Facility Dude

Getting your old buildings ready for winter

By Kate Donnelly
Oct 14, 2015

Facilities Management, Safety and Risk Management

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Getting your old buildings ready for winter With winter just around the corner, it's time to start preparing your buildings for the cold months ahead. If your older buildings haven't been refurbished, they could drain your energy budget rapidly. Insufficient insulation, run-down ventilation systems and damaged foundations can let the cold and damp inside. You've been working hard all summer and autumn to keep costs down and to prevent future damage, and now it's time to get ready for the freeze.

How's your heating system?

The first thing you should do is get your entire heating system checked out by a professional, especially if your system is more than ten years old. A sudden system failure in the middle of a frosty winter isn't fun to deal with and could end up costing you. Older heating systems in large buildings often require a lot of manual oversight. According to the HVAC manager for Princeton University, valves need to be adjusted in each building starting in early to mid-October. Such a seemingly simple task could become quite complicated if you're unsure of all the proper procedures. Avoid falling behind on heating operations by tracking changes to the system in a computerized maintenance management system. That way, everything will run on schedule even if new staff has come onboard since the previous season.

Supposing your heating system passes all of its tests, there are still a few things you ought to do regularly. Energy Star recommended changing HVAC filters every three months, which means October is the perfect time to do so for the last quarter of the year. If your heating ducts haven't been cleaned out in a while, now is a great time to do that too - otherwise you'll burn up a lot of dust when you switch the system on for the first time. And while you're at it, check out the ductwork for leaks, and get them sealed up. It's an easy way to conserve energy.

Check your windows and walls

Window leaks are another major concern with older buildings. The Environmental Protection Agency recommended using storm windows, as they create an empty space between the panes of glass, which slows down the transfer of heat. Some storm windows even reduce noise pollution. Additionally, weather stripping can provide even greater energy savings. Combine the two methods for excellent thermal performance.

If your facility's windows are leaking, there's a good chance that your doors are also in need of an assessment. The EPA warned that gaps in masonry not only let in the cold air, but they also look very inviting to rodents and other pests. Make sure all of your doors are sealed properly before the cold weather sends mice looking for a winter residence. The National Parks Service suggested that older buildings may benefit from adding insulation along the ceiling.

Keep your buildings warm this winter and save on energy costs in the process. Enacting these preventative measures now could save you a headache in the future.

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