Do you need to replace all your exit signs?


Ok, the title was intended to be a bit provocative. I sometimes need to get your attention. If you read on I will answer the question.

The ideas for these articles are almost always a result of a job that we did for one of our customers.

In this case the customer operated a fairly high tech three-story office building. They recognized that the exit signs were beginning to show their age and they were looking for an alternative.


The present signs were a mid range aluminum box. In most cases the old incandescent bulbs had been replaced with a retrofit LED lamps to save energy. While this does save money, the face of the sign is not always evenly lit with these new lamps. There was still a single DC incandescent lamp in the center of each sign which provided some degree of illumination in the event of a power failure. After years of service the signs did not all sit straight on the ceiling or wall and some of the faces were not fitting well either.

The timing of this request so close to the end of the year (2013) provided an interesting opportunity. A change in the 2010 building codes was to move from the conventional exit sign to the green running man pictogram. In Ontario this will be mandatory in early 2014.

Since our work was to take place in 2013 the customer was not obligated to install the running man signs. However, they saw this as an opportunity to be a bit ahead of the curve. We worked with the manufacturer to secure an attractive price and quick delivery for this job.

The customer selected a higher end edge lit LED universal sign. This choice of a truly universal sign meant that all 78 signs could be ordered without any concern for the pictogram orientation, voltage (ac or dc) and mounting method. The single universal sign fitted all locations.


The signs looked great and were as well lit when in the emergency mode as they were in the ac mode. This is quite unusual. A typical exit sign is quite dim in the dc (emergency) mode. It relies on the fact that the other lights in the area are off in order to be seen.

And back to the question that always arises at this point. Do I need to replace all my exit signs?

The simple answer is no. These codes are not retroactive. If the sign was approved when it was installed and you don’t change it, it can remain as is.

As we move into 2014 the need to change will depend on the scope of the job. Certainly a customer similar to the one described here changing all the signs in their facility will need to install the new green running man signs. However if you were just replacing one or two signs you could likely continue to install the old red exit signs to maintain continuity.

The need to change a few signs may give you an opportunity to replace all the signs on one floor or level with the new pictogram. The running man pictogram helps to overcome the barrier of language and moves Ontario closer to the new international standard.

Believe it or not I still see customers with incandescent exit signs or very poorly lit signs. This may be the perfect opportunity for some energy savings and a nice visual upgrade.

Keeping you in the loop.

Mark Marmer

ECRA/ESA 7001298

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