Mechanical Insights

Winter HVAC & Boiler Preparation: Preparing Systems for Winter Usage

Sep 21, 2021 8:30:00 AM / by Tate Engineering

winter prep

As summer comes to a close and fall begins, checking your facility’s heating equipment may not be at the top of your list - but it should be! Preparing your boilers and HVAC equipment before the first winter storm helps to ensure your facility will be ready to go. Facilities don’t often begin making winter preparations until the forecast calls for extreme weather. Be proactive and get your facility prepped and ready for whatever this winter throws at you - starting with common systems that you should check.

Check the Glycol Systems

Glycol is often added to heating and cooling water systems to help with freeze protection. With no glycol, water systems freeze at 32F. With 50% glycol, the freezing point gets pushed all the way down to -35F. Maintaining the proper amount of glycol in your system will keep it performing well without freezing. Determine what ratio of glycol to water your system is designed to operate with, then use a special tool called a refractometer (and a conversion table) to test your system. You may find that your system is low on glycol. In this case, glycol should be added to the system to ensure it is properly protected from freezing. Remember that glycol is a hazardous waste item - extreme care should be taken when handling it, and if you are adding or removing glycol from your system, be sure to adhere to all safety measures.

Check Your HVAC System

Many pieces of equipment need to have their operating modes changed so that they are ready to heat your building or facility. If the temperature in certain areas is controlled by a thermostat, the equipment’s operating mode often needs to be changed at the thermostat. Ensure that the unit is in either “Auto” or “Heat” mode. Check that the heating setpoint, the temperature below which heating will kick on, is not set too high or too low. Setting the temperature too high can run up your facility’s energy bill by keeping the space excessively warm. If the temperature is set too low, people may be uncomfortably cold and pipes may be at risk. Verify that the thermostat is showing an accurate temperature by using a thermocouple or other accurate temperature sensor to compare. If your facility is equipped with an automated network of equipment, or the equipment is designed to automatically select operating modes, this step may be unnecessary.

Checking the filters on your facility’s HVAC equipment is one of the easiest things you can do to keep your system running well. Clean filters allow your system to breathe more easily and operate as designed. When changing the filters, check for signs of wear, dirt, or oil on any components. Catching problems early can help you minimize the cost of repairs and reduce the likelihood of unexpected failure.

Related: Do You Know How to Clean Air Filters

Prepare the Boilers

Boilers often go months without being run, which makes boiler winter preparation and boiler maintenance all the more important. Leaky boilers are no good, and can be dangerous and expensive to operate. Check that the boilers show no signs of leaking water.

Related: Winter Is Coming - Is Your Boiler Ready?

Inspect the system’s flue to ensure that none of the exhaust ductwork is leaking (and that the fumes are being properly extracted from the building). During this inspection, it is often a good idea to check the efficiency of the combustion to make sure money is not being wasted on unused fuel. If your facility does not have the equipment to perform this analysis, consider having the service done professionally. Usually, the cost savings from the reduced energy bill can pay for having the service performed.

Winter preparation of your facility’s equipment doesn’t have to be hard. Plan out what needs to be done today and you will thank yourself tomorrow. Reach out to the experts at Tate for help planning your facility’s winter prep.

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Tags: HVAC, Seasonal, Equipment

Written by Tate Engineering