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LED lighting for hospitals
Express Healthcare
New Delhi, 12 Jun 2013

M Neelam Kachhap gives an insight into the role of lighting in efficient healthcare delivery and the current trends in hospital lighting.
Healthcare delivery in India is becoming increasingly competitive and the designs for modern hospitals are becoming functional. But, the demand to provide a healing environment, both from the patients and the staff, has led professionals to realise that patients' perception of the physical environment in a hospital can affect their sense of well-being and, potentially health.
In fact much research has been done on the subject and experts believe that healthcare facilities’ physical structure is linked to improved care. They also believe that improved patient comfort shortens hospital stays, lessens recovery time, and increases the medical team’s satisfaction and productivity.
Today, designers apply varied methods to create healing environments and a lot of attention is paid to detail, colour, form, light and shade. Some of the key factors such as fresh air, light and peaceful surroundings are design drivers.
Still, green hospital design or creating healing environment are considered a fad. Hospitals needed budgets for investing in costly technology and manpower. Who had the money to spend on design considerations? Think of the electricity bill that a hospital generates every month. It's a huge burden for hospitals and for the environment. Healthcare is considered as one of the most energy intensive industries and hospitals are the sector’s largest energy consumer and producer of greenhouse gases. Industry experts will tell you that the hospital’s reliance on non-renewable energy sources contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases, driving climate change and impacting public health from air pollution.
However, many hospitals are able to lower their carbon footprint and their energy bills by incorporating green hospital designs. While there are many methods and products to confront these issues, use of energy efficient lighting increases sustainability and reduces energy costs.
Light-emitting diodes (LEDs)
LEDs have been around for a long time. Made up of small semiconductors, they can be used to produce a lot of different colours and brightness levels, using fraction of the energy used by traditional lighting methods. Traditional lighting technologies such as halogen and incandescent sources use a fragile metal filament to be heated until it radiates light, wasting large amounts of electrical energy through infra red radiation. LEDs on the other hand converts an electrical current directly into light, eliminating that waste of energy.
For a long time, people thought LEDs were only for aesthetic use but advances in the field have allowed the use of high-efficiency LED lighting for commercial applications. Today, LEDs are the preferred lighting choice at hospitals across the world. “LEDs are totally a hassle free lighting solutions with very robust and durable lighting fixtures,” says Arun Gupta, Global CEO, NTL Lemnis.
Benefits for the hospital
LEDs are used in patients’ rooms, waiting area as well as procedure suite as it is using low-maintenance, energy-efficient lighting system. LEDs help to maintain light levels for critical visual tasks like in the OT. “LED produce highly focused and uni-directional light, that means, there is very less light wastage. Focused light is also better in maintaining the required lux levels for specific visual task. The high level of CRI (Colour Rendering Index) shown by LEDs means better observation of colors under artificial light. The frequency spectrum of visible light in LEDs is superior to fluorescent lights,” says Gupta.
“Also, for healthcare sector special LEDs with high R9 can be specified,” he adds.
LEDs are not only energy efficient but they control infections too. “LEDs are the most energy efficient light source till date,” explains Gupta. The energy savings can go up to 90 per cent in case of LED’s as compared with some other conventional light sources. “As far as infection control goes, since the number of times that an LED lighting fixture needs to be changed owing to its longer life, the chances of spreading an infection outside a specific area where the lights are installed is very less. Because of this LED fixtures are more tightly sealed and chances of any suspicious emission are far reduced,” he adds.
Durability and lifespan
LEDs are very durable as they are solid state devices which does not contain moving parts, filaments, or fragile glass to break, eliminating the risk of damage during transportation, installation, or operation.
“LEDs are new generation light sources which have a technology shift from conventional filament-based light generation to solid state light generation. Since LEDs do not have a fragile component like a filament, they are more durable as compared to conventional filament-based light sources,” informs Anil Bhasin, Sr Vice President, Havells India.
“LEDs being solid state lighting have a long rated life of almost 70000 burning hours. However, the actual life span of LED lights depends on the efficiency of the thermal management of the total enclosure, wherein the design capability of the brand becomes important,” he further adds.
“LEDs have a longer life-cycle as compared to conventional lighting solutions. Theoretically they can last up to 50-60k hours, but as of now the industry is assuring life of 20-50k hours. LEDs work on semi conductors and semi conductors generally have an unlimited life. Moreover, the lighting fixtures that are used by LED lighting solutions are made up of sturdy materials as compared to CFLs and incandescent bulbs, imparting a high resilience and robustness to it,” adds Gupta.
LED as compared to traditional lighting
To be able to see how well LEDs function in comparison with the incandescent bulbs the different parameters that need to be considered are:
Energy saving: A bulb’s performance is brightness, and this can be measured in lumens (lm) whereas efficiency is simply the amount of energy used for the brightness. It is calculated by dividing the lumen output by the wattage necessary to power the bulb. “Incandescent lamps are filament-based lamps which uses the basic I2R principle of electrical engineering wherein the electrical energy is converted into 85 per cent heat and 15 per cent light. The efficacy of these lamps is close to 10Lm/W. The high amount of heat however puts an indirect load on the air-conditioning plant,” shares Bhasin. “The LEDs are however solid state light sources with lower amount of heat generation and efficacy as high as 135Lm/W,” he further adds. Agreeing to this Gupta says, “LEDs are the most energy efficient lighting solutions created till date. LEDs are 90 per cent more energy efficient than incandescent lamps and 50 per cent more energy efficient than CFLs.”
