9 Steps to Prepare Your Property for Winter

The days are getting shorter and there’s a chill in the air that sends people scurrying home and out of the cold before they can catch a glimpse of the sun. It’s wintertime! And along with fluffing the old winter coats and matching up the stray gloves around the house, it’s time to prepare your property for the coldest season of the year. Winterizing your units will ensure they weather these months smoothly without any major and expensive disasters. 

Does the thought of prepping your property for winter send a chill up your spine? No need to get overwhelmed – we can help! We’ve broken down your season’s to-do list into nine steps to prepare your property for winter:

1.   Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

At the beginning of a new season, it’s a good idea to inspect your building’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors located in common areas and mechanical rooms. You can test the functionality of your detectors by pressing the test button on the device. Be sure to replace any expired batteries with new, working ones as soon as possible. 

And as you know, you can track these inspections easily by performing them in the Jaffa deFINEd app. The app will keep a clear record of the detectors that have already been inspected so that you can easily track the inspections you’ve already done and the ones you still need to perform. 

2.   Check boilers and water heaters

Next, make sure the building’s boilers and water heaters are functioning properly. You can do this by initiating a test run, and visually inspecting for leaks, cracks, error codes or unusual noises. You’ll also want to ensure the area around the boiler is clean. Verifying that your building’s heating sources are in perfect shape can help you avoid costly repairs later in the season. 

As you work through this step, don’t forget to have your high-pressure boilers inspected! As of 2022, all-electric high-pressure boilers are now being classified as high-pressure boilers and must be inspected two times annually. For more information about your requirements for boilers, you can check out Alexandra Schwab’s blog. And of course, with these inspections also, you can schedule and perform all these inspections in the Jaffa deFINEd app to make it quick, easy and efficient.

3.   Notify your tenants about the beginning of the heat season

Make sure you let your tenants know when you will be turning on the heat in the building. From October 1 through May 31, New York City building owners must maintain an indoor temperature of at least 68 degrees between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. when the temperatures outside fall below 55 degrees. In addition, during this season, your tenants’ water must be maintained at 120 degrees 24 hours a day according to state law, and between the hours of 6-12 a.m. according to city law. Check out our Jaffa Minute on the topic for a quick reference guide of all your heat and water requirements.

You can also help maintain the heat in your units by telling any resident with a ceiling fan in their unit to reverse the direction the fans blow. Fans should rotate in a clockwise direction during the winter as this forces any warm air near the ceiling to flow downwards and around the living space. This distributes heat more evenly and can help bring down your heating costs. 

4.   Check your building’s fire pumps

The start of the cold season presents the perfect opportunity to inspect your building’s fire pumps. 

Ideally, fire pumps should be visually inspected weekly, and tested monthly with a no-flow test where the pump is turned on without water running to check that it works properly and have a flow test performed once a year to ensure that the pumps are running at the proper flow rate. 

It’s a good idea to perform this annual test before the onset of winter. The test requires a water flow, which can be difficult to get when the weather is colder. Plus, you’ll rest easier, knowing your fire pumps are in great condition before winter arrives. 

5.   Examine your building’s radiators

Visually inspect your building’s radiators at the start of the season to ensure they’re in excellent working condition. Look for possible leaks and drafts and replace valves as necessary. It’s also a good idea to check the thermostats in your building and confirm that they are working well, too. 

Do I even need to mention again that these last two can be managed in the Jaffa deFINEd app?

6.   Assess the roof’s ability to withstand winter storms

A crucial component of your building’s condition is the strength of its roof. One heavy snowstorm on a roof that’s seen better days can cost you boatloads of money and weeks of repairs. Clean your gutters trim any trees with branches that graze your roof, and then inspect it for possible signs of disrepair. Here’s what to look for when assessing the condition of your roof:

  • Broken or missing shingles
  • Leaks
  • Poorly installed or damaged chimney flashing
  • Broken or blocked gutters or downspouts
  • Holes or nesting materials from animals

If you find any of the above or another red flag on your roof, you may want to call in an expert to repair it before winter storms cause major structural damage. 

As you work through this step, don’t forget the new requirement to inspect parapets, effective January 1, 2024. As per this new requirement, all parapets on the public right of way must be inspected and any hazards corrected annually. You have until December 31, 2024, to have any parapets on your properties inspected. However, it’s a good idea to have the inspection performed as soon as possible to ensure you don’t forget about it. Once the inspection is complete, be sure to keep the observation report on file for a minimum of six years so that it can be made available to the Department upon request.  

7.   Ensure your building is heated efficiently

As a landlord, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your building is well-heated at all times. When the temperatures drop, heating a large building can get very expensive, very quickly. The best way to bring heating costs down without leaving your tenants in the cold is to make sure your building is heat-efficient. Hire an energy auditor or do the job yourself by walking around your building and checking for gaps around windows, drafty doors, and poorly sealed holes in the walls. Air leaks can cost you a pretty penny this winter, so it’s in your best interest to seal up any leaks you find as soon as possible. 

This is also a good time to remind you that you must submit the required Energy Efficiency Reports (EERs) to the DOB at least once every 10 years to maintain compliance. Deadlines for your EER requirement are based on the last digit of your block’s ID number. And yes, to make this super-easy, you can submit your EER to the DOB directly on the app. 

In addition, you need to display and update your Energy Efficiency label in a visible location annually. The label is available to download and print every October 1st and must be hung up by October 31st

8.   Drain and close your exterior sprinkler system

Outdoor sprinklers can cause tremendous damage if left on in the winter. Even if the sprinklers are not watering the lawn, the small drops of water left over from warmer-weather days can freeze and burst in frigid temperatures, causing colossal damage and loss. Have a professional drain all the water from your outdoor irrigation system and seal the pipes so that no water is left inside during the winter months. 

9.   Make sure your building is up-to-code with Fire Safety

Building fires definitely increase in the winter time, which means it is a great time to ensure that you are up-to-code on all the regulations put into place to both prevent fires and prevent the spread of them minimizing damage and loss of life if there is a fire in your building. You can use our Fire Safety and Compliance Checklist, to ensure that you’ve taken all the necessary steps to keep your building safe and compliant.

This can also be a good time to inspect your fire sprinkler system, as fires tend to go up in the winter. Of course, say it with me now, you can get this done in no time on the Jaffa deFINEd app.

Winter is here, but no need to freeze up with worry. By following our tips above, you can keep your buildings warm, safe, and compliant with minimal hassle.

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