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Ask Slashdot: Wiring Home Furniture? 235

Posted by timothy
from the for-a-couch-that-seats-1 dept.
b1tbkt writes "So it seems that furniture manufacturers have not yet acknowledged the realities of modern life. Kitchen tables could benefit greatly from built-in concealable receptacles. Even more obvious is the need for electrical wiring in couches and coffee tables. I realize that there are safety (fire) concerns but as it stands most families that I know already have power cords for laptops, tables and phones draped over, under and through their couches at any given point. If someone wanted to wire their furniture with AC or some type of standardized LV DC system, what are some dangers to watch for and what, if any, specialized hardware exists for the purpose?"
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Ask Slashdot: Wiring Home Furniture?

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  • Easy (Score:5, Informative)

    by genka (148122) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @11:16PM (#43771063) Homepage Journal
    Google "countertop pop up receptacle" and you'll find many choices.
  • by Jason Lindberg (2927207) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @11:16PM (#43771065)
    The engineering problems that present themselves with wiring something that has mechanical components adjacent to or in direct connection to electrical wiring is protecting the cable from being damaged and heat generation. This can mean armored cables or flexible conduits, e-chain (for repetitive motion), or other cable management systems. If you are running any electricity though flammable materials then you need to be concerned about the amperage you pull through it and be mindful of how much it heats up as a regular and peak load. This is very important to be mindful of because a conductor may be rated for a certain amperage but at what temp? Make sure that temp is compatible with the rest of the construction materials involved in your furniture. A larger conductor would mean less heat as it passes an equivalent amount of current to a lower gauge of conductor.
  • Re:Easy (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 19, 2013 @11:30PM (#43771131)

    Google "countertop pop up receptacle" and you'll find many choices.

    Too bad the top 5 results are for link farm crap, and the sixth is for this very article...

    Then again, I included the quotes. Without them, the query is much more fruitful.

  • by afidel (530433) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @11:37PM (#43771165)

    Heats not really a concern as far as flamability, even a 25A 208V circuit pulling 120% of rated load doesn't get over 110F (don't ask how I know this). The only way you're going to introduce enough heat energy to cause something to burn (especially furniture which is doused in flame-retardant chemicals thanks to smokers) is to short something out, so your comments about making sure that chords are protected is spot on.

  • by pyro_peter_911 (447333) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @11:48PM (#43771201) Homepage Journal
    *sigh*
    There's plenty of powered furniture available, and has been for decades. Those crazy "As Seen On TV" powered folding beds have been around for ages. My new couch has push button electric recliners. Most cars today have powered seats; many of those electrically heated.
    The problem I'd have with furniture based power supplies is similar to the problem I have with built in electronics and adapters in vehicles. The lifetime of my furniture and vehicles greatly exceeds the probable lifetime of any consumer electronics power adapter installed in it. I used to work at a high end auto dealership. I installed dozens of iPod adapters (at around $400 a shot. Insanity!) and all of those adapters are worthless to the new generation of i devices that these customers are likely to have. Some of my customers had older vehicles with build in analog cell phones which are now junk that just rides around with them.
    Furniture is even worse. Decent furniture should last a lifetime. By putting a consumer electronics power port into a piece of furniture you're basically admitting that it's going to be trash in less than 10 years.
    Peter
  • by i22yb (1273254) on Monday May 20, 2013 @12:00AM (#43771249)
    I happen to work for a furniture store. This feature already exists in a lot of office furniture and, occasionally, in some living room furniture. You will find it more often in an end table because those are usually placed closer to a wall. You will only find it in sofas and chairs, once in a while, if the piece already contains a motorized reclining mechanism. Otherwise, it's just not a practical application to add to those pieces of furniture. Not many shoppers would pay an extra $100 to have a power outlet pre manufactured into their sofa when they can just plug their device directly into the wall, or get a cheap $6 power strip that will do the job. Also, it would not make sense to put these into a coffee table, because coffee tables are usually placed out in the middle of a room and you would have to run a cord across the floor to power the table. Furniture makers do not want to be sued for tripping hazards.
  • by goodmanj (234846) on Monday May 20, 2013 @12:07AM (#43771273)

