Disinfecting PPE with an Oil-Fired ‘Hot Box’

Burch Oil, Carlin Combustion/Hydrolevel, Thermo Products, and Triton Defense helped inventor Matt Hayes make a “Hot Box” designed to disinfect personal protective equipment. Now three facilities in Maryland are using the oil-fired device to treat N95 masks so that they can be reused.

For a heat source, the device uses a low-profile highboy oil furnace manufactured by Thermo Products, Denton, N.C., said Rob Paquette, national sales manager, who emphasized that the furnace is being used outside its normal scope. “This is a very specific, controlled environment,” he noted.

The device needs to maintain a consistent, high specific temperature throughout the chamber in which the PPE is placed.

From left: Maurice Owens and Jason Norris of Triton Defense; Matt Hayes of Southern Maryland Loves You, inventor; and Bobby Parlett of Burch Oil. Photography by Paul Scheller.

“They needed a way to maintain a very tight temperature differential in the hot box,” said Bruce Graham, a technical support specialist for Carlin Combustion/Hydrolevel. “We built them a Carlin EZ Temp that would keep the furnace firing on and off to maintain that temperature. We also built them customized safety limit controls.” The machine includes a double-walled tank, manufactured by Roth North America, for the heating oil.

Hayes, who came up with the conceptual design, says he approached Burch Oil and Triton Defense, local companies in Hollywood, Maryland, for their technical and manufacturing expertise. Maurice Owens and Jason Norris of Triton were instrumental in the development, and the units have been manufactured on Triton’s premises.

“They designed a lot of the individual hardware,” Hayes says of Triton and Burch Oil. Hayes adds that he worked closely with Bobby Parlett, Burch Oil’s sales manager, to establish a supply chain “that was going to be stable through the pandemic, relying on all American-made equipment.” The FDA authorized the system, Hayes says.

“Our big challenges are scaling up the production, meeting the demands of healthcare facilities and making sure that everyone’s aware that this is now an option that they have,” Hayes says in a phone interview with Fuel Oil News.

Capable of disinfecting 24,000 N95 masks per day, the machine can provide healthcare personnel the ability to reuse their masks at least 20 times, the developers say. It takes about one hour to cycle.

The “Hot Box” outside a medical facility in Maryland. Photography by Paul Scheller.

A goal is to build the devices and distribute them nationally and internationally, Parlett says. “At this point the use of the machine is exclusively for the N95 mask,” per the FDA, Parlett emphasizes.

The prototype was subjected to FDA testing last year while in use at the University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center, Southern Maryland News Net reported.

More recently, additional units have been placed with Charlotte Hall Veterans Home in Charlotte Hall, Maryland, and the St. Mary’s County (Maryland) Health Department, Parlett says.

Also involved in the development of the heat sanitization box were entrepreneurs at TechPort, UAS Business Incubator and Community Innovation Hub of Southern Maryland, Southern Maryland News Net reported. The stated purpose of the device is to assist frontline health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic by making personal protective equipment reusable.

The “Hot Box,” whose official name is the Semi-Automated Heat Bioburden Reduction Module, measures 16-feet long, 8-feet wide, and 8-feet high.

Hayes co-founded a nonprofit, Southern Maryland Loves You, to support development of the heat sanitation box.—Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett is the editor of Fuel Oil News. A version of this article is published in the February 2021 digital issue of Fuel Oil News.

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