Priming pumps and plant rooms for a net-zero NHS

  • 7th February 2024

There are clear and ambitious targets in place to get the NHS to net zero, but identifying a route for such a complex system is going to be particularly challenging. And key to this is navigating plant rooms and pumps, which are safety critical to healthcare settings. This is why it is imperative they are specified and maintained correctly, as Jason Hartigan, specification sales manager at Wilo UK explains


Healthcare settings must run like clockwork to ensure patient safety is prioritised at all times.

At the beating heart of hospital services, hidden away from patients, most staff, and members of the general public, are plant rooms.

Within these rooms, the vital organs of hospitals are stored, transporting water and other mission-critical supplies around the building.

And this is where you will find circulating and booster pumps, distributing hot and cold water to the main arteries of a hospital.

These plant rooms and pumps cannot fail. If they do, disaster can strike, leading to disrupted operations, surgical wards shutting down, and the creation of unsafe environments for both patients and staff.

At a time where the NHS is under immense stress with a growing backlog of patients in need of medical care, this is simply not an option.

The beating heart

Alongside the safety aspect, it is essential that these plant rooms operate efficiently.

The NHS contributes roughly 4-5% of the UK’s total carbon emissions, with the NHS in England alone responsible for 40% of the public sector’s emissions, so bringing these figures down is a must to get to the NHS’s goal of becoming net zero by 2045.

This is why the beating heart of healthcare settings, plant rooms, and pumps also require a level of ‘medical’ attention.

A challenge for asset managers

As plant rooms and pumps essentially keep healthcare properties up and running, they require regular, specialist monitoring for accurate and efficient operational levels.

Industry professionals will be aware that individual pumps have various levels of ‘health’ which deteriorates over time.

And while the responsibility of monitoring the health of pumps in a plant room generally falls to estate managers, they are often overloaded with other tasks, which means that individual pumps can be overlooked.

Due to estate managers moving between healthcare settings, too, one of the biggest challenges is that managers are unaware of the equipment that resides within a plant room and may not have an up-to-date asset list. This, in turn, means managers do not know when equipment was installed, who it was installed by, and when it needs to be serviced or replaced.

Since estate managers tend to spread their expertise across a wide subject field, it is also the case that many do not have enough specialist knowledge on pumps in particular.

This is why it is key that specialists from the pump industry are brought on board to establish clear maintenance schedules within healthcare settings.

As plant rooms and pumps keep healthcare properties up and running, they require regular, specialist monitoring for accurate and efficient operational levels

Pumps in difficult places

Alongside challenges of not having the historical background of a plant room and the equipment within, these areas are notoriously difficult to navigate, let alone going in to assess the condition of individual assets.

Often, plant rooms are located in difficult places to access with numerous complications around them.

For instance, a plant room may be located on top of a hospital, with poor access. And pumps that need replacing in these areas, particularly bigger, heavier pumps, will require careful planning and consideration, from demounting the existing pump, removing it off site, and then craning any new pumps in.

The importance of professionals

Given these challenges, seeking expert advice and consulting with pump manufacturers is crucial for asset and plant managers to ensure plant rooms stay in tip-top condition.

Reputable suppliers can offer expertise which consolidate and enhance existing assets.

From here, an asset list can be drawn up, and thereafter an effective maintenance schedule can be deployed.

A straightforward-yet-effective planned preventative maintenance (PPM) schedule is the traffic light system, which ranks equipment from red to green.

Quite simply, equipment ranked red needs urgent attention, amber may require attention soon, and green means pumps are in good health.

Adopted by Wilo when aiding estate managers draw up their asset lists and assess their pumps, these schedules assist with organising maintenance routines and staying on top of documentation, while mitigating any sudden and unforeseen downtime.

Remote monitoring, preventative maintenance, and service agreements can also be offered, taking the pain completely away from estate managers.

Importantly, when finding suppliers to work with, it is vital that they understand plant rooms are, in lots of ways, delicate areas.

And any third-party staff should undergo the correct training and be certified to enter these areas, so they do not cause any additional problems.

Industry specialists should also undergo CSCS Training and hold all the right qualifications.

Pumps such as the Wilo-Stratos MAXO can ‘learn’ the operational characteristics of a heating or cooling system, driving efficiencies

Smart pumps

After determining what is in plant rooms, and how to stay on top of maintaining the pumps inside of them, by working together estate managers and pump manufacturers can start to make inroads into helping the NHS get to net zero.

One of the biggest leaps forward in recent years is the advent of ‘smart’ technology, which has lessened the sole responsibility on individuals and introduced helpful solutions.

Smart pumps not only move water around a building, but also provide immediate energy savings through intelligent, automated operation, which can be used to define an ongoing energy usage strategy.

To illustrate this, pumps such as the Wilo-Stratos MAXO, can ‘learn’ the operational characteristics of a heating or cooling system.

And, used in conjunction, circulating pumps can be configured to adapt in real-time to demands and work holistically with other building services.

These smart functions not only provide detailed data to estate managers, but they also keep healthcare settings running by identifying any issues before they become at risk of operating inefficiently, or worse, breaking down.

Performance data, alerts, warnings, and notifications can ensure systems are always maintained and operating to their highest efficiency.

The latest in smart pump technology also provides data on heat flow, cooling flow, and volume flow.

The combination of this data with other smart systems provides insight into usage patterns, resulting in better-regulated indoor climate control that keeps power and water usage to a minimum while also reducing costs.

By working with manufacturers, not only can they help specify the right pumps for the application, but they can also help forecast energy and cost savings.

To give an example, Wilo, when drawing up asset lists, can provide an energy audit at the same time. This will show both cost and carbon savings that helps determine the ROI, as well as how many years it will take to pay back the investment.

Safer, more-efficient healthcare facilities

Plant rooms and pumps are safety critical to many settings, but particularly healthcare environments.

This is why the role of maintenance should be taken seriously and given proper and thorough attention by both managers and external specialists.

Through the holistic use of ‘smart’ pumps, important data can be collected and analysed to save money, water, energy usage, and ultimately move the NHS much faster to its net zero ambitions.

One of the biggest leaps forward in recent years is the advent of ‘smart’ technology, which can provide immediate energy savings through intelligent, automated operation


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