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How to Fix an Emergency Light

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The Importance of Emergency Lights

Emergency lights can be found in large-scale apartment complexes, 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, and 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 heavily 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. The same concept applies here.

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 for 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 a more high-pressure emergency.

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 the simple things that cause problems.

If, however, checking the simple things and replacing the battery doesn’t fix the issue, or, if the nit 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 sub-chassis, which houses the board, during this process. Nearly all 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.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Comments

Cesar on November 18, 2018:

The two lights on my exit emergency light always is on how I can fix it?

Edward on April 04, 2018:

I have same problem as Lorey

Leroy on March 13, 2018:

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.

Henry Siethe on September 11, 2017:

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

Joe on September 08, 2017:

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.

Wes Ovall on August 07, 2017:

I'm having the same issue as hlynch1216@gmail.com. Anyone, have a solution.

hlynch1216@gmail.com on April 07, 2017:

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

Dennis Minish on May 20, 2014:

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

Edward on December 13, 2010:

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 ? (ed-call@hotmail.com)