Emergency Exit Lights Stay On [Explained]

Emergency lights are one of the must-have safety equipment in any establishment.  Most of us are familiar with them but very few know about how they work. 

For example, you may wonder why it’s still lit when it’s not an emergency. Or why would it light up when the electric power is out?

Do emergency exit lights stay on all the time?

Maintained emergency exit lights stays on all the time. Even when the main power source is connected to it. Non-maintained emergency exit light turns on only during emergencies or when the power is out. In times of emergency, they lit up using the backup battery’s power.

That is the central feature of today’s discussion. To know more about emergency exit lights stay tuned till the end. Let’s begin!

Should emergency lights be on all the time?

Emergency lights don’t need to be lit all the time. However, it must always be connected to its own power source. It’s a must condition for all types of emergency lights.

But there are emergency lights that are lit all the time. They have their own purpose and are used according to that. So, the question’s answer remains on what type of emergency light it is.

Based on the purpose and the fixture type, emergency lights are of two types. Maintained and non-maintained.


Maintained emergency lights are always lit even when the primary power supply is working. It draws power from the main power supply line and keeps the battery charged.

But when a power failure takes place, it switches to battery power. The lights stay on until the battery runs low on power. When the power supply is reconnected it recharges the battery.

Maintained emergency lights are usually used in public places like shopping centers, cinema halls, theaters, bars, etc. Due to it always being illuminated, it’s suitable for both emergency and regular uses.

These lights are used for emergency purposes where occupiers may not really know the evacuation routes. 


Non-maintained emergency lights don’t stay on all the time. They are usually turned off when the power supply is running smoothly. It only lits on when the power supply from the main source gets cut off.

When the power connection goes out, the emergency light automatically gets illuminated. The battery supplies the power for it to stay turned on.

Non-maintained emergency light batteries can keep the light on for about 3 hours or more. It’s more suitable to use in commercial places where the light turns on when it’s occupied.

Unlike maintained emergency lights, the non-maintained ones are not usable for regular use or in public places. They’re only used for emergency lighting purposes.

Emergency Exit Light Troubleshoot Guideline

Emergency Exit Light Troubleshoot

Here are the two most common problems with the emergency exit light. We’ve explained the problem and included the solution for you.

Emergency Light Burn Out:

This is one of the most common issues with emergency exit lights. You may think that just the exit light bulb has burned out. But three components are responsible for this.

Main/Primary Bulbs:

Primary bulbs are the ones that stay lit in maintained emergency exit lights. Your emergency light may contain more than one primary bulb. 

If you suspect your emergency light to have burned out, this is the first component to check.

Low Voltage Bulbs:

Apart from the main bulb, there’s another secondary bulb that’s used in an emergency light. It’s called a low-voltage bulb. This bulb is illuminated by battery power.

It only lights up when the main power source is cut off. If these bulbs get burned out, your emergency light won’t light up during an emergency.

Reserved Battery: 

The reserved battery is the only source of power when the main power source is cut off. The battery should be in good shape to keep the light illuminated. 

A defective battery won’t be able to back up the light for long. So when suspecting emergency light burnout, this is also a component that needs to be checked.


After figuring out the faulty component, replace it with a new one. After replacement, reset the emergency light. If you need help regarding this matter, you can call an expert.

Red Light Not Bright:

All the bulbs in the emergency light are supposed to illuminate brightly at the same time. But if there’s a problem with the battery or the charging circuit, all the lights may not illuminate brightly.

For example, the green light is illuminated brightly but the red light is dim. A damaged battery or a disconnected charging circuit causes this phenomenon.


You’ll need a multimeter to solve this problem. Use the DV file 20V on the multimeter and check the battery’s voltage. If the voltage reading doesn’t seem right, replace the battery.

Moreover, if the problem is with the charging circuit, it can be detected using a universal variable detector. It searches along the dim light to see if the circuit has an issue.

A faulty charging circuit needs to be fixed by an expert electrician.

