Filed under: Electrical, Energy Conservation, Gadgets, Power and Data Distribution
Today’s main event is sure to be a Favorite Gadget shoo-in for anyone who wants to save energy, walk into a lit house, or would just rather not get off the couch to turn off the outside lights. So, whether you’re environmentally-conscious, safety-minded, or just plain lazy (and who among us isn’t), this one’s for you.
Now, I’m the type of person who doesn’t exactly enjoy stepping into a pitch-black house. I’ll sometimes leave a lamp on just in case, but then I usually end up feeling guilty about burning up lightbulbs and electricity when I’m not even around to benefit from it. What’s an on-the-move girl to do? First thing: stop being wasteful, and secondly, spend around 12 bucks and plug an entryway lamp into a Remote-Controlled Power Outlet.
Why would someone want a remote-controlled outlet? Well, mainly because it comes with a remote, but otherwise, because it lets you turn whatever’s plugged into it On and Off from up to 40 feet away. Just aim and push the button. Move over, The Clapper!
In my opinion, one of the best features of this handy little outlet/remote duo is that it has the ability to work through doors, walls and ceilings/floors, so a little structural obstruction won’t get in the way of accomplishing lights out. This makes it great for dark-house scaredy cats like me, because you can technically keep the remote control in your car, and use it to turn on a lamp just inside the front door, provided that it’s within 40 feet. No more cringing in the dark while groping around for invisible light switches.
In addition to letting you operate electronic devices via remote control, this outlet also gives you the Power of Auto-Off. Granted, it’s not exactly the same as having the ability to set a timer to an exact hour and minute, but it is nice to know that you can set the outlet to turn something off after 2, 4, 6 or 8 hours if you need to.
Filed under: Electrical, Power and Data Distribution, Workplace Safety
I spend an awful lot of time researching different products, and when it comes to those oriented toward workplace safety, I oftentimes end up reading excerpts from OSHA reports that go into all the gruesome details of on-the-job electricity-related deaths. It always seems that at the root of each tragedy was some simple and ridiculous oversight, and that the fatality could have easily prevented if only the victims had been a little more aware of their surroundings. More than a few of these cases involved power tools or electrical appliances that came into contact with water while they were being operated. It makes you wonder: would these people still be alive if the tools that they were using had been plugged into a GFCI?
One could feasibly argue that GFCI receptacles may not be available at all jobsites, and that work must continue with or without them. But throwing your safety at the mercy of chance is never a good idea, especially when you can bring your own portable GFCI along, wherever the job takes you. A portable GFCI, you ask? Why, yes – meet ReelCraft’s GFCI Outlet Box Reel.
This GFCI-on-a-reel is a lot like a standard reeled industrial-grade extension cord, but with an added bonus: the GFCI-equipped outlet box that happens to be wired onto it. Just plug the extension cord into a wall outlet, and then plug your power tools or appliances into the outlet box’s GFCI receptacles. In addition to providing a safe power source, this reel also eliminates the problem of annoying (and potentially dangerous) cord slack – you don’t have to unroll more extension cord than you need, so there’s much less chance of tripping over it.
I sort of have a thing for old houses. I think I’d like to own one someday. I’m not saying that modern homes can’t be beautiful, but somehow, nothing beats original hardwood floors, antique trim, and maybe even a little glint of stained glass bordering the top of an accent window. I’m talking homes that have squeaks, warmth, and decades of memories – not mirror-polished granite countertops and sulphur-tainted Chinese drywall.
My husband and I have recently taken to surfing the Web for older houses on the market in his hometown, which has more than a few cute 1920s bungalows. Every time he comes across a reasonably well-kept abode that he thinks I’ll like, there are a few questions that I fire off on my way to take a peek at his latest discovery. What year is it? Wood, vinyl siding, or brick? (I’m holding out for brick). What kind of shape is the roof in? How old is the wiring?
