healthcare energy

3 Ways for Healthcare Systems to Reduce Energy Costs

The healthcare sector is one of the largest consumers of energy in the world. U.S. healthcare facilities account for about 10% of total commercial building energy consumption at a cost of more than $8 billion annually.

Hospitals and healthcare facilities differ from other building types in that their energy intensity is nearly three times the average. It takes significant power to run lighting, medical equipment, sterilization processing, laboratories, and refrigeration units around the clock. That doesn’t even include HVAC operations, which account for approximately 52% of building energy use.

Here are three ways that inpatient healthcare facilities and hospitals can reduce their energy costs.

Upgrade lighting

Traditional lighting systems, such as incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, consume a considerable amount of energy and produce heat. LED lights consume significantly less energy, typically around 75% less than incandescent bulbs, while still providing the same level of brightness. 

Additional benefits of LED lighting:

  • Puts off minimal heat, which eases cooling requirements
  • Can be easily integrated with smart systems to automatically manage lighting levels based on occupancy and daylight availability
  • Lasts up to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs and 3-5 times longer than fluorescent bulbs

This reduction in energy consumption and the need for replacement directly translates to lower energy costs and reduced waste for hospitals and healthcare systems.

Massachusetts General Hospital’s commitment to sustainability led them to replace and/or retrofit all of its lighting fixtures. This effort reduced CO2 emissions by 283 metric tons (equivalent to 328,909 kWh) which, at the average commercial electricity rate in Boston of 16.88 cents per kWh, corresponds to approximately $56,000 in annual energy cost savings.

Invest in water conservation equipment

Healthcare systems are often a community’s largest consumer of water. A study of seven hospitals found that HVAC systems accounted for 23% of hospital water usage. By implementing water conservation equipment, such as low-flow faucets, aerators, and efficient showerheads, hospitals can reduce the overall water consumption. 

Investing in a condensate retention or recovery system is another great way to reduce energy consumption. These systems are designed to capture and reuse the condensation that forms during various industrial processes, like HVAC. They play a crucial role in saving energy through lowering the demand for fresh water, heat recovery, reducing boiler load, and preventing steam loss.

Consequently, the less water that needs to be heated, the lower the energy demand for water heating systems, meaning lower energy costs. Water heating accounts for 11% of hospital energy consumption, so any steps toward reducing demand for hot water can materially reduce electricity costs.

As an example, implementing several water conservation strategies has saved Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH $100,000 per year on water, sewer, and energy cost reductions. Payback for the project was three and a half years, and now the hospital is experiencing impactful returns on its investment.

HVAC optimization

A healthcare facility is almost always buzzing with activity. All of this kinetic energy generates heat, which contributes to the energy required to maintain safe operating temperatures. How this heat is managed is often the difference between wasted energy (and sky-high utility bills) and a sustainably cooled, comfortable facility.

Hospital cooling in the U.S. represents 23.15 billion kWh of electricity, and 9 million metric tons of CO2e emissions per year. That’s more than the total carbon footprint of Tucson, AZ. Consider the energy saving opportunities from cooling optimization alone.

Our white paper, Solving the Cooling Problem in Hospitals & Healthcare Facilities, explains how building operators can optimize their HVAC systems for as much as 30% savings on energy costs and carbon emissions — all without any impact on cooling output. Click the banner below to get your complimentary copy.

hvac cooling

Ben Keylor
Ben Keylor
Sr. Content Manager
August 17, 2023