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Scientists at the University of Michigan Claim They Can Harness Energy From Slow-Moving Rivers and Ocean Currents Which Could Provide Enough Power for the Entire World

November 30, 2008

Hoover Dam in the morning I was reading through my tweets on twitter this morning, when I discovered a link from Money Maker Times to the article Ocean currents can power the world, say scientists. Of course, I had to click the link and go read the article. It was an interesting article.

Scientists at the University of Michigan have a revolutionary new device that can harness energy from slow moving rivers and ocean currents which could provide enough power for the entire world. This device can generate electricity in water flowing at a rate of less than one mile per hour.

Compared to wave power generation systems, this new vortex-induced vibrations for aquatic clean energy (VIVACE) system will cost less to generate power and use up to 50 times less ocean acreage. Because the parts only oscillate slowly, the technology is likely to be less harmful to aquatic wildlife than dams or water turbines. And as the installations can be positioned far below the surface of the sea, there would be less interference with shipping, recreational boat users, fishing and tourism.

Engineers funded by the US Department of Energy and the US Office of Naval Research are now deploying a prototype device in the Detroit River; which has a flow of less than two knots. Check out the article for yourself.

SmartLabs, Inc. the world’s leading authority in home automation control and parent company to the Smarthome catalog and website, has joined Energy Star to meet consumer demand for more environmentally friendly choices

November 29, 2008

Smarthome, Inc. Irvine, Calif. – October 10th, 2008 – SmartLabs, Inc. the world’s leading authority in home automation control and parent company to the Smarthome catalog and website, has joined Energy Star to meet consumer demand for more environmentally friendly choices. Recognized by more than 60% of US consumers nationwide, ENERGY STAR works with over 12,000 public and private sector organizations that ensure energy efficient products and practices help to reduce high energy bills, improve comfort and help to protect the environment.

Saving consumers money on their electricity and protecting the environment has created the need for Energy Star product recognition, and Smarthome is adding more and more Energy Star products to their home automation lineup everyday. Since the beginning, Smarthome has been dedicated to offering consumers energy conscience items such as solar products, LED lighting solutions and power monitoring devices. SmartLabs also developed INSTEON home automation technology which provides customized control of lighting and appliances by creating a network of controlled devices and scenes that make life convenient, fun and energy efficient.

“Smarthome recognizes the need for all consumers to save money during these tough economic times and we have a deep company commitment to producing and selling products that save money, energy and our environment”, says Laurie Maroni, VP of Marketing for Smarthome. That commitment will continue to grow through the distribution of products labeled with a globally recognizable Energy Star tag, giving consumers greater control of their expenses and environmental impact through the use of energy efficient products.

Since the first catalog was mailed out in 1992, Smarthome’s goal has been to offer homeowners and contractors the widest selection of affordable electronic home improvement and automation products that are safe, easy, fun and energy efficient. Over the years, Smarthome has grown from a distributor of technical products to one of the world’s largest home automation retailers, becoming a single, easy-to-use source for thousands of affordable lighting, security, and home entertainment products that the average do-it-yourselfer can safely install.

For more information:

SmartLabs, Inc.
Meredith Pleasant, 949-252-6962

Basic Ways To Automate Your Christmas Lighting Displays

November 28, 2008

The holiday season gives you a chance to show off your creative spirit with custom lighting displays inside and outside your home. By using INSTEON lighting and appliance automation devices, you can easily control your lights and animated decorations. There are three basic ways to automate your lighting displays: from a timer, via remote control or from any web enabled device.

TimerLinc From a Timer
Using a simple timer such as TimerLinc, you can set on and off times for each day of the week, to control a single or group INSTEON controlled lights or devices. Once programmed, you won’t have to lift a finger; your lights and decorations will turn on and off at the time you have specified, and by doing this you can limit the amount of energy your using, which will save you money on the holiday electric bill.





RemoteLinc Via Remote Control
Most lighting enthusiasts have more than one or two strands of lights and powered decorations operating throughout the holiday season. If you are one of these people, you know what a pain it can be to run around the house every night and turn everything on, only to run around again before you go to sleep to turn everything off. Not only is this tedious but who’s to say you won’t accidentally leave something on. You can eliminate all of this by connecting everything via INSTEON, and using a RemoteLinc to turn up to six individual or groups of lights and powered decorations on or off, from anywhere inside you home. Turn everything on at the start of the night, leave only a couple things on later in the night, or simply use the ‘All Off ‘ button to shut everything down, all from the comfort of your couch or bed.


