One of the easiest ways to improve energy efficiency is to install LED light bulbs, which operate at 15-20 watts whilst giving out the same lumens as a 100w incandescent bulb. Lights in care homes are on for long periods during the day, so particularly in corridors and communal areas, this is an easy way to be more energy efficient!

LED lamps have developed greatly over the years, starting off emitting very blue light but now available in various levels of colour from very blue to yellow. This is particularly important for care homes, as residents spend a lot of time indoors under artificial lighting and are therefore highly exposed to the light. Blue light signifies daytime, and yellow light signifies mornings and evenings. Newer (and therefore quite expensive) technology allows lights to change colour during the day, to mimic natural daylight and support residents’ circadian rhythms.

It is also worthwhile installing PIR motion sensor switching in cupboards and communal stairwells, where lights are often left on unnecessarily.

Heat exchange air handling is difficult to fit retrospectively, but is my number one requirement in a newbuild property. Newbuilds have very high thermal standards, which includes air leakage, which is designed to perform thermally with doors and windows shut. But care homes require good ventilation, with bedroom windows often left open throughout winter days with the heating bellowing out. Air handling seeks to bring in fresh clean air from outside, via a filter to remove any micro-particulates. The heat exchange brings cold clean air into the building and extracts warm old stale air from the building within one unit, and transfers some of the heat from the outgoing stale air to the incoming clean air.

Solar Voltaic Arrays were good when the Government was offering FIT (feed in tariffs), and they can be used to offset the energy requirements for a new build care home to help meet BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method). If you are considering this, look closely at the cost v return calculation, and for any incentives like FIT.

When it comes to water harvesting there are two types – Grey and Rain. ‘Grey’ is wastewater from places like basins which is recycled to flush toilets. It is not recommended in care homes due to the strict requirements for the hygiene of water (ACoP L8), as the residents are in a very high-risk category for Legionnaires Disease. Rainwater harvesting diverts water from the gutters and paving into a storage tank, which is then used for watering gardens.

Air source heat pumps & comfort cooling (Air to Air) can be retrofitted very easily. They are the same as air conditioning units, but have built in invertors. In the winter they can heat the air inside by taking heat from the cold air outside (they work like a fridge in reverse), and then in the summer they can be switched to cool inside. These are great as the electricity use is a fraction of the heat benefit received, with the added bonus that they can be used for cooling in the summer. During the summer overheating is a huge problem in care homes, so having an air source heat pump in communal lounges will reduce or eliminate the problem. However, be careful not to use the air conditioning to cool the air whilst the radiators are still on – I have seen this happen many times!

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