Exit Sign Evolution Part One: Lower Total Cost Savings
The world of exit safety signage is a massive. Consider all the locations you find an exit sign or brightly lit pathway to lead you to an exit in case of emergency. From stadiums, hospitals, apartments, hotels, schools, business buildings, retail establishments, airplanes, trains, ships….you get the idea. As the exit sign and safety industry continues to evolve, the regulating authorities including Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), International Building Code and International Fire Code and the way these products are engineered and installed has offered change for the better and new options to the market. Exit signs once required developers and architects to invest heavily in electrical installation and the building owners spending thousands in high electricity and maintenance bills throughout the years. However, the evolution of exit signs and safety products used to help people exit safely now offers a never before seen longevity in product and total cost savings. Best of all, both new construction sites as well as older structures can easily take advantage of updated exit signage and improve their bottom line while keeping people safer than before. These exit signs and safety products are designed to be applied to any location, including office buildings, retail stores, warehouses, distribution centers, apartment buildings, manufacturing facilities, living centers, and hospitals. So what is this newer, greener, total cost savings alternative? It is called photoluminescent technology and is actually not that new. It has been used for decades in Europe, but only started to get on the radar of those in the United States after the 1993 World Trade Towers truck bombing. By switching to photoluminescent exit signs, a building owner can save tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in energy costs alone, especially when compared to these incandescent signs. Photoluminescent exit signs and egress systems provide an immediate return on investment – a fact that competing products cannot promise.
According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Energy, there are over 100 million electric exit signs operating across the country 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The business buildings, schools, government facilities, hotels, airplanes, and other public buildings that use these electric exit signs seemingly pay a combined cost over $1 billion a year in energy and maintenance costs. To break it down further, according to Energy Star if your building replaced 100 LED exit signs with eco-friendly photoluminescent exit signs you would be looking at an energy cost savings of a little over $450 a year.
Even more, EnergyStar reports that by replacing 100 incandescent exit signs with the photoluminescent option it adds up to an estimated $2,739 a year in energy costs alone1. Year after year, those cost savings add up on the bottom line – all while reducing air pollution by almost a half a million pounds of CO2 over the life of the product (based on replacement of 100 incandescent signs). On top of the reduction in energy costs, the typical testing for just 500 electric exit signs can run between $10,000 and $20,000 per year. By replacing with photoluminescent exit signs and egress systems, you can eliminate those testing costs. Choosing a battery-powered exit sign option is not only time-consuming and expensive to maintain, but inherently unreliable. With back-up generators notorious to fail due to the not being properly maintained or used it will also cause any electric exit sign to fail to perform their duty when your building and patrons inside need them the most.
What is it about photoluminescent exit signs and egress systems that save you money?
- Phosphor is the main ingredient found in photoluminescent exit signs, which contains rare earth elements that are found in mixed geological deposits throughout the world. Phosphor particles can absorb, store, and then emit light at a later time whenever they are exposed to light. Long-persistence phosphor (LPP) is emerging subset of this is, which can emit light for a much longer period of time, acting like a sponge by absorbing and hold the light energy, slowly releasing it to provide illumination over an extended period of time. It has been known to provide light for up to 18 hours in some cases. These phosphors can be added to ink, dye, paint, coatings, and plastics to create low-maintenance, no-hassle safety solutions- including exit signs and egress systems.
- Compared to electric exit signs, photoluminescent exit signs are simple to install and require zero electricity to operate. This means you will not incur the additional labor and electrical costs associated with the installation of electric exit signs.
- Whereas electric egress pathway systems also require electricity to operate, the photoluminescent components found in a complete photoluminescent egress system are – like a photoluminescent exit sign – fueled by the absorption and storage of ambient fluorescent light and require no additional electricity to operate. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, photoluminescent exit signs are the most energy-efficient exit signs available.
- Maintenance costs are also less with photoluminescent safety signs. Just like a normal lamp, most electric exit signs are illuminated through the use of light bulbs – and as we know, light bulbs burn out over time. There are no bulbs to replace with photoluminescent exit signs, and once installed they are easily maintained for 25+ years. This increased reliability also protects against potential life safety hazards that could result due to the lack of maintenance for electric exit signs. Photoluminescent exit-sign maintenance typically consists of verifying that charging lights are operational and performing periodic wipe-downs with a damp cloth.
Some of the additional benefits include the reduction of cooling and emergency generator loads, aesthetically pleasing designs, multiple egress solutions, and no electrical or battery backup required. In addition, the glow in the dark wireless exit signs are very easy to mount and should you need to dispose of them they are green with no disposal expense. Add the costs of energy usage, replacement batteries and bulbs, in addition to labor costs, and the expenses of electrical exit signs just keep piling up.
At first glance, the photoluminescent exit signs appear to cost more then other exit sign options, but after factoring in the costs of installing and testing the signs, the photoluminescent exit signs are considerably less expensive than nearly all exit signs on the market (on average a reported 40-percent less). With escalating construction and operational costs, these savings are increasingly attractive to building owners and operators
Those developing new facilities can save even more. Builders get points towards LEED certification and by choosing photoluminescent exit signs and developers can save an average of $450 per sign location by eliminating the infrastructure associated with electrical exit signs including:
- Wiring, conduit, and hangers
- Junction boxes and cover plates
- Circuit breakers
- Skilled electrical labor
Beyond exit signs, photoluminescent films and rigid sheets are intrinsically safe and used in egress path markings in buildings, planes, trains and ships to lower costs and improve safety.
Photoluminescent technology is here to stay as exit signs and egress systems evolve. Given its impact in the 9/11 tragedy and other unrelated incidents, New York City passed New York Law 26 in 2004, which mandated the use of this technology in all building more than 72 feet high. Five years later, the International Building Code and International Fire Code also were revised to mandate the use of photoluminescent technology in new and existing high-rise buildings.2 Photoluminescent materials for safety and rescue products were also mandated in 2011 in the maritime industry via the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.
As our buildings, industries, and world continue to grow, safety and egress protocols are more important than ever. We see national safety trends continuing to move towards the mandated use of photoluminescent safety signage and no matter the facility, long-persistence phosphor-based products can provide another level of safety options at the right price. Photoluminescent technology offers one of the only non-radioactive exit signs that can also boast zero energy consumption and zero maintenance needs. Wireless exit signs built with an eco-friendly, green alternative design and offer energy savings all rolled into one amazing product. Photoluminescent technology is an excellent cost savings choice for many exit-sign and egress applications and there are also important environmental benefits to using this product, which we will discuss in next week’s post, along with a comparison to the tritium exit signs.