Short on features, but long on practicality, the One-Box nonmetallic outlet box from Arlington Industries garnered the most votes from EC&M readers, securing the Platinum Award in the magazine's 2006 Product of the Year competition.

The One-Box is designed for new construction or retrofits and mounts securely to a wood or steel stud via its captive angled screws. If the box is set too far forward or back, you can easily back out the screws and reposition them for new work. In old work applications, the box mounts to the stud and not the drywall (as do boxes designed with wing brackets), which enhances the structural integrity of the overall unit upon final installation.

The box is actually constructed of two separate pieces, which are combined into a finished unit. The part of the box that holds the screws captive is snapped into place during the manufacturing process, thus creating one sidewall of the finished box. Although the cost of the One-Box is higher than a plastic box equipped with captive nails, its price point is competitive with plastic boxes equipped with wing brackets. In addition, the box features 22.5 cubic inches of capacity and is UL listed. Its versatility was also a hit with our initial judging panel and voters in this year's competition.

In speaking with Tom Stark, president of Arlington Industries, I learned that as with many new and innovative products introduced to the market, the idea originated out of discussions with the guys who install these products on a daily basis — electricians. In talking with contractors, Stark and his team knew “electricians had been driving a screw through the side of a standard plastic box for years.” This practice, however, doesn't result in a listed installation — and if the screw head doesn't seat all the way against the side of the box, it could end up cutting through the insulation of the wires. So the Arlington team developed the One-Box to eliminate this field retrofit and give the installers a listed device that better meets their needs.

So once again, we see that a product doesn't have to feature a lot of bells and whistles to take top honors in this prestigious competition — it just has to improve worker efficiency, simplify installation practices and be cost competitive. We also see that it doesn't always pay to think outside the box when designing a new product.

An EC&M Tradition

Now in its sixth year, the EC&M Product of the Year competition was established to honor excellent new product development in the electrical industry. The prestigious Platinum Award showcases the most innovative product of the past year and recognizes inventive products that allow electrical design professionals, installers and maintenance personnel to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.

This year's contest pulled in 114 submissions — the second largest total ever — representing every major product category offered to the electrical construction and maintenance markets. The quality level of this year's diverse selection of products made it difficult for voters to zero in on just a single item, which once again led to a close final vote tally — with just a few votes separating the top three products.

Gold Award

Weatherproof Wire Connectors

The first runner-up in this year's competition went to Ideal Industries for its weatherproof wire connectors, designed to connect wires in damp and wet locations. Prefilled with a silicone-based sealant and UL listed to 486D, these connectors are designed to protect conductors from moisture, humidity and other corrosive elements — eliminating the need for heat-shrink, resin packs or multi-corrosion kits. The complete line handles copper wire sized from No. 22 to No. 6 AWG and features color-coding to indicate applicable wire ranges.

Silver Award

Triplex Receptacle

The second runner-up in this year's competition was Leviton Manufacturing's triplex receptacle. Designed to eliminate the need for a power strip or adapter, the Acenti triplex receptacle accommodates three plugs simultaneously, including two transformer-style plugs. Its top and bottom outlets are reversed so transformer-style plugs can be plugged in at the same time without blocking the third outlet. Its precision components are designed to ensure perfect alignment. Compatible with standard electrical boxes, the device requires no special tools for installation.

Voting Winners

EC&M would like to congratulate the following five readers who each won $100 for voting in this year's competition.

  • Earl Izawa, electrical engineer, Kimthanh Inc., Honolulu
  • Mike Tovar, engineering manager, CH2M HILL, Sacramento, Calif.
  • Donald Branesky, plant engineer, Boeing, Seattle
  • Guy Mattusch, master electrician, RTL Electric Co. Inc., Chantilly, Va.
  • Kevin Ameele, electrical engineer, CHI Engineering Services, Portsmouth, N.H.

The EC&M editorial team randomly selected these names from the list of voters who cast their vote via its online Web poll.