Among people who work with wire duct or just have a general knowledge of what it is, you’ll most likely hear the opinion that it’s good stuff, and that plenty of cabling situations out there would be total nightmares without it. It’s low profile, gets cables from Point A to Point B in an orderly fashion, and lets you break out wires whenever and wherever you need to along the way. It’s like Super Serious raceway. Except that regular raceway looks better.
I hate to say it, but as great as wire duct is, it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing cable management solution out there. It looks kind of, I don’t know… ladder-ish (if you get what I’m saying). Wire duct is full of slots for those cable breakouts that I mentioned before, and unfortunately, the very features that make it so functional are also the things that drag it down in the Beauty Department. I’ve always preferred raceway myself, because I like the fact that it’s so sleek and visually unobtrusive. But then again, I just need it for the cords around my house, not serious cable runs in a heavily wired and networked business. What do those people do when they need the homely virtues of wire duct, but long for a little more polish?
Well, I’m not sure what they used to do, but these days, you can reach for PVC wire duct covers and dividers, which have the power to considerably doll-up any wire duct run both inside and out. Let’s start with the inside: dividers install to keep different cable runs separate in spite of their close proximity (it helps in avoiding confusion during future maintenance), and retaining clips keep wires in place even when the duct cover is removed (you don’t want everything falling out on you and getting mixed up).
And then for the finishing touches: smooth, snap-on covers that transform the very techy, industrial look of wire duct into something a little more sophisticated. It’s a sort of modern-day “Ugly Duckling” story for the cable management world: wire duct has always had inner beauty, it’s just taken a while for it to manifest it on the outside, too.
Ah, the old “How to Get the Wire Duct to Stick to the Wall Long-Term” dilemma. There used to be two options: double-sided adhesive (a favorite of the quick-fixers out there) or drywall screws (for the “do things right now, and you won’t regret it later” crowd). Double-sided adhesive works great if you’ll be going light on the cables and don’t expect the wire duct to stay in one place forever, but if you have longevity and any amount of weight in mind, you’re better off going with the ultimate holding power of drywall screws.
Just one problem: installing wire duct with drywall screws entails a bit of a juggling act. You have to simultaneously hold the wire duct against the wall and keep it level, all while trying to pick up screws and sink them into the sheetrock using a screwdriver or power drill. While there may be someone in the Guinness Book of World Records or Ripley’s Believe it Or Not who actually possesses enough hands and arms for this, it’s pretty much a joke for one average person to install wire duct this way – and that’s why it’s usually done with two.
As it turns out, using 2 installers on a job means paying double in labor. And that, my friends, is never a good thing for one’s bottom line. I’m guessing that that’s what inspired the development of Wire Duct Rivets. These small plastic fasteners anchor wire duct into drywall in seconds, but take only one person to install (can I get a “cha-ching!”?). The process is simple: you just measure the rivet spacing you need, pre-drill holes into the wall, and then go back with you wire duct and pop in the rivets. They install via a lightweight rivet tool that uses a simple push action, which is great for sparing your wrist the repetitive turning of a screwdriver, or the weight of a power drill.
I’ve heard of (and been victim to) the notorious Pinch to Grow an Inch, but a pinch to stop a fire? No, I haven’t lost it – I’ve actually just come across some very interesting firestop products for use with plastic pipes: Z240 pipe collars from Abesco.
If you’re wondering what firestopping could possibly have to do with pipes, let me explain. Any point at which conduit, cables, pipes or ducts penetrate a wall, ceiling or floor is considered a weak spot from the fire safety standpoint – any type of hole or void in a structure constitutes a place through which flame and smoke can spread during a fire. The further flame and smoke spread, the more damage is done. That’s why code requires cable, conduit, pipe and duct penetrations to be sealed with intumescent material, which expands and hardens around the penetrant to seal out fire and fumes.
This is mostly done with duct wraps, fire caulks, and pipe collars. Standard pipe collars are made for use with metallic pipes, and focus on blocking flame spread through the gaps around the pipe. But what happens when your pipes are PVC or another type of plastic, and , unlike most metal pipes, run the risk of melting and deforming in the presence of intense heat and flame? In situations like this, your intumescent firestop needs to take things a few steps further.
That’s where the unique design and function of Abesco’s Z240 pipe collars come into play: designed specifically for use with plastic pipes, these intumescent collars expand to fill in not only the gap around the outside of pipes, but to actually pinch closed softening/melted pipes as well. This pinching action serves to fill in the structural hole left when the pipe gives way to the heat, and also to prevent flame from sneaking along and/or through the compromised pipe. It just clamps down, and that’s pretty much the end of things, at least from that end of the pipe.
Filed under: Cable and Wire Storage, Desk Cable Organizers, Desks and Workstations
Ah, under-desk cable managers. I’ve always like them in concept, but it seems like they’ve missed the mark (just a little) in one way or another every time I’ve tried to put them into action. There was one where I just couldn’t get the finished product to look anywhere near as neat and attractive under my desk as it did in the picture on the box, and there was another one that looked terrific once installed, but had a very easy to move lid that couldn’t stand up to my accidental kicks and knee-bumps. Since then, I’ve pretty much relegated myself to tried-and-true wire loom, cable ties and adhesive cord clips. But I just met a new under-desk organizer, and I think that I may finally be ready to cable manage again.