Other Reasons For Emergency Light Failure

Emergency Light Failure

There are some other factors that are responsible for shortening the emergency light’s lifespan. Knowing the details will help you with maintaining the emergency light issues.

Power Cuts:

Many people find out that their emergency light is faulty during power cuts. Because that is the time when the emergency light is supposed to illuminate through the backup battery.

Usually, the backup battery can last for about three hours. If the main power source is gone for too long, then it’ll strain the battery. It is bad for the battery’s health.

Thus frequent power cuts can raise complications for the emergency light.

Cable Connections:

Cable connections for emergency lights are a little more complicated than other types of lights. The main cables must be connected with the designated inputs.

The negative and positive terminals should be plugged in properly. So does the PCB and the LED strip. When checking for any issues, people often forget to check these connections. 

One of the easy ways is to follow the product manual. You will find the light’s circuit diagram model there. So, you can double-check the cable connection when in suspicion by matching it with the diagram.

Also, don’t forget to check if the connections are secure or not. The wires, bulbs, and wire nuts, all should be properly placed. Check for any damaged or exposed wires. Exposed wires can even cause an electrical fire.

Circuit Board:

The emergency light components and the connections should be in perfect order. So, should the backup battery.

But if the circuit board is faulty, then the emergency light may run out of power rapidly. Additionally, you’ll face issues like the connection faltering easily.

To get rid of such an issue, you’ve to replace the circuit board. Replacing them is quite easy. But you’d have to figure out the connections with the pin lineup.

You can take the user manual’s help regarding this matter. The connections and pin lineup are drawn in a diagram in the user’s manual.

PCB Control Gear:

PCB control gears are located just above the main power source. It is responsible for handling the charging process of the backup battery. Problems with PCB control gear can sometimes lead to bigger issues.

For example, the charging of the battery might get interrupted. Then the battery will run low on power. If any issue arises with your emergency light’s PCB gear, you should change it.

Lighting Design & Fixture Quality:

Problems with the lighting design affect a large number of emergency lights in buildings. If your emergency lights do not meet your expectations, the setup may be to blame. 

Remember that appropriate lux levels will vary depending on the location of the building. The quality of the fixtures is also an important issue to pay attention to.

That’s why it’s important to buy emergency lights from a reputable company. Never make the mistake of skimping on emergency lights for any establishment. 

Insufficient Testing:

Emergency exit lights require some regular maintenance and testing for them to be in order. But not paying attention to these needs can lead to their ultimate failure.

Emergency exit lights should be checked at regular time intervals. The testing can figure out if it has any issues that need immediate attention. The tests can be conducted monthly, bi-yearly, or yearly.

What is important is that you conduct these tests with a professional and receive feedback from him. You can schedule the tests along with the fire alarm inspection.

The two are somewhat related. Also, the cost of fire alarm inspection isn’t much. So it is the perfect chance for you to conduct the emergency light tests.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Can emergency lights be switched off?

Emergency lights can be switched off. Switchable emergency lights can be on and off as you wish and can be used like normal lights. However, it still serves the purpose of illuminating when there’s an emergency. Even if it’s switched off at the moment, it’ll automatically turn on.

What happens if you neglect emergency light inspection?

Neglecting the inspection of emergency lights leads to fines, penalties, and even imprisonment. Plus it puts people’s lives at risk in dire situations. It is a legal obligation that needs to be performed. Not being compliant with the inspection may cause facing legal issues with the local authority.

Where to install emergency exit lights?

Emergency exit lights should be installed on staircases, and in front of the changing direction. Changing of floor levels and intersecting corridors should also have emergency lights. The emergency lights can be used for hazardous objects as well. For example, chemicals, or fire fighting equipment.


Emergency exit lights stay on to make us feel safe and sound. Whether it’s maintained or non-maintained. What’s important is to make sure they are in perfect working order.

We hope our piece was able to help you with that purpose. Don’t forget to consult a professional if any issue arises. 

Stay safe!