Light-emitting diode (LED) technology is playing an important role in helping health care organizations to put a focus on hospitality to improve patient satisfaction and well-being while controlling costs, according to experts.

"The era of LED lighting is upon us," says architect Robin Guenther, FAIA, principal of Perkins+Will, New York City. "Despite concerns about uneven quality based upon place of manufacture and type, the enormous potential for energy savings, coupled with long lamp life, is accelerating adoption of LED lighting solutions throughout health care facilities."

LED lighting provides a warm glow that connects with people while offering advantages in energy savings, easy maintenance, controllability and integration with building automation systems (BASs). LED technology offers room for future innovation as well.

Quality of light

"Quality of light is essential to creating health care spaces that address both the clinical and emotional needs of patients, family and staff," says Gregg Ryberg, director of sales for health care, Cree Inc., Durham, N.C. "Proper lighting distribution can be comforting for patients, while clean, crisp lighting can help staff to perform its duties more efficiently. The soft, low-glare illumination that LED provides helps to foster a restful treatment and recovery environment."

Hospitals are choosing LED lighting because of its ambiance as well as its sustainability features, says Ray Sjolseth, vice president of marketing, Revolution Lighting Technologies Inc., Chicago. "By using LED lighting, hospitals have control over color and lumen output, which helps to set the tone of the facility," he notes.

Health care facilities pose many lighting challenges. They encompass a wide variety of lighting situations and levels, ranging from large atria to task lighting in medical suites. Ceiling cavities have many competing functions, so fixture depth is often limited. These challenges are compounded by the need to provide a range of illumination levels within a space while meeting infection control, energy usage and maintenance standards.

The latest LED lighting and controls are able to meet those challenges, experts say. "The main advantage LED has over other types of lighting involves lower energy consumption and long life," says Lou Calvo, director of sales and marketing, Waldmann Lighting Co., Wheeling, Ill. "LED also is safer because it operates at low voltage and requires limited maintenance. Another advantage is its compact size, which allows fixture manufacturers to make smaller, thinner light fixtures that require less power-grid infrastructure."
Fluorescent lights have improved both in lumens per watt (lm/W) and lamp-life capabilities, and still offer good value for large open areas. However, they are rapidly being replaced by LED lights.

When coupled with smart luminaire design, facilities managers can reap even more benefits from LED lighting, as tailored lighting distribution and intuitive control systems make it easy to deliver light where and when it is needed, according to Karyn Gayle, vice president, health care vertical, Acuity Brands, Atlanta. "The use of intelligent, networked lighting controls is becoming more prevalent, as facilities leaders implement strategies to control the intensity and operation of their lighting systems in response to task needs, time of day and specific events," she notes.

LED lighting design can help in the area of infection control as well, says Cliff Yahnke, director, product marketing, Kenall Lighting, Gurnee, Ill., as hospitals are under pressure to deliver improved quality of care at a lower cost. "Hospitals are no longer being reimbursed for the incremental costs associated with an infection acquired by a patient during a stay. Thus, providers are looking for new ways to reduce the proliferation of bacteria within their environment," he says.

"They realize that a luminaire specifically engineered for this application can help. Such cleanable luminaires typically are sealed, have antimicrobial coatings and are fitted to the ceiling to reduce the accumulation and proliferation of pathogens that lead to health care-associated infections. One of the key advantages of an LED is that you rarely have to open it for maintenance; therefore, you limit the potential for dirt, dust and pathogens to enter the hospital environment."


LED lighting uses less energy than conventional lighting, says Ryberg. "Return on investment in the health care field when using LED luminaires on average runs less than three years. LED lighting not only uses less energy because it is approximately 50 percent more energy-efficient than fluorescents, it saves on facilities maintenance and cooling costs as well," he notes.

LED technology is more energy-efficient than traditional lighting, agrees James Steedly, director of engineering, MaxLite, West Caldwell, N.J. "The new base model LEDs are 75 to 85 percent more efficient than traditional technologies such as incandescent, with the delivered light of LEDs being 100–110 lm/W. In addition, there is still significant room for technological improvement, both in regard to LEDs and the drivers," he notes.

In addition, LED component manufacturers are exploring new chip structures with shorter current paths that enable higher drive currents, better thermal management and higher efficiency.

Even the most efficient lighting system can waste energy if facility owners do not take advantage of smart controls strategies, cautions Gayle. "Such strategies include daylight harvesting and multilevel dimming based on time of day and activity, as well as automated on/off operation based on occupancy sensing in areas where direct care is not rendered," she says.

