From the wiring devices category, the platinum winner in the 2012 Product of the Year competition combines dual USB charging ports with a tamper-resistant AC receptacle to form a unique wiring device — the Combination USB Charger with Tamper Resistant Receptacle, TR7740. “The typical standard duplex receptacle has not changed in over 50 years, other than for decorator looks,” says MicheleSalimbeni, product manager for tamper-resistant receptacles at Cooper Wiring Devices. “This is the first time that we’ve really made a radical change in the product.”
In response to the increased use of portable electronic devices, Cooper Wiring Devices transformed the standard receptacle into a device with the ability to charge electronic devices directly from a standard outlet without bulky adapters that can be lost or misplaced. The device’s USB charging ports support any electronic product capable of being charged via a 5V power adapter — but without the use of the actual adapter. An LED light indicates that the device is charging. “The only other way to do that would be if you had a powered-up computer that you used to charge your electronics — or if you had an outlet adapter,” says Salimbeni. “We looked at these methods and said, ‘Let’s get rid of the adapter and be able to do it directly from the receptacle.’ And that’s a pretty big change from what’s been done in the past.”
The combination receptacle was initially targeted for residential applications. UL-approved tamper-resistant shutters provide compliance with Sec. 406.12 of the 2011 NEC, which states that all 15A, 125V receptacles installed in dwelling units must be tamper resistant. However, the TR7740 is also proving popular in commercial locations. “It’s primarily residential at this point, but we have been supplying a lot of commercial installations as well,” says Salimbeni. “They’re popping up at airports and cafés — anywhere you have charging needs, which is anywhere anyone has a smart phone or a computer.”
To that end, the manufacturer designed in features that make the product durable. The thermoplastic top and back-body are virtually unbreakable to deliver years of performance. Ultrasonic welding and integrated construction of strap and body provide superior ground integrity even under heavy use. The injection-molded housing and PVC resin comply with the UL94 5V flammability rating. There’s also a zinc-plated steel mounting strap for added corrosion resistance. Finally, triple-wipe blade contacts and double-wipe ground contacts ensure long-term plug retention.
The combination receptacle easily replaces a standard duplex receptacle. Installation is made faster and easier through tri-combo screw heads, patented built-in wire strippers, and backwire clamps on side terminals for 12 AWG and 14 AWG wire. An automatic grounding system eliminates the need for a bonding jumper when installed in a grounded metal enclosure, and provides a redundant measure of ground continuity where jumper is used. Without more work added to the installation process, electrical contractors can add to their list of services for customers. “From a contractor’s perspective, this is an opportunity to finally have something exciting to show and to stand out,” says Salimbeni. “Not all contractors have this in their bag of tricks. It’s a way for a contractor to differentiate themselves from the mix.”
The first runner-up in this year’s Product of the Year competition comes from the tools (accessory items) category. Designed to reduce the risk of burns and eye injuries, DrillMagnet’s ring-shaped magnet collects metal shavings when drilling in steel — especially when drilling overhead or vertically. Able to accommodate hole cutters for ¾-in. conduit or smaller, the magnet also acts as a hardware holder when working on a lift or on the ground when used as a utility magnet.
From the portable test and measurement equipment category, this year’s second runner-up — Fluke’s 430 Series II of 3-phase power quality analyzers — uses an algorithm to measure energy waste and quantify its cost. This updated series of analyzers features three new measurement functions as well as hardware, software, and firmware improvements. In addition, the products include up to 32 GB (8 GB standard) of memory, a swappable SD memory card, and USB connectivity. Fully compliant with the IEC 61000-4-30 Class A standard, they can monitor systems with up to 10 power quality parameters on one screen, record up to 150 parameters on four phases simultaneously, and are safety rated 600V CAT IV/1,000V CAT III.
An EC&M Tradition
More than a decade ago, the EC&M Product of the Year competition was established to honor excellence in new product development for the electrical industry. The prestigious contest showcases inventiveness in new, cutting-edge technology, as well as improvements in safety and efficiency. Through the competition’s arduous two-fold judging and voting process, the most innovative products of the past year that allow electrical design professionals, installers, and maintenance personnel to perform their jobs more efficiently and effectively are recognized.
Products eligible for this year’s competition were those introduced to the market between Jan. 1, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2011. Out of the 129 products entered this year, a hand-picked panel of judges ranked each product based on a uniform list of scoring criteria, ultimately selecting 31 category winners for the first phase of the competition. These category winners were then narrowed down to just three through an online poll available to our readers on the EC&M website. By casting their votes, EC&M subscribers determined the platinum, gold, and silver products of the year.
EC&M would like to congratulate the following three readers who each won $100 for voting in this year’s competition:
- Thomas Gelb, purchasing AG, Five Star Electric Co., Inc., Ozone Park, N.Y.
- Denis Manrique, VP, Electrical System Development Corp., Hialeah, Fla.
- Steve Meeks, owner, Steve Meeks Construction, Santa Clarita, Calif.
The EC&M editorial team randomly drew these names from the list of voters who cast their vote in the online poll.