Emergency lighting: Are you putting your facility at risk?

A lack of adequate, reliable emergency lighting puts a building’s occupants at risk. If lighting fails for any reason, loss of life or injury can be caused by hazards such as stairs, floor openings, obstructions and high inertia machinery.

To prevent this, buildings should have life safety systems which comply with relevant building regulations, guidelines and codes, while including a legitimate second power supply from a separate source. Such systems should be backed with excellent documentation and record keeping, plus routine testing.

Designing an emergency lighting system which is legislatively compliant while keeping building occupants safe depends on both the luminaires and their power supplies, whether self-contained or centrally sourced – as we shall see below.

Certified luminaires

Luminaires should be certified to EN 60598-2-22. This is a product approval that checks the quality both of the products and their performance, and has ratings for one hour or three hour duration. Also relevant is the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) L64 Signs Directive and document, which covers all safety signs and signals.

New and refurbished buildings apart from private dwellings should meet Building Regulations 2006 (including 2010 and 2013 amendments) approved documentation. This should be implemented by building control officers, except for in Northern Ireland and Scotland which have equivalent requirements. Details of the requirements are given in part B1 section 5.36; these specify that all escape routes and areas listed in Table 9 should have emergency lighting compliant to BS 5266.

EN 1838 specifies lighting levels. For example, escape routes should have one lux lighting levels, and open areas should be 0.5 lux.

BS 5266 also covers emergency lighting in lifts. The standard does not specify a light level; it simply provides protection for anyone trapped within a lift. However, the lift standard has been revised recently, so new lifts will be incorporating five lux emergency push buttons to assist occupants in evacuation.

Additionally, BS 5266 installation work must comply with the IET Wiring Regulations, 18th Edition.

EN 50171-compliant power sources

Possibilities for powering emergency lighting systems include local, self-contained battery units, and central systems. A key central system advantage is that its maintained circuits can be controlled remotely or locally. This means that output can be inhibited to prevent unwanted discharge when the premises are empty. Such systems also offer a choice of outputs so variable system durations can be set up for specific areas.

Power system status can also be monitored easily and automatically without requiring an automatic test system. However, centralised systems require a competent system engineer to handle design, installation and servicing. Future expansion is also difficult.

Central system equipment such as the static inverter must be EN 50171 compliant. This is an important consideration, as many ‘compliant’ UPSs actually only meet EN 50091-1; this is insufficient for the elevated requirements specific to emergency lighting systems. In particular, EN 50171 systems should support a 120% overload capacity.

EN 50171-6 requires the batteries (typically VRLA) to have 10 years’ life except for units smaller than 1500 watt-hours, which should be five years. Batteries must provide their design duty at end of life.

EN 50171-6.2 requires the batteries to be recharged to 80% of their capacity within 12 hours at 20°C.

Kohler Uninterruptible Power emergency lighting solutions

The Kohler Uninterruptible Power (KUP) emergency lighting range includes the PowerWAVE EL 300 DSP series, which uses true double-conversion and PWM technology, and is capable of 120% continuous overload; it carries the BSI kitemark for BS EN 50171 certification. With three-phase input and output capability from 10 to 160 kVA, it supports higher power loads. Simple installation is followed by high reliability, low maintenance and low cost operation, with intelligent battery monitoring to maximise service life.

The PowerWAVE EL 100XA series handles smaller-scale installations. The units, rated from 500 – 3000 VA, can be wall-mounted or floor-standing. They support an internal self-contained battery system that can supply standard emergency lighting for up to three hours’ autonomy.

KUP’s modular technology, with its rightsizing and fast MTTR, is represented by the PowerWAVE EL MOD series, with ratings from four to 24 kVA.

In addition to its emergency lighting system design, maintenance and support services, KUP offers a downloadable, editable document to help achieve compliance with BS 5266 part 1 2016. Each customer can edit it specifically for their own project requirements – with assistance from KUP if required.

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