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Emergency Lights - Should I Change the Battery or Change the Entire Fixture?

Dec. 07, 2023

Emergency lights typically have a battery back-up that will operate the light in the event the power goes out, regardless of if there’s a generator for back-up power. Exit signs can and should also have a battery, especially if the building doesn’t have generator.


During fire department inspections, the functionality of emergency lights is routinely assessed, ensuring they operate seamlessly with or without power. To comply with federal and state regulations, maintaining these lights is crucial. When considering installation of new or updated emergency lights, should you opt to solely change the battery or replace the entire fixture?


Requirements for Emergency Lighting


During emergencies like fires, commercial buildings must have functional emergency and exit-path lighting. These lights are crucial for illuminating hallways, stairwells, and exits. They must emit a minimum of 1.07 lux of light along the emergency exit path at floor level and remain lit for at least 90 minutes.


Even in buildings without a centralized inverter or backup generator, emergency lighting is obligatory. This necessitates dedicated emergency lights or battery backup LED drivers in specific fixtures. In many instances, lights required to be battery-powered are equipped with distinct circuitry to activate during power outages.

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Ni-Cd Battery Pack SC 1200mAh 3.6V


When to Replace Batteries in Emergency Lights


There are two primary types of batteries utilized to power exit signs and emergency lights:


Nickel-cadmium batteries:

Lead-acid batteries:


Battery life typically spans between 2 to 4 years, available in varying voltages and amperages, with relatively straightforward maintenance procedures. Regular cleaning and testing of emergency lighting batteries are crucial to ensure operational readiness and prevent dimming. A well-charged, well-maintained battery should sustain emergency lighting for at least 90 minutes. If the 90-minute emergency tests indicate failure (i.e., the lights don't illuminate or lack sufficient brightness), immediate battery replacement is necessary.


It's important to test each battery individually at regular intervals and promptly replace any that fall short.


Even if a battery remains functional after its maximum operational lifespan (typically four years), replacing it is advisable for organizational convenience. Replacing all batteries simultaneously is more practical than a piecemeal approach. In larger buildings, a systematic replacement strategy by floor might be feasible. Additionally, replace batteries displaying any signs of wear and tear, as some damages can affect the entire fixture, necessitating a complete replacement.


When to Replace an Emergency Light Fixture


There are various reasons why you might consider replacing your emergency light fixture.


Advancements in illumination technology, notably the widespread adoption of LED lighting, offer several advantages such as:



Modern lights utilizing LED technology are smaller and generate less heat compared to traditional incandescent or halogen bulbs. The availability of sleeker designs makes them an appealing choice for commercial or apartment buildings.


If an emergency light uses traditional halogen or incandescent bulbs, it's likely older (at least 10 years) and larger compared to newer models. Considering a replacement with an LED light is recommended.


Visible wear and tear, like dirt, discoloration, or haze on lamp heads, can significantly impact light performance. In such cases, replacing the fixture is advisable. Moreover, signs of battery corrosion, leaks, foaming, or crustiness indicate aging and necessitate immediate replacement.


Why Change the Battery Instead of the Fixture?


One might wonder why opt for a battery replacement rather than acquiring a new fixture, especially with the advancements in LED technology and more affordable prices. Why not invest a little extra for a new fixture instead of simply replacing the battery?


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