Product Reviews

Reviewed: Handrail lighting

In essence, handrails are a safety feature. They are there to steady you or, in some cases, actually prevent you from falling. Handrail lighting is also there to help you see after dark. 

For exterior applications, a common solution is to have luminaires mounted on columns or walls. Whilst this can be effective for level pathways, when lighting steps, there are often problems with glare. For example, when you are descending, your eye-line might be at the same height as the light source in a lower column. Light fittings in the risers or side-wall looks attractive but may not give sufficient illumination, especially on wide steps.

Lighting integrated into the handrail is often a good solution. There is no upward light and the pathway or steps are well illuminated. Changes in direction such as landings are easily recognised and the handrail itself provides protection to the luminaire. Handrail lighting also looks good.

The first decision to make is whether to purchase a complete illuminated handrail system or whether to source the handrail from one supplier and the luminaires from another. Both solutions have their advantages and disadvantages and we have tested examples of each.

With an integrated system, the luminaire and wiring can be incorporated into the handrail whilst it is being assembled in the factory. One advantage of this method is that you are only dealing with one supplier and everything should be fully co-ordinated and run smoothly.

An alternative is to order the handrail from a specialist supplier. This can give you a greater range of options in terms of materials, finishes, dimensions etc. You can also choose your luminaire supplier for the particular lighting effect and illumination level you want.

The critical issue then becomes co-ordinating the assembly and installation. Basically, the handrail fabricator or installer has to cut suitably sized apertures for the luminaires and this requires high accuracy and maybe machining. In some systems, the aperture has to be made with a laser cutter.

One very important aspect to check is whether the handrail has a structural function e.g. being able to resist the weight of a person leaning/falling on it. In this case, you should check whether the railing would still comply once it has had apertures cut into it.

One other advantage of individual luminaires is that you can retrofit them in to an existing handrail but you need to be precise when cutting the aperture.  Again, check if there are any structural criteria.


DW Windsor Garda handrail 

This unit won the “Exterior luminaire of the Year” LUX Award is 2011. It has now been improved and there are three versions. As well as the Garda Standard, there is the Garda Pro which can provide high output solutions giving up to 150 lux or, alternatively, very wide spacings between modules. In the Comfort version, the LEDs are invisible and are suited to where you want continuous lines of light of around 30 lux, or less. It is available in 2,700K (and other CCTs) with CRI>90 s

In addition, DW Windsor offers a complete, turnkey handrail and lighting solution from the initial concept stage to final completion. This can include such services as project management and onsite installation including welding and polishing.

One more point worth making is that DW Windsor is renowned for their amenity, civic and streetlighting products. They certainly have the right pedigree for this type of public exterior lighting.





The ID is designed to fit in a 42.4mm (1.67”) diameter handrail having a 2mm wall thickness. In essence, the module is an aluminium tube containing 1 – 4 LEDs. The overall length is 106 – 166mm (4.17” – 6.5”) depending on the number of LEDs.

These LEDs can be run at different power ratings so the light output is between 40 – 460 lumens per module. Each module is fitted with a short piece of cable plus a gland so the whole system can be pre-wired in very long lengths. You can see that spacing them fairly closely, you could achieve a very high output per linear metre.

There are 12 different light distributions from the lenses and these can be adjusted +/- 6 degrees in rotation using a special tool. The lenses have a clear pmma cover giving an IP67, IK05 rating.

The module is simply installed in pre-cut handrail using two circular steel clips



Footfall lighting

The company started almost 40 years ago making handrails and balustrades and more recently has moved to manufacturing handrail luminaires. Generally speaking, they are a bespoke manufacturer but they do have a standard luminaire called the Continulux. The LED section is 300mm (1’) long and designed for 42 and 48mm diameter (1.65 and 1.9”) tubes.

The attractive feature of the Continulux is that it can be fitted end to end and so, combined with the opal, anti-microbial, polycarbonate diffuser, you can achieve a continuous line of light. A clear polycarbonate version is available for wall-mounted handrails where you want to direct the light towards the centre of the passageway.

