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Prepare for power outages with emergency light batteries

August 27, 2015

Written by: Randy Walker

Power outages or scheduled lighting system maintenance is rife in many commercial and residential facilities. In such instances, emergency lighting is crucial, especially in facilities that rely heavily on illumination power such as hospitals, plants, and data centers. The emergency lighting system switches on either automatically or manually in such scenarios. This requires an integrated supply that cannot be interrupted--such as batteries.

The primary purpose of emergency lights is to provide illumination until primary power is restored, or until occupants can safely exit the facilities. To achieve this purpose, it is important that the system have a reliable source of power in the form of batteries. Self-contained units typically consist of a battery and lamp heads, usually incandescent or LED lights. With the primary power fully functioning, the backup system is usually off, with the battery remaining fully charged.

The system activates immediately after power loss for between 30 and 120 minutes. The duration depends on the capacity and number of battery units. There is an installed system to charge the batteries when the AC power is back. For units that charge a number of remote heads, especially in large buildings, a high voltage is required to overcome the losses in the external wiring.

Requirements

The following are the primary factors to consider during emergency lighting system acquisition and sourcing: 


Location requirements: The lighting system should be conveniently located for easy access during outages and other emergencies. Many building owners are often confused about the right placement areas. Key areas include exit points, hazardous areas, chief occupancy areas such as offices, and accommodation.
Occupant requirements:

The installation of emergency lighting is governed by local and national codes. As part of the safety and precaution requirements, building owners and safety officers are required by law to provide secondary sources of illumination. The codes, stringency, and requirements depend on the nature of the facility or business. Industries that deal with hazardous materials have more stringent regulations than residential areas.


Scheduled testing: It is crucial that the secondary system is in working condition at all times. Do not wait until the primary system fails, lest the secondary system fails, too. To ensure maximum working condition, perform scheduled testing. The initial tests should be done at the installation time, followed by planned testing. Institutions such as hospitals require more frequent testing.

This should be accompanied by proper personnel and occupants' training on system operation. The testing should also include frequent drills, especially in industries that feature hazardous materials. 

Benefits of Emergency Lighting 


An uninterrupted power supply is crucial to institutions such as hospitals, fire stations, etc. The presence of power can save lives, whether for critical patients, or evacuations during emergencies. In the same vein, continuous supply results in reduced downtime, equipment, and worker redundancy and guaranteed continuous productivity in factories and other businesses.
The law, depending on the nature of activities, requires installation of emergency lighting systems.

Compliance ensures adherence to the required laws, therefore avoiding penalties, fines, and the distress and inconvenience associated with playing hide-and-seek with the authorities.
In any one facility, there is a myriad of matters to attend to. It is, therefore, important to keep the stressors on the low.

Possession of a working emergency lighting system with a reliable battery pack offers peace of mind.  

Factors to Consider When Purchasing Emergency Lighting Systems and Batteries 


Power requirements and protection: The emergency batteries utilize the primary AC power to re-energize through an integrated inverters circuit. This presents the biggest challenge--over-current and heat damage.

This significantly reduces battery longevity, as well as present risks such as leaks and chemical corrosion. The emergency system unit should include an over-current protection circuit to regulate the junction temperatures, operating current and voltage.


Compatibility: As with other electronic systems, compatibility is crucial. Batteries must be a match for the lighting system, both in fitting and operation. This allows for easy installation, as well as a replacement. Fortunately, the system usually has indicated battery specifications. With such information, procurement from the supplier is easy. 

Compatibility rests on unit design. Innovations in the field mean that the units are increasingly becoming more compact and discrete. Furnish the supplier with the necessary details of the system, point of installation, and the required features. 


Cost: Compliance with set codes requires predetermined installation and placement of emergency lighting. For large facilities and places with high tenant turnover, the cost of system installation and battery purchase significantly rises. Perform thorough research to ensure that you get value for the investment.

The areas to look into include optimized placement and orientation, energy efficiency, and mode of lighting. The latter depends on the power source and operating principles.


Longevity: For areas with a reliable primary power supply, emergency power lighting systems experience long hours of inactivity.

However, it is crucial that the batteries remain fully charged. Procure batteries with a proven longevity for both functionality, and cost reduction. Most reputable suppliers offer approximate lifetimes.


Operating conditions: The operating environment dictates the type of emergency lighting and battery you need. Note that temperature and humidity affect battery discharge and longevity. Most operate optimally at room temperature. However, industrial environments often maintain abnormal temperature setting.

Here, we often encounter high temperatures, humidity, water and gas, and hazardous chemicals. Include the information during the equipment specification document. The national electrical code should come in handy as a point of reference. Proper unit isolation and protection are vital.

Manufacturers provide different units for residential and various industries to accommodate the inherent environmental conditions. Other than the electrical code, include additional information such as the building codes, and any special usage conditions. Highlighting the codes is especially vital when sourcing from regions that adhere to different standards.


Warranty: This is crucial to protecting the purchaser from costs associated with manufacturing mechanical defects. Ensure a comprehensive warranty accompanies the battery supply. However, to enjoy the benefits related to the warranty--such as free replacements--proper operation, maintenance and testing as per the manufacturer's directive is important.

Failure to comply nullifies the warranty. A point of note is to go through the fine print to decipher the terms, as well as the conditions that void the warranty. 
Energizing:

The efficacy of the emergency lighting system relies on the ability to energize fast, followed by low discharge with optimized illumination. High-quality batteries provide between 1.5-2 hours of illumination. This allows ample time to attend to the primary system outage, and safe evacuation in case of an emergency. This requires proper battery selection and system maintenance. 

Sources:

http://www.csemag.com/single-article/a-case-for-exceeding-emergency-lighting-standards/418e31a5f56aa82dd26637be97048aaf.html

http://www.lumacell.com/en/catalogue/pdf/battery.pdf

http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/fpc/Battery_opliting2.pdf

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