Greg Swafford (center) of GF Piping Systems demonstrates the centralized control interface of GF’s Hycleen automation system for Dan Burns (left), director of plant operations at the Community Hospital of Staunton, and David Bohn (right), senior maintenance technician.

Photo courtesy of GF Piping Systems

Established in 1951, the Community Hospital of Staunton, Ill., provides a rural area of southwest Illinois with vital access to health care. In common with more than two-thirds of rural hospitals in the U.S., the center is classified as a critical access hospital (CAH).

The 25-bed, short-stay facility offers round-the-clock emergency treatment, and specialty services on-site include cardiology, obstetrics and gynecology, oncology, orthopedics and pain management. In 2023, Community Hospital was honored by the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network for its rank in the top 10% of CAHs for quality of care.

Until recently, the hospital faced a problem all too common in large, complex building systems: long wait times for hot water. Circuits farther from the heat source struggled to reach desired temperatures, creating frustration and discomfort for users.

Facilities managers also wished to improve residual disinfectant levels in the water supply. As part of its Legionella mitigation strategy, Community Hospital relied on a program of manual flushing to combat stagnation and maintain minimum chlorine levels. However, routine testing showed that total chlorine measurements were falling short of the target. The hospital also was experiencing unsightly discoloration after manual flushing cycles.

To bring its water supply back in balance, Community Hospital consulted GF Piping Systems, Irvine, Calif., a manufacturer of automated solutions for fluid transport. After evaluating the hospital’s blueprint, GF recommended the Hycleen automation system.

To implement this solution, automated balancing valves were installed throughout the network, replacing the hospital’s existing mechanical valves. On GF’s recommendation, automated flushing valves were added to the system as well. Plug-and-play components and a single cable for electricity and data helped to simplify installation.

With the Hycleen system in place, sensors now report data continuously to a central master control unit that activates valves as needed to maintain desired parameters. Managers can change settings or view system status in real time through an intuitive touch-screen interface.

“I compare it to building automation, where thermostats used to be the control for each room, but now you have centralized systems where you can see the whole building,” says David Bohn, senior maintenance technician at Community Hospital. “This does that for hot water loop balancing.” If desired, Hycleen can be integrated into building automation platforms, and managers also can choose to operate Hycleen remotely through a smartphone or tablet.

“Hycleen allows us to rebalance the entire system constantly,” says Dan Burns, director of plant operations at Community Hospital. “I think the single biggest value for us is the centralized control system — being able to access the information from all the valves in that one place, to see what the system’s doing and to analyze where there may be an issue. I’m able to go there and know what the temperatures are in all of the loops, and then I’m able to control those, globally or individually.” Hycleen’s data logging capabilities also assist with regulatory compliance.

Once Hycleen was installed, hot water wait times at Community Hospital showed marked improvement, with time-to-temperature commonly cut in half. For one wall sink, a wait time of more than 90 seconds fell to just 17 seconds. “Since we’ve had the Hycleen system, I haven’t seen brown water, and I haven’t had complaints that somebody’s had to take a cold shower,” Bohn says.

Total chlorine readings improved as well. Examining the same four-month period of the year before and after the installation of Hycleen, average disinfectant residual levels across the hospital were found to have risen 60% for cold water, from 1.29 milligrams per liter to 2.06. For hot water, the levels had more than doubled, from 0.27 milligrams per liter to 0.63.

“Water quality is important in any facility, but particularly in the health care field. There are more eyes looking and stricter regulations,” Burns says. “As our water management criteria get stricter and we work through the process of meeting the standards, Hycleen allows us to stay ahead.”