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Step 17 Guide 2: Maintenance of significant energy users

This is the seventeenth of 20 steps in the in the Energy Management Action Programme (Energy MAP).
Learn about Energy MAP and what it can do for your business.

In a nutshell

A well managed maintenance programme is proactive and anticipates and corrects situations before they become a problem. You should develop a maintenance plan that identifies what needs to be done, at what intervals, and who is responsible for doing it. Record inspections made and actions taken, and make sure that staff responsible for maintenance are adequately trained and have the right tools and sufficient resources.


Maintenance strategy

Apart from reactive maintenance, there are two main approaches to maintenance:

  1. preventative maintenance
  2. predictive maintenance

You may use both approaches together in implementing your maintenance strategy.

Preventative maintenance is time-based and activities are carried out in accordance with a planned maintenance schedule. Whereas predictive maintenance looks at the actual condition of the plant or equipment and how it is performing.

A good starting point is to carry out an assessment of current maintenance strategy including policies, management structure, tasks, activities, procedures, documentation and contracts. You can then develop a list of recommended improvements for more energy-efficient operation.

You may also develop measures of performance for maintenance such as hours of downtime or the backlog of corrective maintenance


Preventative maintenance

If you already have a preventive maintenance structure in place, make sure it includes activities critical to energy-efficient operation.
Under a planned preventative maintenance approach you will need to carry out the following:

  • Identify the plant, equipment, fixtures, fittings and building elements that require maintenance and prioritise in order of importance.
  • Identify the maintenance tasks and procedures to be carried out and assign priorities as necessary.
  • Categorise the tasks in terms of skill levels required to perform them.
  • Establish a planned maintenance schedule.
  • Assign responsibilities for carrying out the maintenance tasks.
  • Develop a maintenance log book for recording inspections made and actions taken and ensure that maintenance is completed to schedule and within set standards.

Computerised maintenance management software is also available that helps manage and track maintenance activities.


Predictive maintenance

Predictive maintenance is based on analysis of the condition of the item and checks if it is operating as required, and if not, corrective action is taken. This will also enable you to track actual performance against expected performance for major equipment, and help avoid catastrophic equipment failures.

Note: other types of maintenance approaches include ‘total productive maintenance’ and ‘reliability centred maintenance’. Such approaches are relatively specialised and are not dealt with in this guide.  However, definitions and sources of further details can be found in our glossary and links pages.

An important requirement for both predictive and preventative maintenance is having the right tools and resources for the job.


Tools and resources

Staff should have access to the appropriate diagnostic, metering, and monitoring equipment. This may include items such as digital thermometers, flue gas analysers or light meters. Also make sure that such equipment is calibrated according to the required standards. Manufacturers’ manuals and plant layout drawings are also essential. Finally, ensure that stocks of maintenance spare parts are stored and clearly identified.

You may need to train staff to carry out the maintenance tasks and use the tools and diagnostic equipment.



Certain maintenance tasks and actions should only be carried out by trained and certified personnel. You must ensure that such personnel are available, either internally or under contract. However, other tasks may not require a high degree of expertise. You should identify the skill level required for each task and categorise them accordingly.

In many situations the users or operators will also be an ideal source of identifying potential problems. Ensure that you inform staff on how to identify signs of potential equipment malfunction or when maintenance may be required, and encourage reporting of problems. This may include anything from a flickering light to unusual behaviour of a major piece of plant or equipment.


Maintenance contracts

If you decide to employ external contractors to maintain your operations make sure that your specifications are robust and include performance targets. Contract types may range from individual equipment contracts to full-coverage contracts.

The following guides provide advice on developing a maintenance contract:

Operation and Maintenance Service Contracts. Portland Energy Conservation Inc. US. Download free at http://www.peci.org/library/PECI_Contracts_0302.pdf

Specification for the Procurement of Building Services Operation and Maintenance. BSRIA UK at (http://www.bsria.co.uk/

Standard Maintenance Specification for Mechanical Services in Buildings (SFG20)
Heating and Ventilating Contractors' Association. UK (http://www.hvca.org.uk/ )

In practice

In the case of buildings, one of the keys to maintaining the desired conditions is finding the proper set-points, parameters and settings of the building control strategies for systems such as heating, ventilation/cooling and lighting. Because users may have access to controls, settings may be altered with the result that over time, the systems do not operate optimally. However, you should ensure that any changes you make maintains user comfort, safety and reasonable convenience.

A simple walk round can be a first step to help identify undesired operation of plant and equipment. Look at the operation of plant, heating, lighting, ventilation or cooling and office equipment such as computers, printers and photocopiers.

You should periodically review the operating sequences, strategies and schedules of significant energy users such as heating, ventilation and lighting.

Consider the following main areas in your maintenance plan for buildings:

  • Building fabric
  • Heating and hot water systems
  • Ventilation and air conditioning
  • Lighting systems
  • Electrical systems
  • Controls and building automation systems
  • Office equipment
  • Refrigeration
  • Motors, drives, pumps and fans
  • Compressed air systems
  • Heat recovery systems
  • Steam systems
  • Water supply
  • Metering
  • Building or energy management information systems


Further information and guidance

Operations & Maintenance Best Practices - A Guide to Achieving Operational Efficiency. Federal Energy Management Program. U.S. Department of Energy.
(Chapter 9 includes maintenance checklists for all significant energy using equipment)

Operation & Maintenance Fact Sheets. Federal Energy Management Program. U.S. Department of Energy.
A series of O&M fact sheets covering lighting, cooling, heating, metering, water and top tips.

Operation and Maintenance Service Contracts, Portland Energy Conservation Inc. US.

Standard Maintenance Specification for Mechanical Services in Buildings (SFG20)
Describes industry best practice relating to all of the principal types of heating, cooling and ventilation systems commonly used in Europe. Heating and Ventilating Contractors' Association. UK. 

Specification for the Procurement of Building Services Operation and Maintenance. Facilities Management Specification 8. BSRIA. Bracknell, UK.

How to maintain your heating system (GIL 156). The Carbon Trust. UK

How to get the best from your refrigeration system (GIL 158). The Carbon Trust. UK

Maintaining the efficient operation of heating and hot water systems: a guide for managers (GPG 188). The Carbon Trust. UK

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