By Greg Stark
As if roof care during the summer months wasn’t challenging enough, winter weather adds a whole new dimension to the issues. Everything from snow, wind, and frigid temperatures affects the capabilities of your roofing system. Making sure you are ready for the challenges is important preparation for those who see an average snowfall ranging from skifts to winter vortices. If you are in one of the five or so states to see no snow, then you are more welcomed to read on and just be thankful it isn’t you.
For the rest of though, winter, for all of its beauty, means hazards, especially when you are dozens of feet off the ground. As this time is upon us, I think it only proper that we discuss our industry of winter roof preparedness. Of course, I mean ensuring your rooftop grease containment systems are properly cared for during winter months. So I am pleased to present “Five Steps to Keep Grease Off Your Roof This Winter”.
If you have rooftop grease containment systems already in place at your location(s), then you likely have at least a base understanding that cooking grease from your food production processes is being exhausted out onto your rooftop. This grease is causing all sorts of issues from slip and fall potential to fire hazards (If you would like to know more about this process and the effects please check out our “What is a Grease Guard?” web page here: https://www.rooftopsolutions.com/what-is-grease-guard/ ).
This is especially true during non-winter months when holidays like Valentine’s and Mother’s Day bring customers to restaurants in huge droves. According to the National Restaurant Association, in 2017, 92 million Americans decided to dine out for the day (Source: National Restaurant Association, https://restaurant.org/News/Pressroom/Press-Releases/National-Restaurant-Association-Research-Finds-92). When you consider the amount of beef needed alone to feed that many people as well as the fact that up to 20% of the meat’s weight ends up in the exhaust system, that is a lot of grease on the rooftop! Even in Winter though, grease is still being produced, and it still needs to be contained.
1. Understand Grease in Cold Temperatures
In summer months, grease is exposed to higher outdoor temperatures and hotter exhaust equipment. Therefore, it mostly stays in its liquid form. We would say it has a low viscosity. When it gets too cold outside though, the grease increases in viscosity very quickly and is only kept in its now only somewhat liquid state by the heat produced by the exhaust fan itself. In fact, liquid grease can reach its maximum viscosity at between 80°F and 130°F depending on the type of grease! (Source: International Journal of Food Properties, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10942912.2017.1360905) When it is below zero on a windy day during a Chicago dinner rush, you better believe that happens quite easily. Especially for the grease escaping the warmth of the exhaust fan itself.
So why is this important? Well, most grease containment systems rely on grease being in some kind of liquid form in order to be quickly and fully captured. Semi-solid rooftop grease means those rooftop containment systems have to work that much harder at absorbing the discharges. For this reason alone, your containment and exhaust systems should be inspected for changes during winter months.
As this inspection varies from the typical summertime containment maintenance routine, we here at Rooftop Solutions call it “Winter Protocol”. This includes not only looking at the grease inside of the fan but also in our containment systems, amongst other issues we will discuss next, and making any possible adjustments. If you aren’t using the Grease Guard, this winter scope of work should be tailored to your solutions. Make sure to consult any manufacturers as needed.
2. Prepare with Fall Containment Service
If you live anywhere there is winter snowfall you know that “WINTER IS COMING”. You are most likely already getting the rooftop units ready to crank out heat, changing filters, getting roof inspections done, and so on. So why not add a grease containment service to that list? Making sure you head into winter with a fresh set of Grease Guard filters is a great way to ensure you survive the onslaught of snow and ice just around the corner. Even more efficient, make sure to put the cost of the filters in the budget to avoid using up other money!
Most containment companies offer the ability to purchase the filters and do the work yourself, or companies like ours have national maintenance teams that can handle it for you! If you are already a customer of ours, then you are in luck. This step is being done for you every year as part of your Full Maintenance Program!
3. Keep Your Containment Clear of Snow
The second item on this list is keeping your grease containment clear of snow. Just like you would keep a sidewalk clear for pedestrians, you need to keep rooftop grease containment clear for the grease. Grease containment covered in snow can impede the systems’ ability to absorb grease. Additionally, it adds a nice layer of white that covers up your grease problem. This can make it look like there is no problem… until the snow melts and starts carrying grease all over your rooftop.
This is a very common issue amongst containment owners, not just for their containment, but their whole rooftop. It is undoubtedly dangerous to climb up on a rooftop during winter months so every safety precaution must be taken.
We recommend hiring a contractor, like us, to help you take care of this issue. In some cases, a change in weather within a few days of the snowfall might be enough to just wait it out, but if it snows a lot, isn’t going to be melting for a week or so, and you are producing heavy amounts of grease, it is worth getting a shovel up safely up to that rooftop to avoid extra costs in the spring. I cannot state it enough, BE SAFE FIRST!
4. Know All Grease Containment Will Freeze
Regardless of the best winter made containment plans, it is completely likely your containment system will freeze, or at least parts of it will. Most devices designed to collect grease will inevitably succumb to the winter weather. The water inside of the system will begin to freeze or the grease itself will. When this happens it is important to leave the filters alone. Forcing the filters out of the unit can cause damage to the filters or even worse damage to the roof.
In most cases, liquid grease is still hot enough to thaw out the unit just long enough to be absorbed. All that can be done in these instances is to rely on the quality of your solution. For simple solutions like the pickle bucket under the exhaust fan, I suppose you could always replace the bucket full of ice if it isn’t stuck to your roof. For modern containment systems, like our Grease Guard, just trust that our multi-layer design is prepared to be frozen.
5. Prepare for Spring Replacements
Once the weather breaks the following year you will again emerge onto the rooftop for the spring roof inspection. This is a very important part of the year as you assess the overall condition of the rooftop after being exposed to wintery conditions. Just as it’s stated above, why not add a grease containment service to that list? Most containment companies offer the ability to purchase the filters and do the work yourself, or companies like ours have national maintenance teams that can handle it for you! If you are already a customer of ours, then you are in luck. This step is being done for you every year as part of your Full Maintenance Program!
The only difference with the spring service however, is that additional work may need to be performed to get your containment system back up to 100% operating condition. We here at Rooftop Solutions call this a “Remedy” service and can include additional rooftop cleanup, and additional part replacement. This ensures your containment system will be ready for those peak hours on Mother’s Day!
Rooftop grease containment in the winter can be a challenge, but as with most things, the more effort you give it, the better the result. Our company works diligently to ensure our solutions are the best in the marketplace and we think we have done a good job. Have our product on your rooftop? Need help this winter developing your own “Winter Protocol”? Need our product to withstand the winter? Well, give us a call! We are ready to help you get a proper solution in place. With nationwide coverage, there is nowhere in the U.S. we can’t find a way to keep grease off of your rooftop. Thank you, stay warm, and stay grease-free!