Inventor gives freezing water in pipes a place to expand

Inventor gives freezing water in pipes a place to expand

September 9th, 2011 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

Raymond Hunter holds a device that will allow water at a faucet to expand instead of freeze and break.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

• What: Freezing valve protector

• Inventor: Raymond Hunter Sr., retired stationary power plant engineer

• Address: 211 N. St. Mark Ave.

• Telephone: 510-9756

• What's special: Hunter's device prevents cracking or breaking pipes because of freezing, by giving the ice a place to expand. His valve protector acts like a slow-moving cylinder, which is slowly pushed by the expanding water. The pressure relieved by the valve protector takes the pressure off the metal pipes. Less pressure leads to less breakage. Other devices attempt to insulate an outside faucet to keep pipes from freezing and cracking. Hunter allows the water to freeze, but gives it a place to grow.

• The origin story: When his pipes froze one winter after his outside faucet was exposed to cold weather, he came up with the idea to allow the water to expand in a controlled direction.

• How long does it take to make: Ten to fifteen minutes per unit

• Where it's sold: Hunter hopes to sell the unit in do-it-yourself retail stores like ACE Hardware, Home Depot and Lowe's.

• Plans: As a patent holder for another invention, he knows that it can take years for a patent to go through. As a 72-year-old retired engineer, he hopes to work with or sell to a person or company with marketing and sales experience that can take the valve protector to the next level. "I'd like someone to take this off my hands, I'm too old for this," he said.

• Lessons of the trade: Bursting pipes are very expensive, but dealing with PVC and other softer plastics is easier than hard, brittle metal.