Know Where Your Utility Costs Go

Posted on June 17, 2011


Commissioning is being pushed on hospitals a lot, and rightly so. It provides crucial data, knowledge, and adds rigor to the facilities management process to get the best performance out of your hospital, MOB or clinic.

Commissioning is like voluntarily getting a health assessment done if nothing is wrong with you. You think, why do I need a blood panel, my weight, diet and everything questioned? Because it provides the real causes for things that were once speculation. Commissioning is expensive and I can see why many facilities pass it up, even though it is touted as something that pays for itself many times over. Instead, the least a hospital should do is measure how it uses its energy.

This can be eye-opening, and lead to many opportunities for long-term and big-time savings. For instance, did you know it is not uncommon for a critical access hospital (small, rural) may spend 50% of its energy usage on equipment? HVAC expenses vary per building based on climate. For more temperate areas, that may be as little as 12%. In Texas, southern California or Florida that would be greater. Still, most people expect HVAC to be a large demand.

Water heating might be around 15% of total energy usage, and the same with lighting. The other 8-10% is controls, pumps and miscellaneous.

For this exercise, you see the only parts of energy usage not directly affected by employee behavior is around 20% (HVAC and controls / pumps / misc.). That leaves 80% within the control of the hospital, its users and best practices. The goal is far from net-zero, my friends, but many a hospital can save 10-20% right off the bat with some smart in-house discussions and implementation regarding equipment usage (this includes plug loads), hot water usage, and use of lighting.

Year after year, especially for a small hospital, this could allow for another physician (more patient referrals) or some new imaging equipment (more energy but way more revenue).  In this economy, that might mean the difference between keeping the doors open or having a fire-sale.