Commonwealth Journal

August 21, 2013

Inventor gets his ducts in a row

Bronston electrician Don Davis patenting cost-saving bathroom vent cover

by Ken Shmidheiser
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” goes the old adage.
That certainly is the case for Don Davis. The Bronston electrician has a patent pending on an energy-saving invention he brainstormed when the local housing market took a nose dive a couple years ago costing him part of his livelihood.
Today things are improving economically for the father of five—Davis is working as an electrical contractor on the new Texas Roadhouse going up at Stonebrook on South U.S. 27. But it only takes a few minutes conversing with him to discover what’s close to his heart: the invention he claims can save the average homeowner hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in wasted heat and air-conditioning.
“When residential work slowed down, I decided to expand my skills and I attended an energy auditing course sponsored by the Building Performance Institute,” he explained. “As part of the certification, we studied thermal loss in an average house. In fact I got a hold of a thermal camera and did an energy audit of my own house. I was shocked to see how much of my heated and air-conditioned air was escaping through the bathroom exhaust fan vent.”
Davis explained that a typical ceiling-mounted bathroom exhaust fan has a gravity-activated flapper valve which, at least in theory, is supposed to close when the fan is not running to keep conditioned air from venting outside, and to keep elements like rain and snow, as well as winter cold and summer hot air, from being blown back into the house.
“I’ve installed or repaired hundreds of these exhaust fan over the years, and I can’t tell you in how many of them the flapper valve is either stuck wide open, or has such a large gap around it that conditioned air escapes from inside the house to the outside with a major thermal loss.
“You can typically hear the vent valve flapping in a bathroom when there’re high winds or a storm blowing outside. Every time it opens, conditioned air inside the house is vented to the outside. With energy costs what they are, it’s just like money is being blown out the vent.”
After some exhaustive — no pun intended — brainstorming, it dawned on Davis that if a cover was fitted over the exhaust fan when it was not running, thermal leaks could be stopped in their tracks.
So in his workshop inside an old mobile home, Davis began building prototypes of his concept. With proof of concept in hand, he headed to the U.S. Patent Office which now has his patent application and drawings of his bathroom exhaust fan vent cover.
“The Patent Office is so far behind in processing applications it will probably take another year to finish my application. But in the meantime I can use the phrase ‘Patent Pending’ on anything I manufacture.”
To date all of Davis’ prototypes have been made of wood with metal spring hinges and latches. But he would like to seem his vent covered professionally manufactured in plastic.
“It seems everyone I present the idea to says they have contacts with Chinese factories that will manufacture them. But I have no intention of having it built in China—I want it built in the United States.
“To have injection molds made will cost $35,000, then there’s the manufacturing cost for finished injection-molded plastic product.”
Until he can raise surmount the manufacturing start-up costs, Davis is contenting himself building wooden models in his shop.
“The average householder doesn’t realize that as conditioned household air is leaked to the outside, it creates drafts inside walls that can lead to condensation and eventually mold. My vent cover helps stop that problem too.”
Davis, 44, is the son of Vilda and the late Ernest Davis. He lives on Jacksboro Road in Bronston with his wife, Stephania and children. He not only owns Davis Electrical Contractor, LLC, but also is certified professional building analyst.
If you have questions about Davis’ invention, you can email him at: