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Energy Efficient Healthcare Toolkit

Healthcare facilities incorporate many different uses throughout their buildings, from residences to restaurants to office spaces.  There are several intricate systems that need constant maintenance and updates, which lends them well to energy savings opportunities. This toolkit will help address the largest energy users in your facility and suggest energy-saving ideas for these systems.


Lighting is a large electricity user for healthcare facilities. Many hospitals leave hallway and patient room lights on 24 hours a day for safety reasons. Upgrading to LED lights is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to cut back on energy use and save money. Therefore, always consider lighting first in any review of potential energy-saving projects. Not only do upgraded lighting fixtures produce light more efficiently, but they also operate at a lower temperature, reducing the need for additional cooling of the building.

However, energy and cost savings aren’t the only benefits of an upgraded lighting system. Additional benefits include:

  • Increased productivity: better lighting may contribute to increased productivity through faster work patterns with fewer errors.
  • Reduced absenteeism: improper lighting can cause glare, which results in fatigue, headaches, and absenteeism.
  • Increased safety: proper lighting levels reduce the possibility of accidents and also improve safety of employees.
  • Lower maintenance costs: some light sources have longer lamp life, which could result in lower lamp replacement and labor costs.

In addition to upgrading to new LED fixtures, lighting controls can be installed to further increase energy efficiency. Lighting controls automatically adjust lighting levels when rooms are unoccupied, when natural daylight is supplying sufficient lighting, or when only partial light is needed, thereby saving energy.

For more information on lighting, check out our Energy Efficient Lighting Toolkit.

HVAC Systems

Healthcare centers can house large, complicated heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. These systems are the second-largest energy consumer (next to medical equipment) in a clinic, hospital, and nursing home. Ventilation and air filtering are essential in maintaining the health of the employees, visitors, and residents. Also, maintaining comfortable temperatures for both nursing home residents and administration workers can be a difficult balance.

Some quick tips to ensure your HVAC system is running efficiently include:

  • Clean and replace filters according to manufacturer’s directions to ensure that the HVAC system isn’t working harder than necessary.
  • Use programmable thermostats to automatically raise and lower temperatures according to building occupancy times.
  • Ensure vents are free from obstruction so that air can circulate properly.
  • Repair leaks and install insulation around duct and pipe lines.
  • Schedule regular maintenance on your HVAC equipment to ensure it is operating efficiently.
  • When replacing HVAC equipment, upgrade to high-efficiency (HE) equipment to increase savings over the long run. While HE equipment may cost more in the beginning, the savings typically yield a short payback.
  • Add direct digital controls (DDC) systems to monitor the HVAC system and ensure its health.

For specific information on improving the efficiency of your HVAC system, take a look at our HVAC System and HVAC Controls Toolkits.

Domestic Hot Water

Domestic hot water heating accounts for 30-40% of a medical center’s heating energy use. Hospitals use hot water for the cafeteria, laundry, and bathing. When a nursing home is attached to the hospital, several pounds of laundry can be cleaned in a day. This large domestic hot water load can get expensive with the wrong type of heaters. Installing high-efficiency hot water heaters or hot water boilers can save up to 10% of a healthcare center’s energy use.

CT Scan and MRI Rooms

Hospital MRI roomThese rooms contain heavy medical equipment that give off excessive amount of heat. Extra cooling is required in these rooms to keep the equipment from overheating and suffering damage.  When an air handler that provides comfort control to multiple zones is providing cooling to this room, the air handler will constantly be in cooling mode, which causes extra heating requirements to ensure that other zones are not also being cooled.  Engineers call this “holding the air handler hostage.”  It is recommended to install separate high-efficiency cooling units to these rooms with large equipment. This will prevent excessive energy use to reheat cooled air and can provide proper ventilation and cooling to the space.

Kitchen Coolers

Many healthcare centers have cafeterias to serve the patients, nursing home residents, and staff.  Large freezers and walk-in coolers use a significant amount of energy to keep food cold. Replacing the standard pole motors in  condensers with electronically communicated motors (EC motors) can reduce the energy needed to run the fans in each cooler. This is a rather inexpensive project that will typically come with a two- to three-year year payback.