St. Vincent Medical Center North is saving energy costs after undergoing recommissioning of its mechanical systems.

Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), Englewood, Colo., is utilizing multiple strategies in its quest to cut energy use by $11 million to $17 million across the system's 87 acute care hospitals by July 1, 2015.

Plans call for recommissioning and upgrading HVAC systems in the hospitals targeted as among the least efficient, and then expanding the program as capital funds are available, says Andy Woommavovah, assistant director, CHI physical asset services, facility management.

The first facility to undergo improvements was St. Vincent Medical Center North, Sherwood, Ark., after the facility was identified as having an especially high energy usage rate.

A key step to cutting energy use at St. Vincent was hiring energy engineers who determined that adjusting fan motors, installing economizers and adjusting ventilation rates, especially when the facility's cath labs and ORs are unoccupied, would cut costs.

By making existing equipment more efficient, the hospital expects to cut energy costs by a projected $76,000 annually, or 12 percent of its previous bill, Woommavovah says.

He expects St. Vincent to serve as a model as the program expands to other hospitals in the system. While recommissioning is a cornerstore of CHI's strategy, it also is implementing other actions to get a better grip on energy use in all of its facilities, which are located in 18 states.

National Information Solutions Cooperative, a service of HealthTrust, CHI's purchasing group, accounts for the health care system's utility obligations bills and also gathers energy usage data for CHI to analyze. The data will enable CHI to establish a national energy management initiative utilizing dashboards to monitor the energy consumption at all of its hospitals.

Dashboards will allow CHI to determine when individual hospitals are nearing a peak energy usage rate that is locked in each month by the local utilities. "By understanding when our consumption hits the peak, we now have advance notice and can start initiating plans to offset the impending peak rate," Woommavovah says.

CHI also signed on with an energy consulting firm to analyze its utility bills.