Today we’re announcing an exciting new addition to our website.
In your comments on this blog and especially in our Wednesday Lighting Q&A on our Facebook page, we’re often asked how to install or troubleshoot a product. Our customers love our products and our low prices, but they want to know how to use them. Responding to that, we’ve just launched our brand new DIY page on 1000Bulbs.com.
Check back often for new updates. Our goal is to be the go-to source for any lighting-related DIY or How-To. Have suggestions? Our blog comments area is always open, as are our Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter pages. Bring out your inner Bob Vila and have fun!
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.
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 184.108.40.206, 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, like this one, 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.
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.
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!
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.
Many people in lighting and design circles are already familiar with the Plumen CFL. If you’re not, Plumen’s tagline sums it up pretty well: “The world’s first designer energy saving light bulb.”
To many, the typical spiral shape of a compact fluorescent is an eyesore, so they hide it under a lampshade or within an enclosed light fixture. That’s unfortunate, because there’s no reason a CFL has to be so ugly. In fact, the bulb’s glass tube can take virtually any form. There are plenty of fixtures, from pendants to desk lamps, which challenge the status quo. Why shouldn’t a bulb do the same?
The creators of the Plumen—designer Samuel Wilkinson and British design company Hulger—took that challenge. Their revolutionary bulb takes its inspiration from bird feathers (the “plume” in Plumen). Instead of twisting the glass tubes of the bulb into a utilitarian and industrial shape, the designers gave them an airy, organic form. The unique design has already landed Plumen in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and earned it the Brit Insurance Design of the Year Award.
Popular applications for the Plumen include pendant lights, floor lamps, and anywhere you might use an antique light bulb. Indeed, many stylish, yet energy conscious customers find the Plumen satisfies their desire for much less efficient incandescent antique bulbs. The Plumen uses only 11 watts to produce the equivalent light output of a 60 watt incandescent light bulb. This means the bulb saves 80% on your energy bills. In addition, the 8,000 hour bulb will outlast 8 to 10 incandescent bulbs. Lower bills, fewer carbon emissions, long life, and beautiful design: What more could you ask for in a light bulb?
You know the feeling. You just came home from the hardware store with a blister pack of brand new, energy-saving CFLs. You screw them in and hit the switch. “Oh, this is gonna be good,” you say to yourself. You’re going to save tons of money and your bulbs are gonna look great! Then you notice they’re dim, really dim. Defeated, you retreat to another room to find your receipt. But then, when you return a minute or so later, they’re as bright as you expected them to be! What sorcery is this?
Everyone has had this experience with their first batch of CFLs, though maybe it wasn’t as melodramatic. To understand why compact fluorescents start off dim, you have to know a bit about how fluorescent lighting works. Unlike an incandescent bulb, which creates light by heating a filament until it is white-hot, fluorescent lights use cathodes to heat a special gas or mix of gases to create UV light. The UV light is then filtered through phosphors to create white or colored light. To do this however, the cathodes have to warm up.
Every new CFL on the market uses different proprietary technology to shorten the bulb’s warm-up time, with varied results, so we chose to test four of our best-selling 60 watt CFLs. Though this is far from a scientific study, here’s how we conducted the experiment: We screwed each bulb into a lamp, and set a light meter about one foot to the side the lamp. We propped up the light meter so it was roughly on the same horizontal plane as the CFL’s midpoint. We then turned on each bulb and used the light meter to record the maximum light output of the bulb. Finally, we replaced the bulbs with identical bulbs of the same make and model (using the already warm bulb would have skewed our results). We then switched the bulbs on and recorded the time it took to meet the previously recorded maximum output.
Bulb One: Energy Miser
The first bulb we tested is a 13 watt, 2700K CFL from Energy Miser. Just over $1.00 each, this bulb is not only the most inexpensive of the bulbs we tested, but it’s also our best seller. The manufacturer doesn’t make any claims about the bulb’s warm up time, though our customers have given it an average 5-star rating. In our tests, the bulb reached its maximum output in 2 minutes, 2 seconds. That’s not exactly quick, but according to most manufacturers, it’s about on par for a typical CFL.
Bulb Two: TCP TruStart
The second bulb we tested, a TCP TruStart, is a fairly new addition to our product line. In their spec sheet, TCP claims this bulb is the “Best on/off CFL ever made!” Unlike the previous bulb we tested, TCP does make a claim about this bulb’s warm-up time; specifically, TCP says the CFL has a less than 30 second warm-up time. Our tests showed this claim to be mostly true, with the bulb reaching its full brightness at 38.7 seconds.
Bulb Three: Sylvania DULUX EL
The third bulb we tested is from the “big three” of lighting manufacturers, Sylvania. Sylvania also doesn’t make any specific claims about warm-up times for this 13 watt CFL from their DULUX EL family, nor do our customers (who give it an average 4-star rating). So how did this name brand product fare? Pretty well, it turns out. The bulb reached its full brightness at 1 minute, 7 seconds. That not as good as the TCP TruStart, but it’s nearly twice as fast as the Energy Miser.
Bulb Four: TCP InstaBright
The final bulb we tested is a little different from the other four we tested. This covered CFL from TCP has a glass cap over the fluorescent spiral tube so that it looks more like a typical A-shape incandescent bulb. In their InstaBright G2 brochure, TCP claims the bulb has the “Fastest run-up time and significantly improved light build up time,” and it is supposed to reach full brightness in 45 seconds. Surprisingly, this bulb beat even its own estimates, reaching full brightness in only 35.1 seconds!
Which of these bulbs should you buy? It depends how much you’re willing to pay and how much you value fast warm-up times. There is a spread of more than $4.00 between the cheapest and most expensive of these bulbs. Is a few seconds quicker to reach full brightness worth the premium? Let us know what you think in the comments, or connect with us on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.