Old Lyme generator business innovates, looks to expand

Old Lyme — In the home generator business, snowdrifts are the mother of invention.

When the drifts began burying the generators Ron Swaney started installing in 2012, it set him to thinking about a way to elevate the electrical power sources to keep them from shorting out.

Now, little more than three years after founding Generators On Demand, Swaney's looking to expand the manufacture of his patent-pending GenRiser, concrete panels that can lift a generator 2 to 4 feet off the ground, or higher, if necessary. A machine he designed can crank out GenRisers in assembly-line fashion in his company's Buttonball Road warehouse.

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, visited the facility.

He said Swaney's invention reflects the newfound emphasis on "resiliency," the ability of communities to deal with disasters and change, including power outages.

"It's a hot trend, with climate change and all the bad weather," Courtney told his host. "It's just a word to some people, but you're turning it into a good strategy. We're not going to drill for oil or mine coal here. In Connecticut, it's really about innovation. It's key to our economy."

Courtney also congratulated Swaney on pursuing a patent, a process, the congressman said, that's "not for the faint of heart."

Swaney, 48, who said he was merely trying to protect his investment in generators, expects to have his hands full filling orders for GenRisers. Generac, a major generator manufacturer, and a Rhode Island generator company have expressed keen interest, demanding to know, he said, "How many can you make and how fast?"

HVAC companies are potential customers, too, given that the GenRiser can be used to elevate air-conditioning units. The GenRiser retails for $650 and sells for $450 wholesale. It's sold together with a GenPad base, or cover, for $899.

Swaney plans to eventually operate six of his GenRiser-producing machines, which will enable him to add two full-time positions. Generators On Demand employs 10 people, and provides opportunities for local tech school students, including Korbin Hightower of Waterford, a 2013 graduate of Norwich Tech's electrical department.

The rapidly growing number of generators out there is creating a market for people who can service them, Swaney said.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

Twitter: @bjhallenbeck

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