Although it's tough to think of cold weather while basking in the summer sun, winter is coming. For sections of the country that experience particularly intense winters, especially in Chicago and New York, seasonally planned maintenance is required to combat dangerous road conditions, frozen pipes and falling icicles.

In a commercial building, being unprepared for the winter can cause major issues. Equipment can be damaged, resulting in expensive repairs or replacement, and this can impact air quality and climate control, making occupants uncomfortable.

Summer is the time for facility teams to start preparing their commercial buildings by inspecting major heating systems, strategizing for energy efficiency and making necessary updates to disaster plans in the case of extreme weather conditions.

Prepare Major Systems with Preventative Maintenance 

When it comes to facilities maintenance, late summer and early fall make up an exploratory phase. Because we’re in the business of maintenance and prevention, this period allows for 2-4 months to discover what equipment needs to be fixed and to make those necessary repairs. 

As part of the preventative maintenance program, roofs, walls, glass and foundations require a visual inspection for any wear and tear, but a major focus should be on the HVAC systems. 

Reinsulate water lines in the steam boiler system.

Steam boiler systems, or commercial boilers, are widely utilized across end-user industries. Using a pressurized system that burns combustible fuel to heat water, the liquid state changes to a gas, which is distributed throughout the building to provide heat. 

Issues arise when the water becomes too cold at the top of the steam lines in the risers. Although the risers are insulted, the top of the risers are frequently exposed to cold air. If insulation is not replaced, the water line could freeze and rupture. 

Inspect your HVAC system equipment. 

As part of your preventative maintenance program, have an engineer run a full inspection of the HVAC equipment before you run the heat for the first time. This inspection should include:

  • Checking vent work for leaks or holes that might be damaging efficiency
  • Examining the ventilation system to ensure exhaust gasses are being ventilated out of the building
  • Covering all outdoor air conditioning units that will go unused during the winter 
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Winterize the cooling towers of your HVAC system.

The cooling towers of your HVAC system will need to be winterized. Although the name might not suggest it, these will continue to be used through the winter. To winterize, ensure the following measures are taken:

  • System is drained and refilled with antifreeze to avoid bacterial growth in the pumps 
  • While the frequency drive is lower, the drain pans can freeze up, and steam allows the water to keep moving 

With lower air handling movement and few fans running, your cooling tower is just one of the ways you can remain energy efficient during the winter. 

Plan for Energy Efficiency and Reduction

With increased energy use in the winter, especially energy created by natural gas, distributing heat differently than you would during other seasons can create energy efficiencies. Depending on the building’s use, most commercial buildings do not need to maintain a 72-75 degree Fahrenheit temperature in the entire building. 

Instead, energy usage should be prioritized for areas that are frequently used, such as shared office spaces and lobbies. Areas that are only used a few hours a week, such as conference rooms, need programmable thermostats so that heat is not distributed to these areas when they are unused. 

Update Your Disaster Plan 

In addition to ensuring all occupants have a standardized plan of action in the case of a disaster caused by blizzards or extreme freezing temperatures, your facility management team needs to minimize winter weather destruction, speed up repairs and have an extensive list of external vendors, in case of repair supply shortages. 

Disaster budgets are as important as the operational budget for the building, in that they account for charges from unexpected failures with equipment. 

One of the main tenets of a disaster budget is the vendor list. In these agreements, vendors should assure certain line items that could be at stake during the winter. For example, if a boiler goes down, a repair vendor should be able to provide services within a few hours. Additionally, in the event that a piece of equipment is unfixable, you should have access to a service provider that removes the equipment.

Winter Is Coming–Will You Be Ready?

Partner with Able Services and receive a facility management team that will distribute preventative maintenance at the right time to help minimize the surprises that come during the extreme weather conditions of winter. 

To us, preplanning is critical: Just when you’re out of one season, you’re preparing for the next. With each client, we meet to discuss the importance of disaster plans and ensure approval for a budget, which includes an extensive list of vendor specialists. 

Get ready for the winter with Able Services. Request a quote today.

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