By Andrew Moore
Printed in: The Bulletin - September 1, 2008
For the past decade, Bend resident David Hart has run a successful cleaning business, removing dirt and stains from carpets, upholstery and oriental rugs. But when it came to cleaning carpets in homes, he always ran into the same problem: the air ducts. "Noticeable as the floor vents common in homes with forced-air furnaces, they often fill with dust and debris. So you’d clean the carpet, but as soon as you leave and the homeowner turns on the heat or the air, the dirt in the ducts shoots out over the freshly cleaned carpet,” Hart said. Tools like motor-driven plastic brushes attached to a vacuum have long existed for carpet cleaners to clean home air ducts, but Hart found them unwieldy and prone to clogging. He thought there had to be a better way so a year and a half ago, Hart put together his first prototype of a system he calls the RamAir ClearView Duct Cleaning System. It uses compressed air to blow the dust and debris out of a duct and into a transparent box fitted with the standard vacuum hose used for carpet cleaning.Sounds simple, but to the best of Hart’s knowledge, nothing else like it existed. He patented his invention and now has a thriving business to show for it. John Carter is the president of very successful Cleaning and Restoration Supply, a Portland-based company that distributes cleaning products. He said Hart’s invention is one of the better he’s seen.
“Over the years, there have been a number of air duct cleaning systems designed for carpet cleaners to have as part of their service offering, and for the most part, they were just pretty ineffective,” Carter said. “(Hart) called me and I was very skeptical, because I had seen five or 10 systems fail in the past and had pretty much abandoned the idea. “When I saw it, I said, 'Well OK, this makes sense, there’s not a lot of parts, you can use the industrial equipment the carpet cleaner already has in the vehicle,’ and so I worked with him and it definitely works better than anything else I’ve seen ...”
As Hart explains, several factors make his system different. The first is a small round attachment — made locally by Outback Manufacturing — that attaches to the end of an air hose. The ball has six small apertures near its base that blow dust and debris toward the vent opening. A clear polycarbonate case is placed over the vent. It has two holes, one for the air hose and the other for the vacuum. The dust gets blown into the case and then is vacuumed up. Not too complicated, Hart says. But it’s that clear case that really gets him jazzed. Why? The client can see dust being removed from their duct system. “That box just fills with dust and people say, 'Wow,’” Hart said.
Early Success Story
Hart has been selling his invention — which is for industrial application only as an add-on to commercial carpet-cleaning systems and not for retail use as a standalone device — since February and estimates he has sold 200 of the systems at roughly $1,000 each. He has many more stored in a spare bedroom of his southeast Bend home, which also doubles as the home for his cleaning business — Guarantee Cleaning Services Inc. — and his fledgling RamAir Industries. His RamAir system has just seven parts, and Hart has all the pieces shipped to his home for assembly. But he’s running out of room and expecting more growth, so he’s begun looking for a commercial space to rent to move the business out of his home. Despite his initial success, Hart doesn’t have any plans to quit his cleaning business. Hart uses the system as part of his contract to clean new homes built by local builders Pahlisch Homes and Sun Forest Construction.
A 'Step Ahead’
David Paul, a Pahlisch Homes employee who works with Hart, said Hart’s invention is a “step ahead” of anything the company has seen in the past for cleaning the ducts in the homes the company builds. It’s powerful enough to remove stray end-cuts of carpet while providing exceptional cleanliness without twisting or tearing the ducts apart, he said. “They take out a ton of material,” Paul said. Carter, of Cleaning and Restoration Supply in Portland, said many dealers nationwide are selling Hart’s system. I think it’s going to do quite well for him,” Carter said. Hart said a company offered to purchase his patent, but he’s glad he didn’t sell. It’s been fun growing the business, he said, from patent applications to developing marketing materials, and he’s proud of what’s he accomplished. “It’s pretty cool. People said to me this was going to be huge, but I’ve kept myself centered,” Hart said. “It’s a simple idea and I’ve had lots of luck and success with it, but it wasn’t until I started getting calls from other carpet cleaners, that’s when it hit me I was proud of what I did.” One of those was Earth Care Carpet Cleaning in Portland. “It’s very, very effective,” said Earth Care’s Caitlin Krout. “We have had lots of customers really impressed with how it cleans, and raved about the dust coming up. We’ve gotten a lot of business from it.”