Filed under: Power and Data Distribution, Raceway, Duct and Conduit
Now this is nice. I’ve always loved raceway, because it lets you run cables around a room without them being visible, and I’m also quite fond of extension cords (aren’t we all?) for the way they give you access to electricity even when you’re not near a real outlet. Given those two likes, it would stand to reason that I’d be crazy about something like a power raceway, but truth be told, I’ve always overlooked them for personal use because they’re more for business use than residential, and then there’s that tricky bit about them often needing to be hardwired.
Call me crazy, but I like things that are effective, yet still simple enough for me to install myself (whenever possible). That’s why I’m so intrigued with the Electra-Base Baseboard Raceway. It’s a baseboard-replacing wire channel that lets you drop in outlets wherever you need them, but get this – the outlets are “wired” via a special extension cord, so there’s no electrician needed.
Here’s how it works: to install Electra-Base raceways, you remove your existing baseboard, cut Electra-Base down to the exact length you need with a hand saw, and stick it into place with its pre-applied adhesive backing (the stuff it strong – you won’t need any nails or screws, so no wall damage). Once the base is in place, if you do want to add a power outlet (that’s optional), this is where you add the (also optional) 10 foot cord with plug, which is basically an extension cord that plugs into one of your wall outlets on one end, and has a 2-outlet receptacle at the other, which snaps into a bezel opening in the raceway to create a standard duplex outlet.
Finish things off with corner and joint fittings, end caps and access connectors, and you have a complete, professional looking raceway that puts power where you need it. Even with the power cord in place, you’ll still have plenty of room left in the raceway for multiple low-voltage home theater and Ethernet cords, so all you’ll see is baseboard, not decor-detracting cable clutter.
I’m the type who always appreciates a precise, well-executed project, repair or installation, so you’ll find me reaching for a level just about every time. Call me OCD, but crooked lines or unintentional slopes in the finished product are pretty much enough to make me lose sleep. I’ve used everything from mini keychain levels to the long ones used by contractors for large-scale jobs, but by far my favorite has been the Torpedo Level from Klein Tools: it has three spirit vials to check level, plumb and 45° angles, is perfectly sized to fit in a toolbox, and has Rare Earth magnets that let it get a death grip on any ferrous metal, so that you can work hands-free in certain situations.
But as it turns out, Klein Tools wasn’t satisfied with a Torpedo Level that was merely awesome – the had to go and upgrade it to amazing. Meet the latest incarnation: the Klein Tools Magnetic Lighted Torpedo Level.
Klein’s Lighted Torpedo Level has the same 3-vial configuration, rugged housing and incredibly strong Rare Earth magnets as its predecessor, but with a few new perks that really take it to the next (wait for it….) level. Sorry, I was cringing as I wrote it and realized the pun, but it was pretty much unavoidable. Anyway, back to the latest features, which happen to be a laser-etched ruler along the bottom edge of the level, as well as a v-notched frame that helps the level sit more comfortably on round pipes and conduit, and LED lighting in each vial window, so you can get accurate readings even if the ambient light you’re working in isn’t the best.
Contrary to the way “New and Improved” can often make you never want to buy the product in question again, Klein Tools has, in my opinion, totally nailed this overhaul! Looks like I might have to upgrade, too.
Filed under: Energy Conservation, Gadgets, Power and Data Distribution
Just as the soon-to-be-winter clouds and overall December blahs have sent me into a pasty-faced state of Vitamin D withdrawal, an ironic ray of sunshine has emerged on the solar power front. Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to have some fun playing with an ever-improving succession of solar chargers for small gadgets like cell phones and MP3 players, as well as moderate-to-large portable solar power systems to fuel tech and small appliances during camping trips and power outages. It’s always interesting to see the improvements that are made with every new model, but there’s always been something missing: an in-between solar gadget charger that isn’t overkill for the little stuff, but is still big and strong enough to power something the size of, say, a laptop.
I love it when people read my mind and invent something I was wishing for. Meet the Solar Laptop Charger by Digital Ozone™, a still-conveniently-small solar charger (only 5.5 by 1.2 by 7 inches) that converts the Sun’s energy into enough electricity to fully charge a laptop battery or up to 12 smaller devices, like mobile phones.
It’s not bad looking, either. A stainless steel housing has a multicrystalline silicon panel on one side (with which to soak up and convert the Sun’s rays into electricity), and a cool little LCD indicator on the other, which tells you at a glance how much power it has left (I really like that feature – no nasty surprises). Another plus is switchable power output settings, so that you can customize the amount of power that’s doled out, preventing your electronics from being over- or underwhelmed with electrical flow.
And talk about the accessories! The Solar Laptop Charger includes 12 popular cell phone and laptop connectors, so that you can plug in almost any device without a hassle. Since there’s always a chance that you could be short on sunlight or time, there’s also an included AC-DC adapter that lets you plug into faster, more conventional power sources (like wall outlets) whenever the situation calls for it.
There are times in life when you just want to get things done without dragging out a hole saw. For me, one of the situations highest on that list is “plugging in my laptop.”
If that sounds weird, let me explain. The majority of desk and conference table power/data centers on the market are made to be installed into a surface, be that a counter, desktop, or any number of other work surfaces. This allows the outlet to rise above the surface when power receptacles and data jacks are needed, and then be retracted into your furniture when not in use, remaining virtually flush with the surface so as to not waste space or be a distraction.
There’s just one trick: installing something into a surface entails cutting a hole if there isn’t already one there. That’s where the hole saw comes in. Not that it’s the end of the world or anything, but some people either don’t own a hole saw, or would just rather not bother. Does that mean that they have to live without convenient laptop connections?
Not anymore, it doesn’t.
For those of us less inclined to permanently alter our office furniture, there’s now a “non-surgical” option for desktop plug-ins: the Tool-Free Desktop Outlet. It just sits right on top of your work surface and does its job without any hassle. Just plug it in (for full connectivity, you’re going to need to connect it to one wall outlet and one Ethernet jack), plunk it down where you want it, and you’re ready to go. Even better, you can move it anytime (and anywhere) you want to.
The Tool-Free Power and Data Center has a matte black finish that looks good with just about anything, as well as a sleek, modern egg shape. And there’s even an on/off switch that lets you cut power to your devices without unplugging the entire unit at the wall. Nice.