Communal Stair Lighting Maintenance Edinburgh

Communal stair lighting maintenance

Standard stair light

I have been getting some inquiries mostly from co-ordinators who say they are confused. So, what is the best way to maintain stair lighting. Hopefully I can give some guidance to help sort through the issues raised.

Why did CEC give up maintaining the lights

70 year old astro clock

In the current economic climate the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) needs to save money. Plus the existing stair lighting equipment is coming to the end of its service life. This would mean higher maintenance costs with regards to light repairs and 30-70-year-old astro clock replacements.


Before any work can take place the residents of the communal stair need to nominate a co-ordinator who will organise quotes and liaise with the contractor. Yes, I know this sounds good and in reality, it is usually a resident who independently takes on the task as the lighting is beginning to fail. So, having a good communication system is helpful. Landlords and letting agents are only too happy that someone is managing this type of work. So, contact and a good line of communication will make your task a lot easier. Downloading the AEW notification form will help and is a good start .

Existing stair lighting

The average stair lighting system has 30-40-year-old light fittings that were manufactured by the same company who supplied CEC. Solidly built but after 120,000 to 160,000 hours of use you can see why they are coming to the end of their service life.

Existing Astro clocks

The average astro clock is between 30-50 years old. These clocks were configured to the sunset and sunrise times for CEC. Ironically its the 30 year-old first generation digital clocks that are failing . Also running the lights 24/7 is not a good idea with regards to wear and tear on the light fittings and tubes. Plus you could be charged for the extra electricity if you do not fix the clock.

Electricity consumption

Currently CEC pay for the electricity as the majority of stairs have no electric meter as CEC negotiated a calculated cost with their supplier on the amount of lights via the CEC database to the sunset and sunrise times for the city of Edinburgh. This could change in the future and also just to highlight that some stairs have been adding outside lights to the system without CEC’s knowledge or consent. This action may cause CEC to insist a meter be fitted transferring the electric cost on to the residents so please be aware.

Maintaining the lights

I am asked if its ok just to replace the tube as and when required as per CEC system. A couple of things here fluorescent tubes fade as they age so in a sense CEC were maintaining poorly lit stairs plus the majority of coordinators who contact me is when several tubes are out. So, it is more cost effective to relamp the whole stair.

Faulty light fitting repairs are now free of charge

I carry spare parts for the light fittings and as from 1st of June 2018 repairs or replacement of faulty light fittings will now be free of charge  during a relamp. So, no surprise extra costs just a fix price and peace of mind.

Shades on the light fittings.

A lot of these are discoloured and dirty with age and during a relamp I wash and clean them to improve light output. Also as from the 1st of June 2018  any damaged shade will be replaced free of  charge during a relamp.

LED conversion

AEW complies with the CEC specification on led conversion and includes a new digital astro clock  housed in a Din box along with miniature circuit breakers. Some businesses are not upgrading the astro clock which can reduce the life of the lights. Also this may give the residents an additional bill in the future when the clock eventually fails.

Edinburgh Communal stair lighting astro clocks

Communal stair lighting astro timer clocks

Getting a few enquiries about problems with communal stair lighting  astro timer clocks and questions on why they fail. Below is a rundown on the reason why and how they operate.

What are the main problems with astro clocks

old stair light astro clock
  1. Age:–The clock on the right looks like it should be in a museum . I have found around 50% of the current stair astro clocks are electro mechanical. They are between 40 to 70 years old. Also, there are first generation digital models fitted around 25-30 years ago. Both types are starting to fail.
  2. Why they fail:-– Well, because its down to wear and tear along with constant use over a long period. The first generation of digital models are failing because they can no longer retain their settings after a power failure. Also, it is usually after a power cut that highlights problems with the clocks.