Yes, that’s right. Nostalgic, charm-soaked old houses often come with not-so-endearing electrical systems that have been wired by who knows who. Jerry-rigged electrical receptacles are no party, because you never know whether or not they’ll work, and even if they do, there’s always the question of whether or not they can support the power draw of whatever you decide to plug into them. I don’t know about you, but I prefer houses that aren’t smoldering. Guess that means that a thorough home inspection is in line…
Whenever you’re considering purchasing a home, old construction or new, it’s always to investigate a few things yourself, even if you’re bringing in a professional inspector. And guess what? You have what it takes to tackle all of those power outlets on your own… at least, you do if you have an Ideal® Receptacle Tester.
Simple enough for any electrical rookie to use and read, this plug-in outlet tester checks for all of the most common problems homeowners run into, like improper wiring, open ground, open neutral, open hot, hot/ground reversal, and hot/neutral reversal. Three lights instantly diagnose these problems, or indicate the lack thereof. And then there’s the test-result key that’s printed right on the tester – it’s basically a quick-reference guide that helps you decipher what different light patterns mean.
No more keeping your fingers crossed, or discovering electrical problems through trial and errror. It’s nice to know that peace of mind is as easy as plugging in, isn’t it? (And by the way, it doesn’t cost much, either.)
I have something to confess. Only this afternoon, I “judged a book by its cover,” and do you know what? I was wrong. I’ll admit it. What was the so-called “book” that I misjudged? The Rack-A-Tiers Wire Connector Tool. And how, pray tell, did I go astray? I saw it, and automatically thought to myself: “that’s the laziest thing I’ve ever seen!” But now I see the err of my ways…
Here’s how it all started: I know how wire nuts work. I’ve used them. It’s not rocket science, and when all is said and done, you’re not exactly physically wrung out when the job is complete. So what self-respecting wire splicer would use something to make it even easier? But then, a little voice in my head shamed me by saying “What do you know, kid? You’re no electrician! You’re just an electrical newb!!!” And as it is in many cases, the voice was right. I had received my come-uppance. Who am I to judge, when I don’t spend 40+ hours a week winding wires together?
As soon as I came crashing off my high horse, I started thinking about things from the professional electrician’s perspective (i.e. the correct perspective), and immediately started appreciating this tool for what it is and how it works. Gripping and twisting wire connectors isn’t too strenuous when you only have a few to get through, but if you have to knock out a bunch, day after day, your wrist and fingers are eventually going to start complaining. And you can’t have that.
So, you’re probably wondering how it all works. It’s easy – the tool just slips over a wire connector, and you spin the handle around a couple of turns. Then you’re officially in business. This is a great fatigue-reliever because there’s no tight gripping or wrist twisting involved, and the best part of not getting tired is that you can work for longer, and get more done. But that’s not even the best part. My favorite feature of this wire connector tool is that you don’t have to twist the wires together ahead of time, before you can screw on a wire nut. Just hold the stripped wire ends together, and you’re automatically good to go!
This product has been discontinued.
Filed under: Cables and Wires, Electrical, Power and Data Distribution
In my book, it can’t get much better than fun stuff that’s actually useful, too. Take, for example, the Coilex™ Polar/Solar® coiled extension cord from Coleman Cable. Part Slinky, part power extension, and totally sweet. Actually, it looks a lot like spiral-wound cord that used to hang from your old kitchen phone, except that it does more than give you something to twirl your fingers through while you gossip about the shenanigans that went down in Study Hall. This thing is good. As a matter of fact, it just might be the world’s most space-efficient extension cord yet.
As anyone with curly hair knows, when things are coiled up, there can be a lot more there than meets the eye. Pull on the end of a two-inch long curly lock, and it suddenly turns to six inches. That’s the power of the spiral. Luckily, someone got the bright idea to apply the same concept to extension cords, so now, instead of tripping through foot-grabbing piles of extension cord slack, you can just, well… get down to business. Polar/Solar® coiled cables stretch to exactly the length you need, and no further, so you won’t have the extra cable cluttering up your floor or workbench. Ahhhhh… it’s always nice to be able to tackle a project without constantly batting power cords out of the way.
