Making HVAC System Maintenance a
Top Priority in Hospitals
According to the Center for Healthcare Design, patient outcomes improve
in healthcare facilities where temperature, ventilation, humidity, and indoor
air quality are monitored and controlled.
Let’s take an example of one critical area found in most hospitals: the
surgical suite. Proper HVAC airflow here reduces the risk of infection by
removing airborne microorganisms. In this case, installing a backup air
handler prepares a surgical suite for equipment failure. Routine inspections
also help ensure systems are running properly. Recommended air volume
going in and out of the surgical suite is 25 volume changes per hour. Vents
should be placed on the ceiling or high on the walls with exhaust vents
positioned near the floor.
Cost control is another aspect of considering HVAC systems. According
to the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), hospitals use more
energy on a per-building basis than any other type of facility in the United
States. Improving energy efficiency, then, helps control operational costs
Boilers and Emergency Preparedness
In hospital facilities, boilers should run on dual fuel: natural gas and
oil. Why? Using oil as a backup keeps medical facilities running under
unexpected, natural disasters like blizzards, hurricanes and tornados which
can cause natural gas interruptions and ensuring that business goes on as
usual – no matter what fuel is being utilized!
Optimizing Steam Pressure
Hospitals use steam throughout their facilities: for sterilization,
humidification and heating. To optimize the use of steam, insulate pipes
and fittings (valves, flanges, etc.). Also, make sure they condensate when
returning back to the boiler. Each 6
C increase yields an energy saving of
1%. Limit steam leaks and keep flue gas temperatures low to reduce flue
Air conditioning systems use steam as well. Make sure steam
humidification is turned off when not absolutely necessary. Examples might
be during the summer or when a large area of the facility is not in use.
One of the leading uses of steam in a hospital is for sterilization purposes.
Electrical sterilization may meet standard criteria as an energy-saving
alternative to steam in some applications.
ANNUAL HVAC AUDITS
Identify mission-critical HVAC systems by asking: which ones would cause
our hospital to shut down, in part or in whole, if they failed? No one wants
to manage the closing of a department, experience downtime for staff, or
transfer patients because of an HVAC problem.
The fact is that proper maintenance leads to cost savings. Annual HVAC
audits keep systems running smoothly and minimize risk from equipment
failures. According to Buildings Magazine, HVAC audits oftentimes result in
“a reduction in operating costs, a decline in wear and tear on equipment,
longer equipment life, and better working environment.”
A good HVAC audit includes: a detailed description of the features
and functions of the HVAC system; a burner evaluation with detailed
information make, type, steam operating pressure and boiler horsepower;
an energy savings analysis; past comments and complaints regarding air
quality and temperature; boiler and burner seasonal usage levels; and
any future plans for plant expansion. Maintenance recommendations and
operational standards should follow.
The technology behind high efficient burners reduces fuel costs. According
to Nicor Gas, “steam system improvements, such as tune-ups and steam
trap repairs/replacements, save 10.6% in fuel costs on average.” High
efficient burners are equipped with settings that allow flames to be adjusted
with very low “excess air” requirements – depending on usage demand.
In addition to burners, cash incentives are typically applied to furnaces,
space heating boilers, space heating steam boilers, condensing unit
heaters, infrared heaters, steam traps, boiler reset controls, boiler tune-
ups, burner tune-ups and pipe insulation. For larger endeavors, Nicor Gas
will consider gas-saving projects through its Business Custom Incentive
Program, offering up to $500,000 in incentives on pre-approved projects.
For more information on the Nicor Gas Commercial Energy Efficiency
Rebate program, visit
. For information on the
Peoples Gas – Chicagoland Natural Gas Savings Program, visit
American Combustion Service, Inc. helps hospitals and other businesses
analyze fuel efficiency through its ACSI Energy Savings Analysis, a step
toward saving thousands of dollars through utility rebates