How to Fix an Emergency Light

Updated on July 14, 2010

The Importance of Emergency Lights

Why do you need to fix an emergency light? Can’t it wait? Is it really that important?

Yes, yes it is.

Emergency lights can be found in large scale apartment complexes, and most commercial buildings and industrial zones. Keeping them functioning is beneficial to your business in several ways. For one, it can save lives. It may sound a bit dramatic, but emergency lights can literally keep people moving, and out of harm’s way in the event of a simple power outage, all the way up to a large scale environmental disaster.

Rooms, stairwells an hallways in poorly lit buildings, particularly those lacking natural lighting, can be a death trap for panicked individuals who’re frantically evacuating a building.

Due to the aforementioned logical importance of these lights, most public establishments, specifically heavy frequented commercial places (like hotels, stadiums, and schools) enforce the use of emergency lights through safety codes, often mandated by state and/or city regulations. In fact, depending on your location, you may be required by law to test your lights on a monthly basis.

Many establishments like the ones just listed have backup generators in place, often diesel, that will keep the power running for a little while. Those that don’t, however, should feel significantly more pressure to ensure that they’re backup lighting is in working order.

In short, if your emergency lights have gone out, you better darn well fix them while time affords it. You don’t pack an emergency preparedness backpack because you like walking around everywhere with free dried food (well, you might) - you pack it because when you need it, you’ll be glad you have it. Same concept applies

Emergency lighting, unfortunately isn’t created the same across the board. However, most units share major commonalities. Here are a few tips to get you started when the lights go out:

Emergency Light and Exit Sign

Guy fixing a common set up; emergency light with an exit sign
Guy fixing a common set up; emergency light with an exit sign

Tips on Fixing an Emergency Light

Get to know your equipment as well as you can.  This is an extremely underrated suggestion.  Unless your building is currently being evacuated, you have no reason to not get acquainted with your emergency system right now.  This will help you tremendously, in both everyday maintenance (passing safety inspections), or in a more, high pressure, emergency situation.

It’s also in your best interest to keep batteries on hand.  Battery replacement resolves the majority of all emergency light malfunctions, and in most cases, it’s an easy fix.  Unfortunately, however, they tend to be very expensive.  Keep in mind, they usually last a solid five years, so don’t just get rid of them willy-nilly - make sure that it is indeed the battery that’s gone bad.  Test it in another unit or a dedicated charger to ensure that the charger isn’t the problem.

If the battery isn’t the problem, consult your manual, and check the simple things first.  For instance, make sure the bulb is tightly connected, and that your wire nuts aren’t loose.  It’s almost always that simple things causing the problems.

If, however, checking the simple things and replacing the battery doesn’t fix the issue, or, if the nit in particular seems to be going through batteries very quickly, you may need to replace the circuit board.

Consult both your building layout and emergency light documentation before replacing your circuit board.  Know ahead of time, not only what you’re doing, and what equipment you’ll need, but what, in addition to the local lighting, is connected to the unit in question; often, you’ll have other lights and/or illuminated exit signs also connected.

Again, always consult your model documentation, but for the most part, the basics are the same across the board, and you can usually make out through the writing on the board itself, which connectors match up with the associated pins.  You’ll also need to open and/or remove the subchassis, which houses the board during this process.  Nearly all the the time, white, green and black wires are incoming AC, and most everything else is making remote connections.  Again, read your manual, or consult a professional to be sure.

Well, those are just a few tips to help get your building’s disaster recovery program up to speed.  Fixing an emergency light is usually as simple as screwing in a bulb, or occasionally replacing a battery, so keep it simple, prepare ahead of time, and try not to jump to drastic measures.

Replacing the Bulbs on an Emergency Light

Questions & Answers


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        Edward 2 weeks ago

        I have same problem as Lorey

      • profile image

        Leroy 6 weeks ago

        I had to replace and older model emergency light with a new led version just today. When I finished the connection and mounting, it test fine but there is another emergency only light and exit/light combo that both came on. I checked the breakers and have not found any tripped. what should I check into next.

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        Henry Siethe 7 months ago

        Excellent one, these tips could become handy if i remember to use them correctly.

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        Joe 7 months ago

        replaced emergency light at a business and no power going to light and overhead flourecent light went out ?

        Checked circuit breaker box and checked all GFI's. How do I troubleshoot light.

      • profile image

        Wes Ovall 8 months ago

        I'm having the same issue as Anyone, have a solution.

      • profile image 12 months ago

        Installed 3 new LED Building Emergency Lites to replace

        6V battery powered ones (Emergency Lighting & Power Equipment Model 18100)

        Two of units just flash and go out when test button depress.

        Other will not work at all. The original one for that location would burn dim.

        Please advise

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        Philip 2 years ago

        Hello! I wish you help me with my problem! My emergency sustem have been worked for 5 years and never stopped! Last week I had serious trouble with it. As I understood fuse is blown and I don't know how to replace it. i tried to find any tutorials on the box and instructions to my system but there are nothing. I have this model and I hope you will help me! I live in Netherlands and repairment here is too expensive I wish I can fix everything by myself!

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        Dennis Minish 3 years ago

        i turned off the power to the exit sign ( with lights ) and the lights came on good but how long do they stay on?

      • profile image

        Edward 7 years ago

        Hi, have been through problems when repairing an emergency light I checked up the simple stuff ie battery, tube and all that but no voltage is going to the tube do you have any ideas ? (