The new cord tamer in my life is named the Cable Corral, and I love it for its simplicity. It’s basically just a steel basket that mounts to the underside of your desktop, giving you a place to stash power strips, peripherals and long cables out of sight – without affecting your connectivity. This is great for antsy desk-dwellers like me, who need to frequently stretch their legs below-desk throughout the day to avoid both muscle atrophy and general insanity. It’s always nice to be able to do this without getting a foot caught in a pile of cable slack, or accidentally kicking a power supply.
And installation is so easy – the Cable Corral screws right into the underside of your desk, and then you just pile in everything you want to keep clear of the floor and out of sight. No need to precisely bundle or wind cords, no cover malfunctions – just stash your stuff, and let your feet enjoy the newfound wide open roaming space where there was none before.
And I thought that Wire Nuts® were cool. Sure, those twist-on connectors have been the standard for a long time, and they’ll probably stay that way. But they just got some new competition, and I have to say, I like what I see. Not because I’m disloyal or a slave to the Newest Thing, but because, deep down, I sometimes – just sometimes – have a need for speed, and an affinity for laziness. Wire nuts, while a cinch to use, still require all of that twisting, which was no big deal until I laid eyes on HellermannTyton’s Helacon Easy Connectors. These things use a unique system that turns almost zero effort into amazing results – they’re so easy that it’s really not even fair.
That’s all thanks to the fact that they’re “push-in,” and not “twist-on” – Helacon connectors use a dual-spring system that splices wires as soon as they’re pushed into the connectors’ ports, or poles. No twisting wires together and then screwing on a connector… just strip the conductors, insert into the ports, and you have automatic spliceage. Nice.
In addition to the Effortless Factor, these things are extremely versatile, because they can be used anywhere in the world, in almost any household electrical applications. Use them with receptacles, light fixtures, switches, you name it – as long as you’re working with solid wire in the range of 12-22 AWG, you’re good to go. Helacon push-in wire connectors are also available with 2, 3, 4, 5 or 8 poles, so you can choose exactly what you need, instead of improvising your way through a job with just one product at hand. How easy is that?
I know I always write about specific products, but today I’m going to put the spotlight on an issue, instead: Carbon Monoxide Safety. As the weather gets chillier and we start to think about lighting cozy fires and nudging up the temps on our thermostats, it’s time to take the yearly measures to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
This starts with having one or more carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Lots of people have them these days, but there are still surprisingly many gamblers out there who still haven’t made the investment. No sure if you have one? Check your smoke alarms – many of them are now combo units, with carbon monoxide detection built in. But if you discover you’ve been going without, carbon monoxide detectors aren’t expensive, and they’re versatile and easy to come by. You can get fancy with a CO detector that networks with the other alarms in your home, or you can get a simple plug-in unit that plugs right into any power outlet, no hardwiring required. Whichever way you go, just make sure that you have at least one, and the detectors are located near potential CO sources (gas stoves, fireplaces, furnaces, gas-powered dryers, water heaters and attached garages) and your home’s bedrooms/sleeping areas.
Next comes the big test: does your carbon monoxide detector actually work? We recommend testing the alarm monthly, but that isn’t always an indicator of how well the actual detection equipment is working. Manufacturers generally specify how long a unit is good for – don’t hang onto a CO detector that has passed its prime, and if in doubt, stay on the safe side and buy a replacement. And even if you know that your carbon monoxide detectors are still within their recommended life spans, be sure to replace the batteries yearly, or more often if you hear the telltale chirp. We suggest changing the batteries on the same day that you set your clocks back – that way, you’ll be well-powered throughout Fall and Winter, which are crucial times for CO detection.
And last but definitely not least, have your fireplace cleaned and the flue/chimney checked for any signs of cracks, which can allow carbon monoxide that would otherwise be vented safely outside to seep back into your home on its way up the chimney. In addition, have a pro check your furnace and duct work for signs of soot, corrosion, and cracks or holes, any of which can signal a potential CO problem. And when you let your car warm up before leaving for work, make sure that it’s in open air, and not closed in the garage – carbon monoxide from the car’s exhaust can quickly build to dangerous levels, and possibly travel into attached living spaces.
Wow, so many warnings, so little blog space! For the full rundown, check out these Carbon Monoxide FAQs, and have a warm, cozy, and safe season!
Child Safety Kit: Keeping Curious Little Hands Away from Outlets, Drawers, and Other Accidents Waiting to Happen
Every once in a while, I have an “I-Can’t-Believe-I-Haven’t-Blogged-About-That-One-Yet” epiphany, and the one that hit me today has to do with our Child Safety Kit. My husband and I recently moved into a new house, and are planning to have a little shindig with the friends and fam to officially break in the new digs. I’ve been making a mental checklist of things I have to do between now and the party: get rid of the ugly kitchen wallpaper and finish the backsplash so that everyone will be impressed, Scotchgard the new sofa so I don’t have a conniption if anyone spills something on it during the festivities, and make sure that I move my kitchen knives and cleaning products to higher ground before my 2-year-old little buddy (our friend’s son) gets curious (which he will) and hurts himself.
