GoBe Portable Solar Power System

gobe-solar-powerI enjoy nature and a nice hike as much as the next person, but when it comes to taking a load off and getting a good night’s snooze after all that fresh air, I’ve always balked at roughing it in a tent – I prefer to “hotel it.” Don’t get me wrong – I’m not the kind of girl who needs a 5-star resort with full spa services or anything like that. I just like things like electricity, indoor plumbing, clean sheets and a locking door – you know, the kind of things that make one comfortable. Call me crazy, but rocks jutting through the ground tarp and sleeping bag aren’t exactly my idea of lumbar support.

I have to say, though: with regard to the electricity aspect, all of the solar products hitting the market are beginning to make the prospect of bunking in the wilderness a little more palatable. First came solar chargers, which have made it possible to keep your cell phone or iPod juiced up even if you’re miles from the nearest power outlet. But now, things are getting even better, thanks to the GoBe™ solar power system, a portable power source that absorbs sunlight and turns it into enough electricity to power the really good stuff like laptops, electric fans, lights, and maybe even your Magic Bullet blender (margarita or fresh salsa, anyone?).

The GoBe™ system is made up of a briefcase (the solar panel unit) and a hub (the battery that you actually plug into). The briefcase soaks up sunlight, converts it into energy, and then sends it via cable to the hub for storage. When you need power, you just plug into the hub, and run your devices/appliances directly from that. Too easy.

One thing that I really like about the GoBe™ solar power system is that even though it’s primarily a green product, it’s not limited to relying on the Sun for a proper charge. Say that you’re going camping, or soon to be hit by a hurricane that will probably knock out your utilities. If you want to quickly charge the hub to capacity but don’t want to wait on the Sun, you can always plug it into a wall outlet instead. A little versatility is always a good thing…

Sorry, this product has been discontinued.

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Remote Controlled Power Outlets

remote-controlled-power-outlet-mainToday’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.

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Smart Strip Surge Protectors

smart-strip-sEvery once in a while, I’ll have one of those “wait – I haven’t blogged about that yet?” moments, and it just so happens that one of these epiphanies hit me only a couple of minutes ago. In all my research and writing about energy-conserving products, one topic that keeps popping up is Vampire Electronics. Ever heard of them? They’re the electronic devices (usually peripherals) that keep right on consuming power even when they’re technically “off.” Case in point: cofee makers with digital displays, computer printers, DVD players, you name it. Any machine or gadget that has an always-running digital display or LED indicator light qualifies as a vampire electronic, and these deceptively benign-looking rascals really know how to run up a utility bill.

With vampire electronics, up to 40% of the total power drawn can be consumed while they’re inactive, so it goes to reason that if you cut the flow of electricity during their respective downtimes, they won’t be such a drain on your wallet. Yet somehow, the thought of making daily unplug rounds seems a tad unreasonable. Here’s how to take care of the power-cutting dirty work in your home or office without ever giving it a second thought: get a Smart Strip Power-Saving Surge Protector.

They don’t call it “smart” for nothing. The Smart Strip takes care of all of the standard surge protector responsibilities (like diverting excess current from power surges away from your sensitive electronics), but also has a “brain” of sorts that knows when to shut things down. It works like this: on each Smart Strip, there are two types of outlets: primary (blue) and secondary (red). Remember how I mentioned before that many vampire electronics are peripherals, which act as accessories to bigger devices? You just plug the main event (like a computer of television) into the primary outlet, then use the secondary outlets to power peripherals like scanners, printers, DVD players, and gaming systems. The magic happens when you turn your computer or TV off; as soon as that happens, the Smart Strip senses that the peripherals attached to it no longer need to be running, and automatically cuts power to them. When you decide to fire things up again later, the Smart Strip will instantly restore power where it’s needed. That’s what I’m talking about.

But what do you if you want to leave certain devices on all the time, without worrying about them being shut off? No problem. The Smart Strip also has a few standard, non-switched outlets for 24/7 electrical needs.

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Christmas Tree Ornament Touch Dimmer

November 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Electrical, Energy Conservation 

christmas-tree-dimmerWay 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)!

