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Energy efficiency: Improvements help hospital save energy, money

Tom Smyth, Director of Facility Services at Cobleskill (N.Y) Regional Hospital, discusses the procedures his staff took to help the facility become more energy efficient.



Tom Smyth

Tom Smyth
Director of Facilities Services,
Cobleskill Regional Hospital, Cobleskill New York.


1. Describe the program that resulted in more energy-efficient boilers.

Our boilers are more than 40 years old. Our biggest investment in them has been an aggressive maintenance program, including an emphasis upon the use of chemicals to prevent scale buildup. We open the boilers annually, checking to see the condition of the refractories, tubes, etc. This "exploratory" allows us to address issues before they become more extensive and costly.

We try to instill an accountability into our boiler operators, particularly educating them to the need to use their senses, i.e. hearing, sight, etc. to detect inconsistencies in the operation of our boilers.

We maintain a close relationship with our insurance representatives regarding the operation and maintenance of the boilers. Inspections by our insurance representatives have enabled us to justify funding and enhance our knowledge in this regard as well.


2. How did re-lamping and cleaning light fixtures improve system efficiency?

We do not perform a re-lamping in the traditional sense, but we do take a pro- active approach. As part of our weekly "Troubleshooter' program, we perform a complete tour of the facility, including lighting. We replace lamps and ballasts before the hospital community notices the decrease in lighting levels and lighting quality.

We have experimented with limited re-lamping in two locations, i.e. the cafeteria and the laboratory. Specifically, we used lamps made by two different manufacturers to see which manufacturer serves the hospital better in terms of length of operating hours and cost. This experiment was performed not only to impact lighting levels and greater efficiencies, but also to provide for better inventory control and standardization.

When we perform any kind of lamp replacement, albeit re-lamping or individually, we clean the entire fixture.


3. What impact did thermal imaging of electrical systems have on energy efficiency and operations?

Although we perform thermal imaging of electrical systems annually, no research has been performed regarding the energy efficiency that has been derived from such a practice. However, with that being stated, the "loss" of electricity and the need to expend more to provide for the hospital's needs are addressed through the thermal imaging inspection and subsequent repairs made. We become more efficient by this process of identification and repair.


4. How did your approach to landscaping and adding more trees to the grounds affect your sustainability efforts?

We usually add about three or four trees annually to the hospital's grounds. I have not measured how we have reduced the hospital's carbon "footprint." However, this endeavor has proven to be an effective measure to become "green" and a part of the global effort regarding sustainability.

We choose trees and plant material that are drought tolerant and have a lower need for maintenance involving the use of gasoline-powered machines.

We also plant perennials to enhance the appearance of our landscape. By definition, we plant flowers that hopefully will serve our needs forever as opposed to planting "annuals" each year. Once again, we hope to reduce the need for maintenance and upkeep because of the selections that we have made.


5. How essential has your glycol system been in saving water for our chiller?

The addition of glycol to our chilling system has obviously helped in the reduction of the number of gallons that we use to cool the hospital. It is an offset to water and enables us to cool certain locations within the hospital during non-peak, transitional times of the year, i.e. early spring and late fall when temperatures may be warmer and pose a problem for the hospital. This particularly holds true when attempting to meet the demand for cooler temperatures within the operative suite.

Rather than to drain the entire system before the onset of cold temperatures, we can maintain the system and prevent freezing while being able to deliver cooling "off-peak" because of the introduction of glycol.

Once again, I have not measured the number of gallons saved, but it certainly is the case that savings have been derived both in terms of dollars and gallons.

The essential part for the hospital pertains to the flexibility that we have when it comes to providing for the needs of our clinical constituencies.


6. How effective have all these changes been in terms of annual savings for your department?

Over the past nine years, we have delivered our budget under approved spending levels each year. The prudent management of all utilities has contributed to these results. Spending for the line items of electricity, natural gas/fuel oil, and water have been under budget, and thus has played an important role in annual savings.

posted:  1/2/2013

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