Energy efficiency in healthcare

Healthcare establishments can spend about half of their total energy budget on lighting and ventilation alone. When looking at efficiencies, it’s vital to take into account the comfort of practitioners and patients, while also avoiding the spreading of germs and keeping a sanitised environment.

We’ve included a spread of activities you could do to reduce energy load, while keeping everyone comfortable and helping you manage costs.

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Who is this for?

Simple no cost changes

Heating energy efficiency


  • Encourage staff to report if the temperature is too high, too low or if there are any draughts. This will prevent the opening of windows when the air conditioning is on, and the use of portable heaters which consume a lot more energy.
  • Are you using the right temperatures in different rooms? Check patients are comfortable within these suggested guidelines:
    • Bedheads/wards – 22-24°C
    • Circulation spaces/wards– 19-24°C
    • Consultation rooms – 22-24°C
    • Nurses’ stations – 19-22°C
    • Operating theatres 17-19°C
  • Make sure furniture doesn’t obstruct radiators and fans.
  • Check controls regularly to match seasonal needs and make sure thermostats are not in the wrong location to accurately reflect the ambient temperature (away from draughts and radiators, for example).
  • Turn the heating down by 2°C could save you £140 on a £1,000 bill.
  • MYTH: Turning the heating on higher warms a space up faster. TRUTH: No, it just overheats a place and potentially increase the need for ventilation.
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Specialist equipment

  • Always consider the manufacturer’s recommendation to save energy used by specialist equipment.
  • Ensure X-ray machines, film processors and other large equipment is switched off when not required.
  • When special equipment involves refrigeration, check that you are using the correct temperature, defrost and check seals regularly. Each degree can account for 2-4% of refrigeration costs.
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Raising awareness with your staff is an important step; implementing simple practices can reduce your bill by as much as 25%. Advise them to:

  • Not switch on too soon appliances too soon
  • Avoid using kitchen equipment to warm the space
  • Switch off cooking appliances immediately after use
  • Avoid overfilling saucepans and kettles
  • Use lids, keep refrigeration unit doors closed and defrost regularly
  • Switch off lights and extraction fans when not in use
  • Make sure refrigeration units are well ventilated and not placed against the wall
  • Maintain kitchen ventilation units and extractor fan filters. If they become blocked with dust and grease, they can become inefficient and consume as much as 50% more energy.
  • It's more efficient to run a dishwasher on an eco-mode that it is to wash the same load by hand.
Ventilation and air energy efficiency

Ventilation and air circulation

  • Separate clinical and non-clinical areas to make sure fresh air is used where required. Take advantage of natural ventilation where possible.
  • Decide on an outdoor temperature range (for example between 19-24°C) when neither heating nor cooling will be turned on.

MYTH: Turning air conditioning to the minimum temperature will cool the space quicker. TRUTH: No, it will drop at the same temperature but then overuses energy as it drops too low and could trigger the heating to be switched on at the same time.

Building fabric energy efficiency

Building fabric

  • Typically, two thirds of heat from a hospital or surgery is lost through the building fabric and one third through ventilation.
  • Create a maintenance and housekeeping schedule, addressing gaps in the wall or damaged windows and doors as soon as possible and get staff involved to check and report issues.
  • Check the building for damp once a year before winter to identify things like faulty gutters and repair split downpipes.
  • Use curtains and blinds to keep rooms comfortable. Close them at the end of the day during winter to help retain heat.
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Office and small power equipment

  • Turn off equipment at the end of the day. This saves energy costs, but also lowers cooling costs and extends the lifespan of the equipment. A single computer left on for 24 hours a day costs £45 per year. With turn off and standby features enabled you could reduce it to £10.
  • Make sure printers and photocopiers are in a cool place and well ventilated

MYTH: When it’s on standby, it’s off. TRUTH: No, they will continue to draw small amounts of power. You’ll recognise standby for any equipment that has a remote control or a red/green light.

