Site manager and former carpenter Harry Degun talks to Professional Builder about his Attic Eye invention.
Sometimes you might not know that a problem exists until you share it. Bishop’s Stortford-based site manager Harry Degun had just that experience when he happened to be casually telling a colleague how he’d left the light on in his loft, only for him to reply that he’d done the very same thing for an entire two week holiday.
“There are millions of homes up and down the country with loft hatches with lights above,” explains Harry. “Once that hatch is closed it’s impossible to tell if the light’s still on and I spoke to a number of people who had just the same experience. That was really the beginning of the Attic Eye concept and I would spend the next two years in my spare time – evenings and weekends – researching a solution.”
Even with modern energy-saving bulbs, leaving a light on unnecessarily is a wasteful exercise. It will also increase the risk of fire, and after consulting a panel of intellectual property consultants, Harry was convinced there was a market for his device. The trickier proposition was to make it work. “The key to Attic Eye is what it’s made from, and I spent many hours studying how different materials absorb and reflect light. I looked into fibre optics, for instance, and, constructed a prototype using a converging lens on top of a hollow tube that would concentrate light rays where they can be seen when looking up at a loft hatch. If the light in the space above is left on, it will light up – if it’s turned off it will remain dark.”
If simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, then Attic Eye has that particular attribute in abundance. The finished product is essentially a tube of plastic with optical properties, which allows the light to pass through. It does not require batteries, or any other external power source, whilst the only maintenance needed is a clean once a year or so.
Conveniently supplied with the auger bit required to fit it, the device can also be installed in a matter of minutes. Simply drill a 20mm hole anywhere in your wood or ply loft hatch – as long as it’s at least 100mm from the edge. Take off the nut and one washer from the Attic Eye and insert it into the hole. Then simply insert the second washer and then the nut and tighten slightly, leaving the two washers either side of the hatch. Replace the loft hatch and it’s job done!
Whilst fitting the Attic Eye might represent simplicity itself, like many an inventor before him Harry found that proving there was a demand for his invention was only the first step on a very long road. “The function of the Attic Eye depends upon the quality and properties of the material.
“Initially I went to China but found that some of the prototypes that were supplied to me were not up to the required standard. In the end I found a local company that can supply a decent volume and the specification I required. When your sacrificing whatever time you have away from the tools to make a product work you need to believe in it, and there are so many things that you need to consider from patents to distribution and marketing. It’s been a long journey but there’s now a patent pending.”