What’s the best value emergency lighting battery?

When comparing the cost of emergency lighting products, it’s important to consider the lifetime costs of the system, including the costs to maintain it. Some products might appear cheaper upfront, but will end up costing you more in the long run due to poor performance and frequent replacements. One element that makes a significant difference to the overall cost of an emergency lighting system is the battery. Thousands of lab tests have revealed one type of battery technology that delivers significant cost savings compared to any other range on the market. We’ve put together some info on these findings so that UK building owners and managers can make the best choice for their next emergency lighting upgrade. But first, let’s talk about the different types of batteries used in most UK emergency lighting systems. Central battery systems Central battery systems were among the first emergency lighting systems. Although the technology has been around for quite some time, it’s still used in around 15-20% of the UK market today. Central batteries do have some advantages for larger or more complex sites. Because all your fittings are connected to one power source, you can test and replace the battery for all your luminaires in one go. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Considerations include: Complexity and cost The cost to purchase and install a centralised battery system is a lot higher than installing self-contained luminaires. They’re very complex to install because you need fireproof cables that run from the battery unit to the luminaires so that it can stay operational as long as possible in an emergency event - plus you need devices to monitor and switch circuits. Risk Having a single source battery means there’s a single point of failure - if the battery fails, you’ll risk having no emergency lighting across the site, which could be catastrophic. And it could take days or weeks to get an expert technician in to replace the specialised equipment. In addition to this, the cost of replacement batteries can be over half the original cost of the entire battery unit. Battery life Although many of these systems advertise a 10 year battery life, this will only happen in ideal circumstances. For example, if your battery room reaches 30ºC, your battery might only last 5 years. If it reaches 35ºC or more, it might only last 2-3 years. As you can imagine, it’s very easy for a room or cabinet to reach high temperatures, especially with active standby systems with inverters running 24/7. To counteract this, you might need to install air conditioning systems, adding to the expense, complexity, and environmental impact of your system. Ni-Cd and Ni-MH batteries From the mid-20th century, we saw the introduction of self-contained battery systems using smaller, more energy-dense Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries. These have been gradually replaced by Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) batteries since the late 2000s for even better energy density and lower environmental impact. Both Ni-Cds and Ni-MHs are still sold in many emergency lighting systems throughout the UK. While self-contained systems meant there was no longer a single point of failure, they introduced new problems. Most [...]

Emergency lighting regulations: Compliance has never been easier

With many barriers to compliance, from high maintenance costs to time-consuming testing requirements, it’s no surprise many buildings and businesses fall short of emergency lighting regulations in the UK.  However, building owners and managers are becoming increasingly aware of emergency lighting compliance, as they look for solutions that reduce risk and minimise the sky high costs associated with staying compliant. All the while, protecting their building occupants from potential hazards and avoiding hefty fines and lawsuits. Fortunately, recent advancements in emergency lighting technology and systems are making compliance easier, more affordable, and more accessible than ever before. So, let’s talk about some opportunities building managers and owners have to improve their emergency lighting compliance and reduce costs. 3 opportunities to improve compliance Compliance is easier said than done - especially when it comes to meeting the testing requirements. There are three areas where selecting the correct product can help achieve and maintain compliance at the lowest possible cost. 1. Improving luminaire performance One area of compliance involves meeting the minimum requirements for light level in a particular area. When you choose a high-performing product, you can achieve compliance with fewer light fittings, while minimising the cost of installation and ongoing maintenance. In the above example, you’ll see a comparison of our products against a competitor’s products and mains conversions. Because our products perform better, users can install between 10-14 fewer products per floor across two 10 storey buildings. As a result, up to 140 fewer luminaires need installing across one of the sites. This example shows the savings on purchase only, but in reality, there would also be fewer wiring points, fewer products to install, and significantly less maintenance over the life of the emergency lighting system. So, the overall savings would be even greater. 2. Using modern battery technology You can further reduce the cost of ownership (while staying compliant) when you choose a product that uses the right type of battery. Some estimates show a total saving of over 50% when you choose a longer-lasting battery (although this will vary depending on the battery type). We pioneered lithium batteries in emergency lighting, which last 2-3 times longer than the older style NiCd batteries. With our L10 products, the battery has a design life of 12 years+ - this is phenomenal performance for a self-contained product! With a longer lasting battery, you’ll also experience fewer failures, lowering the risk of your emergency lighting system not operating correctly, and maximising the number of working, compliant fittings at all times. 3. Moving to automated testing systems The majority of emergency lighting installations need to be manually tested each month, which is where most compliance issues originate. These include: Inefficiency Manually tested systems require you to flick a switch at a switchboard or a key switch to manually test and inspect each fitting. You also have to time this right so that you view the fittings at the right time to check for compliance. This inefficiency means it can take weeks to complete all the testing on a large site. Lack of time Meeting the required level of compliance can be quite [...]

