Aaron Oosterbaan, Technology Researcher at K4Connect

The number of people aged 60 years or over is expected to more than double by 2050, rising from 962 million globally in 2017 to 2.1 billion in 2050. That will equal about about 22% of the total population, according to forecast.

As the older population grows and enters senior living communities, it is important that operators meet their needs in an affordable manner. There are several ways that operators are driving down costs, but one avenue they’re taking is to replace aging components with new technologies. And one simple and effective change is swapping out old light bulbs.  

Deeper dive into LED lighting

The U.S. Department of Energy claims that 11% of building energy costs are from lighting. A high source of energy is the incandescent light bulb, one that has been ubiquitous in nearly every building for our entire lives. Most people recognize the incandescent light bulb as a standard bulb, which was invented in the 1800s by Thomas Edison.

A fundamental shift in lighting has occurred over the past 15 years, however. New lighting technologies — specifically LED lighting, and to lesser extent CFL light bulbs — are taking the place of the incandescent light bulb. While dimmable LED bulbs cost four times the price of incandescent bulbs, the price increase is far outweighed by the benefits, which include: 20 times longer life, six times less energy usage, and significantly less waste heat produced.

Selecting an LED bulb for your senior care fcommunity could be an overwhelming task, as there are many models and styles that exist in the market. The criteria for choosing the right LED light bulbs can vary, but a few to consider include: dimming, price, color, brightness, buzz, shape and form.

Dimmable Future-proofing your community with dimmable light bulbs is easy and can set your campus apart from other communities. These bulbs work with dimmable light switches, either manual or smart dimmers, which allow you to set a desirable light level. For example, a soft glow at night is preferable to blinding brightness.

Price A reasonable price for a high-quality dimmable LED bulb is $4, and non-dimmable versions can be found for even less. You don’t need to break the bank with a Wi-Fi connected, ultra-bright, color tuning, decorative bulb that can cost $15.

ColorLED light bulbs come in three general colors. Before selecting one, test each color and choose the one that looks best in your environment. When buying a bulb. look for the color temperature, which is a number followed by K:

•  Soft or warm white (2700K-3000K): This color is ideal for senior living communities and is best used in comfortable living spaces like living rooms and bedrooms. The orange glow is designed to mimic an incandescent light or candle.

•  Neutral white (3000-4000K): This color is best for spaces that require more focus and visual clarity, such as bathrooms and kitchens.

•  Cool white (4000K+): This color is for high-activity environments, such as offices and airports. It mimics a bright sunny day.

Brightness — People will describe (incorrectly) bulb brightness as “60-watts.” Watts is a description of the amount of energy a bulb uses. Because LED bulbs are much more energy efficient, an LED bulb with similar brightness of a 60-watt incandescent bulb may use only 11 watts. Be certain to check your existing bulbs for how many lumens (a measure of brightness) they produce, which will usually be stamped on the bulbs. Select an LED bulb with similar lumens.

Buzz — Many LED bulbs make noise while operating. However, the amount of noise varies by bulb and operating condition. Usually the buzz is unnoticeable, but under-performing bulbs buzz the most — so be sure to check for these insufficient bulbs.

Shape — Light bulbs are available in a surprising number of shapes and sizes. Most people would recognize the iconic A-style as the most popular light bulb. However, size A19 in senior living communities, and occasionally G-style (globe) decorative bulbs in bathroom vanity fixtures, are common.

Form — LED bulbs come in either glass or plastic, and given the fragility and safety concerns of glass bulbs, plastic bulbs are recommended. Another consideration is that some bulbs are clear while others are frosted. A clear bulb, while generally slightly brighter, is a strain on the eyes if looked at directly. If bulbs will be installed in lighting fixtures which allow a direct line-of-sight to the lightbulb, consider purchasing a frosted bulb.

Selecting the right bulb

The best and most efficient way to select an LED light bulb is to test out a few prior to making a large purchasing decision. Determine what looks best in your community and provides adequate lighting for residents.

I’ve found a few light bulbs that excel in senior communities. My current favorite is the GE LED HD series light bulbs. These are both cost effective and versatile. They can be purchased for $4 if bought in quantities to outfit a community. 

These bulbs are available in two colors suitable for residential spaces: Soft white (Relax 2700K), which is great for bedrooms and living spaces, as well as a hybrid soft/neutral white (Reveal 2850K), which is perfect for bathrooms and common spaces. These bulbs use only 11 watts of power — an 82% reduction from the 60 watt incandescent bulbs they replace.

A simple switch from standard light bulbs to LED bulbs can save your community significant operating costs. It can save a 100-residence community over $10,000 per year. In addition, dimmable LED bulbs coupled with dimmable light switches provide a level of differentiation between your community and others. With the population of older adults expected to boom, smart operators will use new technology to better serve their residents.

Aaron Oosterbaan is a Technology Researcher for K4Connect — a mission-centered technology company creating solutions that serve and empower older adults and individuals living with disabilities. The company’s flagship product, K4Community, is being used by thousands of senior living residents, their families, staff and operators across the country.