Tricks Of The Trade: Fan Belts

By B. Kevin Folsom, CEP
Published in the November 2012 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Q How often do you recommend replacing the belts in roof fans? We have a contract with a company, and when asked the same question during a recent checkup, the technician said they usually replace on an “as needed” basis. But from my experience I think once a year is a safer baseline. I am not comfortable with the idea of trying to stretch them too long, especially since they are not that expensive. And since the equipment is on the roof, it’s fairly easy to get there. Additionally, how often should the ventilation system be cleaned?

Bogdan Burlacu
Rental Manager
Gateway Property
Management Corporation
Vancouver, Canada

A I would closely scrutinize the condition of a belt prior to keeping it in service more than one year. Sometimes the larger belts in controlled environments may last several years or more. Since these oftentimes require special equipment to realign properly the cost can be more than desired to simply replace on an annual basis.

However, roof fan belts are a different story. These are exposed to the most extreme conditions, are small, and are easy to replace. The technician should remove the shroud to inspect them carefully, so they might as well replace the inexpensive belt. If you run to fail on these, you could be exposing occupants to accumulating restroom odors and increasing your reactive maintenance.

Regarding your second question, cleaning the ventilation system is based on several factors: proper filter maintenance, occupancy, and outside air quality. Ducts that are lined on the interior with porous insulation are limited with cleaning. The best way to determine cleaning frequency is to look in the ducts once per year.

Also inspect the air registers where dust may be collecting. Pay careful attention to black dust. This can often be mold and should be tested by an environmental consultant prior to disturbing. Even if there are no dangerous strains of mold present, people often have allergies to mold. You need to determine what it is prior to cleaning. I would advise cleaning any type of mold when occupants are not in the area.