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Remote possibility

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I just solved a shop problem that has plagued me for years, one that has affected my security, comfort and peace of mind. It cost me less than $15.

About a year ago I told you of my mysterious garage door’s habit of opening by itself in cold, dry weather. (“Gremlins,” 12-16-08) The problem recurs every winter, only to disappear when the weather warms up. I finally narrowed the logical cause to random static electricity in the shop, particularly when vacuuming, sanding or routing, three operations involving chips and dust particles traveling through plastic hose. The sporadically opening door was a pain in a number of ways: It would let out every bit of heat my kerosene heater had built up. It always startled me, not a good thing when using power tools. And there was always the concern that some spurious static charge would trigger that opener in the middle of the night, or when we weren’t home.

Figuring out the cause didn’t help, so the only solution I could come up with was to unplug the opener during the winter. It worked, but wasn’t convenient – I need a ladder to climb up to my shop’s 10’ ceiling to plug it back in if I want to open the door to bring in lumber or whatever.

The first cool, dry day we had this fall I was using my router table, and the door started sliding up. I nearly jumped out of my skin. Fortunately, I was between passes on the table, so I wasn’t dangerously in the middle of a cut. I shut the door, got the ladder and climbing up to the ceiling had an idea. If I could only find some way to cut the power to that single outlet easily, I could just turn it off when I didn’t need the door. The breaker box was no help because more than the garage opener outlet was on that circuit.

My good friend Mr. Google saved the day. I have a power switch some of my tools are plugged into that, for my convenience, kicks on my dust collection automatically. Surely there was something similar for outlets. Googling “remote power switch” led me to a device available on for $14.83 that was just what I needed. A device plugs into my opener’s ceiling outlet, and then I plug the opener into the device. The device, in turn, has a remote control I leave hanging on my clamp rack mounted right under the garage-door opener’s wall switch – press the remote once and the outlet turns on to power the opener; press it again and the outlet turns off. No more ladders, no more door-opening surprises, and no more worrying about the door opening in the middle of the night.

Security, comfort and peace of mind in my woodshop for $14.83. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Till next time,


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