They say that necessity is the mother of invention and this is certainly the case for Darren Merlob, owner of Torque Lock, LeakTronics, and Caltech Pools, in Southern California.
Merlob has been in the swimming pool industry for more than 25 years, and his experiences have brought him multiple opportunities to improve on the ways that a certain problems are solved. Beginning as a pool technician in 1988, he grew his business into one of the largest pool renovation companies in Florida, under the name of American Pool Resurfacing. Merlob operated this business for 15 years, and was plagued by a fundamental problem.
Although he was proud of his beautiful renovations, when it came to structural cracks, he was fully aware that he would soon be returning to the pool to repair his work. Underlying issues such as erosion and ground movement could not be stopped by existing materials such as epoxies and even rebar. They simply didn’t provide enough reinforcement.
So at considerable personal expense, Merlob hired an engineer, and presented him with the problem: how to keep pools from splitting apart. Working together, they created Torque Lock, a staple that embraces the crack and provides steel reinforced compression that stops structural cracks 99 percent of the time.
Merlob eventually sold American Pool Resurfacing when he moved to Texas, and started a new company, Austech, a leak detection business. In 2007, there was very little competition for leak detection specialists, and his business rapidly ascended to one of the most heavily relied upon leak detection companies in central Texas. In 2011, the business was in its prime, and Merlob knew it was time to sell, so he moved to California and started Caltech Pools, another leak detection company that is currently prospering in Calabasas California.
His tenure as a leak detection specialist has made him all too aware of the deficiency of the leak detection equipment that is readily available to pool technicians. He thus again donned his thinking cap, and began yet another business, LeakTronics, a manufacturer of high quality listening devices that make if possible to pinpoint the location of a leak.
Today, leak detection has become a streamlines process for Merlob. He was able to transform what used to be a frustrating experience due to subpar plugs leading to inaccurate pressure testing results providing little information.
Now, he approaches leak detection using his own equipment in multiple steps that provide increasingly precise results.
For a known leak, he starts with the Pool Scope, which is a hydrophone, or a general listening devise. Using this, he can find leaks in general locations such as skimmers, lights, main drains and pipes. If he hears something in a line, he breaks out the Pipe Mic, which goes into the pipe, and he listens for leaks without needing to pressure test the plumbing. If the Pipe Mic isn’t helpful, he uses a Pressure Rig, which is used in conjunction with the Soil Probe and the Deck Plate. The Soil Probe locates leaks in grass, rocks or any type of porous material, while the Deck Plate makes it easy to listen through concrete, brick or rock when the line is under pressure.
For precise leak location in the plumbing, LeakTronics also manufactures a product called the Slide Mic. This devise is used by slowly sliding the microphone inside pipe under low pressure, and a very loud audio sound signals identification of the leak.
The electronics equipment usually makes it unnecessary to dive the pool, even if the leak is at the bottom of the pool. In that case, he can send a camera with a due injector to check for leaks. He can also send a microphone to listen to it.
His equipment has brought leak detection into the modern era.
So while Merlob intended to be a pool plasterer and leak detection specialist, he became an inventor and innovator along the way. It will be interesting to see what problem he might solve next.