It’s no secret that the summer months are upon us, and as roofing professionals, we know what that means; HVAC units are working overtime. To save you and your property from roof leaks that are caused by HVAC issues, we’ve partnered with Ron Goessl at Airlift Inc. to bring you the most common summer HVAC problems we see, and how to prevent them.  

Rain: 

The problem:
Rainwater can cause some pretty significant leaks into your property especially where HVAC equipment penetrates the roof and the openings are inadequately sealed.  Rain highlights inefficiencies with the seals on your HVAC equipment, venting, and ducting.  Some of the primary sources of leaks due to rainwater are, as follows:

  • Loose or missing access panels on HVAC units and/or chimney caps 
  • Rotting of HVAC unit housings, access panels, chimney vents, and caps.
  • Caulking failures.
  • Improperly sealed penetrations for gas piping, electrical and/or thermostat wires, and copper refrigeration lines.


How to prevent it:
Have your roof inspected regularly and ask your inspector to pay close attention to the quality of sealants surrounding your HVAC system as well as report on damaged equipment that requires further attention.

Condensation:

The problem:
When it’s hot outside and cool inside, condensation develops throughout the HVAC system. This in and of itself isn’t a problem, however, if the mechanisms meant to protect the system from this condensation are missing or broken, it could cause your system to break down and result in leaks.  Some of the most common condensation culprits we see are:

  • Broken or missing condensate pea traps.
  • Rotted or broken drain pans inside HVAC units.
  • High humidity inside the premises can cause leaks from uninsulated ductwork.
  • Broken or loose fan belts that cause freeze-ups and leaks when there is a thaw.
  • Dirty filters that cause freeze-ups and leaks when there is a thaw.


How to prevent it:
Regular maintenance, as we’ve said before, is the key to roof health, including your HVAC system. Filters, fan belts, and condensation pea traps should be serviced a minimum of 1-2 times per year depending on the use of the premises.

Damage To Roof Membrane:
 
The problem:
We find many roof leaks are caused by improperly sealed abandoned HVAC equipment, ductwork, and tall cone penetrations. If your roof is high-traffic but was not designed to be, it’s possible that improper attention to the roof system has caused punctures to the flashing membrane, causing leaks that affect the HVAC system. HVAC access panels, which are sharp, can also cause this issue by falling onto the roof membrane and damaging it during routine maintenance.  
 
How to prevent it:
Ensure that good housekeeping is done on a regular basis to clean up abandoned HVAC equipment and parts left on the roof. Remove abandoned penetrations and make good the affected areas to avoid future issues with rainwater, condensation, or break-ins at the premises. If you’re not sure if your roof is built for foot traffic, assume that it isn’t and take the proper precautions.

The gold standard is placing precast pavers over insulation pads or roof walkway pads at the top and bottom of all roof ladders and around all HVAC access panels to ensure that there is no damage from falling tools or panels during HVAC maintenance.

Only work with HVAC repair personnel that are trained to protect the roofing system, otherwise, you may end up with a different problem than the one you started with. Make sure you are aware of what the conditions are since tenants might undertake HVAC installation/repairs with low-cost sub-trades that don’t follow acceptable levels of trade practice. Make sure that there are proper wall ladders for roof access to all areas of the building! 
 
 
Mechanical design Issues:
 
The Problem:
When HVAC systems are either poorly designed or installed improperly, there’s a good chance that they won’t hold up to the elements and this could cause leaks from rainwater and condensation and/or ventilation and airflow issues. Issues due to improperly sized and shaped curb adapters are common issues that we see. 

How To Prevent It:
These issues can be avoided by choosing to work with reputable HVAC contractors for installation, maintenance, and repair work.  Also, mechanical design should be reviewed and approved by a knowledgeable mechanical engineer, as and where required. 

 
Regardless of whether you are currently experiencing an issue with your HVAC system or not, it is extremely important to schedule regular maintenance for your roof in order to prevent any of these problems from affecting your roof membrane or leaving you without a proper HVAC system during the hottest months of the year. If you’d like to learn more about our inspection services, click here, or chat with us using at www.eliteroofing.com during business hours. No matter your roofing concern, or experts are here to help. That’s the Elite Advantage.