You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

At some point, you’ve heard, or perhaps said, this phrase.

However, reinventing the wheel may be an ironic cliché, as it’s not clear when the wheel was actually invented. Internet citations suggest the wheel was first crafted in Slovenia more than 5,100 years ago.

That said, the wheel has been reinvented numerous times, as wheels today include enhancements, such as brakes, spokes, tubing, etc. Thankfully, the innovators who discovered these features didn’t take the figurative speech to heart.


Daniel Gates, owner of Gates Heating & Air Conditioning in Clear Lake, South Dakota, certainly didn’t invent the evaporator coil, but he did improve access to it via his CheckEZ Inspection Frame.

The idea for Gates’ invention came to him while he was on a service call. Inside a home, Gates needed to access an evaporator coil that sat inside a small box on top of the furnace he was servicing. In order to inspect the coil, Gates was forced to meticulously disassemble the furnace piece by piece.

“Not only was this complicated, but it was very time consuming and quite costly,” Gates said. “And, when time is money, our customers and technicians don’t really like wasting valuable time.”

Gates knew there had to be a better way.

After his shift, he went home and began sketching a prototype that would allow technicians easy access to the evaporator coil without dismantling the entire plenum.

He came up with a design for a metal frame that sits beneath the coil and on top of the furnace. The frame features four access holes, one on each side of the frame, which allow a tech to feed a camera into the coil for inspection. In addition to a visual inspection, the access holes allow a technician to easily conduct temperature, static pressure, and carbon monoxide readings as well as check the heat exchanger.

“The CheckEZ Inspection Frame has a low profile and adds only about 1 ¾ inches to the total height of the furnace,” Gates said. “Once the frame is installed, service calls that once took hours may now only take a few minutes, which saves techs and homeowners time and money.”

The patent process took nearly a year and a half, but the product is now officially on the market.

“Right now, the CheckEZ is an aftermarket product and can easily be installed during a furnace or a/c change out or new installation,” Gates said. “But the potential for growth, I think, comes with new HVAC installations. Approximately 4 million new HVAC units are sold across the nation each year, so the potential for my market to grow exponentially is exciting to think about.”

For now, Gates says he’s focused on getting in front of local distributors and keeping the bulk of his business based in South Dakota but insists the CheckEZ Inspection Frame provides value to residential techs worldwide.

“This will make your service department more profitable and save time on service calls,” he said. “What contractor wouldn’t be interested in making their techs’ jobs easier and getting them to the next job faster?”


Gates’ innovation is one of many to cross the industry as of late. Others, including movement-activated air conditioning, thermally driven air conditioning, on-demand hot water recirculation, and ice-powered air conditioning, are making an impression on the industry and HVACR contractors’ bottom lines.

So, yes, while it’s true, we can’t literally reinvent the wheel, we are responsible for the industry’s evolution. There’s a reason we’re not still driving Model T’s or playing “Pong” on Atari 2600s.

It’s up to you to define the industry’s future. What idea are you sitting on that could change the face of HVACR contracting? 

Publication date: 11/6/2017

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