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 o C increase yields an energy saving of 1%. Limit steam leaks and keep flue gas temperatures low to reduce flue gas loss.
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 www.nicorgasrebates.com . 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