If you find yourself yelling that around the office more than once in a while, then it sounds like you might be ready for an occupancy sensor or two. We all try to conserve energy around the house, but for some reason, we don’t think about it as much at work. We’re used to having the lights blazing nonstop in our workspaces, but it’s just pointless (and not to mention wasteful) to let them run constantly in secondary areas like conference rooms, break rooms, and bathrooms. Yet we never think to hit the light switch when we’re the last one to leave the room. Lutron® to the rescue.
Lutron® has developed the Radio Powr Savr™ occupancy sensor, a motion detector that senses when someone enters or leaves a room, and automatically turns the lights on or off accordingly. Unlike some occupancy sensors that mount to a wall and can only sense movement up to 180°, the Radio Powr Savr™ is mounted to the ceiling, and has full-range 360° motion detection. It’s also extremely sensitive, so unlike some motion detectors that go and shut the lights off when you’re not moving around much (ever ended up in the dark in a public restroom?), it can sense movements as slight as typing on a keyboard, so you’ll never have to deal with an unexpected lights-out.
Another plus is that the Radio Powr Savr™ is completely wireless – it syncs with other Lutron® wireless controls, so you never have to wire it to anything. And it even runs on a 10-year battery, so you’re free from the hassle of hardwiring it into your building’s electrical system.
Over the past 5+ months that I’ve been writing this blog, it’s probably seemed like I have broken-record syndrome, because I can’t seem to stop saying how easy it is to use surface raceways to manage your cables. I mean, you just stick the stuff onto the wall (literally – most of it comes backed with adhesive), open up the cover, pop your cords into it, and snap the lid shut again. If you’re feeling really crazy, you can go a step farther and paint it to match your walls, but basically, using raceway is a no-brainer. But guess what? I just found out that surface raceway has gotten even easier. Meet my new pal, Neoprene Rubber Surface Raceway.
Now, I don’t know if I’m fascinated by the fact that someone actually thought to make a cord channel out of Neoprene, or if I’m just getting lazy, but any way you slice it, this product is really cool. It has the same basic rectangular shape as standard PVC raceway, but because it’s made of Neoprene rubber, it’s extremely soft and flexible. The last time I checked, softness and flexibility weren’t exactly conducive to the structural requirements of a snap-open, snap-closed lid. So this product’s designer decided to do away with the latching cover altogether, and go with a simple slit, instead. And that’s what makes Neoprene raceway so much more convenient. You just push cables right into it – no opening, no closing, no finger fatigue. Nice.
Thanks to its simple design and installation, Neoprene cable raceway is a great introductory cable management product to use around the house, because you don’t need to be a pro to install it. And even though it’s perfectly at home in your office or home theater, it’s absolutely perfect for kids’ rooms, where the general rule of thumb tends to be “the softer and safer, the better.”
Running heavy duty cord covers in closed construction zones or private warehouses is one thing, but if you’re planning on using them in public places, you’re going to have to think about ADA compliance. Heavy duty polyurethane cord covers are no problem for your average pedestrian to step over, but can be tricky, if not impossible, for individuals in wheelchairs to traverse. Because of this, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires high-capacity cord covers to be fitted with ramps and rails that ensure safe crossings for people who are physically disabled.
Luckily, these modular ramps aren’t just easy to obtain, they’re also very simple to install. Take Cross-Guard™ Modular ADA Compliant Access Ramps, for instance. They come in pairs ( to cover both the “up” and “down” slopes), and can be installed by just one person, no tools needed. The ramp sections just snap onto the cord covers, and stay in place. You’re left with smooth, gradual, high-traction slopes that provide smooth crossings for wheelchairs, strollers, carts, and pedestrians, too.
Just like the Linebacker® and Guard Dog® cord covers that they’re compatible with, Cross-Guard™ ADA ramps come in 36″ (3 foot) lengths, which makes things really easy, because you just have to order one set of ramps for every cord cover you need to make compliant – no extra measuring or calculations needed. As a finishing touch, the ramps can be bordered with accessory rails, which keep wheels (and feet) from slipping over the edges during crossings.
