What is the purpose of emergency lighting?

Author: Dominik Pfaff | Published: 10 Dec, 2021

The purpose of emergency lighting is to provide a level of illumination in the egress path that allows the occupants of the building to safely exit in the event of a mains power failure.

The Building Code of Australia mandates the use of emergency lighting systems in all types of buildings except for standalone single residential dwellings & non-habitable structures.

What is the difference between maintained and non-maintained emergency lights?
A maintained emergency light (e.g. an LED batten with battery backup) will provide its normal level of illumination when mains power is available and will operate on battery power at a reduced illumination level when mains power fails. Typically used in carparks & firestairs.

A non-maintained fitting (e.g. a spitfire emergency light) is not illuminated unless mains power fails. Typically used in commercial offices.

What is the typical expected life of a battery in an emergency light and what factors can negatively impact the lifetime?
A battery in an emergency light typically lasts for 3-4 years. The following factors can lead to pre-mature battery failure:

  • High ambient temperatures
  • Storing the emergency luminaires for an extended time after purchase, before installing them.
  • Leaving emergency batteries in a discharged stage for extended periods, e.g. during construction
  • Temperatures below 0ºC for LiFePO4 batteries

How often is testing of the emergency lights required?
AS 2293 prescribes a test interval of 6 months & 12 months for a range of tests. The main purpose of the tests is to ensure that emergency lights must operate for 90 minutes on battery power when mains power is turned off. This is to ensure that the lights have sufficient remaining battery capacity in the event of mains power failure.

It is good practice to clean diffusers of emergency lights at regular intervals to ensure that dirt build-up does not impact the light output. This is particularly important in environments such as a car park.

What are the different test systems used for emergency lighting?

Manual test
This test requires the person conducting the test to turn off power at the switchboard, wait for 90min and then walk around to check if all emergency lights are still operational. This test should be conducted in such a way that occupants of the building are not adversely affected.

Automatic standalone self-test
A fitting with a standalone automatic self-test (such as the Chamaeleon III) will automatically test the battery at fixed intervals and display the result of the test via an indicator on the fitting. A person conducting the test can quickly identify which fittings have passed or failed the test by checking the indicator, without having to turn power off or wait for 90 minutes.

Monitored system
In a monitored system all emergency lights are connected to a computer via cables or wireless communication. Emergency tests can be scheduled via software and results are displayed on a computer. As per the standards, a person still needs to physically check each & every emergency fitting for cleanliness, condition etc. Due to cabling & system requirements, this system is expensive & more difficult to commission compared to a standalone self-test.

Do I need to purchase and install a new luminaire when it fails to operate for the required 90 minutes test duration?
There is a misconception that the entire fitting has to be replaced when the fitting fails the emergency test. In majority of the cases, all that is required is a battery replacement. LED luminaires and the integrated battery charging electronics have a long lifetime therefore it would be a waste of resources and money to dispose of the entire fitting just because the battery failed the emergency test.

Can a layperson replace batteries in emergency lights?
In luminaires where the battery is located inside the fitting, an electrician is required to change the battery since power must be isolated before the fitting is disassembled to access the battery.

The Chamaeleon III luminaire features an external accessible battery draw which allows replacement of the battery without isolating power or engaging an electrician.

Can I dispose of old emergency light batteries in general waste or the recycling bin?
For environmental and safety reasons, batteries should not be disposed of in general waste or via the household recycling bin. They should be recycled at a recycling facility where they are dismantled safely and valuable resources are recovered. Contact your local council or electrical wholesaler for advice on battery recycling.



Dominik Pfaff

Author: Dominik Pfaff

Product Engineer

Dominik manages our in-house workshop and testing facility at our Sydney office. Dominik works with our product R&D team to test prototypes of electronic and control components for our growing range of integrated smart controls solutions. Dominik also works on providing installer and end user documentation for controls commissioning and assists with technical enquiries .

Dominik holds a Masters in Electrical Engineering from the University of Wollongong which builds on a combined Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering and Information Technology from Germany.