Alternatives to Deferred Maintenance in K-12 Schools

Most school districts across the country saw significant budget cuts in the wake of the Great Recession in the early 2000’s, and the funding largely has yet to return. Faced with reduced maintenance staff and capital budgets, many districts feel they have no choice but to delay necessary maintenance on building equipment.


(Related: What is the Better Buildings Challenge, and How Can Your Facilities Receive Recognition?)


Despite the steep upfront costs, capital expenditures may become necessary to maintain a functioning learning environment for students and teachers. For facilities directors and administrators thinking of postponing maintenance, consider the true costs of deferred maintenance.


The Difficulty of Deferred Maintenance

With the average American school a mature 42 years old, upgrades and repairs remain a top priority for many facility directors. In districts constrained by tight budgets, overstressed-but-not-broken equipment is commonly denied the preventive maintenance attention it needs.

Deferring maintenance may alleviate a facility’s budget in the immediate short run, but poorly- or un-maintained systems eventually become overburdened and break down, costing a facility more for repair and replacement.


Why Deferred Maintenance Doesn’t Pay Off Over the Long Run

Compounded over time, deferred maintenance strains resources and leads to breakdowns. Facility managers take on several risks when postponing maintenance:

  • Equipment becomes irreparable long before its expected life runs out
  • Energy efficiency drops
  • Repair costs grow
  • Problems escalate, which could result in system failure
  • Air quality drops, meaning potential health risks for occupants


What to Do Instead

So how can facilities follow an effective preventive maintenance plan while staying under budget? The following are a few options.

Regularly Audit Facilities

Taking a look at equipment across facilities and how they run at different times of the day is crucial to gaining real-time insight into what needs fixing. Check for irregular sounds, movements and hazards — many of these can be simple fixes with lasting impacts on equipment life.

Replace Parts as They Malfunction

The timeframe for a minor glitch to turn into total system shutdown can be much smaller than many imagine. Making precise, practical replacements to equipment parts is typically less expensive over the long run than full replacement stemming from neglect.

Invest in Comprehensive Warranties

There are two warranties available for every major facility asset. Equipment warranties come standard with the product, usually 5–10 years depending on the manufacturer. Labor warranties, however, vary based on who implements the equipment. Paying more upfront for a reputable contractor to properly install equipment can pay for the difference over the long run through reduced maintenance fees — an incentive for schools to take advantage of inexpensive equipment upkeep.


Getting out of maintenance purgatory is a tough mission for any organization. However, with smart budgeting and a plan in mind, school facilities can avoid deferring maintenance and set themselves on a path to long-term stability.

Another route to preventative maintenance can come through a comprehensive energy program that saves your district money it can redirect back into education and building upkeep. For more information, contact Cenergistic today by visiting Cenergistic online or calling 1-855-798-7779.


Submit a comment: