Portable LED Light Flute

I stumbled across this handy LED light when looking for a light to put into a gun safe. Safes and cabinets for long guns are quite dark on the inside. Being able to discreetly access a safe and see what is inside, without breaking out a flashlight, is important in a home defense situation or an early morning departure for a hunting trip. This light fits the bill perfectly, but has the potential to be incredibly useful in other situations.

The light comes in two parts, the light “flute” and the base. The light flute is a metal tube that houses the batteries (3 AAAs), the on/off switch, and four bright, directional LEDs. The flute is about the thickness of a AA battery, and is 8.5″ long. The base is plastic, but contains a relatively strong magnet for mounting (the package also includes a double sided sticky foam pad for mounting the base). The flute “snaps” into the base either along the length of the flute, or can be stood up vertically in the base, and can be rotated axially to shine light where it is needed. One end cap of the flute is a soft, rubberized button to turn the light on and off. Most importantly, the light flute operates independent of the base, so it acts as a flashlight / work light as needed. It is a portable light when you need it to be, but stationary when you don’t.

What attracted me to this light was its versatility and price. I mounted the base on the ceiling of my safe using the integrated magnet, and I use the “flute” as a light bar, but I can also grab the flute and shine it into the nooks and crannies to look for items. Lights specifically for gun safes/cabinets cost significantly more money for inferior functionality, and lack the versatility of a portable light. Furthermore, I haven’t found any other battery operated lights like this that are as aesthetically pleasing or well designed. I plan to buy several more to mount in kitchen cabinets, under the kitchen sink, in tool cabinets, and inside of an under-stair closet that wasn’t wired for a light. I think this would make a great “extra” light for a workstation, or even a reading light. Keep in mind that in such a small package, this light sacrifices coverage for intensity. The light beam is directional, so it isn’t suitable for under cabinet “accent” lighting, where diffuse light is preferred.

-- Ryan Gwaltney  

Portable LED Light Flute
$14

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Sylvania



Wago Lever Nuts

Wire nuts are terrible. They are unreliable, inelegant, and difficult to use correctly.

Last year I discovered Wago Lever Nuts and I will never go back. These wire connectors are amazing. They can be used for all of your home and industrial wiring in lieu of wire nuts, and are also useful for many other hobby wiring projects. They are of course properly certified for in-wall AC wiring.

You can mix and match different gauges of wire from 28 AWG up to 12AWG, and you can individually lock and unlock each wire into the nut by closing or opening a lever. You can also mix-and-match solid copper and stranded copper wire in the same nut. They hold up extremely well under vibration, so they would be good for automotive use as well. No other wire connector is this versatile.

Best of all, unlike so many modular European industrial electrical items, this one does not break the bank. They are competitively priced to other connector solutions and the 2 and 3 circuit nuts are around $0.25 each in small volumes, and around $0.50 for the 5 circuit version.

One of the only problems is that they are not readily available at big-box hardware stores. Plan ahead and get a bunch now – you will be glad to have them when you need them.

1-2-3

-- Dev Kumar  

Wago 222-412 Lever Nuts
2 Conductor Compact Connectors
$12 / 25 PK

Available from Amazon



Intermatic EI400 In-Wall Timer Switch

When we would leave the house before dark and return after, it was always a game of “not it” to determine who got stuck opening the front door in the dark. Worse yet was vacation time. We set up lights on timers throughout the house, only to choose whether the porch light was left on or off the whole time.

We haven’t switched the outside light for three+ years since installing this wonderful gadget. I replaced the standard flip switch with the in-wall timer switch. It’s set to keep track of dusk and dawn for our time zone and switch the light accordingly. We occasionally have to true up the time, but it’s maintenance free for the most part.

It’s a relief to know that anytime we pull up, the front light will be on. And we never have to start the guessing game of “did you leave the light on”.

-- Steve Simpson  

Intermatic El400 In-Wall Timer
$35

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Intermatic



Murphy Bed

We moved to a much smaller house recently in an effort to downsize. We found, however, that no matter how carefully we shopped we were not going to find a house in our price range with all the rooms we needed. Then an idea struck me. What about a Murphy Bed? My memories of them consist of people being trapped in them in TV comedies. You know, the ditzy one, sits on the end of the bed and up it goes into the wall taking him or her with it.

But, oh my, how they have changed. Murphy Beds are still in use, more than ever, and they have some beautiful and ingenious models. What was more important to us, however, was that by using a Murphy bed we got another room. The room that will be my library will, now, also be the guest room. By having a bed that folds inconspicuously into the wall and is then fronted with bookcases our guest room serves as 2 rooms. What a bonus.

The fronts of these beds come in any configuration and serve as many purposes as you can imagine. They start at about $2000 and can go quite high from there depending on what you want. But when you consider you are adding a room to your house for that price it is a true bargain.

We purchased our Murphy Bed, called the Library, from more SPACE place in Salem, NH and I cannot say enough about the quality of the product and the service this company provided. The cost of the bed includes delivery and installation and they did this quickly and professionally. I would suggest you start your search here to get an idea of what a good bed costs and branch out from there. My bet is you’ll be back here. We found that they were superior to their competitors in price, variety, durability and service. What else is there.

The best thing of all is that the bed is really comfortable.

-- George Christin  

Jefferson Library Bed
$2,000

Available from more SPACE place

Manufactured by Murphy Bed



E-Z Foldz Step Stool

I have two of these nifty folding stools, one for my garden shed, and one that (mostly) lives in the kitchen. They’ve been kicking around my house for 2-3 years now, and I’m incredibly impressed with their sturdiness. The cool thing about these step stools is that they fold to a flat package only 2-1/4 inches thick. It will support up to 300 pounds, and you can tuck it between the fridge and the wall or under the sink or in a broom closet.  Folding them involves pushing in the hinged short ends and pushing the wider sides together. It’s a fantastic option for small spaces, where storage is at a premium.

