Short on features, but long on practicality, the One-Box non-metallic 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 too far back, you can easily back out the screws and reposition them for new work. In old work applications, the box mounts to the stud, 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 that “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 six year, the EC&M Product of the Year competition was established to honor excellence in new product development for 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.