Mail Alert

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PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
Colleen Murphy posing with her Mail Alert mailbox monitoring system.

Ever wish you could use psychic powers to channel your mailbox and see what’s inside? ESP may not be necessary. Colleen Murphy of Easton, Connecticut, has created Mail Alert, an electronic mailbox monitor that sends a signal to your home once your mail arrives.

Murphy, 32, works with mentally retarded adults and enjoys building inventions in her spare time. Her inspiration for this one: frustration over trudging long distances to her mailbox only to find nothing in it. She also thought it would be perfect for her grandfather, who tended to sit and wait for the mail all day.

Like the U.S. mail service, the signal works regardless of rain, sleet, or snow because all the equipment sits indoors. A 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ plastic transmitter attaches to the inside of your mailbox with a Velcro-like fastener. Connected to the transmitter is a 1 1/2″ lever that is released as soon as the mailbox is opened. A signal is then sent to a receiver located in the house. The 3″ x 5″ receiver, which looks like a baby monitor and consists of a small light, an antenna, and a reset button, simply plugs into the wall.

When a signal is received, an alarm sounds for five seconds and a light lights up until the reset button is hit. There is also a reset button on the transmitter in the mailbox, in case you check your mail too early on the way home. The transmitter operates along the same lines as a garage door opener; it is entirely wireless and operated by a nine-volt battery. Depending upon interference in the area, Mail Alert can send a signal up to a quarter of a mile away.

Murphy sees Mail Alert as good security against mail theft (you know as soon as your box is opened) and as a service tool for the elderly, the disabled, and people living in rural areas far from their mailboxes. Look for Mail Alert on the market (from Milmar Enterprises) within a year, selling for approximately $50. Now if Murphy would only create a device to electronically obliterate our bills ….