20 Tips for Fall Building Maintenance

It's the time of year when the HVAC switch moves from 'cool' to 'warm' with the changing weather. Of course for most of our clients in Texas, that can change in any given week! It's also a good time to look at cold weather preparations and other regular maintenance tasks that building owners can perform to improve the safety, performance, and lifespan of their facilities:

MECHANICAL / HVAC

1. Check and replace air filters on all mechanical HVAC equipment. Some filters can be hard to find or difficult to reach. Consult equipment manuals for help. These manuals can usually be downloaded from manufacturer's websites if you don't have a physical copy. A dirty filter can cause issues with airborne illnesses and allergies, so change filters regularly!    

2. Dust supply and return air grills. Both dirty filters and dusty vents can affect optimal equipment efficiency and cause you higher energy costs and reduced lifespan of the system.

3. Reset any thermostats according to seasonal changes in temperatures and any changes in usage schedule. Don't forget falling back after daylight savings time ended may impact these schedules as well. 

4. Request a freon level check for HVAC condensers. If it's low, there's a leak. It's best to address this issue in the cooler months, before the heavy demand for air conditioning returns.

5. Look for condensation on the windows, which may be a sign that the humidity settings on the HVAC controls need adjustment.

PLUMBING

6. Fill dry p-traps inside restroom / kitchen floor drains. Pour a gallon of water down the drain to eliminate odor. Sometimes the trap primers are not working properly, were never installed, or they were not flushed frequently enough to keep the traps primed.  

7. Check plumbing fixtures for clogs or slow drainage, which can be a disaster during a peak usage period.

8. Restroom exhaust fans should be running when turned on. If they are noisy, it could be a bearing going out.

9. Protect exterior plumbing from freezing weather. Hoses should be disconnected from hose bibs when not in use to prevent freezing. Exposed pipes should be insulated.

10. Elevator pits should be checked for standing water, which may be an indication of a broken sump pump motor. The oil on hydraulic elevators may also need to be replaced. 

BUILDING ENVELOPE

11. Check for stained ceiling tiles or bubbling paint on sheetrock, which can be an indication of a roof leak or a condensate pan with a clogged drain line.

12. Walk the perimeter of the building to examine all expansion joint sealant. If it's cracked and/or separated, it needs to be replaced. Weather stripping at doors and sealant at windows/ storefront/ curtain wall, should be examined for gaps or places water or air could be allowed to penetrate.

13. Clean out gutters and downspouts that may be clogged with leaves or debris. Flat roof areas may also benefit from a visual inspection of the roof / area drain. Standing water is a sign of a clog. 

ELECTRICAL

14. Eliminate extension cords (particularly above ceilings) and overloaded outlets. These demand too many amps and can cause an electrical short.

15. Replace burned out lamps / bulbs in light fixtures, and consider retrofit LED bulbs. If there are several lamps out, make a list and try to replace them simultaneously, which reduces the need for frequent rental of a lift or retrieval of other special equipment. Setup a maintenance schedule for regular lamp replacement.  

LIFE SAFETY

16. Test the smoke alarms, some of which may be inside ductwork. Replace any batteries or battery backups on hardwired devices. For convenience, devices in difficult to reach places can be checked and serviced at the same time as lighting re-lamping is done.

17. Clear exit corridors and stairways that have accumulated storage. In addition to being a fire hazard, this creates a liability issue. 

18. Check the dates on all fire extinguishers. They may need to be replaced if they are expired.

19. Verify that all exit signs are properly illuminated and visible. Older buildings may benefit from additional signage and emergency egress lighting, particularly in long and winding or dead-end corridors.

20. Check all first aid kits on site. Replaced expired supplies and replenish any depleted items.  

THERE'S NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT

It's a great time to do some of that maintenance on your building you've been planning to do, before the holidays roll in with the winter months on their tails. A little preventative work now could save you a costly failure later.