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Emergency Lighting Blog

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

Do Your Exit Signs Pass the Test?

Exit Sign Requirements

Because fires, power outages and other dangers are uncalled for, your exit signs have to be ready to pass the test. Prepare for critical events with two checks: one monthly and one annually. Following the two test schedules will ensure your exit signs are ready for danger.


The Tests

The monthly tests are simple, lasting 30 seconds or more. For your exit signs to pass the monthly test, they need to maintain the minimum illuminations standard for 30 seconds or more. During these thirty seconds, the exit sign must use its backup power only, as you are simulating a power outage.


The monthly test is simple, but the second test, the annual 90 minute inspection, requires more work. Like the 30 second test, the 90 minute test determines if your system can maintain the minimum illumination standards while using only backup power. Backup power is likely to come from a battery, which must last for the entire duration of 90 minutes along with the lamp and other components.


The Easiest Test

Modern exit signs make monthly testing easy. The test switches built into units simulate power outages. By holding the switch for 30 seconds, you can determine if your light maintains illumination standards while using only the battery for power.


If you have an older exit sign, you may not want to trust this method. The components in older models that shut off the flow from the main power source have been known to fail. Because most systems require you to hold the button throughout the test, the built in test switch is not effective for the 90 minute test.


The Easy Test

The second method isn’t as easy, but simple. To start, unplug the exit sign from the power source.  Cut off from its power, the exit sign will use its battery to stay lit. There are two downsides to this method. You could forget to plug in the exit sign after the test, and you could put your battery through a deep discharge if it’s left unplugged for too long. A deep discharge occurs when your battery is drained too low, decreasing its lifespan.


The Hard Way

Unfortunately the most cumbersome method also happens to be the best. Shutting off your circuit breaker controlling the power to the exit sign simulates a power outage. This testing method works great if all or most of your emergency lights connect to one circuit breaker. For the test to work, the breaker needs to be off for 90 minutes, which creates a problem when the breaker connects to essential equipment.


Breathe Easy

Does all this talk about testing have you on edge? Relax. Emergency lighting and exit signs are reliable. The batteries powering the units have a shelf life of 5 to 10 years depending on the type of battery you use.


If your unit is new, it will likely pass the test easily, but test anyway. Conditions specific to your environment can cause your systems to malfunction. To make sure you pass your next test, we recommend you have a quality exit sign that requires little maintenance throughout its lifetime. LED exit signs have proven themselves reliable and self-illuminating exit signs simplify the testing process.