Mechanical engineer Erik Eibert always liked tinkering with machines as a kid, which came in handy working on a dairy farm in upstate New York. From cars to tractors, he toyed with seemingly endless amounts of machines. And, although he may not be working on the latest wheat thresher, he is still focused on products in his home state.
Eibert is a test engineer for Good Housekeeping magazine in New York City.
You likely know their seal and, yes, he’s one of the many behind it. But his work is also utilized in the publication’s articles, giving you an idea of what to buy and what to beware of. What he’s testing varies, but the goal is always the same: to give the consumer the most knowledge.
Engineer Erik Eibert. Image: Good Housekeeping magazine
And, by the way, it can be a ridiculous amount of fun. You’d get in trouble for dropping things as a kid, but the research institute of the magazine has machines for just that, seeing how well they measure up. “You may be dropping everything from cookware to luggage,” he says. Other testing machines include a vacuum tester, a robotic machine that pushes a vacuum cleaner back and forth per an industry standard, a fabric abrasion tester that takes sheets of fabric and rubs them back and forth, and a UV accelerator, full of ultraviolet bulbs that will accelerate paint fading, he says.
Eibert also has gotten to check out the newest electric cars before almost anyone else, from the Chevy Volt to the Nissan Leaf. “That was the most fun I ever had. It was exciting when we had our charging station installed!”
Engineers at Good Housekeeping magazine test all kinds of products, from robotic machines to lightbulbs.
But sometimes he’s surprised by what ends up being among his most intriguing work. Take something as simple as the light bulb. “With the Energy Independence and Security Act passed to take out incandescent bulbs and now with halogen and others coming into play, it was interesting to learn about color temperature and light distribution profiles to understand how long they last and what scenarios and which bulbs are sensitive to being turned on and off all the time.”
He’s also enjoying his work with the Good Housekeeping green seal. One product he particularly saw as effective in this arena was Tide Coldwater. “I found that product different because the chemistry doesn’t require hot water to wash clothes,” he says. “So on 10-40 gallons of water you now save all that energy.”
Despite being impressed that time, the flip side of the job is that it takes a little bit more out of merchandise to get his attention in everyday life. “There are some products that would blow my mind if I didn’t have this job,” he says. “But because of what I do, they could end up seeming ordinary.”
Of course, his work goes far beyond testing, getting out in the field to understand products. From attending press events to meeting with companies, it comes down to strong observation. And a tough challenge is trying to explain technical information in layman’s terms for the audience, Eibert says, not such a common task for a mechanical engineer.
Nonetheless, his engineering training continues to be a major asset, particularly understanding how to frame a problem, figuring out what variables there are, and focusing on what the end goal is. “It helps me look at what you need and how to run a test on a product that we’ve never tested before,” he says. “Designing something that really finds that metric we’re trying to measure.”
Eric Butterman is an independent writer.
You may be dropping everything from cookware to luggage.
Erik Eibert, Good Housekeeping