How a Astro timer clock works

  1. Misunderstanding on how they work:–A lot of people think they are just a standard time clock.  This is not the case they are set up to track the sunset and sunrise times of the Edinburgh area. They also switch the lights to 50% operation at midnight as an energy saving mode that extends the life of the tubes.
  2. Digital replacement models:–There are 2 different types of stair lighting systems. So the Astro clocks have to be programmed to comply with CEC stair lighting specification that includes energy saving modes.
  3. How do I know my clock is not working:– If you go to the BBC weather site and type in Edinburgh as a location you will see the sunset and sunrise times. This should give you a rough idea if the clock is working ok
  4. Why can’t I fix this problem myself ? :– This is not a good or practical idea as there are safety implications to think of with regards to electrical work.
  5. What if I think my clock is not working :— I would have to complete a survey of the stair. This is free of charge where you get a condition report on your system with costs  and options. 
  6. Handymen and Stair cleaning firms offering these services:-         I have had to fix  a couple of  Astro clocks and lights after the local handymen and stair cleaning firm had looked at them.  Leaving the customer with 2 bills. The apparent logic is anyone can change a bulb and there is not a lot of the workings of a timeclock.  In addition the customer should confirm these guys are  insured and competent for this task. The thing is an Astro clock is not the same as the standard timeclock.

 Examples  of Astro clocks via my Twitter feed

How not to fit a new Astro clock

Missing parts

Weather Beaten

Working for 70 years

After 27,000 On & Off switching its time to fit a digital clock

Is using a handyman cost effective ?

Not all led conversions are the same

How not do fix stair lighting

Poor or no earth in my property

Poor or no earth in my property

I am starting to see more of this as utility companies during their service of the central heating system highlight a poor or no earth connection to the property.

Why is this ?                                                                                                                    Unlike cars house electrics do not get checked every year and utility companies are now getting proactive to drive more revenue where they check the earth connection to ensure that it is within limits.

Does it matter?  

Yes this is a safety matter so if an electrical appliance or the house electric develops a fault you need the fuse or circuit breaker to trip and disconnect the electricity  in the optimum time.

No problems then my electricity supplier will sort this yes ?             Not really when privatisation  was set up the obligation to supply whats known is a good earth within the required limits was omitted so some may charge for this service.

How to I get this checked out ?                                                                          Your supplier will want an actual reading from a calibrated meter as some utility companies  test equipment only indicate  a Pass or Fail status.

What is the procedure for resolving this  ?                                                First of all get as much information from your utility company i.e. where is the poor or missing earth ,can they supply an actual reading  ? Then you need to call your supplier who will take customer information from you.

Why can I not get someone like you to manage this for me ?       Good point but the mechanics of the system is your supplier will only deal with you and not any third party. Although they may request that you get your own electrician to investigate at the first instance.

This seems a bit complicated why can’t my supplier sort this out ? Its all down to resources and ownership of equipment so the supply cable,fuse,meter etc is owned by your supplier and basically there responsibility stops their so if they attend to re-instate the earth they may not connect the consumers (your) earth cable to the fuseboard / consumer unit.

So where do you get involved ?                                                           Depending on the fault you may need 2 visits one to confirm the utility companies finding and the other to connect your main earth cable to the new earth supply.

main earth

Why don’t you do installation work

men at work

Common inquiry

Customers often ask me this and I explain that I specialize in small electrical and intruder/burglar alarms repairs and modifications plus I am not tooled up with regards to staff and time to rewire a property or upgrade a kitchen or fit some extra sockets.

The majority of my work is repairs and fault finding as this is due to my building maintenance experience. Plus a lot of installation electricians tend to shy away or ignore small jobs and repairs. That’s where my business model  fits in leaving me free to do 2-3 small jobs a day without being bogged down on a 3-5 day job.

I also do repairs modifications to rented properties for private landlords and letting agents so the nature of my business is to respond to  breakdowns with a quick response time. So for example I may have the keys to  replace some lights in a property but then get a call saying they have no lights or power and as I cover the local Edinburgh area I am flexible enough to prioritise my jobs.

The nature of the business is to do cost effective work for customers who want a small job doing but don’t want the expense of paying and staying in for a large company. Also I am not registered for VAT hence why I can deliver a competitive cost that fits in with the customers budget.

Change of tenant checklist for Landlords

I have been asked by some landlords if I can create a checklist that will allow them to record their safety checks for auditing and record purposes. Click here for a copy.