SmartLinc From Any Web-Enabled Device
Managing your holiday lighting displays doesn’t have to be limited to using timers or remotes. You can use a SmartLinc – INSTEON Central Controller to operate your entire INSTEON network and holiday lighting from anywhere in the world. It works with any web-enabled iPhone, cell phone or PDA to give you remote access of all your INSTEON devices. So whether you are working late, celebrating the holidays with family or friends, or halfway around the world on vacation, you can still turn lights on and off to illuminate your home with holiday spirit or to give it that “lived-in” look while you are away.



What You Need
To build your INSTEON network, the most important thing you need is a pair of Access Points, these allow for communication between devices throughout you home. For most holiday lighting you’ll simply need on and off control; the ICON Remote Control Appliance Module (3-Pin) will handle up to 400 Watts. If you want to dim lamps or other dimmable holiday lighting, the ICON Lamp Dimmer (2-Pin) can handle loads up to 150 Watts. If you are looking for a clean installation that won’t compromise your decor, simply replace any existing wall receptacle with an OutletLinc – INSTEON Remote Control Outlet. All you have to do is plug your lights or decorations into one of these modules and you can control them in one of the aforementioned ways or via any INSTEON Controller. Numerous other INSTEON products are also available.

Light Show Master 2.0 For the Advanced User
If you are looking for the ultimate in holiday lighting control, Light Show Master 2.0 Holiday Lighting Control Software will give you the ability to orchestrate a custom lighting display set to music. Using an INSTEON PowerLinc Modem, sold separately, you can create animated lighting displays, via control of INSTEON modules, and synch it with your favorite holiday sounds. The software allows for programming of custom lighting sequences that will turn your lights on and off and fade them up and down for an unlimited number of show “events” that can span minutes, hours, days, or even years.


Do you need to add a receptacle outside to power up your Christmas lighting? If so, then check out my article How To Install an Outside GFCI Receptacle – Step by Step Instructions with Pictures.

Answers To Electrical Questions About Wiring A Ceiling Fan, Installing An Additional Neutral Bar In A Panel and Grounding A Workshop

November 25, 2008

Question mark Lynn Nowak-Sneary asks:
We purchased a Demo Ceiling Fan and the room where we installed it has a light switch that works for an electrical wall outlet, there was never an overhead light. So my husband hooked it up so that we could use the switch to turn it on and off. He feels the fan motor is bad, because when he turns on the power to the fan the light plugged into the wall socket goes dim, not the ceiling fan light. I wonder if it is more of a wiring issue? Can anybody help?

It is difficult to say. I would check the wiring first. Are there any loose connections? Are you using lamp cord and plugging it into the wall socket to power the ceiling fan? If so, what size is the wire? If the wire is too small, then you could have a voltage drop issue. Using wiring that is too small could overheat and cause a fire.


Tom asks:
I have a Cutler-Hammer 200A 40/40 main panel and have filled up all the breaker spaces on both sides of the panel. On the left side of the panel, I have a combination of 12 GFCI and AFCI breakers installed, along with 8 standard breakers. By my calculations, I then need individual terminals for 24 AFCI/GFCI neutrals (since AFCI or GFCI breakers each have an additional curly neutral which requires its own terminal), plus 8 terminals for the standard breaker’s neutrals. Since my panel only allows up to 3 -12ga. ground wires per terminal, I’m out of terminals on the left neutral/ground bus in the panel (I count 34 holes per side)
Are longer ground buses available for main panels (I checked on the Cutler-Hammer site, but can’t find any), or is it permissible to wire an additional neutral/ground bus in a panel? If so, can an additional bus be connected to the present neutral/ground bus with solid #4 copper, and does it have to be independently bonded to the main panel? (I live in Minnesota)

Were the AFCI/GFCI breakers existing in your breaker box or are you wiring them in? If you are wiring them in, then the neutral from each AFCI/GFCI protected circuit will connect to the neutral terminal on the respective AFCI/GFCI breaker and not the neutral bar in the breaker box. Only the curly neutral wire from the AFCI/GFCI breaker will connect to the neutral bar in the breaker box. This may solve your space issue.

