If you’ve ever been in hospital yourself, or visited a loved one there, you’ll know that you get food on a daily basis and your bedding is changed regularly. And this isn’t just a task that’s being completed for you - it’s a job that needs to be done for all of the patients in the hospital.
There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that goes on in a hospital so that it can run efficiently and in a hygienic way. A team of people will prepare all of the food for your breakfast, lunch and dinner. A team is required to strip the beds when necessary and wash huge quantities of sheets and towels on a daily basis.
Have you ever thought about the amount of hot water a hospital may require in order to complete these tasks? Or how so much water is heated for use at multiple times?
We’ve created this article that aims to explain how a hospital boiler works and what uses the boiler has besides providing heat and hot water.
Most hospitals will use steam boilers. This is because they’re highly efficient and can heat a building relatively quickly without relying on gravity. But how does a boiler produce steam?
Firstly, cold water enters the system from the mains supply. The water is treated to remove any dirt and debris and then fed into a deaerator that removes air. The newly cleaned water is then fed into a boiler tank and heated. Any remaining particles and other waste are filtered out of the boiler through a pipe known as the blowdown.
As the water is heated, it begins to boil, which creates lots of steam. The steam rises and carries itself through a series of pipes within the system, heating the whole building. As the steam begins to cool back down again, it becomes condensate which collects and runs back through the deaerator to be used again.
There are many advantages of having a steam boiler. They’re highly efficient, usually around 99.5 per cent, which is extremely important for large buildings such as a hospital. This is because the steam turns into condensate, which gets reused by the boiler. They’re also very reliable, with a standard lifespan of between 20 to 30 years.
The use of steam is a very clean and hygienic way of providing hot water. The water is filtered and is evaporated and turned into condensate once it’s gone through the whole system, which makes it extra clean for cooking or washing in.
A steam boiler can produce a large quantity of hot water in quite a short space of time. This is important for a hospital where hot water is being used constantly, such as in the kitchen where dishes are being washed. Hospitals have a large quantity of towels, bedding and gowns that need to be washed every day ready for patients, too. They may require an additional hot water boiler that provides hot water for the laundry, but a high pressure steam boiler would be able to cope with this hot water usage.
Hospitals don’t just use a steam boiler to heat the building or provide hot water. The boiler has lots of additional uses as well.
For example, the steam produced by the boiler can be used to sterilise medical equipment. The steam created is pumped into an autoclave steriliser, where doctors and nurses can put the equipment and tools for them to be thoroughly cleaned and to kill any germs.
Besides heat and hot water, the most important reason for having a steam boiler is to ensure that the humidity of the hospital can remain within a certain percentile. As set out in regulations by the European Parliament, ideal temperature and humidity conditions need to be maintained throughout hospitals, particularly in operating theatres. Low-temperature steam is released into the air inside the hospital via equipment that can monitor the humidity.
Humidity control is a requirement to keep certain germs and diseases at bay so they aren’t passed around to other patients. The growth of bacteria can depend on temperature and humidity and some viruses, such as flu, are more likely to survive in high or low humidity. This means that keeping a mid range of humidity, between 30 and 60 per cent, can prevent the spreading of germs and viruses. It is also in place to make the patients more comfortable. At this level of humidity, they’ll be less likely to suffer from a dry throat or cough and it can also reduce the amount of airborne dust.
A boiler room, sometimes known as a mechanical room, is a space that’s dedicated to housing the mechanical and electrical equipment. Boiler rooms can hold anything from heat exchangers to water tanks, water pumps and HVAC machines (heating, ventilation and air conditioning). The rooms can get very warm, so some form of venting or air conditioning is normally required to bring the overall room temperature down. However, a hot boiler room can suggest that the appliances are losing too much heat and therefore aren’t running as efficiently as they should be. All of the equipment should have insulation jackets on to reduce heat loss.
The boiler room in a hospital is usually located in the centre of the hospital and is run and maintained by a small team of people.