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.
Flir iSeries Thermal Imaging Cameras: Fast Answers Without All the Risk, Wall Damage, or Disassembly
Thermal imaging cameras – how can you not love them? It’s like having bionic vision power right in your hand, whenever you need it. While the majority of us don’t exactly need one on a regular basis (bummer), a thermal camera can be a major time-saver and incredibly helpful preventive tool for electricians, HVAC techs, mechanics, machinists, and even maintenance supervisors.
Why so? Because unless you’re cooking, enjoying an island getaway or just trying to stay warm mid-winter, heat can be a very bad thing. I’m talking about the kind of heat that’s produced by overstressed or damaged electrical wiring, malfunctioning engine components, and too much mechanical friction. This kind of heat can shift from risky to all-hell-breaking-loose really fast, so it’s best detected early on. Just one problem: these renegade heat sources are often located behind walls or deep within machinery, so unless you’re within feeling distance, you probably wouldn’t even know that there was an issue until it was too late.
Enter the Extech Flir iSeries thermal camera. Thanks to infrared technology, this handheld thermal imager is actually able to “see” through walls and into machinery to locate hotspots before they erupt into bigger problems. The results are displayed on a high-def color LCD display that’s built right into the handset, so all you do is point, shoot, and take a look at what’s going on (temperature-wise) behind the scenes.
One of my favorite features of the Flir iSeries cameras is that they have a Picture-in-Picture (PIP) feature, which combines a real-life, photo-type image with the thermal imaging, so that you know exactly what you’re looking at, and have the best point of reference possible when it’s time to troubleshoot.
That said, stay cool, my friends – and if that’s not possible, get your hands on one of these cameras.
It’s happened to the best of us: you need to change an outlet or swap out a light fixture, but when you run to the breaker box to shut off the circuit you’ll be working on, confused head scratching ensues. Maybe the breaker labels are a little too old and worn to read, or you just can’t make out the chicken-scratch of the last people who lived there. Whatever the reason is, your lack of breaker ID leaves you using the old trial-and-error method, which is no way to locate an electrical circuit. When it comes to electricity, Trial and Error are not our friends – they’ll either have you turning off all the wrong breakers before you find the right one (have fun resetting every digital clock in your house), or otherwise thinking you flipped the right one the first time around… until you find out (the hard way) shortly thereafter that that’s not the case (ouch).
Thankfully, Ideal Industries is in tune with Mystery Circuit Breaker woes, and has come to the rescue with an extremely cool Digital Breaker Finder. This two-piece locator is super-simple to use, and will cut out all of the guessing and time-wasting that you usually deal with on your quest to find the right breaker. Just plug the transmitter into the receptacle that you plan to work on, and then mosey to the breaker box with the receiver in hand. Run the receiver over the breakers until the green LEDs flash, and you’re in business. Too easy.
I realize that I’m recommending this from a consumerish, home owner standpoint, but this is a total must-have for professional electricians and HVAC technicians as well. Walking into strange houses and decoding their individual breaker situations day in and day out is even more annoying than deciphering one’s own circuit breaker fiasco, so toss one of these breaker finder sets into your tool bag – the faster that you knock one job out, the sooner you can get onto the next. And lowering your risk of shock never hurts either.
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.
It doesn’t matter how laid-back or paranoid you were up until then: there comes a time in everyone’s life when they start to worry about when the batteries are going to die. For some, it may happen when they’re out hiking, get lost as darkness is closing in, and begin wondering “When was the last time I changed the batteries in this flashlight?” For others, it happens when they’re rushing to finish a project on a single laptop-battery charge, because the plug-in power supply is nowhere to be found. For me, it happened right after the battery in my first car quit on me in the parking lot as I was trying to leave work- after replacing it, I’d get a pang of panic every so often, and ask myself, “Wait a minute: how long is this thing good for?”
The sad thing is, most of our Average Joe battery-related woes are nothing compared to what IT techs and facility managers have to deal with on a regular basis. Critical things like servers, fire alarm systems and security networks use battery backups in case of power outages, so that important data isn’t lost, and safety isn’t compromised. To be on the safe side, you pretty much need to replace batteries more often than necessary, so that you don’t run the risk of them dying on you when you need them most. The only problem is, “just-in-case” battery changes can end up costing you a lot more than you really need to spend. So how do you stretch out the time between battery replacements without putting your system at risk?
The answer, in this case, is the Triplett Chek-A-Cell battery tester. Designed to evalute the charges of 6 and 12 volt sealed lead acid batteries that fall between 1 and 10 amp hours, this unit gives you a quick reading of the state of your battery when you apply the Chek-A-Cell’s two probes to the battery’s contacts. The built-in Ohm meter mode allows the Chek-A-Cell to detect both AC and DC voltage, and you get an almost instant read-out on a large LED display. Because the process is so quick and easy, it lets you keep tabs on what’s really going on with your batteries, instead of always assuming the worst and overspending. A little bit of battery knowledge can really pay off.
Sorry, this product has been discontinued.
