Exit Lights: A Comparison of Exit Sign Technologies

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires buildings to mark their exits with exit signs. But building owners can choose the type of lights they implement: incandescent, compact fluorescent, LED, tritium, or photoluminescent exit lights. Below, examine the benefits and drawbacks of each type.


The oldest exit signage on the market, incandescent signage is a dinosaur in terms of energy efficiency, consuming $350 in energy over a 10-year period. Add in the over $1,000 in maintenance expense over the same period, and it becomes the most expensive exit sign to operate. Nevertheless, the average cost of $25 per unit is appealing when you need to replace multiple signs.

Compact fluorescent

Compact fluorescent signage is more energy efficient than incandescent signage, as its consumption of $184 in energy over a 10-year period shows. In fact, some energy efficiency consultants propose it to replace incandescent signs. In addition to using less electricity, compact fluorescent exit lights also have a lower 10-year maintenance cost than incandescent signage: $570.

With an average purchase price of $60 per unit, the signage offers a mix of economy across its cost areas. But it is not the best signage for energy efficiency.


Prior to self-sustaining exit signage, LED signage was the most cost effective, eco friendly exit signage on the market. Even today, a LED sign’s average unit cost of $57 combined with its 10-year costs of $53 and $140 for electricity and maintenance, respectively, make it a popular choice. But it does not offer the best energy efficiency: that honor goes to non-electric tritium and photoluminescent exit lights.


Once considered the premier exit signage, tritium signage is now considered dangerous—a switch that occurred when the green movement made its radioactive capsules unpopular. Sellers of tritium signs point to the capsules’ shockproof container. However, even if it never escapes, it brings a $75 disposal fee per sign.

The fee can be waived if you replace your old tritium signs with new ones. But you have to ask: is being compelled to buy tritium signs by thousands of dollars in disposal fees the arrangement you want for the future? Most building owners would say no.

Photoluminescent signs

Photoluminescent signs have all the benefits of tritium signs, but without the radioactivity and disposal fees. They also have a longer lifespan than tritium signs—25+ years compared to 20—and cost less. The average cost of a photoluminescent sign is $96. The average cost of a tritium sign is $100.

In terms of cost and environmental impact, photoluminescent signage, with its electricity-free, maintenance free, non-toxic design, is the best exit signage on the market.

Call Glo Brite for photoluminescent exit signs

At Glo Brite, we offer a variety of self luminous emergency signs and exit lights that meet OSHA, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and International Fire Code (IFC) regulations. Powered by our patented Glo Brite technology, they offer superior visibility and burn time.

To learn more about how photoluminescent signage can benefit your building, call us today.

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