My sister lives in Las Vegas, and although it means traveling across the country, I go there several times a year to visit. The last time I was there, I was sitting on the couch with her husband drinking a Coke when he asked, “Do you want a California-safe straw?”

It annoyed me. Not because I hate the sea turtles or the Earth itself, but because I feel like it should be called an ocean-safe straw or maybe an environmentally safe straw.

Now, don’t get me wrong … I think the things people in California are doing for our environment are great. But California does not have a monopoly on innovative HVAC ideas or concerns about the environment.

In fact, people — HVAC contractors in particular — are debuting great ideas all over the map.

Don’t believe me? Check out these stories:



Jim Patterson is the owner of Orchard Valley Heating and Cooling in Southampton, Massachusetts. His son, Brian, came up with the innovative product idea that lead to their first product offering, the HVACIV®, and eventually evolved into JB Solutions. The company now has two products that it is preparing to launch: HVACIV, an automated biocide injection system for condensate drains, and the Humidicycle® system, a device that recycles the water that is typically wasted during flow-through humidifier operation, conserving 16 ounces per minute.

Not too far down the road, in Lititz, Pennsylvania, another father and son duo — Rick Haller (father) and Austin Haller (son) — have also put their good ideas in action, developing their own mobile app.

The company spent about two years in research and development, four months of which was spent strictly on developing the software.

The finished product, called, launched in May 2017.

“The face of it is a mobile app for homeowners,” Austin Haller said. “It allows homeowners to go into the mobile app, quickly diagnose whatever issue they may be having, and get linked up with a qualified technician. They can book service within the app, and it’s fully integrated into our system. It’s automating the entire process of creating a work order internally and assigning a technician to that work order, just as if the customer would have called in and spoken to a customer service representative [CSR].”



When Michigan sheet metal worker Ron Aho came back from rotator cuff surgery in 2014, he was having trouble keeping up with the younger guys. But the 28-year industry veteran wasn’t ready to hang up his hammer, so instead, he invented an entirely new tool.

Just a couple weeks and a few prototypes later, Aho was ready to give his new device a test run.

“We measured: It took 51 hits with the hammer, and that’s just one duct,” he said. “This drove the cleat up in four seconds.”

Midwest Tool purchased the rights to manufacture and market Aho’s brainchild, the Cleat Driver Tool, in December 2017. The tool attaches to any rotary hammer drill that uses standard slotted drive system (SDS) shafts and has a setting to stop rotation of the drill chucks — the “chisel mode,” or “hammer mode,” as it’s typically called. It’s a new way for sheet metal workers to install and remove cleats more efficiently and with less shoulder strain — and it makes easy work of removing cleats that are covered with caulk or duct tape, too.



So, I get it … not everything I mentioned has to do directly with the environment. But all three of these inventions contribute to the overall health of either ourselves or the world we live in. It seems to me that aside from a few superstars, everyone just waits for California to make a move rather than shaking things up themselves. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. I know it’s easy to think that one person or one company can’t make a difference, but that’s exactly what it takes — just one idea can change the industry and the world we live in. Don’t be afraid of sounding stupid; some of the greatest inventions were initially laughed out of the room.

Publication date: 10/8/2018

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