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Office Lighting Can Improve Productivity
An adjustable desk lamp will illuminate the desktop
without reflecting glare on to the computer screen.
youíre looking for ways to be more productive in your home
office, one solution may be right at your fingertips: the
A recent study found a clear
link between lighting, job performance and job satisfaction.
For example, when workers were able to adjust lighting levels
in and around their work areas, the work was perceived as
being less difficult. But
in many home offices ó especially those that have been
converted from dens, basements or bedrooms óthe lighting
wasnít designed with the worker
in mind. The result may be eyestrain, blurred vision, fatigue
or headaches, as well as lower productivity.
Fortunately, itís easier and less
expensive to improve home office lighting than to change the lighting in
a commercial office building. Here are a few easy-to-do lighting tips
from the Leviton Institute that can make a big difference.
In a home office, there are generally two
types of illumination to consider: ambient lighting and task lighting.
Ambient light ó including daylight as well as ceiling fixtures ó
provides general room illumination. Youíll want to be able to control
and balance these two ambient lighting sources to achieve glare-free
illumination and the right atmosphere for the entire space.
To control natural light, many people
choose window blinds or shades because they are easy to adjust for
varying outdoor lighting conditions. Look for solutions that help
diffuse the light coming into the room, so you wonít have glare or hot
spots. And, if you can, take advantage of north-facing windows. The old
masters set up their painting studios with northern exposures because
the lighting is even, soft and indirect.
For artificial light, you have a lot of
options, from ceiling fixtures and
floor lamps to track lights and table lamps. Fluorescent lights are a
good choice for home offices because they provide even lighting with
But you donít necessarily have to
install new fixtures; instead, consider replacing incandescent light
bulbs with the newer types of fluorescent bulbs that screw into regular
light bulb sockets. They last up to 13 times longer and use a lot less
electricity than standard incandescent bulbs. These modern fluorescent
bulbs also use electronic ballasts, which eliminate annoying problems of
light flicker and noise associated with older fluorescent fixtures.
In an office building, workers usually
canít adjust the ambient light. But
home office lighting can be a lot more flexible. For example, to
maintain a good balance between natural light and artificial light,
consider installing a dimmer switch.
Adjustable controls, such as dimmer
switches, also allow you to tailor the lighting levels if different
people use the office. Thatís important, because as we age, our need
for room lighting increases. People in their fifties, for example, need
three times more office light for reading than people in their twenties.
While ambient light provides good general
illumination, task lighting provides direct illumination for activities
such as reading, writing and computer work. Since the furniture layout
in most home offices is designed around a computer and workstation, the
Leviton Institute recommends an adjustable desk lamp. It will illuminate
the keyboard or another area on the desk, without reflecting any glaring
light onto the computer screen.
to Convenience: New Digital Timers for the Home
you ever walked through your house in the morning and
discovered that a light has been left on all night? Or come
home after work to find that an exhaust fan has been running
since early in the morning?
New digital timers remember to
shut things off when you forget. The latest generation of
digital timers can be installed right in the wall, wherever
you would put a regular wall switch. Some of the new timers
even come from the factory with specific time intervals
|A digital timer with
factory presets is perfect for bathroom exhaust fans and heat
Leviton Institute offers these suggestions on how you can use
these devices to add convenience and save energy:
- In a bathroom, consider a
timer with preset time intervals of 5, 10, 15 and 20
minutes to control a heat lamp or an exhaust fan. Simply
push the button for the length of time you want the lamp
or fan to be on; the timer will turn it off automatically.
- Timers with longer preset
intervals of 10, 20, 30 and 60 minutes are also available,
as well as timers with 2, 4, 6 or 8 hours. These timers
are ideal for controlling the heating units and motors in
hot tubs and spas, or for a lawn sprinkler system.
- To control outside lights,
you might consider another type of digital timer that can
be programmed for even longer time intervals. Once you set
the time of day and length of time you want the lights to
be on, these timers will automatically manage your outdoor
lights every day of the week.
- For added convenience,
look for digital timers that have a built-in
battery-powered memory backup. In the event of a power
failure, the battery continues to power the timer, so
there is no need for you to reset the timer once power is
timers are an inexpensive investment for the homeowner and add a lot of
convenience," says Anne Marie Grady, a spokesperson for the Leviton
Institute. "And because they are digital, these new timers are more
reliable than the older types of timers that are plugged into a
Wall-mounted digital timers can be
purchased at home centers and hardware stores. Be sure to match the
timerís electrical rating with the device it will be controlling. For
example, some timers are designed for exhaust fans and indoor room
lights, while others are rated for heavy-duty motors and heating units,
such as those used in spas and hot tubs.
