Canadian electricians develop device for monitoring residential ground fault levels simply and affordably.
By Anthony Capkun
February 26, 2021 – What do you do when, year after year, house call after house call, you find and repair faulty electrical systems that shouldn’t have been that way in the first place? What if you find AFCIs and GFCIs have not been quite up to the task?
What if you also thought: I wish someone would make something that solves the problem of undetected ground faults?
Well, if you’re electrician Paul Violo, and master electricians Louie Violo and George De Francesca, you’ve identified the deficiency in today’s circuit protection technologies, and started a company—Pivotal Product Developments Inc.—to be that someone who makes something. That “something” is called CurrentLeak.
Developed by Paul, Louie and George, CurrentLeak is a device that is installed in the main breaker section of the electrical panel by a licensed electrician to monitor a home’s branch circuits for ground faults. Should ground fault levels reach unacceptable limits, a warning signal will activate.
I enjoy opportunities to report on Canadian electrical inventions and innovations—especially when they originate from guys in the field—so I connected with the trio to learn more about their CurrentLeak journey… from concept to commercialization.
EBMag: All three of you are electrical journeymen with decades of experience. What got you thinking about creating this solution?
GEORGE: I have seen too many electrical installations and repairs that were completed by unqualified trades or homeowners. In most cases, the work was connected incorrectly to the electrical system and hidden behind drywall, and I would uncover potential hazards and defects. As a master electrician, it was my duty to inform the customer and repair the defects.
PAUL: Over the years, we’ve seen new regulations require more and more AFCI and GFCI breakers, but there are several downfalls. While new homes and substantially renovated homes require them, AFCIs and GFCIs will periodically fail, and the homeowner doesn’t instantly know when they do. These devices do not and cannot protect every circuit in the home, plus the cost becomes incredibly high for homeowners when all branch circuit wiring requires either an AFCI or GFCI.
LOUIE: AFCIs and GFCIs have been around for quite some time but, as Paul said, they have their downfalls as reactive devices. So rather than wait for a problem to really happen, let’s catch the issue beforehand and reduce the risk. How best to do that? Let’s monitor every branch circuit in the panel with a solution that everyone can afford.
PAUL: So we started thinking about an affordable solution that a homeowner could have installed that alerts them to issues that may exist in any part of their electrical system. Should an issue arise, the homeowner can contact a licensed electrician to carry out repairs.
EBMag: So, you decided to do something about it, hence CurrentLeak. How does it work?
GEORGE: CurrentLeak is an audio and visual alert monitoring device first and foremost. Homeowners now have an immediate understanding when a potential electrical hazard is at hand, and can place a call for service by an electrician, who can review, trace, troubleshoot and repair the issue.
PAUL: CurrentLeak uses a long-known, tried-and-true method for detecting ground fault anomalies: a current transformer (CT). The biggest difference is that our device uses a patented placement method at the service entrance that provides, in our opinion, the most cost-effective way of monitoring for ground faults throughout the entire electrical system. There is not another product in the market that will do what CurrentLeak does, in the way that CurrentLeak does it.
GEORGE: The beauty of this solution is we now have an effective tool for troubleshooting electrical issues quickly and efficiently. The CurrentLeak monitoring device brings a new approach—new thinking—to electricians and the electrical industry.
EBMag: Tell me about your journey, from concept to commercialization.
LOUIE: Being a service-oriented person (and maybe a little impatient), I evaluate a project, make a decision, and get the work done. With CurrentLeak’s development, I had to learn to be really patient, especially when waiting on patents and certifications to come through. However, in the end, dealing with all of those formalities was worth it.
PAUL: Like Louie, I learned that a little (or a lot of) patience goes a long way in the product development process. Some of the steps took a surprising amount of time.
Our development journey followed two main criteria: safety and affordability. Anything that did not fit these two words was not an option. Throughout CurrentLeak’s development, we constantly made incremental improvements that would bring down costs without sacrificing safety.
GEORGE: Being a new electrical product on the market, we had to educate and direct our product development and marketing team on our vision. The time and investment required to get us to this point in time was a challenge, but we all understood how important and potentially lifesaving the result would be.
PAUL: To achieve our results, we worked with four local firms: C2P (Concept to Production) for prototype development; Broy Engineering Ltd. for manufacturing the final product; Rowand LLP as our patent attorney; and TDG Marketing for web development and marketing (thank you Alex, Peter, Jeff and Barry!). All four were instrumental throughout our journey; without them, we may still be thinking about a great product rather selling a great product.
EBMag: To your point, the product is available right now. How is purchased and installed?
PAUL: CurrentLeak can be purchased through our website and, for discounted volume orders, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The installation takes only about 5 to 10 minutes and, once complete, the homeowner instantly gets a continuous numerical display of the home’s ground fault level. Easy and effective.
GEORGE: CurrentLeak comes with all the components required for a quick installation, along with an installation guide. FAQs are on our website.
PAUL: We’d like to see affordable ground fault monitoring available to everyone. In fact, it should be a requirement in every home, much like a smoke detector. When homeowners become educated about ground faults, they’ll be proactive about their electrical system. When they see ground fault levels are unacceptable, they’ll be calling you—the electrician—to resolve the issue(s). This is great for both customers and your business: a win-win for everyone.
EBMag: Congratulations on your launch of CurrentLeak. What’s next for Pivotal Product Developments?
PAUL: We envision the time when you, the electrician, are able to read the ground fault level in your customer’s home remotely, thereby giving you the opportunity to recommend essential repairs in real-time.
LOUIE: All good solutions arise out of need, and CurrentLeak is just one of those solutions. The vision to see beyond and create digital advancements, especially in the construction sector, is a tremendous achievement. We envision a time when the electrician can one day simply plug his laptop into the electrical panel and extract valuable data on how to improve the quality of the entire electrical system.
One of the quotes I live by is “Strength does not come from the things you thought you could do. Strength comes from the things you thought you couldn’t”.