Smart Doorbells For Home Security

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The DoorBot

Smart Doorbells For Home Security

Fear of hackers may keep some homeowners from buying Wi-Fi enabled door locks but even if you’re not interested in using an app to lock your doors or control your alarm system, you may want to consider a smart doorbell that enables you to see who’s on your doorstep. Such home security systems are in abundance at the 2014 International CES, including two doorbells you can answer from a wireless device.

Shipping since late November, this wireless doorbell, $199, connects to your home Wi-Fi network. Other devices on the network can be used to view live video of who’s at the door. With the included app (for iPhone, iPad, or Android), you can see, hear, and speak to visitors even from afar—and even when it’s dark outside. The device replaces your existing doorbell using the same wiring, and the battery lasts a year. In addition to the company’s website,, it’s available from Amazon and Staples.

At the moment it has a quirky drawback intended to preserve long battery life. To do that, the DoorBot takes a nap until someone rings the bell. But the company plans to issue an update that lets you view your doorstep even if no one has pushed the doorbell.

The iSmartAlarm Doorfront.

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iSmartAlarm Doorfront
The iSmartAlarm Doorfront is a wireless doorbell that was recently added to the iSmartAlarm system. The alarm system sells for $199 or $349 depending on the configuration, and is a collection of wireless components that includes a camera, motion sensor, and a remote tag (for tracking children or pets). The replacement doorbell lets you know when someone is approaching the door even before they ring the bell, and you can see, hear, and speak to visitors using the company’s app on your iPhone. You can also view streaming video, take snapshots, or set the system to automatically capture activity with the product’s built-in motion detector.

Consumer Reports hasn’t tested these products so we can’t vouch for them. But over the coming year we plan to purchase and test many web-enabled connected home products, which have become known collectively as “the Internet of things.”

For more news from the show, check out the Insider’s guide to CES 2014.

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Tallest Building in America?


Tallest Building in America?

One World Trade Center Just Might Be!



By Dante D’Orazio on November 12, 2013 11:01 am Email @dantedorazio

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One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center has been crowned the tallest building in the Americas, standing at a symbolic (and now official) 1,776 feet. The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, an international body that determines the heights of skyscrapers, has ruled that the spire atop One World Trade is an architecturally significant feature of the building — not an antenna. Council chairman Timothy Johnson said that the spire was clearly “the end of the architectural expression of the building,” adding at a press conference today that “for us it was very clear that it was a spire and not an antenna.” Johnson is also a partner at NBBJ, a global architecture firm.

The decision makes the official height of the building 1,776 feet, not 1,368 feet, which is the height of the building’s roof. It also allows One World Trade to beat out Chicago’s Willis Tower as the tallest in the US. Willis Tower’s antenna does not count towards its official “architectural height.” Internationally, the Council is now projecting that One World Trade will be the third tallest building in the world upon completion, behind the 2,717-foot Burj Khalifa and the 1,972-foot Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel in Mecca.


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Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat

One World Trade Center’s spire doesn’t include any radio or broadcast equipment — it only features decorative lighting — and that fact seems to have helped it win the Council’s favor. Johnson explained that “having been on the roof of the World Trade, this is essentially a small building up there,” referring to the spire. He added that a small lightning rod and a light above the spire that serves to warn airplanes do not count towards the height, and the 1,776-foot measurement does not include those minor functional pieces of equipment.

The 25-person Council, comprised of architects, engineers, contractors, academics, and suppliers, met on November 8th in Chicago to make a decision, and as it typically does, the council re-evaluated its criteria before making a ruling. The team concluded that the rules were valid, and then made the unanimous decision to rule that the spire was not an antenna. As for the actual measurement 1,776 feet, the Council relies on One World Trade’s architectural plans. This means that the team is “basically taking the word of the architects and engineers,” as Johnson explained, noting that the procedure is the same for all other skyscrapers.

There are three different height criteria used by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat: “height to the architectural top,” “highest occupied floor,” and “height to tip.” The Willis Tower beats out One World Trade for the highest occupied floor, at 1,354 feet vs. 1,268 feet. Only the architectural height is used to determine the tallest buildings in the world, however, and it’s also the most controversial. This measurement officially includes spires, but not “antennae, signage, flag poles or other functional-technical equipment.”


Not only does One World Trade’s spire not include functional equipment, it also is perceived as a permanent fixture on the building. Antennas like that found on Willis Tower have been swapped out and removed in the past. Indeed, the Willis Tower — called the Sears Tower at the time — had its two antennas added in the early ’80s, close to ten years after the building’s completion. In 2000 one of the antennas was replaced with a taller antenna for improved reception. The spire on One World Trade, in contrast, is made of stainless steel and is integrated into the building’s design, according to the Council. Should it ever be replaced or repurposed as an antenna, the Council would revisit its decision, according to Johnson.

The decision was clearly fraught with political interest, and some may point to those forces as influencing the decision today. Johnson said in light of the pressure that “we were very happy that our conclusion was that we were able to ratify that that was the height of the building.”


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Home Secure?

