Energy-Efficient DIY Device Increases Homeowners Safety

wayfinder_sign_home_safetyFriends of mine lost a precious place to fire last summer, and the event got me thinking about the confusion that sets in when tragedies of this sort strike. An oversight involving an electric stove led to a blaze that gutted a beloved 60-year-old cottage. The timely arrival of the fire crew happened successfully, despite some hair-raising confusion involving directions to the blaze.

The fact is, when emergencies hit, most of us go brain dead. That’s a natural and unfortunate reality that a unique Canadian invention called the WayFinder Illuminated Address Sign can help alleviate. It directs the fire department, police, ambulance and neighbours to your home more quickly and automatically than anything else I’ve seen.

The heart of the system is an illuminated, low-voltage address sign that fastens to the outside of your home. It goes on and off automatically as light levels vary from day to night. The system uses light emitting diodes (LEDs) for illumination, wayfinder_remote_home_safety_sign_lighta development that’s appearing in more and more consumer items these days. LEDs use incredibly small amounts of energy while yielding a service life that’s measured in hundreds of thousands of hours. Energy costs for operating the WayFinder sign come in at less than one dollar per year of use, based on 12 hours of illumination per day and electricity at 10 cents per kilowatt-hour.

WayFinder is made in two versions. The standard package includes an illuminated street number sign that goes on and off as day shifts to night and back again. This is the standard version of WayFinder, but what really caught my eye was the upgraded emergency locater model. It has the same illuminated address sign as the standard model, but with a twist. When all is well at home, the address sign shines at night and switches off automatically at daybreak. But as soon as you dial 911 on your telephone (or any one of three other preprogrammed phone numbers), the exterior address sign flashes red on and off (day or night), alerting emergency crews of the house where assistance is required. The flashing sign can also be activated directly, without a telephone call, by pressing the EMERGENCY button on the WayFinder remote that comes with the $260 package. You can learn more at or 877-807-7168.

The fact that WayFinder operates with an 18-volt power supply also means that it’s inherently safe enough for do-it-yourself installation. No electrician required. I was particularly impressed with the simple, yet detailed installation manual that came in the box. A lot of thought has gone into this kit. It even includes an extra-long masonry drill bit to allow mounting holes to be bored into brick, block or stone exterior wall. Although you can use any kind of drill to get the wayfinder_led_home_safety_light_signjob done, you’ll get the fastest results using something called a hammer drill. More and more consumer-grade drills now include this feature. See ‘Fast Holes in Masonry’ for more information.

Sometimes it’s the little things that make the difference in an emergency, and WayFinder is the best device of its kind that I’ve seen. But however tempting it is, just remember that you probably shouldn’t make the sign flash just to help the pizza delivery guy find your house a little bit faster.