Test An Emergency Exit Light

The proper way to test an exit light.

An emergency exit light is National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) mandated for every public entry and exit way door in the United States. NFPA approved exit lights are controlled by hard wiring into a buildings electrical system, and using a battery back-up for the light in case the power goes out. The hard-wired system keeps the battery fully charged and ready for immediate use, and an internal switch will trigger the light during a power outage. Although built to quality standards, both the bulbs and the batteries need to be checked on a monthly basis to insure 100% operative capability. Does this Spark an idea?


1. Visually check the exit light under normal operating conditions. There are two different bulbs inside, an 120 volt AC bulb fed off the main power supply, and a DC-powered bulb–usually 6 volts–supplied by a battery. The exit sign must be fully lit by the main power supply. If the 120 volt light is no longer lighting the sign, the exit bulb needs to be replaced.

2. Push in the red “test” button on the side of the exit light, and hold it in for at least 30 seconds. The 30-second minimum is essential for a proper test, because even a nearly dead battery will supply several seconds of power.

3. Replace the battery if the emergency light will not stay lit for the required 30-second time frame. If the light will not go one with a fresh battery installed, replace the light bulb and re-test.

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4. Replace the entire unit when both a fresh battery and fresh bulb are installed, yet the exit sign does not light up when the test button is pushed.