Get ready for winter: tips for protecting your property in cold weather

Getting ready for cold weather

There are a number of protective measures you can consider taking to help prepare your property for the cold conditions:

  • Check that heating systems work well and set to maintain a minimum temperature of 4°C.
  • To keep a constant check on temperature, place thermometers in hard-to-heat areas housing vulnerable equipment (e.g., near sprinkler systems).
  • Provide adequate and safe additional emergency heating equipment in areas prone to freezing. Set to activate automatically when temperatures fall below 4°C.
  • Check roofs, gutters and drains to make sure they’re in good working condition and free of debris.
  • Consider consulting with neighbours if there are shared gutters, drains, roofs and circulation spaces to ensure the whole site is properly protected.
  • Appoint a dedicated individual or team to monitor weather forecasts.
  • Set up a plan to routinely record temperatures, [including at night and on weekends]. An alarm system or sensors can assist in continuous monitoring.
  • Gather cold weather emergency supplies:
    • Salt, shovels, wheelbarrows and snow blowers
    • Antifreeze supplies for cooling systems
    • Steam hoses for thawing frozen lines
    • Extra tarpaulins for windbreaks
    • Portable heaters. Check they have appropriate safety interlocks.
    • Warm clothing and hand protection for maintenance and operating crews
  • Keep all fire protection-related equipment (e.g., hydrants, hose houses, pumper connections, sprinkler control valves) free of snow and ice for easy access.
  • With a rented property, the Property Manager will be able to tell you what the landlord is responsible for and how any winter protection programme aligns with yours.


Avoiding roof damage

  • Snow can build up on roofs and in exceptional circumstances can lead to collapse or water leaks. Find out how much snow is normal for your town in preparation for the storm. During the storm, monitor the amount of snow on the roof and if there is a safe way, have it removed if necessary.
  • Have an adequate number of roof drains, and ensure they are kept open and free of ice.


Keeping boilers and equipment operational

Equipment can be affected by extreme cold weather; make sure you know which equipment is at risk.

  • To ensure that your boiler works in winter, make sure it has had its annual check before freezing temperature start. Be familiar with manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance and winter safety precautions.
  • Perform regular cold weather maintenance and have an emergency plan.
    • Drain water-cooled equipment that is unprotected from cold.
    • Residual water in equipment can freeze, particularly on machinery not protected from the cold. Make sure that you completely drain any idle equipment like boilers and air-conditioning. Regularly drain condensed moisture from compressed air lines.
  • Cold weather will impact ability to produce steam. If you have equipment and/or processes that are powered by steam, it’s a good idea to agree in advance which take priority.


Watch out for frozen pipes

Indicators of frozen pipes are evident when no water flows from the faucet, or if frost, ice or a bulging appearance is observed on the pipe’s exterior.

However, encountering a frozen pipe doesn’t automatically spell disaster. Prompt action can avert a burst and safeguard your belongings. If you find a pipe that’s frozen yet intact, follow these measures immediately to prevent it from bursting and protect your possessions:

  • Turn off the stopcock.
  • Remove any furniture or equipment in the area which may get damaged by any leaking or escaping water, where safe and practical to do so.
  • Open the tap closest to the area and begin gently warming the pipe with a hairdryer or hot water bottle, starting from the end closest to the tap and working away from the faucet.
    • Check both wet-and dry-pipe sprinkler systems regularly to make sure they are ice-free.


Protecting your property when it’s empty

If you’re going to leave your property vacant for an extended period of time over the winter months, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Don’t turn off the heating! Leave it on low at around 4°C.
  • Close all openings, especially doors and windows.
  • Have someone keep an eye on your property on a weekly basis. If there are any on-site personnel, make sure they know how to implement the cold weather emergency plan.
  • Drain all equipment that carries water or is susceptible to condensation or freezing. Add antifreeze to any equipment that cannot be drained.
  • Consider installing a supervised alarm system to monitor power supply, building and exposed water-storage tanks temperatures and boilers.
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