HVAC systems for hospitals – what is usually needed
HVAC systems for hospitals require a different approach than other applications. When designing HVAC systems for medical facilities, consultants usually have to consider a series of aspects, since these facilities need to ensure the well-being of patients.
Thermal comfort is, of course, is one of them, but hospitals also require safety for both patience and personnel occupying the building, cooling for labs and equipment such as MRI machines or lasers, efficiency, since HVAC systems can consume vast amounts of energy, and finally reliability.
Here are the most important aspects analysed one by one:
Thermal comfort in medical facilities is as important as in other applications. In fact, patients recovering from health problems deserve the best possible thermal comfort. Hence, temperature and humidity control is fundamental. So, what is the ideal temperature for a hospital?
Hospitals are among those buildings undergoing strong opposite variable loads during the year. That mostly happens because of surgical rooms, where the cooling or heating demand is independent from the season.
In fact, medical facilities may require different temperature levels depending on the specific environment. Surgery rooms are often kept colder to make sure surgeons and nurses feel comfortable while performing surgery, as the surgical team may be overheat by gowns, caps, gloves and masks. So, in surgery rooms there is often a demand for lower temperature, as surgical teams may be overheat by surgical equipment. Then, once the surgery is done, HVAC systems need to quickly recover heat and raise the temperature as soon as surgery is completed.
Another reason why perfect temperature control is crucial is that it prevents specialized machines to breakdown. This is the case of machines that are essential to patients’ treatments – lasers and MRI.
Take a look here to find out how Daikin technology is used to cool down MRI equipmet and labs in a hospital in Madrid.
Comfort needs to be guaranteed not only form a thermal standpoint. Noise in these facilities can create discomfort for patients who need a quiet environment to heal and recover. For all these reasons it is important to create an environment where noise from the HVAC system is reduced to a minimum. So, to ensure that medical facilities can offer the quietest possible environment to both personnel and patients, it is important to choose units that can provide the lowest possible noise levels.
Healthcare facilities usually require huge amounts of fresh air for air exchange, so infections can be prevented. Therefore, low noise from the HVAC system is a common choice for these facilities. Also, hospitals usually lack sound-absorbing material, because of the concerns about infection control. In fact, hard and reflective materials are usually preferred as they contrast the proliferation of infectious organisms and are easily cleaned. All that makes the need for a low noise HVAC system even more compelling.
Air quality and filtration
Air quality is another very important aspect to consider to having control over any possibility of airborne transmission in this kind of buildings.
In fact, well designed ventilation systems can be great tools to minimize possibilities of infection form Coronavirus both among patients and the personnel.
We know patients’ immune system is usually weak and their bodies vulnerable to bacteria, viruses and airborne infections. A well-designed HVAC system introducing properly filtered air from the external environment and simultaneously extracting the internal air, expelling it outside, can help reducing the density of dangerous particles in indoor spaces.
Preventive maintenance and reliability
Hospital’s HVAC systems can be very demanding in terms of maintenance. These systems are responsible for maintaining high indoor air quality and providing safe temperatures to occupants. Hence, preventive maintenance is crucial, as downtime can be a huge problem for patients. For these reasons monitoring systems are fundamental. Being able to rely on a system providing information with a great level of detail is extremely important for plant owners. It allows them to plan preventive actions based on real data. So, it allows to avoid extra costs associated with breakdowns and downtime.
During lockdown, then, it became even more important for HVAC plant managers and service engineer to remotely control, monitor and perform diagnostic analysis on HVAC equipment instead of heaving people on site.
Monitoring systems like Daikin on Site allow engineers across the world to monitor, manage and control HVAC systems in real time, directly from the cloud. And this has allowed in many cases service managers to remotely access HVAC equipment during quarantine and take preventive actions without even visiting the site.
An efficient system
As HVAC systems consume almost half of the total energy used in health care facilities, it is important to choose energy efficient HVAC solutions.
Compressor technology can have an important role when it comes to systems optimization in terms of energy efficiency. In this sense, Singles Screw Inverter technology or Inverter in general are very relevant technologies. But also Free Cooling is a technology to consider when there are the right climatic conditions.
Hospitals operate 24 hours a day and based on the workload they could decide to rely on full or partial Free Cooling, which, when outdoor temperatures are low enough, would allow chillers to bypass mechanical cooling, using low external air temperatures to assist in chilling water. That chilled water, then, can be used for industrial processes or air conditioning systems.
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