The book Wiring Simplified has an excellent print guide with illustrations, for how to install beveled wallcases into plaster-and-lath walls. Since I install receptacles outlets and switches in old walls at least once per week in West Philly (Philadelphia, PA), I figured I might as well make my own guide using photos. Here’s my guide on how to recess a switch box or receptacle box in plaster-and-lath walls
Lighting & Controls Products
There are too many good, and innovative products to list them all here. But I’ve included a few that I particularly like to install and that I’ll always be happy to hear requests for. Here are my favorite lighting & controls products.
Intermatic’s mechanical timer switches have been a standard for decades and they are tanks for durability and longevity. I’ve pulled 30-year-old units out of fire-damaged buildings that continued to function. They now offer a digital timer version that included a wealth of new features. My favorite intermatic products:
- Digital astronomically-auto-synched timer (ST01C). Timers are comparing increasingly favorably with surge-susceptible photo-sensors that can be difficult to locate properly. Equipped with a replaceable lithium battery, this digital programmable 7-day timer includes astronomically accurate dusk-til-dawn pre-programming for southern, central, and northern hemisphere locations, plus user-configurable custom off-sets for up to 7 different programs running each week. Manual override and ‘random’ settings are also available to enhance the security lighting applications where this timer will most often be used.
The battery-operated timer and switch mechanism mean that this is a good candidate for DIY-ers and applications involving CFL’s or other high-efficiency lamp types, since the switch does not rely on voltage through the lamp filament to power the timer or switch. Also, the timer and switch servo are 100% isolated from house wiring, so surges will be far less likely to damage the device’s critical electronic components.
The switch may be installed on almost any location except a 4-way position in a multi-location coordinated switch system (it is equipped for use in a 3-way location or a switch-loop location). Not bad for under $20.
- Z-wave compatible network/wireless switched split-duplex 15A receptacle (CA3500). Although users report the switching relay inside this device is very noisy, the advantages of a remote(automated) switchable receptacle include introduction of new switchable circuits for miscellaneous lighting, or implementation of a DIY demand-response program for your home, interrupting power to high-energy appliances such as refrigerators or window air conditioners (window a/c) based on network controlled automation in the z-wave device network. For customers who have access to time-of-use electric rate-payer tariffs, a device like this could pay for itself in a few months by time-shifting cooling (or heating) loads out of the super-peak demand hours. I have not personally evaluated this product for initial quality, installation ease, or longevity.
Manufacturer of electrical devices including lighting and automation controls. Thanks to the historical origins of electrical distribution technology in our region, we’re lucky to have a world-class manufacturer headquartered nearby in Melville, NY.
- Vizia RF+ is a line of wired/wireless controls that interlink programmable configurations via a network of zone and scene controllers and handheld remotes. The line includes switches, dimmers, fan controls, controllable receptacles, and interoperability with security systems and other network devices. Hard wired/network devices inserted into the circuit at conventional light switch locations allow custom network pre-programming and/or remote controllers to customize multiple lighting points and lighting groups as individual and grouped units in accordance with programmable scenes, maximum brightness levels (for energy and lamp life savings), fade on/off rates, timed operations, and more. The system complies with a standards-based networking platform, Z-Wave, at the ‘pro’ tier, which means Vizia RF+ products can integrate with other manufacturers’ products, sending and receiving Z-wave compliant commands and status reports in any Z-Wave network.
- Enclosed CFL lampholders for fire safety in closets, and breakage protection on tight ceilings. Available with integral occupancy sensor.
Manufacturer of lighting and automation controls, especially dimmers. We’re lucky to live in the region of electrical invention, and to be able to get world-class products from a company headquartered in nearby Coopersburg, PA.
