There’s more than one way to insulate your facility. We often think of insulation as just the stuff in the walls or on the pipes. It’s important to remember we need to also essentially insulate the air, isolate the air inside our buildings from the air outside. In a perfect world, all the air we heat up stays inside. In reality, every opening to the outside door is money lost in the breeze.
The doors in your facility are where you’re going to lose heat the fastest. In a large department store for example, the doors may as well not even be there for peak shopping hours. Customers will enter and leave so frequently that the doors are constantly open. In arrangements like this, it’s important to choose a door configuration that retains as much heat as possible.
You may notice that most large stores feature an enclosed entry. That is, you go through two sets of doors to actually enter their building. This reduces the volume of air going straight to the outside world, and tries to keep that warm air at least inside the entry way to warm guests as they begin to enter. The only major downside to this type of entry is some slight inconvenience to the customer. Some large chains forgo this design in order to make their entry into the store more open. They believe the enhanced aesthetic of just one door will encourage more customers and outweigh the losses.
These aren’t the only doors to worry about. There’s also loading bay doors which are often left open to load and unload trucks. Depending on the design of your facility, this could be another area to lose a lot of heat. If there is no separation between your loading area and storage area, no doors or wall, then all of the facility’s heat can leech into the surrounding air. You’ll also have to run your heating system that much harder to fight against the loss.
In these instances, you should consider installing a soft sided shelter at your trailer dock. This can seal the trailer relatively tight against the sides of your building and prevent heat losses. There are also products out there that allow a trailer to dock to a closed door, so you don’t leave your dock door open for the whole time the trailer is being backed into place. The average trailer dock is equivalent to a 3 square foot hole in the side of your building for heat loss. If you have 4 docks, their losses would just about add up to a 5th dock left open year round. Properly sealing in these areas will improve worker comfort and reduce your heating bill.
Care should be taken around the cooler months to inspect, repair, and install appropriate weather seals at all doors. The losses to a single unsealed door are small in the near term, but they add up over the course of a long winter, particularly on cold, windy days when they create a cold draft in your facility. Neither your workers nor customers want to be somewhere cold and drafty. It can hurt your sales, productivity, and heating expenses.
The Lesser Culprits
That’s not to say your doors are the only problem. They’re a very popular problem because they move, their weather seals can wear out, and they’re responsible for a large volume of air. Anywhere there’s an opening in your building however, whether that’s a window or a penetration for utilities like electrical wiring or security camera connections, there’s the potential to lose heat.
In these cases, there can be a whole plethora of issues. The seals could have worn out over time and it went unnoticed or a proper weather proof seal was never install in the first place. In applications like this, around windows and wiring, it’s fairly common to use caulking and other liquid-based sealants. They can quickly be applied to just about any surface, cure within hours to a day, and will generally remain tight and secure for years to come.
These issues arise particularly in older facilities, buildings built before modern energy conservation was as big of a deal. This is particularly a problem for small businesses, which are more likely to buy an existing building than have a facility custom built for them. Your energy bill needs to be a factor when considering a new facility. Sometimes windows are not fitted as tightly as they should be or just not seal with anything more than the wood holding them in place.
Fixing the Issue
The solution to your insulation issues can vary a bit with your facility. If you have a building maintenance staff, such is the case for a larger business, then they should have the knowledge and skill to either install better weather proofing or have a 3rd party do the work. If you’re a small business, consider consulting with a few general contractors or seek out specialists who work in energy saving. It may cost a few hundred or even a few thousand in the right circumstances, but it pays back in longer equipment life (fewer furnace cycles), enhanced customer comfort, and improved worker productivity. Every cool breeze will make everyone pause and seek out a coat or a sweater. If that happens in a 10 person facility and it takes them 10 minutes to get their coat (probably start small conversations with their coworkers enroute) and another 10 minutes to get back to work, that’s 200 minutes of work down the drain.
Remember, keep the heat in and keep everyone happy.