By Justin Carron, Global Healthcare Segment Manager, Eaton
For most health care facility managers, just keeping the lights on is a big enough job. Ensuring smooth day-to-day operation is priority number one, and the challenges that come with the job include plenty to keep managers up at night. It feels like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to begin to find ways to lower energy costs. What many managers don’t realize, however, is that finding energy savings is easy if you know where to look—and where to start. Make no mistake: identifying opportunities to lower energy costs in even the simplest of places can add up to big savings. Recently, Eaton sponsored an Energy Treasure Hunt at Northwest Hospital & Medical Center in Seattle on the heels of the ASHE 2018 Annual Conference. During the Treasure Hunt, four teams of engineers and facility managers worked to identify hidden energy savings in the facility’s energy infrastructure. The opportunities they found can be translated into opportunities for any facility. Here are some places to look. Review HVAC Systems and Processes For many health care facilities, checking with hospital staff and clinicians about their needs regarding HVAC processes and requirements is a worthwhile investment of time. For example, asking whether every room requires air conditioning—particularly when the room is not in use—can be a good way to limit or cut off service to areas that don’t need 24/7 air conditioning, which can lower associated energy costs. Additionally, savings can be identified by conducting a review of disparate systems—for instance, HVAC and air ventilation systems that may not be connected—to make sure they are properly synced. An air vent that pushes air outside and opens just as the air conditioning system turns on wastes energy. Upgrade Lighting Infrastructure Many facilities continue to run on older, less efficient lighting systems that use a considerable amount of energy. In recent years, LED lighting has emerged as an affordable and highly efficient way to produce the same amount of light with significantly less energy. Better yet, many utilities offer rebates for customers who change to more efficient lighting. The best way to undertake an LED upgrade is to have a complete lighting and controls strategy going into the project, rather than seeking to simply replace bulbs and fixtures ad hoc. Having a comprehensive strategy will help the manager gain a full understanding of the cost benefits and although replacing these systems may require a more extensive investment and disruption of hospital service, the potential return on that investment is significant. Audit Equipment Facility managers who have a strong understanding of all the equipment in use at their facilities are in a good position to grasp which equipment gets the most frequent use. For these managers, conducting a review of which equipment is used and how frequently it is used could unearth opportunities to remove excess equipment that consume a significant amount of energy but don’t provide any value to the facility. Review Electrical Infrastructure Many health care facilities were constructed with power management technology that is 10, 20, and even 50 years old, and electrical infrastructure has come a long way in the intervening years in terms of efficiency. Forming a closer relationship with the vendors of your electrical products and leveraging the services they offer can be an excellent way to rightsize your facility’s power infrastructure to ensure equipment is both up to code and running at optimal efficiency. Additionally, Internet-of-Things (IoT)-enabled devices have emerged as an attractive way to modernize facility infrastructure, whether that means upgrading what is in place or replacing older technologies with newer, IoT-ready ones. These solutions can be integrated into the building management system or can be used to create a modernized power management system, allowing for greater control over energy infrastructure and, ultimately, greater energy savings. Conclusion How can health care facility managers apply some of the principles used in the recent Energy Treasure Hunt to their own facilities? The first way is by gaining a better understanding of the systems in place, which means looking for opportunities to educate and become trained on the technologies and tools used within the facilities. And while facility managers focused on the day-to-day operation may find such an undertaking daunting, ASHE has several resources available to help facility managers better understand their infrastructure and how to get the most out of their systems. With the right approach and a little bit of foresight, health care facility managers can identify opportunities to lower energy costs and usage within their own facilities, all of which can add up to big savings and better opportunities to reinvest money saved into improving patient care. About the Author Justin Carron, Global Healthcare Segment Manager, Eaton works with health care facility managers and executives to design power management strategies for hospitals, health networks, and other organizations across the health care landscape.