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What Causes HVAC Systems to Fail and How to Prevent It

What Causes HVAC Systems to Fail and How to Prevent It
Preventative maintenance goes a long way in keeping HVAC systems operating as they should be, but breakdowns can still occur. These complex systems are made of many components. Without being familiar with how HVAC units and their many parts work, diagnosing issues can be difficult. Especially when you’re managing large multifamily properties, it’s helpful to know about some of the most common causes of HVAC problems, as it can save you, your team, and your residents from a lot of frustration.   Swollen Capacitors  Air conditioners cannot run on their own when their capacitors stop working. The job of a capacitor is to start the motor and to help keep it running. It does this by sending jolts of the energy it stores to the fan. Without the jolts, the fan simply can’t get going. There are a few ways to tell if a capacitor has gone bad. A visual inspection is often the easiest, as a swollen capacitor is a problematic capacitor.   What causes capacitors to swell? Gas is created when the conductive electrolyte within the capacitor decomposes, which happens with time or damage. Capacitors have a lifespan that can vary but is definite. The HVAC systems that house them can outlive them, meaning there naturally comes a time when a capacitor must be replaced. Swelling is a sign that the time has come, as any swollen capacitor has reached its end. You can tell that a capacitor is swollen when its shape has become altered, usually resembling a can of soda ......
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4 Ways To Use Maintenance Data During Multifamily Budget Season

  For multifamily managers, budget season typically is not the highlight of their annual calendar. Off-sites, bootcamps, late nights, endless spreadsheets, stacks of reports for filter through...ugh. A thorough, well-crafted budget often requires us to step outside of our comfort zone and deal with personnel issues and other things that personally impact people we work with/for. If this isn't challenging enough, the budget proposal is just the first step. It is most often followed by upper management/C-level/board review and in many cases, the dreaded word - CUTS. Wash, Rinse, Repeat until you get to something that works.  OK, enough of the monotony - so how can maintenance data help? Data collected within your maintenance operations can be a hidden gem when it comes to the overall condition or staffing of your property from a maintenance perspective. Here are four of our favorite areas to dig in:   1. Maintenance Categories/Tags   Most property management software tools do a very good job of enabling categorization of requests. Analyzing and sorting work-orders/service-requests by maintenance category (some systems refer to this as "tagging") can provide a treasure-trove of information during the budget process. Based on multifamily industry data, the average 300-unit property generates average of 150 resident service requests per month. Add another ~50 on top of that if your sites track make-ready activities or preventative maintenance. Over the course of a year, or even just 6-months, there is a lot of harvest-able information when budget-time rolls around. Export them into a spreadsheet ......
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Considering Deploying Smart-Tech In Your Apartments? Read This First...

Using Alexa to request apartment service  Everything is "Smart" these days. Smart....locks, speakers, thermostats, lights, TVs, register-vents, refrigerators, faucets, security systems, cameras....the list goes on! It seems there are plenty of options in the market for multifamily apartment operators to offer "smart" amenities. So should you start adding gadgets to your apartments in hopes of attracting new residents? For a short-term spike, maybe. But what happens next year when when Google, Amazon, Nest, Apple, Iris, etc. push out new models, features and functionality and all of a sudden your tech is more of a deterrent than an attraction? Do you throw out everything you bought last year and get the next new thing? The real question here is how do you get ahead, and stay ahead with tech in apartments. And, how to you get Residents to consider your brand "tech-forward"?  You might consider changing the lense of how you look at the problem. Said another way, how can your multifamily brand leverage consumer technology in a way that enables your Residents to have fast & easy digital access to apartment services from devices they already own. Things like:  leveraging SMS to communicate with residents (95% of all text messages are read by the recipient) enabling Residents to voice-create service requests using their SmartSpeaker mobile-enable your maintenance staff to speed up service-response-times and get better metrics on how your service teams are performing use chat-bots to auto-notify Residents when they have packages waiting for them at the office installing LTE-boosters to low-signal areas on your properties ......
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"Does your company require technicians to do HVAC work outside once it is dark out?"

Below is a video of some of my thoughts on "Does your company require technicians to do HVAC work outside once it is dark out?"

What is expected where you work?  

 

 

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Anatomy of a Maintenance Training Program – Developing Maintenance Talent From Within

One of my favorite sessions of this year’s Apartmentalize Conference delved into one of the industry’s hottest topics – how to find great maintenance talent.  In that session, David Creek, Director Of Maintenance at Hayes Gibson Property Services, dug into not just finding talent, but also how to build up the talent you have.  Fortunately, David took some time with me to really delve into their approach and plan on tackling that issue! If I’m going to promote you, you are going to have to have the skills to train your replacement – David Creek   Creating “Maintenance Masters”, a Maintenance Training Program In creating their maintenance training program, David and his team first wanted to understand two things:  1) They wanted to understand what type of skill gaps their team members were struggling with, and 2) They wanted to identify those already on their teams who excelled in different areas of apartment maintenance.  Those advanced team members would then be the first to help train future “generations” of maintenance team members.  Therefore, it wasn’t focused completely on a top-down training approach, but rather peer to peer training, leveraging existing knowledge and skills of their team members.  In that same vein, David noted this approach, where maintenance team members were trained by their peers, was actually preferred by maintenance learners, rather than being trained by upper management. To start the program off, they decided that electrical was the first key area to be addressed, as it overlapped with several other key areas of maintenanc......
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Maintenance Tracking Via Mobile Devices Continues to Surge

A continuing trend over the past 12 months is the adoption of mobile devices when tracking service requests, as shown in our most Maintenance Strategies Research Report (download for free here).  24 months ago, 33% of responders within our maintenance strategies research reported using mobile devices to track service requests, but in 2018, that number has increased to 47%, and we do not see that trend subsiding anytime soon. 

