Emergency Lighting: Maintained or Non-Maintained?

Maintained vs Non-Maintained Emergency Lighting

The use of maintained or non-maintained lighting should be decided based upon building type, its occupants and purpose or usage.

Maintained

Maintained emergency lighting is on at all times. Maintained emergency lights are mains powered and used as part of the normal room lighting system. But, in an emergency situation when mains power fails, it will continue to stay lit for a specific duration powered by a back-up battery. It is generally used in non-residential places of public assembly such as leisure centres, cinemas, shopping centres etc. In public venues where the normal lighting system is often dimmed, for example cinemas, theatres or bars, maintained luminaries are always required.

Maintained lighting could include lit fire exit signs, bulkhead lighting or recessed downlights. There are LED options available which will reduce energy consumption and therefore running cost.

Non-maintained

Non-maintained lighting usually only comes on for a specific duration when the power supply to normal artificial lighting fails. Non-maintained emergency lights are normally suitable for workplaces which are usually lit when occupied. Non-maintained light fittings are powered by a battery that is charged from a constant trickle of mains power. This battery should have enough charge to remain lit for a duration of 3 hours or more if mains power fails.

Which type of emergency lighting do I need?

British Standards guidelines 5266-1:2011 requires adequate emergency lighting to be installed in all high occupancy residential, public or commercial buildings. There are often more specific recommendations given by local authorities in each area.

Whether maintained or non-maintained emergency lighting is needed is largely a question for fire risk assessors based on each individual circumstance. If non-maintained lighting is deemed sufficient, it is also worth considering the reduced environmental impact and lower energy cost of using non-maintained lighting over time.

Illuminated fire exit sign next to a door

Can an emergency light fitting be both maintained AND non-maintained?

Yes. Maintained emergency light fittings or signs used as part of a normal room lighting system can also be wired to perform as a non-maintained fitting if required. Many maintained fittings are available as switchable units, meaning they can be switched between maintained and non-maintained modes using an ordinary light switch. Non-maintained light fittings cannot be wired for use in maintained operation.

Still unsure which type is most suitable?

If you are unsure which emergency lighting is best for your environment, it is best practice to conduct a fire risk assessment. A risk assessor will advise the most suitable option in line with the regulations.

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Help guides

More information about all aspects of emergency lighting can be found in our emergency lighting guides.

British Standards

There are various British Standards that set out the regulations for emergency lighting where further guidance can be sought:

  • BS5266-1 Code of practice for emergency lighting of premises sets out general guidance on what emergency lighting should be provided in each environment
  • BS EN 50172 / BS 5266-8 Emergency escape lighting systems details minimum emergency lighting provision and testing for each type of environment

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