It isn’t everyday that you need a 10-gang electrical box, but if you ever did, wouldn’t it be nice to know that you could snap one together in seconds, without any tools? I think it would be, especially after discovering the totally pieced-together hack job that was lurking beneath the 3 gang wallplate in the laundry room of my 90-something year old house. That’s why I wish that the home electrical noobs who threw together my 1-outlet, 2-switch combo had heard of Arlington Industries’ Gangable Plastic Electrical Boxes before they tried to be enterprising cheapskates.
Arlington’s gangable outlet boxes are an extremely affordable way for electrical contractors and around-the-house handy types to create multi-gang groupings of receptacles, switches, or low-voltage devices without the need to order specific-sized outlet boxes every time. What starts out as a double-gang box can be separated vertically down the middle, allowing you to snap in up to 8 side-free box extenders to create a gang box up to 10 devices across. When it’s wide enough, you have the option of sliding voltage separators between areas that will be housing power and low voltage, to help prevent interference between the two different types of wiring.
The expandable gang boxes are made of plastic, so they’re more flexible (in a good way) than steel boxes, which makes the parts easier to snap together manually and then install. The different components also take up far less storage space than traditional electrical boxes, so if you’re a busy contractor who prefers not to order for each individual job, you can keep a considerable amount of stock on hand without sacrificing your budget or shelf space, and have the freedom to snap together a custom solution at a moment’s notice whenever you need to.
Arlington Gangable Plastic Electrical Boxes can be used in new construction or retrofit projects, and are available in screw-on, nail-on or mounting wing screw styles to work with either wood or metal studs.
I’ve always liked the idea of timers because they can be set to switch things on or off when I might not remember, or even be around, to take care of things myself. But ever since the first time I saw Home Alone (21 years ago!!!), I haven’t been a huge believer in the Timer’s ability to keep away robbers and other bad people when one is out of town. Remember that scene where Harry and Marv (the “Wet Bandits”) sit in their decoy plumbing van in the McAllisters’ neighborhood, running down a list of known-to-be-vacationing people whose homes they’d cased? They knew (down to the minute) when each house would burst from complete darkness into blazing light, as if there were people in every single room, all throwing light switches at the exact same second.
Now, you and I know that coincidences like that just don’t happen. Harry and Marv knew it too, and they were a couple of pretty dim bulbs, if you know what I mean (and yes, I do realize that they were in fact actors pretending to be moronic bad guys). I’m just saying… there’s nothing natural about an entire house being illuminated in a single split second, and if that was obvious enough to write into a major motion picture for children back in 1990, why on Earth, in 2011, would people still be using such an easy-to-see-through “fake out” to protect their homes?
On that count, I don’t know, but on the other hand, I do know that I just met a new timer that’s helping to change my tune about timers as theft deterrents. The Timex® 7 Day Progammable Electronic Timer may be small enough to plug into a wall outlet, but it can really multitask.
In addition to the convenience and energy-saving factors that all timers share, the Timex 7 Day Programmable Timer also has the ability to pull off up to 140 programmed switching actions per week, and even features (get ready for it) a random function that mixes up the times that it switches lights, TVs and other appliances on and off, so that from outside your home it looks like business as usual inside – even if you’re nowhere near the premises.
I also really like the super compact design – at 2¾ x 2¾ x 1½ inches, it takes up hardly any room, and has its LCD display and programming buttons right on top for easy access. You can even slip a few backup batteries into it for extra protection in the event that your power goes out (the backup power won’t provide energy to devices, but will prevent you from losing your saved timer settings). I guess the best things really do come in small packages.
Rotating Surge Protector: The Portable (and Super Affordable) Way to Free Up Outlets and Guard Against Power Surges
Filed under: Electrical, Power and Data Distribution
If you were to hit the road with your laptop, would you want it to be any less protected against power surges than it is when it’s at home? No way! But are you about to pick up that brick of a surge-suppressing PDU that’s under your desk and toss it into your luggage for safe computer plug-ins on the go? Not a chance.
At least I wouldn’t. Call me reckless, but as much as I’d like to know that my laptop isn’t going to be fried by a random power surge while it’s plugged into an unprotected wall outlet in a hotel or conference room, there’s no way I would reasonably tote along a surge suppressor just in case. I’m not going to sacrifice luggage space that I’d much rather spend on an extra pair of shoes or just-in-case jacket, and besides, what would the TSA think?
But I just came across a cool little traveling gadget accessory that’s made me change my tune about carrying on a surge protector. 360 Electrical has come up with a mini rotating surge protector that plugs right into any wall outlet (it’s about the size of a nightlight) to provide you with a single safe receptacle for, say, that roving laptop of yours.
