LED lights: The changing dynamics of energy consumption in the healthcare sector

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The overall benefits of LED lights are making waves in the healthcare space. Apart from ensuring considerable energy savings, LEDs are also contributing towards creating a positive environment in hospitals.

By Potshangbam July

Many hospitals and medical practices are switching to LED lights and technologies in view of their efficiency, versatility and longevity. These lights can potentially reduce the heavy electricity consumption that has been plaguing the healthcare sector by as much as 50 per cent to 80 per cent, via controls and smart fixtures. LED lights also help to create a positive and dynamic environment in healthcare facilities. The adoption level is picking up, fuelled by the dropping costs of installation and the sustained efforts of the government.

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How LED lighting is different
For healthcare facilities, LED lights are the best options as they are highly energy efficient compared to incandescent bulbs and other lighting sources.

  • LEDs emit light in one direction, which means they do not require diffusers or reflectors to direct the light. They are effective as surgical lights and examination lamps, as they do no emit any shadows that can obstruct the doctors’ view or cause distractions.
  • LED bulbs come with heat-sinks that absorb the heat emitted by the bulbs and dissipate it. There are hardly any cases of overheating and explosion. LEDs come with good thermal management. In the case of incandescent bulbs, 90 per cent of the energy is released as heat, and in the case of CFLs (compact fluorescent lamp), the energy loss is 80 per cent.
  • When the effect of the light is more natural, it enhances the sense of well being and speeds up the healing process. LEDs emit light that is similar to daylight, which is why they are preferred in healthcare facilities.
  • LEDs are made from materials that do not contain mercury and glass. Therefore, it is easy to recycle them, and the recycling process is not expensive, which benefits the healthcare facilities.
  • No filament or gases are required in LEDs, whereas traditional bulbs contain filaments or gases that generate heat.
  • LED lights are free from colour fluctuations, and they do not flicker like fluorescent and incandescent bulbs. They emit constant light. Flickering and colour fluctuations can lead to dizziness, which can have a negative impact on a patient’s health.
  • LED lighting is adjustable and dimmable, which ensures patient comfort. They are the best lighting option for CT scans and in ultrasound rooms.
  • LED lighting does not attract insects, dust, bacteria, etc, that typically circulate around traditional bulbs.
  • LEDs do not require regular maintenance, and they have a long life span of over 50,000 hours.

Myths and facts
Despite being extolled as the next generation of lighting, there are still doubts in the minds of many consumers. The common concerns include, ‘Is LED lighting safe to use in hospitals?’ It is known that LED bulbs emit a small amount of ultraviolet light. So people worry that long exposure to this light may be a serious health hazard for patients. They believe that excessive UV radiation can cause cancer, skin problems and premature aging, and hence feel LEDs are not fit to be used in healthcare facilities. However, many researchers in the field of LED lighting have claimed that the low level of UV radiation from LED lights is not harmful at all. This radiation is released when phosphors in the LED bulbs convert UV light to white light. However, this is considered as ‘virtually no UV radiation’.

Another common myth is that all LED lights are available only in white colour. The fact is they are available in various shades of white. These shades are known as correlated colour temperature (CCT), which is measured in Kelvin (K). Colours are determined as per the various temperatures on the Kelvin scale.

When the temperature is at 2000K-3500K, the light appears orange/yellow in colour, which is termed as ultra warm or warm white light. The colour changes as the temperature increases, from paper white (natural or neutral white) to bluish-white (known as cool white).

Another misconception about LED lights is that they are not bright enough and of inferior quality. Consumers need to be educated about how, in the case of LEDs, the brightness is measured in terms of lumens. Most customers decide the brightness by wattage, which is confusing, especially for indoor LED bulbs. Also, LED lights do not last forever. However, their life span is very long, and they are designed to last 25-42 times longer than CFL bulbs. Like any other lighting system, they start to deteriorate gradually with time. But the process is slow, and a lot longer than is the case with incandescent and halogen bulbs.

The biggest benefit – reduced energy costs
One of the biggest advantages of LED lighting is that hospitals can cut down on their power costs. Healthcare is one sector where lighting is required 24/7, and electricity is one of its biggest expenses. In fact, this sector uses five times more electricity than even the luxury hospitality sector. According to researchers, the healthcare sector is one of the nation’s largest industries and is responsible for nearly 10 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions — hundreds of millions of tons of carbon emissions each year. Hospitals account for more than one-third of those emissions. LED lighting has been gaining traction in the healthcare industry because of its capability to reduce lighting expenses and also contribute to building a cleaner environment.

In comparison to traditional bulbs, LED lighting requires much lower wattage to produce equivalent light levels, while energy usage drops by up to 70 per cent. LEDs do not emit strong heat into the room, and can be touched without discomfort.

Technologies and trends
Technological advancements, such as automation and IoT, have considerably improved the way healthcare spaces are run. LEDs are equipped with features like tunability and controllability, and can be operated as per the needs and the condition of patients. These features allow lights to be adjusted for brightness, output and the colour, to create a soothing ambience for patients. Besides, they enable visual communication with patients, helping hospital staff remind patients of their tasks and routines, prompted by changes in the brightness and colours. For example, a patient who is hard of hearing can be notified of any emergency situation by changing the colour of the light—from a white to red.

