Code-compliance faster than ever while saving money.

Everything you need to know about outdoor exit signs, but didn't think to ask.

Outdoor conditions vary by region and thus you'll need to consider the parameters specific to your needs. Below we will cover the main concepts that, if addressed early, will prevent you from making costly mistakes and extend the longevity and performance of your outdoor exit signs

Exit Sign Temperature Ratings

Outdoor exit signs differ from indoor exit signs in that they are able to both endure much colder temperatures and hotter temperatures. The method by which the signs manage the cold is typically through either 1. not requiring electricity, such as with tritium exit signs and photoluminescent exit signs or 2. by using a combination of more resilient batteries, (Ni-Cad) or by protecting Sealed lead Acid batteries with a battery blanket and/or heater. These methods can ensure that the system is operable in cold temperatures. The outdoors though isn't always the same temperature and thus fluctuations in temperature must also be considered. Sealed Lead Acid batteries do not have the typical range that Ni-Cad batteries do, but they also are not resilient to extreme fluctuations in temperatures. Having a sign that is insulated can help with these fluctuations. The standard operating temperature ratings for unprotected batteries is well within the typical heat range off the United States and thus, the upside protection isn't as much as issue. For areas though like deserts or the upper levels of covered parking garages, you'll want to select signs capable of maintaining functionality of up to 120 degrees. Interestingly, photoluminescent exit signs perform better in these conditions than they do in colder temperatures. If you find yourself in extreme cold, that is freezing temperatures, you'll want to consider electrically driven signs with battery heaters. The reason this is the case is that photoluminescent signs require consistent illumination from an external source to remain charging, often unfiltered fluorescent tubes; which don't themselves perform as well in cold temperatures. For extreme cold areas consider units with Ni-Cad batteries, a thermostat, and a battery heater, or consider using tritium "nuclear" exit signs because they are extremely resilient in cold and hot temperatures.

Exit Signs and Vandalism

Let's face it, it's tempting to try to jump up and touch an exit sign. Unfortunately, that isn't where the temptation often ends. Outdoor exit signs must be tamper-proof and capable of enduring a direct hit from sticks, antennas, balls, or whatever wayward object used either through malice or accident. To survive these situations the signs are either non-electrical with no moving parts, such as photoluminescent, or the signs are reinforced with thick metal housings, such as aluminum exit signs or steel exit signs. Naturally steel signs are prone to rust and are galvanized for this purpose, however, their usage is declining. Aluminum exit signs, preferably with casted housing are a great choice or housings made of ultra durable and flexible resins. Often these signs will also have a clear protective lens to ensure that the inner electronics are protected and that the letters aren't a source of weakness.

Exit Sign Theft

What college student doesn't want an exit sign above their dorm door? Exit signs within reach of the passerby can be stolen. One way to prevent this is to use screws that require special tools to unscrew, such as torx / hex screws. Our outdoor rated signs typically use these special screws and include the tool needed. We offer these for our outdoor signs in most cases when we are not already using them as a standard issue.

Exit Sign Discoloration and Brittleness

UV stabilization is required for signs in direct sun contact, even if only for a few hours of the day. Our outdoor rated signs are UV stabilized. One of the issues with using an indoor sign for outdoors is that the plastic isn't rated for continual direct sunlight and overtime can cause intense yellowing and fragility. Our clear lenses are designed for these situations.

Surviving The Elements: Moisture/Ice/Vapors/Wind/Dust/Salt

Outdoor locations may be subject to rain, ice, wind, vapors, or dust and thus must be designed for such. Most often the issue is moisture, either ambient or direct through rainfall or hose down environments. Electrical Exit Signs are more at odds with these conditions as the electronics are sensitive. Signs that may come into contact should be at least damp location rated, but almost always this isn't enough, and wet-location (IP-65) ratings are needed. If the environment is likely to have high pressure water streams such as with hose down areas, you'll want a sign with a hose-down rating. The hose-down rating adds extra resilient gaskets and more protection in the lens and fasteners. Related to Ice, the cold-weather rated sign is already protected by default. Dust, vapors, and salts though are special conditions that must be treated very carefully depending on the dust type and the vapors. In these situations you'll want to consider hazardous location rated exit signs as these signs are designed to prevent the sign become a source of explosion ignition. Related to salt, such as for locations by the ocean, depending on how close to the water, consider a resin-based housing such as polycarbonate instead of metal. And for situations of high wind, you'll want to select a unit that has the ability to support straps or have thicker housings to withstand the gusts such as casted housings with metal mounting brackets. Thermoplastic housing tritium exit signs or photoluminescent exit signs are not well-suited for high wind environments. In these cases consider models with aluminum frames.


These are the high level concepts that differentiate outdoor exit signs from indoor exit signs. We have signs for all environments and are delighted to help you select the ones for your needs. View our Outdoor Exit Signs