For the first time, a hospital in Quebec was able to completely forgo its costly steam system, a new achievement for Ecosystem’s engineers. When improving energy efficiency in health care environments, we always set our sights high when scaling down steam systems, though it’s rarely possible to reach this 100% ideal. At the hospital in Maniwaki, the circumstances were in our favor: the architecture, budget, and technical potential were all aligned to make this conversion possible.
With energy use anticipated to drop by 39%, this total steam-to-hot-water conversion and complementary energy efficiency measures are set to reduce the energy bill by 41% while significantly reducing the hospital’s ecological footprint.
The small size of the hospital (11,000 m2) was an advantage. Compared to larger hospitals, Maniwaki had relatively little equipment that genuinely required steam: two sterilizers and four humidifiers, which could instead be supplied by installing local electric steam generators. Much of the hospital’s steam production was used for other purposes like radiant heating and domestic hot water which could be accomplished more efficiently with a hot water system.
Steam systems are inherently energy intensive, as steam needs to be heated to a high temperature (170°C) in order to flow properly through the pipes. Hot water systems are more efficient since the water is heated to a lower temperature (70°C is sufficient). Steam systems also have greater thermal losses. The energy use at Maniwaki Hospital was greatly diminished through a steam-to-hot-water conversion, and these savings were further increased by changing the energy source: the hospital’s oil boilers were decommissioned in favor of heat pumps, thereby replacing an expensive and polluting fuel with a greener and more economical source of heat.
Completely eliminating a steam network in a hospital is a first for Ecosystem. In larger hospitals, the cost of a total switchover would be a major challenge. Partial conversions can be more economical in large health care facilities and still have positive impacts on operational budgets and the environment. Our engineers are continually refining techniques and searching for adapted solutions for each building to improve the energy balance while cutting down on costs.