Owner of infrared business in Newport: Potholes are an easy fix
NEWPORT — Though he's been trying to tell the world about it for years, Roger Filion, president of Kasi Infrared in Newport, often feels like he is sitting on a big secret.
The future of pothole repair lies in infrared technology, he said, but it's taking time for people to fully understand the benefits.
"I call it the best keep secret in asphalt restoration," Filion said. "People just don't know about it."
The technology has been hard to sell to state, city and town highway departments, Filion said, but it's catching on fast in Europe and Asia because it saves money in labor and equipment costs, has one-seventh of the carbon foot print impact of a traditional repair and permanently fixes potholes.
"It's inexpensive, it's green, it's the only truly seamless repair that you can get," Filion said. "It's definitely the wave of the future."
Kasi Infrared was started in Claremont about 15 years ago. Filion worked for the previous owner before he purchased it about 10 years ago. The company moved to Newport five years ago to accommodate its growth, he said.
The infrared vehicles are manufactured in Newport. His wife, Susan, manages the books, and his son Chad Filion runs the factory.
Filion often travels to perform demonstrations of his machines because he refuses to sell anyone a vehicle without training the people who are going to use it.
He is set to travel soon to Hong Kong, where a company that is contracted to repair Hong Kong roads is purchasing its second vehicle.
"With Kasi, when we sell an infrared machine that person becomes part of our family," Filion said.
To keep up with demands in Asia, Filion is working on opening up a manufacturing plant in Korea.
Kasi recently opened up a manufacturing plant in Hungary and has recently sold two vehicles to Russia.
On the other side of the business is Kasi's contracted infrared services, which has recently been dubbed North American Infrared. His son Jarrod Filion runs this part of the business out of Newport, Bedford and Rutland, Vt., and has built a large clientele in the private sector, including shopping malls and plazas and large restaurant chains.
"The McDonalds and Burger Kings and Starbucks of the world love infrared," Filion said. "We can make a repair in 20 minutes and we're done."
The technology has been a tougher sell to the public sector in the U.S., though several municipalities in Georgia, Colorado and Tennessee have purchased Kasi Infrared vehicles, while other states like New Jersey contract with companies that use Kasi machines.
Kasi is also in talks with Vermont officials to contract with their Department of Transportation, Filion said. New York City officials have also shown interest in Kasi.
The machines run in the $150,000 range, but using infrared technology is more cost effective in the long run, Filion said.
The technology requires less labor, less asphalt and is permanent, he said.
The traditional "saw, cut and fill" approach, he said, often comes undone with the first heavy rain, takes between six to eight workers, and several large vehicles like backhoes and skidders.
An infrared repair is a two-man, 20-minute job, Filion said.
The technology, which was invented in the 1950s, uses stainless steel heating panels that give off infrared radiation to warm the area around a pothole. The old layer of asphalt is scrapped off, then hot asphalt is added. It bonds with the already hot asphalt, and a seamless bond is created.
The saw, cut and fill approach always leaves a seam that water can get into and that will eventually destroy the repair.
"Once they make that cut, that cut is always going to be there," Filion said. With infrared, "You're not going back every two days or two weeks every time it rains to fill that hole again."
There are only two other infrared companies in the United States, Filion said.
"We here at Kasi Infrared are the largest manufacturer of infrared equipment in the world right now. And hopefully we stay that way," Filion said.
Howard Williams has contracted Kasi Infrared for the past five years to repair potholes in the McDonald's parking lot he manages.
Williams is the facilities manager for Coughlin Inc., which owns 18 McDonald's restaurants in four states: Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York.
"I think as far as the results infrared achieves compared to the typical repair of a potholes is a much superior product. It holds up better, and it's more cost effective cause you fix it once, and you don't fix it again," Williams said.
Driving around New England a great deal, he wishes more municipalities would use infrared technology because he sees the same potholes reopening again and again.Al DeFelice, who worked for a company that oversaw projects in Lebanon, said he would call in Kasi Infrared when a road his company repaved had an issue.
In several of those cases, Kasi was called in because the water wasn't flowing continually to a catch basin, causing a puddle to be created that would eventually create a pot hole. Jarrod Filion would come in and reheat the asphalt and smooth it out."If we have a problem we'll call him and he'll straighten it out," he said.