Category Archives: Home Accessories

Will Sears Bounce Back?

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We all are familiar with Sears; for decades it’s been a place where people can buy everything from shirts and pants to washers and dryers. Often staples of their communities, Sears locations make it possible for nearby communities to furnish their homes with useful appliances without breaking the bank or ending up in worrisome debt.

sears2However, Sears has recently found that their appliance department has had little to offer the higher-ups whose jobs are to gather profits. These same higher-ups have recently decreed that Sears stop selling home and kitchen appliances, closing out as a result of the business lost to other bargain outlets like JC Penny, Target, and TJ Max.

This news hit none harder than newly hired microwave oven salesman Dan Sherman, who had already bragged to his friends and family about the copious amounts of dough he would be rounding up sucker by sucker at 3% commission. Before his new job, Sherman used to be such an insufferable failure that he had already become obscenely arrogant about his newly average status. That status now threatened to obliterate along with the Sears appliance line.

Seated in the staff room, Frank McCarthy, manager of the Sears Concord location and Sherman’s boss, spoke to Sherman about the closing of the appliance branch and the future of Sherman’s employment. McCarthy hadn’t been impressed by Sherman’s work and was expecting to fire Sherman. Sherman caught on to this expectation and, in a fit of desperation, threatened to plunge a break room plastic butter knife into McCarthy’s torso if McCarthy did not allow Sherman to tie up his hands and feet with strings cut from a mop head (slowly, with a break room plastic butter knife) and then to shove the rest of that mop head into McCarthy’s mouth and then to shove McCarthy into the mop closet.

Sherman then looked through McCarthy’s computer, found that McCarthy was scheduled to be transferred to the Walnut Creek branch starting the next day, and donned McCarthy’s uniform and name tag and showed up for McCarthy’s first day of work at the Sears branch in Walnut Creek, CA.

sears3While Sherman had entered the new branch initially excited about his promotion, he soon found work to be more difficult than he thought; the employees that worked under him were unskilled, listless and even rebellious, and it was only through compromise, trial and error, and a fair amount of studying after work that Sherman was able to earn the respect of his crew and teach them a thing or two about salesmanship in the process.

The Walnut Creek branch’s immense success qualified them to be the Bay Area regional representatives in a California-wide Sears sales competition. Walnut Creek’s numbers are looking to be the highest, but at the beginning of the final week of the competition, Sherman is discovered to be an impostor and Sears higher-ups threaten to close the branch down for a week for the investigation, a move that would make it impossible for Sherman’s branch to win the competition.

Sherman meets with the manager of all the Sears branches in California, successfully pitches himself as a true salesman and leader, and after four days of deliberation is ultimately allowed to keep his job and lead the Walnut Creek branch starting on Friday. Having earned his own confidence and that of his team despite being outed as an impostor, the group works a synergistic whole to sell the last of Sears’ appliance line, winning the sales contest and earning Sherman a promotion.

$230 Balmuda Toaster Makes Waves

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Japanese appliance maker Balmuda has created one of the most expensive toasters on the market- a $230 home appliance that claims to toast bread perfectly, every time.

Whereas traditional toasters- which have changed little since they received their outer casings in the 1920’s- are generally thought to be the most disposable and affordable, low-tech kitchen appliances currently in wide circulation, Balmuda has transformed what was once old-school into a high-tech gadget determined to improve your quality of life.

toaster braThe Balmuda toaster uses steam and carefully calibrated heat cycles to ensure perfectly toasted toast every time. It can transform store-bought bread into toast that feels, tastes and smells like it just came out of the oven of a professional baker. This propensity for creating luxury toast has led Balmuda to deem the gadget worthy of a price five times its more drab competitors. Apparently a fair amount of Japanese citizens agree, as pre-orders for the toasters have led to a three-month waiting list, all without Balmuda spending a penny on advertising.

So how did a company that generally creates flat screen TVs, walkmen and digital cameras wander into the territory of gourmet toast making? The story goes that a Balmuda company picnic was unfortunately thrown on a rainy day. Stubborn partiers warmed their bread on a grill despite the wet weather and found, to their surprise, that under those conditions they were able to make delicious, perfectly prepared toast.