Unlike the Slinky, phone cord and curly hair that I mentioned before, the Polar/Solar® extension cord is designed to never tangle or bend – a feature that protects the inner electrical conductor to preserve the cord’s integrity. And it’s tough, too - the outer jacket is resistant to flame, water, oil and abrasion, so this is one item that you won’t have to baby.
Being that I’m a non-camping civilian who doesn’t even own a pair of night-vision goggles, it’s kind of funny that I’m so fascinated by today’s featured product – but how could I not be? The whole idea of a lighting system that can both illuminate field shelters and crank out a red LED glow that’s safe for night-vision maneuvers appeals to that deep-down, Special Ops wannabe place that’s inside each and every one of us. Meet Pelican’s™ 9500 Shelter Lighting System.
Made up of 3 lamp modules that can be used alone or connected and hung along a tent’s ceiling, the 9500 is all about providing diffuse and even light. Its LED beams spread outward at a 210° angle and stay steady, without the annoying strobe and dimming effects that fluorescent lights can subject you to. And being that LEDs are noiseless, the 9500 Lighting System is also incredibly safe, with no electric hum to draw attention to your field shelter. When darkness falls, the system can be switched over to night vision-friendly red LED light for security.
Another great feature of this field lighting system is its longevity – because LEDs have a standard lifespan of around 50,000 hours, there aren’t any bulb changes involved, and that means that there’s no need to carry along fragile replacement bulbs. After all, the less you have to pack and transport, the better. And talk about tough: the 9500 can drop up to 3 meters onto solid concrete, and still keep on ticking.
I’ve never really thought about it much before now, but electricians must go through an awful lot of screws. You always think about electrical supplies in terms of receptacles, outlet boxes, faceplates, switches, and all of those other things that we interact with in our homes on a daily basis. But the fact of the matter is, they’d all just be littering the ground and doing absolutely nothing useful if they weren’t held in place by screws.
This electrical supply epiphany was brought to me courtesy of Gardner Bender, when I recently took a gander at their Electrician’s Screw Kits. A box of screws may not sound like anything special, but these are actually really helpful from the electrician’s standpoint, or so I would imagine.
The first great thing about the screw kits is that they contain all of the most commonly-used electrical screws out there, so you always have the essentials on hand when the need arises. Second, everything comes packed in a neat, compartmentalized box that you can drop right into a tool box or bag. I really like that because the alternative always drives me crazy – ever bought small pieces of hardware that come in blister packs or sealed plastic bags? As soon as you separate the blister from the cardboard backing or poke a hole through the plastic, the game is up. Unless you plan on using every piece, which is never the case, you have a storage nightmare on your hands – parts inevitably fall out of their compromised packages and end up rolling around in the bottom of a junk drawer or tool box. I mean, you might as well just throw them away. Happily, there’s no such frustration with these well-thought-out kits.
And then there’s my favorite feature: the pre-painted screws that come in colors to match your wall plates. Nothing fancy – I just get a kick out of them because I like little details like that. They come in white, ivory, and almond, so unless you’ve gone custom-order on those wall plates and have a color that defies the confines of everyday neutrals, you’ll have ready-matched screws on hand for just about any basic faceplate replacement.
Late-breaking hot product news flash! I wasn’t planning on blogging today, but a new product came across my desk just a little while ago, and seeing as how its coolness is undeniable, I thought I’d put it right out there. Ever heard of Liquid Electrical Tape?
Gardner Bender’s liquid electrical tape is exactly what it sounds like: a liquid compound that’s applied to wires, and then dries/cures into a flexible, insulative seal that looks and feels remarkably like, well… electrical tape. If you’re wondering what the whole application process involves, there’s not much to tell (but that’s a good thing). Liquid electrical tape comes in the kind of jar that reminds you of the rubber cement you used in elementary school art class. You know, the kind with a screw-on lid that has a built-in brush. Just untwist the cap, and brush that stuff right onto the wire or component in need of insulation. Happily, one rubber cement characteristic that liquid tape does not share is that classic (ahem) ummmm…. snotty (?) consistency (please pardon the indelicacy). Just trying to paint a complete picture.
