Five ways to advance power management in health care facilities

An electrical power management system enables a continual improvement process involving the visualizing real-time energy consumption, as well as measurement, analysis and implementation of programs to reduce usage and cost

By Marty Aaron / Special to Healthcare Facilities Today

On average, $2.26 per square foot is spent on energy in health care buildings, nearly two times more than the national average of $1.19 per square foot in commercial buildings. Further, many health care facilities have aging infrastructures that need to be upgraded to meet the new demands of modern medical equipment. 

When these issues are compounded with compressing budgets and growing energy prices, a number of power management challenges arise for health care facilities intending to reduce operational expenses and energy consumption without sacrificing reliability. 

Fundamentally, monitoring electrical distribution equipment is the first critical step to support reliable power and systems that meet evolving standards and requirements, while also controlling and even reducing energy and operational costs.

No matter the size, every health care facility can benefit from an energy management program, which becomes particularly effective when supported with the right electrical power management system (EPMS). 

EPMS enables a continual improvement process involving the visualizing real-time energy consumption, as well as measurement, analysis and implementation of programs to reduce usage and cost. With the real-time, unified view that an EPMS provides, health care facilities can:

1. Improve system reliability 

Providing superior quality care relies on strategic energy management. It is difficult at best to serve patients in the dark when power from the local utility is out. Strategic energy management hinges on real-time and historical data monitoring to make decisions that improve reliability, reduce energy consumption, and deliver real savings.

The critical purpose of EPMS is to keep systems up and running and ensure cooling and power requirements are always met, by consolidating vast, real-time information on electrical systems across an entire facility. Most buildings are already measuring energy consumption or keeping an eye on harmonics, voltages and other power quality events. However, EPMS systems go a step further to provide accurate data on details including circuit loading, peak demand and equipment status, as well as hundreds of alarms that warn building management of underperforming equipment and conditions threatening uptime.

By constantly collecting information, EPMS provides the ability to measure availability, loading, and consumption in real time. It also makes it possible to monitor the operation and status of all of the electrical components that are running in buildings, and trends measurements on those components over time looking for changes. When changes are detected, the information is used to investigate and respond proactively prior to service-impacting failures.

2. Unify facility management

The expectation is that your facility is working right, and running smoothly. But its ability to function properly is dependent on underlying power distribution systems, information technology (IT) and environmental equipment, safety and security systems, and building controls. Monitoring and managing these systems is critical to successful and uninterrupted operations. However, these systems are often acquired from different vendors and communicate using proprietary protocols. They do not talk to each other, and come with unique software.

Addressing this issue, today’s EPMS products provide full-scale integration of third-party products and other critical facility systems, including building management systems (BMS), security systems and fire alarm systems – compiling complex data into a unified management platform for informed decision making.

3. Accurately allocate energy costs  

The financial management of any operation is the key to the profitability of an entire organization. With electrical costs being such a large percentage of total operational costs, it is essential that the impact of electrical costs be fully documented. Accurately allocating electrical costs to departments creates accountability and the incentive to take ownership of energy management efforts. Additionally, understanding energy costs as they relate to specific processes of products provides management with an additional tool to use in making production decisions. 

4. Plan for growth

Planning electrical usage and demand is a difficult job. As site loads increase and usage patterns change, demand on a device may grow beyond its intended capacity. And, while average demand may not be a concern, peak demand always is, as even a momentary spike has the potential to bring down an entire network. 

Today’s EPMS products track energy usage over time, immediately inform facility management of peak levels and project future demands based on past usage. This knowledge is critical in planning for electrical upgrades, avoiding unnecessary expenditures and making changes to the power chain to support load patterns.

5. Simplify reporting 

Modern EPMS programs provide benchmarking of data to help produce required electrical system reports for the Joint Commission (TJC) accreditation and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) certifications.  

These solutions can help reduce costs by allowing tests to be initiated and completed from a single location, without requiring multiple people operating throughout a hospital. The software can also help analyze building performance data to inform the operator if conditions are likely to meet TJC or NFPA requirements.

With the right EPMS, health care organizations can optimize their electrical infrastructure for efficiency, reliability and lower operating costs. New supervisory, connectivity and protection capabilities provide oversight of your entire power infrastructure – and even your entire facility.  

Whether your goals include meeting regulatory requirements, new technology demands, facility certifications, specific energy reduction targets or renewable energy integration, EPMS provides the first step. 

There are many different suppliers of EPMS and many different levels and cost points. When searching for the solution that is right for your facility, select the one that best meets your business needs, while always keeping in mind that an effective EPMS should provide simple expansion as your system grows and greater value over time.

Marty Aaron is a product line manager for Eaton.



December 19, 2013

Topic Area: Energy and Power

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