Digital timers are easy to use and easy
to install, although some homeowners may prefer to have them installed
by an electrical contractor.
The Leviton Institute is the educational
arm of the Leviton Manufacturing Company. Its mission is to educate
consumers, specifiers and others about the benefits of todayís
electrical wiring devices and systems, and to promote the safe use of
electrical devices in the home
Precautions Required for Older Aluminum-wired Houses
|If youíre living
in a house that was built between the years 1965 to 1973, thereís a
good chance your home is at increased risk for electrical fires if it
has aluminum house wiring. During that period, about 1.5 million homes
were wired with aluminum wiring because copper wire was too expensive.
Unfortunately, this older aluminum house
wiring proved to be a poor substitute
for copper. Research conducted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission shows that homes wired with aluminum wire manufactured before
1972 are 55 times more likely to have one
or more connections reach "Fire Hazard Conditions" than a home
wired with copper. After 1973,
copper once again become the predominant wire used in new house
construction, renovations and rewiring.
those homes that have aluminum wiring, a few simple steps can
help prevent some of the potential hazards. The Leviton
Institute recommends that homeowners consider calling in a
qualified electrician to inspect all the switches and
receptacles in their homes and, if necessary, replace them
with devices made specifically for aluminum wiring. These
devices carry the designation of CO/ALR, which stands for
Underwriters Laboratory lists
CO/ALR devices primarily for use with aluminum wire because
they use special metals at the terminal areas that are
compatible with aluminum wire.
wiring has "Al" or "Aluminum" marked every
few feet along the length of its insulating jacket.
wiring devices, like the one shown above, have special
terminals designed just for aluminum wiring.
How can you tell
if your home has aluminum wiring? One way is to visually
inspect the bare wiring at the circuit breakers in the panel
box. Look for the silver color typical of aluminum wire. You
can also identify aluminum wire by visually inspecting any
exposed house wiring, such as the wires in an attic, garage,
or unfinished basement. Aluminum wiring has "Al" or
"Aluminum" marked every few feet along the length of
its insulating jacket.
Also watch for the
warning signs that typically precede a serious electrical
problem. These signs include faceplates on outlets or switches
that are warm to the touch, lights that flicker on and off,
circuits that no longer work, and the smell of burning plastic
at outlets or switches. Because of the potential dangers posed
by aluminum wiring, the Leviton Institute advises homeowners
not to open, disassemble or touch any electrical panels,
devices, or components if you are not familiar with aluminum
Other areas in the
house that should be inspected include lighting fixtures, such
as chandeliers and outdoor porch lights, and appliances that
are wired directly to a branch circuit, such as an
If you suspect
that your home has aluminum wiring, have a qualified
electrician conduct a thorough home inspection. Even room
additions or circuits rewired or added between 1965 and 1973
may contain aluminum wiring.
on Plugging into Greater Outdoor Electrical Safety
|With each passing
year, it seems there are more electrical tools and appliances designed
for outdoor use. From leaf blowers and lawn mowers to electric grills
and car vacuums, more devices are being plugged into outdoor receptacles
than ever before.
The Leviton Institute recommends that homeowners replace
standard outlets with GFCI outlets in outdoor locations, where
damp and wet conditions can create a risk of electrical shock.
Protective rain covers offer added protection, ensuring that
cords and receptacles stay dry.
the National Electrical Code (NEC) now requires Ground Fault
Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) for virtually all outdoor
receptacles, homes built before 1980 may have had standard
receptacles installed outdoors. If that is the case in your
home, the Leviton Institute recommends that you upgrade those
receptacles with GFCI receptacles. Installation of GFCIs
isnít complicated, since theyíre the same size as standard
receptacles and are wired in exactly the same way.
Some homeowners may question
the need for GFCI receptacles, believing that the circuit
breakers or fuses in their electrical panel box provide all
the protection they need. But thatís not the case. Circuit
breakers are designed to protect homes from an electrical fire
caused by overheated electrical wires. They shut off the power
if too much current is being carried by the house wiring, or
if there is a short circuit.
GFCIs, on the other hand, are
designed to protect people from potentially fatal electrical
shocks. They work by comparing the current on the
"hot" lead (the wire carrying the current into the
receptacle) and the current on the "neutral" lead
(the return wire). If the currents are mismatched even by a
tiny amount, it means current is leaking somewhere along the
circuit. When a leak is detected, the sensitive circuitry in
the GFCI will shut off the power almost immediately, virtually
eliminating the risk of electrocution.
