The hidden costs of emergency lighting
Emergency lighting maintenance, testing and replacement is an essential and traditionally expensive part of facility management. LUKE GIBBESON looks at the hidden costs of emergency lighting and how to minimise or eliminate them.
Issue – Replacement costs
It’s not unusual for buildings to experience failure rates of up to 60 percent during mandated half-yearly emergency lighting tests. Such high failure rates are commonly the result of using low-quality products. Despite the low initial cost of these products, the shorter lifespans they inevitably have often increases costs in the long term due to high replacement rates.
Warranty and warranty management
Buying products with long warranties is the first step to ensuring the frequency and cost of replacements is minimised. That said, without efficient warranty management, facility managers run the risk of paying for replacements even if they are still under warranty. The use of a spreadsheet or Airtable is an ideal way to keep track of warranties. Alternatively, network emergency lighting systems such as EMIoT provide automatic warranty tracking that can result in savings and peace of mind.
Quick component replacements
Another way to reduce both replacement costs and landfill waste is to select emergency lights with quick battery replacement designs. This eliminates the need to replace the complete light fitting. Additionally, some battery replacement designs such as the Kwicky module allow for safe replacement without powering down the electricity supply.
Obtain multiple maintenance quotations
When expensive repairs are required always source three quotations at minimum. Ensure you compare warranties, technologies and confirm the products are from a reputable and established manufacturer.
Failure confirmation and transparency
Building owners, strata managers, strata committee and other stakeholders responsible for decision making can often feel helpless when assessing maintenance and repair costs as they may have no means of comparing the merits of different options.
To confirm lighting failures and the cost of replacements these stakeholders can:
- Engage another external contractor to assess the failures.
- Visually inspect the test result LED if self-testing products are installed.
- Request a copy of the testing report from the monitored system if one is installed.
- Obtain quotations for self-testing or monitored systems to accomodate for future transparency.
Issue – Compliance and certification costs
Emergency lights require testing on a half-yearly basis to ensure they are in working condition. These tests must be conducted by a trained service provider who is required to test the lights for a total of 90 minutes, as expert knowledge is required to simulate a power outage for that length of time.
Coordinating external contractors and notifying building occupants can be a costly exercise, particularly if the test needs to be conducted outside of standard business hours.
Buildings are required to submit annual fire safety statements to the local council and are subject to fines if the fire safety statement is not submitted by its due date. Furthermore, buildings built prior to the current standards commonly require expensive installations to achieve minimum fire safety requirements.
Regularly obtain and compare quotations
The simplest and most effective way to select appropriate products and providers is to regularly obtain quotations. By doing so, facility managers can source the best options at the best price.
Plan ahead to avoid non-compliance fees
In order to avoid costly non-compliance fees, it’s important for facility managers to organise for their building to be tested by a competent fire safety practitioner in advance. This allows enough time for repairs, replacements and a further test.
Monitored emergency lighting systems allow for autonomic emergency lighting performance testing. This provides the advantages of enabling the 90-minute emergency lighting test to be scheduled out of standard business hours and without the need for anyone to attend. This saves time and manual testing costs and reduces inconvenience. Additionally, no testing switch is required to be installed.
Note that an external contractor is still required to visually inspect every light fitting to ensure no physical damage is present and that each light fitting is clean.
Similar to monitored systems, self-testing solutions conduct regular and automatic testing of each light fitting. The test results are provided via a mobile app or via an LED on the light fitting. With a self-testing solution in place, the building doesn’t require a test switch and the automatic test can occur out of standard business hours. This allows the external contractor to collect the results, perform the visual check and clean light fittings as required with minimal disruption to operations.
Issue – Cleaning, plastering and painting costs
The cleaning of emergency lights is essential to ensure the internal hardware does not fail due to dust ingress. The covering should be cleaned to ensure optimal lighting levels. Plastering and painting are often needed when the replacement emergency lights are of a different size or shape from the original light fitting. This can result in paint of a different colour being visible, an area being notably cleaner than its surroundings, or holes showing where smaller, recessed replacements have been installed.
Compare replacement product size
To avoid holes, unpainted areas or exposing earlier paintwork facility managers should compare the replacement product size with their existing product or ask the contractor doing the replacement to do so. Product datasheets can be viewed and downloaded from manufacturers’ websites in order to compare dimensions.
Organise plastering and painting after replacements
When replacing large emergency lights, schedule a painter to patch any holes and repaint the areas of your building where lights have been replaced.
Image: Claudio Schwarz, Unsplash.