And then the light bulb switched on – the Child Safety Kit! It’s a little invention we came up to protect curious babies and kids from pretty much any potential dangers they can encounter from everyday household objects. We combined a few obvious childproofing products like drawer latches, furniture corner shields and outlet blockers and combined them with out-of-the-ordinary things like safety receptacles, tamper-proof extension cords and cable winders for whole-house protection.
With this childproofing arsenal, you can limit kid access to (and thereby increase the safety factor of) all kinds of dangerous household objects, like cutlery, cleaning chemicals, electrical outlets, and even cord slack, which can be a tripping hazard, and give babies a quick and easy way to pull lamps and other devices off of tables or desks and onto themselves. The world can be such a dangerous place for curious little kids – it’s a wonder that they manage to stay so happy and cute. It’s our job to keep them that way.
Check out a video demonstration of our child safety kits, which, coincidentally, stars yours truly. I’m thinner now.
As a rule, I’m a fan of raceway. It’s low-profile, visually unobtrusive, and most types will even graciously accept a coat of latex paint, all the better to blend in with their surroundings. It’s equally at home in your living room or office, and thanks to some creative fittings, you can even bend it in and out of corners, or create custom intersections. It’s a solid product.
The only problem is keeping cables in place while you try to snap the raceway’s lid shut – it’s kind of a juggling routine. One hand has to keep the wires stuffed into the channel yet clear of the lid’s hinge, while the other tries to actually close the lid – a job that, in and of itself, would much rather be completed with two hands. What’s an overextended cable organizer to do?
In a nutshell, try 2-Piece Flex Tab Raceways. On the surface, they look like typical 1-piece latching raceway, but there’s a secret hidden inside: two flexible tabs that fold over the cables to keep them in place while you dedicate both hands to the task of popping on the cover. The tabs really come in handy for any installation, but you’re really going to appreciate them when you’re trying to defy gravity with overhead-ceiling raceway.
Once again, it’s almost time for the holiday that leads to more juvenile dental fillings than any other: Halloween. Driving around town over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spotted some pretty elaborate yard displays, with everything from cute candy-corn string lights to slightly more sinister mechanized zombies. Is it just me, or are Halloween decorations now giving Christmas lights and animated figures a run for their money? It’s like everything you see plugs in, lights up, and swings a Grim Reaper scythe in your general direction. I’ve still got quite a way to go before I hit middle age, but I’m starting to feel dated, here. Back when I threw pillowcases over my shoulder and went pounding the pavement for fun-size Snickers bars, it was all Jack-o-Lanterns (you know, the Old School kind with real candles instead of “flickering” LEDs?), Indian corn and the occasional spooky cardstock window decorations. The only things wired for power were the front porch lights.
But I digress – the point here is that Halloween displays have tons of power cords, and that can be a problem, being that the “fun” houses are the ones that attract all of the trick-or-treaters. In their hurry to beat a path to the front door and spoils awaiting them, it’s not hard for costumed kids to trip over cords that may be running across the lawn or front path. Darkness is great at making power cords invisible, especially to preoccupied kids who are juggling candy bags with often too-long costumes. Since you’re the responsible grown-up in the picture, think about protecting the neighborhood kids about to come trampling across your well-decorated property with outdoor-friendly cord covers, like Rubber Ducts by Electriduct.
Rubber Ducts are a little heftier weight-wise than their plastic counterparts, so they stay in place much better, and being made of rubber, they provide great grip and traction for pedestrians, so the chances of anyone slipping are cut way down. And they’re available in black or brown, which means that they blend into their surroundings after the Sun goes down. So keep your trick-or-treaters from becoming trip-or-treaters… after all, it’s always more fun to hand out candy than ice packs.
It’s pretty much become Indisputable Law that technology has to shrink in order to be considered “improved.” Think about it -when he had his day off back in 1986, Ferris Bueller made his mobile phone calls on a handset the size of a cinderblock. These days, almost any non-defunct cell phone can easily be dwarfed by a deck of cards. The same is true with laptops, iPods, stereo systems, and just about any other electronic gadget that makes our lives easier or more fun – smaller has become the universal “better.”
And the Shrink Effect has gone so much further than mere consumer gadgets – the pros are getting in on the action, too, especially in the realm of cable testers. There was a time when your standard RJ-45/coax tester was literally a handful (or more), but lately, thanks to Cables-To-Go, things are a little more manageable. Meet the SMARTest, the first pen-style cable tester of its kind, which also happens to be small enough to slip into any pocket out there. At approximately 1 x 5 inches, this baby is tiny, but don’t let its size fool you. It may be small, but it still has all the testing capabilities of the big dogs, like open, short, split and crossed pair detection, and even has a built-in tone generator for easy wire traces. So enjoy the extra space in your toolbag, and happy testing! Just don’t forget that the SMARTest is in your back pocket and accidentally sit on it.