10 hospital LED lighting blunders and how to avoid them

Getting the right LED lighting in hospitals is essential to ensure that both patients and staff have the best conditions for recovery and for work.

1: Design and plan – light planner needed

It’s always a mistake to leave the lighting design and layout to the electrical engineers. A good light planner is worth their weight in gold and this is recognised in the official planning and lighting guides.

It’s true that patients in particular might not notice great lighting design but they will certainly feel the benefit in terms of emotional response and effect on mood. And poor lighting design is generally noticed, especially when first arriving at the hospital or having to work in sub-optimal lighting conditions.

2: Narrow range of lighting

While it is easier to specify and install the best range of LED lighting when designing for a new-build hospital, it’s a common mistake in older facilities to deploy a “one-size-fits-all” approach, with very limited number of options. For example, in the reception areas, it’s essential to use lighting that gives new patients a sense of safety and security. This means ensuring that harsh contrasts should be avoided near the reception desk while indirect lighting will minimise unwanted shadows on faces.

3: Avoid cheap choices

Robust fixtures and luminaires are essential so avoid a common temptation to buy cheap LED options. Hospital operations, with 24/7 needs, demand the best quality that gives maintenance free use in all areas of high demand. Budget-price options not only are susceptible to higher failure rates than well-manufactured products, they also give poorer quality light.

4: Provide lighting for diverse areas

Adaptability is the key to ensure optimal hospital lighting with the use of smart lighting controls a key part of the mix to allow staff and in certain area, patients too, to choose the lighting best suited to task and general sense of wellbeing.

5: Samples are essential

A common error when hospitals upgrade to LED is failing to test with samples and assuming straight replacement is good. LED fittings and lamps tend to have a more directional output so when replacing a now-banned halogen downlight, for example, the LED will give less light spill.

In areas like corridors, it’s important to see the different amount of light spill and make adjustments. Using LED strip lighting can be a very effective way to illuminate these areas, replacing old fluorescent fittings.

6: Too bright

Balancing lighting is a skill and too many areas in hospitals, particularly washroom facilities for patients and visitors fail the comfort test. Lighting that is too harsh, glare on mirrors and a space that is too brightly lit makes users feel less than relaxed. Control of lighting through dimming is a useful option. It may be effective to deploy LED strip lighting in certain areas to positively enhance mood.

7: Dull colours

Poor quality LED lighting is no friend of colour. There is no quicker way to make the environment drab than by installing lighting that makes colours look dull. With some LEDs, the colour render index is below 80 and this is a crucial measure of the ability to effectively illuminate colour. So, it’s important to ensure that LED fittings have a CRI of 80-90 or better and also to check that the red value (R9) more than 80 so that these shades look vibrant, not muddy. Lighting guidelines for hospitals and other healthcare environments advise the use of high CRI lighting.

8: Harsh welcome

It’s important to make sure that the corridors are not lit like a high-security prison. Naturally, the reception and hospital corridors are the first taste for patients so warm welcoming light is a must.

Light needs to be sufficient so they feel at home. This cosy atmosphere can be simply achieved with a high CRI of 90 or more for vibrant and natural colours together and a low Kelvin measure for a warm effect – around 2700-3000.

9: Lights incompatible with dimmer

When replacing traditional lamps like halogen, dimming compatibility is often overlooked. Some LED models do not dim smoothly on dimmers that were used for incandescent or halogen lights. The wrong replacement can flicker and flash a low levels. LEDs function in a different way to traditional (and now obsolete) lamps and the circuitry can confuse some old standard dimmers.

Hotels need to make sure that the LED models they select are compatible with the dimming functionality in place and upgrade if needed.

10: Too much glare

Some types of LED panels in corridors and wards, offices and maintenance areas, can give glare issues. These deliver all the light at the diffusing surface of the luminaire, rather than deeper in a louvre system and this means that too much light is distributed.

In places where glare needs to be controlled, it’s important to select a model with a unified glare index (UGR) of less than 19.

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