Numerous studies have proven the health benefits and consequences of lighting. For example, the spectrum of lighting is known to affect levels of melatonin. Bluish white light (like a sunrise) is known to increase melatonin suppression and help people awaken. On the other hand, reddish-white light (like a sunset) has been found to reduce melatonin suppression and help people fall asleep.
Lighting Needs of Seniors
Seniors have particular lighting requirements according to studies by the U.S. Departement of Energy and the Lighting Research Center of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
For example, a healthy 70-year-old has been shown to need as much as 80 percent more light than a healthy 20-year-old. At the same time, the 70-year-old is much more sensitive to glare, especially at night.
These requirements make creating a lighting system that meets the needs of seniors very challenging. However, advances in LED lighting and controls offer the potential of meeting the lighting requirements of seniors and potentially improving their health and vitality in the process. Several manufacturers now offer tunable-white LED screw-in lamps (light bulbs) with wireless connectivity that can help meet these needs.
SMUD Study Using Stack Lighting System at Eskaton Independent Living Facility
In 2016, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) worked with the non-profit senior care firm Eskaton to test tunable-white LED lighting for the elderly. The study was conducted at one of Eskaton’s independent living facilities, Monroe Lodge. The study’s goal was to learn about how tunable-white lighting systems work and identify potential health benefits for residents. Eskaton chose Stack Lighting’s LED bulbs, which communicate wirelessly.
The three-phase study graded the lighting of 13-apartments. During the first phase, the project team examined the use of the original lighting system. Then, in the second phase, the team looked at the use of new floor and table lamps as well as new lighting fixtures equipped with standard LED bulbs. Finally, the team studied the use of new floor lamps, table lamps, and fixtures outfitted with Stack Lighting’s LED bulbs with wireless connectivity.
The study used the first generation 60-Watt equivalent Stack Lighting bulbs that deliver 800 lumens. So, the previously dim apartments needed double the number of bulbs to get the lighting required.
Complexity of Monitoring Energy Consumption
The configuration of the electrical wiring for the apartments, the frequent programming changes, and the number of LED bulbs made monitoring actual energy consumption extremely problematic. For this reason, the team decided to compare the total watts consumed in each of the three scenarios.
The Stack Lighting system’s average connected load in Watts was about 20 percent lower than for the original bulbs. This reduction occurred despite basically doubling the number of bulbs with the addition of many floor and table lamps to provide adequate illumination. However, the Stack Lighting system consumed 28 percent more electricity on average than the standard LED bulbs. The team chose to disable the daylight sensing capability, which would have further reduced energy consumption.
The study surveyed the residents for each of the three phases. They found a 22% reduction in the amount of time needed to fall asleep, a 27% reduction in daytime drowsiness, a 45% improvement in perceived energy levels, and 72% improvement in daytime activity levels.
On the other hand, they found no overall reported changes in the number of times that the residents woke up each night or the number of reported falls during this study. Most of the study participants routinely wake up several times at night to visit the bathroom for medical reasons. Among the participants, 93% reported getting out of bed at least once per night, underscoring the need for adequate nighttime lighting.
Also, none of the study participants reported falls during the research. Monroe Lodge serves as an independent living facility. The staff identifies residents who are likely to fall and usually moves these residents to a facility with higher levels of care.
What Stack Lighting CEO Says about Study and Company’s Future
I got to speak with Stack Lighting CEO Neil Joseph about the study and the future of his company.
“The residents ended up loving it… They ended up calling these ‘magic bulbs.'”
Neil noted that the seniors did not have to interact with apps to control the lighting.
“The technology kind of gets hidden in the background to just make a better user experience,” Neil said.
He pointed out that while the lighting could be automatically adjusted to be the healthiest for people, not everyone would like the results, in the same way not everyone likes broccoli despite it being healthy. That’s where user preferences come in.
Neil also outlined the future of Stack Lighting, which in addition to begining production of 75-watt and 100-Watt equivalent bulbs will soon come out with a bulb-based system that will use radar embedded in the bulbs to provide activity tracking and software-based analytics. Unlike the invasive third-party PIR sensors, the bulb-based radar can go through most anything that light can go through, according to Neil. Neil also explained that the company plans to start rolling out the activity monitoring system to early customers at the end of Q2 with the focus on elder care facilities.
“Down the line, we plan to make a simpler kit to do the same thing in the home. That won’t be until sometime in 2018,” Neil stated.
The company plans to carve out a niche in lighting for seniors, Neil explained. As part of this business strategy, Neil said that Stack Lighting intends to transition to being called Stack Care while still using lighting systems to deploy the sensors and analytics.