Editor: All of the articles and photography/illustrations in
this supplement are available electronically for your use.
Simply go the Leviton Manufacturing Website at www.leviton.com
and click on the button for the Leviton Institute.
Detectors Are Key Part of a Home Security System
|One of the
simplest and smartest precautions you can take to make your home less
appealing to a thief is good outdoor lighting. Nothing deters a thief
more than the possibility of being seen by you or a neighbor while
trying to break into a house.
Yet keeping outdoor floodlights on all
night may be inconvenient and expensive. The solution: Install a motion
detector to the outside of your house to control your security lights.
||Motion detectors are
programmed to react to body heat. When they detect the
presence of a person, they automatically turn on the outside
lights they control. They also shut the lights off when they
no longer detect the presence of body heat.
Since motion detectors monitor
a specific field of view, their location on the outside of the
house should be thought out carefully. Here are some
guidelines from the Leviton Institute for selecting and
installing motion detectors.
Field of View:
Two basic types of motion detectors are generally
available. One type has a narrow field of view of 110 degrees.
The other has a wide field of view of 200 degrees.
If you want to monitor a large
area in front of your house choose a detector with a wide
field of view. To monitor a more limited zone, say the side of
the house, choose a motion detector with a narrow field of
Because motion detectors are activated by body heat, they tend to
work more reliably when it is cold outside, and less reliably in the
summer months when thereís less difference between air temperature and
body temperature. However, the latest generation of motion detectors use
temperature compensation technology that allows the device to detect a
person, regardless of the outside temperature. When shopping for a
motion detector, the Leviton Institute advises that you look for this
Where you install your motion detector will also affect
its performance. Most devices are sensitive for distances up
to 50 feet when installed
at a height of 10 feet. This is enough coverage to adequately
monitor a driveway and front walkway. Typically, motion
detectors come in a rain-resistant, thermal plastic housing,
and are mounted under the eaves for maximum effectiveness and
protection from the elements.
Look for motion detectors that will allow
you to adjust both the angle of view and sensitivity. This will help
prevent false triggering. For example, if you donít want your outdoor
lights to go on whenever your neighbors pass by your house, you can
decrease the detectorís field of view.
How many motion detectors are needed to
provide a comprehensive security blanket? The Leviton Institute
recommends that you consider installing two detectors: one to monitor
the back yard and one for the front of the home.
Motion detectors can be purchased at home
centers and hardware stores, and are easy to install, though some
homeowners may prefer to hire a qualified electrical contractor to do
Way to Save Dollars on Your Electric Bill
experts estimate that more than 20 percent of all electricity generated
in the United States is used for lighting. And half of that energy is
wasted. So what can you do about saving some of that energy in your own
||You could ask
everyone in the family to turn off room lights when they
arenít needed. But if you have young children, active
teenagers or forgetful adults in the house, itís one thing
to ask, and another thing to get them to cooperate.
Hereís a better idea from the
Leviton Institute: Install occupancy sensors. They could help
save a few dollars each month on your electric bill.
occupancy sensor automatically turns lights on when someone
enters a room, and then turns them off once the person leaves
the area. In the home, theyíre ideal for closets, basements,
garages and hallways.
inexpensive devices and can be purchased at home
centers and hardware stores. Since theyíre
designed to replace a regular wall switch, theyíre
easy to install and inexpensive. Occupancy sensors
do more than save electricity. For older or disabled
people, they can make it easier and safer to get
around the home and help prevent falls. Recent
studies indicate that unintentional injury, which
most often results from a fall, ranks as the sixth
leading cause of death among people over 65 years of
age. Thatís why the Leviton Institute recommends
the use of occupancy sensors in hallways and
bathrooms for older and disabled people.
The Leviton Institute
is the educational arm of the Leviton Manufacturing
Company. Its mission is to educate consumers,
specifiers and others about the benefits of
todayís electrical wiring devices and systems, and
to promote the safe use of electrical devices in the
provide hands-free lighting control and can save
electricity. They also make a home safer and more
convenient for older and disabled people.
Study: Many Installed Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters Donít Work
Lightning, power surges
take their toll and can put people at risk
study from the Leviton Institute found that a high percentage
of Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) installed in
homes didnít work when they were tested, and might not
protect people from an electrical ground fault.
A ground fault can occur when
current "leaks" from an electrical circuit Ė for
example, through damaged wiring or a defective appliance.
GFCIs are designed to detect ground faults and shut down the
circuit if they occur.
