Nobody wants to think about winter in September, we are all busy making the most of the dog days of summer. Like it or not, the leaves are changing, evenings are getting shorter, and temperatures are dropping. Fall and winter are right around the corner.
Every year around this time building operators across the country begin uncovering maintenance concerns that have gone unnoticed since the previous spring. Long summer days, warm weather, and a busy schedule make it easy to miss problems with heating systems, lighting, security, and even building aesthetic. To help, we’ve put together a straight-forward guide for preparing your facility for winter.
1. Check Your Exterior Lighting
Checking your exterior lighting while the days are still relatively long can save a lot of headaches, especially for commercial properties. If there are problems with exterior lighting such as burnt lamps or faulty hardware, chances are they’ve gone completely unnoticed over the summer as exterior lighting is typically timed to turn on at dusk. As winter approaches and dusk inches closer to 5 pm, occupants will begin noticing dead lighting very quickly.
Along with inspecting all exterior lighting, timers need to be adjusted to ensure lights turn on at the right time during the evenings to avoid dark periods. Security and safety issues that arise from dark exterior areas of a building simply aren’t worth the risk.
2. Prepare Your HVAC
Early fall can be a stressful time for building operators depending on how building occupants respond to colder weather. Whatever the building heating system, if it isn’t set and ready to go at the first call for heat, occupants will be left chilly and irritated. Under-desk radiant heaters that suck up electricity and wreak havoc on a balanced HVAC system start getting plugged in, and if there’s one thing we know at Kambo, it’s that those things never get unplugged.
While HVAC maintenance should occur quarterly, a few extra steps are necessary at the beginning of the heating season:
- Clean filters and remove dust build-up that’s occurred over the summer.
- Ensure all pumps and motors are up-to-date on their inspection
- Check the occupied and unoccupied temperature set points in all spaces.
- If there were any issues identified during last season’s inspection, ensure they’ve been addressed.
- Always double-check that heating systems are functioning in unoccupied spaces where exposed piping or other at-risk equipment could be damaged if freezing occurs. It may have been working last winter, but that’s no guarantee it will be working this winter.
- If heat trace or another type of secondary heating is used to protect plumbing, make sure it’s functioning before it’s needed.
The Battle Between Heating And Cooling
Air conditioning and heating system coexistence can sometimes be a balancing act in early fall when exterior temperatures can hover on both sides of the heating setpoint. If your HVAC controls have not been correctly set, overcompensation by cooling and/or heating can trigger a back-and-forth battle between systems. Simultaneous heating and cooling happens in buildings more often than you would think, and sometimes the only clue that it’s happening is a higher energy bill. While this can be a more complicated issue that warrants a full HVAC inspection, sometimes controls adjustments can be the answer. A walk-through by an energy professional can help you identify the solution.
3. Inspect Your Building Envelope
Building envelope is often overlooked in commercial and retail spaces, though its performance is just as important as any other building system when we’re talking about energy efficiency. Windows, insulation, and entryways are important barriers to the outside in both the winter and summer months, though issues with any of these items are typically only noticed during the winter. Checking for air leakage around windows and doors before the heating season begins means you can repair them before cold air infiltration costs you a lot of cash in wasted heat.
Any small amount of water ingress from the outside becomes a much bigger issue when it freezes, so check for any signs of water leaks that began during the summer.
No other part of a building gets as much exposure to winter’s harsh conditions than the roof. Building roofs can cause serious issues in the winter when repetitive freezing and thawing of water occurs. Small cracks and blisters in the finishing materials should be swiftly repaired, and any water ponding should be investigated. Failure to do preventative roof maintenance is guaranteed to result in water leakage, heat loss, and other costly issues down the road.
Most of these recommendations are quick and easy to do and are well worthwhile in order to have piece-of-mind throughout the winter season. Kambo’s service division is happy to help you get a head-start on the process so you’re not stuck with building issues during the worst time of the year.