Prepping for winter isn’t fun, but we do it to avoid future trouble. We clean up the yard so it’s not a mess in the spring. We blow out the sprinklers and hose bibs so water doesn’t freeze, burst pipes, and wreck the system. Anything metal goes into the shed or garage so it doesn’t rust.
Getting your shop ready for winter is just as important. However, in this case, it’s more about being aware of the potential problems and monitoring them to keep things running in tip-top shape.
Here are some of the winter-related factors that can lead to expensive, time-consuming problems, particularly if your area experiences harsh winter weather every year.
Chlorides: the buildup that breeds rust
Salt trucks. If you live in an area that gets snow or ice, you may have mixed feelings when you see a salt truck. On the upside, you won’t slide into other vehicles or off the road. On the downside, the resulting mess does a number on your truck. Fortunately, all you need is a good car wash to fix it.
Water softeners. Water hardness varies depending on where you live. If you live in a hard-water area, you likely use a water softener to avoid mineral build-up that can slow showerheads and drains, and clog pipes. Water softeners use salt (sodium chloride) to soften the water which, in the process, increases the chloride content in your water.
Even if you remove water softeners from the systems in your shop, sodium chloride from road salt can potentially getinto the water supply and eventually into your tanks. Unlike water that evaporates and moves through your system, chlorides stay put and builds up, making a rust breeding ground.
Reverse osmosis (RO): good for drinking, not for your shop
Reverse osmosis is a popular way to make water safer to drink. It removes contaminants and improves the taste. It also wreaks havoc on metal.
Water that’s been through RO has a lower pH and very low or nonexistent alkalinity. The result is water that corrodes on overdrive. Once again, even though you probably don’t use RO in your shop, like chloride, water that’s been through reverse osmosis gets into the water supply and can cause expensive problems for you if you’re not aware of it. When using RO, special piping and plumbing resistant to a low pH corrosion must be used.
Temperature fluctuations and condensation: rust’s fairweather friends
Temperature changes are a given when you’re shipping products. In the winter, this is even more true. That isn’t the problem. The problem is moisture, even a minuscule amount, trapped in your packaging. As your product travels and temperatures change, that tiny amount of moisture turns into condensation. And condensation leads to rust.
There’s a solution, however, and we explained it in greater detail in this article on “do not eat” packets.
An ounce of prevention saves you time, money, and aggravation
Water quality and preventing moisture in shipping are year-round jobs. In the winter, ignoring them leads to even greater hits to your productivity and budget. While you don’t necessarily need to test your water every week — you won’t see significant changes in those short periods — you do need to stay on top of your water quality by testing it at least once a month to ensure you’re covering your bases.
Our Winter-Prep Checklist gives you tips and parameters that will keep your shop running and shipping smoothly all winter. Download it here.