Commercial HVAC Equipment

13 Essential Winter Maintenance Tips for Commercial Buildings and Facilities

Monday, November 9 2015 3:21 PM
By Jon Goering

While colder weather is a great time for deer hunting or ice fishing in Kansas, it can be challenging for maintenance and service teams responsible for the upkeep of commercial buildings and facilities.

While colder weather is a great time for deer hunting or ice fishing in Kansas, it can be challenging for maintenance and service teams responsible for the upkeep of commercial buildings and facilities.

As a result, preparing for winter becomes all the more critical.

In this post, we will highlight 13 maintenance tips you can do to prepare your properties for the heating season. Some of these tips are tied solely to your heating and cooling systems, and others focus on your building envelope and the areas around it.

All play a part in ensuring you are ready for whatever Mother Nature has up her sleeve.  

Inspect Heating Systems

It’s a no-brainer that maintaining your heating systems should be a top priority in colder weather. We recommend that you inspect heating systems regularly and create a written plan to outline what maintenance tasks need to be addressed daily, weekly, monthly and annually.

Concerning equipment, hot water heating boilers will see increased use. To ensure their proper operation, we suggest you:

  • Examine flues for carbon buildup
  • Analyze combustion to ensure the flames burn cleanly and efficiently
  • Check safeties for proper operation
  • Look for cracked heat exchangers
  • Examine water pressure gauges to ensure they are calibrated correctly
  • Remove and clean burners
  • Brush boiler tubes
  • Check expansion tanks for proper air cushion and to ensure they aren’t flooded

Furnaces and rooftop units also need to be checked. Specifically, look for cracks in the heat exchangers, which can leak dangerous carbon dioxide into a building. For furnaces older than 10 years, consider replacement. Efficiency ratings for today’s equipment far exceed those of older ones, sometimes as much as 40 percent or more.

Winterize Cooling Systems

As heating systems move on-line, cooling systems not in use during the winter should be taken down. This might include draining your cooling tower, shutting down your chiller or emptying a condensate drain trap.

Not addressing these maintenance tasks could result in significant damage to your systems. Additionally, necessary repairs can be addressed at this time rather than at the moment when you need cooling in the spring and summer.

Calibrate Thermostats / Reduce Set Points

This suggestion contains two points. First, by calibrating your building’s thermostats, you structure your heating systems to operate more efficiently - and that saves money.

You know what else saves money? Lowering the temperature in your building (not too much, though, as you don’t want building occupants to be uncomfortable).

Studies show you lower your utility bill by an average of one percent for every degree dropped. Imagine the savings you’ll enjoy over the course of a winter!

Studies show you lower your utility bill by an average of one percent for every degree dropped. Imagine the savings you’ll enjoy over the course of a winter!

Change Air Filters

We’ve been programmed to change smoke detector batteries during the time changes. Likewise, the start of the heating season is a good reminder to change your HVAC systems’ air filters.

Why? Because dirty air filters increase a system’s energy use and shorten equipment life cycles.

Inspect Doors and Windows

Doors and windows provide an outlet for warm indoor air to escape and water to leak in. Holes and gaps also allow in insects and pests looking for a warm winter home. Use caulking or weather stripping to seal gaps between windows, doors and exterior walls.

Clean Gutters

As trees drop their leaves, gutters collect them. Gutters clogged with leaves and branches trap water, which can damage roofs, trim, and siding.

Trapped water also has the potential to freeze and cause leak problems. Remove leaf and branch debris from gutters so that water flows freely.

Select Good Entrance Mats

Blame it on our feet.

Experts say people track in 80 percent of the dirt found in buildings.

And the cost to remove it? Between $500 and $700 a pound.

Buildings should have mats placed both outside and inside entrances and exits, giving people three steps on a mat with each foot. Mats also help to alleviate potential slip hazards.

Inspect Exterior Faucets, Irrigation Systems

Drain hoses and faucets to prevent freezing and breaking or install freeze-proof equipment. Underground irrigation systems also should be serviced for winter.

Repair Sidewalk cracks

Seal cracks in sidewalks and paved areas to prevent additional deterioration. Water can degrade sub-grade materials beneath these areas, leading to depressions and potholes.

Roof / Attic Inspection

Avoid costly leaks by checking for loose shingles or areas where water might collect, including chimneys and vents. Low-sloped roofs should be checked to ensure that leaves and debris have not clogged drains.

And avoid significant heat loss through your attic by examining insulation for proper thickness.

Deicers

Help reduce the potential for painful and costly falls by using deicers on slippery sidewalks and other outdoor surfaces. That said, be sure to use these products correctly to avoid damaging outdoor and indoor areas.

Prepare for Power Outages

Downed power lines from ice and wind and the subsequent loss of power can prove costly, especially for processing or healthcare facilities. Inspect backup power sources regularly to ensure proper operation.

Also, backup all company data frequently.

Work from Home

Some winter storms make travel to work impossible for employees. Consider preparing them to work from home in these situations so that they can continue to work effectively.

Summary

Cold weather brings with it a number of unique challenges for those responsible for building and facility maintenance.

Building owners should utilize their maintenance teams to accomplish these tasks where appropriate and hire professionals for tasks that require special skills. Facility leaders often can best make this determination.

Proper planning and scheduling will help you to limit the possibilities of damages to your building and its systems. By following these steps and others you have implemented at your facility, you will be prepared for whatever Mother Nature has in store.

For more information, please email Jonathon Goering by clicking here or call 316-265-9655.

Knipp Services works with commercial and industrial building owners to identify solutions to reduce downtime and increase building efficiency. We provide services that enable building owners to have a high-performance building.

Topics: fall and winter maintenance

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Sources:

HPAC Engineering

HPAC Engineering 2

Crockett Facilities Services

Farmer’s Almanac

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