Lifespan: Lifespan of a bulb is measured in burning hours. “Incandescent bulbs have a life of approx 1,000 hours, CFLs have a life span of around 5000 - 6,000 hours. LED bulbs can last up to 50,000 – 60,000 hours, but as of now industry is assuring life of 20,000-30,000 hours,” informs Gupta.
Cost: Currently, LED lights cost more than incandescent bulbs and CFLs but due to their longer lifespan and durability they are considered more cost efficient. “LEDs currently involve a higher capital cost but have a payback period of less than a year, when we compare them with incandescent lamps,” says Bhasin.
“Incandescent bulbs are the least expensive lighting solution available as of now while LED-based lighting is a still high-priced as is the case with every new and revolutionary technology. However, the total cost of ownership for LEDs is lower than incandescent lamps particularly in the view of the ever increasing energy cost. Consumers are yet to understand its benefits and adopt them. In near future, with evolving technology, LEDs will take a major share in the lighting industry, which will help in reducing the lamp cost,” explains Gupta.
Less operations cost for hospitals
Healthcare executives today face energy costs that continue to rise, creating very difficult challenges in managing the facility’s operating budget. Lighting contributes to 17 per cent of the total energy consumed at a hospital. By incorporating LEDs this cost can be significantly reduced. “LEDs have a significantly lesser operational cost than other lighting solutions. First of all LED saves tremendously on electricity bills. Secondly, the maintenance costs are negligible as compared to incandescent and CFLs, hence the cost of getting it replaced over and over again is saved. Therefore, over the long lifespan of the LEDs these all costs are saved, this makes LED a true value for money product,” shares Gupta.
In use at hospitals
LEDs can be used in various hospital areas but the most important areas to use LED lighting is an MRI room. Lighting in MRI suites is challenging as MRI facilities require non-ferrous lights. Though the tungsten filament of incandescent bulbs is non-ferrous in nature even minute impurities are affected by the high intensity magnetic field of an MRI facility. This results in frequent bulb replacements. The life of a standard incandescent bulb may be reduced to as low as 700 hours in an MRI suite.
Fluorescent lights can’t be used either because they generate noise artefacts on patient scans. Some imaging facilities experience weekly light outages, which shuts down the MRI suite for maintenance. However, LED lights are MRI safe because they do not use filaments that are affected by magnetic fields, nor do they emit radio frequencies. Additionally, by not having a filament, LED lighting eliminates the potential for white pixel noise, which can be generated when an incandescent bulb's filament is at the point of failure.
“In an MRI centre, it is important to have all the elements to be of non-ferrous nature as the ferrous impurities and components interfere with the operation of MRI equipment. LEDs by nature are non-ferrous and hence are easily compatible with the MRI centre of hospitals. Long maintenance free life of LEDs means fewer and shorter downtime period and hence helps in a better utilisation of the MRI facility,” informs Bhasin.
“LED tubes and bulbs are dimmable making them ideal for CT scan and ultrasound rooms where dimming may be needed for better observation and patient comfort. “In places like CT scan rooms, where dimming is required, LEDs offer an easy solution,” explains Bhasin.
Further, hallways, corridors and general lighting are switched on 24x7. Using LEDs in these areas would deliver the best returns on investment. “LEDs being a small light source, can easily be used for backlit displays and hence reducing the patient stress considerably. LEDs have long life and hence poses fewer downtime periods in public areas like corridors, OPDs,” Bhasin opines.
OT lighting has been particularly impacted by LEDs. LED bulbs and tubes deliver high quality light but do not generate high temperatures. Removal of heat from surgical lights increases both patient and doctor comfort and reduces air conditioning requirements.
In addition, body tissue can be seen in its natural colours, and there is no risk of drying of tissue. The lights therefore make the surgeons work easier and are safer for the patient. “Another advantage is that instead of a single point light source light is produced by multiple points. This results in fewer shadows and allows the physician to comfortably examine the patient,” says Gupta.
“LEDs have a flicker free, instant start. Hence it is soothing and stress free for the doctors as well as patients,” Bhasin adds.
LED and LEED certification for hospitals
Using LED also adds credit points for LEED certification of a hospital. “If a hospital is using LED lighting solutions then the chances of the hospital getting certified by LEED are high, as LEDs have a better (LPD) Light Power Density as compared to other light sources. So, having a better LPD means high credit points in LEED certification system. Also, LEDs cause less light pollution that causes reduced light trespassing onto bordering properties, improved night time visibility through glare reduction, reduced sky-glow for increased night sky access and reduced developmental impact on nocturnal environments. All these benefits make LEDs an ideal choice for lighting up a hospital, if it wants to get certified by LEED,” divulges Gupta.
Incidentally, some traditional light fixtures use mercury. Today, mercury in dental fillings has been replaced by better and safer ceramic fillings and mercury containing sphygmomanometers by aneroid devices. Similarly, fluorescent lights could be replaced by LEDs. “LEDs have no mercury content and hence are environmental friendly.” informs Bhasin. “Besides, LEDs help in having better rating of LEED certification and hence becomes a potential source of earning carbon credits,” Bhasin concludes.
Hospitals that invest in LED lights are poised to gain from its various benefits. In addition, new research in the sector will make these lighting products less costly. In future new research in wireless networking with the help of LEDs will be immensely beneficial to hospitals as the use of radio frequencies in limited there. Investing in this futuristic lighting technology is a must for hospitals looking for cost advantage and better patient and staff satisfaction.