Winter is coming. Is your commercial building prepared?

The seasons here in New York can be intense, and each has its own maintenance requirements. Winter, however, can wreak all sorts of havoc. The frigid weather causes slippery roads, dangerous conditions, frozen pipes, treacherous footing, and more.

Fortunately, you can take a preventative approach to prepare your commercial building for winter and avoid cold-weather catastrophes.

With that in mind, I have five top tips to prepare your commercial building for the coming cold. Keep in mind that no two commercial buildings are the same, and the needs of each will change according to size, age, location, and a variety of other factors. These tips, however, I’ve found to be applicable to most buildings:

1. Check your HVAC system.

Your HVAC system works hard all year long, but it pulls extra weight in the winter. And because the HVAC system affects the air quality throughout the building, it’s critical to service and inspect it before winter sets in. Here’s what I recommend:

• Check and change air filters.

• Inspect and repair broken parts.

• Inspect vent work for leaks or holes that might be damaging efficiency.

• Cover all outdoor air-conditioning units that will go unused during the winter.

• Inspect the ventilation system to ensure exhaust gasses are being ventilated out of the building.

• Hire a professional for a full inspection of the HVAC equipment before you run the heat for the first time this season.

2. Inspect the insulation.

To ensure efficiency, inspect your building’s insulation for holes or compromised areas that could cause heat loss. Pay special attention to roofs, weather stripping, and unheated areas, such as attics. It’s often said that a poorly insulated attic can result in a 25% heat loss during the fall and winter.

I also recommend checking the quality of your building’s insulation. Is the insulation level sufficient? Are there places that could use more insulation, or does the entire building need an insulation update?

Insulation methods have advanced in leaps and bounds in recent years. It’s now possible to get blanket-style insulation, rigid insulation, foam insulation, and a variety of other efficient, easy-to-use technologies that will help you save on heating and cooling costs.

3. Prepare your plumbing.

Frozen pipes and subsequent flooding are some of the most common reasons my team provides water damage remediation services in the winter.

In addition to being frustrating and causing unnecessary downtime for a business, fixing frozen pipes is also expensive. In fact, the average claim for water damage because of frozen pipes is currently about $10,800.

When it comes to frozen pipes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Avoid flooding and burst pipes by making sure all of your existing freeze-protection devices and alarms are in good working order. Test freeze stats and valves before the weather gets cold, wrap pipes and faucets in unheated or minimally heated areas of the building, and seal cracks and openings around exposed pipes.

To help prevent freezing, keep the building’s internal thermostat set to at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit at all times.

4. Check your roofing.

The roof is a critically important part of a commercial building. To prevent leaks and other expensive issues, inspect the roof for holes or damage that could cause leaks during snowmelt. You should also check for loose shingles and repair damage to existing seals and flashing to ensure the roof is structurally sound and capable of withstanding another winter.

5. Have a disaster plan in place.

If the worst does happen, how will your company cope? Make a plan for a variety of disasters, including fire, flooding and gas leaks. Keep all new and current employees and tenants up-to-date on the protocols, and ensure everyone has a copy of the various escape plans.

I also recommend researching contractors in your area so that you’re prepared if your building experiences a problem this winter. (A number of companies, my own included, can provide these types of services.) Burst pipes and other water damage disasters are common during cold weather, and knowing who you plan to turn to in an emergency can help minimize destruction and speed up repairs.

You can prevent cold-weather disasters with some simple preparation.

In many states, winters are tough. Fortunately, these tips can help you prepare and protect your commercial building and avoid costly disasters and repairs.