Change of tenant checklist

So lets go through it section by section

  • Property  Landlord details Straight forward the address of the rental property and landlords details.
  • Fire Protection There is 4 sections to complete
  • Location Where the sensor is sited
  • Replacement date This is useally on the side of the sensor and is handy to record to ensure unit gets changed.
  • Battery date The date battery was change or sensor fitted. it is prudent to replace the battery every 2 years as this could be costly if tenant calls out the maintenance company on a weekend.
  • Test operation Press the test button on the sensor to confirm operation and signaling to other sensors.
  • Co2 Protection  As per the Fire protection checks
  • RCD safety breaker checks  If there is a safety breaker fitted it is recommended by the manufacturer  that these be tested every 3 months.
  • Legionella Checks If you have a combi boiler then with a stopwatch and thermometer record the temperature of the hot tap furthest away from the boiler and record the cold tap furthest away from the main stopcock.
  • Shower head checks Disconnect each shower head and hose and steep them for 15 minutes in a bucket of cold water with a dilution of bleach (1 capfull)
  • Vacant property flush through cycle This should be completed before a new tenant moves in after the property has been vacant for a period
  • Print  Signature Date The person conducting the checks should sign and date this section. Then file this in your property folder.

Legionella checks for Landlords

I have spent 25 years in building maintenance and I am bewildered why private landlords are expected to get a Legionella risk assessment yet Council and Housing associations along with private residential properties are exempt in other words all red cars have to get an MOT but any other colour does not ? I would also point out that I have never heard of a Legionella outbreak originating from a residential property.

This is a report on the findings of the investigation into the 2012 outbreak from the BBC The report suspects the outbreak originated in the South West of the city and although cooling towers have been  checked but no source was found.

Update of 06-08-15

There is a report on the BBC website that the families to sue over the outbreak of Legionella in Edinburgh 3 years ago click this link for more information.

Update of 05-12-17

Legal procedings taking place see Here Wonder if the authorities cancel  the burden of Legionella checks on private landlords.

PS I am not a landlord


Q.  Where does the Legionella bacteria come from.

A.  It is present in soil and streams.

Q.  So how do I catch it

A.  Legionella breeds between 20oC and 50oC and the way it can be transmitted is via a fine water mist.

Q.  What is the main source of legionella outbreaks

A.  The majority of outbreaks were traced back to water cooling towers as they operate between 20oC to 50oC  and in the past were mainly used in air conditioning and process control for factories the cooling towers are treated with chemicals to neutralise any bacterial growths. Today due to high maintenance costs the majority have been replaced with air cooled condensers but some factories still  need to use them.

Q.  Why do you think private rental properties have been targeted.

A.  Well its just an opinion but concerns have been raised due to some properties being left vacant causing stagnant water in the pipework.

Q.  As a landlord is there anything I can do to minimise the risk

A.  Yes if the property is left vacant then you could flush out the hot and cold pipes weekly until its occupied.

Q.  Is there any checks I can do


A.  Yes you can purchase a stopwatch and laboratory thermometer that will cost about £10 then when you either have a change of tenant or the property is vacant then run the cold tap furthest away from the cold water tank and record the water temperature after 2 minutes this should be less than 20oC. Repeat the same for the hot water and this should be more than 50oC after 2 minutes.

Q.  Can I use a digital thermometer

A.  Well yes but the problem is you would need to get it checked for calibration every year so you are better with a BS glass thermometer

Q.  Anything else

A.  Yes get a bucket of warm water with a dilution of bleach in it then remove any shower hoses and heads and steep them in the bucket for about 10 minutes.  Plus you can do this 2-3 times a year.

Q.  Where can I find more information

A.  You can visit the Health and Safety Executive Here

Energy saving tips with led lamps

New EU Regulations

As 01/09/2018 EU regulations have been introduced to phase out halogen lamps or bulbs. This may sound a bit draconian but due to LED technology this makes a lot of sense for the consumer. So get converting and don’t wait for the old lamp to expire as it is cheaper in the long run to change over to LED.

Also if your not sure get in touch for free advise.

