New Research Finds Healthcare Electrical Systems for Plug Loads Significantly Oversized


This story has been literally years in the making. It’s been a quest to illuminate truth. It’s about “right-sizing” the electrical systems for plug loads, appropriate to actual electrical demand. As you may recall, this research (Mazzetti has been spearheading for years), is meant to illustrate the ACTUAL peak electrical demand when a hospital is stressed to the max… Queue a once-in-a-century pandemic.


Over the last few decades, there has been significant technological innovation along the entire electrical power chain. Factors such as today’s energy codes are driving down the electrical loads presented by end-use equipment. Thus, the service, feeder, and branch circuit load design requirements in NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code® (NEC®), such as the load growth assumptions that justify spare capacity, have been called into question. The changing landscape of building operations and corresponding technological advances have also resulted in data-rich environments. While electrical data collection and the availability of relevant data have historically been lacking, insights from validated electrical data have become more prevalent today and are being utilized in the code development process to assess existing regulations or substantiate code changes.

The Fire Protection Research Foundation, with funding support from the American Society of Health Care Engineering (ASHE) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), initiated a project with Mazzetti to collect and analyze electric circuit data from multiple occupancies. In the infancy stage of the project, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the Foundation refocusing this effort solely on healthcare facilities. Through the generous donation of electrical metering equipment from Pacific Gas and Electric and the Smart Buildings Center, Mazzetti was able to deploy hundreds of meters to operating hospitals across the country. These meters enabled us to see the behavior of hospital electrical systems at the circuit level and compare those actual loads to the calculated loads in NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code® (NEC®)1.

The resulting data highlights the oversizing of systems based on the current Code. The results of this study demonstrate that the hospital plug load demand factors contained in the current (2020) edition of the National Electrical Code may result in electrical systems for plug loads that are between 100 percent and 700 percent larger than the actual loads.

Next Steps:

More exploration is needed for further change, including another study to address cord-connected equipment questions and applicability to “non-patient care” departments. Partnering with the greater Healthcare community, Mazzetti will continue to pursue this work. Interested in helping, please contact Troy Savage.

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