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New clinical air systems save water and energy

Providing compressed air and vacuum power (suction) for use in clinical procedures, surgery and to serve patient rooms is vital for ongoing hospital operations. And now, thanks to a major equipment replacement project, those services use a lot less electricity and water. 

The Medical School’s facilities team has recently completed the replacement of two legacy medical vacuum systems and one medical compressed air system that serve UMass Memorial Medical Center’s hospital building on the University Campus. 

“This was original equipment, from when the hospital was built,” said Matthew Stelmach, senior electrical project manager in the school’s facilities department. “The new systems are several generations ahead in technology, and the savings will be substantial.” 

The new systems are expected to save 483,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year as well as 4 million gallons of water annually. 

“The old technology used a lot of water, both for cooling the equipment and for creating the seals needed for the vacuum systems to function,” Stelmach said. “The new technology is more ‘right-sized’ for the needs of the hospital and they don’t use water in the same way, so the impact is tremendous.” 

The new systems also have variable speed drives, so they can ramp-up, or ramp-down, as demand requires, and are not always running at peak power like the old systems they replaced, Stelmach noted. 

KMD Mechanical Corp. of Worcester was the contractor for the project, which cost approximately $485,000. Given the expected savings in electricity and water usage, coupled with a reduction in maintenance hours that had been required for the old equipment, the new systems are expected to pay for themselves in six years. 

“This was a project our facilities team had identified as a real opportunity, both to replace aging equipment and for realizing significant energy savings,” said Melissa Lucas, sustainability and energy manager at the Medical School. “We have a working group that meets regularly to share ideas and to look for ways we can improve our energy-efficiency, with projects large and small, because it all adds up to making for a more sustainable campus.”