How to Wire Emergency Lighting

Last Updated on April 29, 2020 by Jed Glover

Imagine our world without light. We cannot see the things around us, what is going on around us during the night – when it’s dark.

Light stimulates sight and makes things visible. It illuminates things or ways. A light could be natural (like our sun) or artificial (like our lamp).

When we say artificial lighting, this includes the ones from electrical devices -the light we have in each of our homes. Did we ever say “thank you” to those who made our lives easier… and less spooky?

What is Electricity?

Electricity is a form of energy that can be generated in several ways:

  • Coal
  • Natural Gas
  • Nuclear
  • Hydro
  • Solar
  • Wind
  • Geothermal
  • Oil

These sources of electricity provide power to devices that create light, heat, and a lot more.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), “Electricity is an essential part of modern life and important to the U.S. economy.” It is the primary source for lighting, heating, cooling, and refrigeration. It is also very important for operating appliances. Our computers, electronics, machinery, and public transportation systems won’t function without it.

EIA also gave data on which aspect has the largest use of electricity. The top 5 are the following:

  • Cooling/ Air Conditioning
  • Space Heating
  • Water Heating
  • Lighting and
  • Refrigeration

If you were to choose which of those five you cannot live without, what would that be? Which can you live longer? I asked those two questions because what if we lose power?

Let’s tackle one by one. Cooling and Space heating go together like in the United States set up. They have what they call HVAC, which stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. This system provides heating and cooling services for homes, offices, and buildings. It has become the required industry standard for the construction of new buildings.

The water that is coming to our homes that flows through those pipes is often cold. Especially when it’s Winter season, we need our Water Heating system. It requires electricity to do its job. You don’t want to shiver while bathing, do you?

Who doesn’t need light? I do. Every single second, I need light. I am Nyctophobic – a person who is afraid of the dark. I need light everywhere, all the time. Well, that’s only my definition of light.

Food is one of our basic needs. It is where the system of refrigeration will come into use. It helps to preserve our yummy foods. I cannot live without light, all the more without food. Thanks to the one who invented refrigerators! It’s where I hid my food from my kids when they were still young. Not now anymore. I am the one begging them to give me “my” food.

Among those five, the most important thing for me that needs electricity is the lighting. Of course, aside from what I revealed about myself – that I am afraid of the dark. Lighting is essential because our eyes need this to function well. We are fortunate to have the sunlight during the daytime. We can save a lot of energy during these hours.

Let’s talk about light in our current set up. We’re now in the world where buildings are now described as “skyscrapers.” The Offices’ lights are always on because light coming from the sun could no longer penetrate the establishment. Light is essential in our busy world.

What if there is a Power Outage?

The first thing we need to have when a power outage occurs is light. For example, you are on the 18th floor of the building, and the power went off. It’s an emergency, and it will take three long hours. You need to see your way out, right? Especially if it’s night. We need to know if we’re going to bump into something or someone.

It’s okay not to have the HVAC system for a while. It’s okay to postpone your bath for 3 hours. One day without a shower won’t make you smell stinky right away. Our favorite food will be okay inside the refrigerator if not opened. What’s not okay is if it is too dark!

The Solution

When the power goes off, you will notice that business establishments still have their power going on. That’s because they have an Electric Generator. This needs a huge investment since this involves business. We’re talking about those generators that turn on when there’s a power outage.

What about those that only need light when power goes off? Like in our own houses. Not everyone can afford to buy a generator set. Is there a way that we can have a generator that is only meant for our lighting?

Yes! Of course, there is – EMERGENCY LIGHTING.

What is Emergency Lighting?

Emergency Lighting refers to battery-backed or powered not dependent on light sources—these turn on when a power outage creates low-visibility conditions in an area. Thanks to the one who took the initiative in making this possible. We have one here in our apartment unit.

Emergency lights are required in new commercial and high occupancy residential buildings. It is a must in college dormitories, apartments and condominiums, and hotels.

How to set up Emergency Lighting?

An emergency light will need to connect to the electrical wiring of a building or a house. It can sense when the power goes off if there is an outage or the tripping of the breaker. It will alert the unit to turn on and have ninety minutes of backup power to illuminate the way to an exit. A fully- charged battery in perfect condition should supply an emergency light for at least 90 minutes. It is an order from Underwriters Laboratories – a global independent safety science company.

Instructions for installing the emergency lights are in every unit. Do make sure that the circuit you are installing the emergency light into is OFF before performing the installation.

To install an emergency light, you will need to make 2 or 3 connections into your electrical system. Not installing an emergency light right can burn out the transformer and circuit board, which will destroy the unit.

Let’s start. The very first step is to identify the electrical voltage of the connection that is being made to the emergency light fixture. It’s either 120 or 277 volts. Second, examine the connections that are on the unit.

There will be 3 or 4 wires which have colors and labels:
  • 120v wire (black)
  • 277v wire (red)
  • Common wire (white)

Next step is to connect the correct voltage wire and the common wire to the electrical conduit. If your emergency light fixture requires you to connect the ground wire, do it.

Remember not to connect both the 277v and 120v wires. It will cause the unit to malfunction.

Last but not least, power the circuit on and allow the emergency light and its battery backup system to charge for 24 hours. You can now test the battery backup to its full, 90-minute capability. It seems so simple, isn’t it?

Since wiring or electrical matter is not everyone’s genre. It’s always safe to call for help from a “real” electrician. We want our Emergency Lighting at home to be perfect, of course, we do.

Jed Glover
Jed Glover

Having worked in security management for over 15 years, I have realized that safety awareness goes beyond the very obvious hazards such as calamities, acts of violence, and electrical safety. It is a constant realization every person must have at all times. Being constantly aware of what we are doing, how we operate at work, and being able to recognize hazards is critical in justifying safety-related risks. Thus, creating ongoing awareness has a big impact on building a safe environment and culture for your family to thrive in.