Flip the switch to advanced LED tubes for financial, environmental and health benefits

James Tu, chief executive of Energy Focus, explores the benefits of LED lighting solutions to drive improvement and efficiency for health trusts

LED lighting tubes can help hospital trusts to reduce carbon emissions and improve the environment for patients and staff

As the predominant light source for healthcare facilities today is still fluorescent, lighting accounts for a significant portion of a facility’s operating budget.

LED tubes have been designed to replace fluorescents by saving over half of lighting energy without the need to replace the entire fixture, and with the option for future upgrades to more-efficient and intelligent LED tubes.

This option not only offers environmental and financial benefits; it also holds health benefits, something which is of paramount importance to patients, medical professionals, and administrative staff.

In other words, making the switch to LED tubes can produce triple-bottomline benefits - financial, health and environmental.

Significant cost savings and rapid payback

Quality LED tubes use fewer than half the watts of fluorescent lighting and last several times longer in comparison.

As a result, energy savings for hospitals, which operate with long hours, can be substantial.

For example, a US Department of Energy Study estimates that the Cleveland Clinic, a world-leading 6,026-bed health system with a 165-acre main campus near downtown Cleveland, Ohio, now saves more than $717,800 in electricity costs annually—just in their main campus alone—after retrofitting 49,900 of its fixtures from fluorescent to LED tubes.

In addition, since LED tubes last much longer - tens of thousands of hours longer for quality LED tubes - than fluorescent, the cost to replace and maintain the lamps has also been drastically reduced.

As healthcare facilities make the switch to LEDs, it will literally pay for itself - often in less than a year - through energy and maintenance savings.

As healthcare facilities make the switch to LEDs, it will literally pay for itself, often in less than a year, through energy and maintenance savings

As healthcare facilities make the switch to LEDs, it will literally pay for itself - often in less than a year - through energy and maintenance savings

Replacing fluorescent with LED tubes is simple and takes on average about 15 minutes of work per fixture by either hospital’s maintenance staff or external electrical or lighting contractors.

It involves turning off the power, rewiring the sockets to bypass the fluorescent ballast, and then turning the power back on. And, since quality LED tubes come with drivers inside and do not need external ballasts, cost of replacing and maintaining the ballasts is also eliminated.

Minimising environmental impact

Healthcare facilities utilise electricity 24/7, and the industry is the second-largest energy consumer and producer of greenhouse gas.

When compared to fluorescent lights, LEDs are estimated to reduce lighting energy consumption by 50-80%, contributing to a cleaner environment.

And replacing fluorescent lights that contain mercury with LED tubes also reduces harmful environmental waste.

In addition, because LED tubes can be retrofitted in existing fixtures, there is no need to replace the entire fixture nor install permanent integrated LED fixtures, which contain mostly-mechanical parts and result in up to 50 times the waste in weight compared with LED tube retrofit.

Further, when part of the integrated LED fixture burns out or breaks, the whole fixture needs to be replaced, generating unnecessary wastes while costing far more in both products and labour than a simple LED tube swap.

Significant health benefits

The health benefits that come with using low-flicker LED tubes are also significant and impactful.

High flicker rates from lighting, even those ‘flickers’ that are less perceptible to the eyes, have proven to contribute to headaches, eye strain and fatigue, oftentimes with acute symptoms that can vary from mildly distracting to severely uncomfortable.

According to research published in Cephalalgia, light triggered 38% of acute migraines.

Additionally, certain individuals, such as those on the autism spectrum, may experience visual hypersensitivity, where lighting triggers can result in heightened symptoms.

Flicker can also induce seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy, according to the study by International League Against Epilepsy.

Replacing fluorescent with LED tubes is simple and takes on average about 15 minutes of work per fixture by either hospital’s maintenance staff or external electrical or lighting contractors

While many LEDs are sometimes known to produce ‘flickers’, LED products incorporating advanced flicker-filtering technology, such as those manufactured by Energy Focus, reduce flicker levels to close to zero, effectively making it ‘flicker-free’ and eliminating this healthcare issue.

Using low-flicker LED technology can also prevent technology from malfunctioning.

For healthcare settings this is particularly important as low-flicker LEDs may prevent the potential of safety hazards arising from the malfunctioning of critical healthcare machinery.

Flicker can cause a stroboscopic effect, or aliasing, which is a visual phenomenon where an object in motion can appear as though it is not moving.

This can pose a hazard with fast-moving machinery or even in robotic surgeries.

Other mechanical equipment, such as barcode scanners, may not function under flickering lights.

From security cameras to recorded medical procedures, to scanning identification badges or prescriptions; flickering lights can introduce unnecessary and avoidable safety hazards to a healthcare facility.

But certain LED products and technologies are guaranteed to not interfere with medical equipment, while providing added safety and health benefits.

The next frontier

While energy savings and sustainability remain the core appeals of LED lighting; human-centric lighting (HCL), which focuses on enhancing biological, emotional, health and wellbeing of people, is rapidly emerging as the next frontier of LED lighting technology.

From security cameras to recorded medical procedures, to scanning identification badges or prescriptions; flickering lights can introduce unnecessary and avoidable safety hazards to a healthcare facility

Light output of LEDs is the closest spectral match to sunlight, resulting in better colour differentiation, brighter whites, better colour saturation, and overall better colour vision, according to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Bright light is essential for reducing risk of error among doctors and nurses during medical procedures and is also important for the safety of patients – particularly the elderly, due to natural aging neurodegeneration of the eye.

Better colour differentiation can help doctors and nurses with their examinations and surgeries, while providing a more comfortable environment for patients.

Additionally, the light from LEDs provides brighter white light with more blue content to effectively suppress melatonin during waking hours, according to a study in Trends in Neurosciences.

By suppressing melatonin with the right kind of quality light during the day, patients and staff often feel more awake and alert, resulting in improved mood and increased productivity, and the cascading effects of healthier metabolisms and immune systems, according to research published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

These health effects result from leveraging dimmable and colour-tunable lighting to align human bodies with circadian rhythms, enabling a more-restful sleep.

Lighting control platforms with secure dimmable and colour-tunable LED tubes and switches that leverage on existing powerlines, such as EnFocus pioneered by Energy Focus, provide unprecedentedly-affordable dimmable and circadian lighting capabilities for existing buildings.

This cycle of bright, ‘cooler’ light provided by LEDs during waking hours; and dimmer, ‘warmer’ light during resting hours perpetuates a healthy sleep-wake cycle that helps speed up patient recovery, increase staff productivity, and elevate overall health and wellness of all hospital occupants.

Making the switch

Upgrading from fluorescent to LED is one of the most-impactful - financially, environmentally and health-wise - facility improvements healthcare facilities could do.

There has never been a better and smarter time to retrofit healthcare buildings with LEDs

In particular, retrofitting fluorescent sockets with LED tubes generates the maximum triple-bottomline benefits by earning quickest payback on investment and generating least environmental waste.

Meanwhile, advanced LED tube systems with control capabilities, such as those described above, are able to facilitate HCL that leads to further health benefits that were simply unaffordable before for existing buildings.

There has never been a better and smarter time to retrofit healthcare buildings with LEDs.

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