You’ve heard of firestopping caulk and foam, but… pillows? Yes, you read that correctly. Pillows. Namely 3M™ Fire Barrier Pillows, little bundles of intumescent material that can be used to fill in and firestop larger wall penetrations, like the ones you get when you run exceptionally large cable trays from one room to the next. These are what you turn to when gaps are so big that soft materials like foam and caulk just don’t have the structural integrity to do the job – as a matter of fact, they’re UL listed to firestop openings up to 540 square inches.
Installing 3M™ Fire Barrier Pillows is a no-mess project – just fit enough into the gap to completely close it , and you’re done. Unless gaps that are too small to be filled by the smallest size pillow remain, there’s no need for caulk, putty, or other conformable firestop products. Fire Barrier pillows have a 3-hour flame rating, and they’re super easy to replace after a fire – there’s no need to scrape charred material out if the penetration gap. Just pull out the spent pillows and pop in new ones whenever you need to.
The Power Strip Liberator. While that may sound like an awfully highfalutin name for something that’s basically the world’s shortest extension cord, this product has, despite its simplicity, earned its bragging rights and grand title. The Power Strip Liberator was a product that I heard mentioned pretty regularly during my early days at CableOrganizer (it’s a big seller), but back then, I didn’t really see what all the fuss was about. But it turns out that this insignificant-looking little cord is actually quite handy to have around, especially if you’re in the habit of plugging big connectors into power strips.
With the way that most power strips are laid out, you only have a limited amount of space allotted for each plug. Try to plug in a chunky adapter, and chances are, there will be some overflow that starts moving in on the neighboring outlets, making them completely unusable. Way to waste perfectly good outlets.
If you’re ever going to get the most out of the outlets you have, something has to come between your extra-large plugs and power strip. That something, friends, is the Power Strip Liberator. When it’s time to plug in a space-hogging adapter, just reach for a liberator, plug the adapter into it, and plug the other end of the liberator into a power strip. And there you go. Your device is powered, and you haven’t even wasted space on your power strip. That might just leave you with enough room to plug in another gadget or two.
Basket-style cable trays are the standard pretty much anywhere you need to run cables overhead (like server rooms, manufacturing facilities, and warehouses), but once they’re full, they’re full. Because overfilling a cable tray can damage cables and cause pretty heavy signal attenuation, it’s vital not to exceed capacity. But obeying fill capacity rules can often mean upsizing to a larger cable tray system when you need to expand your network. A complete upgrade not only costs a lot of money, but can also be a major installation headache – when you’re already suspended an entire network of cable baskets from your ceiling or overhead beams, why would you want to go through that again?
Whether you’re about to network a facility from scratch or are facing the influx of more network cables than your current cable tray system can handle, think about opting for the ERICO Caddy J-Hook CAT Link System. This aerial cable support system not only costs significantly less than traditional cable trays, but can also be added onto at any time.
The CAT Link J-Hook System is, as you probably gathered from its name, made up of J-shaped hooks that route cables along the ceiling or support beams of your facility just like cable trays would. In the past, J-hooks weren’t completely in favor with some installers, because there was the concern that they allow the cables to sag between hooks, causing signal loss. But this system has a far superior design: the hooks reduce friction during cable pulls, and have wide bases with smooth, beveled edges that provide excellent support and help to maintain a safe bend radius for your cables.
As I mentioned before, it’s really easy to expand a network with these ERICO caddy J-Hooks, because instead of replacing, you just add on. The hooks (which are available in 1, 2, 3, and 4-inch sizes, by the way) are designed so that you can just attach new hook to existing ones wherever they’re needed, allowing you to tier you cable runs instead of just mixing everything up in one tray. And unlike most cable trays on the market, these J-Hooks require no grounding, screws, rivets, or specialized tools for installation.
Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or a professional contractor, if you’re in the habit of working with sheetrock, you have to check out today’s featured products: the RockEater® and Compass saws by Sharksaw. These things are designed to rip right through a variety of different materials – in addition to both saws cutting through sheetrock/drywall, the RockEater® can also tackle cement board, and the Compass Saw has the power to handle wall paneling, plywood, and even desk and table tops.
Equipped with pointed tips, the blades of both these saws are built to punch right into the material you’re cutting, so getting a cut started is really easy. Both types of saw have chrome-plated, electrically hardened blades in common, but their respective blade designs are also what differentiate them from one another. The RockEater® has a thicker, wider blade that makes it perfect for cutting sheetrock to size, or cutting out sections for outlet boxes or pipe repairs. On the other hand, the Compass Saw has a narrower blade that can be easily maneuvered through more detailed operations, like making curved or circular cutouts in wood and furniture.