Sounds like a great big “problem solved” to me. It takes up practically no room in a purse, suitcase or laptop bag, plugs in wherever you need it, and (get ready for the wow factor) it rotates.
Hmmm… a spinning, single-outlet surge protector. If you’re having a “what the heck?” moment here, let me explain. Ever noticed how a lot of the electronics that are important enough to plug into a surge suppressor also happen to have big fat adapters that tend to encroach on adjacent outlets, even when they’re not actually using them? Well, the same thing can happen if you plug those chunky adapter into wall outlets, and that can be a problem if you want full use of both receptacles.
That’s where the rotation feature comes into play. When you need to use that second wall outlet, just turn the 360 rotating surge protector until it (and whatever is plugged into it) is completely out of the way, and then enjoy your newly freed-up receptacle. Pardon the expression, but way to kill two birds with one stone.
When it comes to new-construction electrical work, in most cases it’s a given that electrical boxes for outlets and switches are automatically going to be located wherever there’s a stud on which to attach them. It’s common sense, really, but that plan can really be put to the test in situations where you (or a customer) may want carte blanche over electrical box placement, regardless of where the studs are (or, more importantly, aren’t).
Sure, there are those retrofit outlet boxes that are able to grab onto drywall, but what happens when you have a multi-gang setup that absolutely needs the structural support that studs offer? You can always custom-rig something on-site, but that can be both time consuming and logistically tricky, considering that you’d have to build a bracket from scratch in an environment where a lot of different people are trying to get a lot of different things done at once. It’s possible, but not ideal.
What would be ideal is something that would let you custom-configure electrical boxes off-site, show up to work the next day with your ready-to-mount fixture, zip it in place between a couple of studs with your power drill, and then dust off your hands and spend all the time you just saved on bigger things. Sound like you need an Erico Caddy Telescoping Electrical Box Support.
Designed to expand or retract to fit inter-stud spaces between 10 and 24 inches wide, Erico’s telescoping box support lets you create a “custom” bracket for up to 10 side-by side electrical boxes in very little time, and at minimal cost. You can use it for complete on-site installations, or as I mentioned above, you can pre-load your boxes offsite and/or ahead of time, and then quickly fit and fasten it into place on-site when you’re ready. Nothing like adding a little convenience and flexibility to your project!
The telescoping box brackets can be used for both new and retrofit jobs, and in addition to accommodating electrical boxes, they’re also great for mud rings, so you can use them in both high and low voltage applications.
Filed under: Electrical, Power and Data Distribution
This may seem like a crazy question, but power receptacles are duplex (ie, they come in pairs) for a reason, right? Once upon a time, when electricity was just starting to get around, some very thoughtful and practical engineer got the idea that if you’re going to take the trouble to put in a receptacle, you might at well have two usable outlets instead of just one (at least that’s how I imagine it went). The concept worked like a charm until electrical safety codes got stricter, and power cord plugs grew to almost grotesque proportions to accommodate ground pins, GFCIs and who knows what else. Granted, these features keep us a lot safer in the long run, but seriously – have you tried to use two ginormous mutant plugs in adjacent outlets lately? It’s impossible!
I took out a tape measure this morning to size up a few of the bulkier plugs we have laying around the house, and here’s a sampling of the numbers I came up with…
Hair dryer plug:1½” x 2¾”
Beard Trimmer (for the record, not mine) plug: 1½” x 2”
Digital camera charger plug: 2¼” x 2”
With dimensions like that, and the way they overlap onto neighboring outlets, our appliance and gadget plugs are effectively halving the number of functional power outlets in our homes. Luckily, 360 Electrical has decided to help us take back what’s rightfully ours with their revolutionary rotating outlet.
At first glance, it looks like a traditional duplex receptacle, but the 360 rotating outlet sets itself apart from the rest as soon as you plug a power cord in and turn your wrist. The outlets turn! Any way you need them to! When you have the power to shift the positions of your outlets as needed, that means you’ll pretty much never have to worry about plugs crowding each other out again. Want to have a nightlight and a hairdryer plugged in at the same time? No problem!
What’s really amazing about these rotating receptacles is that they can be spun around even while they’re powering something, so you get all the benefits of customization with complete, nonstop functionality as well. And once you have them exactly where you want them, the outlets lock into place at one of the 18 locking points along each outlet’s circumference. If you’re sick of strategizing which devices to plug in where, you’ll definitely want to give these a try.