How to save money and time on emergency lighting

Whether you manage, install, design, or maintain emergency lighting systems, cost is an important consideration. Most of the time, investing in a new system for your building facility comes down to balancing two things: function and budget. Your emergency lighting system needs to keep your building safe and compliant, and should be high quality, efficient, long-lasting, and user-friendly. But at the same time, you want to avoid spending more than you need to on installation, testing, and maintenance.  Fortunately, if you know what to look for, you can have a world class emergency lighting system and save money. (It’s like having your cake and eating it, too!) The first thing you need to know is where your money goes when you purchase and manage an emergency lighting system. Emergency lighting costs: what do you have to pay for? Emergency lighting systems have upfront and ongoing costs, from equipment and installation to testing and compliance. Equipment The initial cost of your system comes from purchasing the equipment. That includes the lights themselves and whatever backbone you need, like data cables, controllers, batteries, ancillary devices, and computer systems. Some systems require more backbone, which drives up the cost of your equipment. Other systems require just a few controllers and are connected wirelessly, which could mean a lower cost to purchase and install the equipment. Design and installation Engineers will need to incorporate the system into your existing or new build, ensuring that all components are designed into the scheme with the required containment and infrastructure in place that the system needs. This includes the power and data cables, trunking, tray work, and conduit. The more complex your backbone and building facility, the more time your engineers will need to factor into the design process, and therefore, the more it will cost. Similarly, the more complex your system is to install and commission, the more time your installation contractors will need to get everything set up onsite.  Testing and maintenance What a lot of people don’t realise is that the biggest costs associated with an emergency lighting system come from regular maintenance and testing. In the UK, you’re required to test every month to comply with regulations. The cost of inefficient testing and maintenance can quickly add up, especially if your emergency lighting system is old or relies on manual processes. On the other hand, if you have a modern system with automated testing and simple management, you can save a lot of time and money.  Compliance Some emergency lighting systems are designed to make compliance easier. This is an important cost consideration because you risk big fines if you’re found to be non-compliant. Or worse - if people come to harm in your building because your emergency lights don’t work, you could face a lawsuit, damage to your reputation, or even imprisonment. Fortunately, compliance is a lot more likely with the right system in place. A computerised testing system automatically keeps a record of testing and maintenance so you can be confident that your team is performing regular tests - and if they’re a contractor, you’ll know you’re getting the service you [...]

Emergency lighting systems are now cost effective for any sized site

The emergency lighting market has changed a lot over the last few years. Compared to just a few years ago, there are more brands, newer technologies, and more options than ever before. The good news? Some typical “problem sites” for emergency lighting systems will now find it a lot easier, faster, and more cost effective to upgrade, install, and manage these newer systems. So, if you’ve looked into upgrading your emergency luminaires in the past and put it in the too hard (or too expensive) basket, now is the right time to take another look. But before we get into what’s changed, let’s talk about some challenges you may have faced when upgrading your site in the past. 6 types of sites that typically find upgrades challenging 1. Small sites (budget) In some ways, small sites are easier and more straightforward to upgrade - there’s less disruption, you can do the whole site in one sweep, and it’s much faster. The main barrier to upgrades for small sites is budget. They don’t usually have cash sitting around to upgrade the emergency light fittings - funds are usually channelled into other priorities. 2. Big sites As a general rule, the bigger your site, the more complicated your emergency lighting upgrade will be. If you’ve got a site with 5000 fittings on it (compared to a smaller site with just 50), you’ll need a bigger team and more parts - this in itself adds complexity. For many larger sites, upgrades are held off until there’s an urgent compliance issue. Complexity can also increase, depending on how the building is used. For example, if you’ve got an office building with a lot of tenants on different floors, there’s more admin involved because you need to notify the occupants and minimise disruption. Or for a large sports stadium, you’ll have fittings that are further apart or difficult to access. 3. Campuses Campuses can include schools, universities, aged care facilities, hospitals, and even some workplaces. The challenge with upgrading these sites is that the buildings are often spread out. Some are even located in different suburbs or cities. This can make upgrading and maintaining the emergency lighting system more complicated, depending on the type of system you choose. 4. 24/7 sites 24/7 sites like apartment buildings, hospitals, car parks, and large shopping centres are complex to upgrade because there are always people around. You can’t just shut the power off for a few hours to upgrade the entire system. Your installer will need to find a way to do the upgrade with minimal interruption to tenants, customers, patients, and employees. 5. Older buildings and heritage listed sites Buildings from 100+ years ago weren’t designed with today’s building systems in mind. Many older buildings have access issues, especially when you need to run hardwire cable and run new circuits back to the switchboards. Heritage listed sites also add another layer of complexity if you need to get your plans approved by the relevant authority and minimise interference with the structure. Fortunately, wiring isn’t an issue when you install some newer emergency lighting systems, but we’ll get [...]

