Reel-A-Pail Quickwinder: The Fast-Action Cable Winder That Puts a Protective Shell Around Stored Cables
I’ve pretty much had it with the old “thumb-crook-to-elbow” cable wind, because even though that old standby is a fast and easy way to turn a long cord into a smallish bundle, I’ve found that in most cases, the cable loops tend to mingle a little too closely, and end up tangled anyway. Sheesh.
So I switched to assorted winders and cable reels, which were great until my husband found out the hard way that reeled cords hanging out on a trailer can come loose when jostled around too much, causing the plug-end of a much-needed extension cord to hang over the side and bounce along the road asphalt in such a way that said plug arrives at its destination looking like someone tried to put it down a garbage disposal. Sheesh again.
I had been beginning to think that cord reels have to be stowed in protective boxes or similar to prevent the cables wrapped around them from unwinding, being scratched up, getting wet or becoming encrusted in dirt, but not to long ago, I ran into I new type of cord winder that’s put a glimmer of hope on the horizon: the Reel-A-Pail® Quickwinder™.
As you’ve probably already guessed, the Reel-A-Pail involves both a reel and a pail, and is indeed quick at winding cables. Just think of it as a heavy-duty cable reel that’s encased in a bucket-like outer shell that keeps stored cable perfectly contained, and protects it from the ravages of dirt, moisture, abrasion and impact. That’s what I’m talking about!
One of the things that I like so much about Reel-A-Pail is that it’s all-inclusive (a package deal that doesn’t require any extra add-ons for complete functionality/protection), comes in several styles and sizes to suit almost any need, and is even versatile when you get down to specific models, as each type can accommodate a range of cable types and sizes. It terms of portable cable storage and organization, you really can’t go wrong.
Depending on which model you choose, the Reel-A-Pail Quickwinder either comes with a flat base that can be bolted down to a trailer, truck bed or floor, or a handy built-in wheeled cart that lets you roll substantial loads of cable wherever they may be needed.
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.
The past few evenings, as I’ve been out running errands after dark, I’ve been taking in the ever-increasing number of holiday light displays, and realizing how many people have ditched regular incandescent-bulb Christmas lights in favor of LEDs. When you think about it, aside from things like mini flashlights and those stick-on puck lights for closets and cabinets, Christmas lights have probably been the most significant class of LED technology to sweep through our energy-efficient culture. As a matter of fact, with many manufacturers retiring from the incandescent Christmas light biz in order to embrace holiday LEDs, it’s getting tough to find anything else on the market, at least where exterior decorating is concerned.
But as it turns out, LEDs are no longer relegated to the specialty realm. Most of us have gotten accustomed to CFLs (or compact fluorescent lamps) being the dominant force in the energy-efficient lightbulb world, but move over, fluorescents: the Infinity™ Ultra LED lightbulb has come to town.
Ultra LED bulbs by Infinity LED™ are shaped like traditional incandescent bulbs, but instead of housing a light-producing filament, they glow by way of 88 tiny, evenly-distributed LEDs. Just screw them into any lamp base or light fixture, and you’ll get light output that’s equivalent to a 60-watt bulb.
Now, if you’re wondering why I’m telling you about a bulb that looks and performs like the same old kind you have at home, just take a look at the stats. LEDs have a lifespan of up to 35,000 hours (if you do the math, that’s just shy of 4 years), and they consume up to 93% less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs! Is it me, or did your eyebrows just raise in interest? I know that mine did.
Because different people like different types of light, these LED bulbs come in two temperatures (which are essentially light tones) to fit your taste. There’s Cool White, which is very bright and good for environments in which you want to stay awake and alert (think offices and other work areas), and Warm White (my personal favorite), which is perfect for home use, in living rooms, bedrooms, and other spaces where warm glows and coziness should rule.
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.
Filed under: Energy Conservation, Power and Data Distribution
While I really enjoy trimming down my electric bill and having at least some piece of mind that my TV, computer and other gadgets aren’t going to get fried during some freak power surge, truth be told, I don’t have the spare time (or inclination) to go beyond a certain point in accomplishing either one of those things.
Are the printer and DVD player still continuing to draw power even when I’m asleep at night? They most certainly are, but you won’t find me unplugging anything that’s not being actively used before I shuffle off to bed. And likewise, I don’t ever want to see any of my precious electronics fried to a crisp during a thunder storm, but I’m not about to personally unplug each and every one at the first sign of a rain cloud.
Call me lazy, but I’d rather leave those jobs up to a very smart, green-minded and protective surge protector like the GreenSurge™ from 360 Electrical®. Designed to deliver the usual overvoltage protection while also going to bat for your budget, the GreenSurge features a unique combination of outlets that work together to intuitively cut power to devices that aren’t in use, which can save you some big money over time.
Here’s how it works: the GreenSurge Smart Surge Protector is made up of Master, Power Save, and Always-On outlets. You’d plug a main device, like a computer or TV, into the Master Outlet. The Power Save outlets would then be used to power peripherals (or secondary devices attached to the main device) like DVD/Bluray players, gaming systems, printers and scanners. Always-On outlets are for other non-peripheral devices that are always in use and need constant power flow.
As long as the main device (the one using the Master outlet) is on and running, the peripherals have all the power they need. But when the master device is turned off, that shutdown is detected by the GreenSurge, which then cuts power to the now-unused peripherals that are plugged into the Power Save outlets, preventing them from silently drawing (and wasting) power as they sit there doing nothing. As a result, you save energy and money without having to do a thing. If you ask me, that’s just smart… almost as smart as this surge suppressor.
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.