Local and national codes require a monthly 30 second and an annual 90 minute test of all your battery powered emergency and exit signs. Plus, you’ve got to keep a written record of these tests to be produced for the AHJ (authority having jurisdiction).
What’s the best way to perform these tests? Holding a test switch for 30 seconds multiplied by the number of units can be a very time consuming process and will certainly “test” the inspectors patience. A better way is to locate and label the lighting circuit breaker that feeds these fixtures and test them all at once. This is the only way to perform the required annual 90 minute test. Testing this way allows the battery to show you how it performs over a longer period of time, much longer than most will spend standing there holding a test switch. If the units are high off the floor, this is the answer as well.
However, there are some instances when circuit breakers cannot be used. Per code, these same lighting breakers also feed the normal lighting fixtures in the same areas you’re testing. This can be unsettling in an occupied area, especially in a school or office environment. Many circuit breakers are poorly or not labeled at all. Which ones do I turn off to initiate my test? Randomly turning off breakers will also be disruptive, especially if a computer or some other piece of essential equipment gets switched off. Locating the proper breakers can be very labor intensive or impossible depending on the specific circumstance.
Once located and labeled, testing your emergency lighting and exits with their feed circuit breakers is the most effective and quickest way to do the job right.