Medical-facility managers can conserve energy without compromising patient safety
- Keeping hospitals at a comfortable temperature is essential
- It takes significant resources to maintain air quality
- There are ways to reduce energy consumption without sacrificing patient comfort
- Universal Electrical can put you on the right track
Operating a hospital or other medical facility is challenging – every aspect must meet high standards.
Facility managers constantly monitor indoor air quality, particularly in operating rooms. Ensuring the building remains at a comfortable temperature is essential. The lighting should be perfect, too; doctors rely on it.
Maintaining the air quality, temperature, lighting, and other electrical components creates additional expenses for these facilities, requiring significant energy to keep them consistent. However, managers can utilize some cost-saving strategies without putting patients and staff at risk.
Here’s a look at seven tips for safely reducing hospital energy consumption.
1) Automate as much as possible
Perhaps the most straightforward method of reducing energy consumption within a medical facility is installing an automated energy-management system, such as a variable-frequency drive. This system will use the building’s data to ensure every room stays at an ideal temperature while conserving energy.
This system should hold the building’s data, allowing you to access and use it to keep the facility at an optimal temperature. Investing in the right automated system is crucial; it removes significant stress from your plate.
Also, consider installing motion sensors or timers in low-traffic hospital areas to reduce lighting costs.
2) Upgrade the equipment
Although it requires a significant investment, upgrading the facility’s energy-consuming equipment can reduce daily expenses and boost a facility’s energy efficiency. For starters, upgrading to a more energy-efficient HVAC system reduces energy consumption, and might be worth the cost long-term.
You might also upgrade the lighting controls and switch to LED bulbs throughout the facility. Both of these moves save significant money, especially when you consider a building’s size and lighting requirements.
3) Right-size the air-distribution system
A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study suggests that 60% of buildings operate with a fan system that’s at least 10% oversized. The average oversizing is about 60%, which wastes significant energy every time it runs.
Right-sizing your building’s air-distribution system involves replacing any oversized fans with appropriately sized units. The facility won’t suffer when you downsize fans, and it reduces long-term energy consumption.
4) Operating-room HVAC strategies
The operating room (OR) is one of the most critical hospital areas; managing temperatures, lighting, and air quality is essential. To maximize patient safety, implement a plan that keeps the humidity, temperature, and air pressure at ideal levels.
Because OR conditions must remain within a specific range, they require significant energy. You can reduce these expenses, though, by reducing consumption when the room isn’t in use. However, you’ll have to be extremely careful when developing this energy-management plan; patient safety is the top priority.
5) Consider a combined heat and power system
Also known as a cogeneration system, a combined heat and power system allows you to reuse the facility’s waste-heat energy for heating and cooling purposes. It essentially uses the heat created through power generation to provide climate control within the building.
These units operate at up to 75% efficiency, which tops the national average of 50% from energy generated by a power plant and boiler. You can expect lower energy bills after investing in a cogeneration system.
In short, retro-commissioning involves inspecting a building’s mechanical systems and energy flows to ensure they’re functioning optimally. In some cases, hospitals operate with air-distribution systems continuously because of a mechanical malfunction, causing unnecessarily high energy bills.
During a retro-commission, managers can also identify issues like overloaded energy systems, inefficient lighting, and dated HVAC equipment.
The retro-commissioning process includes planning, investigation, and implementation stages, and can also involve ongoing monitoring to reduce energy overconsumption. Building staff will also spend less time dealing with complaints because the building’s systems should function more efficiently.
7) The building envelope
About 60% of the heating load in commercial facilities such as hospitals arises because energy escapes through walls, roofs, and foundations. Ensuring the facility is adequately insulated is part of the solution, although the color of the building can also influence heat absorption and, in turn, energy costs.
It’s worth noting that current technologies don’t allow for dynamic control of the building envelope. As a result, choosing a color and material that absorbs heat, rather than reflecting it, could increase summer cooling bills.
In South Florida, investing in exterior building materials that reflect heat could keep facilities cooler during the day and reduce energy costs.
Save energy safely
The key to reducing hospital energy consumption is putting patient safety first. Never cut corners, as medical facilities must have their electrical and HVAC systems functioning at all times and have backup energy available, as well. As a healthcare-facility manager, you’ll want to carefully examine these tricks and tips to see which options might work for your building.
Universal Electrical Services is also available to discuss your hospital energy-consumption needs. We can assist your HVAC system upgrade and its controls, or install a backup generator. Contact Universal Electrical Services today to learn more about what we can to improve your South Florida medical facility’s energy efficiency.