Inventors Eye
Inventors Eye Jun Jul 2011: The USPTO's bimonthly publication for the independent inventor community0

The USPTO's bimonthly publication for the independent inventor community

Michael Sykes outdoors with a home under construction

spark of genius


Energy costs are getting higher and higher each year.  Yet there are ways we can save on those costs and protect the earth at the same time.  How would you like to have a house that worked for you while keeping your carbon footprint at a minimum?  Michael Sykes has the solution─his patented Enertia® Building System.

Michael began building homes 40 years ago while he was putting himself through engineering school at North Carolina State University.  One day, as he was passing a pile of lumber, he noticed heat being emitted from the pile.  “It was my light bulb moment,” Michael recalled. “I kept that vision in mind as I worked and formulated my ideas on developing a more energy efficient house.” He built his first house, but found that the south wall was way too hot, so it was back to the drawing board to figure out a solution.

For the next stage of development he drew inspiration from the energy crisis of the 1970s, sometimes referred to as the “First Solar Age.”  He replaced the solar mass of early solar homes developed during that time with a house within itself.  Michael had been building log homes and noticed that their thermal heating  provided enough heat to allow some homeowners to delay using conventional heating until December.  As his ideas progressed, he found himself using something he thought he would never need after college−differential calculus.  It proved to be the key to figuring out how to build his new houses.

His early experiments were valuable in producing houses that fit today’s green movement.  The homes use modern Glulam, laminated dimensionally cut lumber, to create massive wood walls that collect thermal energy from natural solar rays.  The discovery he made when walking by the pile of lumber, along with his understanding of the earth’s natural heating and cooling system, were keys to his inventions.  His first patent, patent number 4,621,614, was issued in 1986 and dealt with the convection loop that Enertia homes are built around.

Michael’s second patent, patent number 6,933,016, was for using the latent naturally occurring rosin as storage within the southern yellow pine species of lumber, Southern yellow pine is one of the fastest growing and most readily available wood species.  It is used in most of our home building today.  Homes built with the properties found in Michael’s Enertia  houses incorporate the intellectual property of his two patents.

In 2007, Enertia houses were selected as the invention of the year by the History Channel’s “Modern Marvels.” Fueled in part by that recognition, 2008 was Michael’s best year ever for the production and sales of his homes.  Growth has slowed since then because of the faltering economy.  ”I am optimistic that the renewed interest in green technology and energy savings will revitalize production and sales,” Michael said.

He also feels that the recent rash of bad weather will be good for sales as well.  ”My solid wood homes can meet tornado codes with winds up to 140 miles per hour,” he said. “Their resistance to fire is also higher.”

”No one has ever come looking for my patents except from overseas and no one is interested in licensing,” said Michael.  The cost of mass producing the homes is a major factor.  They require an initial outlay of nearly $1.5 million.  “Mass production will lower costs,” he said.

As someone who invents, produces, sells, delivers and installs the product, Michael Sykes is one of the few inventors who does it all─invents, produces, sells, delivers and installs the product.

By John Calvert : Inventors Assistance Center