So, what’s your stance on light bulbs? Have you gone green with compact fluorescents and LEDs, or are you hanging on to your precious incandescent bulbs for dear life? Up until a couple of years ago, I was an incandescent hold-out. Sure, I was all for being a friend of the environment by recycling and doing my best to conserve power and water, but when it came to household illumination, I couldn’t quite bear to make the jump to compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs.
Sure, they last several times as long as incandescent bulbs, and put out just as much light with a fraction of the power use, but no way. Something about not being able to shake the mindset that all fluorescent light was flickery and had a cool, vaguely creepy cast to it. After all, when you’re relaxing at home, you want to bask in a soft, warm glow, right? Not feel like you’re in a stark institutional setting.
Then I moved into an apartment where the previous tenants had left behind a box of brand-new CFLs. I let them sit in the back of a cabinet until one fateful day when the light bulb in one of our floor lamps blew out on us, and we had no incandescents on hand to change it with. Not feeling like running to the store but wanting the light back, I dug out the box of CFLs and screwed one in with bated breath. And…
No gross eye-irritating light. No flickering, no cool tones to ruin the cozy vibe. Just nice, bright, warm illumination – the kind I’d thought wasn’t available outside the realm of incandescent bulbs. And that thing lasted forever! I learned my lesson, and have never looked back. As a matter of fact, I’ve since pinch-hit for burnt out CFLs with left-behind incandescent lightbulbs, and now I can’t believe how short their lifespans are. Go figure.
I’ve been enjoying seeing how far CFLs have progressed since the days of strictly spiral-shaped bulbs. Now there are mini-spirals for smaller fixtures, CFLs with more of a classic “bulb” shape, and even little candelabra-style ones for chandeliers and other hanging light fixtures. The variety is incredible, and the quality is better than ever. So if you’re still riding the incandescent train, I highly suggest, from personal experience, that you give compact fluorescent bulbs a chance, even if you start out with just one lamp, like I did. You’ll love the savings.
Ah, the old Exit Sign. That ubiquitous fixture in any public place, which both gets the attention of anyone looking for a way out, and has at the same time become the equivalent of visual white noise to anyone who leaves their house on a semi-regular basis. Exit signs are a paradox: we need them and do use them, but we also take them completely for granted, and never really give them more than a passing glance.
While I’ve always appreciated the presence of exit signs, I have to say that despite the important role they play, a lot of them, historically, haven’t been incredibly easy on the eyes. There’s nothing you can do about the blaring red letters – without them, emergency signage would be pointless. But the housings around those letters tend to be completely lacking in aesthetic appeal… design-wise, you really can’t get any more institutional.
That’s why I’m so happy that someone has finally given the tried and true exit sign a modern, and very stylish, makeover. The key feature is a sleek, minimalist aluminum housing that’s only 2 inches thick, and blends in beautifully with high-style decor, so it’s perfect for nice restaurants, high-end apartment buildings, boutique hotels, galleries, and just about anywhere else where emergency exit signs are necessary, but decor and ambiance can’t be sacrificed.
In addition to its improved outer appearance, this aluminum exit sign has been updated within, too, with long-lasting, energy-saving LEDs, which last much longer and use far less energy than the traditional incandescent signage bulbs that used to illuminate exit signs. There might be a few products that you wish would go back to the the way they used to be, but this definitely isn’t one of them.
Filed under: Electrical, Power and Data Distribution
As I was scrolling through our extension cord page this morning, I was reminded of a product that, for no good reason, I’ve given way too little attention to. I’m all about electrical safety and smart working, and so is this little gem. How could I have passed it by?
Ever joined an extension cord to the power cord of a device or tool and started working, just to have some klutz come tripping along, catch his/her foot on the attached cords, and rip them apart? Rude interruptions like that can definitely cramp your working style, not to mention do the type of cord damage that can lead to an eventual electrical fire. Not good.
But I’ll tell you what else qualifies as “not good.” The way that people are apparently tying cords together to prevent this from happening. Are you serious??? I was so surprised to find that this is actually standard practice that, just for fun, I Googled “tying extension cords together.” A frightening number of results came back, one of the worst (and most popular) of which was a step-by-step eHow tutorial on how to get the job done.
While this seems like a quick and easy fix for the extension cord separation problem, people don’t seem to realize that tying an electrical cable in knots can lead to cracked insulation (hello, nasty shock) and damaged conductors – the kind that overheat and ignite. This solution is essentially a wolf in sheep’s clothing, or more specifically, a stupid and potentially harmful move disguised as a fast and clever fix for an annoying problem.
