Emergency Lighting Guide: Emergency Lights

Aug 24, 12 Emergency Lighting Guide: Emergency Lights

In last week’s article, we discussed one major part of emergency lighting: Exit signs. In this week’s article, we’ll discuss the second part: Emergency lights. A note before you continue: Try not to confuse the terms “emergency lighting,” an overview of the entire topic, with “emergency lights,” a special light that comes on in the event of an emergency or power failure.

Like exit signs, emergency lights are a complex topic, yet also like exit signs, the regulations dealing with emergency lights come down to the same two important documents: OSHA 29CFR and NFPA 101, also known as the Life Safety Code.

Basic Requirements

The portion of OSHA 29CFR dealing with emergency lights (1910.37(b)) is relatively vague. It simply states, “Each exit route must be adequately lighted so that an employee with normal vision can see along the exit route.” NFPA 101, on the other hand, is much more specific. In section 7.9.2.1, it states:

  • The emergency light must provide illumination for no less than 1-1/2 hours.
  • The initial illumination of the emergency light must be an average of 1 footcandle (10.8 lux).

If you are unfamiliar with footcandles, essentially what the NFPA’s requires is that the light cast on any one square foot of an exit pathway must be equal to one lumen or more (a footcandle is equal to one lumen per square foot). This is something you’ll need to consider when choosing your emergency lights and why many of our lights include photometric charts. An emergency light with typical 5 watt tungsten heads may be appropriate for typical applications, but in many cases, you may need one with Halogen heads or even a special high wattage emergency light.

Testing

NFPA 101 also includes specific language about testing your emergency lights. Section 7.9.3 states:

  • A hard-wired emergency light must be tested monthly for a minimum of 30 seconds.
  • A fully battery-operated emergency light must be tested yearly for a minimum of 1-1/2 hours.

For the sake of convenience, not to mention safety, we highly recommend using self-testing emergency lights. These units continuously monitor the input voltage to the fixture as well as the condition of the battery backup. Should the fixture fail a test, an indicator light will signal that it needs to be serviced. At that point, you can choose whether you need to troubleshoot the input power, replace the emergency light battery, or replace the fixture altogether.

Other Considerations

Items not covered in NFPA 101 but still worth considering include remote capability, emergency ballasts, and aesthetic considerations. Remote capability allows you to connect multiple emergency lights, exit signs, or remote heads together, which will all trigger in the event of an emergency. Emergency ballasts keep fluorescent lights operational in the event of a power failure. Finally, you may want to consider the color and style of the emergency light you choose; after all, it will become a part of your décor.

If you have questions or comments about emergency lighting, be sure to let us know in the comments section. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus!

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Emergency Lighting Guide: Exit Signs

Aug 17, 12 Emergency Lighting Guide: Exit Signs

Are you opening a new business or planning a shiny, new remodel of an existing place of business? One of the things you’ll have to consider—whether you want to or not—is emergency lighting.

There’s good news, however. Despite being a technical subject, federal guidelines on emergency lighting boil down to the contents of only two key documents: OSHA 29CFR and NFPA 101. If those sound like challenging reads, they are, but this introductory article should help you get started.

Because this is a relatively large and technical subject, we’ll be splitting it into two parts: The first part, which you’ll read today, deals with exit signs, while next week’s article will deal with emergency lights.

Let’s start with a question: How many exits does your place of business have? Every one of those exits will need an exit sign. The requirements here are simple. The exit sign must legibly state the word “EXIT” in letters at least 6 inches high and with a 0.75 inch stroke. (29CFR 1910.37(b)(7)). That’s easy; in fact, you would be hard-pressed to find an exit sign in the United States that doesn’t meet those requirements.

Unfortunately, that’s the only easy part. There’s no point in having an exit sign if your employees can’t see it, is there? Your exit signs must be fully illuminated, either by an external light source or by internal illumination. Save yourself some trouble here and go with internal illumination. Using an external light source requires a whole new list of rules that, trust us, you don’t have time for. Besides, with all the pre-approved, self-luminated exit sign options available—LED, Tritium, even photoluminescent (glow-in-the-dark)—why would you use anything else?

