One large part of running a successful business in Wausau, WI is maintaining a safe, comfortable building interior. With winter temperatures dipping as low as five degrees Fahrenheit, much of the pressure falls on your HVAC system. Unfortunately, for commercial property owners, there are several unique HVAC challenges that the cold season brings. Read on to find out what they are and how to mitigate them.

Dramatic Fluctuations in Indoor Temperatures

One of the best ways to prevent HVAC-related energy waste is by creating and maintaining a tightly sealed indoor environment. This proves difficult in busy households that have lots of residents coming and going. For businesses, it’s often downright impossible. From delivery drivers and service technicians to busy workers and eager clients, your office doors are probably opening and closing all throughout the day. In commercial buildings with attached warehouses, there’s also the likelihood of opened, forgotten bays.

Tighten the Building’s Envelope

With commercial heating systems, the resulting temperature fluctuations lead to longer and more frequent heating cycles, more energy use, and higher energy bills. You can combat these problems by installing automatic doors that shut themselves and installing fixed windows throughout the building. Creating a relatively tight envelope for your commercial property can help as well by keeping more of your heated air inside.

Seal Off High-Traffic Entry Points

Consider installing a glass partition or other solid barrier between your reception area and your inner office. With this setup, employees in your lobby can still receive heated air from your ductwork, and heat loss is limited to receiving areas only rather than the entire building.

Combat Accelerated Wear With Regular Inspection and Tune-up Services

Frequent and lengthy heating cycles take a toll on commercial HVAC systems. This is especially true if your heater is fuel-combusting. If you’re using a natural gas furnace, you should have your system tuned up at the start of winter and again at the end of the heating season. If you don’t have an in-house maintenance team that can handle air filter changes, consider signing up for a preventative maintenance plan to limit the costs of staying on top of this essential task.

Routine maintenance both limits and reverses ongoing wear. It gives our team the opportunity to identify loose, damaged, or worn parts and replace them. We also test safety features and carbon monoxide detectors, calibrate thermostats, and clean all indoor and outdoor equipment. Scheduling pre-season maintenance will greatly reduce your risk of having a mid-winter heating emergency. In Wausau, even the short-term loss of a functional heating system can lead to serious safety issues and extended shutdowns.

Take Care of Your Outdoor Equipment

Depending upon the size, type, and layout of your commercial property, you may have HVAC equipment installed outdoors on a concrete pad or on your roof. If your outdoor condenser unit is roof-mounted, caring for your roof is of the utmost importance. Heavy snow loads, ice damming, blocked gutters, and roof failure can all impact this equipment.

Tree Care and Ice Prevention

Limbing the trees on your property is essential for protecting outdoor HVAC equipment. As a commercial property owner, it’s also key to fulfilling your duty of care. When winter storms arrive, strong winds could cause weak, dying, or diseased limbs to break off and come crashing down. Cutting these limbs in advance will prevent property damage and severe physical injuries.

When it comes to impact events that could damage outdoor condensers, the potential for loose and falling roof materials is important to mitigate as well. You can prevent the formation of large, heavy icicles with adequate building insulation, good gutter care, and the installation of gutter heaters. If your building has already sustained a fair amount of water damage due to roofing issues, have your gutters cleaned and inspected in fall. This way, your roofer can assess the risk of having these features detach from the building and causing damage to any HVAC equipment that lies below.

Check for Pest Infestations

For all property owners, winter can be a time of fierce and ongoing pest battles. Commercial HVAC ducting provides a warm hiding space for mice, rats, and other rodents. It can also harbor many insects. All pests in HVAC ducting leave potentially harmful detritus behind, including:

  • Feces and urine
  • Fur and hair
  • Food
  • Exoskeletons and wings
  • Carcasses

During routine HVAC maintenance, we’ll check your HVAC air ducts for signs of pest problems. We’ll seal up all viable points of ingress and make any necessary recommendations for duct cleaning, repairs, or replacement. In addition to their bacteria-riddled leavings, pests can also crush or collapse your ducting, chew through wiring, or cause problems at condensate drains.

Pest Treatment vs. Pest Management

Among the best ways to keep your HVAC system protected from pests is taking a proactive approach to pest management before infestations occur. Don’t wait until your indoor air quality declines or your ducts are visibly damaged. Implementing a targeted and multi-pronged pest management plan with the help of a licensed pest control company could help you sidestep pest issues entirely. While pest treatment addresses existing infestations, pest management acknowledges that some animals and insects thrive within the local environment. While you can’t eliminate all of these pests, you can take steps to make your business less habitable.

Your HVAC System in Winter and Your Building’s Indoor Air Quality

The detritus left by pests can have an impact on your indoor air quality. However, extra work and longer heating cycles can too. It’s difficult to assess how fluctuating temperatures and fluctuating traffic will impact your ongoing filter change schedule. When this is a maintenance task that’s handled in-house, we recommend inspecting these components every two to three weeks. If you have our team handle your filter changes, we’ll establish a needs-specific filter schedule based on the type of heating equipment you own, the size and layout of your facility, and other relevant factors.

Address Overly Dry or Overly Moist Air

Dry indoor air often has far more particulate matter than wet air. Moisture weighs dust, dander, pollen, textile fibers, and carpet fibers down. With more of these allergens and contaminants settling on your flooring and other surfaces, building residents could breathe a bit easier. However, overly moist air can leave you with a muggy and oppressive-feeling workspace and a higher risk of indoor mold. Scheduling an indoor air quality assessment in advance of winter will optimize your comfort and prevent humidity-related damages. This assessment will also tell you whether or not you need integrated HVAC accessories such as whole-building humidification or dehumidification equipment.

Winter and Poor Thermostat Management

For some companies, most in-office tension arises at the thermostat. If you have lots of people to accommodate, you’ll likely find that they have vastly different temperature preferences. Installing a smart thermostat is a great way to limit control over thermostat settings, make temperature adjustments remotely, manage scheduled temperature changes, and track your HVAC and energy use.

To meet more of everyone’s demands, you can also have your commercial HVAC system zoned. This will break your business down into several service areas that each have their own independently controlled thermostats. This offers greater flexibility than standard, central heating. It also limits the likelihood of unplanned vent closures and extends the lifespan of commercial heating equipment.

We’re proud to serve commercial property owners in Wausau, WI and the surrounding cities. We offer commercial HVAC, plumbing, engineering, prefabrication, and fire protection services. For help getting your heating system winter-ready, contact Southport Home Services today!

Meet the Author
Thomas Suchla
Thomas Suchla


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