As the Internet progressed from "new" to standard operating procedure, the electrical and VDV construction industry has embraced the Web. Few may be buying online, but many industry people use it. Perhaps you might save time by using the Web to better effect. This column guides you to a few key, hopefully helpful resources--most of them free.

Standard electrical stuff

¥ A busbar-sizing guide from the Copper Development Association is at busbar.copper.org. CDA also offers a power-quality page (powerquality.copper.org).

¥ Electrical Designer's Reference (www.edreference.com). Those who subscribe (it's free) can download software on voltage drop, fault current, conduit fill and motor fusing/circuit design.

¥ From MC Group, demo software for lighting, voltage and electrical calculations can be found at: www.execulink.com.

¥ Many electrical distributors are putting more and more tools and free information on their Web sites. One of them is the gigantic Wesco, which has, among other things, the WesCalc online Code calculator, and Ugly's "Electrical Reference Guide," which includes a heck of a lot of stuff. All online, for free, at www.wescodirect.com.

¥ The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Industrial Technology offers a variety of software, including MotorMaster+ 3.0, at www.oit.doe.gov/bestpractices/software_tools.shtml.

¥ Finally, there's www.electrician.com--perhaps the oldest electrical Web site--from Alaskan Gerald Newton. It might be a first stop for almost any electrical information need; there's just so much on the site, most of it free. For example, I clicked on "calculators" and came up with a list,cable tray pull, standard OCPD, calculators for NEC Tables 250-66 and 250-122--and more.

Lighting

¥ The National Council on Qualifications for the Lighting Professional is all about lighting pros getting certified. See www.ncqlp.org.

¥ The National Lighting Production Information Program presents unbiased information about lighting (www.lrc.rpi.edu/NLPIP). Also, see the main page on that site--the Lighting Research Center (www.lrc.rpi.edu).

¥ For readers of this magazine who buy and install a lot of lighting, the Lighting Controls Association, an organization of companies that make the stuff, has relaunched its site at www.aboutlightingcontrols.com.

VDV

¥ Technical Manuals Online (www.tech-man.com) promotes itself as "your one-stop source for security & telecom manuals." It appears to offer access to manuals free, with no agenda.

¥ Not everyone is up to speed on Ethernet. Charles Spurgeon's Ethernet Web site (www.ethermanage.com/ethernet/ethernet.html) is the solution for those of us who want to move fast. A neat site highlight is on the home page, where you'll find the original drawing of the idea behind Ethernet by its inventor, Bob Metcalfe.

¥ At the Fiber Optic LAN Section (FOLS) of the Telecommunications Industry Association, they've become more aggressive about competing with copper for horizontal network data cabling runs. They've only recently added a "fiber vs. copper" interactive cost model, which can help your customer compare the two options. See www.fols.org/pubs/costmodel.html.

¥ Network World magazine (www.nwfusion.com/topics/lans.html) has recently added a topic Web page on LANs. Most of it goes beyond cabling concerns; however, there are articles that may be of interest, especially since this is what your VDV customer is reading.

¥ A list of anything VDV in 2002 has to include home networking. Perhaps the finest free information comes from HomeToys (www.hometoys.com). It's a broad and deep site; you'll probably profit by clicking on the site map link as soon as you get there.

Surplus

While a number of the industrial surplus sites from the dot-com "go-go" year are now defunct, two electrical construction-oriented surplus sites have made their debut in recent months: Electrical Advertiser magazine (www.eaauctions.com) and ElectricSmarts (www.electricsmarts.com/exchange/index.aspx).

Note that NECA contractors also have access to the Surplus Material Exchange free listing service. If your company is member, you can access the exchange by going to the NECA members-only site; you'll need your access code and password.

Other sites to highlight

¥ Do you need to explain,to your children, or people new to the electrical industry in your company,how stuff works? Here's a shortcut: www.howstuffworks.com. Go to the science category and you'll find building and engineering as well as electrical power.

¥ How about material from this magazine on all kinds of very relevant subjects? If you don't save ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR magazine on a shelf, you can find articles from back issues--with a variety of different ways to search--at www.ecmag.com/backsearch. EC

SALIMANDO is a Vienna, Va.-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. He can be reached at jsali@cris.com.