Energy saving with led lamps

Energy will not be getting cheaper any time soon and I get asked what is the best way to save money. Well this can be done via led lamps/bulbs but I hear what about the cost ? but today led technology is getting better and more importantly 50% cheaper. Yes but what about the running cost I hear well here is an example you have 4 x 50watt halogen lamps in your kitchen that if you use for 3 hours a day then depending on your tariff this would cost £32 per year yet if you paid £16 for 4 x 5 watt led lamps then the running cost would be £3.20p per year. That’s a 90% saving

Q. So what if I cannot afford to convert the whole house ?

A. Easy pick the lights you use the most in the house and convert them first.

Q. What if I need some advise how much will it cost.

A. Nothing you can contact me and advise is free

Q. Is there any other benefits to led lamps

A. Well the example above if you convert the kitchen the lamps will last 25 years yes this in not a misprint you will save £13 in the first year then £29 per year for the next 24 years if the tariff stay the same and more if it increases.

Click here for energy calculator

Do you use middlemen companies

Middlemen or lead generation electrical repair companies

I get asked a lot why I do not work for these middlemen lead generation or emergency home repair companies and the answer is quite simple Cost for me and the customer. To be cost effective paying for a franchise or lead generator company ultimately the customer pays for what I see is a system that pays to promote a certain type of business that does not necessary guarantee a good service. That why I am registered with and as the name suggests this is a free service that connects customers with local tradespeople who want to pay local rates without the markup of middlemen companies. This site also provides customer reviews/feedback to help and assist selection. Click here for AEW freeindex site.

Customer reviews

There has been a lot in the news about big companies using false reviews and I get asked how can the customer trust the reviews I get on Freeindex.  My approach to business is good customer focus  and service so when a customer is good enough to leave a review I am grateful. So whats to stop you getting multiple reviews from the same person. Good question but Freeindex works on a system of email and the IP address of the computer that the review was written so if there is a second attempt from the same computer then the Freeindex system stops it.

Storage heater repairs Edinburgh

Storage Heaters

Well winter is on its way and I am getting more calls to repair storage heaters that normal. People ask is it economical to repair an old heater or better to replace. Heaters are used 6 months of the year and owners do not pay on average £250 per year for a maintenance contract as gas central heating  customers pay. So if your storage heaters are starting to age then it may be wise to start a small repair fund for any future repairs

Check out my storage heater operating instructions  here to get the best out them.

storage heater controls

Been getting a few phone calls recently from customers who have a duel storage heater in the lounge and are not sure how they work.        Basically they a 2 heaters in 1 Storage and Convector (instant) the storage side charges up overnight and is used in the winter months where the convector is used either as a top up to the storage and when there is a cold spell during the summer month.

During the summer months the wall switch for the storage heater should be switched off with the input dial set to midway and the output dial set to minimum. As winter commences   the wall switch should be switched  on .

Frequantly Asked Questions

Q. What is and how do I operate the output dial.

A. This dial sets the rate of discharge heat and should be set to minimum when you go to bed or leave the property. The best way to achieve a comfortable room temperature is to initially set the output dial to midway (3) then leave it for an hour turn it up to to say 4 if you require more heat and when happy with setting use this when the property is occupied.

Q. What is and how do I operate the input dial.

A. This dial sets the rate of overnight charge and as the weather gets colder you need to gradually turn the dial up from say 3 to 4 to 5 . Also if the unit gets cold before you go to bed then the setting is too low if too hot then the setting is to high.

Q. How do I operate the convector heater.

A. There should be an on/off switch on the heater with a control dial and the best way to operate this is to set the dial midway wait 30 minutes and if not warm enough then gradually turn it up until you get a setting your happy with.

Q. Whats wrong with turning the unit to maximum

A. That’s fine if you want to waste energy that costs money but say the dial has a span of 1-6 you may find that 4 is a comfortable setting for you.

Q. Can I dry cloths on the heater.

A. In a word no because you can trip the unit out and this is a common mistake people make as it can cause the unit to trip out and then there’s the cost of getting it repaired.

Q. If I bought my own replacement storage heaters would you fit and connect them for me.

A.  No sorry but due to warranty problems I can no longer offer this service.

Serving the Edinburgh Area