The step stool in the kitchen lives under the sink, where it takes up remarkably little room.  They’re sturdy enough to kick around like a soccer ball, which I do pretty regularly. If it gets dirty, you can take it outside and hose it down. The plastic is soft enough to be non-marring to floors, and the top surface is roughened to prevent slips. It has a clever carrying handle in the top which works really well when folded and nearly as well when opened up.  It comes in 2 heights, 9″ and 12″. I have the 12″ high stool, and the top is nice and roomy,  It costs between $10-$20, depending on where you find it. I picked ours up at a local hardware store. A quick web check shows that this is a pretty widely available item.

-- Amy Thomson  

[Note: We first reviewed the E-Z Foldz Step Stool back in 2008.--OH]

E-Z Foldz Step Stool
$11

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by B&R Industries



Nest Learning Thermostat

Last year I replaced my old-looking but perfectly functional programmable thermostat with a better looking, WiFi-equipped model. The remote aspect of it was good. We could set “away” temps, and restore normal temps on our way back home. And the programmable part was always good – cool at night, not working so hard when we’re at work, etc.

But even though the thing was from a “major name”, it was a true PITA. While it worked most of the time, any time we wanted to tweak things, ugh. It was miserable. Then Nest came out with their Learning Thermostat.

I  recently put one in and it’s well beyond what I was hoping the other might be. Superbly easy installation and activation, beautiful to look at, and as user-friendly as anything can be. It’s still in learning mode which basically means it is figuring out our daily schedules. But so far they’ve thought of everything, and this has given me complete confidence in its long term purpose.

Nest also provides apps that allow you to control your thermostat from your iOS or Android phone or tablet. You can also track energy usage history, etc. At $249 it’s a lot more than other thermostats, and so maybe not suited for everyone’s budget. But I’ll say it’s more than suitable for any home. It’s a beautifully designed and exceptionally functional thermostat that continues to do its job very well.

-- Wayne Ruffner  

Nest Learning Thermostat
$179

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Nest



Mommy’s Helper Electrical Outlet Covers

I began installing these outlet covers over a year ago when my twins started crawling around the house. They were fascinated by standard outlet button covers, and learned how to pry them out. These sliding outlet covers are much simpler to operate (simply place plug tines in slots and slide to the left to engage actual outlet slots), and require a level of coordination that the boys cannot defeat even at 1.5 years.

The covers also solved an existing problem I had with loose outlets. You know the sort where you plug in your vacuum and with the slightest tug on the cord it pops out of the outlet. These sliding covers act as an anchor and hold the plug in tightly.

My house was built in 1991 and has what appear to be completely average outlet plates, and every one has accepted one of these covers perfectly. They screw in neatly, have a foam gasket for insulation, and the plastic is sturdy enough not to bow at all when firmly tightened with the screw. There are several brands of similar slide-type covers, but I can’t vouch for their fitting capability.

-- Sarah Brown  

Mommys Helper Safe-Plate Electrical Outlet Covers
$2.75

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Mommy's Helper



Tapi Drinking Fountain

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I bought this gadget about a month ago. I have it attached to the tap in my bathroom, and I love it! It allows me to turn the bathroom tap into a cool, bubbly drinking fountain with the flick of a finger. To fit it on the tap I had to take the aerator off the end of the faucet, but I find I like the water better (both for washing and drinking) when it hasn’t passed through the aerator.
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I have arthritis and my hands are weak, so instead of pinching the tapi to create the fountain I just fold the end of it over, and this works very well. I think it would be easy for a child to operate. It comes in a variety of colors, and only costs around $6.

-- Lesley Robinson  

Tapi Drinking Fountain
$7

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by DreamFarm



Safeglides Tap-In Felt Furniture Pads

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When you get sick and tired of reapplying those adhesive felt furniture feet to all your furniture every time they come off (go ahead, look under something; a lot of them are coming off or missing aren’t they?), you can get these improved ones that I found a few years ago.

The round metal rivet hammers easily into the end of the leg with a tack hammer, and the metal part doesn’t break like the kind with the single skinny nail in the center. (And the adhesive kind, as you no doubt have noticed, do not stay properly attached for very long at all.) I have never had one of these fail yet.

This vendor has them for a good price; they have a $25 minimum, which means you have to order about 80. However, you can also get them at Amazon.

-- Charles Kiblinger  

Safeglides Tap-In Felt Furniture Pad
$8 for pack of 16

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Highland Woodworking

Sample Excerpts:

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SureFlap Microchip Cat Flap

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This is a battery operated cat door that unlocks (going inside) by reading the cat’s microchip. Our cat was chipped at our shelter for around $10, but commercial vets are also able to do it for a bit more. No need to worry about lost collar keys, or magnets. Keeps out unprogrammed animals. The door also has the standard four-setting mechanical overide locking feature of: in-out, in only, out only, locked. If your cat is not chipped, you can also use an RFID collar key (not included).

We previously had a magnetically keyed cat door, but you then have the choice of using a safety collar and losing the (not cheap) key every now and then, or using a non-safety collar and risking the cat strangling itself.

Raccoons eventually defeated our magnetically keyed door. They haven’t defeated this one (yet), although the mechanical parts of the latching action are similar.

-- Bruce Bowen  

SureFlap Microchip Cat Flap
$133

Available from Amazon