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18 ways LED lighting and lighting controls can grow your hospital’s bottom line

Hospitals are one of the heaviest users of energy, and lighting is one of their largest energy consumers, costing many facilities several millions of dollars per year (U.S. Energy Information Administration). However, a systems-based approach using LED lighting fixtures as a platform can significantly reduce hospital operating costs and provide new capabilities that help future-proof these facilities. Controllability is the number one advantage of LEDs over linear fluorescent and compact fluorescent light sources. Networked lighting control systems provide an average lighting energy savings of 47 percent (DesignLights Consortium).

The following are 18 ways LED lighting and lighting controls can maximize return on investment (ROI), creating a better experience for patients and staff and increasing your bottom line.

Reasons for hospitals to invest in LED lighting and lighting controls

1. Older, inefficient light sources such as linear fluorescent and compact fluorescent fixtures have controllability issues, making it difficult or impossible to effectively reduce energy waste. On the other hand, LED lighting is inherently more energy efficient, and lighting controls help further minimize energy waste.

2. LED lighting with lighting controls allows hospital and health care facilities to significantly cut energy consumption without altering existing building operations or reducing current medical equipment.

3. System energy and maintenance cost savings afforded by LED lighting with lighting controls can reach millions of dollars annually for a single facility. For example, a hospital previously spending $613,200 could save $425,590. Over a 10-year period, savings would total nearly $5.5 million.

4. Most markets offer incentives to help cover the cost of LED installation, further growing a facility’s ROI.

5. Further, in health care, DesignLights Consortium (DLC) classification encourages adoption of high-performance LEDs paired with advanced lighting controls that make each fixture independently addressable and controllable. By installing LED lighting that conforms to DLC standards, hospitals can often access energy rebates — and potentially double them if they also incorporate lighting controls.

6. Factors such as available daylight and occupancy have a profound effect on total possible energy savings. For example, rarely used hospital corridors and stairwells are an opportunity for significant dimming. Coupling lighting controls with daylighting strategies in these areas will result in even greater savings.

7. LED fixtures are designed for dimming, creating opportunities for energy savings above and beyond those required by building codes and without any negative impact on patients and staff. Because LEDs are low-voltage, their dimming curve is almost linear. This means that as power to the light source is reduced, the light dims to a degree that is representative of the power reduction. LED lighting holds this near linear relationship between power and light level from 100 percent to 1 percent output.

8. The life of an LED chip will not be affected by the number of times it is turned on and off, meaning LED fixtures provide an ideal platform for occupancy-based control strategies.

9. Asset tracking and locator systems such as real-time location systems (RTLS) are particularly valuable in health care because of the sheer scale of hospital operations. Hospitals can deploy a distributed infrastructure via LED lighting fixtures, improving operational efficiencies and performance. Whereas a nurse may have previously spent one to two hours of a 12-hour shift searching for supplies such as IV pumps and wheelchairs, they can now quickly find supplies and tend to patients. This can, in turn, increase productivity levels by an average of 20 percent.

10. Advanced asset tracking helps hospitals purchase the exact quantity of supplies needed to operate rather than purchasing a surplus to ensure supplies are always available.

11. Computer sensors can be integrated into LED lighting fixtures to collect valuable data. Known as thermal mapping, this system indicates objects that are present in a room as well as how often the room is occupied and used, allowing hospitals to repurpose patient rooms and spaces that are not being used as intended.

12. Networked lighting controls systems allow health care facilities to best match available light to personal preference and the individual task being performed. For example, an operating room, where surgeons execute meticulous and difficult tasks, may have far different lighting needs than the nurses station on the unit where those surgeons’ patients will later recover.

13. Task tuning, or high-end trim, refers to a reduction of lighting levels in a space based on Illuminating Engineering Society (IES)-recommended maintained task light level requirements or user preference, instead of what was originally designed (which may call for higher light levels). Consider that a user may want to reduce light levels in a space to 60 to 70 percent of the max, and increase this level only as needed. In this example, task tuning cuts energy usage by 30 to 40 percent. Task tuning is especially helpful in patient rooms, allowing patients, visitors and staff to rely on the ability of the human eye to adapt to available light, adjusting the room’s artificial light levels only as needed.

14. Research shows controlling the spectral distribution of light results in significant health benefits, making tunable white lighting particularly attractive for hospitals. Accordingly, some health care facilities are beginning to experiment with tunable white LEDs on geriatric and other units to positively impact patients’ circadian rhythm.

15. LEDs with lighting controls can mirror variations in intensity and color that mimic the sun’s daily cycle, delivering the appropriate type of light throughout the day. This helps create indoor spaces that support a patient’s internal clock or circadian cycle. These spaces, in turn, are a healthier and less disruptive alternative to the traditional built environment. Possible results include quicker patient turnover, better outcomes and increased profitability for hospitals.

16. Most LED lighting fixtures have at least some tuning capability, and tunable white LED luminaires with lighting controls are becoming much more affordable today.

17. Greater control can improve patient satisfaction and comfort. A patient who is struggling to achieve restful sleep may prefer to dim the lights or select a warm color temperature.

18. LEDs with lighting controls offer health care facilities a lighting solution that is not only efficient and effective today, but also designed to respond to the always-evolving needs of these facilities and the people they serve.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that U.S. health care organizations amass about $6.5 billion in energy costs annually (U.S. EPA), but LEDs provide a natural cost savings solution, and networked lighting controls significantly increase their potential. In an era of skyrocketing health care costs and significant, widespread waste, hospitals that adopt a systems-based approach are able to reduce operating expenses, introduce new capabilities and effectively future-proof their facilities.