Winterizing a concrete plant is not a particularly difficult process, but failure to properly winterize your concrete plant can prove to be a very costly mistake. Not all ready mix concrete plant operators actually close for the winter, but even those who choose to stay open need to be mindful the extreme conditions of winter can have on their equipment. And of course perhaps one of the most significant dangers of closing up for the winter isn’t even the damage the weather can do to your plant, but rather the chaos vandals can cause to a concrete plant and equipment not properly secured for the winter.
The first step in winterizing your concrete plant is to complete the general maintenance and complete a thorough inspection of the plant and accessories. You should follow the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations, but general speaking you should be greasing any bearings, zerk fittings, and other moving areas. Clean filter bags and dust collectors and empty the moisture filter traps on the plants airlines.
Inspect all of the moving parts in stationary position and while operating paying close attention to loose or excessive movement, catch points or labored movement, and generally ensure that each part of the plant is operating normally. Be sure to note areas of change from year to year so that you can properly plan your ongoing maintenance and repair, and if you notice any new problems they should be identified and evaluated. Typically repairing known problems to the plant is best done before winterization. Then enables you to fix the plant and ensure your fix is working properly. Waiting to fix a problem until the spring can prove tricky, mostly because it may be difficult to diagnose new problems that may have occurred during the winter or new problems could make the original repair more difficult or costly.
After you plant repairs and maintenance is complete, the second step to winterizing your concrete plant is to disconnect the water supply and drain the water from all water pipes and systems. This is arguably the most important step in the process because if water left in the plant or system freezes it will expand which could burst the pipes and damage weighing vessels and meters. Collateral damage to other parts of the plant, control and facility could result when the ice thaws if the water supply is still connected to the damaged system. And if an occurrence such as the one described above occurs on an unattended plant early in the winter season water could flow unrestricted until it is noticed days, weeks or even months later.
We advise plant owners to use or remove as much of the material stored in the plant prior to winterization, but it is not required that the plant be completely empty of cement and aggregates. From a weight, stress and fatigue standpoint, reducing the load of the materials during periods of inactivity is recommended. From the standpoint of the cements, aside from the weight reduction simply having less product in the silo’s means that should your silo’s draw moisture during the winter you will have a smaller problem to deal with then if you silos are full of cement.
When you have the materials levels in the plant reduced; repairs, maintenance and inspection have been completed; water systems have been drained and disconnected; and you are done with the plant you should disconnect and lock out the power supply. One of the best reasons to disconnect the power supply is to prevent the possibility of a vandal from operating the plant which could lead to catastrophic damage to the equipment and death to the vandals and others near the plant.
Additional steps to reduce the intrigue of your winterized location to vandals include removing valuables from your property such as scrap steel and ensuring that your batch house doors and windows are secured and valuable electronic equipment is not easily visible from the outside. And of course if you have a fenced in or gated facility ensure your gates are closed and locked.
Our final recommendation it to make sure you schedule a regular and frequent visits to your winterized concrete plant. Your inspection doesn’t need to be long or thorough, but a regular “drive-by” of the plant is good security and enables you to identify and address any potential issues that may occur sooner than just walking away from your investment for a few months.