The most advanced emergency lighting system

If you’re planning to invest in an emergency lighting system upgrade in the next few years, it’s important to do your research first.  There are a number of different systems on the market, but many of them lack the efficiencies available with recent technological advancements. Choosing a more advanced system could mean significant time and cost savings. And the right system could future-proof your emergency system since it won’t need replacing just a few years down the track.  So, let’s cover some of the major advancements and innovations that have impacted emergency lighting systems over the last few decades, and what technology you should look for in your next upgrade. A brief history of emergency lighting technology We’ve come a long way from the first emergency lights. From new batteries to computerised testing systems, here are some of the biggest moments in emergency lighting technology over the last 50+ years. Advancements in battery systems The first emergency lighting systems were run on a central battery system. Each building had a big battery bank and a fire-rated cable running to every emergency light from a central source. From the mid-1900s, many central battery systems were replaced by self-contained systems - although central battery systems still make up around 15-20% of the UK emergency lighting market today. The benefit of self-contained systems was that every fitting had a battery in case the power failed, although these were quite large batteries compared to what we have today. Plus, they were simpler to maintain, as specialist skills are needed to maintain central battery systems. From the mid-twentieth century, we started to see more nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries. These were smaller, more energy-dense, and could handle a lot more heat. This meant emergency lights and exit signs could be smaller and more compact. In the late 2000’s we started seeing Nickel–metal hydride (Ni-Mh) batteries. These started to replace the Ni-Cd batteries, but until recently, Ni-Cds were still very common. Ni-Mh had better energy density and better environmental credentials but were more expensive, initially at least. In the UK, we’ve seen Lithium Iron Phosphates begin to replace Ni-Mh batteries over the last five years or so. These offer even higher energy density and are much more environmentally friendly, with no toxic metals or carcinogens. Introduction of LEDs From the mid-late 2000s, we saw the introduction of LEDs - and they’re still changing lighting today. LEDs were a lot more energy-efficient and more environmentally friendly, which meant manufacturers could use smaller batteries to power the light fittings while supplying the same light levels. With LED lamps’ extremely long life (often 10+ years of use), emergency lights (especially non-maintained stand alone fittings) now last a lot longer before needing maintenance. Computerised testing systems The first computerised testing systems were used from the late 1990s onwards. These required each fitting to be connected via a data cable and were complex and expensive to install and maintain. Fortunately, a better solution was just around the corner. The Zoneworks system introduced in the 2000s (by Clevertronics, as it happens) removed the need for extra wiring or data cables by connecting emergency light [...]

Automation and the future of emergency lighting testing

Emergency lighting testing is a critical part of facilities management. But it’s not exactly top of the priorities list - usually, it’s right at the bottom. And because most systems are so time-consuming to test, the costs can quickly add up. In many facilities, emergency light testing isn’t top of mind or fully understood. Or worse - it only gets attention when an issue or incident rises, risking non-compliance and safety issues. Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that the UK standards require regular testing and maintenance, and without proof of either, buildings are noncompliant. And of course, regular testing and maintenance are important to help keep the system operational. Fortunately, emergency light technology has changed a lot over the last few years, and it doesn’t have to be so time-consuming, complex, or expensive. So, let’s talk about some of these changes and what electrical engineers and facility managers need to know if they’re planning to install or upgrade an emergency lighting system. But first, a quick history lesson. A brief history of computerised testing systems The first computerised testing systems were commissioned in the late 90s and early 2000s. These consisted of a wired network with a data cable between every fitting, which meant they were complex and expensive to install. Here at Clevertronics, we referred to these systems as “steam-powered” compared to what we have now, but they were an important step in the right direction. This enabled emergency lights to communicate with a controller via the regular powered lighting cable, rather than data cables. This meant all the emergency lights could be installed just like normal emergency luminaires, and installers could set up a whole system very quickly, with no extra wiring. Next, manufacturers began using Radio Frequency (RF) systems to connect the emergency lighting system. This delivered a similar outcome to our Zoneworks system because you didn’t need data cables between fittings, but it was a more efficient way for the system to communicate. Today, the most recent advancement in emergency lighting and testing is Dynamic Self-Managed (DSM) meshing. With DSM, emergency lights use the RF backbone to: Self-discover surrounding lights (even through walls) Mesh together to form a network Allow access and control Automate testing Avoid having a network of routers and gateways sprinkled throughout the building Plus many other benefits We’ll share more details about DSM meshing in our next blog, as it’s key to enabling a whole range of benefits for installers, facility managers, and building owners. But for now, let’s talk specifically about automated emergency lighting testing and why this is such a big deal. 9 reasons to automate emergency lighting testing Here are the benefits you get when you automate your emergency light testing: 1. Improve safety Poorly maintained emergency lights are a safety hazard. If your light fittings don’t work properly, it could plunge areas into total darkness, cause confusion, or increase the time it takes for people to get out of the building (and in a real life fire evacuation every second counts). Automatic emergency lighting testing helps you keep your fittings properly maintained so they’re in working [...]

