Fire Control System

February 7, 2014

We talked in our previous post about the fire sprinklers and what not to do with them.  Now it’s time to talk about the fire control panel and its role in monitoring the sprinklers.

IMG_20140131_125059_733In the layout of your fire sprinkler system are a number of valves with monitoring switches that send signals to the panel for detection.  The control panel is typically monitored at an alarm company which will notify the fire department of any detected water flow or system problems and also notify the manager or management company when an alarm is detected, not just a fire alarm.

Its imperative that your fire control system be serviced routinely to determine if the system is operating correctly. These same companies, typically commercial fire protection companies, will offer PM service contracts and lay out what is covered in the service contract.  Some companies will offer flow testing annually to make sure there is adequate water flow and provide written reports to your local municipality.

If there are trouble codes or problems with your fire control panel they should be addressed immediately so there is no interruption of service to your fire control system. Leaks within the system should also be repairs quickly to prevent further damage to individual units or the property itself.

A problem that developed many years ago at one of our area condominiums was a leak that was noticed in a flower bed. The landscape company was notified thinking it was simply a leaking sprinkler head.  When the landscape company dug around and investigated it turned out to be a leak in a main line servicing the fire sprinkler system.  This rather innocuous leak turned out to be a major problem requiring 48 hours of continuous work until the leak was repaired (it was the result of a large, decorative palm tree being planted too close to the line-as the tree and its root ball grew it ruptured the line).  The lesson to be learned is address all leaks as soon as they’re noticed and be mindful of your decorative landscape.


Fire Sprinklers

February 6, 2014

In Florida, all high rise condominiums, anything over three stories really, has a fire sprinkler system throughout each unit and some common areas.  The common area sprinklers are typically found in elevator shafts, electrical room,  pump rooms and lobby areas.  The reason condominiums have sprinklers is obviously to put out fires.  Now that we’ve stated the obvious, let’s go over what you should do and not do with the sprinklers in your unit.

If you look closely at a fire sprinkler you will see a tiny colored glass bulb inside.  The glass is colored based upon the colorsofsprinklerheads2temperature at which the bulb will melt.  The bulbs will melt at a fixed temperature as indicated in the picture.  That glass bulb is all that separates the thousands of gallons of water available in the sprinkler systems and the prized possessions in your condominium.

Having said that, there are some things that you SHOULD NOT do with the sprinkler heads in your condominium.

1) Do not paint the sprinkler head.  As tempted as you are to blend your sprinkler head into your tray ceiling mural, DO NOT paint the sprinkler head.

2) Do not hang anything from the sprinkler head. Remember, fire sprinkler systems are installed by the builder and typically are performed by the company that provided the cheapest quote. Hanging anything from a sprinkler could break the glass bulb, pull the sprinkler away from its fitting (causing flooding) or develop a slow leak that could damage the ceiling.

3) DO NOT prohibit access to your unit by the maintenance company contracted to perform routine service or preventative maintenance.  This applies to your renters and tenants as well.

The best thing to do is pretend the sprinklers are not even there. If you do not damage or harass the sprinkler heads, chances are you’ll never have a problem and they’ll perform exactly as they should.  Hopefully that time will never happen to you.

Breezeway Lights Part 4

January 10, 2014

If you’ve tuned in for the last segment I guess you’re here to find out what the #9 advantage to LED lights is.  So without further delay, the #9 advantage to converting to LED lights for your common area breezeways is….little to no bugs. compact fluorescents Now this may seem inconsequential to some but to those who maintain common area lighting and for those owners that have a pet peeve about bugs in light fixtures, this could be a dream come true.

Outside of plumbing, cleaning out the plastic fixture enclosures of breezeway lights is disgusting, nauseatingly disgusting. Bugs of all shapes, sizes and smells collect around the lights because of the warmth and die, leaving a pile of dead bugs in the bottom of a light fixture.  While the experiment is still in its early stages, it began in led2September, the light fixtures with the LED bulbs are attracting very few bugs. This is due to the lack of ultraviolet light produced by LED bulbs-no heat means no bugs.  Maintenance guys all over Florida have tried all manners to seal up these fixtures but to no avail.  Those gnats that are less than a millimeter in size still find their way into the fixtures and die.

So there you have it.  LED bulbs (so far) do not attract bugs and therefore you have eliminated a maintenance issue and possibly saving your association some money in the process.


2700 degree Kelvin LED bulbs

Clean fixtures

Insecticide applied one time around fixture (for lights changed in September, there are still little to no bugs)

Breezeway Lights Part 3

January 8, 2014

Now that the holidays are beyond us and the New Year has begun, let’s finish talking about the breezeway lights. We’ve discussed the different temperatures and styles, advantages and disadvantages. Some of our readers would probably IMG_8117dispute the idea that different temperature lights will cast a different color. The picture at the right shows the breezeway lights between different floors.  The light in the center is actually a 2700 degree K LED light.  This is an ongoing experiment that I will divulge in the next installment so make sure you keep reading.

