Allen Coggins was walking through the garage of a home where he was installing a new kitchen when he felt a blast of heat from a panel on the garage ceiling.
Fast-forward eight years and Coggins is now marketing an innovative new furnace he invented based in part on technology using that heat panel.
Coggins is the inventor of the Thermasi Furnace, which uses a combination of infrared panels, digital-control algorithm programs and proprietary design to provide a 41 percent savings in energy used to create the same amount of heat generated by comparable electric furnaces.
The name Thermasi, also the name of Coggins’ company, comes from a combination of the Greek words for “heat” and “plenty’. The new technology holds the promise of revolutionizing the electric furnace industry, which hasn’t changed significantly from the “toaster with a blower” that was introduced about 100 years ago.
“When I began showing the technology to some engineers, they wouldn’t believe it,” Coggins said. “In schools, engineers have been taught for generations that you could only get so much heat per kilowatt of electricity. But our technology takes that same amount of electricity and generates about 50 percent more heat.”
Part of the difference is in the infrared panels and being able to focus the energy only on the heat-generating portion of the light spectrum, Coggins explains.
The basic Thermasi furnace have a suggested retail price of $4,000 to $5,000 — not much more than a traditional furnace and a better deal considering the potential costs savings. The furnace can also be expanded in several different configurations and the technology is being used in commercial and industrial HVAC systems.
Coggins is currently manufacturing the furnaces at a warehouse in Union, Missouri. He’s looking to future expansions to Mexico and Israel.
“As a businessman and a father, it’s important that we keep a manufacturing plant in Missouri, but it’s hard when the competition is getting their equipment from China and Mexico.”
Coggins has invested his own money and is looking for additional investors to grow Thermasi. The next steps are to increase marketing to raise Thermasi’s profile among residential customers and furnace distributors.
He’s also approached U.S. government agencies, including NASA, about using the technology (with an adaptation for solar panels) for use in Antarctica and on the International Space Station. Thermasi’s hybrid system can also operate on wind energy.
The success of Thermasi led Coggins to be named 2018 Inventor of the Year by HVAC & Refrigeration Insider, an industry publication with a circulation of more than 106,000.
“Anytime you can get 45 percent efficiency, that’s an advance that’s important to all of us,” said Jerry Lawson, owner of HVAC Insider. “It’s really going to push others to try to compete with what Allen has done.”
Coggins continues to tweak and invent. His goal is to create the “Tesla of furnaces” that would allow customers to upgrade their systems via a program update rather than buying new equipment. The high-tech furnace would also allow HVAC companies to diagnose and, in many cases, repair systems without costly service calls. Even if a repair required a service technician, the technology would ensure that they have the necessary parts prior to visiting a residence.
Coggins started his career in HVAC right out of high school. He went to a trade school and later joined the Sheet Metal Workers Union. Not satisfied with know just one aspect of the business, Coggins became one of just four members of the union at that time to complete both the service and the sheet metal apprenticeships. He then decided to learn the “testing and balancing” aspect of HVAC. It was that training in all three disciplines that helped him with the concept and design of the Thermasi furnace.
This is not Coggins’ first invention. His most notable commercial success prior to Thermasi was the first solar- and wind-powered LED street light — an invention he said his then-90-year-old grandmother pushed him to create. The first prototype was installed in Arnold, Missouri, in 2007. The company that developed from that, Mid-America Solar, was sold by Coggins about 10 years ago.
Coggins and his wife, Jennifer, are proud of their successes, but they also give back to the community. The main avenue for their philanthropy is through Thermasi’s Heating with a Heart program, which undertakes a community service project each month. Coggins is also active in the Shriners and raising money for Shriners Hospitals for Children in St. Louis.