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Lighting Up Hospital Energy Savings: Strategies That Pay Off


Hospitals are major energy consumers, running 24/7 to provide vital patient care. One way to save energy in a hospital is by improving its lighting system, which accounts for over 10% of a hospital's total energy use. Upgrading to energy-efficient lighting technologies and controls can dramatically reduce those costs with a quick payback period.


One of the easiest upgrades is replacing older T12 or T8 fluorescent lamps and magnetic ballasts with newer super T8 lamps and electronic ballasts. Super T8s cut energy use by 20-30% compared to standard T8s. And electronic ballasts save even more energy than magnetic ballasts while reducing flicker and noise.


Implementing lighting controls is another low-cost, high-impact move. Occupancy sensors that automatically turn off lights in vacant rooms like restrooms and stairwells can produce significant savings. Daylighting controls that dim electric lights when enough natural light is available are also very effective.

Speaking of daylighting, making the most of natural illumination belongs high on any hospital's energy-saving agenda. Daylighting coupled with energy-efficient artificial lighting can slash lighting power density in offices from 2.2 W/sq.ft to 0.8 W/sq.ft without compromising light levels.


But the benefits go beyond energy savings. Daylight generates less heat than electric lighting, reducing cooling costs. Patient exposure to daylight has been linked to quicker recovery times. And staff working in daylit spaces show lower absenteeism and higher productivity.


As LED technology advances, hospitals have a new option for ultra-efficient lighting. By 2015, LED luminaires could exceed 150 lumens per watt - more than twice as efficient as typical fluorescents.


Case Study: St. Mary's Hospital in Leonardtown, Maryland undertook a lighting retrofit in 2004. The 103-bed facility replaced old T12 fluorescent lamps with magnetic ballasts by upgrading to 28W T8 lamps with electronic ballasts. Where T8 lamps were already in use, they replaced the magnetic ballasts with more efficient electronic models. The retrofit project cost $20,759 but had a payback period of only 4.35 years. After that, the hospital's annual energy savings of $20,759 per year went straight to its operating budget. Maintenance costs were also reduced thanks to the longer lamp life of the new lighting equipment.


Ensuring a Seamless Lighting Retrofit

One of the key components to a successful large-scale lighting retrofit is partnering with an experienced construction management firm that specializes in building efficiency projects. While lighting upgrades may appear straightforward, they can rapidly escalate into complex undertakings. The situation is further complicated in larger hospital facilities where different sections were constructed during separate phases adhering to varying building specifications and lighting requirements. What may have seemed like a simple in-house project can escalate into a challenging mission requiring expert oversight. Some potential situations include inaccurate facility assessments that don’t capture all lighting systems, configurations, etc across the entire facility, unforeseen site conditions, inconsistent existing lighting systems, code compliance, compatibility issues, and faulty installation work.


While the potential energy and cost savings make lighting retrofits highly appealing, ensuring these complex projects achieve their intended benefits requires meticulous planning and adherence to best practices.

Develop a Comprehensive Execution Plan

A detailed, facility-approved plan outlining the full retrofit scope, schedule, and responsibilities is paramount. Deviating from this plan can lead to scope creep, budget overruns, and severe delays - postponing the return on investment. Consistent coordination between all stakeholders and strict adherence to the plan is critical.

Specify Practical, Readily Available Products

To avoid operational disruptions, contractors should prioritize locally available, easily maintainable lighting products. For facilities like hospitals operating around the clock, the ability to promptly repair or replace components minimizes downtime and ensures long-term cost-effectiveness.

Update Facility Documentation

Comprehensive as-built drawings and panel schedules detailing all new lighting systems, circuiting, and controls should be provided to facility managers. Up-to-date documentation ensures they understand what was installed and where enabling effective maintenance and future upgrades.

Actively Involve All Stakeholders

Project teams must not assume contractors fully understand the site conditions and constraints. Include facility management and maintenance staff from the onset to clarify existing infrastructure, operational needs, and workspace requirements. Open communication prevents oversights.

Clearly Define Responsibilities

To safeguard satisfaction, ensure all parties – construction managers, contractors, suppliers, and owners – thoroughly discuss and agree upon areas like warranty terms, product quality assurances, and lifecycle support before implementation.


By prioritizing these critical success factors, lighting retrofits can be executed seamlessly to maximize energy savings while minimizing disruptions and expenses for healthcare facilities.

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