How Are Steam Boilers Used in Hospitals?
When we think of the uses of steam in a health care setting, we typically think about the steam that may be used inpatient treatment. For example, warm medical steam is often used in the treatment of sinusitis, steam inhalers may be used to clear nasal passages, and steam therapy may be used in some holistic settings to open pores or help people relax. But on a broader level, steam serves as an essential element for hospitals and other healthcare facilities to function. If the boiler system in a hospital were to shut down, it’s not an exaggeration to say the whole hospital would have to shut down.
On the surface, doctors, nurses, and X-ray machines may seem like the most important things in a hospital. To be fair, those are all essential items, particularly the doctors and nurses. But behind the scenes, a reliable boiler system is absolutely critical to proper care. To explain, let’s take a look at all the ways boilers are used for medical steam in hospitals.
The most obvious use of boilers in any building, including hospitals, is typically heating for the facility. A reliable steam boiler is one of the most economical ways to provide heat across a large space, especially one with multiple floors. The steam produced by boilers gets pumped throughout the hospital and is responsible for keeping both patients and staff warm throughout the day and night. Even in warmer climates, most hospitals need their boiler working hard early in the morning to make sure every room in the hospital reaches a comfortable temperature.
In hospitals, keeping a comfortable temperature is important, but maintaining the right level of humidity can be just as important. For the most part, the relative humidity inside a hospital needs to be somewhere between 30% and 60%, depending on the specific hospital. Certain viruses, most notably the flu, are more likely to survive in environments that have particularly high or particularly low humidity. The same is true for the growth of certain types of mold and bacteria.
Obviously, a hospital needs to limit the presence of these pathogens as much as possible. This is where a good boiler system comes in handy, as the steam produced helps keep the relative humidity inside the hospital at an appropriate level. After all, people inside hospitals are usually the most vulnerable to diseases and harmful substances. The boiler system can effectively serve as an area-wide humidifier, and healthcare professionals can adjust settings to make sure the air in the room has the proper amount of moisture.
Hospitals use a wide array of medical equipment, tools, and instruments, especially those used to perform surgeries. Of course, those utensils need to be sterilized before they are used on a sick patient. This is another important use of boilers in hospitals. A portion of the steam produced by boilers gets pumped into an autoclave sterilizer, which is usually located in a lab or surgical area. The hot steam helps to kill any germs and bacteria on medical tools, making sure they are free of any harmful microorganisms. Steam heat is also a safer way to sterilize than using potentially harmful chemical agents.
Most people who visit hospitals never see the laundry room, but if they did, they’d understand the massive amounts of laundry hospitals do on a daily basis. After all, patients need all of the gowns, sheets, and towels they use to be completely clean and free of germs. Hospital boiler systems thus need to be robust enough to produce all the steam necessary to heat the water used in the laundry room. In fact, it’s common for the laundry room of a hospital to have its own boiler separate from the main steam plant, which tells you how much hospital laundry rooms rely on steam from boilers.
Much like the laundry room, most people don’t realize how much hospital kitchens rely on the boiler system. The kitchen staff must prepare meals for every patient in the hospital, as well as most of the staff and visitors. Cooking all of those meals requires a lot of hot water, not to mention all the dishes that need to be cleaned and sterilized before they can be used again. Keeping that in mind, it should be easy to see why the hospital boiler system plays an important role in the kitchen.
The Best Boiler System for Medical Steam
Clearly, hospitals need a boiler that’s reliable and operating at a high level of efficiency in order to meet their huge steam needs. But a good boiler system is about more than just providing adequate amounts of steam. Hospitals also typically operate on tight budgets, and their steam demands may fluctuate often during the day. Using a conventional fire tube boiler system, a hospital may have all the steam it needs, but it will come at the expense of efficiency. Since a standard boiler takes hours to fire up, it may need to be kept running even during periods of low demand, keeping energy bills high. This may also pose a problem in areas where emission standards are strict.
For these reasons, many hospitals are turning to Miura boiler systems to help with their steam needs. Miura’s water tube design is much more energy-efficient than conventional fire tube designs, and Miura boilers have a low NOx emission rate that helps protect the environment. A water tube boiler can go from a cold start to steam heat in 5 minutes or less, which saves considerably on fuel costs and allows boilers to be powered down when demand is low. In addition, Miura’s compact modular design allows multiple boilers to be used in tandem so individual boilers can be fired up and shut down in accordance with fluctuating demands throughout the day. This type of configuration also provides much-needed redundancy so the hospital ultimately never loses steam, even if a unit goes down and requires servicing.
Many hospitals have seen a significant increase in their efficiency and a significant decrease in their energy costs after installing Miura boilers into their steam plant.