Exit and emergency lighting isn’t just useful – it’s mandatory. As required by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), all commercial buildings must install exit and emergency lighting. The Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) has also produced relevant regulatory language, mostly concerning the design and visibility of any emergency fixtures.
To meet these standards, contractors are increasingly electing for LED emergency lighting for their new construction projects. LED lighting offers several advantages over older lighting technologies, making it an effective alternative to legacy systems.
Where Is Exit and Emergency Lighting Required?
The NFPA defines where exit and emergency lighting must be installed, and it updates the relevant codes every few years to keep them up to date.
In the vast majority of buildings, emergency lighting and signage must be in place. The only exceptions include:
- Buildings where there’s enough natural light to illuminate all exit paths. This is only allowed in buildings where occupants are not present at night. The NFPA must inspect the property before this exception is allowed.
- Buildings that are not regularly occupied by people.
- Towers that are designed to accommodate three or fewer people at once, and have an escape ladder in place for rapid egress.
Every other commercial building must have exit and emergency lighting in place and installed along evacuation routes leading out of the structure. Some common installation spots include:
- Windowless rooms that are larger than a closet
- Exit stairwells
- Hallways and corridors leading to exit stairwells
- Points of egress that lead to the building’s exterior
The point is to get people out of the buildings as quickly as possible, so exit and emergency lighting should be used to deliver clear directions.
LED Downlights and Emergency Sign Lighting are Popular Solutions
LED emergency lighting is available as standalone downlights or as part of exit signage. These can be used in concert to provide all the illumination your building needs to meet NFPA codes.
LED downlights are ideal exit path fixtures, as they require little power to function and can be installed nearly anywhere. Like most downlights, LED emergency downlights can be recessed into the ceiling and used to create brilliant vertical shafts of light. This will get peoples’ attention during rapid egress.
Emergency exit signs must also be illuminated, and the standard choice is to pick an EXIT sign that also provides its own light. LED exit signs incorporate LED lighting into the sign, making for a reliable, highly visible layer of safety.
You’ll Need the Right Drivers for the Job As Well
In an LED lighting system, drivers act like ballasts for each fixture, modulating electrical flow into the lamp and optimizing its performance.
For your building’s emergency LED lighting, you’ll need emergency drivers to ensure those lights are available when power is unavailable. NFPA codes require emergency lighting to be hardwired into the building’s mains and have a backup power source ready.
Emergency LED drivers come with a backup battery that can provide power for more than an hour after mains power is cut. Many models also function as a standard driver when main power is available, so the emergency LED can be used as a standard light in non-emergency conditions.
Your Exit and Emergency Lighting Must Meet Brightness and Legibility Regulations
NFPA and OSHA emergency codes specify more than fixture positioning. They also include brightness and legibility standards that emergency and exit lighting must meet. For example, emergency lighting must:
- Include the word EXIT in easily legible lettering. Each letter must be at least six inches high and ¾ inch wide.
- Any door along an exit route must not be obstructed with signage or objects that make it difficult to see the EXIT sign.
- EXIT signs must emit illumination that’s at least 54 lux in brightness. The sign must emit a color that is easily perceivable. Some codes require EXIT signage to be colored red.
Three Reasons Why Businesses Choose LED Exit and Emergency Lighting
Most new exit and emergency lights are powered by LED light engines. LED is quickly replacing legacy technologies across the entire lighting industry, and this includes emergency lighting applications. Here are three reasons why:
LED Lighting Comes With an Extended Lifespan
The longer your emergency fixtures last, the better. You don’t want them cutting out at the worst time. LED lighting provides peace of mind here, as the typical LED light will last for at least 50,000 hours before it needs to be replaced. Fluorescent fixtures may make it half as long. Most HID fixtures are in a stark decline phase by 10,000 hours.
Emergency lighting must be reliable, and no other lighting technology is as reliable as LED.
LED Lighting Produces High Quality, Brilliant Illumination
At first, LED lighting lagged behind HIDs and halogens in lighting quality. In recent years, LEDs have flipped the script. Modern LEDs emit crisp light, and because LEDs are directional in design, it’s easy to aim that light where it’s needed most. The result is a lot of high-quality light from a compact, efficient fixture.
LED Lighting Can Render Color Exceptionally Well
Early-generation LED lighting also had issues rendering color, but that’s also been resolved. High-CRI (color rendering index) LEDs can perform about as well as halogen in terms of color rendering. Better color rendering means better overall visibility, perhaps saving precious seconds as people evacuate the building.
Bulb Daddy Can Provide Emergency Lighting Fixtures and Components
When setting up an emergency lighting system, you’ll need an array of fixtures, signs and lighting components. To ensure your building has everything it needs for emergency lighting purposes, consider working with an expert like Bulb Daddy. Our team has several decades of experience in various lighting applications, including LED lighting applications. We can help target the best emergency lights for your building, from a regulatory and performance standpoint.