PENDLETON - With his full beard and easy-going attitude, John Fenton may not come off as the kind of person keen on creating a unique mechanical device that can save property owners thousands of dollars, but that's just what he's been working on for the past four years.
And now he has the hardware to show for it.
Fenton's dream machine is called SafeFlow. It looks like a drab, gray box with a few switches and indicator lights. But the simplistic looks conceals a vital purpose.
"If you got a leak, then it turns off the water to your house and the hot water tank," he said.
SafeFlow uses sensors to measure water flow over time. When SafeFlow senses a continuous flow of water, it turns off the water heater and stops all water flow to the property.
Subsequent generations of SafeFlow will include an Internet interface so owners can control the device and turn off and on hot water tanks remotely.
Moreover, Fenton doesn't just have another interesting invention, even complete with two recent U.S. patents to back it up. Instead, he and wife, Candy, have made SafeFlow, Inc. He's the president and she's the vice president. John handles the product end, while Candy handles the business end, including working with possible investors.
The couple quickly pointed out the team doesn't end with them. Don Hulick, former diesel mechanics instructor at Blue Mountain Community College, has worked on research and development. They have patent and corporate attorneys. And the Fentons set up partnerships with Onsite Pro, Inc. to produce and supply the internal valves for the SafeFlow product, and with Electronics Service Provider out of Tukwila, Wash., to build the machines. SafeFlow also has two advisory teams.
John Fenton said SafeFlow meets the Uniform Building Code and ETL Testing Laboratories, gave SafeFlow its approval
The Fentons also credited Pendleton wheat farmer Stan Timmermann.
"He's been like a top cheerleader since it started," Candy Fenton said.
The Fentons have 10 SafeFlow systems ready to work at about $1,600 each. The price will likely drop as production ramps up, John Fenton said. The Fentons figure SafeFlow would find success in the construction industry.
The Fentons also own and operate Alabar Construction. It was through that business John Fenton recognized the need for what would become SafeFlow.
Fenton said an older customer told him about the difficulty she had in easily shutting off water to her home. If she could have done it simply, she would have avoided thousands of dollars of water damage.
But rather than a valve, Fenton figured an electronic device could achieve that goal and maybe return a profit along the way.
For more information about the Fentons and SafeFlow, visit www.safeflow.us.