Chuck Caisley 2015-06-09 11:44:58
An exterior lighting upgrade for one rural Missouri hospital Hospitals and health care facilities around the country spend billions each year on their energy needs. One of the primary reasons they consume such a large amount of energy is that a majority of them are operating 24 hours a day, creating a need for heating, cooling, and lighting at all times. In addition to the constant energy usage, many energy-intensive activities happen in these facilities as well. Everything from laundry, to using lab equipment, to food services takes place over the course of a typical day in a health care facility. While this energy usage is a necessity, many hospitals and health care facilities have tight budgets, making reductions in energy consumption increasingly more important. By installing more energy-efficient equipment, these facilities can improve their bottom lines and free up funds to invest in new medical technologies and patient care. For just this reason, St. Francis Hospital & Health Services in Maryville, MO, began looking into more energy-efficient equipment. With the help of its local utility, Kansas City Power & Light (KCP&L), the hospital explored ways to reduce its energy usage and operating costs so that it could remain financially viable well into the future. Looking to Save Money Serving mostly the residents of Nodaway County, MO, St. Francis has been providing full-service medical treatment for more than 120 years. With roughly 20,000 people in its service area, the rural hospital provides for emergency treatment, acute medical and surgical requirements, obstetric needs, and mental health care. As a fixture of the northwestern Missouri community, it’s important that St. Francis constantly seeks ways to reduce energy usage and expenditures in order to ensure longevity. That’s why in early 2014, Facilities Management Director Phil Larabee started looking into energy efficiency upgrades for the hospital. “Yes, it’s important for us to save money, but it’s also important for us to be here for our patients,” says Larabee. “Our patients are our customers, and we want to be as efficient and effective as we can for them.” While researching various energy-efficient upgrades St. Francis could make, Larabee was assisted in the process by a hospital electrician. As a supporter of energy-efficient lighting, the electrician recommended that the hospital replace their exterior light bulbs with LED lighting. Having worked in a number of other facilities that made the switch to LED lighting, the electrician knew firsthand how successful they could be in saving energy and money. “Our staff always has a lot of interest in how the hospital can save energy and money,” says Larabee. “In fact, sometimes we even have to hold them back a little, because they like to spend money. And we want to do our research and make sure that any upgrades we make are going to pay us back in the future and make us a better hospital.” Getting a Little Help After his electrician suggested upgrading to LED lighting, Larabee decided to do some research of his own. He reached out to a lighting contractor and in the process found out the local utility, KCP&L, had energy efficiency rebates available for its business customers. The electric utility, which serves more than 800,000 customers in Kansas and Missouri, currently offers up to $250,000 in rebates for various business energy efficiency upgrades, including lighting, HVAC, and air compressors, among many other things. “Making energy efficiency upgrades are a way for our customers to invest in their businesses,” says Kim Winslow, KCP&L’s Director of Energy Solutions. “Even a straightforward project like upgrading to more efficient lighting can directly impact the bottom line. And by reducing operating costs, customers can put those savings into growing other areas of their business.” When Larabee finished researching what rebates were available and which upgrades he thought would give the hospital the best return on its investment, he presented his findings to the hospital’s leadership. He was able to get buy in from the leadership by showing what the hospital’s current lighting usage and costs were, and then what they could be with new energy-efficient lighting. After gaining approval, Larabee worked with KCP&L to decide the specific type of lighting the hospital should upgrade to. “Having worked with hundreds of facilities on energy efficiency upgrades, including a number of hospitals, we were able to help St. Francis Hospital identity what type of lighting was best for them,” says Winslow. “We were able to explain what types of lighting they could get rebates on and what kind of energy savings they could expect by making these upgrades.” Choosing the Best Fit Larabee listened to KCP&L’s comparison of LEDs and other traditional lighting, as well as the energy-saving projections of each. When it came time for him to select a lighting type, Larabee says the biggest selling point was longevity. LEDs, which can last up to five times longer than a CFL, have a lifespan of approximately 50,000 hours. He saw that decreased lighting maintenance time as a real benefit. Since LEDs don’t have to be switched out as often, St. Francis could spend more time maintaining other areas of its operations. So, in early 2014, St. Francis made the decision to replace all of the exterior light fixtures that lined the hospital’s driveway and illuminated the parking lot with LED lighting. In total, the hospital upgraded 72 light fixtures. Even though St. Francis has only replaced its exterior lighting so far, it has already seen a significant reduction in its energy usage. In fact, the lighting upgrades are expected to reduce the facility’s energy consumption by more than 112,000 kWh annually. “Not only is our exterior lighting brighter, but we’ve also seen a considerable reduction in energy,” says Larabee. “We’re saving almost $1,000 on our monthly energy bill since we installed our new LEDs.” In addition to the monthly energy savings, St. Francis also saved money with the actual rebates. The total cost of the lighting retrofit was just less than $34,000, but with KCP&L’s Business Energy Efficiency Rebate program, St. Francis paid less than $17,000. Because the KCP&L rebate covered 50% of the project cost, the hospital will see a return on investment in less than two years. Looking Towards the Future While St. Francis may have only completed its exterior lighting project as of now, Larabee says the hospital will definitely be looking at additional lighting upgrades in the near future because of the energy savings it has seen with this project. St. Francis will also be researching different HVAC upgrades to see if it can save on its heating and cooling costs. “We want to see if there are any more energy-saving products out there that would help make us a more efficient facility,” says Larabee. “Heating and cooling are a very big costs for this hospital—sometimes up to $50,000 to $55,000 per month—and finding savings in that area would really help us reduce our operating costs.” Regardless of the future upgrades St. Francis makes, the money it saves will go toward improving other areas of its business and making sure that the hospital is in the community long term for patients in the northwestern Missouri area. This is just one reason why Larabee recommends other hospitals, and businesses in general, invest in energy efficiency upgrades. “I would tell other businesses looking to upgrade to more energy-efficient equipment to establish a good working relationship with your local utility and also see what kind of rebates are available,” says Larabee. “By using their expertise and their incentives, you can make your facility more energy efficient and save a lot of money as well.” Chuck Caisley is vice president of marketing and public affairs for Kansas City Power & Light.
Published by Forester Media. View All Articles.