Loss Control Insights

Will Your Rooftop Equipment Be Gone With the Wind?

Roof damage is a major source of property loss each year when buildings are subjected to high winds, wind-driven rain, hail, ice, snow and wildfires. What’s more, rooftop equipment or pieces of the roof itself can take flight during a windstorm and cause additional damage to the building, nearby vehicles or even neighboring property.

According to Tammy Swenson, EMC senior risk improvement consultant, proper maintenance and inspections of a roof can make the difference between minimal damage and catastrophic failure during weather events. The following tips from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) may help protect your roof and rooftop equipment during a storm.

  • The Importance of Balance: An unbalanced fan in air conditioning equipment reduces efficiency and compromises the unit’s secure attachment. When a rooftop unit begins to vibrate and shake, contact a qualified contractor to correct problems that may cause the fans to become unbalanced.
  • Watch for Corrosion: Corrosion and deterioration are the most common roof problems, causing panels or other parts to become airborne during high winds. Inspect for rusted metal panels, screws and metal flashing on curbs, and replace deteriorated parts as soon as possible. Inspect around the unit’s connection to the curb it sits on. Check for visible signs of leaks; these can be repaired using various readily available roof sealants and caulks.
  • Check and Recheck: While a local contractor or maintenance worker can perform most of the necessary inspections and repairs to keep rooftop equipment in good working order, it is important to inspect the equipment after the work is done to make sure all screws, cables and cable straps are tightened and back in place.

More Research Will Lead to More Solutions
On behalf of EMC clients, Swenson is closely monitoring research initiatives currently underway at the IBHS Research Center. Testing at the lab includes rooftop equipment, with a specific focus on wind load specifications and future prescriptive guidelines for anchorage. Additionally, IBHS plans to test photovoltaic equipment on both commercial and residential roofs to make sure that the goal of “going green” is consistent with “staying strong.” The results of these tests will be used to:

  • Compare to model scale wind tunnel tests
  • Compare to current code provisions
  • Evaluate anchorage requirements, based on results
  • Make recommendations for future codification, as appropriate

While this research holds promise for improving future designs and installation techniques, there still is no substitute for preventive maintenance and proper care of roof-mounted equipment.

For additional information about maintaining commercial properties, visit www.disastersafety.org.

SOURCE: Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety