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View Full Version : Has anyone invented a device that notifies you when the mail has come?


Roland Deschain
01-21-2005, 12:52 AM
No, dogs don't count since at least in my case they tend to bark at all times except when it would be useful. This occured to me several weeks ago when I was waiting on my student financial aid checks. I wasn't sure if I had missed the mail (it turns out that I had), but couldn't afford to lose the day if I hadn't. I used to get the same feeling when I was dating a girl who would sometimes write me.

Essentially, it would work via wire or sideband RF (similiar to a garage door opener) to give you a notice inside your house when your mailbox had been opened (it could also deter mail theft if it was obvious). I'm picturing something that would retail for about $50.00 to $100.00 at Wall Mart.

UDS
01-21-2005, 12:56 AM
Couldn't you rig up a simple switch that would ring a bell or turn on a light when the mailbox was opened?

Duckster
01-21-2005, 01:04 AM
Not to be a smartass, but we had a mail box with a hook on the mailbox door and a lever attached to the mail box. By opening the mail box door causes the propped lever to fall. Looking out the window was all it took to see if the mail had arrived. Of course, that was before we got a mail carrier who delivered the mail and then rang the doorbell before going back the truck.

Now if you want a better solution, perhaps a simple electrial pad or switch with a low poer transmitter. When the mail box door is opened and/or the mail is put in the box triigers the switch to complete the circut for the transmitter to do its job.

Or perhaps get a post office box. Safe and secure and no mail ever get west or muddied.

Reeder
01-21-2005, 05:37 AM
I saw a commercial for a product that uses a light beam. If the beam is broken a signal goes off.

They mentioned this very use.

robotic_panda
01-21-2005, 06:28 AM
But then the thieves can just use an aerosol can to find the beam and avoid it.
I suggest a simple bear trap assembly, where the locking mechanism produces a loud human scream upon triggering.

Kidding, kidding.

Seriously though, if you want a reliable alert, could you somehow put a small light sensor in the top of the inside of the mailbox that transmits positive input into a radio frequency?
Would that work? Am I being stupid again?

Your location says midwest (same here, but blue), so bells and electric dealies are out. Snow and ice dull bells, and good luck getting circuits to work in same. The only problem with a (mounted on the inside) light sensor is fogging, which shouldn't be a problem when its a matter of 1 and 0, essentially. (Go ahead and correct away if i'm wrong.)

A breakable light beam would work, but in the case of anti-thievery it's essentially ineffective unless you have more than one.

(And yes I know that my idea is probably more work and money than its worth, if it is possible. Sometimes I like to channel ol' Rube.)

Cheesesteak
01-21-2005, 06:44 AM
How about the Driveway Alert (http://www.kopes.com/gadgets/security/wireless-chime.htm) Stick the electric eye unit inside the mailbox, when the mailman opens the door, it sounds a chime inside the house.

robotic_panda
01-21-2005, 07:08 AM
Can also be placed by the front door to alert you if small children (or big children at night!) try to leave the home.

Thanks for the link, Cheesesteak! Now Mr. Panda will have to pull a Mission Impossible to go out late. :D

CalMeacham
01-21-2005, 07:14 AM
You know, they've had a passive, battery-free device for years. It's that little red flag that the mailman puts up when he delivers mail.

My father-in-law made our mailbox, and he put the flag on a spring. The flag automatically springs out when he flap on the mailbox is opened (to put mail in), so the default condition is flag up when the flap has beenm opened. It guarantees that you don't have a situation where a lazy (or clueless) mailman forgets or beglects to set the flag up. You have to make a conscious effort to stuff the flag back in place and secure it with the door to keep it down.

Works like a charm. And it's cheap.

Ruby
01-21-2005, 07:41 AM
Or perhaps get a post office box. Safe and secure and no mail ever get west or muddied.Shhhhhh! Those Californy folks will be piiiiiiiisssssssseeeddd if they find out!

SanibelMan
01-21-2005, 07:48 AM
You know, they've had a passive, battery-free device for years. It's that little red flag that the mailman puts up when he delivers mail. Where do the mailmen automatically put that flag up when they deliver the mail? I've never seen it used that way. I thought the flag was used to indicate that the mailman had mail to pick up.

