How to Keep Your Office Warm When Temperatures Are Below Zero [2019 update]

By Joe Hofstetter | Jan 29, 2019

Read Time: 2 minutes

In the next couple days, the low temperatures throughout Northeast Ohio and western New York are predicted to dip below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

Most design firms design heating systems to accommodate outside temperatures down to specific minimums. For example, in Northeast Ohio, KE’s standard is -5 degrees Fahrenheit.

(Compare that to ASHRAE’s recommended outside design condition for heating in the Akron/Cleveland area: It was 1 degree Fahrenheit in 2001 and, believe it or not, is 4.6 degrees Fahrenheit as of 2017.)

So although statistically it’s getting warmer, there are gaps between the outdoor temperatures that a building’s heating systems are designed to handle, and the conditions we experience on occasion (such as what we might see over the next couple days).

While these temperatures aren’t necessarily detrimental to a building, its systems are reaching their maximum capacity.

With that in mind, here are seven actions you can take to help maintain reasonably comfortable temperatures and protect your facilities:

  1. Keep blinds or drapes closed. This provides an additional insulation layer over windows.
  2. Make sure windows and doors are closed tightly. Weather stripping is effective at keeping cold air out.
  3. If you have override controls to set temperatures back at night, keep them set for daytime temperatures overnight. This way, you can avoid long warm-up periods and excessive heating consumption in the morning. (Note: Keeping the building in “occupied mode” to accomplish this is not recommended, as it will introduce unnecessary cold outdoor air into the system).
  4. If you have a chilled water cooling system, you want to avoid freeze-ups. Make sure the system is drained or that coil control valves are slightly open and pumps are on to continuously circulate water through the coils.
  5. Insulate electrical outlets. Significant heat loss occurs through electrical outlets in outside walls. For long-term protection, you can purchase foam insulators that are installed behind outlet cover plates. For temporary protection, use duct tape around the outlet cover to seal out cold air.
  6. If you have any water piping that has a history of freezing, consider letting the water run slightly. That way, you can avoid the stagnant water in piping which can lead to freeze-up.
  7. Be cautious using electric (or any other type) space heaters. They are a potential fire hazard and can cause electrical circuit overload.
Hofsetter Joe Web

Joe Hofstetter
PE, CEM, LEED AP

Joe Hofstetter is a principal and Director of Building Performance and Sustainability. He helps organizations get more value out of their building assets through energy and sustainability improvements.
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