Facilities managers can optimize the economics of LED lighting with the use of lighting controls, experts agree. One example is the recently introduced Cree SmartCast Technology, a self-programming, wireless lighting control system that reduces energy consumption by 70 percent, according to Ryberg. "With this technology, hospitals can be assured that they are maximizing the benefits of LED lighting with an easy-to-use solution," he says.

Schneider Electric, Palatine, Ill., has introduced measurement and verification panel boards (MVP), which are capable of measuring lighting and plug load energy use at the individual circuit level. They provide facilities managers with insight into more detailed energy usage information. The panel boards can use existing building management software, or customized MVP software, to analyze the data and locate opportunities for greater energy-efficiency.

"Until managers have visibility into energy use at the specific circuit level, they are just guessing at their facility's overall energy profile. MVPs provide them with the ability to measure and monitor energy consumption at a more granular level, giving them a starting point for energy-efficiency improvements," says Scott Walters, vice president, LifeSpace, Schneider Electric.

LED lighting systems are being connected to more BASs. "LED lighting systems are being integrated into building control systems in many forms," says Sjolseth. "Applications include occupancy sensors, which detect when an employee, patient or visitor has entered a room." LEDs are solid-state devices, so they can be turned on and off instantly with no warm-up required. This makes them attractive for use in all areas of health care facilities.

Daylight harvesting systems combined with zonal areas enable LED systems to utilize the natural light from windows to create a uniform amount of light in a room, experts agree. These control-enabled systems emit reduced levels of artificial light to complement natural light and achieve desired levels.

It is important that the lighting control system operate separately from the BAS, says David Thurow, lighting controls senior product manager at Siemens Industry Inc., Buffalo Grove, Ill. However, the two systems need to be linked for status and command operation. "The separate lighting system needs to respond instantly to local command, but also report and respond to the control center," he notes.

Selection factors

When selecting and installing LED lighting systems, facilities managers need to consider many factors. Luminaires must be tested according to industry-standard testing procedures, such as Illuminating Engineering Society LM-79, which tests the electrical and photometric characteristics of lighting fixtures.

"It is important to test the equipment in mock-up scenarios as well as test locations to determine if the new light levels provided from the LEDs are consistent with the lighting system specification or the original lighting system output," Calvo explains. "Manufacturer claims and actual delivered light can be quite different from manufacturer to manufacturer."

Steedly says health facilities managers should consider the following factors when selecting LED products.

  • Ensure that the LED product has LM80 data backing the chip and LM79 data backing the fixture.
  • Ensure that the LED product is compatible with the central system, especially if managers will need to reduce the amount of light or dim fixtures.
  • Because LEDs project different beam angles, managers need to determine what distribution pattern is desirable in the area they are planning to illuminate.

Innovations ahead

Future innovations will come in the way of sensors and controls that create intelligent, user-responsive lighting that interacts with its environment without human intervention, experts agree. LED lighting and controls in health care facilities will be more intuitive, personalized and connected.

Thurow predicts that lighting controls, both wired and wireless, will be easier to set up and operate, and will be integrated with BAS on a regular basis. "More functionality will be available on personal devices including cellphones, iPads and other computer platforms," he adds.

Diffuse, planar light sources such as organic LEDs (OLEDs) represent what health care facilities can expect from luminaires in the future, predicts Gayle. Delivering soft illumination, these wafer-thin OLED sources will require no shielding and minimal mechanical integration.

"For years, we've hidden light sources due to glare, heat and other factors," Gayle says. "OLEDs will usher in a future where lighting systems can be placed closer to occupants, which can humanize the light and create a deeper connection to inhabitants of a space."

Circadian rhythm lighting, first proposed for health care in the Green Guide for Health Care, is gathering momentum through the Well Building Standard, says Guenther. "In the next few years, I expect to see a range of product offerings that change color and intensity of lighting over day and night periods to assist healthy sleep cycles in hospitals."

Neal Lorenzi is a freelance health care writer based in Mundelein, Ill.

For more information

For further details on the lighting equipment featured in this report, contact the following vendors:

» Acuity Brands

» Cree Inc.

» Kenall Lighting

» MaxLite

» Revolution Lighting Technologies

» Schneider Electric

» Siemens Industry Inc.

» Waldmann Lighting Co.