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How to Test your Emergency Lighting

Emergency lighting is essential to protecting workers should the mains electricity fail due to power cuts and fires. Whether you manage a school, hospital, shopping centre, office building or other commercial or industrial setting, functional emergency lighting is legally mandated.

This type of lighting is governed by BS 5266-2016, and part of meeting its requirements is regular testing. Understanding these rules can be tricky, which is why so many businesses rely on nationwide emergency lighting testing from Wells Electrical.

 Currently, facility managers and business owners must contend with four types of legislation/directives:


·  The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

·  Building Regulations 2000

·  Workplace Directive 89/654

·  The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999


Let’s discuss what you need to know about emergency lighting testing compliance and how to do it.

Who should carry out an emergency lighting test?

All businesses must designate a person responsible for emergency lighting testing. It’s their job to carry out daily and monthly testing. They are required to note down the results of each test in a logbook that can be inspected if necessary.

Although the designated person can conduct monthly testing, it’s strongly recommended that this is outsourced to a professional. This ensures that your building is 100% safe and your system is always fully compliant.

Regardless of your decision, only a qualified professional can carry out the annual three-hour test required by law. At Wells Electrical, our NICEIC-approved contractors are experts in providing these testing services to businesses nationwide.

 Using a professional is strongly recommended for both monthly and annual tests due to their expertise and the fact they can provide a certificate showing your emergency lighting system is fully up to code and that you’ve fulfilled your legal obligations.

How to test emergency lighting

Conducting an emergency lighting test depends on the type of test. Professional advice recommends the three-phase testing model unless advised otherwise.

Daily Tests – Ensure that the central battery (if relevant) is functioning. Check the relative indicator light to see if everything is fine. You should also perform visual checks of each light to look for damage.

Monthly Tests – Isolate the mains power supply to simulate a power cut. Once switched off, check the lights for any signs of damage or insufficient illumination.

Annual Tests – The three-hour emergency lighting test examines every aspect of your lights, including function and lux level. To pass the test, each light must work for the entire three-hour duration.


For most businesses, the monthly test is the one that will require the most effort. As always, it’s still best to outsource this test to a professional to guarantee compliance and mitigate liability.

Here’s how to do it.


Step one – Start the test

The first step is finding your emergency lighting key. This device key is usually fish-shaped. You should already know where the relevant outlet is.

Turning the key will switch off the power to the main lights and force the emergency lighting to come on.


Step two – Set a timer

Depending on your test, you should set a timer, such as ten minutes or one hour.

Some emergency lighting systems enable you to turn the key to the appropriate testing duration, meaning you can skip this step.


Step three – Inspect the lights

Walk around the building and check that every light has been switched on. You should also ensure they are fully illuminated without dimming or flickering.

Judging illumination can be complex, so it’s worth speaking to a technician from Wells Electrical if you’re unsure.


Step four – Check the charge

At the end of the testing duration, switch off the emergency lights with your device key, and power should return to your primary lighting system.

Walk around again and inspect each light to ensure they are charging. On most lighting systems, this is indicated by a small, green LED light.


Step five – Record and take action

The results of the test should be noted in your logbook. If there are any problems, note it down.

Call Wells Electrical to rectify any malfunctioning lights or request compliance clarification if there's any action to be taken.

Emergency lighting test with no test key

Not every emergency lighting system comes with a test key. You must find the electrical consumer unit if your building doesn’t have one.

Once you’ve identified the consumer unit, switch off the power to the main electricity supply to switch on the emergency lights. In some cases, there could be more than one circuit.

Beware that touching anything inside a consumer unit raises the risk of electrocution. If in doubt, call upon a qualified electrician.

How do I know if my emergency light is working after a test?

Determining whether your emergency lights are working after a test is simple enough. Look out for the following signs that your emergency lighting needs servicing:


·  Dimmed lights.

·  Flickering lights.

·  Lights that won’t switch on.

·  Lights that burn out quickly.

·  Absence of the green LED charge light.


The difficulty most businesses have is judging the lux level or brightness. Most of the time, this might be obvious, but even a minor decrease in lux level could see you in non-compliance yet be barely visible to the untrained eye.

Again, this is why it’s essential to call upon a professional to conduct your emergency lighting tests. You can read our complete guide to emergency lighting to get started firstly.

Book an Emergency Lighting Test & Stay Compliant

What to do if an emergency light is not operating correctly after a test

According to the law, emergency lights must be functional 24/7, 365 days a year. So, what happens if one of your lights isn’t working?

The first step is to record it in your logbook. You should include your observations inside the logbook, such as a dimmed bulb or unresponsive light. At this stage, you can also check the light in question.

The biggest issue is all too often the battery. If the green charge LED isn’t illuminated, it’s a sign that something is wrong with your battery. Standard acid-based batteries used in conventional emergency lighting systems have a lifespan of three to four years, whereas lithium batteries can last up to 12 years.


Alternatively, there may be an issue with the connections. This happens when there’s no light whatsoever. Connection problems could indicate damage, such as water ingress. Either way, these are complex checks that often require specialist equipment.

The best action is to call a professional to address the problem, or you may risk voiding your warranty. Call Wells Electrical, the company with over 65 years of experience designing, installing, testing and maintaining electrical and emergency lighting systems.

To learn more about what our NICEIC-approved contractors can do for you, contact the team today.

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With a combined 65 years’ experience working nationwide, Wells Electrical Contractors are experts in electrical installation, maintenance and energy saving from conception to hand over in each project. Our engineers deliver the best electrical solutions to businesses in the UK and Ireland.

We understand that no two customers’ electrical needs are the same, and when it comes to making important decisions on upgrades, emergency repairs or installations, the more information you have the better. That’s why we offer a comprehensive range of solutions, as well as the knowledge to help customers make the right decisions.

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