Are there available terminals on the neutral on the other side of the breaker box? If there are, then you may splice longer wire onto your neutrals so they will reach the other neutral bar.

I’ve never seen a need to add another neutral bar to a breaker box. If you need to do this, then I recommend going to your local Cutler Hammer supplier and order the same neutral bar kit that is already in your breaker box. I do not recommend using the #4 bare solid copper wire to connect the 2 neutral bars together. The neutral is a current carrying conductor, so the wire needs to be insulated.


Mike asks:
I ran #6 tech cable [underground] to my workshop, I want to know if I have to install ground rod at the shop or do I just use the ground wire in the teck cable. Please advise how to hook up the ground for this project. thank you

It has been a long time since I have used tech cable. Is it rated for underground use?

If there are other utilities (gas, phone, TV) between your workshop and house, then you are required to install a ground wire with your power supply wires. If there are no utilities, then you can install ground rods at your workshop. I recommend using the ground wire in your tech cable; providing the tech cable is rated for underground use.

Answers To Electrical Questions About Wiring A Cooktop, Installing a 4-wire Dryer Power Cord and Connecting Underground Wiring From A Barn To An Existing House Panel

November 23, 2008

Question mark Ravi asks:
I am looking for a similar solution for connecting my Jenn-air Cooktop. The cook top has 4 prong wire coming out. My wall receptacle is 3 prong. I tried replacing the receptacle but the wires running inside the walls were 3 wired.

I opened the back of the cooktop to try what you suggested above. The ground (open copper wire) is connected to the casing. The neutral wire and the hots are connected respectively and taped up. No connection plate like the dryers (shown in the above wiring diagram). I bought a 3-prong wire to replace the 4-prong. But I feel this might be messy.

Can I instead connect the Neutral (White) and the Copper wire together on the same terminal on the 3 prong Plug. And connect the 2 hots to the respective terminals.

I would appreciate your suggestion.

I do not recommend installing the 3 prong plug. I recommend installing a new 4-wire circuit and receptacle for the cooktop.


Ken asks:
I have a maytag dryer I purchased from craigslist. I believe it’s an older dryer and the three wires connected in the rear is vertical. The wires are yellow (on top), white (in the middle) and light blue (on the bottom). Where should I put the red wire, white wire, black wire and green wire. There is a ground screw just outside of the panel. On the white screw, there is a bond strap that is connected to another screw inside the panel. Thanks for your assistance. Maytag could not advise me aside from sending a technician which would cost me more than probably the cost I paid for the dryer.

You need to remove the bonding strap from the neutral terminal. Connect the black wire to the terminal with the yellow wire, connect the white wire to the terminal with the white wire, connect the red wire to the terminal with the light blue wire and connect the green wire to the ground screw that the bonding strap was connected to on the dryer’s frame.


Brian asks:
Hopefully someone here can help. My in-laws just bought a house that has a barn. The previous owners ran power wires from the house to the barn – these are the same thickness wires as are run from the powerpole to the house for a 200amp connection. I’m thinking of the following setup. From the house existing breaker box, run appropriate wire from a 50 or 60 Amp breaker to a simple on/off box where the other wire comes in. Connecting the thinner wire to one side and the thicker wire to the other side of this switch. Then in the barn hooking up a second breaker box and running all barn wiring from that. Will there be any issue with the thicker wire between the house and barn – it’s about 100yards underground to the barn.

I recommend installing a junction box at the end of the wires instead of a breaker box. You also need to install the same AWG size wires as the ones going to the barn. I’m guessing this wire size was chosen to compensate for voltage drop. If 200 amp rated wire was installed for approximately 300 feet or 100 yards to the barn, then the plan was probably for a 100 amp breaker box in the barn.

I recommend installing 100 amps to the barn, but it is ok if you only want 50 or 60 amps. However, the 200 amp wire will not fit into the terminals of a 50 or 60 amp breaker. So, splice on a short piece of #6 AWG THHN copper wire onto the 200 amp wire in the breaker box in the house only. In the barn, use a 100 amp main breaker panel. The 200 amp rated wires should fit in the terminals of the 100 amp breaker.

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