As I travel across the country and speak with hospital facility directors, a number of common themes emerge during the conversations. Reduced margins leading to reduced capital budgets, the need to more efficiently use existing floor space, and the maintenance of aging hospital infrastructure with reduced maintenance staffs are among the challenges facing healthcare facilities and the people who keep them operating. As is the case in many situations, technology can help solve these challenges. I have seen one specific application of new technology used in many renovation projects which include replacement of electrical power distribution equipment, and that solution is SF6 based medium voltage switchgear.
SF6 switchgear such as Schneider Electric’s HVLcc and HVLcb power distribution products should be considered for hospital renovation projects because it has many advantages in retrofit applications. First, SF6 technology allows for a much smaller piece of equipment which frees up valuable floor space for other use. The insulating properties of SF6 gas are superior to the insulating properties of air, allowing for a typical space savings of up to 75% when compared to traditional medium voltage products. Second, SF6 based designs typically cost less than traditional medium voltage equipment. This is especially beneficial in today’s environment of declining healthcare margins and reduced capital budgets. Additionally, the sealed nature of SF6 insulated equipment equates to reduced maintenance requirements and increased equipment reliability. Reducing maintenance loads on already stretched-thin maintenance departments has added value in today’s hospital environment.
Finally, SF6 based designs typically have features such as better compartmentalization, live line indication, and a grounding switch that provide an additional level of safety that should align with the values and mission of healthcare organizations.
If presented with an opportunity to replace medium voltage power distribution equipment in a hospital setting, facility directors and engineers should consider a departure from traditional air insulated designs and explore SF6 based equipment. The space savings, cost savings, reduced maintenance requirements, and safety of this newer technology make it a perfect fit for healthcare facilities.