3M Macurco Carbon Monoxide Detector and Controller

3m-macurco-co-detector-controllerA lot of us worry about carbon monoxide silently and invisibly building up inside our homes, so naturally, we make sure to stay safe with carbon monoxide detectors. But from the business/public safety standpoint, have you ever realized that CO can easily reach dangerous levels in garages and warehouses, too? Any enclosed area that plays host to vehicles and machinery that run on (read: burn) natural gas, wood, coal, or petroleum products can develop deadly high concentrations of carbon monoxide.

In these settings, one answer is to keep ventilation fans running at all times, constantly circulating air so that CO doesn’t have the chance to build up. This generally does the job, but it can also leave facility owners with hefty electric bills, as well as cause an undue amount of wear and tear on the vent fans, which will inevitably need to be replaced every few years when they burn out.

So it’s sort of a Catch 22. If you don’t monitor and control carbon monoxide levels, you put yourself, your employees, and your customers at risk for CO poisoning – or even death. But if you responsibly keep tabs on things and take measures toward maintaining safely breathable air, you’re going to significantly lighten your wallet, as well as consume a lot more electricity than you probably need to. What’s a business owner/property manager to do?

Check out this 3M™ Macurco™ Carbon Monoxide Detector and Fan Controller, that’s what. This CO detection unit actually wires into your fan control system, so that your ventilation units only need to run when a certain level of carbon monoxide is detected in the ambient air. As long as levels remain safe, your fans stay off. But as soon as elevated CO levels are detected, this unit automatically fires up the fans, and leaves them running until the air has been adequately cleared. As a result, the 3M™ Macurco™ control system not only saves lives, but your utilities budget and fan components as well.

How’s that for a happy medium?

Sorry, this item has been discontinued.

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UPM Outdoor Programmable Timer

upm-outdoor-timerAutumn is here, Halloween’s right around the corner, and now that the Sun is coming up later and setting a little earlier every day, I’ve been thinking that this is the time of year when an outdoor timer could really be appreciated. A lot of people have outdoor lights that are set to timers, but during the Fall and Spring, when daylight hours can drastically shorten and lengthen, it can be tough to synchronize your outdoor lighting with ever-shifting sunrises and sunsets. Instead of having to constantly recalculate and reset things for yourself, how about letting a photosensitive timer take care of things for you?

UPM’s Outdoor Programmable Timer makes timed lighting a no-brainer because it’s equipped with a built-in photocell that detects ambient light levels. When the photocell detects darkness falling, it automatically turns the lights on, and the next morning, it shuts things off when it senses that the Sun is putting out enough light for you to get around by. Sounds like a nice thing to have around, doesn’t it? You can always know that you’ll come home to a lit path, and if you’re one of those go-getter morning people who leave the house before it’s light out, you’ll still be able to see where you’re going.

This is not only great for those of us who tend to trip over ourselves in the dark, but it also helps you to be more aware of your surroundings in case the might be any uninvited guests lurking in the shadows. I don’t want to go on too much of a tangent or bring unpleasant things to mind, but I live in crazy South Florida, and simply put, things happen. I used to live in a neighborhood where a decent-sized feral cat would occasionally prowl during the night, and lately I’ve been reading newspaper stories about people being robbed near their front doors as they’ve gotten home from work late or left very early in the morning. I used to leave the house before 5am, so needless to say, I appreciate the extra measure of security that mere light can bring. A timer like this just makes that easier.

And back to business – I’m just going to tell you one more thing. I’ve been focusing on the photocell aspect of this timer, but I should mention that it also has a time dial for manual settings and overrides, so that gives you a little more flexibility for more fun things… like Christmas lights.

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JuiceBar Solar Charger

juicebar-solar-charger_cellphoneAhhhhhhhhh, Florida. Sun. Sand. Citrus. Hurricanes. It figures that there has to be some sort of trade-off, especially when one lives in a place that can be total paradise for years at a time. As most of you already know, every few summers here in the Sunshine State, one of the named storms that taunt us menacingly from nearby Atlantic coordinates will actually make good on its threats, come charging ashore, and give us a proper thrashing. As long as you don’t live in a flood zone, lose a part of your roof, or have a window smashed by a wind-hurled coconut, things generally turn out okay in the end. There’s just that pesky wait of 2 days to a week to get your power back on. Curses!

