Heat is a formidable enemy in MR and CT chiller design

by John W. Mitchell, Senior Correspondent | September 09, 2015
From the September 2015 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

“There is a tendency for administrators who approve chiller purchases to think that if the new MRI fits into the old room, it’s all good,” said Mark Jelinske, a senior associate and mechanical engineer with Cator Ruma, an engineering firm with over 65 years of experience solving cooling challenges for its clients. Its recent projects include engineering design for the new $700 million St. Joseph’s Hospital in Denver.

“But it’s not a matter of swapping the old equipment out for the new,” Jelinske said. “Chiller cooling today works in tandem with the air cooling of a building’s HVAC system to adequately cool the air in the space in which the machine will operate — both the chillers and HVAC are part of the heat solution.” Jelinske noted that it’s important to pay attention to this, because funding for a new MRI install might require money from another bucket besides the capital budget. The costs to properly chill an MRI or CT and the space with the right HVAC configuration can be significant. For example, delivering additional air or water cooling with the right power supply down through a five-story building to a new machine on the ground floor will require money from the hospital building and maintenance budget, and require input from the hospital’s facility manager.

All of the experts interviewed agreed on two rules to keep imaging operational. In the first they stressed that imaging chilling does not stand alone but rather works in tandem with HVAC space cooling. Loeffler regularly deals with hot spots caused by external summer temperatures that have an impact on the computers and ambient temperatures. This creates discomfort for imaging technicians, radiologists, nurses and patients. The second point of agreement is that good planning and communication before a purchase is vital.

“If a client is slow in cutting a purchase order, sometimes getting complete and accurate information from the manufacturer about the machine that will go in the space is a challenge when we’re trying to plan the chilling and cooling load,” said Rick Wood, a senior mechanical engineer with Smith Seckman Reid, Inc. (SSR). He and his colleague Andre Fouche, also a senior mechanical engineer with SSR, both spoke to HealthCare Business News.

“So it’s not unusual for us to be working off generic drawings that might or might not be close to what’s going to be installed,” added Wood. He said about 70 percent of their work is for health care clients. This includes chilling and cooling needs for many hospitals, such as Rockingham Memorial Hospital in Harrisonburg, Virginia, Cook Children’s Medical Center in Ft. Worth, Texas, and Methodist Olive Branch Hospital in Olive Branch, Mississippi.

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