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How to Fix an Emergency Light

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

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Comments 3 comments

Edward 5 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 ? (ed-call@hotmail.com)


Dennis Minish 2 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?


Philip 12 months 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 http://hardware.nl/noodverlichting/van-lien/aqualu... 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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