Up until now, many of us have whiled away post-hurricane downtime by looking on helplessly as the battery bars on our cell phone displays rapidly dwindled. Sure, you can leave your electricity-deprived home and try to plug in at the first Starbucks or McDonald’s to open their doors, but there’s just one problem – everyone else is having the same brilliant idea. What’s a tech-dependent Floridian to do? Why, take advantage of that ever-abundant sunlight, of course.

To do that, you’ll need a JuiceBar solar charger. To be honest, as a fan of that Jamba place, the JuiceBar’s name was the first thing that appealed to me (and yes, I know that it’s also an electrical pun, but that’s beside the point). I just heard “Juice Bar” and my ears automatically perked up. But my interest really picked up when I found out what this thing does. The pocket-sized JuiceBar uses small solar cells to charge the batteries of cell phones, iPods, portable gaming systems, and plenty of other gadgets. Genius. As you can imagine, the entire CableOrganizer staff was immediately enthralled. We’re saved!

I realize that I’ve probably already typecast this product as a must-have for residents of the Southeastern Atlantic and Gulf Coast states, but really, this is also a terrific charger for the green-conscious, tech addicts, and frequent campers out there. And here’s something else you’ll also like: the JuiceBar charger comes with twelve connectors that are more or less universally compatible with most current portable electronics. The JuiceBar has a high-capacity battery that becomes fully charged when it spends 12 to 15 hours in direct sunlight, and that charge is enough to “re-juice” two standard cell phone batteries (on average).

Watts Up? .Net Watt Meter

wattsup-net-mainThese days, it seems like power usage meters for home and office are popping up everywhere. And why shouldn’t they be? Not only are they green (they tell you how much electricity different electrial appliances consume while running), they’re also big money-savers (they help you make smart utility-bill-reducing decisions on which power-guzzlers to get rid of or use less). The only catch is that you have to actually be present to use them. That’s fine for an average home-bodyish chick like me, but what about the environmentally-conscious jet-setters out there? How do they keep tabs on how much energy their homes and businesses are using, and more importantly, how much that power consumption is costing them?

I just found out. They use the Watts UP? .Net Electricity Watt Meter. While it works just like the other power usage meters out there (you plug it into a wall outlet, then plug an appliance into the meter, and the meter tells you how much power the device consumes), it has an extra high-tech feature that lets you control it and get readings even when you’re far, far away: a built-in web server. Whether you’re down the road or overseas, you can access your power usage data, and even switch the device attached to the .Net on and off, all via the Internet.

The Watts Up? .Net is compatible with any device that’s between 100 and 250VAC, and has a non-volatile built-in memory that can store up to 8,000 records for long-term tracking.

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Lutron® Radio Powr Savr™ Wireless Occupancy Sensor

July 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Electrical, Energy Conservation 

lutron-powr-savr-sensor_ceiling“Who forgot to turn off the lights?!!!”

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.

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AmerTac™ Westek® Screw-In Lamp Socket Dimmer

lamp-socket-dimmer_smWhen I was a kid, I was always fascinated by the fancy lamps at my aunt and uncle’s house – you know, the kind that would automatically change the brightness of the light if you just touched the lamp base. That was back before I understood what dimmers were and how they worked, and needless to say, it didn’t even occur to me that they could help conserve energy. No, back in those happy days, dimmers existed purely for my entertainment.

But know that I’m all grown up and paying my own electric bills, I really appreciate the fact that dimmers can help reduce the amount of money one needs to hand over to the utility company every month. Over the past few months, more and more energy-saving products have crossed my desk, but one of my favorites has been the Amertac™ Westek® Screw-In Lamp Socket Dimmer. It turns out that you can actually transform any lamp into a 3-step lamp by just screwing one of these Westek® dimmers into your lamp’s light bulb socket. Once the dimmer is installed, it takes only a light touch on any metal part of the lamp to adjust its light output. Pretty neat, right? Not bad for something that costs less than $12 and requires only a few turns of the wrist to install.

And this lamp socket dimmer doesn’t just save you money on electricity – it also cuts back on your light bulb costs, because you don’t need to use the more expensive 3-way light bulbs. Standard bulbs will work just fine – just keep in mind that these only work with incandescent bulbs, not CFLs.

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