Among the toasters was company founder Gen Terao and his group of product designers. They attempted to reproduce their delicious toast sometime later, but found that fair weather conditions wouldn’t allow it. Eventually someone made the connection that water was necessary for the yeasty delights of the company’s past picnics and, thousands of test slices later, the group figured out that steam is able to trap moisture inside a slice of bread while it’s being warmed at low temperatures. Cranking up the heat at the very end can couple this pleasant texture with the crust present in all toast we know and love.

“The best results are with croissants,” advised Mark Oda, who works on web and media content in Tokyo and was the first ever purchaser of Balmuda’s toaster. “I can never go back to 5,000-yen toasters.”

tt on my ppTerao’s ambition to reinvent the toaster may be explained by the flexible and creative mindset from which he views the world in general. Terao wasn’t always the head of a tech company; in his teen years he dropped out of high school, cashed a life-insurance payout after the death of his mother, and trekked across Spain, Morocco and the Mediterranean. He returned to Japan to front a rock band called the Beach Fighters, which scored a record deal but never became famous. Eventually he convinced a small local factory to allow him to use their milling machines and started making simple, useful products like laptop stands, desk lights, and electric fans. Finally, in 2014, he turned his intentions to food, because “eating is a moving experience.”

Now Balmuda can’t keep stores stocked with their famous toaster, but the company still plans to start expanding sales to South Korea.

Meet the Apollo Personal Cloud Appliance

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Leader in data storage product development Promise Technology has recently unveiled its newest appliance: Apollo Cloud. Apollo Cloud is the Taiwan-based company’s first consumer product and is already available for purchase in Apple stores and on Apple’s website.

So what exactly does the Apollo Cloud have to offer? The Apollo Cloud is basically a personal cloud appliance and app that allows people and their communities to have full control over storing and accessing their shared digital content from the privacy of their homes, smartphones, or offices.

apolloCurrent market products tend to be sculpted for corporate use, but Promise Technology’s Apollo Cloud is actually crafted for easy utilization by families, small businesses, home offices, or other work groups that could benefit from easy private storage for their digital content.

As devices become increasingly portable, the immense volume of photos and files that the individual manages can be difficult to balance with lowering storage space on say, chromebooks or other devices meant to go online but not to provide major storage. Pair this with the fact that technological evolution seems to lend itself towards increased file size (think HD videos) and you’ve got a problem for the average consumer. Apollo Cloud makes it possible for people in this conundrum to access four terabytes of space where they can store and share data securely and privately from anywhere on the planet.

Apollo Cloud can be used by a groups that number up to 10 members, each with full sharing control over their own digital files. Apollo Cloud can even save and share more than 440 hours of HD video, 220,000 photos and half a million songs, making it the perfect helper for small production teams and families alike.

Additional advantages of the device include that it offers 4TB of storage without requiring recurring fees, it can be set up in only a few minutes and then immediately be accessible from any device, offering quick access to personal content from anywhere using the Apollo Cloud App, and that up to nine members can share the Apollo Cloud, each of which potentially having a private space and full sharing control over their own files. Finally, Apollo Cloud provides its users peace of mind because all of its data is actually off the Web, safe and secure on a personal cloud. All transactions of data are encrypted to the highest decree using Apollo Cloud’s heightened security services.

apollo2James Lee, CEO of Promise Technology, had this to say about its latest appliance:

“Promise has been delivering high-performance data storage solutions to media and entertainment organizations, enterprises and small and medium businesses for almost 30 years and we are very pleased to bring out innovation to consumers with the introduction of Apollo Cloud.”

“People are inundated with data,” Lee continued, “and they need a solution that offers convenient access and file sharing without being weighed down by limitations or having to sacrifice privacy and security. Apollo Cloud solves these storage headaches and brings consumers an easy to use personal cloud appliance that offers security, flexibility, and affordability.”

Cheap Maintenance for Your Bathroom

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With the cost of housing going up across the nation people are looking for more and more ways to save money around the house. The way most people look into taking on this task is by doing some of the home maintenance tasks that would normally get hired out to outside parties. The problem is most people don’t know where to start or even allthatwhat is the biggest savings projects before hand. Thus a lot of the times people end up getting in over their heads and buying a lot of one time use tools that collect dust and end up costing them more in a net spending term than if they just hired a professional. Here are a few tips and tricks of the trade to show you what tools are most cost effective and what tasks to set them loose on around your home.

