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Emergency Lighting Blog

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

Category Archives: Emergency Lighting Accessories

Battery Life Expectancy

How Long Will Your Battery Last?

Rechargeable batteries are an investment, and for you to get the highest return, they need to last. When determining the life expectancy of your next battery, it’s important to know the type of battery. Each type of battery responds differently to various environments, significantly impacting the length of life.

Sealed Lead Acid and VRLA Batteries

Lead acid batteries were the original rechargeable batteries, first appearing over 150 years ago. The sealed lead acid battery is a new variation of the old technology. Their main benefit is the calcium added to their plates, which reduces water loss. They can also recycle gases they produce and prevent damage to the battery when the charge rate is controlled. These innovations help them meet their average life expectancy of 5 to 10 years.

VRLA  (Valve Regulated Lead Acid) batteries are closely related to SLA batteries. The main difference is they are more durable. SLA batteries last the same amount of time as VRLA batteries in normal conditions, but the VRLAs can be inverted without spilling electrolytes. This allows it to last longer for some uses than its SLA cousin.

Both types of batteries must be cared for properly to live long into their lifespans.  Do not attempt to charge batteries in sub zero temperatures. Although the durability of lead acid batteries can withstand temperature extremes, they have limits. To ensure the batteries receive proper care, consult the instructions. Most instructions will detail the optimal temperature for storage, charging instructions and operation. Follow these guidelines and they will last. An example of the detailed instructions included with your battery appears in this guide for a Power Sonic SLA battery.

Nickel-Cadmium Batteries

Nickel-cadmium batteries for are great for demanding uses. They can withstand high discharge rates while sustaining minimal damage or loss of capacity.

Unfortunately, they don’t do as well in storage as lead acid batteries. Nickel Cadmium batteries will self-discharge in storage at faster rates. Charge the batteries semi-regularly to avoid deep discharge, which damages the battery and shortens its life.

If you properly care for a nickel cadmium battery by following the instructions within the packaging, your battery should last you 10 to 15 years or 500 to 1000 charge cycles.

Although the instructions for care vary, all nickel-cadmium batteries and nickel-metal hydride batteries should not be charged in freezing temperatures. Avoid temperature extremes while charging.

Nickel-Metal Hydride Batteries

Nickel-metal hydride batteries are similar to nickel-cadmium batteries, except their energy density approaches that of a lithium-ion cell battery, making them great for high current drain applications. Their average lifespan is equal to that of nickel-cadmium batteries.

Like nickel cadmium batteries, they don’t do as well in storage. They can lose as much of 4% of their charge per day, meaning they will need to be recharged periodically to avoid deep discharge. Fortunately, the nickel-metal hydride has a variation reducing instances of self discharge, known as LSD nickel-metal hydride.

Whatever type of nickel metal hydride battery you choose, keep in mind your intentions. If you need to store your battery for long periods of time, you will want to consider an LSD version of nickel-metal hydride battery, as it will be more equipped to avoid deep discharge.

Before you decide on your next battery, consider the purpose you intend for it. If you need help deciding what battery is right for your need, contact us online or give us a call at 800-521-4045. We’ll help you out.

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.

A Tale of Two Symbols: Why America’s Exit Signage is Unique in the World

NFPA and ISO Exit Signs

While the glowing red EXIT letters may be ubiquitous in the States, a trip outside the US will reveal a vastly different standard for emergency signage. In the event of an emergency, the majority of the developed world looks to a little green man for the route to safety. Why does America  not conform to the global standard?
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Emergency Lighting and Exit Sign Requirements

An emergency light is a battery-backed lighting device that comes on automatically when a building experiences a power outage. Emergency lights are standard in new commercial and high occupancy residential buildings, such as college dormitories. Most building codes require that they be installed in older buildings as well.


By the nature of the device, an emergency light is designed to come on when the power goes out. Every model, therefore, requires some sort of a battery or generator system that could provide electricity to the lights during a blackout. The earliest models were incandescent light bulbs which could dimly light an area during a blackout and perhaps provide enough light to solve the power problem or evacuate the building. It was quickly realized, however, that a more focused, brighter, and longer-lasting light was needed. The modern emergency floodlight provides a high-lumen, wide-coverage light that can illuminate an area quite well. Some lights are halogen, and provide a light source and intensity similar to that of an automobile headlight.

Early battery backup systems were huge, dwarfing the size of the lights for which they provided power. The systems normally used lead acid batteries to store a full 120-volt charge. For comparison, an automobile uses a single lead acid battery as part of the ignition system. Simple transistor or relay technology was used to switch on the lights and battery supply in the event of a power failure. The size of these units, as well as the weight and cost, made them relatively rare installations. As technology developed further, the voltage requirements for lights dropped, and subsequently the size of the batteries was reduced as well. Modern lights are only as large as the bulbs themselves – the battery fits quite well in the base of the fixture.

Modern installations

Modern emergency lighting is installed in virtually every commercial and high occupancy residential building. The lights consist of one or more incandescent bulbs or one or more clusters of high-intensity light-emitting diodes (LED). The emergency lighting heads are usually either PAR 36 sealed beams or wedge base lamps. All units have some sort of a reflector to focus and intensify the light they produce. This can either be in the form of a plastic cover over the fixture, or a reflector placed behind the light source. Most individual light sources can be rotated and aimed for where light is needed most in an emergency, such as toward fire exits. Modern fixtures usually have a test button of some sort which temporarily overrides the unit and causes it to switch on the lights and operate from battery power even if the main power is still on. Modern systems are operated with relatively low voltage, usually from 6-12 volts. This both reduces the size of the batteries required and reduces the load on the circuit to which the emergency light is wired. Modern fixtures include a small transformer in the base of the fixture which steps-down the voltage from main current to the low voltage required by the lights. Batteries are commonly made of lead-calcium, and can last for 10 years or more on continuous charge. U.S. fire safety codes require a minimum of 90 minutes on battery power during a power outage along the path of egress.

