Energy Efficiency Tips for Healthcare Facilities

Energy Usage in Healthcare Facilities

Healthcare organizations spend over $6.5 billion on energy each year, and that amount is rising to meet patients’ needs. By being more energy efficient, hospitals around the country can save money, help prevent greenhouse gas emissions, improve the air quality of their communities, and support their commitment to public health. Hospitals protect their bottom line by being more energy efficient — every $1 a non-profit healthcare organization saves on energy is equivalent to generating $20 in new revenues for hospitals or $10 for medical offices. For-profit hospitals, medical offices, and nursing homes can raise their earnings per share a penny by reducing energy costs just 5 percent. By being more energy efficient and saving money, hospitals can reinvest savings from improved energy performance.

The median Energy Use Intensity (EUI) for medical office buildings in the U.S. is 245 kBtu per square foot, and 467 kBtu per square foot for larger facilities. However, that use can vary widely depending on the size of the space, the type of specialized medical equipment used, and the energy efficiency of the health care facility. It is estimated that health care facilities will have a major impact on the environment, contributing 23 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

Your energy use can also have a big impact on medical practice overhead costs. The average monthly cost for commercial buildings in the U.S. is just over $650, and specialized equipment like those used at medical facilities can increase that cost even more. These costs are expected to decrease as healthcare energy efficiency improves.

Reducing Healthcare Expenses through Energy Efficiency

Tips & Measures

  • Energy Audit – An energy audit, according to Department of Energy’s Advanced Energy Retrofit Guide for Healthcare Facilities, is the next necessary step after benchmarking. Facilities can hire outside consultants or employ an on-site manager to conduct a thorough audit of all systems. The aim is to detect inefficiencies while the methods vary from simple walkthroughs to placing submeters on individual systems in a building, and comprehensive analysis.

 

  • HVAC Optimization – American Society for Healthcare Engineering’s (ASHE) Sustainability Roadmap recommends HVAC preventive maintenance as a sure means of reducing energy costs. Retro-commissioning existing HVAC equipment and controls reduces energy spending at hospitals by 10%. HVAC equipment tends to fall out of calibration over time, or its systems are often used unnecessarily 24/7, so looking at HVAC alone will give you fast results. From timely replacement of air handling filters, replacement of leaking steam traps and cleaning cooling towers to more thought-through changes, such as turning heating/cooling down or off when and where it is not needed, HVAC optimization is a no- or low-cost effort with instant gain. In many cases, it requires reprogramming different schedules individually in the building control systems. For example, administrative areas do not require 24/7 climate control.

 

  • Energy-Efficient Lighting – Lighting systems are used around the clock in most areas of a hospital. Constant use of lighting systems in some areas of the facility can be cut, with delamping not only conserving lighting energy consumption but minimizing heat gain to reduce the hospital’s cooling load and energy use. Day lighting controls implemented in hospitals reduce the amount of artificial light delivered by lighting systems, based on the amount of natural light available. This lighting method helps to lower energy costs. It’s not always an option to shut lights off to reduce energy costs, so lighting energy savings tips for hospitals concern conservation from the fixture. Retrofitting old, inefficient lighting systems with new, efficient models helps a facility conserve energy and generate cost savings despite consistent use. Newer, more energy-efficient lighting options such as LED bulbs use less energy, produce less heat, and offer service life much greater than incandescent and CFL bulbs. Additionally, heat gain is reduced for better HVAC energy efficiency and maintenance needs also decrease, generating cost savings beyond the areas addressed through energy savings tips for healthcare facilities. Identify areas of the facility where lighting control systems are practical for use. Occupancy lighting sensors in patient rooms, exam rooms, waiting rooms, bathrooms and other spaces automate the use of lighting systems and conserve energy when lights are not required.

 

  • Use an energy management system – The ability to analyze energy consumption is important for healthcare businesses because it allows you to make sure that your energy use is in line with your business. For example, you may be losing money by running equipment at night when the facility is closed. Energy start-ups provide energy management systems that provide valuable insights into lowering your medical practice energy expenses.

 

  • Maximizing Ventilation – Commercial air handlers used for heating and cooling offer ventilation through their economizer cycle, which brings fresh air into healthcare facilities for use in maintaining indoor temperatures. Over time, HVAC components such as actuators, controls, and dampers may experience malfunctions, though not severe enough to prevent operation. However, when systems continue to operate with such issues present, energy consumption increases. Regular maintenance and inspection for these components corrects and prevents malfunctions to eliminate excessive energy consumption by the system.

 

  • Retro-commissioningRetro-commissioning is the process of ensuring your mechanical systems are functioning as they are designed. All too often we find dampers that are left wide open or air handlers that are running 24/7 but are reporting otherwise to the head-end of the EMS. Retro-commissioning gives you a chance to catch unnecessary waste and re calibrate building systems to function more efficiently.