Seniors care facilities take care of our elderly populations. The vulnerability of our seniors’ health, and the importance of building air filtration and air quality, is perhaps most exemplified by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Evidence on the non-energy benefits of energy efficiency, including improved occupant comfort and wellness, is growing. Non-energy benefits are an important consideration for seniors care facilities whose residents can go day-to-day battling health and wellness-related issues. As a use case example, a U.S. seniors care facility tried tunable light-emitting diode (LED) lighting systems. During the trial, the facility staff observed improvement to resident sleep schedules as the lights helped suppress melatonin levels during the day. Reduced levels of resident agitation was also observed during the trial period.[1]

Tunable LED lighting systems are one example of energy efficiency retrofit measures for seniors care facilities. No-cost and low-cost measures that fall under operations and maintenance (O&M) staff and budgets can reduce energy use by 15% or more. These measures are outlined in the first table below.

Table 1: No-cost and low-cost energy and water conservation measures for seniors care facilities

Measure Type Measure Name Measure Description
Lighting Optimize exterior light scheduling using photocell sensors Use a photocell sensor(s) to turn exterior building lights on and off 30 to 60 minutes after sunset and before sunrise, respectively. Photocells detect sunrise and sunset accurately making them more energy-efficient than clock-based timers that may lose sync with night and daytime over the course of a year.
Lighting Install LEDs in exit signs Since they run 24/7, install LEDs in exit signs to maximize their efficiency.
Electric Load Add timers to AC-DC elevator motors Add or repair any damaged timers on AC-DC elevator motor converters to prevent continuous running.
Envelope Replace damaged door weatherstripping Make sure that damaged weatherstripping is replaced and drafts are eliminated on doors including exterior, unit, and hallways doors.
Envelope Eliminate Leakage Use an infrared camera to identify and remedy building energy leak points. As-built drawings can also help in the leakage identification process.
HVAC Reduce corridor thermostats Corridor thermostats do not need to be kept to the same temperature as suites. Corridor thermostats can usually be set to 16-18 °C  without sacrificing occupant comfort.
HVAC Install extended surface area air filter If both pre- and final filters are utilized in the HVAC system, replacing both with an extended surface area filter can help the system run more efficiently.
HVAC Clean heating and cooling coils and fins In the air handling unit (AHU), clean the heating and cooling exchanger’s coils and fins to maximize efficiency.
HVAC Repair leaky ductwork Repair ductwork leaks to ensure the HVAC system is operating efficiently with no duct leakage.
HVAC Adopt a regular HVAC schedule HVAC systems should be inspected and adjusted twice a year to ensure proper functioning. In cold climates, this can be done before the winter and summer seasons.
HVAC Calibrate HVAC air and water sensors Building operators should ensure the sensors (e.g., temperature, humidity, pressure, flow) that optimize building heating and cooling are calibrated periodically to ensure proper function.
HVAC Reset supply air-temperature setpoint This feature of an HVAC system allows the air temperature supplied to the building’s zones (rooms) to be adjusted automatically to the zone’s needs, rather than supplying at a constant air temperature.
HVAC Economizer Maintenance When outside temperatures permit, make sure economizers are functional and utilize outside air temperatures in meeting building heating and cooling loads. This is a good step to reduce unneeded mechanical heating or cooling.
HVAC Chiller and cooling tower maintenance For buildings with chiller and cooling tower systems, regular maintenance, including cleaning, will ensure the system is operating at peak efficiency.
Domestic Hot Water Lower Domestic Hot Water (DHW) temperature set point There may be opportunities for Domestic Hot Water (DHW) set-points temperatures to be reduced (e.g., if currently set at 136.5℉ or higher).
HVAC Inspect and repair damaged pipe insulation Make sure the heating and cooling system piping system, including the domestic hot water loop, is properly insulated. This measure ensures maintenance staff safety as well as maximizes system efficiency.
HVAC Chilled water temperature reset During periods of low cooling load needs, increase the setpoint of the water chiller to increase efficiency.
Domestic Hot Water Ensure proper boiler combustion efficiency Conduct a combustion analysis and a carbon monoxide test at least once a year to ensure efficiency and safety
Water Use Repair leaky faucets Repairing leaky faucets reduces water waste
Water Use Adopt water-friendly landscaping Landscaping with plants having low water needs (such as native plants) can reduce the outdoor water use on your property.
Education / Training Employee education and training This measure involves energy and water conservation awareness and training for employees, residents, and visitors. Empowering and engaging employees can go a long way in your efficiency improvement goals.

Here are deeper retrofit opportunities for seniors care facilities that cover lighting, water use reduction, plug loads, tightening of the building envelope, and on-site generation.

