According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), healthcare organizations spend nearly $8.8 billion annually on energy to meet patient needs. In a typical hospital, the biggest consumer of electrical power is the HVAC system, accounting for as much as 42% of total usage. The HVAC system and chiller plant alone can push a hospital’s electric bills close to over a million dollars a year.
With the right peak performance strategy and technologies, it is possible to boost HVAC and central plant energy savings by as much as 40%. As case in point, one of the nation’s largest public healthcare systems, Broward Health Medical Center (BHMC), registered savings of $311,000 in just one year, including more than $30,000 in a single month. This was possible after implementing advanced analytics and data science, providing visibility and transparency into the performance and service of its HVAC system and 6,000-ton chiller plant.
For a hospital, or any commercial building, the chiller plant is of critical importance. It is the circulatory system of the HVAC, responsible for the continuous flow of air. Yet the Department of Energy states that 95% of all chiller plants are inefficient. Does this mean that all of these plants are broken? No, however it does indicate that the plants at your facility are almost certain to be wasting energy and money, and you may not even know how much.
Because every hospital is unique, understanding your HVAC as an integrated eco-system is important for achieving maximum efficiencies. Based on our experiences with major medical facilities, we have compiled six steps your hospital can take now to generate immediate and long-term significant energy cost savings.
STEP ONE: Evaluate your system’s current state
Everything begins with the documentation of the equipment and correlating specs. As you know, the efficiency of the chiller depends on the amount of energy or electrical current consumed for cooling, measured in kilowatt per ton (kW/ton). The lower the kW/ton rating, the more efficient the system. While not everyone is using this criteria, in our experience it has proven to be the cleanest metric for measuring optimization, regardless of the type of equipment or power source.
Many management teams look at British Thermal Units (BTUs)/sf, or the amount of BTUs required to heat a space per square foot, as a key metric. However, we have found that if the system is not operating at peak efficiency, this metric fails to provide enough detail to help determine the problems. When documenting any current issues or pain points with your system, take time to extend your thinking beyond the symptoms to what is causing them.
STEP TWO: Know what you’re trying to achieve
Once you have a clear picture of your system’s current performance, it’s time to align common objectives with those of other stakeholders to target realistic goals. You’ll want to ensure that everyone involved in decision-making, including operations, finance and the executive suite, is in agreement. You are looking for immediate and appropriate feedback to help you gain control of your building and ensure higher comfort levels. The focus is on controlling and lowering expenses.
It’s easier to prioritize work orders and fixes if you use a software solution that provides a concise roadmap for ECM (Energy Conservation Measures). There are some advanced solutions available, and the right technology tools can enable better articulation of opportunities with payback analysis, along with clear tracking and measurement of results.
Solutions that afford around-the-clock monitoring and interactive dashboards provide building engineers and facilities managers with greater control and visibility over their sites. This helps improve troubleshooting, and leads to better dialogue with your vendors and sub-contractors.
Lowering costs must also be balanced, or coupled, with maintaining comfort consistently throughout the building. Reducing energy consumption should be considered across a timeframe, not just one point in time. An investment that keeps your hand on the heartbeat of the plant and the hospital’s energy usage, letting you know instantly how the system is running, is well worth the expense as it can result in up to 40% energy cost savings.
BHMC was able to identify and correct HVAC performance gaps almost immediately. With 85 percent of their building under automation, they have attained superior energy efficiency with a 26-percent reduction in energy use and an enhanced kW/ton ratio of .85.
STEP THREE: Understand the data and feedback loop
Chances are, you already have a Building Automation System (BAS) or Building Management System (BMS) running your HVAC. While these systems have been around for years, they may not be able to give you the advanced analytics needed to holistically optimize your HVAC plant.
A BAS isn’t built for analytics – it’s for sequences, and sequences are static and theoretical. For example, because of how you think your building is going to operate, you create a sequence, and then it turns out this isn’t how it actually operates. That’s why you need advanced analytics to show how the system is really operating, and then you can tweak your building automation sequences to better optimize, thus establishing a smart feedback loop.
For a more precise understanding of your data and feedback, ask a few key questions:
- What is the most appropriate data for our goals, and why it is important?
- To capture the feedback we want, how often should the data be collected?
- Are all sensors and meters calibrated and working properly?
Source: www.cleantechnica.com; Manny Rosendo; March 10, 2014.