The healthcare sector is increasingly struggling to address serious maintenance concerns within its estates. Backlog maintenance, also known as deferred maintenance, is overdue essential work required to bring a building or asset up to standard and includes everything from updates to the building fabric, to the condition of the equipment used within it.
In the UK, backlog maintenance is one of the most pressing issues facing the NHS and elsewhere, facilities managers and providers in Canada, America and Europe face site bills that run into the millions. So, what are the options for hospitals looking to reduce their backlog bill?
Full steam ahead
Heating and hot water systems are some of the largest maintenance drains on a Hospital. Everything, from the heat sources, be it Boilers, CHP or heat pumps, to the pipework and heat exchangers need to be maintained. Such systems are vital to the running of a Hospital and applications such as heating, Domestic Hot Water (DWH) for washing and cooking, sterilization and laundry all rely on well-maintained equipment. Put simply; without an effective heating and hot water system, a Hospital cannot function – putting patients and staff at risk.
Steam remains one of the most effective ways of transporting large quantities of heat energy around a Hospital. It has several advantages over other heating technologies, such as Medium Temperature Hot Water (MTHW), and many sites, especially bigger hospitals with a large footprint, use steam to provide hot water, space heating and sterilization services where needed.
With this in mind, one of the simplest solutions to minimizing the maintenance bill is to address the steam system.
Why does steam maintenance matter?
Within any steam system, maintenance is paramount. Recognizing and avoiding leaks ensures a system runs efficiently and safely, with optimal fuel use. Effective steam trapping is key since failed traps not only waste energy, they can also result in live steam loss or water hammer. In the case of water hammer, instead of condensate being safely discharged, it powers through a system causing noise and seriously damaging pipework which can have dangerous consequences.
Due to their moving parts, mechanical steam traps are subject to failure, breakdown and wear and tear. With an average annual failure rate of between 5 – 10%, traditional steam traps are a real contributor to a site’s backlog maintenance bill with some having hundreds of traps needing to be surveyed and replaced.
GEM – a permanent solution
In a hospital of 400 beds the hourly steam requirement is around 3mW, requiring 150 steam traps on site. Each year, an average of 10% of these fail – costing the estate £5,000 ($8,000 CAD) in maintenance each year. Without regular review, over five years this bill can grow to over £25,000 ($42,000 CAD), and cause major downtime of the heating and hot water systems.
In response, an increasing number of hospitals are turning to GEM Steam Trap technology in an approach that permanently solves reoccurring maintenance issues and eliminates backlog maintenance caused by unreliable mechanical steam traps.
The GEM Steam Trap uses an orifice and multi-staged throat design to manage condensate flow rate. Instead of opening and closing, it harnesses flash steam to create a condensate seal which allows condensate to continuously discharge from the trap at variable rates, without the loss of live steam.
Each GEM Trap comes with a 10-year performance guarantee which reduces maintenance costs since annual spend on new steam traps is minimized (or removed entirely) and less time and effort is required to maintain the system.
Once installed, GEM Traps are easily maintained and serviced. With no moving parts to break or fail, maintenance and operations professionals are able to prioritize other areas of deferred maintenance not relating to steam traps, further decreasing the backlog.
To find out how steam system efficiencies can reduce your backlog maintenance, make an appointment to talk to us at the Canadian Healthcare Engineering Society’s annual conference (CHES) or contact us for more information.