Call me crazy, but if I’m going for a simple but ingenious solution, I’d prefer that it be the genuine article, and not a half-baked “problem solver” that will most likely bite me back when I least expect it. That’s why I really like the Qwik-Lok Extension Cord Connector.
This twist-lock connector actually hardwires onto an industrial extension cord, replacing the original female end. Once it’s on there, whenever you plug in a power tool or piece of machinery, all you have to do is twist the connector, and it will actually lock the other plug in place internally, by sending spring-loaded locks through the holes in the device’s plug prongs. After the cords are locked together, it would take well above 250 pounds of pulling force to pry them apart.
Yep, I think that should hold.
Filed under: Electrical, Raceway, Duct and Conduit
No, Burt Ward never exclaimed that one during his years as Robin, and yes, it is kind of a weird way to kick off a blog post. But cut me a break – what else was going to pop into my head when I found out about Ideal Industries’ Duct Seal?
Duct Seal is a soft, putty-like compound that can be molded, squished and worked into just about any small gap in flashing or heating/air conditioning ducts, and around pipes, conduit and electrical boxes. It helps stop air leakage, makes surfaces smooth and void-free, and pretty much saves the day, just like the Dynamic Duo.
Because it’s ultra pliable, Duct Seal can take almost any form you need it to; you can work it into a low-profile sheet to patch cracks in ductwork, or mold it into more of plug-type shape to fill in the holes and gaps that are usually left around electrical boxes or pipe penetrations. Just work it into place and smooth the surface: problem solved.
Unlike some other filling materials, Duct Seal never hardens, so if you ever need to undo your work, the compound can be easily removed without you having to hack or chip away at it, or otherwise make a mess. But here’s the really cool thing: even though Duct Deal stays soft, it’s actually paintable, so you can match it to your walls for a seamless finish.
The Duct Seal formula is completely nontoxic, and unlike many other chemical-based repair materials on the market, you can handle it without gloves or fear of skin irritation/chemical absorption. It’s also completely non-corrosive, so it’s safe to use on both plastics and metals. Ooooh, and one more thing: Duct Seal also has a relatively high flash point (590°F), so it’s helpful in preventing electrical fires.
While it may not be a caped crusader, Duct Seal is a multitasker that’s really worth keeping in your toolkit. Because it’s able to run the gamut between HVAC, plumbing and electrical, it can save you from having to keep a stock of different tapes and filler compounds on hand, and unlike some of the stickier products out there, it’s actually easy to redo if you need to make changes.
So Bam!!! Pow!!! Splat!!! Take that, holey ductwork.
Triplett Breaker Sniff-It (Type 2): Because “Eenie-Meenie-Miney-Moe” is No Way to Find the Right Circuit Breaker
Tell me if this has ever happened to you. You’re sitting in your home office, hammering out a blog entry (or Facebook status update, or similar) on your laptop, when suddenly the overhead light goes out, and your PDU starts screeching for lack of electricity. Just as you’re saving your work and powering down so that you don’t lose anything, you hear a muffled “Ummmmmm… sorry!!!” drifting up from the basement, and you realize exactly what’s happened.
It’s an age-old story, one that’s resonated throughout human existence for as long as there have been circuit breakers. Someone needs to replace a light switch or receptacle, so they mosey over to the breaker box, throw what has to be the right breaker (according to the time-honored “Eenie-Meenie-Miney-Moe” selection process), and plunge the wrong part of the house into the depths of darkness and electrical deprivation. Oopsie.
Aside from the sheer annoyingness of it all, there’s also the danger factor. There are some people out there who are trusting and assume that as long as they’ve snapped the supposedly correct circuit breaker into the “off” position, they’re clear to safely begin work. That type gets shocked far more often than I do. Me, I prefer to take the more paranoid route and check a few hundred times that the circuit I’m about to touch is nice and de-energized. That process is significantly shortened if I know for sure that I killed power to the right breaker to begin with.
And how does one do that, you ask? Very easily, thanks to gadgets like the Triplett Sniff-It Type 2 breaker locator. It’s a super simple two-piece electrical tester that leads you straight to the correct breaker switch the first time around, no guessing or squinting required. To use it, you just plug the receptacle unit into the outlet on which you’ll be working, and then take the “sniffer” part of the test set to your breaker box. Run the nose of detector over the circuit breakers, and when the tester starts to beep and blink, you’ll know you’ve found the right one.
The Sniff-It Type 2 isn’t limited to use with receptacles; if you need to customize your testing, you can also use optional accessories like light socket and alligator clip adapters to tailor this amazing little detector to just about any job.