To ensure safety in the event of power outages, it’s usually mandatory to have emergency lighting systems in large commercial, industrial, or government buildings, and other public structures such as theaters, shopping malls, universities, hotels, and parking garages. A real challenging part of these rules is that not only does such lighting have to be installed, it has to be tested periodically to make sure it will be operational should an actual power outage occur.
Various building codes and standards such as the National Fire Protection Association Life Safety Code and the National Electrical Code set forth best practices that pertain to emergency lighting in larger buildings, with the lighting itself falling under Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 924 – Emergency Lighting and Power Equipment. While these standards (UL 924 primarily is for the U.S. market) are fairly well known among building design and construction professionals, one thing that can be overlooked is the effort involved on the facilities side in periodically testing the lighting.
The testing challenge, of course, ties back to the size and scale of the building in question. If a facility manager is responsible for testing only a relatively small building, testing might not be a big task, but if we are talking a large retail store, a medical center, or a sprawling office complex with thousands of lights and dozens of emergency exits, testing of emergency lighting can be a big chore.
The testing can be accomplished by manually switching off circuit breakers that feed the emergency lighting circuits. Some lighting systems might also have test buttons. In either scenario, you typically would have a facilities person who needs to go and manually flip these switches. Under emergency lighting practices in North America, it’s typically required to provide 90 minutes of backup and test duration, which means someone has to manually switch all the breakers or buttons back on.
But there is a simpler way to handle emergency lighting testing and backup, using uniterruptible power supply (UPS) technology. Basically, using UPSs to backup emergency lights, you can centralize the task of regular monthly testing. Facilities people can simulate the outage and test the lights by interfacing with one UPS, rather than dozens of circuit breakers or test buttons.
At Schneider Electric, we’ve configured a family of UPS specifically for emergency lighting situations, based on the Galaxy 5000 UPS. This is a three-phase power protection solution with online technology to isolate and protect against power quality disturbances. However, one of the most beneficial features of the Galaxy 5000 for this particular application is that it can run in eco-mode, and only activated during power outages or tests, which improves the energy efficiency of the solution substantially.
So in summary, by using a qualified UPS to backup emergency lighting, you have a reduced maintenance overhead involved with regular testing, and cost savings efficiency that adds up over time for large structures. You also have a UPS that can run in a high efficiency mode under normal operation. It’s a good type of application for UPS, and one that doesn’t get enough attention.
There are other Secure Power applications for industry that are perhaps more exciting or seemingly mission critical, but emergency lighting should not be overlooked. Secure Power refers to the challenge of ensuring high reliability and uptime for mission-critical assets found outside of data centers. These Secure Power challenges are all around us—from the systems in the water treatment plant in your town, to the emergency lights in your office park, to the equipment used at your local hospital. At Schneider Electric, our product and marketing teams put a major focus on addressing the needs of these various Secure Power applications.
To find out more about how Schneider Electric can address Secure Power challenges in industry, contact your Schneider Electric representative, and for further information, check out this background page UPS for Secure Power solutions.