Emergency Lighting Conversions – Safe, not Sorry!


Throughout mainland Europe, the specification of central systems and dedicated emergency luminaires is the norm. In the UK, the conversion of standard mains, LED or low voltage luminaires is more common, allowing the specifier a number of aesthetic design advantages. This method, known in the lighting lexicon as self-contained emergency lighting conversions, does have a downside however. Poorly designed, constructed and tested conversions can present significant installation problems and pose a clear and present risk to public safety. Unfortunately, the sometimes uncontrolled desire for cost-cutting combined with badly conceived and or open specifications, leads to a conversion being produced that at best ignores the complexity of the host luminaire and at worst becomes downright dangerous.

How to prevent problems    
To counter problems with bad emergency lighting conversions, the Industry Committee for Emergency Lighting (ICEL) has, for the past eleven years, produced a registration scheme called ICEL 1004. This scheme ensures that the converter produces compliant luminaires in line with best practice then applies a 100% testing regime. ICEL 1004:2013 sets out the requirements for the conversion of luminaires to emergency operation and provides a clear understanding of the legal obligations confronting both converter and user. The latest edition, launched in the past twelve months, has been updated to include the emergency conversion of LED luminaires.  

With regular updates since 2003 users have become more au fait with the scheme, but there are still poor quality conversions taking place and more still since the launch of mainstream LED luminaires. It is necessary to continually revisit the subject making sure that converters fully understand the importance of compliance when manufacturing lifesaving products. The members of ICEL and their colleagues in LIA are fully supportive of ICEL 1004:2013 and are observing the procedures detailed within. It is now up to the rest of the industry, contractors and conversion houses alike to catch up with ICEL and LIA and put quality, life-saving emergency luminaires in all commercial premises where occupants deserve the best.

In this respect it is vital that emergency lighting products are not treated as just another lighting fixture. They play a vital role in ensuring public safety in the event of a complete mains failure, fire or other emergency and in consequence need to be given the same priority as other life saving measures. Self-contained conversions carried out to the specification of ICEL 1004:2013 will ensure safety and performance of the emergency lighting luminaire.

Making a conversion    
At the very least, poorly performing conversions will require continued remedial visits to site by the electrical contractor. At worst, following an incident where death or injury occurs due to emergency lighting failure, the specifier or installer could find themselves in court.

In most cases the installer will leave the conversion to the manufacturer or a third party conversion house, but there is still a responsibility to ensure that the work has been carried out correctly. Of the hundreds of conversion shops in the UK only a handful have signed up to the ICEL 1004:2013 code of practice. This is not to say they are doing a bad job, it’s just that they do need auditing.   

The conversion of mains luminaires to emergency is a very skilled activity and people need to ensure that the work is carried out correctly. If not then the chances are the luminaire will fail in both mains and emergency. For example, if the battery overheats due to other hot components such as the light source being too close, the converted luminaire will no longer function, when required, in emergency mode. If the converter does not apply the correct testing procedure then the possibility of over-heating can never be realised as a potential issue.

Components used in the conversion of mains luminaires to emergency must comply with BS/EN/IEC safety and performance requirements:

The emergency lighting control module for fluorescent lamps should be compliant with BSEN 61347-2-1, BSEN 61347-2-3 and BSEN 61347-2-7 for safety and BSEN 60925 for performance. In the case of LEDs, BSEN 61347-2-1 and BSEN 61347-2-13 for safety and BSEN 62384 for performance. All components shall be installed and tested in accordance with the supplier’s instructions.

Batteries should be compatible with the emergency lighting control module and be shown to have a design life of four years when under normal operation within a luminaire or remote enclosure.

An important point to bear in mind is that if a standard CE-marked luminaire is altered in any way, then the original luminaire manufacturer’s CE-marking becomes invalid and it is the responsibility of the converter to ensure future CE compliance. This means that all emergency converted luminaires must be tested on completion of the conversion, a new CE-mark applied and a Technical Construction File produced to support the new CE conformity. This can be carried out by the converter or a third party test house. The reality is that this does not always happen and many converted luminaires carry a CE-marking that bears no relevance to the completed work.

The majority of conversion houses do not do anything to fulfil the CE requirement. When the luminaire arrives from the OEM, it should meet the essential requirements of the relevant Directives e.g. the Low Voltage Directive (LVD) and the Electro Magnetic Compatibility Directive (EMCD). The conversion house will change the wiring, move components, introduce new parts as necessary, but without a correct testing procedure to ensure thermal compliance, EMC and electrical safety, they cannot be sure the luminaire conforms to the standards. 

Testing for potential trouble    
These regulations are not in place to add yet more bureaucracy, it is about people’s lives. There are many ways a conversion can affect the performance of a lighting product. It is only by testing that any potential problems can be identified. For example, if the emergency control module added to the luminaire is not compatible with the incumbent control gear then operational problems are inevitable. Compatibility is even more relevant today with the launch of so many LED light sources and methods by which the LED is driven. An incorrect specification can easily lead to early light source, module or battery duration failures, all very costly to repair and potentially dangerous.   

Similarly, emergency lighting products need to use fire retardant components and the enclosure must comply with BSEN 60598-2-22 and a glow wire test of 8500C (unless components are mechanically secured and will not come into contact with a flammable surface). Many standard mains luminaires do not meet this stringent requirement as the rules are different for non-emergency products. Lighting controllers such as some prismatic diffusers will not pass the 8500C glow wire test. 

Today, integral emergency conversions are not straightforward as in the past. With the introduction of multiple lamp fixtures and/or more compact light sources such as LED, it is inevitable that smaller lighting chambers will become too hot to house batteries and chargers. These components will need to be installed within fire retardant remote enclosures. Just a couple of degrees above designed temperature limits can have a devastating effect on the performance and reliability of emergency modules and battery sets. 

With the onset of more compact fittings as in the case of LED or T5 style luminaires, space becomes such an important commodity. The design evolution of emergency inverters and batteries has not seen a dramatic decrease in their size. This invariably means that a conversion is not just a case of ‘shoehorning’ the emergency components into the luminaire’s housing, it may well be necessary to rearrange the existing components on a newly manufactured control gear chassis or use a remote enclosure as stated above.

As soon as you start to move the components around there is greater potential for electrical problems. This is of particular concern when LED drivers or high frequency electronic ballasts, both fixed and variable outputs, are being used because the cable connections between the driver, ballast and lamp act very much like aerials which may cause radio interference. Any conflicts with EMC that arise from this will invalidate CE-marking as the converted luminaire will no longer conform to the EMC Directive.

In Summary    
Self-contained conversions offer the user an extremely neat solution without the need to install an additional luminaire in the ceiling for the sole purpose of providing emergency lighting. This method certainly aids install-aesthetics, reduces wiring costs and ensures a more robust and detailed warranty for the end-user going forward. 

For all of the reasons explained, it is so important to ensure that the re-engineering of mains luminaires for emergency use is taken seriously and carried out to the required standards. The welfare and safety of occupants in shops, offices, factories and airports etc. is paramount and therefore acceptance of poorly conceived and badly manufactured emergency lighting conversions should not be tolerated.

 ICEL 1004:2013 can be downloaded free of charge from the ICEL website www.icel.co.uk and it contains clear guidelines on how to ensure a safe and consistent standard of engineering during modification of a wide range of standard luminaires to emergency use.

For more information contact us at info@icel.co.uk

  • Mar 22, 2016

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