But I digress. The important thing here is that liquid electrical tape goes on easily and then proceeds to dry really quickly, so you won’t have to do much waiting around before you can finish your project. And if you’re wondering why on earth someone would want to buy a jar of electrical tape when they already have a couple of perfectly good rolls of it in their miscellaneous fix-it drawer, here’s your answer: it’s great for coating awkward shapes that wouldn’t readily take to being wrapped in tape. It’s even good for outdoor use.
Filed under: Electrical, Raceway, Duct and Conduit, Tools and Cases
A few months back, my sister put together a birthday care package for me, and while she was shopping for fun little treats, she came across one of my personal childhood favorites, Silly Putty. Needless to say, it made the cut, and I got a huge kick out of finding it in my Box O’ Fun. Incidentally, I had an even better time when I plopped down on the middle of the couch and sat, Indian-style, for a good 15 or 20 minutes, blowing off stress by stretching, sculpting, and snapping the stretchy stuff in a state of blissful oblivion. In addition to causing my husband to question my sanity (but that’s beside the point), the experience seems to have reawakened my love of things you can squish, which leads me to wonder if that’s why I’ve lately been drawn to putty-like products such as, oh, I don’t know, Duct Seal Compound from Gardner Bender.
I just found out about this stuff a few days ago, and I think it’s pretty neat. The actual purpose of Gardner Bender sealing compound is very basic, but important: it lets you seal seams and gaps in electrical boxes, conduit, duct work and cable trays so that dust and other contaminants can’t weasel their way inside and start causing problems. What makes it interesting is that it’s got a putty-ish texture, and because of that, you can just work it into place with your bare hands, no tools or gloves needed. But here’s the kicker: it never actually dries or hardens. You can remove, reinstall, or modify it at any time, because like my old pal Silly Putty, it never sets up or becomes unworkable.
Something else cool: despite the duct seal compound’s eternal flexibility, you can still do things like paint over it – no waiting period necessary. And beyond that, it’s safe to handle, is FDA and USDA approved for use in food prep and processing areas, and comes in 1 or 5 lb packages, so you’re not committed to a huge supply if you don’t need it.
Way to liven up my dragging Monday. We just turned the clocks back this weekend, but despite that extra hour of shut-eye we got just 36 hours ago, earlier today I was taking Monday morning a lot harder than usual. That’s until I started working my way through my accumulated weekend e-mails, and came across a pre-Christmas electronics sale. Christmas? Electronics?
Those two little words reminded me of the AmerTac™ Westek® Ornament Touch Dimmer, a very cool piece of electronics that resembles a golden snowflake ornament, but isn’t just there to look pretty. Get this: it actually lets you dim your Christmas tree lights! I’ve been wanting to take it for a spin for quite some time, so today was the day to make it happen. I rifled through our sample box, came up with the magic ornament, and returned triumphantly to my desk. Luckily, despite my nerd-girl appearance, deep down inside I’m a Buddy the Elf at heart, and have a string of Christmas lights stashed in my filing cabinet year-round. So I dug those babies out, plugged in, and started yelling to my coworkers to come and check this thing out.
All you do is plug a string of lights into the dimmer’s adapter, plug the adapter into a power outet, and you’re ready to go. From there, just touch the “ornament,” and you can adjust your lights to low, medium, and bright settings, or turn them on and off. The dimmer itself hangs right on a Christmas tree branch like any other ornament, and no one will be the wiser. The AmerTac™ Westek™ ornament dimmer is great for conserving energy and extending the life of your Christmas lights, or it could just be a fun thing for those with a flair for the novel to have around. You can either wow your guests with your “magic” skills, or just discreetly mess with them by changing light levels every time they glance in the direction of the old Tannenbaum. Either approach you take, you know it will be fun to watch (wink)!