Choosing the Right Boiler for Your Healthcare Facility
Choosing the right kind of boiler is an important decision for all hospitals. Hospitals rely on steam for a number of reasons, such as for heating, hot water, sterilization, and much more. By choosing the right boiler, hospitals can save a significant amount of energy and keep costs efficient while still maintaining their investment for quality and adhering to regulations.
Although a good steam boiler lasts for decades, boilers have evolved over time and there are now more benefits to newer, updated models. Sustainability, environmental responsibility and energy efficiency are top-ofmind across all industries and as a result, boiler manufacturers are perfecting strategies to become
more energy and fuelefficient . Boilers using coal to operate are quickly becoming a thing of the past as natural gas, propane, biogas, and fuel oil are all on the rise. Older, traditional boilers also tend to be large, bulky, and hard to operate. They can often take up to 90 minutes to heat up and are therefore kept running at all times to be ready for load demand. Whereas some newer, more advanced models on the market today can heat up in five minutes, and adjust to varying load demands to save time and energy.
Investing in new boilers for an institution can be pricey, but the right choice can significantly impact the bottom line through decreased utility costs, and an increase in usable space and ease of operation. These systems are used in a variety of industries such as universities, food-processing plants, and breweries, and each choose their boilers based on the work they set out to accomplish. Therefore, a beer brewery may not be interested in the same kind of boiler as a hospital, or the same boiler mayneed to be tuned completely differently for each application. When choosing a new boiler system, hospitals should keep a few things in mind:
Ability to Produce Steam
A priority for any healthcare facility is to keep patients as comfortable as possible. Constant access to steam is crucial to maintain full operations of a healthcare facility. In fact, the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) requires all accredited hospitals to have 100% N+1 backup capability. To comply with these regulations, manufacturers like Miura America Company have created systems with a vertical-tube design, which is capable of producing steam on-demand in under five minutes. Even in standby mode, these modular, on-demand boilers can produce steam in seconds. This saves a significant amount of the energy and time it would have taken for a traditional boiler to heat up. Rather than buying and installing two 600BHP boilers (using one as a backup), you could install four 200BHP modular units. These four (800BHP total) would handle the load by cycling and balancing the demand evenly, and then still allow one of the four to go offline for maintenance and provide the required redundancy. As a result, your facility spends less money on upfront equipment and could see up to a 20 percent reduction in fuel costs.
Using Space More Efficiently
Some newer boiler models are nearly half the size of the outdated, bulkier ones—adding a significant amount of additional space for other uses. When Manchester Memorial Hospital decided that its boilers installed in 1966 were no longer fulfilling their needs or meeting N+1 redundancy, they turned to Miura to install a highly efficient system to conserve more energy. The result was four 150-horsepower, dual-fuel EX-150 SGO models – making it possible to fit multiple units within a limited space. Just the reduction in fuel expenses alone has saved the hospital approximately $180,000 per year. The installation of more compact boilers can add more room for other systems to be installed, or can provide additional workspace. A recent bulletin on commercial boilers from the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) states, “If building loads are highly variable, as is common in commercial buildings, designers should consider installing multiple small (modular) boilers.” It also adds, “Modular systems are more efficient because they allow each boiler to operate at or close to full-rated load most of the time, with reduced standby losses.” In the future when building new healthcare facilities architects will be able to plan for smaller boiler rooms that can reduce construction costs.
Protecting the environment has taken a precedent in countless industries, and institutions all over the world are executing new sustainability policies. Environmentally efficient boilers should work to reduce emissions, which include nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide. Modular, on-demand steam units like the Miura LX series can meet these requirements with a NOx (nitrogen oxide) rating as low as 9 ppm under certain conditions. Additionally, water conversation is another key element in sustainability initiatives. Boilers need water-treatment solutions capable of preventing internal corrosion while using less water. Healthcare facilities have a wide variety of environmentally conscious boilers to choose from, and are encouraged to look into the different LEED certification requirements.
The initial cost of a boiler turns out to be the smallest part of the overall investment, followed by maintenance and efficiency. This is why it is important to understand all of the costs and benefits that go into a new system. A low-efficiency, traditional boiler purchased for $75,000 can easily waste its purchase price within one year as compared to a high-efficiency design. Prospective buyers should be aware of how fuel costs, space design, and energy consumption will affect the purchase in the years to come.
Because steam boilers are used for so many different purposes, the importance of finding the perfect boiler for your industry cannot be stressed enough. However, all industries are becoming more aware and concerned with energy consumption, gas pricing and operational efficiency; and more and more facility operators are turning to systems that not only address these issues, but also those that can adapt and grow with the needs of your facility.
Ultimately, when deciding to upgrade your boiler system, the key thing to look for is the long-term cost savings with regards to space, time and energy. Lastly, never discount the value of choosing a reputable brand – just make sure they offer a support network to meet your current and future needs.
Doug MacMaster is the Senior Director of Eastern U.S. Operations & National Account Manager at Miura America Company. Visit www.miuraboiler.com to learn more.