Smart fixtures run by Internet based networks is another innovation that maximises efficiency, while enhancing the experience of the patients. These fixtures spot any operations and maintenance related problem, and quickly alert the staff to fix the issue in time. They also give updates on the energy consumption patterns, any leakage or damage to the system, and relay the information to control centres, resulting in effective management of energy. With their smart sensing capabilities, these fixtures can send out signals to staff members whenever there is any requirement for cleaning when the patients check in/out.

What lies ahead?
A few years back, the awareness level about LEDs and their energy efficiency was not high among facility managers and hospital owners. Due to various reasons, the opportunities for cost-effective power conservation remained untapped. This could have been due to the lack of in-house expertise to implement electricity management projects and the absence of effective energy management infrastructure. Today, LED lights have entered the healthcare sector with sustained support from the government, coupled with the declining price of LED products. In view of the overall benefits, the LED lighting in the healthcare space will continue to increase.


Sumit Joshi, vice chairman and managing director of Signify India Innovations Limited

Sumit Joshi, vice chairman and managing director of Signify India Innovations Limited (formerly known as Philips Lighting India), talks about the technological trends in LED lighting, the cost factors, and more.

EB: Why is LED lighting preferred in the healthcare environment?
Lighting plays an important role in healthcare, in improving both the patients’ experience and the staff’s ability to provide the required level of care. Apart from being a sustainable choice, LED lighting can enhance the care environment and reduce costs by saving energy and improving operational efficiency. The latest LED technology from Philips provides a nurturing atmosphere for patients and a dynamic working environment for hospital staff.

 

EB: Tell us about the benefits of LED lights in the healthcare sector.

The most important benefit is reduced costs. LEDs reduce energy consumption by up to 50 per cent and up to 80 per cent through lighting controls. Apart from that, they also comply with energy legislation and support sustainability targets. So the hospital can reinvest cost savings to enhance the healthcare environment.

Second, they offer enhanced comfort. The use of ambient lighting relaxes and reassures patients. It attracts and retains valuable staff by creating a relaxing and welcoming environment at the reception, in examination rooms and in patient waiting rooms.
Third, these lights provide an improved experience. They simulate natural daylight to support patients’ sleep, mood and recovery. They create a pleasant ambience for patients and visitors, and enhance the well-being and concentration capabilities of facility staff.

EB: What are the latest technological trends in LED lighting for healthcare facilities? Tell us about advances that could further simplify the management of healthcare setups.

One of the latest technology trends in LED lighting that we offer for healthcare facilities is our HealWell solution, which uses innovative illumination to support healthy sleep, alleviate anxiety, and lift the mood among patients and the staff. Science shows that light has a significant impact on our health and well-being. Not only does it affect our mood, but it also controls our natural biorhythms. By mimicking natural daylight patterns in hospitals, where patients are indoors all day, artificial illumination can support a healthy sleep-wake cycle. HealWell has been designed specifically to achieve this by automatically changing the brightness and hue of the light throughout the day, reflecting the conditions outside.

The technology was put to the test in the cardiology department of the Maastricht University Medical Center, in the Netherlands. The study measured sleep patterns, mood, and other variables in patients staying in HealWell-equipped rooms. To enable a comparison, the same measurements were taken from patients who were in rooms with conventional lighting. The tests confirmed that LED light has a positive effect on patients. Compared to rooms with conventional lighting, measurements in rooms equipped with HealWell showed improved patient and staff satisfaction, longer sleep duration for patients, a shorter time taken for patients to fall asleep and the enhanced mood of patients, as derived from the HADS (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale) depression scores.

Another lighting innovation developed for the healthcare sector is our Li-Fi technology, which provides stable and fast broadband data connection through light waves. In sensitive environments such as hospitals, Wi-Fi is not suitable or permitted. Unlike Wi-Fi, which uses radio waves, Li-Fi uses the broader spectrum of light waves to transmit and receive data wirelessly. Li-Fi’s bandwidth is more than 1,000 times the size of the radio spectrum. It offers a secure, personal connection for anyone concerned about data privacy. It is also safer for the human body as compared to Wi-Fi, as no electromagnetic waves are generated.

EB: Could you shed some light on the cost factor?
In today’s economy, healthcare facilities need to do everything they can to protect their bottomline costs. Energy-efficient and long-lasting lighting solutions result in direct cost savings for the sector. As the healthcare organisations run full-time, even small gains in efficiency can lead to significant cost savings.

Replacing outdated lighting systems with more efficient, environment-friendly solutions not only reduces energy consumption and maintenance requirements, but also aids in reducing operational costs and promotes savings.

EB: What are the key features to look for in the LED lights used in hospitals?
Light influences our health and well-being to a greater extent than we are aware. More importantly, choosing the right lighting in healthcare spaces is an important element of interior design, given that it is not just an illumination, but a factor that contributes to patients’ recovery. Light colour and lighting intensity, for example, influence mood, well-being and the capability to perform. The biological rhythm of people can also be strengthened by modifying the light colour and intensity of lighting to the natural course of daylight. This can even be implemented automatically with intelligent light controls.

It is very important to choose a proper blend of lighting products in order to achieve a healthy and pleasing environment in healthcare spaces. The key features to consider while creating an optimum lighting system or choosing the right LED products for a healthcare facility are:

  • LED lighting that can reduce energy consumption
  • Lighting that mimics natural daylight to support patients’ sleep, mood and recovery
  • High quality lighting output that creates a pleasant ambience for patients and visitors, and also enhances the well-being and concentration of facility staff.
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