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Top Ten Ways to Protect Your Building and Pipes from the Polar Vortex

Don’t let this polar vortex get the best of you, be prepared for the cold with these ten ways to prepare and protect your building. 

1. Don’t Just Turn Off the Water 

Drain the water from the pipe leading to the hose bibb and take off the hose if it is still attached to the fixture.

2. Winterize Your Irrigation System 

If your irrigation system is not winterized, you might be in trouble.  This should be done by your irrigation contractor, so double check that this has been completed before the low temperatures hit.

3. Use Heat Tape

All exterior water lines should be protected with heat tape.  This “tape” is attached to an electrical circuit and creates resistance heat just enough to keep water from freezing. Ensure that the circuit that the heat tape is tied to is connected to your backup generator in case of loss of power.

4. Clear Roof Drains 

Be sure your roof drains are clear of any debris.  A clogged roof drain will make for an ice rink on your roof.  That is dangerous and can cause problems with other mechanical items on your roof.  Frozen water on your roof can also damage pitch pockets and cause water to enter the building once it thaws.

5. Don’t Just Salt

We all spread salt to keep our patrons and employees safe from the ice. But did you know that salt won’t work as temperatures approach 15 degrees? At 10 degrees salt becomes useless.  Ice melt products work, but they can be harsh to our environment. Some people prefer sand to add traction on top of the ice.

6. Seal Up Air Penetration Points

Cold temperatures are bad enough. Add a wind chill to the cold and the temperature drops dramatically.  Air gaps around wall penetrations, roof penetrations, and other access points for air can freeze water pipes well inside the building envelope.  Keep the cold air out by checking those penetrations and making sure they are sealed up with heavy duty caulk or an expandable foam for larger gaps.

7. Lack of Water Leak Does NOT Mean You Are in the Clear

Sometimes you won’t know if a water line is frozen and cracked until after it thaws out.  The next day above freezing you could get an unpleasant surprise. When water freezes it expands so even the smallest of leaks or cracks can become a major leak after everything thaws out.

8. Protect Yourself! 

Dress in layers. We are forecasted to have air temperatures in the single digits. Add a moderate 10-15 mph wind you have a -20-degree wind chill.  Without protection, frostbite can occur in less than 30 minutes.  Watch out for your fellow employees and know the warning signs of hypothermia. Keep a cold weather emergency kit in your trunk and non-clumping cat litter in case you get stuck in the snow to help with traction.

9. Keep Your DryCoolers and HeatPumps Clear

Be sure to keep your heatpumps and drycoolers clear of any snow of ice.  These units need to breathe. If snow builds up around these units, they will not function, and the system will break down.

10. Check Your Glycol Concentration

This is the number one reason we’ve seen buildings have major issues.  If your glycol concentration is not monitored, you may be in trouble.  When did you check it last?  If you aren’t sure what level of concentration is adequate, here is a great chart to help you.

If you aren’t sure if your property is ready for the upcoming polar vortex, contact Compu Dynamics today at (703) 796-6070. We will send out one of our professionals ensure that your building is ready to withstand the cold!

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