On a related note, we also asked professionals how they accepted service requests at their properties.  Phone calls remained the most common method of receiving service requests, but what was interesting was the rise of text message based service requests, which grew to 33% of companies responding. 

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If Maintenance Can’t Find The Problem, Service isn’t Complete

service calls  “Couldn’t find the problem, everything is ok.” Trust me if maintenance cannot resolve a problem in a residents apartment. Everything is not ok.  The resident is looking for service and we are failing to provide it. The Inconvenience of Service Requests Here’s a life changing truth. Residents do not call the leasing  office to have maintenance come to their apartment home without a reason. This is not PUNK’D. We may not be able to find the problem as described by the resident.  But there definitely is a concern that supported a reason to report a problem.  The resident has straightened up their home in anticipation of maintenance in the apartment. The service request has been called or emailed to the office. After a long day at work the resident returns home to a find the service order documentation, noting, we couldn’t find your problem, everything is okay. Can you feel their frustration growing? Now the problem unresolved, the resident will have to contact the office again.  Attempt to explain the problem and schedule another repair appointment. They will have another day of uncertainty with maintenance entering their home again. Frustration For A Repeat Service Call For the maintenance crew, this is equally frustrating. The time for the first visit appears to be wasted time. Now a second visit is being scheduled, to an apartment where the “whatever it is” works fine. This is a communication disaster. The resident may be giving us specific information for the repair, instead of describing the problem. Our sta......
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Love This "Don't Get Ghosted" Maintenance Team Game!

Ashley Rene posted this picture on the Multifamily ShareSpace and I thought it was too good not to share! 

 

I had a blast playing "Don't Get Ghosted" with my maintenance team!

 

 

I asked Ashley to explain how the game works:

The top portion is in reference to work orders. You receive a ghost if a work order isn't complete it properly or a frog for completion. I use the point system so not everyone was just grabbing work orders to replace light bulbs.

The bottom portion of the board is in reference to turns. You receive a frog (white dot) if the turn is perfect or has less than two items on the punch list. You receive a ghost for every two items that are found during the final walk prior to the apartment being made ready. In that area you can also earn frogs by assisting others

It truly was an enjoyable game and at the end of the day we were all able to laugh and encourage each other.

The crowning ceremony is this afternoon.

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The Value of Setting Standards on Products, Services and GL Coding

The Value of Setting Standards on Products, Services and GL Coding
  Setting standards on products, services, approval processes, and GL codes not only makes your process more efficient, but also saves you money and makes costs (and budgets) more predictable.  When paired with software to elevate visibility and enforce controls, your organization can more easily get the right things done, and eliminate time spent wondering what to do and/or what happened.   Product and service standards, approvals and GL coding all have common attributes.  They are necessary in order to operate profitably and to provide your residents with high quality service, and yet there are too many choices.   What are Product and Service Standards? Defining what products and services to use for a given class of property or region is what I mean by product and service standards.  For example, there may be a certain carpet spec and color used in your class A properties, and specific appliances used in your class B properties.  You may have regional differences in what you decide to specify, for example you may want to use an eggshell paint in more humid areas, and flat paint in temperate areas.   Some of the categories in which companies often enforce standards include:   Floor Covering Carpet Cleaning Appliances HVAC Water Heaters Paint Paint Services Landscape Services Plumbing Fixtures Lighting Fixtures Fire and Security Equipment Window Coverings   If you don’t provide guidance on standards, your staff may have too many choices of what to buy, who to buy from, and what to pay.  As you c......
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Don’t Let a Dead Roach Join Your Leasing Team

Have you ever walked into a "Ready Unit" and seen a dead roach sitting in the middle of the floor? I have!  Imagine if you were a prospective resident and you walked into a beautiful apartment home, only to find a roach on the kitchen counter. Would you remember the beautiful apartment, or would you remember the roach?  As a Consultant, I have frequently walked into apartment homes that were spotless - other than the one dead roach. The apartments had been made ready. The pest control vendor had already treated the apartment homes, and the apartments had been thoroughly cleaned.   But wait! If everything had been cleaned and treated, why the dead bugs? If you have a moment, stop reading and look under your kitchen or bathroom sink. In many cases, you will see that there are gaps around the pipes.  While extermination programs can be effective at killing roaches and other pests, they are not at all effective at preventing roaches and other pests from entering an apartment. Typically, when one apartment is sprayed, the insects travel through the cracks and holes in the walls to the nearest apartment. Before or after a resident moves into the newly made ready apartment, the insects travel back through the same holes and cracks to again infest the apartment.  The best way to prevent future infestations is to caulk all the holes and cracks during the make ready process. By caulking the holes and cracks, roaches can't flee to a neighboring apartment......
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