Reid patents unit design, seeks investment capital

Published 10:45 pm Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Patrick Reid of Demopolis has developed a heating and air conditioning unit that he hopes to develop into an industry. The unit has earned a patent, and he is ready to take his idea a step further.

Reid owns rental property in Demopolis, and his idea came out of something that happened on one of his properties.

“I’ve been working on this for a long, long time,” he said. “We bought some property on South Walnut that has the long air conditioners, the ones you see in hotels everywhere, the 42-inch air conditioners.

Email newsletter signup

“I had to buy two of them out of the box because the others had broken. One out of the box didn’t work at all — brand-new. They are really complex, and they are hard to fix. I took the other one, and I put it in, but while the broken one was at the shop, the other (new) one broke. It turns out that they’re making them in China, but they’re so complex, they really have to skimp on the quality — the little plastic thermostat knob broke off. It was just maddening, because I paid $795 apiece for those. I could go to Wal-Mart, and there’s an air conditioner there for $88 that could do the same job.”

Reid went to night school to learn how to fix the heating and air conditioning units, and found them simple to repair.

“What I did was go to Wal-Mart and got an $88 air conditioner,” he said. “I stripped all the controls out of it and hot-wired it to a line. I made a power supply box that would snap in beside it, and I got a Cadet heater and wired the power supply box to where it would work with a house thermostat, and that was the first of this kind that I had made.”

The cost to build one of his units is $167, which includes a thermostat, an air compressor, air conditioner, fan motor, three components in the power supply box and heaters.

“You don’t have any knobs with this,” Reid said. “Remember, the one on my second air conditioner broke off. You can’t get them because the limited runs are so complicated, if somebody gets a contract to build those, they make the covers a little different and the knobs are a little different. With my product, if it breaks down, a hotel guy can go unplug it, take the component out, snap in another one and that’s it.”

Reid added that current units are ruined when they get wet. He said that some units would be ruined just through cleaning them with water.

“My air conditioner, you can dunk it in a swimming pool, get it out, shake the water out of it so there’s no shorts, plug it in and it’ll go,” he said. “There’s no computer boards in it at all. It’s basically indestructible. If you want to repair it, you can, but most hotel people would just snap it out and replace it. It’s built on disposable components.”

The market for such an idea goes beyond hotels and apartments. Classrooms could use these units as a way to save on heating and cooling costs. Business offices, hospitals, nursing homes and other buildings could also use this product.

“What we’d love to do is open an assembly plant,” he said. “You could do an assembly plant to begin with, and the next year, you could build little fan blades to go in the fan motors, and do a little manufacturing. You look at it and think that it’s really complicated, but it’s really not.”

“He built this one in the garage,” his wife, Jackie, said. “That’s how complicated it is.”

Reid has served as a geologist, a soldier, a game warden and a real estate person, but with some investment capital, his recent venture as an inventor may help bring industry to Demopolis.