Deceptively Simple Solutions Distinguish Winners
This year, first place went to Jade Products (Abingdon, Va.) for the Clean Cutâ„¢ tool. Second place went to Midwest Tool & Cutlery Co. (Sturgis, Mich.) for its Upright Snips. Third place honors went to Battic Door Energy Conservation Products (Mansfield, Mass.) for its Whole House Attic Fan Insulator Cover.
Gold WinnerA majority of this year's Miscellaneous entries aim to improve customer satisfaction. Others seek to enhance life on the job for HVAC professionals. Jade Products (www.jadeproductsllc.com) manages to accomplish both with its award-winning Clean Cut product, which protects home and office property by easily catching dust and debris. For an installing contractor, it eliminates installation, cutting cleanup time.
Clean Cut is a clear, see-through shell with a special gloved access that allows the contractor to cut ceiling holes without the normal cleanup hassle. Jade Products manager Danny Browning pointed out that air quality is an issue for today's more educated homeowners and business owners.
"Clean Cut achieves an air-resistant fit by topping its co-polyester catch basin with a soft seal gasket, and using a spring assembly to maintain constant pressure against the cutting surface area," he said.
"It reduces contamination concerns for a range of consumers, from retrofit residential housing to hospital critical care and surgery areas, clean rooms, and in the electrical trade.
The judges agreed, with one remarking, "It's almost like a biohazard lab with the glove. It's very innovative and easy."
Clean Cut earned praise from the judges for installation and service benefits to the contractor. According to Browning, most companies use two workers to install heating and air conditioning grilles and registers.
"One locates and cuts in the attic, the other catches debris below. Clean Cut transforms the task into a precise one-man job, protecting the cutter's eyes, and getting a technician out of the attic, leading to happier, more productive employees," he said.
Jade Products addressed ease of use and serviceability by constructing its pole of strong lightweight tubing with a durable powder finish. Gloves for either hand snap in, and the foot support is high-density foam to reduce slipping or scratching.
Browning explained that contractors "are always looking for ways to differentiate themselves." Clean Cut shows the customer that the service provider is concerned with protecting the customer's property and comfort.
Silver WinnerUpright Snips, a product of the Midwest Tool & Cutlery Co. (www.midwestsnips.com), garnered the silver medal along with some high praise from the judges. "I can't believe somebody hasn't already come up with this idea," one judge stated. "It's the perfect solution to avoid sheet metal cuts."
Harold Cody, marketing manager at Midwest Snips, said, "The Upright Snips' 90-degree handle/blade (patent pending) is a revolutionary step in aviation snip design. Most contractors know the frustration and potential injuries resulting from the difficulty of cutting in confined spaces or in the center of a sheet.
"Upright Snips eliminates these troublesome concerns by ending the need to raise, lower, or rotate material. The rotating handles operate at a right angle to the cutting surface. However, the Upright Snips' true advantage lies in the user never having to bend his wrist.
"A straight wrist provides improved ergonomics, and facilitates a push or pull cutting motion. It makes cutting easier in confined areas overhead and at waist level."
At waist level, the user's efficiency increases by 400 percent over conventional snips, according to Cody. Improved ergonomics reduces by three to four times the amount of strain on muscles and tendons, a significant factor for frequent users. Keeping one's hands above the cutting area reduces fatigue and improves user safety.
Upright Snips features unbreakable blades, hot drop-forged of molybdenum alloy steel and heat treated for strength. Forty serrations per inch supply grip to blades capable of cutting up to 24-gauge cold-rolled sheet metal. The ergonomic half-hardened steel handles are small for an easier grip. Midwest claims the heavy-duty, double-overwind return spring survived 120,000 cutting cycles in tests. The grips are made of softer, recyclable copolymer containing no PVC.
One judge bestowed the ultimate endorsement upon the product by proclaiming, "I have these! They are great and work as advertised!"
Bronze WinnerThe Whole House Attic Fan Insulator Cover from Battic Door Energy Conservation Products (www.batticdoor.com) captured the bronze award. Battic's practical cover opens doors for contractors to every attic fan owner. Illustrating the cover's broad demand, Battic President Mark D. Tyrol, P.E., stated, "It reduces air leakage through the attic fan shutter, saving the homeowner heating and cooling loss and energy costs, and provides a surface where one can add the desired amount of insulation."
The product earned points from the judges for ease of installation. The cover comes complete with weatherstripping for an airtight seal, and fits any 24 inch or 30 inch diameter whole-house fan. Judges also liked the easy storage provided by the cover's folding design and the lightweight design; the product weighs only three to five pounds.
For contractors, the real value is the opportunity to call on customers. Tyrol said the company positions the fan cover as just the first step in addressing energy loss complaints, such as cold drafts, high bills, furnace frequently turning on, and drafty windows and doors.
"This has some nice features; even a label for the light switch to remind customers to remove the cover before running the fan," one of the judges commented. "This was well thought out."
Publication date: 07/18/2005