If your company or organization is planning an LED Retrofit project to upgrade your lighting, you’ll need to insure that you consider emergency exit lights as part of your project. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established requirements that all commercial buildings must have clear exit routes from any point within the building to a place of safety. OSHA acknowledges and accepts the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) emergency exit lighting requirements as to levels of illumination and that the emergency lights must work for a minimum of 90 minutes in the event that normal power is interrupted.
The types of commercial buildings that need to have Emergency Lighting include any facility that allows the general public (e.g., Churches; Retail stores; Hospitals; Sport complexes), employees (e.g., factories; office buildings), or specific use buildings (e.g., apartment complexes).
As the building owner, you have four options for generating the backup power to keep the lights on:
Emergency Power Generator: Generators are normally powered by natural gas, propane, or diesel fuel. The generator powers a motor that generates electricity for critical operations, like emergency lighting. Generators can be expensive (several thousand dollars), but can keep your building operational for several days, if needed.
Emergency Inverter: if you only need the emergency lights to work for a shorter period of time, you could use an emergency inverter, which is essentially a giant battery. The inverter gets charged from the main power supply and becomes operational when the main power supply fails. The inverter can power large sections of emergency lighting and many can handle LED lights. Inverters can handle both interior and exterior emergency lighting. Because inverters are powered by a battery, their lives are short, typically 90 minutes.
Emergency Lights: many companies install traditional emergency lighting, which consist of light fixtures with built-in batteries. The fixtures are powered by the main power supply (when the power is on) and via the batteries when the power supply is interrupted. Similar to inverters, 90 minutes is the average limit these fixtures will work when the power is out. These lights have a smaller upfront cost as compared to purchasing a generator or Inverter, but will still meet OSHA and NFPA requirements.
Emergency Backup Drivers: the final option for providing power to your emergency lights are backup drivers or emergency ballasts. Note that these are specifically made for lights that already have a driver to regulate their power supply, so they won’t work for every application. The emergency backup drivers/ballasts have a battery that powers the light when the main power supply goes out.
OSHA has provided a handy checklist so you can evaluate if your building complies with the NFPA Emergency Illumination Standards.
Contact the experienced lighting installation team at PKK Lighting and we can discuss your LED Retrofit project, emergency lighting needs and potential options.