Helping Hospital Staff Visualise Energy Savings

This article, originally published on Quasars Website, is republished here with their permission.

Palmerston North Hospital is enjoying substantial energy savings every year, thanks to smart monitoring software that helps management assess energy needs at a glance.

With a capacity of 350 beds, Palmerston North Hospital serves a total population catchment of up to 500,000, and hosts the Regional Cancer Treatment Service.

MidCentral DHB’s journey to more efficient energy management had an unexpected beginning. According to Warren Crawley, Technical Services Engineer at Spotless Facilities Services (the facility managers at the hospital), it was billing issues that first drew attention to the need for an improved energy management and carbon accounting system.

“We bill numerous contractors on site who use energy. We were using a number of different billing systems for the various contractors and with monthly bills issued for electricity, gas, steam, and water use, complex tariffs are involved,” Warren says.

​​”The billing system we were using failed and was no longer supported. Instead of looking at a system which would simply be an update of what had gone before, we wanted to look at a system with broader applicability. This would ideally be a system that could be vertically developed to provide energy, maintenance, and carbon accounting activities.”

​”The system would need to support our energy management mantra, and like any resource, measurement, and monitoring of all input and outputs was needed in order to effectively achieve management and cost mitigation.”

Warren says that this shift in mindset was complemented by the growing awareness of the importance of proactive energy management, especially with ageing hospital infrastructure and the increasing use of electronics across the site. It was critical that management could predict when infrastructure upgrades were needed and when its systems were reaching levels where load would become a problem.

Instant improvements in visualisation
After evaluating several systems, the Hospital got in touch with Quasar, who configured and installed Schneider Electric EcoStruxure Power Monitoring Expert (PME), a complete software package for efficient power management.

Warren points out that the decision to team up with Quasar was not difficult, given the ease of integration of PME into existing infrastructure, such as the switchgear. “Quasar’s offering was capable of addressing our two key drivers for change: improving our billing system while facilitating more proactive energy and carbon management,” he adds.

​It didn’t take long for Warren and MidCentral DHB to start seeing the benefits. Warren says it quickly became obvious where the biggest challenges lay, identifying three “reasonably significant” energy issues: one relating to steam, and two to the control of chillers.

​The steam issue was the result of the incorrect placement of an automatic shut-off valve. This fault was identified by unexpectedly high condensate return values. With regard to the chillers, Warren was able to identify issues on two large chiller systems with abnormal chiller pumps control.

“The location of the issues only became apparent when we saw the graphs. The visual element is very important; it allows you to see things you can’t see just with numbers,” Warren explains.

One alteration saves $10,000

​PME gives Warren the ability to monitor power use at different points, both at where the power comes into the site and within the site, allowing him to easily and accurately bill each contractor. Warren can also keep tabs on the efficiency of the hospital’s boilers, monitor the uninterrupted power supply (UPS), identify any Power Quality issues and identify weather-related trends – all thanks to seamless integration with the software. 

“Since implementation, we have used the system to identify abnormal UPS loads and take corrective actions. It is intended to set up alarm limits on all UPS and submain circuits to pre-empt developing overload situations,” Warren adds.

An organisation-wide switch in mentality
It’s not only the management who are now, literally, seeing the big picture.

Warren says the technical services team are now much more aware of the hospital’s energy use, thanks to the visualisation offered by the software, and have been coming to him to talk about trends and deviations they’ve noticed.

The energy analytics available in PME are also being incorporated into a wider energy strategy that is being established in conjunction with EECA.

And, Warren says, this is just the start of MidCentral DHB’s relationship with Quasar. With an extensive system installed and underway, he’s got his eye on further additions and is keen on utilising more of the analytics capabilities within the software.