1, Know your Toilet:

There is no appliance we use more in our home, or has a bigger effect on the quality of our lives more so than a well working toilet. When you’re toilet is broken you are in a serious state of affairs and are willing to spend any amount to get out of it.

Also most all toilets are put together the same way, and can be put together and taken apart with a few simple tools. The problem most people have when thinking about how to fix their toilet is they think it is a lot more complicated than it actually is. The truth is that the technology behind toilets is ancient and has remained fairly unchanged in their basic principles to this day.

Get yourself a pair of channel locks, screw driver set, and toilet auger and you should be set. I suggest just going straight for the toilet auger and circumventing the purchase of a plunger. The reason being that if you need to fix a
onljclog you are better of just doing the auger and instantly clearing the clog rather than sitting their for minutes fiercely trying to plunge it away.

Next see if your toilet is leaking. This is a big one that affect most people. If you are in a drought ridden state like California this one come be extremely costly and is environmentally unfriendly. The way you do this is remove the back of the toilet and expose the flushing mechanism and back water reserve. From here you should fill the reservoir with some red food coloring. Come back in an our or so, and be sure no one uses the toilet in the mean time. Open the bowl to the toilet and see if there is any discoloration of the water inside. If there is a pink hue to the water you know that the back reservoir is leaking water into the main bowl and should be taken care of. It is most likely a poor flapper or gasket which over time need to be replaced. Replace it and repeat the test. Switching to low flow toilet mechanisms is another good investment you can make in this situation if you are going to replace parts any ways, go for the upgrade.

 

What is a Trivection Oven?

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You’ve probably heard of convection ovens by now; they’re no longer the next new thing in kitchen appliance and in fact have become somewhat standard since their introduction to the baking markets in the early 1980’s. Now, however, there’s a new kid on the block.

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That’s right, trivection ovens exist now. Invented by General Electric, trivection ovens work by using heat, convection, and microwaves for customized cooking at five times the speed of traditional ovens.

Trivection ovens are little-known, but they have had some screen time no the Food Network. Host of Good Eats Alton Brown actually helped design the trivection oven, and it has since appeared in the pilot of popular American situation comedy 30 Rock, in which business tycoon character Jack Donaghy describes the product and claims to have created it himself.

Apparently he took his description of the product almost directly from GE’s website, which reads as follows:

“GE Prfile and GE Monogram ovens with Trivection technology combine thermal, Precise Air convection and microwave energies to produce optimal texture, crispness, moistness and browning for each food type- in less time!”

The site continued on to state that the combination of these three different types of heat “produces delicious results up to give times faster than a traditional thermal oven,” and that trivection technology offers “consistent oven temperature,” “optimal air circulation,” and “remarkable speed.”

Precise Air Convection Technology’s contribution is allegedly something relating to “a dual loop 2,500 watt element” that “surrounds an innovative fan that reverses direction for optimal air and heat circulation, providing even cooking, faster rotating speeds, and multi-rack baking capability.”

tri3Sure sounds like a hand full of bananas!

In regards to the thermal technology present within GE’s trivection oven, the site makes the following claim:

“Traditional bake and broil elements provide conductive heat from above and below the food, while helping maintain consistent oven temperature.”

Then regarding microwave technology, there’s the following:

“Electromagnetic waves excite molecules in food and help accelerate the cooking process, ensuring faster cooking speeds. This is not a microwave oven, and it is now possible to cook with microwave energy alone on Trivection technology ovens.”

Kind of a bummer about the limits to what you can do with microwave energy with the Trivection oven, but I suppose when your baking power is bolstered by the other types of energy also offered, you don’t need much more than what’s offered.
All in all, trivection ovens are likely to be the next big thing in new kitchen appliance technology, so if you want to intimidate and infuriate your baking friends, you should probably get one right away. Soon everyone on the block will have the latest oven, and you want to be the trend setter as opposed to the baking nerd falling behind the latest technology. Trivection ovens will make your cupcakes moist, your ribs hearty, and your Thanksgiving turkey viral on instagram. Don’t wait for them to be in style; take a risk and go full trivection. The future is waiting. Will you be ready?

