By Robert Holdsworth, President
Energy Edge Solutions Corp.
Healthcare facilities are significant energy consumers, typically using an average of 28 kWh and 110 cubic feet of gas per square foot. HVAC (including cooling and space heating) represents about 62% of hospital energy use with lighting comprising 13% more. Focusing on these two areas with their combined 75% of total energy usage is very useful for developing an energy efficiency plan.
However, knowing where to focus does not mean it is always clear exactly where to start. By taking a carefully planned “whole facility” approach, it is easier to feel confident that you are making the best, most financially and operationally prudent energy efficiency choices for your unique facility. In today’s industry there are proven and recommended engineering approaches and technologies available that can guarantee results. And by working with an experienced, energy services company or engineering firm, choosing the right options does not need to be complicated.
The best first step is always to focus on quick, low cost or no cost solutions. This can include training staff to turn lights off when they leave unoccupied rooms, using sleep mode settings for computers when not in use, shutting off AHUs that serve unoccupied areas at night such as cafeterias, offices, conference rooms, etc, using programmable thermostats in rooms and areas not occupied 24 Hrs / day to turn up or down temperatures in different seasons, and having the HVAC systems serviced and cleaned on a regular basis.
After you’ve addressed the “low hanging fruit”, next steps can involve choosing from a variety of longer term options that are designed to deliver much greater energy savings. Options should be considered based on their proven track record of success, whether they are “Approved” or “recommended” by organizations such as Energy Star, US DOE, USGBC, IEEE, etc., their cost effectiveness and return on investment as well as consistency with your hospital’s goals and culture.
Experience has shown that some of the better programs for hospitals include lighting upgrades to high efficiency fluorescent, CFL and/ or LED, use of occupancy sensors and day-lighting opportunities , sine wave modification for lighting circuits, liquid pressure amplification for central chiller plants, energy management based on occupancy, anti-compressor short cycling for roof top units, demand controlled ventilation, use of variable frequency drives and possibly equipment replacement for older systems that are approaching the end of their useful life.
As you move forward with this, it helps to know that you don’t have to do it alone. There are experienced firms who can help make recommendations and provide turnkey services for you. In choosing a partner to guide this type of “whole facility” approach for you, it is important to look at a number of factors. You may want to ask the following: What is their level of experience using these various technologies, do they use proven and recommended approaches, what are the credentials of their staff, are they members of key industry organizations, what is their level of knowledge of your industry, do they offer a free initial evaluation and do they offer guarantees at each step of their process.
And remember that the sooner you begin, the sooner you start saving your hospital’s valuable and limited resources.