Special report: Chillers keep hospitals in the green

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Special report: Chillers keep hospitals in the green

by Carol Ko, Staff Writer | November 15, 2013
Motivair 250 ton Free Cooling
and 250 ton heat recovery
chiller Scott City Hospital
From the November 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

It’s no surprise that energy efficiency is the main driver of new technologies in the medical chiller market. Though their work is done behind the scenes, chillers play an important role in the everyday operations of the hospital — especially over the long run.

The right chiller can make all the difference in reducing energy costs, while a mediocre chiller can lead to shortened equipment life span or outright equipment failure. “Chillers generally go unseen by all except the maintenance staff. Yet they’re a critical piece of equipment that dramatically affects the capabilities of the machinery it serves,” says Kim Bernard, market manager of Dimplex Thermal Solutions.

So how should hospitals go about choosing the right size and type of chiller?

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Unless you’re on familiar terms with the highly technical ins and outs of cooling systems, it can be difficult to make sense of the information on your own. The only way to know for sure is to check the equipment manual, look up the BTU rating and call an expert.

“Lot of times, it takes us talking to the customers,” says Kenyon Smith, president of KR Products. “The tricky thing is, you have to know the right questions to ask to get the right answers. But most contractors who’ve been in the business know what to ask.”

There’s a heavy price to be paid for ordering the wrong kind of chiller. “It’s all hell to pay,” says Smith. Buying, say, a seven-ton chiller for equipment that actually needs a ten-ton chiller means that the machine will fall short of adequately cooling its equipment. Eventually, the hospital will need to add onto the existing chiller or switch it out.

Depending on where that chiller is installed, this can create a logistical nightmare and a hefty financial hit, with money lost through equipment downtime and replacement. “We had one customer pay $1,200 extra to get a crane to replace the chiller,” Smith recalls. Coupled with the cost of the replacement chiller, this could run up to $31,200 in total costs.

That said, we broke down the latest trends in the market with the help of some experts to keep you informed of your options as you get ready to buy your next chiller.

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Here’s a secret: much of the technology currently being touted for medical chillers has been around for years, if not decades. But as reducing energy consumption becomes a main focus across all industries, these tweaks have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity.

Specifically, energy-efficient digital scroll compressors, already prevalent in the general chiller market, have started making their way into medical chillers. “It’s led to more accurate control of the fluid temperature,” says Solomon Reznik, vice president of CustomChill. But to get an idea of why this technology is better, it’s helpful to have a little background on compressors.

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