Make Your Own Radio

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Nothing says household appliance like a homemade radio; everything from app-powered pizza ovens to universal remotes uses a radio, after all. You may be surprised, but engineering your own radio from scratch takes a lot less effort, money and expertise than you might expect.

You will need quite a few different materials to bring your own radio transmitting and receiving creation to life. Materials include three pennies, a tuning coil, a tuning capacitor, a piezoelectric earphone, an MK484-1 AM radio integrated circuit, a 100,000 ohm resistor, a 1,000 ohm resistor, two 0.01 microfarad capacitors, a 1.5 volt battery, and some brass polish.

hm radioOnce you have your materials together, you’re ready to go. Start by placing your materials on an organized work board. You’re going to need to do some soldering, so you will want to make sure you’re ready to deal with what could end up being a big mess.

Then you’re ready to polish your pennies with some of the brass polish. They’ll have to be clean and shiny for the solder to stick! Once you’ve done your polishing, bend two of the MK484-1 AM radio integrated circuit wires into a 90 degree angle. Place the circuit on the table with the rounded side facing up and solder one of the integrated circuit’s wires to each penny using a solder iron. Be sure to put a bead of soler on each penny before you prepare the wire. Push the wire into the bead of solder until it begins to melt and fuse together. Your two pennies should be parallel to each other, though one should be slightly lower.

Now it’s time to move on to the tuning capacitor. Place it on your materials board upside down, then solder the capacitor’s leftmost left to the bottom penny using the same bead method as described earlier. Place one microfarad capacitor onto the table and solder one leg to the tuning capacitor’s middle leg and one leg to the rightmost penny.

At this point you may want to check and ensure that the resistor is only touching the leg and the penny. If this is the case, solder one of the microfarad capacitors to the two parallel pennies by soldering one of its wires to each of the pennies. It’s especially important during this step to ensure that the capacitor’s wires do not touch the circuit’s middle wire.

hm radio2If all has gone well so far, you can connect one of the earphone’s wires to the other microfarad capacitor. Connect the other earphone wire to the 1,000 ohm resistor and wrap the second capacitor’s wires around the resistor’s wires. All three pieces should now be connected. You’re ready to solder the resistor’s wire to the leftmost penny, in essence connecting the two remaining pieces or chunks of your radio.

That means you’re nearly finished. Solder the battery’s black wire to the rightmost penny and wrap the battery’s red wire around the unsoldered end of the resistor wire. Your battery as officially entered the equation. Now if you just solder the tuning coil’s wires to the tuning capacitor’s two legs, you have yourself an upside-down-radio. Turn it over and you’ve done it!

Are Universal Remotes for You?

uni remote

Home theater systems are on the rise, and with the waves of new technology for digital cable, DVR, HDTV, DVDS and CDs consistently flooding the market, it can be hard to keep up with which devices are right for you and your home system.

Keep in mind that each of these different gadgets come with additional new gadgets that operate the original gadgets. That means  your new system may come with three to six remotes you need just to turn everything on. These remotes might manage a whole host of operations spanning from programming your cable box to record selected shows to turning on movie subtitles and adjusting the volume.

chargerConsidering how difficult it can be to remember which device has to be operated first in order to start the next one or even which remote correlates to which device, you may find that this whole system doesn’t work for you. After all, it was hard enough for plenty of home theater owners to keep track of one remote, now you have to make sure six separate ones don’t get lost in your couch cushions.

That’s why a universal remote has become so handy in our current electronics market; universal remotes make it possible to consolidate the functions of multiple remotes into one. Some do this by having all the buttons you could possibly need, while  others keep it simple. Some even have touch screens. They even tend to be larger than your industry standard remote, making it a lot less likely you’re going to lose it in your couch cushions. That and the glow-in-the-dark features/buttons common to the system’s design will make it possible for you to operate your remote even if the lights have been dimmed for ideal movie watching.

What can universal remotes control? There’s a whole variety of devices that they’re made to operate, including satellite boxes, cable boxes, climate controllers, light controllers, computers, game consoles, tape decks, amplifiers, laserdisc players, CD changers, and DVD/VCRs.

