Don’t Automatically Assume You Must Replace the Oldest Equipment First

October 31, 2014  |  Charlie Hall

As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, many organizations struggle with the inherent conflict between cost-effective care and aging/overbuilt acute care facilities. Will reform improve patient care? Absolutely, but only if it creates a well-coordinated delivery system with facilities that are efficient and competitive. In this series, we discuss principles to guide investment in inpatient environments.

Frequently, hospital staff prioritize older equipment for replacement without a clear understanding of how the systems work together to account for total energy use. Sometimes, the energy savings from equipment performing well in concert outweighs having the newest or most efficient systems.

Investing in controls and systems that collect data is the first step in fine-tuning an infrastructure investment plan. Hospitals can analyze detailed information about granular MEP systems over time and use this information to improve performance and save energy every month.

Controls offer a holistic view of MEP systems. Hospitals that fine-tune microsystems around individual priorities present one of the most challenging problems to address. (For example Dr. Smith, an orthopedic surgeon, prefers his OR to be 58 degrees on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Holistic controls help decipher the impact to rooms and systems that surround Dr. Smith’s OR. FreemanWhite evaluates energy use from the data collected by the controls system and compares the results with baseline energy use benchmarks.

Instead of a typical “one-for-one” replacement of aged equipment, data findings may suggest that a hospital can save more money overall by investing in a different system type altogether. Often the combination of a short payback period and utility savings can fund a system upgrade. Our team encourages clients to make equipment decisions based on the life cycle cost instead of initial cost.

We recently completed a hospital addition in a locale that once had some of the lowest utility rates in the country. Because of the lower initial cost and utility rates at that time, the hospital chose to use electric heat as the primary heat source. Boilers and a hot water loop system service some areas of the hospital, and we extended the hot water loop to the new addition’s HVAC system due to increasing utility rates. The energy savings from forgoing electric heat will ultimately offset higher upfront costs. As an additional benefit, this solution reduces the demand on the existing overtaxed generator.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR       Charlie Hall PE QCxP   

outcome_Charlie Hall

Charlie Hall is skilled in complex healthcare campus engineering infrastructure and works effectively with architects and other engineers to integrate engineering systems into the total project design. His expertise in commissioning gives him a holistic view of complex systems, maximizing the potential for energy savings on our projects.

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