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Emergency Lighting Blog

News and Information for Public Egress, Building Safety and Government Compliance

Monthly Archives: January 2016

Exit Signs Are a Changin’

Self Lighting Exit SignsThe exit sign is a relatively new innovation, which cropped up in the past century. In that time, we saw the evolution of lighting move from incandescent bulbs to LED bulbs and realized rapid improvements in backup power supply, allowing exit signs to stay lit. Because of these innovations, exit signs can last for a long time without maintenance, but the exit signs of the future are even better.

Self-Luminous Exit Signs

The exit signs of the future don’t need electricity to shine, nor do they use batteries of any sort. They can be installed with little expertise and require virtually no maintenance.

How do they stay off the power grid? They use phosphors.  Phosphors describe a variety of chemicals that glow after being energized. They can become energized in a variety of different ways. Some suck up daylight and dispel it throughout the night. Some, like tritium, use the radioactive decay of matter to keep the sign aglow for years to come.

The technology has been around for over a century, and is very similar to our florescent lights. The major difference is the chemicals in self-luminous exit signs hold onto the energy longer, gradually letting it spill out into the dark, while florescent light expels the energy quickly. Exit signs are one of the earliest adopters of the technology, which is why self-luminous exit signs are becoming more mainstream. At Emergency Lighting, you can chose from a number of different models, each one will save you time in reduced maintenance and money in electrical costs.

Words Be Gone

If you were asked to think about an exit sign, you and most of everybody else would likely imagine big red, glowing letters spelling out the word “Exit.” Yet, this isn’t necessarily the standard case. When you look outside the U.S., you’ll often see signs that include pictures of a running individual, along with a direction.

Without reading, it is possible to see where you should run or calmly walk to in the event of an emergency or fire. Sometimes the picture is accompanied by the native word for exit, but not necessarily. This approach allows everyone to understand the location of an exit, and it is very common in locations that speak a number of different languages like Europe. Perhaps the trend may eventually sail over to the U.S., but it’s hard to tell.

3D Exit Signs

Recently artists have been making exit signs three dimensional. Yuki Matsueda’s work shows a running person jumping out right at you, escaping the danger behind him. Perhaps in the years to come, our exit signs may appear to us in 3D.

Though it’s hard to say what the future holds for exit signs, it is certainly bright. Even now you can partake in this transformation by enjoying innovations such as exit signs designed for wet locations, corrosion-resistant signs, vandal-resistant signs, self testing signs, photoluminescent signs and self-luminous signs.

Exit Signs: The Past and the Present


The modern exit sign has a long lineage that borrows from its ancestors and will inspire its decedents in the future. You might be surprised at how far exit signs have come and how much further they will go.

The Vintage

Early exit signs were made of metal and had a white glass cover with the word “Exit” written in red letters. The sign was either lit by closely positioned incandescent light bulbs, or was fashioned into a box that held the light bulbs inside of it. Both styles of early exit signs had their flaws. At the time, batteries were heavy and inefficient. The energy to light the signs had to come from the building’s power source, which caused problems during fires and power outages. During such emergencies, the signs would lose their light, making it difficult for people to find their way out.

Fires were an even bigger problem for early exit signs. Light from incandescent bulbs tends to be less sharp and even hazy. During fires, it was difficult for people to see the exit signs through all the smoke. The heat from fires would also exacerbate the situation, reducing the system’s ability to stay lit.

And the final drawback of early exit signs is they were not very easy to mount or install. Because they were so heavy, especially if they contained a backup battery, it was difficult to find a wall space that could support them. They also were larger and took up more space than modern signs.

The Now

As time went on, dual power exit signs became more common. Such exit signs contained a backup source of power, a battery. Fortunately for exit signs batteries have made a lot of progress over the years. They recharge easily, have become small, and pack a lot of power. And they’re not as expensive as they used to be! Modern models are now equipped with a battery for backup, keeping the systems lit even when there is no power. In fact, all the exit signs currently on sale have a backup power source. Modern exit signs are also more efficient, allowing for the new and improved batteries to last.

Current exit signs perform much better in fires. They are able to better withstand the heat as they are made with flame retardant materials. The light illuminating them no longer comes from incandescent bulbs.  LED lights are now common in the signs, as the lights require little maintenance.  In fact one of the signs that is currently on sale for 27% off has a LED lamp life of over 25 years.

Today’s exit sign manufacturers have made the systems more user-friendly. They are lightweight and small compared to their ancestors.  Maintenance is also minimized by the longevity of the components within the system.

Exit signage has come a long way, but will continue to evolve in the future. Stay tuned for what’s ahead. There’s an amazing symphony of progress and science that waits. In the meantime, here are a list of today’s exit signs available to you at a discount.

Discount prices and clearance items may run out, so buy soon!