You may be wondering how such an important remote will fair with the tough tech circumstances of a family or your home life. Most universal remotes come with a battery backup feature that make it possible for you to save your programmed information (like which devices you have chosen for the remote to operate) even if the battery dies. You can also use a charging cradle that commonly comes with the device to ensure that these kinds of issues don’t come up.

If you’re feeling pretty sold on the universal remote as an appliance, the next step is to figure out which kind you want. There are many different kinds, from extremely basic models to ones that can operate your microwave. What you really need to know is that there are two major types: Multibrand and Learning.

learning uniMultibrand universal remotes come preprogrammed with codes that allow you to operate a number of standard electronics. That means you don’t have to take the time to carefully program complicated codes yourself.

Learning remotes go beyond these remotes, meaning they have the ability to learn the functions of basically any remote simply by holding the learning remote head to head with your original remote and allowing infrared signals to transmit across the devices.

The Modern Vacuum

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The vacuum isn’t just a household appliance; it’s a statement regarding class, craftsmanship, and the future of Western society. While “experts” in Eastern religion may claim that all is one, I think it’s safe to say that we Americans know the difference between what’s dirty and what isn’t. As my father used to tell me, “When something ain’t right, you gotta just suck it up.” No truer words have been said, and accordingly no appliance more handy (or should I say sucky sucky) than the vacuum has ever been created.

vacuumBut what makes the vacuum so much more special than say, a blender or space heater (both of which are appliances that serve their purposes dutifully)? Well for one, vacuums are a testament to the American dream; a vacuum proves that something can always be made out of nothing. A clean house can be made out of empty space, out of an absence of pressure that attracts the world around it and causes it to travel through extraordinary lengths and whimsically curved paths until it’s stuck in a bag and you eventually throw it out. A vacuum makes it possible to own a shag carpet without getting a skin disease right away.

But just who uses vacuums, and if you use a vacuum will you be joining the “right crowd”? Well like guns and oblong hair brushes, it all depends on how you use them. There are surely those Americans who use their vacuums not to clean their house but to dirty their mind with false notions of superiority over their neighbors, who perhaps can only afford a broom. There are others who understand that a clean house is only worth having alongside a clean mind, a quietly attentive consciousness which notices the organization of a room with complicit pleasure and sees a lack of clutter as the presence of freedom. These are the vacuumers with whom you should aspire to suck clean.

vacuum ppVacuums suck a lot of things clean, and how far you’re going to get with them all depends on what you want to suck clean. If you would like to suck clean a bathroom floor, you need to put it on the appropriate “tile” or “hardwood floor” setting. Obviously you probably don’t have hardwood floors in your bathroom, but the point is that you don’t use the “carpet” setting unless you really need it, because it’s only made to suck the dust out of cloth surfaces so it would be inappropriate to use in the bathroom where you may have a small foot carpet but don’t likely have an entirely carpeted floor. If you do happen to have an entirely carpeted floor or a few rectangles of carpet in there to keep your feet warm or impress a friend, be sure to vacuum these carpets with the “carpet” setting on, otherwise your vacuum likely won’t have the sucking power it needs to get the job done, an issue that has plighted man since long before vacuum cleaners were invented.

A Peak Inside Your Generator

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Generators are enormously helpful in a wide variety of situations; it tends to be pleasant to have access to electricity, especially if you’ve moved to a place that’s off the grid and you already are roughing it to some extent. If you’ve ever wondered exactly how your handy generator powers your hair dryer, this article is for you.

A generator is a device that moves a magnet near a wire in such a way that it creates a steady flow of electrons. Exactly how it does that varies greatly among different models created during different time periods and can range from hand cranks and steam engines to nuclear fission, but regardless the basic principle remains the same: move electrons using a magnet.

If it’s difficult for you to imagine electrons being forced to move, try to think of a pump pushing water through a pipe. A generator does the same to electricity, but uses a magnet to push electrons, so to speak. It pushes a certain number of electrons by using a certain amount of pressure.

voltageIn the context of an electrical circuit, the number of electrons being moved is called the amperage or current, and it’s measured in amps. The “pressure” that dictates how hard the electrons are being pushed is called the voltage and is measured in volts. So to make use of these terms, a generator that spins at 1,000 rotations per minute might produce 1 amp at 6 volts. The 1 amp refers to how many electrons are moving (specifically, an amp implies that 6.24 X 10^18  electrons per second are moving through a wire). The 6 volts tell us the pressure behind these electrons.