    The college where I teach just renovated its science center. I'm very happy with the tabletop power we have in our new physics classroom, and I think the "lessons learned" apply to a kitchen too:

      Don't do low-voltage DC. It'll never be the voltage you want, and plug standardization is a nightmare.
      Don't put outlets on the top of the table. You'll spill, drop crumbs, and ruin the outlets.
      Think about spilled liquids. A lot.
      Make sure you can move the table to the other side of the room without cutting wires.

    Our new physics lab classroom has long, heavy wooden "butcher block" tables with a top that overhangs the edge by an inch. The outlets are on the front edge of the table, protected from liquids by the overhang. The outlet boxes run to a heavy-duty cable with a male plug on the end: you plug the tables into a recessed floor box.

  • Re:Easy (Score:5, Informative)

    by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmythe@@@jwsmythe...com> on Monday May 20, 2013 @12:22AM (#43771325) Homepage Journal

    Counter top outlets in general are a bad idea.. If they're on the surface, they're bound to get something down in them.

    Every kitchen I've seen has plenty of outlets along the walls, and some on the vertical side of cabinets...

    As for sitting furniture, it's an amazingly bad idea. I'm just picturing a couch.. Kids spilling drinks. The dog pissing on it. Toddlers finding amazing new places to stick metal objects. Hell, drunk friends spilling drinks on them while watching football or in the case of this audience, playing a heated game of D&D.

    If there isn't a wall outlet close enough to where you (he) wants them, have one installed. Contractors are more than happy to install anything you want within the guidelines of local building codes.

    For the furniture manufacturers, they become stupid additions to their line. If they sell internationally, they'd need to offer all the different outlets. If the consumer chooses not to use them, now the customers have the annoyance of dead outlets.

    For movers, they no longer are just skilled at moving heavy objects from Point A to Point B, they have to be electricians. That's assuming they're to be hard wired, and not just plugged in somewhere.

    And never leave it to the consumer to consider the total power load on a circuit, they'll always get it wrong.. I can just imagine an entire livingroom with a couch, loveseat, and other assorted chairs, all plugged into one outlet strip on one socket, with god knows what plugged into every outlet. They already fuck it up bad enough with chained outlet strips on poorly designed home wiring..

    When we have some extra cash to bring a contractor in, we're going to have a good bit of our home rewired. Despite a couple dozen circuit breakers in the box, half the house is on one circuit. At least we're aware of it, and are careful not to overload it. As I've found over the years, this is normal. It's like the construction crew waits for the inspector to sign off on the electrical, and then throws everything else on one long circuit.

  • by kilodelta (843627) on Monday May 20, 2013 @12:38AM (#43771389) Homepage
    Yeah - I've had an extension cord rated for 20A break down at 15A draw. So even the rating is a little suspect.
  • Re: Easy (Score:5, Informative)

    by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@NospAm.hotmail.com> on Monday May 20, 2013 @12:45AM (#43771413) Journal

    Or walk around an IKEA. There's plenty of existing furniture that does the job.

  • by egcagrac0 (1410377) on Monday May 20, 2013 @03:59AM (#43771907)

    and never ever have a receptacle in the floor, for exactly the reasons you mentioned.

    i was at a client the other day and the floor receptacle had a little spring in one of the socket holes,

    You're supposed to cover floor outlets when there isn't something plugged into them, for exactly that reason.

    All the floor outlets I know of come with integrated covers of some type. Example [wikimedia.org]

  • Re:Easy (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 20, 2013 @08:46AM (#43772593)

    Actually urine streams aren't solid enough to pass an electrical current back to the pisser. Mythbusters did a show on this, using an electric "third-rail" which has a much higher load capacity than an ordinary house socket.

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