Improving Energy Efficient Air Control Systems For Hospitals

by Robert F. Read My Articles, Learn More...
The healthcare sector is in a constant struggle to cut costs while maintaining high standards of care. Because of the nature of healthcare facilities, changes in energy prices can have a profound effect on their bottom line. This has led managers to look into ways to squeeze every bit of value from the energy they consume. Energy efficient air control systems are the first thing that engineers look at when trying to cut costs on facilities management.

Energy efficient air control systems are important for hospitals and other large healthcare facilities like nursing homes because HVAC consumes a great deal of the total energy used to operate the buildings. Other types of industries can’t justify many energy-saving infrastructure changes due to insufficient benefits compared to the costs. That’s rarely the case for large healthcare buildings. Because of the total amount of energy consumed, the payoff for even modest improvements can be huge.

Energy Efficient Air Control Systems Begin With Baseline Measurements

Healthcare companies can’t afford to wait until they build new buildings in order to take advantage of advances in energy efficiency. They need to be constantly looking for ways to make their air systems more energy efficient. They also need to constantly improve patient and worker safety and comfort using the latest, best practices in the industries. Healthcare is a very competitive sector, and one healthcare facility that saves money by using more energy efficient air control systems than other facilities will have a competitive advantage.

Facilities managers in the healthcare industry won’t be able to judge the cost and benefits of improvements in their practices and equipment until they have solid baseline numbers of energy use throughout their buildings. Once energy use is broken down into its component parts, potential energy use reductions can be considered and implemented by

Demand Side Management

The easiest way to save money on energy is to use less of it. While sourcing your energy from different suppliers can save some money, the greatest savings will come from reducing the need for the energy in the first place. Most of the potential savings will come from facility-wide program to conserve energy, but sometimes energy audits will identify particularly wasteful equipment. In all cases, however, the quality of the energy efficient air control systems can’t be allowed to slip over purely financial considerations.


When a building is first constructed or renovated, a great deal of testing of the functionality of the air systems is performed. Measurements of the performance of the systems when compared to design values is done to make sure that air quality meets the standards that the equipment and installation was designed to provide. The establishment of a regular testing and maintenance program that keep the systems working properly usually follows.

Few facilities managers stop there. Most energy efficient air control systems allow a wide range of tweaks to their operation that can add up in increased performance and decreased cost. In most cases, no additional equipment is necessary to shave dollars off operating costs.

Next Up, Lighting

Energy efficient air control systems and lighting go hand in hand. Commercial buildings use up to 35 percent of their energy budget on lighting, although that percentage is usually lower in hospitals because the HVAC loads are so great. In any case, lighting affects cooling and ventilation loads quite a bit. Even energy efficient light bulbs produce some amount of waste heat, so an energy audit of lighting that finds cost savings will also save on cooling loads. The easiest way to save money on lighting is to decreasing lighting levels in non-critical areas, and to automate the lighting systems as much as possible to avoid wasting money lighting vacant rooms. Hospitals have fewer opportunities to save money by turning off lighting than some other buildings because they run twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Watch Out for Waste Heat

Hospital HVAC is designed for the equipment that’s specified when they’re built or remodeled. Allowances are made for future upgrades and changes, but it can be hard for HVAC engineers to undertake effective planning for energy efficient air control systems unless they know all the equipment that will be installed in the building. That’s because a lot of equipment in a hospital produces a great deal of waste heat.

During budgeting sessions, it’s important for facilities managers to have input in the equipment that will be introduced into the building as systems are upgraded. Purchasing agents need to be made aware that cost savings gained on inefficient equipment might result in higher energy bills due to increased cooling loads due to waste heat. In general, more energy-efficient devices will emit less waste heat, and that can have a double benefit to help defray the extra cost they represent. The equipment uses less electricity, and it also requires less cooling in response to its waste heat.

Look Out for Oversized Equipment

In the world of Energy efficient air control systems, there’s no substitute for “just right.” Heating or cooling equipment that is oversized is just as undesirable as if it were undersized. If HVAC engineers are not sure of the final loads on the building, they may specify equipment that is too powerful. Over time, as energy efficiency initiatives are put in place, the cooling load on the building can see a substantial drop, and the original equipment can become overpowered for the new requirements.

The circulating fans that move air through a healthcare facility can consume over seven percent of the energy used in the building. That’s much higher than in regular commercial buildings where worker comfort is the only design parameter of note. Sometimes it’s possible to enjoy substantial savings on ventilation costs by simply right-sizing the fans, which save money continuously on energy costs. It also guards against air velocities that are too high, which can have an undesirable effect on patient and worker comfort. In many cases, the circulating fan equipment does not have to be replaced. The fans can be retrofitted with variable-speed controllers that automatically adjust to the necessary ventilation loads. This ensures the absolute minimum amount of energy is consumed without compromising safety or comfort.

About Robert F. Advanced   Read My Articles, Learn More...

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