As important as insulation is, there’s also a need for some things to not be so thoroughly insulated, like heating vents. As we get into the cooler weather, it’s important to inspect whatever your heating system uses, whether that’s base boards or air ducts to ensure they’re not obstructed.
The Major Problem
Essentially every heating system relies on either being able to blow heated air into a room or having some heated surface that the air is going to flow over. This is a simple enough need to meet, until you consider that your facility might have a maintenance staff of just five people and the remaining three hundred know nothing about heating, cooling, or fire safety. Things get a little worse when you start to count up how many hot air vents or miles of radiator are keeping your facility comfy. No one’s checking to make sure they’re actually keeping your facility warm and comfy.
Obstructions can come from all manner of things. One of the bigger ones we’ve harped about and will continued to scream about is clogged filters. Debris fills the filter up and it turns into a gigantic piece of gross, moldy, slimy, stinky blockage. It’s not just the filters you have to worry about. Anything can cause a blockage. If your facility has animals, pet fur is amazingly good at getting stuck to the front of a vent. If there are any small fibers or bits of paper, they can collect against and get stuck in the ventillation system over long spans of time.
There’s also an issue of sabotage, where a worker is shooting their own comfort in the foot. I’ve been to a few facilities where a worker had sat a filing cabinet over an air vent while it wasn’t being used or a manager had blocked off a radiator with a bookshelf. These obstacles block airflow. They prevent air from getting into the room or block air from reaching and flowing over a radiator.
This sort of issue has two main effects on your facility:
- Hot spots
- Cold spots
- Potentially increased energy costs
Depending on your zoning set up, rooms with blocked heating will be colder or they’ll require more effort to bring to temperature. They’ll either be trapped colder than their surrounding, unobstructed rooms, or they’ll be warmed until they’re comfortable, and roast the unblocked rooms. Across an entire facility, this sort of problem can add up. You could be wasting effort to inefficiently heat rooms that are just a drag on your fuel supply.
While you’re having your HVAC equipment prepared for winter or while you’re having other inspections done in your facility such as fire safety maintenance, do an audit of the heating vents and radiators as well. Ideally, you or your building maintenance team should have a map of where all the heating outputs are, where your radiators, and vents are. Audit these locations, inspect them room to room to keep them clean, clear, and functional.
The benefit is that you’ll ensure your facility is as comfortable as possible with the lowest expense and it’ll be cleaner and smell better for having the radiators and vents cleaned of any debris that may have built up over the last year.