We’re officially in the middle of fall, and that means two things: 1) retailers will add pumpkin flavoring to anything and everything they can, and 2) it’s time for facilities managers to start preparing for colder temperatures.
To make sure your facility is equipped to handle the upcoming seasonal changes, follow these five smart steps for winterizing your building.
Winterizing Your Building: 5 Smart Steps for Facility Managers
1. Start Preventive Maintenance
Two building systems are particularly prone to unexpected issues: your HVAC and your lighting.
During the colder months, these building systems are at an even higher risk of malfunction because the level of utilization changes dramatically.
Furnaces that have been dormant for the last seven months are expected to go from 0 to 60 in a matter of days (or sometimes hours). And since the number of daylight hours decreases, lighting systems are turned on earlier and shut off later.
While you may already have a preventive maintenance plan in place, pay special attention to your HVAC and lighting systems when the temperature starts to drop. Do a thorough inspection of all components well in advance. Clean and repair what you can and replace what you have to. It’s better to spend a little time and money now than to pay for emergency fixes in the dead of winter.
2. Monitor Energy Utilization
Energy efficiency is undoubtedly one of your year-round priorities. But there are certain energy hogs that don’t rear their ugly heads until it starts to get colder outside. Check windows and doors (and the maintenance records for them) to make sure you aren’t wasting energy due to poor insulation. It might be time to replace some older windows or add weather-stripping to drafty doors. Installing industrial IoT sensors on larger equipment can also help you identify energy inefficiencies due to friction or mechanical issues.
If your company changes the size of its personnel during the holidays, use occupancy sensors to identify traffic patterns throughout the building. This sensor data will allow you to adjust your lighting and HVAC schedules to reduce waste.
Pro Tip: Don’t sacrifice employee comfort for energy efficiency. Your employees shouldn’t have to bundle up like they’re going on an Alaskan cruise just to save money on heating costs.
3. Optimize the Service Request Process
The winter months will bring with them an increase in service requests as employees discover the vent above their desk is blocked and the exterior lighting system is on the fritz. Your more veteran facilities team members may already know what to expect. But your newer employees may be unprepared for the incoming flood of maintenance requests. Make sure they understand how to accommodate the increase, and let them know it’s okay to ask for help.
Facility management software can make handling the influx in maintenance tickets much easier since you can see the status of every request at a glance and assign tickets to the appropriate team member. Employees can also see this information, reducing the number of inquiries you get about when a specific request will be handled.
4. Partner with the Workforce
Speaking of employees, the workforce can be a huge help when it comes to winterizing your building. IoT sensors can give you a lot of insight into the workplace, but employees can give you a real-life, human perspective on the work environment. They’ll notice when there’s a draft or a vent that’s constantly blowing hot air on them. Make sure they have an easy way to communicate these concerns — by submitting a mobile service request, for instance.
Employees can also help reduce energy consumption by volunteering to work remotely once or twice a week if possible. Ideally, they should do this on pre-determined days to allow you to reduce heating and lighting costs.
5. Ensure Your Data and Technology are Protected
Power outages and power surges both have the potential to be disastrous for your business. And the chance of outages and surges rises in the winter. Bad winter storms can knock out power lines, and increased utilization of building systems can lead to power surges.
If your facility loses power unexpectedly, your employees will lose access to the technology they need to do their jobs. And if your data isn’t automatically backed up, a power outage or surge can lead to a crippling data loss.
As part of the process of winterizing your building, install surge protectors and emergency power supplies throughout the facility. Additionally, invest in a secure cloud server to back up and store all of your important data. Companies that provide remote hosting and cloud services are better equipped to protect your data and get you back up and running faster.
Don’t get locked out in the cold this winter! Follow these steps, and you’ll be nice and cozy in your winterized facilities.
Editor's Note: This blog post was originally published in October 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and relevance.