Though a little light goes a long way, even with the brightest exit sign, you’ve still got the problem of corners, hallways, and winding corridors. OSHA also requires that, unless the exit sign is in plain sight from every point in the building (good luck with that) you’ll need additional signs with arrows that point the way the door (29CFR 1910.37(b)(4)). Fortunately, most every exit sign available today does double-duty as both an exit sign and a directional sign. To make your exit sign a directional sign, simply punch out the “chevrons” on either side of the unit and mount the sign to point in the appropriate direction. Only in very high-end “designer” exit signs will you need to order a special unit with pre-applied or glass etched directional arrows.

Speaking of “designer,” there’s no problem with injecting some aesthetic sensibility into your emergency lighting. Typical white thermoplastic exit signs work fine on white or off-white walls, but with darker walls (movie theaters being an obvious example) black thermoplastic units look much better. If you run a hotel or an upscale retail store, a unit with a brushed aluminum face or even an elegant edge-lit glass exit sign is a better option. Plus, with any LED exit sign you’ve got the choice of red or green letters.

Be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed so you don’t miss part 2 of this series next week! While you wait, you can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

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Get Your LED Christmas Lights Early!

Jul 20, 12 Get Your LED Christmas Lights Early!

It’s that time of year again: Christmas in July. Not only does this magical season give you the opportunity to buy discounted inventory, it also allows you the best chance to secure 2012′s “latest and greatest” high-tech Christmas lights and decorations. You don’t want to be the only home on the block without them, do you? These products move fast, so if you pick up only one or two light strings, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get a larger quantity of matching lights when you need them later in the year.

Buying matching lights is essential since mixing lights from two or more manufacturers inevitably leads to color and performance discrepancies, especially among LED Christmas lights. If you aren’t careful, come October or November you could be stuck with a collection of off-colored, flickering light strings with irregular spacing and a phone book’s worth of manufacturer names. In the 2011 Christmas season, 25% more of our customers chose LED over traditional incandescent Christmas lights, when compared to the 2010 season. That’s the most rapid adoption of any technology we’ve seen, and it’s especially amazing considering traditional incandescent lights outnumbered our LEDs last year two to one. We project even bigger LED adoption this year, so if you don’t want to find yourself in the scenario described above, buy early and in bulk.

The increasing adoption of LED Christmas lights means we’re putting special emphasis on LED quality this year. Our buyers have traveled to trade shows and lighting fairs around the country to hand-pick the best Christmas lights available. Not all LEDs are created equal, so we only bring in the LED lights that do best in demonstrations and that manufacturers test for longevity. In some cases, we’ve even had lights manufactured to our custom specifications!

If you’re still skeptical about LED technology, consider this: A recent poll on our Facebook page shows that while some customers are still waiting to switch, early adopters of LED lights are overwhelmingly satisfied with them. Since LED technology becomes more efficient and less expensive every year, you can bet our 2012 selection will meet your expectations. If you’re still wondering just what LEDs can do for you, watch our Christmas YouTube videos to see some of the infinite possibilities of LED Christmas lights.

If you transition to LED lights this year, you’ll have a partner every step of the way in 1000Bulbs.com. Industry-leading professionals have trained our sales staff to assist customers with large orders, ensuring the products you buy are compatible with each other and guiding customers in the setup of more intricate systems. If you have a question down the road, our customer service team can answer questions and aid in troubleshooting. Rest assured we will do everything possible to ensure you have the best lighting display possible this Christmas!

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1000Bulbs.com Now Has Lighting Fixtures!

Jun 22, 12 1000Bulbs.com Now Has Lighting Fixtures!

A light bulb is nothing without the right lighting fixture to power it. At least, that’s the thinking behind our recent expansion into home lighting. This broad, new product line, which includes everything from chandeliers to outdoor lanterns, may be 1000Bulbs.com’s largest product expansion since…well, ever.

We already carried a large selection of commercial and warehouse lights including wall packs, flood lights, and high bays. However, the number of home lighting fixtures we’ve added easily eclipses our commercial offerings. With 3,000 new products spanning 16 categories, you’ll be hard-pressed not to find at least one fixture to suit your home lighting needs.

Despite the large number of new products, we’ve focused on bringing in only high-quality lighting brands. These brands include Nuvo, Troy Lighting, Lazy Susan, Hudson Valley, and the artisan brands Arteriors Home and BoBo Intriguing Objects. Though these are high-end brands, we promise competitive pricing. We even encourage you to call us up or email us for special rates and package deals for large lighting projects, such as hotels, restaurants, and retail.

