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Energy Efficiency

Incorporating energy efficiency measures for health facilities will help to reduce future challenges associated with off-grid clinics or those with unreliable grid power supply.

Energy efficiency retrofits are a well established practice in developed country hospitals and more advanced developing countries. Energy efficiency measures can produce significant savings to a health facility’s energy bill and also allow back-up systems to work more effectively during power outages. Energy efficient equipment is particularly important for any facility which is off grid or has intermittent grid power and must rely on battery storage.

Energy efficiency aspects should be an important consideration in all new construction of health facilities in developing countries. Health facility design issues are complex – and a multitude of stakeholders need to be consulted in order to strike the correct balance between facilities that are modern, efficient, and functional. The use of air-conditioning, for instance, is an issue that deserves close examination. Air-conditioning units are notoriously sensitive to power anomalies and are difficult to keep operational in developing countries. They also draw a significant amount of power. On the other hand, climate controlled rooms are in general essential for sensitive laboratory equipment and also for sanitary purposes. Only an informed discussion between health professionals and facility engineers with a collective knowledge of the facility-specific function, power issues and climate can appropriately address this issue. The donor community should take a proactive approach to ensure that these critical discussions occur. Facilities that are built to Western standards without the corresponding reliability and quality of Western energy services can be problematic.

In addition to design, the operation of the health clinic can also affect its energy efficiency and its energy consumption. The type of equipment purchased is critical for reducing power consumption at health facilities. All loads connected to battery back-up should use energy efficient lighting. If air conditioning must be used, units with a high EER rating (ratio of BTU/watts) should be purchased. The following table shows typical appliances/devices used in rural health clinics. These health clinics can be classified into three groups i.e. from basic health clinics to small district hospitals. Training of both medical and maintenance staff is important to ensure an efficient, low-energy operation of a health facility. See further information under Energy Management.



Basic Clinic

Extended Clinic

Small District Hospital

Lights X X X
Vaccine refrigerator & ice-pack freezer X X X
Radio X X X
Refrigerator   X X
Centrifuge   X X
Microscope   X X
Mixer   X X
Autoclave   X X
Hotplate   X X
Sterilizer   X X
Water bath   X X
Fan   X X
TV   X X
Video   X X
Computer   X X
Printer   X X
Incubator     X
Spectrometer     X
Reflotron     X
X-ray unit     X
Blood storage unit     X


A health facility can significantly reduce its energy demands by using energy-efficient appliances and devices. Typically, energy-efficient equipment and appliances are more expensive than standard-efficiency models. However, this higher cost is generally recouped through the reduced capital and operating costs of a smaller electricity generation system. The following table shows energy efficiency improvement options for some appliances/devices used in health clinics.



Energy Efficiency Improvement Measures

Lights Switch to energy efficient light bulbs such as CFL or LED lamps.
Vaccine refrigerator & ice-pack freezer Energy efficient refrigerators are readily available in the market.  These refrigerators use 20% less energy.
Centrifuge Keep the rotors in refrigerators and turn off the centrifuge when not in use. Select centrifuge models that have less rotor friction which generates less heat allowing for smaller motors and compressors using less energy.
Autoclave The equipment is fitted with a timer to cycle off when not in use. This will save maintenance of replacing the element as well as save energy.
Air Conditioner Air conditioner energy efficiency is measured by the EER of the equipment. When buying new systems, buy the model with the highest EER rating. For operation, ensure coils are kept clean and that the thermostat is set on a comfortable, but not overly cool, temperature.
Computer Energy Star computers with flat screens and enabled with power management software can consume 40% less electricity than the conventional counterparts.
Printer Printers enabled with power management and duplexing features consume about 60% less energy.


Finally, energy management by health facility staff is critical to ensure energy is used efficiently. Effective energy management requires significant training of staff and oversight mechanisms and is further addressed in the Energy Management section.

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