Hospitals’ Energy Efficiency Prescriptions are Working

August 17, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

hospitalNew Hampshire takes its healthcare seriously. It also wants its facilities to operate in an energy efficient manner.

That’s the bottom line of a roundup of healthcare facility news posted today at The Concord Monitor. Energy efficiency always is a secondary concern behind the progress and success of the business being run by the facility. In healthcare, that situation is even more extreme because of a hospital’s life and death mission.

The story looks at what five facilities have done during the past few years. Reductions were made by The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center ($58,000 in 2015), The Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene ($1.8 million), the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center ($3 million), Memorial Hospital ($237,000 annually) and Monadnock Community Hospital ($107,785).

That is a lot of facilities saving a good deal of money. The projects, which are described at the story, include switches to natural gas, HVAC upgrades, woodchip boiler implementations and electrical work.

Another recent article described a project from the same region of the country. Stowe Today reported last week that The Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star certification. The story says that the facility ranked in the bottom 25 percent for energy efficiency five years ago. An audit was performed and a master plan covering interior and exterior lighting, HVAC and IT systems was created.

The results are impressive, according to the story:

In total the medical center has reduced energy consumption by 28 percent, unprecedented for a Vermont hospital. The project has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 6.3 million pounds of carbon dioxide a year, the equivalent of taking 604 passenger vehicles off the road for a year. The hospital has saved more than 2.2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, 110,000 gallons of fuel oil and $750,000 per year in energy costs, with an average 2.7-year payback on all investments).

There is no shortage of examples of healthcare facility energy projects. A particularly interesting one was posted at ACHR News last month. The Kentucky Health Care Center was dealing with a cafeteria air handling unit that was plagued by residue in the coil that significantly reduced airflow. Mechanical cleanings were performed three times per year without solving the problem. An expensive replacement was contemplated.

The answer was ultraviolet germicidal irradiation via short-wavelength UV-C light, the story said.  The installations cost about 10 percent of a coil replacement. After 90 days, the story says, airflow was at design specs and the air handling unit’s motor was drawing fewer amps and using less energy.

It is not surprising, considering the great number of healthcare facilities and their great use of energy, that tools are available. Health Facilities Management described the growth of Energy to Care. The post says that it is a program of the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) that “integrates into” Energy Star. Energy to Care, the story says, helps visual and share data and performance metrics for a facility or an entire system.

It was given its current name two years ago. Since then, the number of facilities – from small rural hospitals to large nonprofits – has grown from 250 to 1,600, according to Energy to Care’s manager.

The ongoing key is managing an increasingly complex environment. “Healthcare facilities today are striving to meet the dual challenge of increasing energy efficiency and reliability across their emergency power systems,” wrote Tom Willie, the CEO of Blue Pillar, in response to emailed questions from Energy Manager Today. “Without centralized monitoring of all energy equipment, facility managers remain in the dark – unable to allocate resources or adjust energy use as conditions change. IoT platforms that can connect any type of equipment that switches, generates, consumes, measures or stores energy now allow facilities to operate with real-time data and control over their entire energy infrastructure to meet these challenges head-on.” Blue Pillar uses the Internet of Things (IoT) to help keep energy flowing to mission-critical infrastructure.

Hospitals and healthcare facilities are unique. It starts with their life and death mission. They also support as broad a range of energy-consuming services as it is possible to offer. They run 24/7 and include the kitchen and laundry facilities of a hotel and the computer networks of an office building. In addition, many of their unique diagnostic devices use a great deal of electricity. The bottom line is that healthcare facilities are great users of energy – and offer great opportunities for efficiencies.

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