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Don't Forget Energy When Cutting Costs is a Priority

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, April 8, 2011

I talk to a lot of senior leaders at hospitals and health systems. Lately, when asked to boil down the biggest challenge they face in coming years, the first words out of their mouths -- every single one of them -- are almost always the same:

"We've got to find new ways to squeeze cost out of the system."

Well, I've got one for you, and it's not even all that difficult to achieve: energy costs. Earth Day, is coming up, and it's as good a time as any to see if you can make some of the same changes that helped Cleveland Clinic win an Energy Star Partner of the Year award in 2011.

Cleveland Clinic spends about $1.73 a second on energy across all its facilities in Ohio, Nevada, and Florida. It's an incredible statistic, but it doesn't mean much by itself. In fact, it might seem quixotic to try to save pennies on electricity while there are bigger targets to pursue. But it's not, says John D'Angelo, the senior director of facilities at Cleveland Clinic.

"Our first building was built in 1921, and some that we've purchased are even older than that," he says. "If you look at nothing else, look at lighting."

As of 2011, for example, Cleveland Clinic has zero T-12s installed. That moniker might not mean much to you—it didn't to me—but they are very inefficient overhead lighting ballasts, says D'Angelo.

"Most organizations can get a 1- to 1.1-year payback on changing out that lighting, but nobody's looking at changing them out because the lights are still working."

Another area of opportunity lies in changing incandescent bulbs to LED or compact fluorescent bulbs. Cleveland Clinic changed out 20,000 incandescent bulbs to LEDs and several hundred thousand incandescents to compact fluorescent bulbs.

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