Effective Performance: Understanding HVAC Systems for Medical Facilities
Hospital, clinics and other medical facilities pose several unique challenges that aren’t present in traditional HVAC situations. As such, it’s important for designers, engineers, installers, maintenance personnel and other HVAC professionals to be familiar with installing HVAC systems for medical purposes.
Not only can simple comfort be on the line, but patients can be put at risk by HVAC systems that don’t function properly. Here is a brief introduction to HVAC systems for medical facilities and where you can find further professional guidance and standards for these specialized HVAC projects.
What Do Medical Facilities Need?
At base, medical facilities need HVAC systems that can ensure the safety, health and comfort of patients, as well as medical and administrative personnel and visitors to health care facilities. However, beyond this simplified definition of requirements lies an even more important slate of critical needs. HVAC systems for medical facilities must:
- Help filter and remove airborne contaminants and particulates.
- Help get rid of bacteria and other microorganisms that can spread infection.
- Help remove and dissipate unpleasant odors.
Provide conditions in which medical procedures, laboratory work, patient treatment and other healing activities can be performed safely without interference from the indoor environment. The HVAC requirements for medical facilities are significantly more stringent than those for other commercial and residential applications.
For this reason, HVAC professionals working in medical contexts must have a correspondingly higher level of skill and expertise at providing healthcare-based HVAC systems and services.
Some Key Considerations
- Design: HVAC system design for medical facilities must account for the varying types of indoor environments that exist within the facility. This includes critical care spaces, such as operating rooms, recovery rooms, intensive care units and rooms where medical procedures are performed. Other important areas include laboratories, research rooms, computer rooms, administrative areas, telephone switch rooms and radiology areas.
- Sizing: Sizing HVAC system components is just as important in a medical setting as it is in a residential or commercial setting. HVAC systems for medical facilities must have enough functional capacity to provide the level of heating, cooling and ventilation needed by the facility.
- Reliability: HVAC systems for medical facilities must be extremely reliable. System breakdowns could put patient health and safety at considerable risk. Redundancy must be built into the systems to ensure that failure or shutdown won’t adversely affect patients and building occupants.
- Energy efficiency: The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that HVAC systems consume nearly half of all energy used in health care facilities. Energy consumption can be reduced by following energy conservation practices and replacing motors with more efficient variable-speed models,
- Maintenance: Preventive maintenance must be conducted regularly on HVAC systems in healthcare facilities. This includes regularly changing air filters and cleaning coils. More in-depth maintenance should be performed according to manufacturer requirements, facility manager schedules and equipment needs.
Remember that regular preventive maintenance is the key to keeping HVAC systems working properly. It’s important to make sure all maintenance procedures are conducted on schedule.
HVAC companies, contractors and engineers can find authoritative guidance on HVAC systems for health facilities from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), a leading professional organization for companies and individuals in the HVAC industry.
The second edition of ASHRAE’s HVAC Design Manual for Hospitals and Clinics provides in-depth technical information on designing and installing HVAC systems in healthcare facilities. You can also find useful information in NFPA 99, the National Fire Protection Association’s Health Care Facilities Code.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection, and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial, and Residential settings. For more information on designing, choosing, and installing HVAC systems for medical facilities, and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!