Emergency light fixtures are used in many commercial, industrial, municipal and large residential buildings to provide illumination when the power is disrupted and to mark exits for evacuation purposes. They are available as standalone fixtures that contain a battery, a charging circuit and energy-efficient light bulbs, providing light to darkened rooms and hallways during an emergency, as well as illuminated signs that direct occupants along evacuation routes to designated emergency exits.
After many years of use, the emergency light batteries powering these fixtures will begin degrade, reducing their operating time or causing the fixtures to fail completely. This could have dangerous consequences during an emergency, jeopardizing the safety of not only the building's occupants, but that of emergency responders as well.
Here are five reasons that you should inspect and test the emergency light batteries in your fixtures often:
1) Increased Safety
In many large commercial and industrial buildings, rooms and hallways on the interior of the building, away from the exterior walls, can become dangerously dark when the power is disrupted. This can make it difficult to navigate during an emergency without flashlights or other emergency lighting, and it can lead to injuries or even deaths in serious emergencies like fires or earthquakes.
Emergency light fixtures, when operating properly, can provide over 90 minutes of illumination after the power is disrupted, allowing a building's occupants plenty of time to safely evacuate and providing emergency responders with enough time to make sure that the building is completely empty. By testing your emergency light batteries and fixtures often, you can make sure that they will operate properly during an emergency, preventing accidents and injuries.
2) Reduced Liability
If your emergency light fixtures are not operating properly or the emergency light batteries no longer provide enough power to last the full 90 minutes required by many local codes, accidents, injuries or property damage could occur during a power outage or an emergency. This could lead to claims against the building’s insurance policy, and higher premiums in the future, as well as civil or even criminal lawsuits or penalties.
By keeping your emergency light fixtures well-maintained, and ensuring that the emergency light batteries can hold a sufficient charge to last for at least 90 minutes, you can avoid unnecessary liability and the associated expenses.
3) Longer Battery Life
Batteries that are stored for long periods of time without regular use can self-discharge, or slowly lose power, reducing the available amperage and voltage. In emergency light fixtures, this can reduce the operating time of the lights when power is disrupted, and if the emergency light batteries are left in a partially-discharged state for too long, the lifespan of the batteries can be significantly reduced or the batteries could fail completely. Likewise, a battery that is not periodically subjected to regular charge and discharge cycles could fail prematurely or lose capacity, reducing the fixture's operating time.
By periodically inspecting and testing your emergency light fixtures and batteries, you can extend the lifespan of your existing emergency light batteries, and avoid the extra expense of replacing them early.
4) Improved Fixture Performance
When emergency light fixtures are not tested often and maintained properly, they can perform poorly during an emergency situation. Weak batteries can reduce the operating time of the fixture or lead to abnormally dim illumination during use. Dirty or corroded battery connections could prevent the light from operating, reduce its brightness or prevent the battery from recharging properly. Old or damaged bulbs could prevent the fixture from providing sufficient light or they could drain the battery quicker than normal.
By testing the emergency light fixtures and batteries often, and performing a bit of simple maintenance, you can be sure that they will provide a sufficient amount of light during emergency situations and that they will operate for the required amount of time.
5) Longer Fixture Life
As emergency light batteries start to lose capacity or fail completely, they can cause problems with the emergency light fixtures themselves. Charging circuits can overheat and fail from charging damaged batteries. Wires and connectors can overheat due to shorted batteries and cause an open circuit or a short. The bulbs in the fixtures could receive too much or too little power and fail.
Periodic inspection and testing of each fixture can help spot a damaged emergency light battery before the problem is severe enough to cause damage to the fixture itself. This prolongs the life of the fixture, and limits repair costs to the price of a new battery, instead of both the battery and a fixture.
Inspecting and Testing Emergency Light Fixtures
Emergency light batteries typically contain sealed lead acid, nickel cadmium or nickel metal hydride batteries.
- Sealed batteries are the most susceptible to self-discharge, and if stored in a partially-discharged condition, they fail prematurely.
- Nickel cadmium batteries also have high self-discharge rates, and to maintain capacity, they should be charged and discharged completely, as partial charging may affect long-term performance.
- Nickel metal hydride batteries have low sell-discharge rates and can withstand partial charging, but they should also be charged and discharged periodically for the best performance.
Every three to six months, the following steps should be performed to keep your emergency light batteries in optimal condition:
- Visually inspect the battery for leaks or damage
- With the main power off, inspect and clean the battery terminals and connections
- Measure the battery voltage when it is full, which should be slightly higher than the rated voltage
- Disconnect the power and measure the operational time of the fixture
- Allow the fixture to fully recharge and measure the battery voltage
If the battery is damaged, leaking, or not performing properly, replace it. If the fixture is not operating properly or is damaged, have it repaired or replaced.