Energy efficiency can be a major challenge for hospitals, and energy consumption accounts for a major part of a hospital’s annual expenses. Together, hospitals account for 5% of energy consumption in the US. Because hospitals operate 24/7 and contain very high-powered equipment, they consume about 2.5 times the energy of similarly-sized commercial buildings. However, in order to run with higher energy efficiency, hospitals are being sealed in tightly. While this cuts costs for heating and cooling, it has an unintended consequence that results in increased infection rates within hospitals.
HVAC Technician Ventilation Demands
A study tested in the UK found that when hospital windows are open, there is a low risk of airborne infection. However, when the windows were shut, infection risk increased by as much as 4 times. If a building lacks a proper ventilation system, the indoor air quality of hospitals will be greatly affected, increasing the risk of illness for staff and patients. Energy efficiency practices must be balanced with comprehensive ventilation systems to ensure that indoor air contains as few pollutants as possible.
Safe Energy Efficiency Strategies
There are a number of ways to improve the energy efficiency of a hospital without compromising indoor air quality. A good starting point is to track and monitor energy usage. There are devices that will track energy usage in real time in terms of money and energy. Other devices can track the energy usage of individual appliances. Equipment should be functioning normally for maximum efficiency. Lighting and appliances should use Energy Star-qualified options. Thermostats should be reset every season to ease the pressure on heating and air conditioning systems. Hospital staff should also be educated on strategies they should use to help reduce energy consumption.
Hospital Challenges for Ventilation
HVAC technicians need to understand the particular needs of hospitals to provide the right ventilation system. Air movement needs to be restricted from room to room in order to reduce the spread of airborne contaminants. Ventilation systems must be able to remove odors, airborne microorganisms and viruses, and hazardous chemical and radioactive substances. Different areas of the hospital require different temperatures and humidity levels. Controls also need to be sophisticated enough to permit control over specific areas.
Technicians will need to use the proper filters and be able to maintain filtration systems. The type of ventilation used will also depend on the size, height, and location of the hospital. For example, urban hospitals will rely on mechanical systems whereas tall hospitals may rely more easily on natural systems of ventilation (except in critical care areas of the building).
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When HVAC technicians help to improve indoor air quality at hospitals, staff can work more efficiently, patients can recover faster, and facilities can save on resources. For more information about how HVAC technician training can lead you to a rewarding career, contact an RSI Admissions Representative.