How to Optimize HVAC Comfort in Senior Living Facilities
Consumer Affairs reports that more than 810,000 people are residents of approximately 30,000 U.S. assisted living facilities and expects that number to rise as the population ages. Estimates suggest the nation will need approximately one million new senior living units by 2040.
Since older adults are often cold, it’s important to ensure temperatures in senior living facilities are comfortable, which is easier than ever with newer HVAC technology. As people age, they become more temperature-sensitive because of a decrease in their metabolic rate, poor circulation and the thinning of their skin.
Facility operators can increase occupant comfort by helping to improve temperatures in living spaces and providing better indoor air quality (IAQ), while simultaneously decreasing energy bills by replacing older HVAC equipment. All these areas are important as the senior population grows and will be increasingly looking for assisted living facilities where they can spend their golden years.
Comfortable occupants are happier
The right HVAC system, like an all-electric Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) heat recovery solution, can significantly improve comfort levels while providing sustainable, cost-efficient operation. HVAC zoning in individual rooms gives occupants and staff control over their own comfort with the ability to heat and air-condition spaces according to their preferences.
A comfortable work environment is important for staff and caregivers’ health, well-being and attitudes. When these groups are happier, they’re more likely to provide better care, leading to higher satisfaction among residents.
Another consideration is IAQ: concentrations of some indoor pollutants can be two to five times greater than they are outdoors. Contaminated air can be detrimental to vulnerable individuals like older adults in assisted living facility facilities.
Pollutants like cleaning supplies, building materials and furnishings can cause red, sore eyes, dizziness, burning noses and throats, headaches and fatigue. Pollutants can also exacerbate respiratory diseases and conditions like asthma, cystic fibrosis and bronchitis.
VRF zoning technology is a great choice for facilities that need zoned heating and improved IAQ. In addition to the precision control provided by zoning, VRF systems provide the following important benefits:
- Lower lifecycle cost than conventional HVAC solutions because of ease of design and installation, minimal maintenance, superior energy efficiency and long-lasting components.
- Energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) reduce toxins, odors, bacteria and other contaminants by exhausting them to the outside while also diluting them with incoming fresh air. ERVs also improve HVAC system efficiency by preheating or cooling incoming outside air with energy from the exhaust air.
- Quiet operation: indoor units like a whisper (as low as 22 dB(A)), outdoor units like a conversation (as low as 55 dB(A)).
Further, sensors on select remote controllers and indoor units monitor temperature, humidity, lighting, and occupancy, which can adjust automatically to improve comfort control and system efficiency.
Energy-efficient HVAC equipment reduces energy bills
While residents, staff and caregivers crave comfortable indoor air, senior living facility managers must always keep an eye on costs. Approximately 40% of a building’s energy usage comes from HVAC systems, and older, inefficient, conventional fossil-fuel systems can easily increase those costs. One of the best ways to cut down on monthly energy bills is to replace older HVAC systems with newer, more energy-efficient technology.
High-performance, all-electric VRF systems use an inverter compressor, which can decrease or increase its output depending on heating or cooling needs. Inverter-driven compressors switch to flexible speeds, allowing the HVAC system to consume less energy when extra heating or cooling needs are down.
The Claiborne at Shoe Creek is a luxurious, senior living community with 70 assisted living and 30 memory care apartments located in Central, La. Equipped with Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US (METUS) HVAC solutions with inverter-driven compressors, the systems heat or cool the spaces being used, while maximizing energy efficiency and minimizing costs. Since the HVAC units come with an advanced filtration process, occupants benefit from healthier buildings with improved indoor air quality (IEQ) and greater thermal comfort.
Much farther north in Rice Lake, Wis., the 29-unit Brentwood Senior Community relies on Mitsubishi Trane’s CITY MUTLI VRF zoning system with heat recovery. The system only operates at levels to maintain consistent and comfortable indoor environments, depending on the occupants’ needs.
VRF technology increases facilities’ sustainability initiatives
Since they automatically run less when cooling or heating needs are down, VRF systems are more environmentally friendly – helping to reduce senior living facilities’ carbon footprint.
VRF systems contribute to the certification and marketability of high-performance and sustainable buildings. The technology repurposes heat from ambient outdoor air or a nearby water source to heat interior zones. In doing so, VRF systems are more sustainable than fossil-fuel-reliant systems.
Further, VRF systems engineered for heat recovery can redirect heat from zones in cooling mode to zones in heating mode. Warming up areas with heat that would be otherwise wasted improves sustainability and a building’s overall carbon footprint.
Mitsubishi Electric Trane helps ensure VRF-equipped assisted living facilities help keep seniors’ and staff members’ air quality not only clean but comfortable. The company’s HVAC technology also helps assisted living facility managers keep energy costs at bay. In working to please occupants and managers, everybody wins.