Exit Signs – Energy Star Rules Change!

May 12, 2008 at 8:54 pm Leave a comment

Exit signs are one of those items that every building needs, but that most of us are unclear on what is best and even what is needed.

First we all need to be aware that the rules for exit signs under the Energy Star federal program changed May 1, 2008.

From the EnergyStar.gov website: EPA will suspend the ENERGY STAR Exit Sign specification effective May 1, 2008. In EPAct 2005, Congress passed a new minimum federal efficiency standard for electrically-powered, single-faced exit signs with integral light sources that are equivalent to ENERGY STAR levels for input power demand. EPAct 2005 references the ENERGY STAR Version 2.0 specification. All exit signs manufactured on or after January 1, 2006 must have an input power demand of 5 watts or less per face.

The full article can be found here.

This means that we should all be replacing these signs as the bulbs burn out or as they break. I encourage you to replace not repair as these fixtures are on 24/7 and definitely are among the easiest items on the energy saving menu. These new fixtures should be all LED powered and you should see significant if somewhat small decrease in you electricity bill. For those of you who insist on repairing or retrofitting check with some of the manufacturer’s on the list as some do make LED retrofit kits.

A full list of manufacturers and their approved fixtures can be found here:


Now there are some other choices we need to consider along with just saving energy. Most fixtures come in either green or red color schemes and in some areas your color choice is prescribed by code. However in at least one article that I have read and that can be found here:


It seems that color doesn’t make any appreciable difference in visibility or increase the safety of a building. The article suggests that it is more important that the signs color be selected on the basis of contrasting with the interior space in which they are placed and that they should be consistent through out the building. In fact the research maintains that the fixture’s brightness is the main factor in improving visibility in an emergency. There are even signs that can have their brightness increased in an emergency either by a signal from the alarm system in the building or by an internal smoke detector.

Now there are areas where an exit sign is required but there is no easy access to power. In my opinion I always try to power all of the exit signs except if ridiculously hard. However if you aren’t as stubborn as I am or if you really can’t get power to a location there are a couple of options.

The first is Tritium Gas Powered Signs.

Self Luminous Tritium Exit signs do not require electricity or batteries for illumination. Because they don’t require electric wiring, they are being installed in greater numbers in public and private buildings. A self-luminous sign remains lighted continuously, though you won’t detect any illumination during daylight hours or in brightly lit rooms. In addition, self-luminous signs will maintain their illumination day in, day out, for up to twenty years. This no-cost, maintenance-free operation is why many building owners specify self-luminous signs: It saves them money while providing safe and reliable exit location identification. All self-luminous signs work on the same principle. They are powered by tritium gas, a low-level isotope of hydrogen.

From http://www.theexitstore.com/exit_sign_info/facts-about-tritium-signs.htm

These really do work however they have a couple of advantages and drawbacks. The advantage is they don’t need a strong daylight or interior lighting source to “charge up”. The main drawbacks are that they have a rated life of only five years and since they use a radioactive material to glow they are hazardous waste when disposal time comes around.

The other option is a photo luminescent sign. These are relatively inexpensive, they have a long effective life but they require a fairly strong light source for a good part of the day to charge up to glow in the dark. So this type is really indicated inside office buildings where consistent lighting either from daylighting or inside powered lighting is available. A good example of this type can be found here:

http://www.americanpermalight.com/ (Go to the product category’s drop down and select exit signs to view.)

Sorry that I missed Monday’s post as I was tied up with some personal business. I hope the length of this post makes up some.

As always I look forward to your comments and questions. Please feel free to contact me directly at:


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Entry filed under: Design, Technology. Tags: , , , .

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