The first electric generator was invented by British physicist and chemist Michael Faraday. His first generator was called the dynamo, and he also invented the first electric motor.

So how do the generators actually work? Well in Faraday’s case, coils of copper wire are made to rotate between the poles of a magnet, producing a steady current of electricity. The coils can rotate simply by use of a hand crank, but a more practical and effective way of generating electricity involves attaching the shaft of the generator to a turbine and then letting another energy source power the turbine. Falling water is often employed for this.

niagara power plantIn fact, one of the first and largest energy-generating plants is powered by Niagara Falls. Engineers built a water intake near the bottom of the dam wall that forces water through a narrow channel called a penstock in which the turbine is stationed. The turbine is a huge propeller that is pushed by the force of the flowing water. Its spinning motion rotates the shaft of the generator and rotates the copper coils of the generator. This spinning of the copper coils within the circle of magnets produces electricity. This electricity is then carried to homes and businesses via power lines.

Other power plants rely on steam to spin the turbine of a generator; burning coal allows for the boiling of water and the generation of steam, so coal tends to fuel the creation of electricity. It’s also possible to create electricity by using controlled nuclear reactions to turn water into steam. This allows people to rely less on coal, but people tend to be frightened of nuclear power because of a few famous nuclear meltdowns.

Fun and Unusual Lighting Options for the Modern Home

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With Potato Day right around the corner, you may be wondering what the heck kind of decorations you’re going to find this year when you already have spent all your time and money refurbishing your jet skis. Believe it or not, an obvious option may have been spudding right under your nose this entire time: the potato! Turn a potato into a light!

Quick overview of electric currents: an electric current is the movement of electrons from one atom to another in a conductor. A conductor is a substance that can conduct electricity. With that in mind, here’s what you have to do.

lightbulbFind a potato and cut it in half. Get yourself some electrical wire and wrap the end around a galvanized nail. Galvanized nails are nails that have undergone a process which covers them with a zinc protective coating. This coating acts as an anode, meaning it’s a positively charged electrode by which electrons can leave a device. An electrode is an electrical conductor used to make contact with a nonmetallic part of a circuit like a semiconductor, an electrolyte, a vacuum or air. In this case, the zinc on our galvanized nail will be acting as an anode that allows for electrons to leave the nail and enter the potato’s electrolytes.

Get a second piece of wire and wrap it around a penny. The penny contains enough copper to act as a cathode, which is also an electrode. An anode is positive while a cathode is negative, so an anode attracts negative charge while a cathode attracts positive charge. Stick the penny into a hole in the potato.

Once you’ve got these two wires with either a penny or a nail at the end, stick the copper side into one half of the potato and the nail into another half. Don’t let the zinc and copper electrodes touch each other. If a wire connects the zinc nail and the copper penny, electrons will flow, but direct contact will just produce heat as opposed to electric current.

cathode anodeWhen you put the metal electrodes into the potato, it causes a reaction to occur that results in electric current. The potato acts as an electrolyte that facilitates the transport of the zinc and copper ions in the solution while keeping the electrodes apart physically. An electrolyte is a liquid or gel that contains ions and can be decomposed by electrolysis; it is a fluid that carries a charge or can produce an electrically conducting solution when dissolved in a polar solvent like water. When it’s put in water, an electolyte separates out into cations and anions, allowing for current to flow. The phosphoric acid of the potato is responsible for the electro-chemical reaction of zinc and copper.

Zinc is an active metal that reacts readily with acid to liberate electrons. The acid’s active ingredient is positively charged hydrogen, so a transfer of electrons occurs between the zinc and the acid. Hydrogen gas is produced and bubbles out around the electrodes. The reaction at the penny electrode depletes the electrons and attaches them to the hydrogen ions in the phosphoric acid.

Now if you attach both ends of the wire to a tiny LED light, it will light up!