We are thrilled to share that we were featured in NOMMA Fabricator Magazine this month in a feature shining light on working with illuminated handrails. In the article we shared five things to consider in order to get handrail lighting right, make it work, and make it last.
- Types: Every installation has its own set of nuances and requirements. To account for this, there are three basic types of illuminated handrails for commercial markets, they are:
- Point Source Lighting – This is the best solution for curved or helical rail systems. Point Source lighting does not require a specific rail profile or complex fabrication; a simple hole drilled within a standard rail is all that is needed for mounting. All wiring is internal within the railing, with no exposed connections.
- Linear “Lightsticks” – These fixtures can be inserted into rails between posts or brackets in a railing fabricated with a rectangular channel to accept the fixture. “Lightsticks” are held in by clips or glue and the wiring is run through the channel. This solution provides a ribbon of light within the rail, but the mounting requirements can make them more complex to engineer and wiring is exposed within the channel.
- Integrated Linear Modules – These fixtures provide better lighting performance than the simple linear stick, but they do not allow for a high degree of customization. The improved performance comes by way of a light engine that is integrated into the rail itself, making the LED and lens an integral part of the system.
- Technique: Once the right system is selected, fabrication can be no more difficult than a standard pipe rail, but you do need to consider the installation requirements common to all illuminated handrail projects:
- Electrical Requirements– Most LED rail systems require a transformer of 110-277VAC to 24VDC. This transformer needs to be mounted within an electrical enclosure for safety and security. Always use the transformer recommended or supplied by the manufacturer.
- Mechanical Requirements– Before you get started, think the whole project through; the rail must be designed to accept the wiring. These types of installations involve feeding wire through the handrail posts or brackets, so planning for feed points is critical. Deburring of the inner profiles so wire isn’t stripped as it’s pulled through is also a vital piece.
- General Design & Installation – Illuminated rails install in much the same manner as a standard handrail with a few additions, such as electrical hook ups. It is a good idea to complete the circuit layout during the design phase so drives can be placed and conduit run into posts. LED systems are simple, with just a positive and negative lead, but it is vital to pay special attention to polarity when connecting the fixtures. LEDs do not respond well to hot wiring and can fail from sudden surges in current, so an oversight can burn out components and lead to project delays.
- Drilling holes in a rail for point-source products is much easier with a high-quality annular cutter. Drills bits cannot handle the diameters required and can yield an oversized or irregular hole, and hole saws can chatter too much when cutting through round profiles. Annular cutters are faster, easier, and more accurate than conventional alternatives.
- Investing in simple electrical tools will help greatly. Every toolbox should contain an AC/DC power meter, wire strippers, both needle-nose and lineman’s pliers, electrical fish tape, and silicone adhesive. Having these basic tools on hand can save time and will help you do the job the right way.
- A lighting designer is often an overlooked “tool”. Engaging a designer for lighting calculations can help model the space quickly and without tremendous expense.
- Tips: LED systems are largely maintenance free. If there is an issue with a component, it will generally surface during the early burn-in.
- Power washing rails should absolutely be avoided.
- When planning and specifying, it is helpful to engage the light manufacturer early in the process. Involving the manufacturer provides another set of eyes that can help avoid any rework down the road. Equip them with a set of plan and elevation drawings that detail the fixture number, placement, count and color, as well as power entry.
- Know your FC requirements. For general pedestrian paths, a 1-3 FC average is usually required, but stairs and ramps may require up to 10 FC. Ultimately, specific codes and the AHJ will govern the requirements.
- Be consistent. Stay with a single system. You should absolutely not mix systems.
- Benefits: Overall, illuminated handrail lighting is a great way to put light where it’s needed most while accentuating design and not detracting from it. It also affords a high quality output at a low wattage, and can work to meet your needs – whether it be LEED certification, or individual company goals – handrail lighting can be the perfect solution to many problems.
This is just a highlight of the NOMMA article. For more detail and information in each of these areas, check out the full article here.
We also want to share some additional insight into working with illuminated handrails. Download the PDF below for additional information detailing enclosure types.