I remember that Rubbermaid sold a wide mailbox that came with a smaller, yellow flag that came up whenever the mail door was opened. They might still be for sale.

micco
01-21-2005, 08:01 AM
I've seen light-detector units in high-end gadget catalogs for this but can't find any ads at the moment.

Here's a how-to page with a comment about how to build one:
http://www.hometoys.com/tips/tips06.htm

And X10 has a note about using their gear:
http://www.x10.com/news/howto/0206_mail.htm

astro
01-21-2005, 08:19 AM
Radio Shack made a wireless mailbox alert (sender + receiver alert modules) for $ 30.00 or so that worked by sensing the light level inside the mailbox (ie open -close) . I picked up a pair when they discontinued them a few years ago, but have never put them to use.

This might be a good time to put them on eBay given it's cold outside and people would want to minimize unecessary trips to the mailbox.

Iceland_Blue
01-21-2005, 09:00 AM
In New Zealand,where a lot of places have a LONG drive down to the door,the mailbox was at the roadside.There were two boxes-an IN and an OUT with red and blue flags IIRC.
When the mailman went past,he'd see if the OUT flag was up and if it was collect the mail,leave any mail in the IN box,and that flag would go up.
You could see out the window easily that if the flag was up then he'd been. If it was down, he either hadn't been yet or there wasn't any in mail.
And if there was nothing in the OUT box and the flag was down,and you couldn't tell if he'd arrived yet,you checked the neighbours' flags to see if he'd gone by :)

Hampshire
01-21-2005, 09:00 AM
Where do the mailmen automatically put that flag up when they deliver the mail? I've never seen it used that way. I thought the flag was used to indicate that the mailman had mail to pick up.

I remember that Rubbermaid sold a wide mailbox that came with a smaller, yellow flag that came up whenever the mail door was opened. They might still be for sale.

Your correct. The flag on the mailbox is for the resident to use to signal the mailman that there is outgoing mail waiting to be picked up.
It is not for the mailman to raise to signal that mail has arrived.

Joe Random
01-21-2005, 09:14 AM
Am I the only person who has mail delivered at roughly the same time every day? I just have to check my mailbox at ~1:00 PM to see if there has been any mail delivered. If I want to be extra sure, I'll wait 'till 2:00 before checking. I've never had any mail so important that getting it an hour earlier would have made any difference.

CalMeacham
01-21-2005, 09:27 AM
You folks need to read the second part of my post:

My father-in-law made our mailbox, and he put the flag on a spring. The flag automatically springs out when he flap on the mailbox is opened (to put mail in), so the default condition is flag up when the flap has beenm opened. It guarantees that you don't have a situation where a lazy (or clueless) mailman forgets or beglects to set the flag up. You have to make a conscious effort to stuff the flag back in place and secure it with the door to keep it down.

Works like a charm. And it's cheap.

An Arky
01-21-2005, 09:28 AM
Um, I don't want to get in trouble, but I happen to know that USPS is/was working on something that would include that feature. However, it IS USPS, and I wouldn't bet on it ever seeing the light of day.

Dewey Finn
01-21-2005, 11:45 AM
There's a device called a Mail Call (http://www.steelmailbox.com/html/mailbox_accessories.htm) at the bottom of the page that does what you want. I seem to remember it was also sold at someplace like Brookstone, but I can't find it on their website. By the way, I agree with those who said that the flag on a rural mailbox is to notify the postal worker that there is outgoing mail to be picked up, and not for him to indicate that he's left mail for you.

Q.E.D.
01-21-2005, 12:03 PM
My father-in-law made our mailbox...
Technically, that's a no-no (http://pe.usps.gov/text/dmm/d041.htm#Rbi72043), unless he received prior approval for the design:
The local postmaster may approve a curbside mailbox constructed by a customer who, for aesthetic or other reasons, does not want to use an approved manufactured box. The custom-built box must generally meet the same standards as approved manufactured boxes for flag, size, strength, and quality of construction.
I doubt he'll actually get into any trouble for it - at worst, they'd only make him take it down. I've never seen this rule enforced, though, but an overzealous letter carrier could cause trouble, in theory.

Eve
01-21-2005, 12:35 PM
You know, they've had a passive, battery-free device for years. It's that little red flag that the mailman puts up when he delivers mail.

