Even though snow has been scarce so far this winter, it’s safe to say there will come a time when Teaneck residents will have to pull out their shovels or snow blowers to clear sidewalks and steps.
Someone who’s trying to make that chore easier is former Teaneck resident Hillel Glazer, 33, who has created an electrical product that keeps pathways snow-free. The HeatTrak snow-melting mat, which can be left out all winter long, first emerged when Glazer was about 16 years old.
While growing up on Edgemont Place, Glazer and his two brothers would make a few bucks shoveling snow from neighbors’ driveways and sidewalks.
The tiring work that yielded about $10 a job got Glazer thinking that there had to be a better and easier way to remove snow from certain areas. While Glazer said it’s hard to recall how his snow-melting mat first came about, he said his friends remember him talking about his invention in high school.
“That’s how I can peg it down that I came up with this idea when I was 16 years old,” Glazer said. “Apparently, I came to school one day after a snowstorm and told everyone how I built this thing from my house.”
Glazer took his parent’s heating pad and duct taped it to the bottom of a large doormat. He taped it well to keep water out, and he said the mat worked perfectly for two days before shorting out.
“I nearly electrocuted the mailman, Glazer joked.
The invention’s progression ended there because Glazer had to focus on school. He eventually graduated from college, got married, and worked in finance, but every time he’d shovel snow he’d think about that snow-melting mat from his teenage years.
“It was around 2003 and at the time I was not happy in my finance job; I was looking for an out to do something else,” Glazer said. “I remembered this idea while shoveling snow in front of my apartment.”
Glazer said he started looking online to see if someone else had come up with the same invention. Fortunately, no one had, so Glazer got to work on creating a viable product.
“There was nothing like this on the market, so I started making phone calls to companies that I thought would have to supply me with products if I were to make a mat like this,” Glazer said. “I researched who was making heating elements, heating pads, and I learned a lot over that week or two. I had some custom mats made for me, and eventually I started having samples sent to my apartment.”
Once Glazer got a functioning prototype together, he demonstrated it to inventors and he was able to secure financing to proceed with his product.
“We were selling mats before we even made any,” he said. “We put up a website, and we had people ordering mats before we had them made. This was in 2004.”
ON TRACK FOR SUCCESS
In 2011, HeatTrak had $4 million in sales. The product can be purchased in home-improvement stores, such as Ace, True Value and Home Depot. Customers also can buy the mats online at the company’s website or at online marketers like Amazon.com.
“Our sales are doing fine; $4 million in revenue this year was a substantial increase from last year,” Glazer said. “But the truth is our revenue would have been a lot higher if we actually had snow around the country.”
The HeatTrak mat has won multiple national awards, including being voted as the Best New Product at the 2010 National Hardware Show.
The company sells residential mats priced at $119.95 that are 20 inches wide and 5 feet long, as well as stair mats that are 30 inches wide and priced at $49.95. Industrial mats can be customizable, but are much bigger in size and meant to handle large amounts of foot traffic. They can cost a few hundred dollars to more than $1,000, depending on the size.
Glazer said all the mats are modular in design, and they all interconnect, kind of like Christmas lights. So while each mat has its own electrical cord, they can be attached to one another in the form of a daisy chain.
“So if you have 10 feet of sidewalk, you put two of our 5-foot mats together and connect them,” Glazer said. “It makes it easier for buyers and for us because we don’t have to make a variety of sizes.”
HeatTrak mats are selling well in Connecticut, Massachusetts, the Midwest and Canada. It’s also used heavily at ski resorts in Colorado and Utah.
“We even have some of our mats at the White House,” Glazer said. “We found out halfway through the project because there was a lot of customization going on for these industrial mats. At some point our contact in the D.C. area told us the final installation point was at the White House.”
The product has been featured on national media outlets on TV and in print. Glazer joked that when he goes to the Midwest or to Canada, people recognize the HeatTrak name. This doesn’t happen as much in New Jersey.
“Here in my hometown in Teaneck, most people haven’t heard about this product,” Glazer said. “But when I go up to Canada or out to the Midwest – they all know about HeatTrak; I’m like a celebrity.”
INVENTING NEVER ENDS
Glazer now lives in Atlanta, Ga., but he lived in Teaneck for 27 years. He moved south for a job opportunity for his wife. Glazer flies to New Jersey and stays in Teaneck for three days each week in order to work out of his company’s Paterson location, which employs 12 people.
The company will be launching new products in the winter of 2012. While the details of those products are being kept secret for now, Glazer said his goal is to expand the HeatTrak name beyond snow-melting mats and onto products such as a heated dog house or animal mat.
“Our strategy here at HeatTrak is to develop this brand name into multiple, unique heating products that are clever and very useful around the home and businesses,” Glazer said. “The snow-mat business is doing well and will grow naturally, and a lot of my attention right now is focused on the new products.”
Glazer said growing up Teaneck was “vital” in nurturing his company.
“The original HeatTrak mat, which I still have in my office, was conceived and designed in Teaneck on Edgemont Place,” Glazer said. “And a lot of my early investors were contacts from Teaneck – friends and family. So I would say this product really did have its roots in Teaneck.”