Straightforward low-cost changes

Heating energy efficiency


  • Use different zones of temperature settings or thermostatic radiator valves rather than one central control.
Ventilation and air energy efficiency

Ventilation and air circulation

  • Make sure you review the performance of your ventilation and air circulation systems. If you’re not getting the desired results, there might be a fault with certain parts that you could easily replace. A system that is well maintained every year could lead to a 60% increase in efficiency.
Lighting energy efficiency


  • Regular maintenance can reduce costs by 30%; keep windows and light fittings clean, replace old and flickering laps and make sure any times or sensors are working properly and set correctly.
  • Occupancy sensors in toilets or lesser used areas such as storerooms or administrative rooms could save up to 50% on lighting costs, while daylight sensors turn artificial light off when there is enough daylight. These could be particularly efficient in car parks or for signage.
  • Replace conventional bulbs with CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs) – they last 8x longer and use 80% less energy. What’s more, LEDs could give you 30,000-50,000 extra hours of use.

Cost per lamp: LEDs vs CFLs vs halogens

  LED CFL Halogen
Watts (equivalent lamps) 6W 11W 35W
Purchase per lamp £6.00 £3.50 £2.00
Typical annual lamp use (hours) 1,000h 1,000h 1,000h
Typical lamp lifetime (in hours) 30,000h 10,000h 2,000h
Typical lamp lifetime (years) 30 years 10 years 2 years
Cost of lamp purchases over 30 years £6.00 £10.50 £30.00
Annual energy consumption per lamp 6kW 11kW 35kW
Annual electricity cost per lamp at 14.05/kW £0.84 £1.55 £4.92
Total cost per lamp per year (Averaged over a typical LED malp life - 30 years) £1.04 per year £1.90 per year £5.92 per year

*Data from the Energy Saving Trust's "Selecting low energy lighting" guide.

Long-term savings from the right investments

For larger savings from energy efficiency you might need to spend some money upfront, especially when you’re planning refurbishment already.

Heating energy efficiency


  • Only keep external doors open when necessary or, even better, consider installing automatic doors.
  • Upgrade your heating controls. For example, use a compensator which works based on external weather to regulate the temperature. Or use an optimum start controller which optimises heating based on the time it takes to reach desired temperature. These two devices could give you a return on investment in about two years.
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Specialist equipment

  • Use a cascade system to make the flow of air more efficient from the cleanest spaces that need sterile environments, to neutral and then to dirty areas.
  • Consider the total running cost when purchasing new equipment, not just what is spent upfront.
  • Minimise motor load by using variable speed controls and controlling when these motors should be on as they can consume 100 times their value in electricity over their lifetime.
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  • Buy energy rated A+ equipment, preferably with built-in sensors that automatically switch off when not in use.
  • Consider heat recovery from the kitchen to be used for heating water. The Carbon Trust has a guide that can help you understand how it works.
Ventilation and air energy efficiency

Ventilation and air circulation

  • Match requirements at different times of the day with variable speed drives for fans.
Building fabric energy efficiency

Building fabric

  • Consider improving window glazing. The most efficient is triple glazing, or you can also coat windows for insulation.
  • Did you know that insulating pipework can reduce energy losses by 70%?

Action plan


Start by making a note of your current consumption.

By default, your smart meter will record consumption data in 30-minute intervals. You can use this starting point as a benchmark.


Do you notice any variations during the year?

Make a note of them and think about what could cause them. For example, if your business is affected by the weather, you could save energy by investing in better insulation and save money in the long term.


Benchmark your current energy use

How does it compare to last year or last season? Make sure you analyse similar time periods (for example, December 2018 with December 2019) to make sure the improvement in efficiency isn’t influenced by other factors.


How much are you going to reduce your consumption by?

Set a realistic goal and a target date of when you’ll measure consumption again to track how you’re doing.


Choose the steps you’ll take to achieve those goals

Use the categories above to put advice into practice and involve your employees. To motivate staff, try to make it into a competition. Why not offer a free meal out to the team that comes up with the most energy saving ideas or commit to donating the savings to a local charity that they choose?


Make the changes and measure the results

Communicate all improvements with your staff, no matter how small, to encourage an energy efficient state of mind. And when you're ready to make more changes to become energy efficient, come back to this action plan and start again.

The facts, figures and advice have been sourced from the Carbon Trust, Energy Trust and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (formerly known as the Department of Energy and Climate Change).