Thursday October 23, 2014 0 comments
By Steve Porter
BOULDER - Just about everyone enjoys a dip in the swimming pool on a hot day, but few appreciate the eye sting and skin irritation that chlorinated pools also can deliver.
That was why Steve Berens and the principals at Boulder-based Clear Comfort - Chief Water Officer Nick Rancis and CFO Robert Fenwick-Smith -- saw a huge market opportunity with a new technology that cleans pools as well as chlorine but doesn't have the negative side effects of the potentially deadly chemical.
"We saw the opportunity and there is - from a customer point of view - a very negative perspective on chlorine," said Berens, Clear Comfort's CEO.
"(Clear Comfort) is a unique technology that's simple, effective and proven."
Clear Comfort, founded earlier this year, picked up on the technology, which it says cleans water using "nature's own techniques."
The process was invented by a company focused on industrial water applications.
"We have exclusively licensed the technology from them and adapted it for the pool and spa space," Berens said.
But replacing chlorine as a water-cleaning agent and germ killer in commercial and public pools will likely be an uphill climb, as it has been in widespread use for decades in swimming pools, spas, even our drinking water.
"While the use of (chlorine) is pretty universal, so is the dislike for it," acknowledges Berens.
Clear Comfort's technology involves a patented two-stage system called an "advanced oxidation process" (AOP) that was inspired by the natural process of air and water purification - combining ultraviolet light and the planet's magnetic field -- in the Earth's outer atmosphere.
Berens said the unique Clear Comfort AOP creates disinfectant molecules known as hydroxyls that eliminate bacteria, viruses and protozoan cysts more efficiently than chlorine.
The second stage of AOP is hydrogen peroxide - a natural and harmless substance - that goes on disinfecting the water following initial contact.
The system eliminates the harmful disinfection byproducts created by the continuous interaction of organic matter with chlorine, causing the eye and skin irritations, allergic reactions and other human ailments associated with chlorine.
Berens said other chlorine alternatives have proven too costly and showed limited effectiveness. He said Clear Comfort has displayed no downside and pays back its investment in less than four years.
Berens said there are an estimated 10 million pools in the world and he expects the biggest immediate market for Clear Comfort will be private residential pools, quickly followed by commercial and public pools.
The product can scale to any size water feature, he said, and the company has recently been getting inquiries from water parks.
Getting the product into public pools will be a tougher market to enter, he concedes, noting that those pools are required by code to have some kind of chlorine-based treatment.
Berens said Clear Comfort has been in limited release this past summer and a broader launch of the product is planned in about a month.
Clear Comfort is currently available on the company's website (clearcomfort.com) and will be offered though sales representatives in all the major pool states, he said.
In September, Clear Comfort received a $250,000 award from Colorado's Advanced Industries program. Berens said the money will be used to expand into three new markets and to build infrastructure in Colorado to support those efforts.
Berens said all of the company's manufacturing will be based in Colorado, a centralized location he says will serve the company well.
So far, the customer response to Clear Comfort has been "passionate," Berens said.
"Our customers are passionate about getting the chlorine out of their water," he said. "People are excited, people swim more and enjoy their pools more."
Clear Comfort was recently selected to be among 13 finalists for the 5th Annual Colorado Cleantech Leadership Awards on Oct. 27 in the "Breakout Cleantech Company" category.