Global technology leader in emergency lighting launches new UK operation

With the biggest market share in Australia and New Zealand, counting the Sydney Opera House, the MCG and Marvel Stadium among their clients, Clevertronics describes their product development journey and why lithium iron phosphate batteries are the future of emergency lighting. Emergency lighting is one of those bedrock regulatory compliance activities you know you must do (and do well because lives depend on it), but with so many competing priorities battling for your attention, it can feel like a time-consuming, expensive and rather thankless chore. So, what would make your life easier? What about a 100% safe, stable and environmentally-friendly battery technology that won’t need replacing for 10-plus years? What about a fully automatic monitoring and testing system that enables you to generate maintenance and compliance reports from multiple locations, on demand via app? What about exceptional product care and customer service tailored to your needs? For those involved in emergency lighting across the UK, you’re in luck. Clevertronics, the answer to all your emergency lighting concerns, has recently opened operations in the UK. According to Michael Klarenaar, Clevertronics National Projects Manager, Australia’s stringent regulations and focus on emergency lighting as a standalone service, meant emergency lighting manufacturers entered a kind of arms-race of battery technology and monitoring system innovation. Clevertronics, he says, emerged as the hands-down winner. “Every Clevertronics system has been designed from the ground up by world-class engineers and designers, with an overall mission to provide best-in-class emergency lighting functionality, usability and cost,” he says. “Our success is best reflected by our market share. We deliver 70% of the project market in Australia, which means bespoke designs for large buildings such as stadiums, hospitals and shopping centres.” The Etihad Stadium, now Marvel Stadium, is a prime example of how Clevertronics Lithium Nanophosphate technology has flipped the industry on its head. “We partnered with facility manager Honeywell to replace their entire emergency lighting and monitoring system and have achieved an astonishing AUD$900,000 [£480,000] maintenance saving over the last seven years. Other clients include the Sydney Opera House, the MCG [Melbourne Cricket Ground], and major hospitals in every state and territory,” Klarenaar explains. Clevertronics is the market leader in Australia for the design, supply and manufacture of emergency lighting and automated monitoring systems. As a specialist in emergency lighting for the last 18 years, the company has built a reputation for innovation and are global pioneers of Lithium Nanophosphate battery technology, which they launched in 2012. Today this technology is delivering their very happy clients a massive 80% reduction in emergency lighting maintenance costs. The first thing Michael Duce, the National Systems and Engineering Manager at Clevertronics, wants to do is set the record straight on lithium battery technology, which he says in the UK, and to some extent Europe, is still shrouded in misleading information and a certain amount of fear. “This fear is beginning to subside as my colleagues in the emergency lighting space in Europe learn more about the benefits of the technology,” he says. Duce has sat on national standards committees for emergency lighting in Australia and New Zealand for many years, and more recently [...]

Clevertronics Now Offering CPD’s

Clevertronics are delighted to be able to offer a free of charge CIBSE accredited CPD covering emergency lighting applications. This CPD takes a look at the associated legislation and standards, and gives advice for those responsible for emergency lighting within a premises or those involved in creating compliant schemes as well as those who need to maintain them. Find out more: https://clevertronics.co.uk/about-us/cibse-accredited-cpd/

Introducing CleverEVAC

CleverEVAC is a system and suite of dynamic EXIT signs that provide increased visibility, audible cues, and negative enforcement options. The work conducted by the Fire Safety Engineering Group (FSEG) at the University  of Greenwich led to the development of the CleverEVAC Dynamic Signage product range. The FSEG, and also the University of Leeds have provided the required research, experience and trials of dynamic EXIT signage and locatable sound technology. CleverEVAC is a tool for Fire Safety Engineers to consider for use in fire engineered / performance solutions and also in designs where an increased visibility EXIT sign is preferred. An extensive library of research and trial data is available relating to CleverEVAC technology for both audible technology of Sound Escape™ and visual enhancements of Dynamic Signage. Stay Tuned - Coming in 2019