Patents, Prototypes, Manufacturing, and Marketing New Inventions
The Invention of the Metlund D'MAND system - An Interesting Success Story
People just weren't interested in saving energy at the time. The most often question asked of us was; does it get my hot water faster? We found that most of the people we talked to wanted faster hot water. Then as now many people support being "green", but they dig out their wallets when you provide them with convenience.
Remember the solar water heating boom... as soon as the tax credits went away it collapsed. Why? because it did not add convenience... it just conserved energy. If there is one thing I have learned over the last 30 years of being an inventor, it's that people are willing to pay for something that makes life easier. Darned near everyone we talked to wanted to get the hot water faster. They did not complain that they ran a lot of water down the drain. They just did not like the wait.
The conception of the Metlund D'MAND system.
Dennis and I were driving to a Public Utilities Commission meeting in San Francisco, from our office in Stockton, California one day, about an hour and a half drive. It was that long drive that I had my revelation... there is a way to get the hot water to the fixture faster! Pump it to the fixtures at a high velocity and turn off the pump when the hot water reaches the fixture! That was the "Eureka!" moment for what would become the Metlund D'MAND system! How could it not turn out to be a great invention success story?
Working out the details.
Dennis and I immediately began working on developing the new product. We first thought a return line would be needed like with traditional hot water circulating systems. We quickly realized we could utilize the cold water line to return the cooled off hot water as long as we shut the pump off quickly enough.
Since it takes time for the heat to flow from the water, through the pipe material, and into the temperatures sensor, which itself has a response time. Sensing a final temperature always ended up putting hot water into the cold water line. But by shutting the pump off when a temperature increase was detected, we could avoid getting hot water in the cold line, and the hot water would only be 2 or 3 seconds away.
We used a Taco Inc, hot water circulating pump, with an electric water valve in series with the pump, an electronic circuit to control the pump and valve, and a temperature sensor mounted to the hot water line to sense the temperature. The Metlund d'mand system still uses a Taco pump and an electric valve to this day.
The hot water was pumped quickly to the fixture, and there was no water run down the drain. It was a great product, although expensive. Circulating pumps and motorized ball valves are not inexpensive nor is assembly labor.
Our company was a tiny little two man operation. Needless to say marketing a new product with no money is difficult. We ended up licensing it to ACT, and assigning the patents to them as well as giving them the rights to the name "Metlund."
ACT Metlund calls the pump the ACT Metlund D'MAND system. Dennis and I are no longer affiliated with the company.
It was one of those cases where the two small-time naive inventors meet the new company's team of lawyers and in less than a year we are out on our butts with nothing to show for it... but that's another story.
Wait! That's not the end of the invention success story! It continues...
The Chilipepper hot water demand system comes to life.
A few years later we decided to take another look at the problem of quickly delivering hot water to the fixtures. We were convinced that we could come up with a hot water demand type system that would be inexpensive enough to successfully mass market it.
The Metlund D'Mand system tried, even getting a trial run in Home Depot, but it was just too expensive.
After taking a fresh look at the problem we came up with some pretty good new ideas, and we decided we would call our new pump the Chilipepper appliance!
Our goal was to produce a product that would out-perform the Metlund pumps and be far less expensive. we wanted to keep it under $200 retail if possible. We designed our own pump, to be injection molded for low cost, and put in a hefty 1/3 horsepower motor, developed a microcontroller based electronic controller, and housed the whole thing in a nice looking case with rubber feet.
The result was a dramatically reduced retail price, size, and weight and a substantial improvement in performance. Since we had a much more powerful pump we could hook the pump up with hoses instead of having to use full one half inch piping connections as with the original system. This makes it far easier to install under a sink. You don't even have to turn off the water to the house like with Metlund's.
The Chilipepper is currently priced at $179.99, far less than the smallest Metlund model, but with the performance better than that of the largest Metlund models.
We feel we are doing our part in bringing water conservation to the masses. Most people who purchase hot water demand systems such as the Chilipepper CP6000 or the Metlund D'MAND system are doing so for the convenience of faster hot water. We know they are actually practicing water conservation, and that makes us feel good. So it's an invention success story!
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