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Squeezed by rising costs and shrinking reimbursements, hospitals often struggle to find the resources for capital improvements.1 Upgrades that save energy and lower costs can help offer a solution. Money saved on energy can help pay for the project.

Hospitals are the second most energy-intense type of building in the U.S., spending about $6.5 billion on energy each year.2 Energy bills for a typical 200,000-ft, 50-bed hospital are about $680,000 annually, or roughly $13,611 per bed, according to a 2013 report by the U.S. Department of Energy.3

Although hospitals use a lot of energy, they have great opportunity for energy savings—as much as 10 to 32 percent, according to the same report, which analyzed typical facilities in five climate zones.4

How can your hospital reduce energy use and help lower costs? Below are seven tips to conserve energy.

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 Collect energy usage data

Before taking action, understand how your facility uses energy. Commission an energy audit with the help of experts, and develop an energy baseline. For a more granular look, install software, sensors and monitors that show exactly how much energy your buildings and equipment use at any given time.

Collecting this information helps you set benchmarks and identify areas of waste, such as buildings where lights and computers may be left on all night, or HVAC equipment that needs repair or maintenance.

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 Upgrade lighting systems

Lighting consumes close to 35 percent of the electricity used in U.S. commercial buildings.5 Swapping out older lights with more efficient fixtures and controls can reduce energy use, improve the visual environment and affect the sizing of HVAC and electrical systems.6 You may also find that you can remove or reduce lighting in some areas. For example, you probably do not need as much illumination in closets as you do in a clinical area.

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 Uncover complex energy waste

Your hospital may waste energy in ways that aren’t obvious. What’s known as “supplemental load” increases your energy requirements without directly drawing electricity. For example, incandescent light bulbs generate heat, which can increase your need for air conditioning. Similarly, body heat and computers, which also generate heat, place demands on air conditioning systems in ways that are not immediately apparent. It’s important to carefully analyze these sources and their interactions with HVAC equipment. If you understand these interactions—and work to modify them—you may be able to save energy by reducing the size of your HVAC system. 

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 Right-size the fan system

On average, room fans account for about 8 percent of the total energy consumed in hospital buildings, so be sure fans are sized correctly for the space.7 A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study found that almost 60 percent of building fan systems were oversized by at least 10 percent, with an average oversizing of 60 percent.8

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 Upgrade heating and cooling

Heating and cooling systems account for a large portion of a building’s energy use—typically about a quarter.9 Like fans, heating and cooling systems are often oversized. Crunch the numbers: It may be cost-effective to replace an existing system with a properly sized one, or to retrofit it to operate more efficiently. Besides saving energy, proper sizing will likely reduce noise, lower equipment costs and improve equipment operation, which in turn reduces maintenance costs and extends equipment lifetime.

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 Undertake a building retrofit

Rather than pursuing piecemeal energy conservation measures, consider undertaking a whole building retrofit for deeper energy savings.

How does a retrofit project work? Typically, an energy provider, consultant, engineer or experienced building manager conducts an in-depth investigation into building operations with an eye toward how and where energy is used.10 Following a detailed building review, you choose targeted upgrades and make changes over time to improve systems and reduce energy costs.11 Retrofits often focus on operations and controls, the building envelope (for example, windows, walls, and the foundation), lighting, plug loads, space heating and cooling, ventilation and water heating. Retrofits can do more than save energy; they can create a more comfortable environment due to improvements in HVAC, lighting and other equipment.12

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 Install combined heat and power

Hospitals can reduce their energy bills by installing onsite energy generation. Hospitals are excellent candidates for combined heat and power (CHP), in particular.13 Installed near or within the hospital building, CHP is highly efficient because it creates two forms of energy—electricity and heat—from one fuel. CHP plants achieve this efficiency by recycling the waste heat created during the production of electricity.

Hundreds of hospitals have installed CHP because they have a large need for heat and steam to warm rooms, do laundry, operate showers and sterilize medical equipment.14 The EPA maintains a website for hospitals and other building owners to help determine if your facility is a good candidate for a CHP project.


Becoming an energy-saving hospital doesn't have to be a complex task, especially if you work with an experienced supplier that offers diverse, customized supply- and demand-side energy solutions. Direct Energy Business can help you buy less of what we sell, offering a Total Energy Management approach to lowering energy costs with data and analytics, energy efficiency and alternative energy solutions, including:

Get started today!

Download our free Total Energy Management Guide for Hospitals now!

  1. Kutscher, Beth, Modern Healthcare, "Fewer hospitals have positive margins as they face financial squeeze," June 21, 2014
  2. Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network, “Global Green and Healthy Hospitals,” page 16, retrieved February 2016
  3. U.S. Department of Energy, Advanced Energy Retrofit Guide, page 12, 2013
  4. Ibid.
  5. Practice Green Health, "Best Practices in Energy Efficiency," retrieved February 2016
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10.  U.S. Department of Energy, Advanced Energy Retrofit Guide, page 42, 2013
  11., “A positive diagnosis: How hospitals are reducing energy consumption,” November 21, 2013
  12. Rocky Mountain Institute, “Guide to Building the Case for Deep Energy Retrofits,” September 2012.
  13. U.S. Department of Energy, “Hospitals Discover Advantages to Using CHP Systems,” retrieved February 2016
  14. Ibid.


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