FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Energy Harness CEO/inventor/engineer Michael Fischer and senior vice president Peter Lehrer were approached with a problem from a client about a year ago.
They began brainstorming ways to solve it.
With COVID-19 bringing the office working world to a standstill last March, and with nationwide lockdowns and masses of office workers retreating to working virtually from home, Fischer and Lehrer were among them.
Fischer was working from home in Babcock Ranch and Lehrer in Sarasota instead of commuting to their corporate headquarters and warehouse at 71 Mid Cape Boulevard in Cape Coral.
Energy Harness, established in 2010 off Pine Island Road before moving to the current location six years ago, specializes in commercial LED lighting fixtures. The City of Cape Coral, Lee Health and a litany of other entities such as various school districts and other health systems in Indiana and Illinois are among the company’s top clients.
Energy Harness also has had experience creating ultraviolet lights for warehouse farms. A warehouse farm simulates farming conditions outside but is done indoors with ultra-violet lights.
“We were trying to mimic the best growth cycle for a plant, for example, say, in southern France,” Lehrer said.
For years, science has shown ultraviolet light kills pathogens. With COVID-19 proven to be a deadly pathogen, killing more than 550,000 Americans over the past year and a quarter, the light bulbs figuratively and later literally turned on for Lehrer. He drew up a diagram in late April. Fischer and Lehrer then collaborated to complete the concept.
It’s two feet by four feet, fitting perfectly into what otherwise would be a foam ceiling tile or a light fixture of an office, a conference room, a common area like a hospital waiting room or wherever else people and air circulate.
The fixtures cost $1,800 to $3000, depending on the volume and service plans ordered. They are available only to commercial entities.
Air flows into the fixture, passing through a filter and then ultraviolet lights before flowing back outside and into the room.
“The beauty of all this, is there’s been a lot of testing done as to its efficacy,” Lehrer said. “We’re trying to mitigate things so we can get back to normal.”
Lehrer had laboratory testing done showing the air filter killed pathogens, including the virus that causes COVID-19, 99.99% of the time. A laboratory in South Korea further tested the air filter at 99.998% effective, Lehrer said.
The fixture is not being marketed as a medical device and therefore does not need Food and Drug Administration approval. But Lehrer has volumes of data to back up his claims. Energy Harness spent about $50,000 on various certifications. It is certified by the California Air Resources Board to not produce any ozone. The facility making them is certified by the Environmental Protection Agency, and it’s certified by the Canada Safety Association’s Underwriter’s Laboratory.
“Vaccines have to be adjusted,” Lehrer said. “Ultra-violet light doesn’t. This is a long-term solution. This is not just about COVID-19. This is about getting to a new normal.”
In an Energy Harness workshop, five men were working on various projects. Above them were four of the air filters. All the workers wore masks despite the filters.
Having the filters doesn’t mean ending precautions such as wearing masks and physical distancing, Lehrer said. What it meant was clearing the room of pathogens within about 20 minutes after a room clears of people, he said.
Lehrer diagrammed the product at the very end of last April. The idea was fine-tuned in May, and production began thereafter. Since then, Energy Harness has been selling about 75 to 100 of these per week. A patent with the U.S. government is pending.
“We’ve done five or six school systems in Indiana,” Lehrer said. “We’ve done some hospitals. We’ve got some units in Lee Health. We’re set up to expand to making 1,000 per week.
“These products should be in every doctor’s office waiting room. Schools, offices, meeting rooms. This is not just a COVID product. This is a clean air product.”
So far, Energy Harness has sold almost 3,000 of the fixtures. Some of them went to the Center Grove Community School Corporation in Indiana.
“We were very impressed with the UV-C technology as it was presented to us and recently installed them in our elementary classrooms,” said Darrell Thompson, director of facilities for the school system. “We were so impressed that we expanded our scope to include the cafeterias and nurses’ stations. We believe this will have a huge positive impact on the health and well-being of our students and staff.”
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