Governor Gina Raimondo, along with Mayor Scott Avedisian and Ward 8 Councilman Joseph Gallucci, got a firsthand glimpse into award-winning engineering innovation on Tuesday afternoon as they paid a visit to AquaMotion on Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick.
AquaMotion specializes in manufacturing cutting-edge hot water pump systems that are energy efficient, recyclable and have a guaranteed life expectancy of 10 years, with many units lasting as long as 20 years.
The company recently won most innovative plumbing product at the most recent International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo) for its newest pump, the Aqua-Flash Recirculation System, which was also just awarded an international patent.
For AquaMotion president Hans Kuster, the impetus to design the recirculation pump was a common problem that many can relate to.
“How long do you wait for hot water?” the 84-year-old asked Raimondo with a smile. “Thirty seconds, a minute, more?”
The question was hypothetical, but the point Kuster was driving towards was that, annually, a family of five can waste upwards of 15,000 gallons of water waiting for cold water to vacate from pipes before the heated water can cycle and come out of the faucets. Using the technology created and assembled right here in Warwick, users of Aqua-Flash get hot water almost instantly through a complex system of valves.
Additionally, the circulator can be installed in systems that don’t utilize a water tank, which Kuster estimated is now the case in about 50 percent of the country and about 95 percent of water-scarce states like California and Arizona.
The circulator can be installed in 10 minutes under the sink with nothing but a wrench. All of the working components are contained within an enclosed chassis that can be disassembled, cleaned and reinstalled if it becomes clogged up by hard water deposits, such as calcium.
The system also utilizes stainless steel and brass, so it has a much longer guaranteed lifespan than competitor products, many of which use plastic that can easily break or be cracked by cross-threading, leading to failures in the pump.
Perfecting the technology took three years, Kuster said, but all that time has resulted in creating a product that none of his competitors can replicate.
“So many people today put something together and then find out later it doesn’t really work,” Kuster said. “It looks so simple but so many little aspects that have to be done and tested to get this right. It took us different tries with different elements with different characteristics to get it right…I got the biggest guys chasing me on this one.”
Kuster previously built another similar company from the ground up, Sparco Inc., in 1983. He eventually sold that company to one of those aforementioned “big guys” Honeywell in 2000 following a health scare. Not finished, Kuster started AquaMotion in 2002 and opened the facility in Warwick in 2013.
As of today, according to their website, you can find a supplier of AquaMotion products as far north as Nunavut, Canada and in every U.S. state except Alabama, including Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
This is all accomplished with about 15 to 20 employees, all of which Kuster has hired locally, to the delight of the mayor and the governor, who got total access to the entire facility – seeing each individual process of making the pumps, all the way through quality control and testing.
“It’s a great company,” Raimondo said. “It’s built on innovation and they’re hiring all local people; good manufacturing jobs. There’s a certain pride in your job if you spend your day making things. You can see it in talking to all the guys who are making the pumps.”
Raimondo said that her continuing goal is to remove certain regulations to make it easier for manufacturers to operate in the state and establish educational programs to supply small business manufacturers with a ready supply of work-ready talent. She said that some of those programs are already bearing fruit for manufacturers.
“They seem to be hiring as many as we produce,” she said.
Kuster shows no signs of slowing down the Warwick-based operation. He intends to continue growing the business, as was apparent by the warehouse portion of the facility being stocked to the ceiling with product.
It was also apparent there was no shortage of ideas or creative energy flowing through him at any given moment.
“When there’s a little down time around here, I paint,” he said, again with a big smile. At once, the large, artfully detailed paintings around the upstairs conference room and office area – some of scenic buffalo grazing, others of picturesque landscapes – took on a new life. “I painted all these.”