Why you need to treat HVAC as a healthcare system

Erin Browne

HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) is one of the most important yet underrated acronyms in the assisted living industry. Those heating and cooling units don’t just provide a comfortable environment for residents; they also help to ensure healthy air quality by eliminating air-borne contaminants.

Older adults are perhaps the largest part of our population and the most dependent on efficient HVAC operations — and their numbers are rapidly growing. According to the National Center for Assisted Living, more than 835,000 Americans currently are residing in assisted living communities, and by the year 2040, the 85-plus population is expected to triple, going from 5.7 million in 2011 to 14.1 million. It’s time we viewed HVAC as a healthcare system.


Assisted living communities need to view HVAC units with the same degree of importance as any other piece of health-related equipment. Unfortunately, many facilities consider them as just another utility, such as electricity or water, when in fact they are so much more.

  • Air filter changes decrease the spreading of diseases.
  • Elderly residents are sensitive to temperature extremes; heatstroke can occur if temperatures get too high, and reduced circulation can occur if the air is too cold.
  • Particulates and contaminants can interfere with already-compromised respiratory systems.

Regular HVAC maintenance reduces the need for costly repairs or expensive emergency service calls. HVAC systems, however, often fall into that out-of-sight, out-of-mind category and are only paid attention to when they are not functioning — the same as water or electricity. Many assisted living communities are operating HVAC units past their life expectancies, but they are kept in service because replacing them is an extremely expensive undertaking. In fact, commercial HVAC installation costs can range from $7,000 to $30,000, depending on the system and its size.

Unfortunately, the continued operation of inefficient units can drain hundreds of extra dollars from the checking account due to higher energy consumption. It’s a conundrum: spend $30,000 upfront to replace outdated equipment, or continue to spend more monthly funds to operate an inefficient system until it breaks down. But for assisted living communities, there is a third choice: partner with an energy efficiency as a service, or EEaaS, provider.

EEaaS can help ensure HVAC is healthcare system

An EEaaS company can provide the capital and assume the total HVAC upgrades as part of a comprehensive efficiency solution, offering the funding and labor to get the systems running at peak efficiency or to replace them with top-of-the-line new equipment. In addition to this tasks, such organizations will replace all standard thermostats with smart thermostats that self-regulate temperatures for optimal comfort and energy consumption. Finally, the assisted living community will receive the ability to keep track of energy use from a desktop or mobile app, all as part of a comprehensive energy efficiency solution.

Addressing HVAC inefficiencies while at the same time ensuring the health of residents through routine filter changes can reduce energy use by 25% in senior communities. Addressing energy efficiency for an assisted living community allows operators to recoup the hundreds of extra dollars wasted monthly on inefficient HVAC operations. In addition, it frees up capital needed for other services enhancements while helping to build a reputation for top-quality care and customer satisfaction.

Don’t view your HVAC systems as simply another utility, but rather as part of the assisted living community’s healthcare system. If funds are not readily available to properly service them, then an EEaaS provider can offer a no-cost upgrade solution and take the burden off your shoulders.

As founder and CEO of Budderfly, Al Subbloie is focused on disrupting the energy management space through a unique and highly compelling energy-as-a-service technology solution. His 35 years of experience include founding three companies and serving as board member on several software and managed services companies. Subbloie is passionate about creating highly successful, disruptive go-to-market growth models.

The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living marketplace column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.

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Why you need to treat HVAC as a healthcare system

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