Most of the new lighting fixtures are part of wider product families. A chandelier, for example, often has a ceiling light, wall sconce, pendant, and vanity to match. Multiple color and style variations are also available to satisfy antique, traditional, transitional, and modern design schemes. Antique lighting fixtures have already shown to be popular, with Troy, Hudson Valley, and Lazy Susan lamps, sconces, and pendants attracting broad customer interest.

Despite the large number of new lighting fixtures on the website, we haven’t forgotten light bulbs. If you take a look at the “accessory” tabs on our product pages you’ll see our staff has recommended the appropriate standard, energy saving, decorative, or antique light bulb to pair with the fixture. We encourage you, for example, to pair reproduction tungsten filament lamps with antique style pendants and incandescent globe lights with bathroom vanities.

We plan even further expansion into home lighting throughout 2012. 1000Bulbs.com is considering additional well-known brands, a wider pricing selection, and more Energy Star Qualified fixtures for future product rollouts. Let us know what you think and what products you’d like to see. Drop us a line in the comments, or contact us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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Buying Fluorescent Ballasts: 3 Factors to Consider

Feb 10, 12 Buying Fluorescent Ballasts: 3 Factors to Consider

Unless you’re an electrician, you’ve probably never changed a ballast. Chances are, when your garage fixture or kitchen light went out, you changed the bulbs, and when that didn’t work, you went to an overpriced hardware store and bought a brand-new fixture. Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, you could’ve saved a lot of money by switching out the ballast—an investment of only $10 to $15.

But with so many options out there, how would you know which ballast to pick? The truth is, it’s pretty simple. There are tons of fluorescent ballasts to choose from (we have nearly 300 on our site!), but most business owners and even homeowners will find it easy to wade through that seemingly never-ending selection if they concentrate on just 3 key specs: Bulb type, start method, and ballast factor.

Bulb Type

Needless to say, this is the most important part. If you don’t know what type of fluorescent bulb you’re using, you’re going to have a hard time figuring out which type of fluorescent ballast to buy. Fortunately, most fluorescent fixtures will use one of three common bulb types: An F40T12 (4′ long; 1.5″ in diameter), an F32T8 (4′ long; 1″ in diameter) or an F54T5 (46″ long; 0.625″ in diameter). If your bulbs don’t meet one of these descriptions, you’ll need to check the etching near one of the ends of the fluorescent bulb (a good idea even if you think you know the bulb type).

Start Method

Once you’ve determined what type of  fluorescent bulbs you have, don’t burn them out prematurely by choosing a ballast with the wrong starting method. As discussed in a previous article on how to extend the life of a light bulb, an instant start ballast hits the fluorescent bulb cathodes with about 600 volts every time you flip the light switch. As you might imagine, the bulb can only stand so many of those on/off switches. Consider where your fixture is installed. Offices, boardrooms, and retail spaces tend to stay lit for long periods, so use an instant start ballast should be fine, as long as you don’t switch the lights off and on more than about 3-4 times a day. Hallways, stairwells, and bathrooms are switched much more frequently, especially since the lighting in these areas is often controlled by an occupancy sensor. In these areas, it’s best to use a programmed start ballast, which will heat the bulb cathodes more slowly and prolong its life.

Ballast Factor

Finally, you need to consider light output. “What?” you say. “You mean the bulb isn’t exactly the brightness it says it is on the label?” Nope. The light output shown on a fluorescent bulb’s label, expressed in lumens, is figured using a normal light output ballast with a ballast factor between 0.77 and 1.1. A normal ballast factor is usually the right option, for “normal” circumstances. But if you don’t need your room quite as bright, you can save electricity by using a low output ballast with a ballast factor below 0.77. On the other hand, if you are lighting a warehouse or manufacturing facility where brightness is important, you will need a high output ballast with a ballast factor above 1.1, which will push the bulb to be 10% or more brighter than stated on the label.

Of course, if you need something more specialized like a sign ballastdimming ballast, or circline ballast, you’ll likely need an equally specialized electrician. The same principles still hold true, however, so if you need to call an electrician, at least he’ll be impressed by how much you know!

 

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