Both tools sport industrial-stength handles that have molded-in fingerholds, which let you get a firm, comfortable, and non-slip grip while sawing.
We’ve been talking an awful lot about practical products lately, so I think that today we’ll take a little detour into a product I like just for it’s shininess and other decorative qualities. Far shinier and much lighter weight than stainless steel and aluminum braided sleevings, Mylar® braided sleeving gives custom cables a metallic sparkle, but for a lot less money than heavy duty metal braid. These particular attributes are due to the fact that Mylar is actually a polyester film that’s been metalized (it’s the same stuff that’s used to make helium balloons), so you can imagine how light it is when it’s made into filaments and braided.
Like I mentioned before, Mylar® sleeving is primarily used for decoration – don’t mistake it as an even exchange for ultra-protective stainless steel sleeving, because it’s really not going to make your cables any tougher. But it’s the perfect alternative when you want to dress up A/V cables that will never leave your home or be subjected to harsh elements. It’s great when used as an underlay or overlay with colored PET sleeving – you can create some really cool visual effects. And with Mylar® sleeving, you also have the benefit of choice, because unlike a lot of other metal-look braided sleevings, it’s not limited to silver – you can actually get it in gold, too.
Because of its cost-effectiveness, great looks and flexibility, Mylar® braid is also a perfect material for hobbies and crafts. As a matter of fact, it’s very popular with anglers who make their own flies and lures – it gives lures a life-like glint that mimics naturally iridescent fish scales, and helps to attract the attention of potential catches.
There was a time when I only equated heat guns with heat shrink tubing and shrink wrap. Sigh. How sad and narrow-minded I was. But this limited thinking can be excused – until recently, the only heat guns I had used were the lighter-weight arts-and-crafts versions, which only have so much power. Not the kind of tools you’d use for anything remotely heavy duty. But then, the Weldy Plus heat gun came along, and I learned that there are so many more uses for heat tools (provided that they have enough power, which the Weldy Plus has plenty of).
While it still tackles lighter jobs like heat shrink and drying paint, it also has enough heat and muscle to strip stubborn varnish when you’re refinishing furniture, help with automotive repairs and customization (Dynamat installation, anyone?), and even thaw frozen pipes. Come to think of it, a heat gun probably would have come in handy during my growing-up years in Connecticut, when I’d hear my parents run frantically down to the basement on really cold mornings and try to thaw out frozen pipes with a hair dryer. Oh, Weldy Plus, where have you been all my life?
Okay, maybe I’m getting a little too dramatic here, but this really is a great heat gun. Perfect for pros – it has a temp range that goes from 180°F to 1200°F, and its overall weight is ergonomically balanced to prevent wrist strain during heavy use. There’s a standby power setting so you don’t waste electricity, and you can even adjust airflow strength according to what type of project you’re working on.
I know we just talked about earbud cord management a few weeks ago, but it’s a pretty hot topic among iPod fans, so I figured you might like to hear about another cool MP3-related cord organizer that’s out there. Meet the aptly-named earPod, a neat little cord winder/earbud case that’s specially designed for those of us who tend to toss our iPods into purses or backpacks when we’re not using them.
Now, you may have seen the earbud cord winders that are more for use while you’re actually listening to your iPod – they keep cords at exactly the length you want them so, so you don’t get tangled up in your earphone wires while you’re dancing around (admit it). But like I mentioned a minute ago, the earPod is more about storage, because we all know that earbuds get bored when you’re not using them, and amuse themselves by tying their own cords in knots when you’re not looking. I know this for a fact. But I digress.
The earPod is essentially a small circular case that has a twist-open lid, and a groove that runs around its outer edge. Said groove is what you wrap your earbud cords around, and when you can’t wind anymore, you just flip the lid aside, and nestle the earpieces into the felt-lined secret compartment. Close the lid up, and you’re left with a tidy, almost puck-shaped package, and more importantly, tangle-free and well protected earbuds. And just in case you’re not the toss-it-in-a-bag type, the earPod is equipped with a clip that lets you slide it right onto a pocket or belt loop for easy access.