Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Freezing Pipes

In most dry cleaning businesses, utilities run 6 – 18% of volume.  One way you might consider reducing those costs is to cut equipment off or turn some equipment down to its minimum level; however, use caution when doing this during extremely cold weather.  If you allow your dry cleaning or laundry operation to become too cold, you run the risk of frozen pipes.  Now, not all of your pipes are at risk.  Pipes that are protected by the building’s insulation, pipes that are insulated, or pipes that are in heated areas are all typically safe.  But pipes in your boiler room, in crawl spaces, or on the outside of the building, where air can flow over them, are susceptible to freezing.

What can you do to avoid a pipe-freezing incident?  Below are a few suggestions.
  • We’ve talked about the importance of insulation as it relates to reducing energy waste and improving efficiency.  But insulating pipes to protect them from the elements is another great reason to invest in insulation.  Be sure to wrap all exposed pipes with insulation or fitted sleeves, making sure there are no gaps in the coverage.   If you aren’t sure exactly what you need, then consult a local plumber or even your area box store. 
  • Process water chiller piping is susceptible to freezing because the condenser is located outside.  Use Propylene Glycol antifreeze up to a 20% maximum mixture with water (anything more than 20% is ineffective), when temperatures are going to drop down in the 20’s.
  • If temperatures are going to drop down into the teens or below, run the chiller circulating pump overnight.  While this will cause your energy bill to creep up, it is far less expensive than the damage that a freezing pipe will cause to the chiller’s heat exchanger.
  • To prevent a boiler room from freezing up, put a small no-vent gas heater on the wall just to provide enough heat for the boiler room alone to protect its water piping.  The plant’s interior typically contains enough heat from the day’s production to prevent any process pipe freeze ups.  
  • Finally, if production will be down for more than a day, run your boiler on low fire, and depending on your location, you might want to use the small wall-mounted heater in the boiler room as well.  I have seen boiler pumps freeze up even when the boiler is running.   
During particularly colder months, make it a habit to monitor the weather.  If the temperature nears or goes below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, then your unprotected pipes are at risk.  My father always said to me that ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’.  That’s especially true in this case; a little higher utility bill one month may save you from a costly repair.

If you have any questions about freezing pipes, please feel free to give us a call at 336-992-5218.  We are always here to help.