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Self Test Emergency Lighting vs Automatic Testing Systems

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Self-test emergency lighting and automatic testing systems both fall under the heading of ‘Automatic Testing‘, however, they operate quite differently.

The simplest way to distinguish between the two systems is to think about how they report the results of emergency lighting testing.

What’s the difference?

Automatic testing systems test emergency lighting and then generate a full report detailing if lights have passed or failed via a panel or software portal. This whole process happens automatically and without any human intervention. That means no paperwork or data entry!

Self-test emergency lights check themselves automatically and display their pass/fail status via an LED on the light. However when it comes to reporting results a competent person still needs to go to the light, check that it has passed and report the results manually.

To summarise:

Automatic testing systems = Automatic testing and automatic record keeping

Self-test emergency lighting = Automatic testing and manual record keeping

Which is better?

Both systems remove the need for in-person emergency lighting testing making monthly or quarterly testing more efficient and less disruptive. 

But when it comes to time saving and accuracy, Automatic Testing Systems that take care of testing all the way through to record keeping are the clear winner. 

With that said, automatic testing systems have not always been accessible. Traditionally they’ve been wired, are difficult to install and less than ideal for retrofitting to existing buildings. 

Newer wireless automatic testing systems have come on to the market in recent years that thankfully negate the need for a full rewire. However, in most cases they are supplied by a specific lighting vendor and in order for the system to work require emergency lighting to be switched over to the vendor’s own brand of lighting.

If automatic testing systems are not an option many building owners instead opt for self-test lighting. 

Pros and cons

Let’s talk about the pros and cons of the two systems.

Automatic Test Systems


      • Complete end to end testing and reporting
      • Real-time fault analysis and alerts
      • The only time you need to attend lights is when there’s a fault
      • Testing can be staggered or completed out of hours easily
      • Human error is completely eliminated and compliance assured


      • Wired automatic testing systems are expensive and disruptive to install
      • Wireless automatic testing systems are usually bound to a single lighting vendor
      • Wireless automatic testing systems that use mesh technology often have coverage issues
      • If gateways are required to boost coverage costs quickly rack up

Self-test emergency lighting 


      • Self-test lights are stand alone and do not require any messy rewiring for installation
      • They are far more cost effective compared to automatic testing systems.
      • Building owners have ultimate flexibility when it comes to choosing lighting as there’s a wide variety of styles and brands of self test lighting readily available on the market


      • A competent person still needs to visit the lights to check they are functioning and record results
      • Human error is still a factor 
      • No early warning system for lighting failures

The best of both worlds

Here at Safecility we’ve designed a sensor that plugs into any emergency light and transforms it into a full automatic testing system without any additional wiring. 

That means you can transform any brand or style of emergency light into a smart light that tests itself and reports test results and fault analysis to a software portal.

Installed in under 10 minutes it puts your emergency lighting compliance on autopilot, completely removing manual input and human error.

Request a demo today

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