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Windows open to catch a breeze. Doors unlocked while you work in the garden. Wallets, purses, and other valuables left in plain sight. All those things make summer the peak season for home break-ins. Here are some simple, inexpensive ways to keep burglars at bay during the summer and year-round.

Choose the right locks. About two- thirds of the keyed door locks  tested managed to withstand a kick-in test; others needed a reinforced strike plate.

Secure glass areas. Security or safety window film can resist blows of up 400 foot-pounds, according to manufacturer claims. 3M’s 28-ply Ultra Safety and Security Clear Window Film costs $7 to $9 per square foot or about $105 to $135 for a 3×5-foot window. It should be installed by a pro, which will add to the cost.

Keep it bright. Illuminate areas around doors, windows, and blind spots. Install lights high upon exterior walls so they can’t easily be disabled. Our tests have found that solar-powered lights are too dim to provide enough light for security. But easy-to-install, low-voltage light systems and pro-installed,120-volt lights can be connected to motion detectors and whole-house security systems. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs made for outdoor use saved energy and outlasted regular bulbs in our tests, so you won’t have to change them as often. But they take longer to reach full brightness and they don’t all work with motion- or light-activated fixtures, so check the package.

Add an alarm. Some central-monitoring systems will call your cell phone if they can’t reach you on your landline. Radio-based alarm systems that use dedicated UHF frequencies can be used as a backup or as a stand-alone solution that elimi- nates the need for landlines. Switching to an Internet-based phone service? Make sure it’s compatible with your alarm. See “Scam Alert: Don’t Get Ripped Off by an Alarm Company” for tips on choosing an alarm company.

We also provide a security option with the Andersen E Series Window called VeriLock.

VeriLock integrated security sensors are a cutting-edge technology that integrates wireless security sensors into most E-Series/Eagle® windows and doors. With these exclusive sensors, you’ll always know if your windows or doors are open, closed, locked or unlocked.* This first-of-its-kind technology provides homeowners with a new level of convenience, beauty and peace-of-mind.


Just a small list of tips to help secure your home.

Does Germany have enough sun for their solar technology?

Does Germany have enough sun for their solar technology?

Article from Zachary Shahan,

Germany Breaks Monthly Solar Generation Record, ~6.5 Times More Than US Best

I live in Poland, which (for the geographically indifferent) is right next to Germany. Actually, the city where I live, Wroc?aw, was once part of Germany, and it’s now just a couple hours to the German border from here. From living in this city for 5 years, I can tell you one thing with great emphasis: this is one super-grey area of the world. Actually, the weather at the moment reminds me of winter weather in Florida (my home state). I was looking at a lot of solar irradiation maps and stats just yesterday, and I happened to notice that Florida gets about twice as much average sunshine per day as Wroc?aw — I’m sure it’s the same across Germany. So, really, I am stunned when I think about how much solar power the country is producing relative to other countries (especially relative to the humungous and sunny USA).

Germany solar power recordIt was just reported the other day that Germany has broken its monthly solar power generation record yet again. (This follows a couple of record-breaking days in terms of solar output, news about the first of which was broken by CleanTechnica, and the second of which is noted in the chart on the right.) In July, the super-grey country rose above 5.1 TWh of electricity from solar panel systems. That’s according to the latest data from the EEX Transparency Platform.

That actually beats the 5 TWh of electricity from wind turbines that the country logged in January (it’s also a wind power leader, in case you weren’t aware).

More emphatically, that crushes the 0.764 TWh of electricity solar PV and solar thermal systems produced in the US in May 2013 (the latest month for which we have data) as well as the 0.522 TWh produced in the US in July 2012.

If we assume the US got the same amount of sunshine in July 2013 as in July 2012, and that solar power capacity grew by the same proportion between May 2013 and July 2013 as between May 2012 and July 2012, the US net generation total for solar PV and solar thermal in July 2013 should equal about 0.780 TWh. In other words, despite having a ton more sun(see the maps below) and being larger geographically than all of Europe, the US generated about 6.5 times less electricity from solar power than Germany did in July. Stunning. Depressing. Motivating….


solar resources map NREL


In terms of total solar power capacity per capita, Germany crushes every other country. At the end of 2012, it had approximately 400 MW of solar power capacity per million people, considerably more than #2 Italy at 267 MW per million people, #3 Belgium at 254 MW per million people, #4 Czech Republic at 204 MW per million, and #5 Greece at 143 MW per million people. The US came it at #20 with about 25 MW per million people (quite pitiful when put into this perspective). The top solar state (per capita) in the US at the end of 2012 was Arizona, which had about 167 MW of solar power per capita (and would have ranked #5 if it were a country).

Getting back to Germany’s new solar power record, sunny weather and increased solar power capacity raised the country’s July 2013 output about 42% over its July 2012 output.

Another wonderful thing to note about Germany’s massive solar power capacity is that it’smostly on the roofs of homes and businesses. Furthermore, the massive increase in solar panel installations in the country has brought down the price of solar considerably, making it nearly half as much as in the US, despite higher labor costs.


How much is your roof worth with solar panels?

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About the Author

 is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization –Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar LoveEV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to and click on the relevant buttons.