Exit lights are an important part of your Life Safety system. It can be easy to overlook exit lights since they are a part of our everyday landscape. But it is imperative that you keep them working, not just because it is required, but because they will help to save lives in an emergency. Here we outline the most common exit light failures, all of which can be avoided with regular inspections and maintenance.


The most common reason exit/emergency lights fail to work is dead batteries. During an emergency, Exit signs operate on batteries which maintain their charge from an electrical power connection.  Even rechargeable batteries will eventually stop working though. If you allow your dead batteries to sit in the light they can cause additional problems such as leaking battery acid and damaging the charging unit. A1 recommends that you change your exit light batteries every 2 years as a preventive measure for outages and additional problems.

Charging Unit

If you do not change your batteries on a regular basis, and your batteries go bad, they can put an additional strain on the charging unit (the part of the light that recharges the batteries). As the charging unit works harder, attempting to charge failing or failed batteries, it can burn out; now you have to replace your exit light instead of the batteries.

Exit Lights which use Incandescent Bulbs 

Older exit lights use incandescent bulbs which burn out after a period of use. Facility owners and managers can save money by upgrading to new LED or Photoluminescent exit lights.

In addition to burned out bulbs, it is common to find these lights with burned lenses (the part of the light that glows red) as anything over a 15-watt bulb will burn the lens. Changing the bulb is easy, of course, but facility managers need to be careful to use only 15-watt or less bulbs to avoid this damage.

Test button on incandescent lights are also another area where problem commonly occur. The test button is a spring loaded button which pushes on the motherboard. After so many tests, the motherboard can actually be pushed so far away that the spring no longer reaches.

New Exit Signs/New Buildings

One frequent service call we get from new buildings is for their exit lights not working during the initial inspection by the owners. Typically, the problem is that the batteries have been put in the exit light but not plugged into the charging unit. If they are not plugged in, there is not battery power to use during the inspection (when the power is cut). Before you call for a service visit at your new building, check that your batteries are plugged in!

Exit lights are an integral part of your Life Safety system. There are requirements from insurance and OSHA to perform monthly and annual inspections and maintain documentation.  Click here for more information on exit light inspections, including a template for monthly inspection reports.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Back To Blogs