OKLAHOMA CITY - Bill Porter is an HVACR technician who became an inventor and a manufacturer because he found unitary heat pump wiring confusing, particularly for dual-fuel systems. He has been in the industry over 40 years.

About 10 years ago, he decided to create a product that would help other technicians wire dual-fuel heat pumps with minimal guesswork, hassle, and callbacks.

Porter said his universal wiring product is made with technicians in mind. While creating his product, he kept this thought in the back of his head: He wanted technicians using the product to think, "He did it our way."

"Installers and service technicians did not like all those wires," said Porter, president of BP Porter Inc. "Each manufacturer had their own methods, techniques, wiring diagrams, and wire designations. Nothing is universal, which made it very hard for the installer and service technician."

As a technician, Porter knew all about heat pump wiring diagrams. He expanded his knowledge into integrated circuitry and printed circuitry art and design to get his product ideas off the ground.

The dealer installs Porter's "Dual Fuel Control Center" as part of a dual-fuel heat pump system, so that as the heat pump enters its defrost cycle, the furnace burner is simultaneously activated. "We turn the burner on inside for auxiliary heat," Porter explained, "so that the air is tempering during the defrost cycle.

"All heat pumps have a defrost cycle," he continued. "Different manufacturers determine when this cycle is activated according to temperature and the buildup of ice on the coil. During this cycle, customers are most prone to complain of uncomfortably cold conditions."

This, according to Porter, is one of the main reasons for the heat pump's poor reputation.

Bill Porter shows the Dual Fuel Control Center installed inside of a furnace cabinet.

Practical Experience Pays

Some manufacturers, he said, don't seem to listen much to people in the field who actually install and service the equipment. "They have their own engineers" and are more likely to listen to them. However, according to Porter, "the guy in the field has a better idea of what is needed in the field."

Many air conditioning dealers he knew were not satisfied with the products available. Porter said he was encouraged to try his hand at inventing by other dealers, many of whom said, "You build a better mousetrap and we will buy it."

Porter knew that the controls must be simple and must eliminate existing technical problems; they must be universal so as to make it easy for any service technician on any heat pump, during installation or service; and they must improve the system in terms of comfort for the homeowner.

"All the requirements have been met," Porter said. He now manufactures a printed circuit board with proper identification for each wire "that anyone can understand."

Easier Wiring

The complexity of heat pump wiring has been problematic for installers as well as servicers, who must go through a series of tests to determine where a wiring-related failure may be occurring. "You've got the service technician going out on everybody's equipment," not just one or two brands.

It is also a problem for manufacturers when misunderstood equipment is returned under warranty with no defect, as well as for homeowners when they don't get the performance they expect.

"A lot of manufacturers still have a big metal box and one terminal strip with 17, 18, or even 19 wires," Porter said. His dual-fuel control has three strips - one for the furnace, one for the outdoor unit, and one for the indoor thermostat - and the wires are clearly identified, he said.

The controls are universal, he said, eliminating the need for all the diagrams used by other manufacturers; "one control, one diagram for all heat pumps" is how Porter describes it. On any dual-fuel system with his controls, he said, the homeowner doesn't experience cold air due to the defrost cycle.

It works on all standard heat pumps, Porter said, and is UL recognized. It is mounted inside the cavity of the furnace, and is small enough to fit easily into today's space-conscious equipment designs.

To Market, To Market

Porter said he first started selling to local Oklahoma dealers "who liked it and came back for more." Then local distributors wanted to be involved; they now stock his products.

A larger southern utility company, Georgia Power Supply, got word of his product and invited him to make a presentation at an open house in Atlanta. "Those dealers present who were opposed to heat pumps now recognize it as a good thing," Porter said. "Georgia is one of our best markets."

Word continued to spread. He now sells his products, the dual-fuel control and an outdoor thermostat, across the United States and Canada. Some manufacturers also have adopted his products.

The outdoor thermostat replaces a refrigeration control Porter said he and many other contractors use for heat pump installations. His product is a printed circuit board control designed specifically for that purpose.

Perhaps most telling is the fact that Porter has adopted Albert Einstein's motto: "Make things as simple as possible but no simpler."

Porter may be reached at BP Porter Inc., 6200 N.E. 107th St., Oklahoma City, OK 73151; 405-771-3323; 405-771-2292 (fax).

Publication date: 05/17/2004