Is Your HVAC Equipment Ready to Handle the Increased Demands of the Cold Months?
With climate change at an all-time high and winter on the horizon, it’s important to face the reality of how this could affect your business. There isn’t much time left to finalise your maintenance strategy for the winter months. If you have a multiple building site you need to be proactive in identifying and tracking potential equipment problems that could be affected by the cold weather, especially those critical to the running of these buildings. Preventative actions today could save your facility time and money.
From snow to cold temperatures, the reality of nature’s winter can create problems, here are some top tips to help Facilities Mangers prepare for the changes and to ensure your buildings are prepared:
- Plan Ahead
The best way to make sure your system is efficient and able to handle the cold weather is to carry out asset inspections – in particular the outdoor assets, before the winter months hit. Years of weathering can cause your assets to function poorly and a cold snap can be the trigger for them to break down completely.
You can prevent this by fixing an issue ahead or at least making allowances for repairs as the colder months hit. If you aren’t sure if this is financially viable, think of the bigger picture – the operational costs once things have gone wrong.
- Inspect Your Roof
You need to inspect your facilities roofing and drainage systems, these are a critical point of risk when it comes to the winter weather. Roof damage caused by birds especially around HVAC equipment or places that water collects can cause leaks.
Inspect these areas and use it as an opportunity to remove debris and build ups of materials. Gutters are also critical to control drainage from rain, snow and melting ice. In severe weather gutters may not be able to handle flood-level downpours or freezing temperatures.
- Heating and Ventilation
Your heating systems need to be particularly robust at this time of year if your employees are to work in comfortable conditions within statutory temperature guidelines. Arrange maintenance visits from your PPM provider in good time to check over boilers, heat pumps and other forms of heating system to avoid any potential problems when your system is called into operation by falling winter temperatures and instruct your supplier to check the peripheral system plant as well such as pumps, storage vessels and valves. Also take time to review your operational strategy in alignment with your premises occupied patterns and the general needs of your employees. Constant re-evaluation and trimming of the operational timings and settings can realise energy savings for the company, reduce environmental emissions and reduce the ‘use-stress’ on items of plant potentially extending their lifespans and easing your company’s capital expenditure.
- Disaster Prevention
Prioritise any outdoor assets. Making repairs in cold weather can be riskier and more time consuming compared to temperate conditions – so it’s best to take care of any issues before the cold weather hits.
Insulate all your pipework to prevent frozen and bursting water pipes. Water systems freezing up can cause catastrophic equipment failures, infrastructure damage from water leaks or even life safety issues.
- Prevent Slips and Falls
Icy surfaces outdoors and polished floors indoors are the two main causes of slip and fall injuries during winter. When the weather fluctuates it’s important to keep ahead of freezing and thawing cycles to avoid dangerous slips and falls caused by black ice. Apply de-icers before a storm hits to lay a base of clear walkways. Consider placing slip resistant mats at problem areas and ensure clear signage and indicators are in place; develop a strategy for response when problems do occur.
Safety comes first so budget for enough staff time to support the necessary extra processes and supply clearance equipment, salt and grit bins that are adequate to last through a harsh winter.
With the dark hours increasing and the daylight hours getting shorter, it is likely that your facilities will need to power the outdoor lighting for longer periods at a time. This will increase energy usage. Prepare for this and increase your budget for energy expenditure throughout the winter months.
The checklist for winter facilities management may be long, but the list of problems avoided by doing preparatory maintenance is longer. Planned, preventative measures are always a good investment in terms of safety, cost management and a healthy work environment.