In the U.S., healthcare facilities represent less than 5% of commercial floor space. However, they use nearly 10% of the energy consumed by the commercial sector. For hospitals and other healthcare facilities, energy conservation is paramount. Energy is a major cost, and as healthcare costs rise in general, hospitals have a greater need to save money. Furthermore, it is only appropriate for hospitals to pay attention to their environmental impact and the effect it has on human health.
Saving energy can help reduce patient costs and improve patient outcomes. So, how can hospitals best reduce their energy usage? Here are some critical steps for energy conservation in healthcare.
Audit Your Current Energy Use
A common problem with businesses of all types is that they are not aware of their commercial energy use. The first step is to perform an energy audit so that you know how much you are using, when, and where. A detailed audit can help you establish where you might be using too much energy and where you should direct your conservation efforts. It is a particularly good idea to get your lighting audited. This can help you establish where you can both save energy and improve lighting for clinical staff, visitors, and patients.
Make sure to hire a company with experience doing audits for healthcare facilities, so they will be familiar with your specific needs. Also, make sure the company you hire does the audit you need. A simple walkthrough may be cheaper, but will not give you nearly the information of a more thorough effort that involves submeters.
Additionally, it is a good idea to do a water efficiency audit. Healthcare facilities use water for a variety of purposes other than just domestic plumbing in addition to the fact that old buildings are prone to wasteful leaks.
Maintain and Upgrade Your HVAC
The lowest hanging fruit for energy efficiency is often the HVAC system. Even staying up-to-date on preventative maintenance, such as changing filters, can make a huge difference. Beyond that, the first step is to fine-tune your HVAC equipment and controls. Often, these systems fall out of calibration over time, resulting in unnecessary energy use. This can reduce energy expenditure by as much as 10 percent.
Another quick way to save money on climate control is to ensure that you are not heating or cooling empty rooms, such as administrative offices, after hours. Smart thermostats, which adjust the temperature on a schedule, can help ensure that you are not using heating or cooling unnecessarily. When replacing systems, be sure to purchase the most energy-efficient option. Operating room airflow setbacks are another significant option. These systems slow air changing down when the operating room is not in use.
Make sure that steam systems used for space heating are well maintained and that steam traps are used as appropriate.
Do a Lighting System Retrofit
Older hospital buildings often have old lighting systems. The specific needs of a hospital require a lot of work on the lighting system to support clinical staff. One of the best ways to reduce your energy use is to retrofit your lighting system. While the simplest of changes, such as replacing as many bulbs as possible with LED’s can save you a lot of money in the long run, a more sophisticated and holistic approach will lead to much better results in terms of savings, occupant comfort, and return on investment Simply changing lamps does not allow facilities to capture all of the advantages of LED technology fully. Changing lamps will steal savings streams that could be used to help offset the cost of not only vastly improved lighting systems but also HVAC, mechanical, and other facility infrastructure issues.
Reduce Unnecessary Water Use
Hospitals use a lot of water beyond the bathroom. From cooling tower optimization to sterilization equipment and laundry systems, a comprehensive water survey and water balance in which every single use of water is identified and quantified can help owners make informed decisions with long-term sustainability and financial goals in mind.
If you are looking to improve energy conservation for your healthcare facility, contact Envocore today. We can perform a detailed energy audit to help you know where to start and assist you in improving your building envelope and lighting.