There was a time when testing a security network meant accessing each and every camera individually, so you could calibrate the PanTiltZoom (PTZ) functions and and make sure that the image frames and clarity were exactly the way they were supposed to be. Security cameras still need to be checked to ensure that they’re on the proper settings, but Triplett’s CamView PTZ makes things a little easier – okay, a lot – by cutting out the visits to every camera on the circuit.
Following the lead of the remote testers that are commonly used to map and troubleshoot data networks, the CamView PTZ lets installers and maintenance techs connect to the security network via an RS-485, RS-422 or RS-232 interface to remotely view the settings for, and images from, each individual camera – all on one handheld unit. It’s a huge time-saver.
The main feature on the Triplett CamView is a 2.6″ TFT-LCD display, which allows you to quickly navigate through tests for all of the camera’s PTZ modes, functions and settings, and also gives you a clear, full-color view of the images being shot by the camera. You basically get the inside scoop on all of your surveillance system’s operations without having to physically drag a ladder and tester around to each camera location. You can also check video cables, recorders and monitors while you’re at it, so this is a terrific all-in-one option. The only way it can possibly get any better is if you do the old Robert De Niro Meet the Parents “I’m watching you” hand signal while you’re testing shot frames and image quality. I highly recommend 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.)
Filed under: Test Equipment, Tools and Cases, Workplace Safety
I hate to break it to you, but it looks like the Hard Way, as we know it, is about to go the way of trans fats and non-recyclable grocery bags – that is to say, waaaaaaaay out of style. At least when it comes to gauging the temperature of hot objects, that is. There will be no more hesitant outstretching of shaking hands as you wince in anticipation of singed fingertips. There will be no more blisters or reddened skin to announce to the world, “I should have known better.” So sit up straight and listen up, kids – it’s time to meet the Triplett ProTemp 12.
So what exactly is the ProTemp 12, anyway? Five fun words to pique your excitement: a gun-style infrared thermometer. That’s right. You just pick it up, aim, pull the trigger, and get an instant and precise temperature reading on whatever the thermometer’s laser pointer happens to be resting on. Pretty cool, right? When there’s no need to get too close to hot engine components or pressurized pipes, that automatically means fewer burns for you.
The ProTemp 12 is perfect for use in industrial plants, boiler plants, and garages, but it’s also great for cooking. Specifically, measuring the surface temps of pots and pans. This may sound crazy, but as soon as I found that out, I though of someone who could have really used one of these about 20 years ago. I grew up watching cooking shows on PBS, and mixed in somewhere amongst Julia Child, The Frugal Gourmet, and Yan Can Cook was a show called Madeleine Cooks, hosted by a petite and charming French lady by the name of Madeleine. Now, Madeleine made great stuff and I loved the show, but she did one thing that even I, a kid, considered un peu crazy (albeit extremely amusing). She tested the temperature of her pans with her knuckles. C’est dangereux, non?
I, of course, intend no offense or disrespect to the chef – I just wished she wouldn’t have sacrificed her poor knuckles for perfectly cooked crepes. So this one’s for you, Madeleine – may you let infrared rays do the dirty work, and enjoy life without peeling knuckles.
Filed under: Energy Conservation, Power and Data Distribution, Test Equipment
These 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.
I just wrapped up a meeting with our representatives from Triplett, a test equipment manufacturing company that’s been in business since 1904. They’re known for offering a huge variety of electrical and cable testers, and while many of them are made for professional technicians, I was reminded of one of their simplest products, which also happens to be my favorite (and yes, I do own one). Ever heard of the Sniff-It voltage detector? It’s a little device that can check for the presence of AC voltage without ever having to actually make contact with the outlet you’re testing.
About a year and a half ago, my parents purchased and remodeled an older home, which at the time had several power outlets that were “fidgety” at best. That is to say, the receptacle wiring was somewhat suspect. We had to make a few updates, as well as replace wallplates throughout the entire house. Being one of those “better-safe-than-sorry” types, I decided it would be more than worth it to buy a Sniff-It, because I was a little uneasy about the boys (my husband, brother, and Dad) operating on bravery alone.
The tester really couldn’t be simpler to use – the only button on it is the on/off switch. Just slide the switch to “on,” watch and listen for the quick light flash and audible chirp that let you know that things are up and running, and then you’re ready to sniff out some voltage. Just hold the Sniff-It close to the outlet or wiring in question; if tester stays quiet and no lights blink, you’ve got the all-clear to start work, but if it starts blinking and chirping, you know that the circuitry or components are still electrified.
As you can probably tell, I’m already a big fan of the product, but I still learned something new about it today. As it turns out, the Sniff-It is now a standard-issue tool for all field technicians of a well-known security company. Several years ago, one of this company’s technicians was tragically and fatally electrocuted when attempting to move a manhole cover that was, by some fluke, in contact with live underground circuitry. It was one of those things that you’d never in a million years expect to happen, but this poor guy, who was just doing his job, ended up losing his life because the pre-existing conditions at the jobsite were far different than what could be expected, or what actually met the eye. The company has now taken the extra life-saving step of providing all of their techs with Sniff-Its, because this little tester actually has the ability to save lives.