The GFCI Circuit Breaker Field
Study, sponsored by The Leviton Institute, reviewed data from
13,380 building inspections and found that 15 percent, on
average, of GFCIs were inoperative when tested.he study looked
at both GFCI circuit breakers and GFCI receptacles, and found
similar failure rates for each. The data suggested that
lightning strikes are one likely culprit in many inoperative
GFCIs. The study found a much higher incidence of failure in
areas where lightning is prevalent. In those regions, as many
as 58.2 percent of GFCIs were found to be inoperative.
YOU CAN TEST A GFCI
If your home is equipped with a
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter receptacle, the Leviton
Institute advises that GFCIs be tested monthly to ensure they
are functioning properly. To conduct the test, simply follow
- Plug a lamp or appliance
into the GFCI receptacle.
- Turn on the lamp or
- Push the "TEST"
button on the GFCI receptacle. If the GFCI is working
properly, the procedure should turn off the power to the
lamp or appliance.
- Push the "RESET"
button on the GFCI. This should return power to the GFCI
receptacle and re-illuminate the lamp. If the power did
not go off when you pushed the TEST button, there is an
electrical problem that should be corrected by a licensed
"GFCIs donít last
forever," said Steve Campolo, lead investigator in the
study. "Voltage surges from lightning, utility switching
and other sources all take their toll on the units. Thatís
why Underwriters Laboratories requires that GFCIs be tested
monthly."However, the study suggests that many homeowners
either arenít conducting these tests or are ignoring the
GFCI Offers Greater Protection
button will not operate if the GFCI trip mechanism is damaged.
Power cannot be restored when the GFCI does not provide ground
GFCI designs may compound the problem. For example, as
indicated in the study, most GFCIs will continue to deliver
power even if ground fault protection has been compromised.
"Itís natural for users to assume that all is well if
the GFCI is still delivering power," Campolo said.
New "lockout-action" GFCI receptacles now coming on
the market offer greater protection. If the GFCI is tripped,
it canít be reset unless itís working properly.
The study used data collected
by home inspectors who met membership requirements of the
American Society of Home Inspectors.
The Leviton Institute is the
educational arm of The Leviton Manufacturing Company. Its
mission is to educate consumers, specifiers and others about
the benefits of todayís electrical wiring devices and
systems, and to promote the safe use of electrical devices in
To Choose a Replacement Electrical Cord
If you need to replace the
electrical cord on a lamp or appliance, youíre likely to
find a bewildering selection on display at your local hardware
store or home center. To help you select the right cord for
your needs, the Leviton Institute offers the following four
Guideline One: Determine the
gauge of the copper conductor used in the cord. This is easy,
because the gauge is shown right on the cord as a number
followed by the letters AWG. AWG is the abbreviation for
American Wire Gauge used by the electrical industry as a
standard measurement of electrical wiring.
example, typical house wiring is 12 AWG, while lamp cords are
usually 16 AWG. The lower the number, the thicker the wire.
Thinner wire is used for lamps and smaller appliances that
donít draw much current. Thicker wire is used for power
tools and appliances that make heavier electrical demands.
Why is this important? If you
were to use thin lamp wiring for an appliance that draws a lot
of current, such as an electric space heater, the wire would
quickly overheat and could potentially start an electrical
Guideline Two: Pick a
replacement electrical cord with the same number of conductors
as the one being replaced. Lamps and other smaller appliances
typically use cords with two conductors. Larger appliances and
power tools use cords with three conductors, one of which is
the ground wire.
An easy way to tell how many
conductors you need is to check the plug on the wire being
replaced and match the new wire to the number of prongs. A
three-prong plug requires a cord with three conductors and a
two-prong plug needs a cord with two conductors.
Guideline Three: Choose a
replacement cord with the same type of insulation as the
original cord. Electric space heaters, for example, are
required to use cords with a thermosetting insulation, which
prevents the cord from melting. Look for the letter
"H" on the cord, or simply ask the salesperson for
special heater cord.
Guideline Four: Your
replacement cord should have the same construction as the cord
you are replacing. Lamp cords are usually flat, and the
individual conductors parallel to each other. This type of
cord is limited to indoor use and light duty.
Appliance cords are usually
round and have larger diameters because they are made using
two layers of insulation over the copper conductors. The
individual conductors are insulated and a second layer of
insulation, called a jacket, is also applied.
If you have any questions about
selecting the right replacement cord, the Leviton Institute
recommends that you bring in a section of the original cord
and ask for the assistance of a knowledgeable salesperson.