Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Keeping Our Hospital Cool

In my blog I usually write about healthcare. This seems reasonable since we are a healthcare organization, but there are things that we take for granted like having heated buildings in the winter and cooled buildings in the summer. Recently, I spent some time with Jim Keyzer, CHFM, our Director of Facilities. Jim was showing me two of our chillers that needed to be replaced. These devices are huge! It is a true feat of modern engineering to be able to dismantle the old chillers and replace them with new ones within an existing building. See Jim’s answers to my questions below.

How old are the two chillers we are replacing and why are we replacing them?
Steam absorption chillers have a life expectancy of 20 years and due to our great boiler engineers, we have kept them running for 26 years. We are replacing them for two reasons: 1) because they are well beyond their useful life and 2) we need many more tons of cooling for the Promise Project.

When is the replacement taking place and how long will installation of the new ones take?
We started the project beginning in December 2020 because it must take place during the heating season. It could never be accomplished during the summer months. We expect the new electric chillers to be operational by late April 2021.

What is being required for the replacement to take place?
Hundreds of hours of planning and design, most of which must be done during the winter months.

What is its main function of the two steam absorption chillers for the hospital and what is the difference between the new and old ones?
The two old absorption chillers run on steam to make chilled water, which is the most inefficient way to do it. In fact, we use more steam in the summer for cooling than in the winter for heating. The two replacement electric chillers have state-of-the-art design and technology, and as a result, we anticipate millions of dollars in energy savings in the upcoming years.

Why did we install such energy inefficient steam absorption chillers in the past?
In the past, we did not have enough power to run electric chillers, and we did not have emergency generators with enough capacity to run the electric chillers in the event of a power failure. Through purchasing two of the most energy efficient chillers and implementing numerous energy saving initiatives, we now have enough electrical power to run them. GBMC also upgraded the emergency generator capacity with a new electrical generator plant, which now enables us to run the new chillers on the emergency generators when needed.

I am so grateful to Jim and his team for all that they accomplish while the work of healthcare continues unabated! When you see our boiler engineers and the rest of our facilities staff, please thank them!

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