Table 2: Deeper energy and water conservation measures for seniors care facilities

Measure Type Measure Name Measure Description
Domestic Water Install low-flow faucets, showerheads, and dual-flush toilets Install low-flow faucets, showerheads and dual flush toilets in suites and common areas can reduce the amount of water used during day-to-day occupant life without impacting the occupant’s experience.
Plug Load Replace older mini-fridges in resident suites (if applicable) Old mini-fridges that are 10 years or older should be considered for replacement with new energy-efficient options. Ensure that the old fridges are disposed of properly.
Lighting Interior lighting retrofit There are different levels of lighting retrofits. A simple lighting retrofit involves light and ballast replacement with the latest LED technology. A deeper lighting retrofit is a broader lighting redesign that can include LPD and light placement optimization, daylight harvesting, and sensor controls.
Common areas and offices can be a good starting point. When access permits, in-suite lighting upgrades can be considered.
Tunable white LED systems could be considered as new findings on their non-energy benefits, including positive health impact, emerge.
Lighting Install occupancy sensors Install occupancy sensors in transient areas such as entertainment rooms to turn lights off when vacant. This reduces energy waste from “day-burning” lights that could be intentionally or accidentally left on.
Lighting Add daylight harvesting Implement daylight harvesting to leverage natural light. When daylight is sufficient to offset indoor lights, these indoor lights can be turned off, automatically. This measure can be considered on its own or as part of a lighting retrofit.
Lighting Exterior Lighting Retrofit Retrofitting exterior lights with newer, efficient versions can increase efficiency. A full redesign based on illumination needs can be considered.
Install block heater timers In cold climate resident parking lots, cars may plug into block heater plug outlets for a whole day. Since cars only need 3-4 hours of heating per day a block heater timer can be installed to reduce the electricity consumed by car block heaters.
Plug Load Add common area office equipment on/off controls Add computer energy management software and use smart power strips to automatically turn off electronic equipment (computers, lights, etc.) in common areas when not in use. Ensure large TVs in common areas and family rooms are turned off when not in use.
Plug Load Purchase energy-efficient appliances and equipment Replace older or end-of-life equipment in common areas and suites with energy-efficient equipment (commercial kitchen appliances, minifridges, computers, printers, etc.)
Envelope Replace windows Update windows to current or emerging “net-zero” building codes. This can be done either before or at the existing windows’ end-of-life.
Envelope Upgrade wall insulation Update wall insulation to current or emerging “net-zero” building codes.  This may be combined with other envelope initiatives such as window replacement.
Envelope Add roof insulation Roofs are a main source of energy leakage. Adding to, or replacing roof insulation will help reduce energy needs. This can be most economical at the time of roof replacement.
Envelope Add a vestibule Vestibules isolate the inside environment from the outside environment during occupant entry. Vestibules prevent the loss of heated or cooled air from escaping when exterior doors open.
HVAC Install deadband thermostats and/or widen deadband zone. Usually, temperatures within a building’s zone remain comfortable between 20.6℃ (69℉) and 23.9℃ (75℉). Installing and setting deadband thermostats can maintain occupant comfort while reducing HVAC heating and cooling.
HVAC Reduce Minimum Airflow in VAV box In variable-air-volume (VAV) HVAC systems, there may be an opportunity to reduce the minimum airflow when no heating or cooling is provided, saving energy.
HVAC Replace Supply fan motor and equip with VFD or VSD Supply fan motors have become more efficient over time and replacement can be considered even before the fan’s end-of-life. Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) or Variable Speed Drives (VSDs) enhance efficiency further by modulating motor speeds at part load conditions, increasing overall building efficiency.
HVAC HVAC replacement Whether the HVAC system is at its end-of-life or the building’s function has changed and no longer aligns with the existing HVAC system, a full HVAC replacement with the latest technology will have a drastic impact on building efficiency.
HVAC Add VFD to water circulation pump A variable frequency drive (VFD) can be added to a water circulation pump to increase the efficiency at part load conditions.
HVAC Add VFD to chiller compressor The chiller can operate more efficiently at part load conditions when its compressor is equipped with a variable frequency drive (VFD)
HVAC Replace boiler with condensing boiler Condensing boilers are an energy-efficient upgrade and should be considered when replacing a boiler.
Generation Investigate onsite combined heat and power (CHP) opportunities Depending on input fuels available in your area (natural gas, biomass, etc.), a CHP system can allow your building to produce its own heat and power, reducing energy grid reliance. Discussion with internal O&M teams is a good starting point followed by preliminary technical, economic, and regulatory analysis.
Generation Investigate onsite solar generation opportunities Depending on the solar potential in your area and the layout and solar readiness of your building, installing solar photovoltaic (PV) cells for onsite generation could help offset your reliance on grid power and the power bill.  Discussion with internal O&M teams is a good starting point followed by preliminary technical, economic, and regulatory analysis.

[1] 2016. US Department of Energy. Tuning the Light in Senior Care: Evaluating a Trial LED Lighting System at the ACC Care Center in Sacramento, CA,

Learn more about how Efficiate helps senior care facility operators benefit from utility intelligence