Footfall has just launched a totally different product called the Spot. This is just 2W and will fit into almost any 28mm (1.1”) hole. This single point solution can be useful in providing lighting where there are tight bends e.g. landing on stairs.



Handrail Design icon LedLit

This really is a combination of two companies. Handrail Design makes the “icon” range of handrails and has collaborated with Insta UK who provide the lighting element.

Insta UK makes a wide range of LED products and the LEDlux luminaire is a module designed to be fitted to both interior and exterior handrails. The Insta product is available in a wide range of CCT and colour rendering. One interesting feature is that they offer a tunable white and RGB for the handrail.




This is most probably the toughest handrail luminaire you will ever see because it is made of solid PU plastic bonded and integrated in to an aluminium extrusion. It is IP68 and shockproof to 80 Joules – that’s four times greater than IK10.

There are four standard lengths, 25, 50, 75 and 100mm (1”, 2”, 3”, 4”) and available in Eco, Plus and high Power versions depending on how much light output you want.

The lighting module simply clips in position and there are no visible fixings and so nothing for vandals to attack.  It is very quick and easy to install. Maybe the only disadvantage of the system, in common with quite a few other suppliers, is that the linear aperture in the handrail tubing must be made with a laser cutter.




Transit Lighting

Transit Lighting makes three different types of individual, single-point light fittings. They are intended to be fitted to handrails supplied by others. The basic model is the Insert which is 16mm (5/8”) diameter. This is threaded in to the handrail. There is also the asymmetric RAILled which is 30mm diameter and a slightly larger double asymmetric version. These have separate screw fixings and have to be carefully positioned so that the beam is directed at the correct angle.

Typically, the stainless steel fittings operate at 1.5 – 2W each and emit 110 – 140 lumens.  The standard lenses produce beams of either 40 or 70 degrees but there are options from 14 – 94 degrees. There is also a wide variety of colour temperatures and colour rendering, CRI.

To help the contractor, Transit can supply jigs and tools to make installation simpler and more accurate.



Schreder LED handrail

Schreder has been designing lighting for motorways, traffic routes and footpaths for over a century. They are therefore experts in linear lighting in terms of beam control, light output and uniformity.

There are two basic lenses designed for single sided use. One is used where you want fairly low levels illumination, say 10 – 20 lux. Here, you would typically space the lighting modules at 6m (20’) spacing giving 25 – 30 percent uniformity, Min/Ave.
The other lens is where you want high levels of illumination, say 100 – 150 lux. In this case, the spacings would be about 1.5m (5’) apart giving 60 – 70 percent uniformity, Min/Ave.

The whole handrail system is solidly constructed with vandal proof screws and fixings. The lens is impact resistant to IK10.

One final benefit is that the rated life of the LEDs (L90 at 100,000 hours) is given for an ambient temperature of 55C (130F) so you can use the handrail just about anywhere.



The Light Lab Glowrail

The Glowrail is one of a number of specialist lighting products from The Light Lab. It is a complete handrail system based on 48.3 mm (1.9”) diameter tubing and available in brushed stainless steel or anodised aluminium.

As you would expect from the name, the Glowrail emits a continuous line of diffused light. There are three power ratings and so the light emitted ranges from about 500 – 1400 lumens per linear-metre. In electrical terms, this equates to 10W – 18W/lin.m. Emergency lighting options are also available.

The diffuse beam means the maximum illumination on the steps is when the handrail is centrally mounted. Side mounted fixing obviously puts a fair amount of light on the walls.

There are IP44 and IP65 versions so you can you them both indoors or outside. Similarly, they are available in 3,000K to a Cool 5,000K.


  • See the latest LED handrail lighting systems at LuxLive 2018 at ExCeL London on Wednesday 14 November and Thursday 15 November 2018. Entry is free if you pre-register HERE.