LED lights are the newest lights available for commercial/residential use.  Here are some advantages of LED lighting over incandescent and fluorescent lighting:

  1. Energy Efficiency-LED bulbs have been shown to be up to 80% more efficient than incandescent bulbs.
  2. Long Life-Some LED lights can lasts as long as 100,000 hours
  3. Able to withstand temperature extremes-As I write this, it is 3o degrees outside. In seven months it will be 100 degrees.  That’s a pretty wide temperature swing.
  4. Zero UV emissions-why this matters I’m not real sure.
  5. Design Flexibility-If you have a specific or difficult lighting project, LED lights can be customized for different applications.
  6. Instant Lighting-No waiting for the fluorescents to warm up enough to cast enough light.
  7. Low Voltage-Because LED lights can be operated at low voltage, they’re ideal for landscape lighting.
  8. Environmentally Friendly-You probably didn’t know there were special procedures for the disposal of fluorescent bulbs.  Why?  Because fluorescent bulbs contain trace amounts of mercury.

The number 9 advantage will be in the next article so make sure you check back.   But, if you have been unsatisfied with your lighting and the constant maintenance and replacement that’s been going on for the past years, you might want to start putting pencil to paper and plot out the conversion of your condominiums common area lights.  When you see the experiment we’ve been doing, however unscientific it was, you’ll want to start moving forward.

Breezeway Lights Part 2

November 30, 2013

When discussing the new mini twist fluorescent bulbs, it’s important to note that these fluorescent styles cast different colors of light based upon temperature instead of wattage.  On the Kelvin scale, the lower the temperature, the warmer or softer the light.



To determine which light is appropriate for your condominium, it may take some experimenting with different temperatures.  A suggestion would be to test your lights on an entire floor or a specific segment of the property to get a good idea of what the light looks like.  Your test should include what your lights look like from the street and what your lights look like when standing underneath them.

For ocean front condominiums, consider using an even lower temperature for turtle safety.   The brighter lights tend to attract the sea turtle hatchlings away from the water.

As with any condominium decision, there will be disagreements and several opinions.  Things to consider would be to narrow down the selection to two or three available choices.  Also take into consideration what will be available over the long term.  If a lighting company is having a sale on an oddball type of bulb, resist the urge to capitalize on the savings as it is possible the lights are being discontinued and you’ll no longer be able to purchase this particular light bulb in the future.

Once the Board of Directors has decided on a light color it will be up to the Board to determine the pace at which  replace the bulbs.  To spread the cost out you can replace the bulbs a floor at a time, a building at a time or all at once. In our next installment, we’ll tell you about our not-so-scientific experiment with fluorescent lights and e persistent bugs that take up residence in the globes.

Breezeway Lights

November 30, 2013

Most high rise condominiums in Florida, and some not so high condominiums have common areas that are lit at night. Its one of those common elements that receives very little attention but can make a community look fantastic.  But as incandescent lights begin phasing out, maintenance workers have to start making light bulb purchases, not by wattage but by temperatures.

Most condominiums have compact fluorescent bulbs, either the stick tubes with pin fixtures or twist fluorescent bulbs. The tubes lights with the pin fixtures are expensive, let’s just say $3.50 per light, with most fixtures have two lights each to cast a bright enough light. These tubes lights, while not only pricey, are fragile and finicky about their position. Some maintenance companies have noted that stick lights last a while upside down (pin at the top) and not so long on their side.

Some condominiums, to save money in the long run, have gotten away from the stick bulbs and converted their fixtures to conventional receptacles allowing the association to use the mini twist fluorescent lights widely available today.  Light expenditures are cut in half by only having to use one light (at $3.50 each) compared to two lights (2 @ $3.50=$7.00).  While the cost associated with getting rid of the internal ballasts and converting to a conventional receptacle is costly at first, an association can soon see the savings with longer lasting bulbs and less bulbs.

If your condominium was lucky enough to have incandescent bulbs at one time, the jump to the mini twist fluorescent light is not a difficult one.  However, the Board of Directors will have to experiment.  Not with wattage per se but with temperature. The mini fluorescent lights cast a light based on their temperature, not the wattage. Listed on the box or the side of the ballast (base) is a Kelvin temperature.  The lower the number the warmer/softer the light.

In our next article we’ll talk more about softer lights versus brighter lights.

The Annual Meeting-Don’t Be That Guy

November 30, 2013

Annual Meetings for homeowners associations and condominium associations can sometimes be contentious affairs.  If you read our previous article about the guidelines associated with annual meetings you know that unless enough owners are present in person or by proxy, no meeting may be held. At that point the meeting turns into a gathering of neighbors.  But usually there is one person that wants to kick and scream over things that are being dealt with in the appropriate manner-don’t be that guy!

If you are attending the annual meeting there’s a pretty good chance you received the meeting notice packet.  In that meeting notice packet was an agenda outlining what would be discussed. For starters, if there is no quorum (the number of homes needed for a duly called meeting) then the annual meeting turns into a board meeting.  Secondly, follow the agenda.  If the meeting does not have a quorum, some Board members will continue through the agenda, presenting the association’s financial information, the budget for the coming year and any other pertinent information.

But most importantly, be courteous and respectful. The members of the Board of Directors have volunteered to serve in this capacity.  Imagine volunteering for a position where you have to enforce rules against your neighbor and constantly be the bad guy.  It’s a thankless job.  If you have a complaint or concern you would like to address at an annual meeting, ask a Board member or the person designated as the meeting moderator when you may be able to address the board.  There is usually time when the official business is concluded to take questions from residents.  But don’t continue to belabor a point.  The Board of Directors most likely already knows about the 5, 10, 15 homes that have unkempt lawns, needs painting or any other problems. If you are wondering nothing has been done yet, check out our other article  on violations.  Above all, be polite.  You’ll get further by being nice.