Whether retrofitting or replacing, organizations can expect additional system changes. Understanding these changes and the right maintenance program will ensure your organization is getting the most out of this investment. At McIntosh Corporation, we are ready to help with your retrofit-or-replace project. Do not wait until one of your systems is malfunctioning. Our scheduled maintenance programs will extend the life of your equipment and have it operating with maximum efficiency while saving you money in the long run. To ensure that your systems are functioning at optimal capacity, contact us today to schedule a visit from our team or call 918-270-1414

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