Focus: Lighting

Increasing energy efficiency and patient comfort with LED automation

By John Poerstel/ Special to Healthcare Facilities Today
February 1, 2019


Hospitals and healthcare facilities are among some of the most complex and demanding establishments to support when it comes to health, safety and environmental needs.  Hospitals will pour thousands of dollars into creating environments that are both healing for patients and effective for medical procedures. Simultaneously, they need to meet rigorous regulatory standards surrounding sanitation and safety. While the primary focus is on the quality of care of patients, there is also the added pressure to reduce operating costs and increase revenue.

Advancements in LED lighting and controls are enabling the modernization of these facilities for a better patient experience while also positively impacting long term operational and maintenance costs. As automation and smart healthcare facility operations continue to evolve,  LED lighting technologies, in conjunction with networked control solutions, are revealing significant potential for the future for patient care and facility management.

Catering to patient comfort with LED lighting

There isn’t a “one size fits all’ lighting solution for healthcare facilities; different areas of the establishment have different requirements. There’s far more that goes into managing and achieving the ideal light output within each part of the facility, and it requires a balance between patient comfort with practicality.  Facility managers need to take into account what type of lighting will support the well-being of the patient and will provide the high-quality illumination medical staff needed to properly administer the best possible health care.

Creating this balance can be difficult, as the level of light output that is optimal for our health is not necessarily what we’re most comfortable with. To synchronize and support the natural circadian rhythm, patients require lighting that best reflects natural light which creates a comfortable, low-stress environment for rest and recuperation.  Meanwhile, doctors, nurses and staff need high quality light to perform examinations, operate and provide proper care for residents.

LEDs are best suited to strike this balance for a multitude of reasons, the first being controllability.  In addition to being able to regulate the amount of light output (lumens) through dimming to support a specific function, hospitals typically have a variety of applications that require enhanced visual acuity.  LEDs are also superior in this arena, delivering higher values on the Color Rendering Index (CRI) scale, measuring 1-100.

This is important as CRI reflects the ability to properly render color and the higher the number, the greater visual acuity is achieved.  LEDs typically deliver a CRI of 80 or higher, with some instances reaching well above 90, while fluorescents typically offer only 52 to 75 CRI. Tunability or modifying the Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) is another benefit that LEDs offer for hospitals. Studies have found that 6,000K-8,000K LEDs with a blue spectral focus have the best biological impact while 3,000 K - 5,000K LEDs and those that were closer to ‘daylight white’ were the most visually pleasing to individuals.

A hospital can modify light output and CCT to create their own optimal balance between biological impact and comfort.  Additionally, hospitals are beginning to take advantage of this feature to address physiological benefits from positive impacts on individuals circadian rhythms to its use in treatments for some mental health disorders. Notably, the flexibility of these diverse benefits lies in the LED technology’s ability to be modified in real-time, not just when the order is placed or during the initial installation. Real-time modification can be performed both broadly across larger numbers of connected lighting fixtures and in localized applications for individual fixtures, making them ideal for both current and future healthcare lighting demands.  

Automating and incorporating controls for increased facility efficiency

In addition to creating a more comfortable environment, LED controls also help cut time and costs for maintenance efforts. LEDs offer a degree of controllability and connectivity within their fixtures. ‘Smart fixtures’ and internet-based or networks control systems provide transparency with facility operations. This transparency allows staff to be more efficient in their maintenance operations and energy management. For example, smart fixtures can quickly share information on an LED’s operational status and maintenance issues throughout a facility, relaying information on wattage, broken and burnt out lighting and general energy use. Facility operators then have a better understanding of how the hospital or healthcare facility is operating, and how to more effectively utilize the maintenance staff’s time to identify and resolve the issues.

Further fine-tuning energy use, controls can either be utilized globally, catering to larger sections of the hospital, or they can be localized to support individual sections, rooms and locations. Global controls support general energy use and are often as simple as adding a timer to external lighting so incoming patients have a clear and visible path to the entrance. On the other hand, localized controls based on factors such as occupancy, external light levels (daylight harvesting) and time of day, make energy use within specific areas of the hospital or healthcare facility more precise according to the location needs. For example, select locations inside the facility may run on different sensor-based controls that turn off power in rooms that receive less foot traffic when they’re not in use.

Further maintenance and energy saving benefits

Automation and controls for LEDs have aided in the advancement of precise energy savings and more efficient hospital maintenance, however, LEDs on their own have helped to secure energy and cost savings. LED technology has provided  a newer, high-efficiency lighting source capable of reducing energy use anywhere from 50 to 90 percent, and when combined with controls, can deliver upwards of an additional 20% in lighting energy savings. This reduced energy use then translates into ongoing energy cost savings that build over the lifespan of these LED technologies.

Time and costs dedicated to maintenance efforts can also be reduced with the incorporation of LEDs. LED technologies have been designed to be more durable and are built for longevity, providing superior lifespans of up to 100,000 hours. As a result, less maintenance and fewer lighting replacements are needed so  facility staff can focus on other primary tasks and additional costs savings are achieved. Furthermore, the construction of LEDs does not include toxic or hazardous materials and therefore does not require a specialized, high cost recycling processes to further drive savings. This combination of longer, more reliable lifespans and cost savings from maintenance efforts can drastically shorten the return on investment to only a few years and the  savings in the years following can then be reinvested into the staff, facility and most importantly, improving resident experience and care.  

LEDs are addressing the needs of both the facility and the patient which is why they’re increasingly becoming the solution of choice for hospitals. As a controllable high efficiency solution with higher-quality light output and a longer lifespan that can drive significant operational and maintenance savings, LEDs offer the ideal balance between comfort and costs.

John Poerstel, LC is the Vice President of Sales at Revolution Lighting Technologies

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