Fall Preventive Maintenance

Fall is here and it brings with it everything we love about autumn including stunning foliage to the change in temperature. With the change in seasons it’s a good idea for maintenance managers to make sure their facilities are ready for the challenges and weather concerns of winter.

From snow to cold temperatures, many of winter certainties can create problems for your buildings. Being prepared for what the cold weather can bring will help you get through winter with as little damage or wear and tear on your equipment as possible.  Maintenance managers should be sure to check the items listed below to ensure effective winter weather maintenance and operation throughout the coming months.

Here are some tips to help you make sure your facilities are winterized and ready to go before the weather turns:

Inspect heating systems

For your facility to function optimally the temperature will need to be maintained during the cooler months. This is a great time to look at your HVAC systems.

Buildings need to be kept warm enough to keep people comfortable and products protected. Inspect and optimize your heating and cooling system to protect your facility from unnecessary outages and inflated heating costs.

This is a great time to change air filter as regular filter changes can extend the life of units and reduce energy consumption. Also, look for worn or damaged parts and clean out accumulated dust or dirt.

Eliminate Wasted Heat

In addition to checking the heating system it is a good idea to look for drafts, leaks, and cracks that can allow heated air to escape buildings. Check to ensure caulking is flexible and sealing any gaps between window/door frames and exterior walls. This ensures warm air stays inside the building and keeps water from entering. For added energy savings check the weather stripping at all exterior door frames to ensure it is in place and serving its intended purpose.

Reduce your temperature set points

For each degree you lower your thermostat, you lower your utility bill by an average of 1%. This is the easiest way to reduce energy consumption and in turn, operational costs.

Winterize outside machinery

If some of your machinery needs to work outside in the cold, consult the manuals regarding what is needed to winterize them. For example, winterizing vehicles may require fluids to be changed or topped off. Certain types of machinery may need to run for a period to heat internal components before they get used, so it is a good idea to verify the specific requirements.

Check Gas Lines

If gas stops flowing in a facility that uses gas heat you will lose heat to the building. Check gas lines and gas line connections for signs of corrosion or wear and tear. Change any that need replacement and consider using corrosion-free options to limit future problems.

Look at building exteriors

Are there trees with broken or cracked branches? Is the parking lot showing damage from summer rain that will be made worse by the expansion of ice or snow? Have tree branches grown long enough that they’re over or under power lines and at risk of the branches damaging them?

It can be very difficult to get this sort of work done once winter sets in. Scheduling this work in the fall means you will have fewer things to worry about once the cold weather hits.

Inspect the Roof

Roofs take a beating in the winter. Flat roofs, common on many commercial buildings, need regular inspection and maintenance. Make sure the roofs do not have areas where ice or heavy snow will pile up or sit. After the initial inspection, schedule a weekly inspection for the entire season, looking for built-up water, ice, or snow that can create problems.

After inspecting the roof, make a plan for snow removal on that surface. While the sun may melt the snow on some days, a heavy snow can take time to melt. Failure to remove the snow can lead to water standing on the roof after it melts. Also, the weight of the snow can impact the roof’s structural integrity. Also, make sure that the drains remain clear all winter.

Protecting a slanted roof is similar. Inspect roof vents and shingles before the snow falls, and check all waterproofing seals on the edges of the roof. It is also prudent to install ice check breakers to protect customers and employees. Then, make sure all drains and gutters are clear.

Clean gutters and downspouts

Ensure all gutters and downspouts are free of debris and adequately drain water away. This continues to be important as the season progresses and leaves continue to fall. Consider pruning overhanging trees to keep leaves and debris off the roof. Clogged gutters cause water backup, which damages roofs, the trim around roofs and soffits, and siding. During cold winter weather, standing and backed-up water in gutters can freeze and cause ice dams that damage roofs and sheathing and lead to leaks. Downspouts should discharge into underground storm-drain leaders or empty onto splash blocks that adequately divert water away from the exterior of the building.

Check exterior faucets and service the irrigation system

Install frost-proof exterior hose-bib faucets or drain older non-frost-proof faucets to keep them from freezing and breaking during winter. This is a good time to have the underground irrigation system serviced and prepared for winter by a qualified irrigation contractor.

Seal cracks in sidewalks and paved areas

Perform regular sealing of cracks in sidewalks and paved areas during the fall. Water that freezes inside of these cracks can cause the concrete to spall and deteriorate, leading to more costly repairs later. Water penetration also can cause the sub-grade to soften leading to settlement and potholes.

Prepare for Power Loss

Lost power in the winter can lead to frozen pipes and lost inventory. Ensure that power to critical systems stays on with a working generator. Strong storms, ice on power lines, and other winter weather-related problems can lead to inconvenient power outages. Also, ensure the facility is protected from surges with properly installed surge protectors.

Snow Removal Preparation

Is there a snow removal plan in place? Make sure that the employee or contractor who will tackle this knows exactly what is expected. Keep safety as the first priority to ensure that employees and customers are not at risk even when snow falls. Walkways, first and foremost, must be clear. Also, have a planned place to store excess snow that is removed.

Clean Entrances

During snowy weather employees, customers, and others will track in ice and snow. Have absorbent rugs in place to pick up some of this, and ensure that regular cleaning of entrances occurs throughout the day. Wet floors pose a slip-and-fall hazard that is best avoided.

Weather Emergency Plans

If your facility uses generators test them to make sure they’re operational and ready to take over if necessary. Make sure that all emergency manuals or materials are available even if the power is out. This means that physical copies are easily available in multiple locations.

Consider at what point your facility will shut down due to weather, and what conditions you will plan to work through. Talk to your employees so that they’re aware and can also plan ahead. If your company has policies about employees missing work due to inclement weather review these with your employees.

Plan for what to do during an actual storm

Who keeps sidewalks and entryways clear and clean? If the power goes out, how will you keep your facility’s temperature over 40 degrees Fahrenheit to make sure sensitive equipment isn’t damaged? Again, considering these questions ahead of time means less confusion when you inevitably need the answers.

Culturally, we look at winter and think of frosted windows, soft snow banks, and bundled up children going sledding. As a facility, there’s a darker side to winter, but if you plan ahead and manage the various concerning factors, much of the stress of winter can be removed. By following these simple tips, your business or organization will be well prepared, no matter what Mother Nature brings this winter.