While we’re positive that YOU are not one of companies that just switch off the air conditioning at the end of the season rather than follow correct shut down procedures (gasp!), it’s always good to have a winter preparedness refresh as we head into the drag of cold and snow.
Not surprisingly, it really does all come down to scheduled and completed preventive maintenance (PM) – most of which needs to happen in the summer and fall to really be effective. Proper PM is the primary way to reduce costly repairs, extend equipment life, and increase tenant satisfaction during the winter months.
So after chatting with several CRE insiders, we’ve compiled our top 8 actions property teams need to take to secure a warm and efficient building during the winter. They are:
1. Stay on top of your PMs. Those incomplete PMs will come back to bite you in the winter months. A roof crack that went unnoticed, a cooling tower that doesn’t work the following year because it wasn’t drained properly… you get it. There are so many great web and mobile tools available to today’s management teams, so there really is no excuse to lose control of your PM program. If you haven’t already implemented a system to help with this, let 2015 be the year.
“An integral part of preparing for the winter is completing all preventive maintenance (PM) on the building equipment and making sure it’s operating as it should. To ensure this, all PM work must be performed for general wear and tear while also monitoring for any red flags that need to be repaired. The last thing you want is a boiler to fail in December because something was missed during the PM process in September.”
-Jason Richardson, Property Manager CBRE New England
At Building Engines, we use a mix of web and mobile alerts to schedule and dispatch equipment maintenance and repairs, and track those repairs throughout the maintenance lifecycle. The PM Manager comes pre-baked with General Services Administration (GSA) industry maintenance schedules for easy compliance. More importantly, it’s fully mobile so that you can take a picture of any issues and fire a work order immediately from your device to get it resolved.
2. Shut down A/C equipment. Check all system pressures, oil levels, water levels, and operating temperatures to make sure there are no leaks. Drain coils where required to prevent freezing and stagnancy. And don’t forget to clean and “lay up” your cooling tower during its “offline” months. There is a common misconception that stainless steel towers can hold up to anything. For buildings in areas with harsh winters, this is often not the case. And it’s actually the chillers that they share their water with that are especially susceptible to damage.*
“Cooling towers should be cleaned and disinfected at least twice a year. Normally this maintenance will be performed before initial start-up at the beginning of the cooling season and after shutdown in the fall.”
3. Check roofs, façade, and grounds. Review to see what has been left on the roofs during the warmer weather months. Is there debris that needs to be removed? Has any flashing come loose? Have the sidewalks cracked or heaved? A small hole in the roof or a crack in the sidewalk in August will turn into a large hole in December after the freeze thaw cycle! It’s also important to check that all awnings and signage are secure.
4. Conserve energy. This is two-part: First, reduce your HVAC setpoints. Within CRE, there is only so much you can due to reduce your space temperature and still be within the required range. But try to reduce your setpoints as low as you can without compromising tenant satisfaction. You’d be surprised how even a small adjustment can impact energy demand.
Second, make sure heat recovery is enabled (if your system has it). Increasing incoming air temperatures by a few degrees through heat recovery (what allows your air-handling units to “steal” some of the energy out of exhaust air before it leaves your building) can reduce your heating costs and help keep coils from freezing.**
5. Get your alert communications ready. Help tenants get informed and prepared for crippling storms. Emphasize emergency procedures, inform of closings and parking restrictions and keep them informed during the storm. There are great tools out there to help you do this. Building Engines Broadcast Messaging simplifies the process by letting you create custom contact groups, pre-save emergency alert templates, and send from any mobile device to reduce time during critical situations. You can also post an announcement directly to your property website!
6. Identify a Snow Removal Program. If contracted make sure this is in place and ready to go. If in house, make sure equipment has been serviced, ice melt ordered, shovels and blowers ready.
7. Inspect generators. And make sure your tanks are full.
8. Don’t forget your tenants. Inform tenants about the changes taking place and let them know about any interruptions in advance. If tenants are informed, you can reduce temperature complaints! And should something go wrong in the switch over, get that trusted Broadcast Communications tool (mentioned above) ready!