Questions That Decide: Planning or Failing?

When I was in high school I had an instructor whom often recited the line: "Those who fail to plan, plan to fail."

This time of year on our properties those words ring true on an annual basis. Currently several places of the country are just leaving the coldest of the winter months. We are also well into the budget for 2013 which allows us to begin to implement some of the items that were set out as goals in our capital planning. Do we have a plan at the property level to ensure that these goals are met?

As a Maintenance Department at the property level, if we do not begin the summer months with a plan, we are not going to complete tasks before the summer rush of Move In's/Outs, increased service requests, increased weather related difficulties, and longer times maintaining the swimming pool. Below are some ideas to put into practice to form a plan to tackle the needed job:

How can I eat an elephant? 

The answer of "one bite at a time" can apply to making a plan. For us, this means break up the property into bite sized chunks. For example: Maybe this would be the best time start to clean out the clothes dryer's and vents in one building a week or month. This way we can develop a habit to complete this task every six months so it is done twice a year. (Example: Eight buildings on a property, complete a building every six weeks = Lint cleaned twice a year = happier residents!)

Just how important is timing?

This summer, it is extremely critical that HVAC equipment work properly. The price of refrigerant and system components are higher than ever. To cut down on service problems pick the most important tasks, and have these completed before the season starts. Studies show (ASHRAE Journal; Nov 2006) that if the indoor coil is cleaned regularly (meaning annually) it will cut down on energy usage because the compressor doesn't have to work as hard. Since the compressor is working as designed, it will last longer.

Can I get a Twofer? (two for one)

 Many of today's newer gas water heaters have a free air sensor that will cause the water heater to stop functioning if there is not enough fresh air getting to the burner. Even in older water heaters, without the sensor, this can be an issue that results in problems. When was the last time that the dust level around the water heaters were checked on site? Has the vent or duct that brings the fresh air to the burner been looked at in the past year (or ever)? This can be checked and cleaned (if needed) every time the nearby smoke detector is tested.

Do I really have to join a website just to get a date?

 The commercials that we all have seen on TV that say that a website ensures "perfect compatibility; or similar interests" do not have a time limit guarantee on their relationship longevity. Our communities do have some items that when we begin our relationship (install), we know that one day there will have to break it off. Often life safety items such as Smoke detectors, CO detectors, and vent hood fire extinguishers have an expiration date on them that indicates a required replacement. That date must be observed and followed. How is the "Dear John" letter of replacement going to happen?

These statements are to plan to succeed at our properties. Even if we start out on a plan and it gets preempted by something else, since we were working a plan we know where to start back up again when we are able. 

See you somewhere!  Come out and meet me in person. I'll be teaching CAMT in Cincinnati OH and Boston MA in April. Register for one of these CAMT courses, or follow me on Twitter at @maintmanpaul.