As a method of signaling a power outage, some models of emergency lights must be shut off manually after they have been activated. This is true even if the main building power comes back on. The system will stay lit until the reset button on the side of the unit is pressed.

Modern Emergency Light Design

Emergency lighting is often referred to as egress lighting. Emergency lights are used in commercial buildings as a safety precaution to power outages, so that people will be able to find their way out of a building. Exit signs are often used in conjunction with emergency lighting.

New York City requires emergency lights to carry a Calendar Number signifying approval for local installation, Chicago requires emergency lighting to have a metal face plate, and Los Angeles requires additional exit signs be installed within 18 inches (460 mm) of the floor around doors to mark exits during a fire, as smoke rises and tends to block out higher installed units.

As there are strict requirements to provide an average of one footcandle of light along the path of egress, emergency lighting should be selected carefully to ensure codes are met.

In recent years, emergency lighting has started to move away from the traditional two-head unit – with manufacturers stretching the concept of emergency lighting to accommodate and integrate emergency lighting into the architecture.

An emergency lighting installation may be either a central standby source such as a bank of lead acid batteries and control gear/chargers supplying slave fittings throughout the building, or may be constructed using self-contained emergency fittings which incorporate the lamp, battery, charger and control equipment.

Self-contained emergency lighting fittings may operate in “Maintained” mode (illuminate all the time) or “Non-Maintained” mode (illuminated only when the normal supply fails).

Codes of practice for emergency lighting generally mandate that wiring from the central power source to emergency luminaires is kept segregated from other wiring, and constructed in fire resistant cabling and wiring systems.

Codes of practice lay down minimum illumination levels in escape routes and open areas. Codes of practice also lay down requirements governing siting of emergency lighting fittings, for example the UK code of practice, BS5266 specifies that a fitting must be within 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) horizontal distance of a fire alarm call point or location for fire fighting appliances.

The most recent codes of practice require the designer to allow for both failure of the supply to the building and the failure of an individual lighting circuit. BS5266 requires that when Non Maintained fittings are used, they must be supplied from the same final circuit as the main lighting circuit in the area.

Relevant standards

IEC 60598-2-22 Ed. 3.0: Luminaires – Part 2-22: [1] Particular requirements – Luminaires for emergency lighting

IEC 60364-5-56 Ed. 2.0: Low-voltage electrical installations – Part 5-56: [2] Selection and erection of electrical equipment – Safety services

ISO 30061:2007 (CIE S 020/E:2007): Emergency lighting (specifies the luminous requirements for emergency lighting systems)

What You Should Know About Emergency Light Batteries

In case of power outage or an emergency, batteries play a significant role in minimizing risk. Having efficient emergency lighting isn’t enough if your batteries don’t function properly. That’s why you should consider all the factors before choosing light batteries for your exit signs or emergency lights.

The Purpose of Emergency Light Batteries:
When the electricity is off, batteries function as a light activator. As a rule, they can provide the light for 90 minutes or more. Please note that the batteries used for emergency lights should be more powerful than those used for exit signs.

Features That Determine Effective Light Batteries:
– Need to have enough power to illuminate the room for 90 minutes.
– 24 hours should be enough for their full charge.
– Need to have the required voltage capacity to power emergency lights or exit signs.
– They should be easily replaced and installed.

Types of Emergency Light Batteries:
– Nickel cadmium – they are ideal for small exit signs, emergency lights and electronic devices.
– Lead acid – these batteries are suitable for small and medium emergency lights and exit signs.
– Lead calcium – these lead acid batteries are usually used in cold environments. They need lower maintenance cost and are more durable in comparison with other types.

The Efficiency of Rechargeable Batteries
Even though rechargeable batteries are quite expensive when compared with traditional ones, they are more durable and can be easily recharged. They are perfectly suitable for emergency lights, exit signs or other electronic devices.

Emergency Lighting – A Battery for Everthing!

Battery:  a device that converts stored chemical energy into usable electrical energy.  When it comes to batteries, one size does not fit all.  Batteries come in so many shapes, sizes and kinds.  There are primary cell batteries and rechargeable batteries.  There are wet cells and dry cells.  There are primary batteries and secondary batteries.  This can seem confusing.  What you need to know is what battery you and looking for and that Emergency Lighting is the place you will find it!  If you don’t know what battery you need, contacts us! – we’re ready to help you.

Power-sonic Batteries
Alkaline Batteries
Atlite Batteries
Big Beam Batteries
C & D Batteries
Concealite Batteries
Dual-lite Batteries
Emergency Light Batteries
Eagle Picher Batteries
Emergi-lite Batteries
ExcideChloride Batteries
Kaufel Batteries
LightGuard Batteries
Lithonia Batteries
Long Life Lead
National Power Batteries
Nicad Batteries
Nickel Metal Hydride
Panasonic Batteries
Phone Batteries
Prescolite Batteries
Portalac Batteries
Power Batteries
Sentry Batteries
Siltron Batteries
Sure-Lites Batteries
Toy Batteries
Yuntong Batteries
Yuasa Batteries
640 Batteries
6100 Batteries
Exit Sign Batteries
Power-Sonic Batteries