We had that, too. Our house was on top of a hill and the mailbox way down that the bottom of the drive, but we could see out the living-room window if the mailman had put the little red flag up, and we knew the mail had arrived. I think all the houses on our street had those flags.

CalMeacham
01-21-2005, 01:11 PM
We had that, too. Our house was on top of a hill and the mailbox way down that the bottom of the drive, but we could see out the living-room window if the mailman had put the little red flag up, and we knew the mail had arrived. I think all the houses on our street had those flags.

a-HA! Someone else had mail carriers who leave up the red flags.



Quote:
Originally Posted by CalMeacham
My father-in-law made our mailbox...

Technically, that's a no-no, unless he received prior approval for the design:
Quote:
The local postmaster may approve a curbside mailbox constructed by a customer who, for aesthetic or other reasons, does not want to use an approved manufactured box. The custom-built box must generally meet the same standards as approved manufactured boxes for flag, size, strength, and quality of construction.

I doubt he'll actually get into any trouble for it - at worst, they'd only make him take it down. I've never seen this rule enforced, though, but an overzealous letter carrier could cause trouble, in theory.

This is a ludicrous rule. The mailboxes they have in stores are inconvenient and too damned small. Packasges are invariably wedged halfway in. Our mailbox is large enough to comfortably hold both mail and packages.

Q.E.D.
01-21-2005, 01:14 PM
This is a ludicrous rule. The mailboxes they have in stores are inconvenient and too damned small. Packasges are invariably wedged halfway in. Our mailbox is large enough to comfortably hold both mail and packages.
Can't argue with that. No one ever said Postal regulations made any sense. ;)

Max Torque
01-21-2005, 01:31 PM
How bizarre. When I was growing up, I was taught that the flag was used to indicate to the postman that there was something to pick up, not that the mailman had been and gone. Maybe that was just a function of growing up in a very rural area, with a mile or more between houses; if the mailman didn't have anything for us, and the flag wasn't up, he could cruise on by. And he always put the flag down when he picked up our outgoing mail.

Am I alone on this?

Stan Doubt
01-21-2005, 04:14 PM
American Science and Surplus has one for 8 bucks right now (item #33597).

http://www.sciplus.com/category.cfm?subsection=17&category=165

the first supraliminal
01-21-2005, 04:34 PM
If you can see the mailbox, just leave it open, and the carrier will close it when s/he puts in the mail.

yoyodyne
01-21-2005, 04:43 PM
There's also this:

http://www.smarthome.com/7466.HTML

gazpacho
01-21-2005, 04:53 PM
How bizarre. When I was growing up, I was taught that the flag was used to indicate to the postman that there was something to pick up, not that the mailman had been and gone. Maybe that was just a function of growing up in a very rural area, with a mile or more between houses; if the mailman didn't have anything for us, and the flag wasn't up, he could cruise on by. And he always put the flag down when he picked up our outgoing mail.

Am I alone on this?The flag has been used to signal to the mailman that there is mail to be picked up everywhere I have lived.

aeropl
01-21-2005, 08:46 PM
In New Zealand,where a lot of places have a LONG drive down to the door,the mailbox was at the roadside.
...
You could see out the window easily that if the flag was up then he'd been.

Hey, your driveway isn't that long if you can see your mailbox from your house. :)

Ruby
01-21-2005, 11:52 PM
How bizarre. When I was growing up, I was taught that the flag was used to indicate to the postman that there was something to pick up, not that the mailman had been and gone. Maybe that was just a function of growing up in a very rural area, with a mile or more between houses; if the mailman didn't have anything for us, and the flag wasn't up, he could cruise on by. And he always put the flag down when he picked up our outgoing mail.

Am I alone on this?In my dad's case, you are talking about two completely different "flags".

Yes, the red stick-type flag that's permanently mounted on the mailbox is the signal for the mail carrier to come pick up your mail.

What Dad had was an additional flag attached to a spring. When the mail carrier opened the mailbox door, the spring was released and a separate flag popped up. It's a passive device. The mail carrier doesn't have to "do" anything except open the mailbox to insert the mail.

ccwaterback
01-22-2005, 04:41 AM
You better go see Lemony Snickets. The "girl" is an engineer at heart, she invented just what you need. :)

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