Lighting in Multi-Unit Common Areas - Posted by Bob

Posted by"]Bob K on September 16, 2004 at 14:16:00:

It may be difficult to find motion switches that control flourescent lighting - usually they have to be incandecant fixtures.

Leviton makes some great commercial grade motion switches… may be worthwhile to switch the fixtures to incandecants…


Lighting in Multi-Unit Common Areas - Posted by Bob

Posted by Bob on September 16, 2004 at 08:47:39:

How do you pros handle keeping your common areas lighted in your multi-units?

I live in one of my multi’s currently and I keep all the light bulbs changed. But, even living in the bldg., this seems to be a never ending task. In this bldg, the lights must be on 24/7. I can’t imagine how this task will be handled when I move out.

I’m thinking of switching the fixtures to flourescent so the bulbs will last longer. Any other suggestions?


Re: Lighting in Multi-Unit Common Areas - Posted by Frank Chin

Posted by Frank Chin on September 17, 2004 at 08:25:26:


I now use the screw-in flourescents the others mentioned.

These flourescents come with different lives, usually 7,500 hours and up. The more expensive ones last longer, over 15,000 hours, as compared to 750 hours for a normal incandescent. Home Depot has a decent selection of them nowadays. The problem is I can’t find the same styles in stock all the time. So I buy a few extra.

Not only do they last longer, but they consume less energy for the same illumination.

When I rehabbed my multi’s, I usuually install recessed “Hi Hats” in the common areas where I used the screw in flourescents. While you need two to three recess lights to cover one area, the big advantage is when one burns out, your tenants would not trip and fall in the dark resulting in lawsuits.

And the hi hats makes the place look classy, and I also avoid the problem of broken and missing fixture covers, loose and hanging fixtures that make rentals look like a slum. I still have a problem with missng smoke detector covers though.

I have used motion and light detectors to automatically turn the lights on and off, especially the the outdoor ones. But they’re more trouble than its worth as these switched don’t always work right, and have to be replaced every three years or so. I had less trouble with timers, though I have to reset them as days get longer or shorter.

I find the most efficent method is to give one tenant a discount for handling things like taking out the garbage, sweeping the common areas, and changing burnt out bulbs. I keep the bulbs in the utility room when this tenant would have access.

The multis I own has three way light switches where the lights can be turned on and off. The tenant in charge shuts the lights off at night before going to bed, and remind others to shut it off if they come in later at night.

As for supplying bulbs to tenants to change them, when I was using incandescents, I switched from 60 watt bulbs to 25 watt bulbs. Tenants have taken the 60 watt bulbs to use in their own units, and I find myself out of bulbs they burnt out. A neighboring landlord taught me this trick.

After I switched to 25 watt bulbs, one tenant had the nerve to complain that the 25 watts he swiped weren’t bright enough for him in his unit. Nowadays, I only keep one or two florescents in the utility room, and replace them as they’re used.

Hope this helps.

By the way, I graduated as an Electrical Engineer, and took “Lighting” as an elective. At least its good for something.

Frank Chin

Probably more than you wanted to know. - Posted by IA-Jeff

Posted by IA-Jeff on September 16, 2004 at 16:47:46:

The cheapest and easiest way to lenghten the life of your lightbulbs will be to replace the incandescents you have with screw-in flourescents. The average life of a 60 or 75 watt standard incandescent lamp is about 1000 hours of use. If you switch to screw-in flourescents you can get 12,000 to 15,000 hours (depending on which exact lamp) out of a lamp if they are left on all the time. You will be using about 66% to 75% less electricity for the same amount of light as well.

If you decide to go with motion sensors, keep the incandescent light bulbs. Incandescents can be turned on and off much more than flourescents can(if they are being turned on and off several times a day). You could also go to an electric wholesale supply and ask for traffic signal lamps (8-12000 hours)if you want the long long long life with motion sensors. Be prepared to pay, and not all wholesalers will have them. GE makes a “xl” incandescent (I think) that would get you around 3000 hours. Remember too, that generally speaking, a 130v lamp lasts longer than a 120v lamp.

Also, if you go with the motion sensors, know that you get what you pay for. The “Stealth” made by Rab is the best. I don’t think they are in Lowes or HD but if you can find them in your market they are worth it. You can find a local distributor at under “where to buy”


Re: Lighting in Multi-Unit Common Areas - Posted by GL(ON)

Posted by GL(ON) on September 16, 2004 at 12:16:08:

There are long life bulbs that cost a little more and last a lot longer. There are also inserts that go in the socket to increase bulb life. I dont know what happens if you use them together.

There are motion detector switches that switch on the lights as soon as someone opens the door or steps into the hallway, otherwise the lights stay off.

How big is the building. If it is that big you should appoint someone resident manager to look after things like that. Give them $50 a month to change bulbs, vacuum hall carpets etc.

Re: Probably more than you wanted to know. - Posted by Bob

Posted by Bob on September 16, 2004 at 18:05:38:

Thanks very much for your advice. It seems as though you’ve screwed in a couple bulbs in your lifetime.

Anyway, I think I’m going to be going with the screw in flourescent lamps. This seems to be not only the easiest way of doing things, but also the cheapest now and to maintain, i.e, electricity savings.

I assume these bulbs cost much more than regular. I’m going to price them tomorrow. But, to me, it’s worth the hassle of not getting up on a ladder every 3 to 4 weeks to change a light bulb.

Re: Lighting in Multi-Unit Common Areas - Posted by Bob

Posted by Bob on September 16, 2004 at 13:10:21:

I was thinking of some sort of motion detector. Now that you brought up the motion detector switches, thats a great idea.

When I move out, I may consider asking one of the tenants to do this stuff for a small discount on their rent. I am currently renovating the entire entryway, so there will be new carpet and tile that I will want taken care of.

Thanks for the advice.

Re: Lighting in Multi-Unit Common Areas - Posted by GL(ON)

Posted by GL(ON) on September 16, 2004 at 14:43:01:

Dont use a rent discount. Collect the full rent and give them a check for their work.

Otherwise they soon forget they are getting a discount and resent all the work they are doing for free.

You want to pick someone who is a bit of a busybody and likes to mind everyone elses business. Also has a Felix Unger nature and keeps a clean and tidy apartment. Dont try to make someone go against their nature.