The design of a hospital’s electrical system can prove to be one of the most challenging aspects of hospital design. The system has to be easily maintainable and has to provide reliable and steady power. Hospitals use a lot of energy, and many hospitals are looking at greener and more sustainable electrical systems, which is in keeping with the core principle of altruism that is one of the founding tenets of hospital care. However, hospital administrators are not only concerned with the care of the planet; they are concerned with the savings that can be incurred through the more efficient use of power in the hospital. Savings in power usage can translate directly to cost savings and additional profits, which can be allocated to further expansion or other projects.
Where do Electrical Engineers Fit in?
Electrical engineers are the foremost experts on power design and are well-versed in the most innovative power saving techniques found. Whether taking electrical engineering courses online or in a classroom, the concepts of power design are taught by most electrical engineering schools. This means that electrical engineers can help hospitals reduce their power consumption and thereby reduce the cost of running the hospital.
Electrical engineers can save hospitals money in two ways: firstly by making the existing power usage more efficient, and also by making the system easier and cheaper to maintain, which again lowers maintenance costs.
How can Electrical Engineers help?
One of the main consumers of power in any building that can be drastically reduced without too much effort is lighting. Many electrical engineers consider this their first target to help reduce energy costs, as 10% of all power consumed in a hospital are due to lighting.
Hospitals are different from many other commercial buildings because over a third of the electrical load is from machinery that cannot be reduced through automation of tasks, making electrical engineers resort to alternative and non-traditional methods.
One of the best ways is to upgrade the universal power system of the hospital with a centralized UPS. As hospitals age, they tend to accumulate a diversity of old and new UPS units of differing sizes and efficiencies. These result in many UPS units that are too big for their required function, and are a nightmare to maintain and keep running for the hospital. Introducing a central unit results in much less maintenance and a great reduction of energy consumption due to a better estimate of exactly how much power is needed.
UPS units in hospitals have two major functions, those found in the diagnostic imaging departments where they are used to power X-ray machines, MRI machines and a variety of other diagnostic tools. The other department that uses UPS units is the IT department. These two departments will have very different profiles with regards to loads and should always be considered separate when planning a UPS solution. This doesn’t mean that the departments can’t share a UPS, but it does mean that special care has to be given to how the systems are connected.
How a Centralized UPS Saves Money
A centralized UPS will save money by saving battery capacity and the reduction of maintenance required on these batteries. Even moderate savings of 600kVA of battery capacity can result in massive savings of material costs over a small number of years. This doesn’t even take into account the savings that are gained through the reduction of labor, as batteries will no longer have to be replaced as frequently, and also reduces the associated costs for disposing the batteries.
A single centralized UPS can also save money through the use of energy-efficient modes that can be employed during off-peak periods such as after hours when diagnostic imaging is not performed. A single UPS can be programmed to provide either a 96% or 99% mode which can be run overnight where the demand on power is less than it is during the day. This 10 hour period of 99% efficiency mode can save a hospital thousands of dollars annually.
The final saving is that of real estate as a single UPS will take up much less space than disparate UPS units, which means that the hospital can allocate this space to the generation of revenue or at the very least save on valuable real estate space.