- Maestro Wireless is a line of wired/wireless controls that interlink in programmable configurations via the Pico remote, which may be mounted as a fixed switch and/or deployed as a cradled and/or handheld remote(s). The line includes wired/wireless switches (for wirelessly grouping separate existing light control locations), wireless auxiliary switches (for adding new control locations), wireless occupancy/vacancy sensors (for short-term usage areas such as laundry, hallway/pathways, or garage/storage), and wireless daylight sensors (for reducing energy consumption when artificial lighting is unneeded).
- RadioRA 2 is a line of radio-interlinked controls coordinated through a programmable ‘brain’ that manages the functions, programmed scenes, timed events (and more) of all connected/registered devices, all using a proprietary radio control frequency that ensures the system operates without delay or interruption — like wired switches but with a lot more magic.
Utilitech appears to be a Lowe’s store brand specializing in electrical power and lighting products, including a robust line of LED lighting products, from fixtures incorporating LED’s to standard Edison (type A19) screw-in LED retrofit lamps (‘bulbs’ no longer applies to CFL’s or most LED’s because the form factor is no longer, literally, a bulb).
- Utilitech Pro 7.5W dimmable 40W-equivalent A19 screw-in lamp (LA19DM/LED) sells at Lowe’s today for just under $10 and appears to be a vastly superior dimmable high-efficiency lamp to any CFL lamp on the market. And with a rated lamp life more than double that of CFL’s, its price is very competitive.
Customer Resource Blog Categories
Off-site Links ->
- Annapolis Home Inspection, LLC Aluminum branch circuits, homes 1965-1972
- ComplianceAndSafety.com OSHA Electrical Safety Training
- Electric Monk TV (YouTube) Video channel for PhillyLicensedElectrician.com Robert Monk
- EnergyConservation HowTo A tinkerer genius discusses energy conservation and his ladder system for accessing the attic (where a lot of energy-saving work happens).
- PennFuture Energy Center Energy and energy efficiency news for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
- Phila area rife with building efficiency upgrade opportunities Philadelphia Inquirer article discusses recent study showing Philadelphia’s inner-ring suburbs stand to save from energy conservation retrofits.
- Philadelphia Row-house Manual A design, maintenance, and modifications manual for our most widely-used form of housing.
- Robert Monk Robert Monk’s personal blog
- SolarCities (DOE) Solar PV Levelized Cost Interactive Comparator Simple graph compares ‘levelized cost’ of energy from solar PV to conventional grid rates, with a time-slider interactive feature.
- The Circuit Detective – Solve Home Electrical Problems Yourself! Electrical troubleshooting procedures pitched to homeowners.
- The Energy Co-op Blog from a leading alternative energy provider in PECO territory, includes fun conservation tips.
- Weatherization: the anti-Solyndra Salon.com article praising the continued success of the federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), low-income energy-savings and job-creation.
- West Philly Tool Library Official site of WPTL, Philly’s own community tool lending library: like a book library, but tools!
- WestPhillyLocal .com Site name say sit all.
- Bartram's Gardens Founded in Philadelphia’s colonial era, today the gardens continue pioneering in horticulture and agriculture with a variety of herbs, trees and other vegetation in an arboretum/gardens on the Schulkill River banks, and a new farm abutting sadly neglected
- HiddenCity Philadelphia Surprising places it takes an adventurer to discover; events, too.
- Philly Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Schedule City of Philadelphia dates and places for disposing of spent batteries, CFL lamps, unused paint and cleaning products, etc. LovePhilly: don’t pour these in the drain or send them out with the trash.
- Reading Terminal Market Purveyors of fine foods and foodie stuff, all under one roof downtown under the PA Convention Center
- Secret Garden on the Rails Jacques-Jean Tiziou shows some dramatic natural and urban and naturalized-urban scenes along abandoned rails of Philadelphia
- Sketch Burger, Fishtown A vegan-friendly burger joint with a #1 in Philly contender beef burger, best fries that somehow stay fresh for 1/2 hour while you tackle burger, and a vegan cafe vibe of friendly folks.
- WXPN: Philly sings in key of love Love songs by Philly artists