This past October, a select group of social media influencers that represent small or mid-sized, light commercial plumbing contractors attended a Watts two-day “Social Media Summit” at the company’s North Andover, Mass. and Franklin, N.H. locations. Guests included Mechanical Hub’s very own Eric Aune @mechanicalhub; Paige Knowles @plumber_paige; Travis Abaire @t.a.p.plumbingandheating; Matt Fleming @allstarplumbinginc; Evan Read more
This past October, a select group of social media influencers that represent small or mid-sized, light commercial plumbing contractors attended a Watts two-day “Social Media Summit” at the company’s North Andover, Mass. and Franklin, N.H. locations. Guests included Mechanical Hub’s very own Eric Aune @mechanicalhub; Paige Knowles @plumber_paige; Travis Abaire @t.a.p.plumbingandheating; Matt Fleming @allstarplumbinginc; Evan Berns; and Chris Sbrocco @chris_sbrocco.
The purpose of the summit was to develop Watts’ own “rolodex” of online influencers who could help build Watts product excitement and awareness. Hosting a social media influencer summit provided the potential to deepen Watts’ social media influencer connections, assist in digital marketing, and gain contractor-level voice of customer. “Watts welcomed the group plumbers to discuss how social media can play a role in learning and collaborating within the plumbing and piping industry,” said Aune.
Guests were initially greeted to a hearty welcome from Watts CEO, President, and Chairperson of the Board, Bob Pagano. “We were greeted warmly by members of the Watts social media and marketing team, and heard a message from CEO Pagano about his vision for what’s coming next at Watts,” said Berns.
Following the opening remarks from Pagano, by an open dialogue on influencer benefits was held hosted by Ryan Kiscaden, Manager, Sales Enablement, with a quick breakdown of the Watts family of products from Shashwat Nath of the Watts Product Team. “After touring their state-of-the-art facility, we were able to ask questions and get our hands on products in their training room,” said Berns.
Abaire continued, “I’ve always liked the products that Watts put out, but to see firsthand the level of care, precision, and pride that actually goes into making their products gave me a whole new level of respect and trust in the Watts brand.”
In the afternoon of that first day, the group toured the mechanical rooms and learning center and met with Greg Gyorda, Director of Training, and members of the Watts training team, including Kari Stocks, Training Campaign Manager. “Watts has built a world-class training facility at their headquarters where hands-on technical training is a main focus,” said Aune.
Moreover, “I was impressed with the training facility, as I didn’t realize how many brands are under the Watts umbrella. They had a bit of everything at the training facility to check out and with which to get hands-on,” said Fleming.
Day one concluded with some authentic Boston flavor. “The Watts team showed us some of what Boston has to offer with a tour of Sam Adams brewery and a Boston Bruins game,” said Berns.
On the second day, the group took a one-hour trip to Watts’ Franklin Manufacturing Facility in Franklin, N.H. This facility is a center of excellence in manufacturing Watts’ specialty products that require some level of fabrication. This includes Watts-branded plumbing flow control products. The products that are manufactured at this state-of-the-art, lean facility are used worldwide in various residential and commercial applications. “We were able to tour their incredible manufacturing facilities, and got a look at the many steps that the Watts products go through before we see them on the shelf. It was great to see some of the smiling faces behind the products that we all know and love,” said Berns.
Tour guide Pete Bertagna captivated the group with some of the foundry’s processes, including how the world-renowned backflow preventers are made. “The Franklin factory tour gave us the opportunity to assemble our own backflow preventer from the parts manufactured on site; it was so cool to see the whole process from start to finish,” said Aune.
Fleming concurred, “The factory was also cool seeing all the backflow preventers that I’ve installed for years actually come to life.”
There is a need to continue to simplify plumbing systems and experiences over time. Online social media influencers are a “cog in the wheel” to positively influence the next generation and change perceptions. The Social Media Summit and those content creators that participated are cogs on the Watts messaging wheel. There is a growing need for training programs and education and Watts is taking training very seriously and believe it is key to its success.
Overall impressions from the Social Media Summit:
- Eric Aune @mechanicalhub:
“Watts has been present in the industry for decades longer than my 25-year plumbing and heating career. Connecting with people who make, design and distribute the products was a special experience of which I’m thankful to have taken part.”
- Matt Fleming @ allstarplumbinginc:
“At the end of the day, it was great to get to hang out with all my plumbing peers from across the country. I definitely value the friendships I’ve made through social media, and I always look for to an opportunity to hang with everyone.”
- Evan Berns @re.plumb
“The trip was a great opportunity to connect with some of the plumbing and heating industries leading professionals. Overall, it was a great event for Watts to get more involved with the online community and develop their social media presence.”
- Travis Abaire @t.a.p.plumbingandheating
“It was really a great and educational experience, and I’m thrilled I was asked to be a part of it.”
- Paige Knowles @plumber_paige
“I learned a lot about their environment and training opportunities. Seeing how backflow preventers were made, and being able to make one, was awesome!”
Electrode boilers are ideal for quickly, efficiently supplying auxiliary steam and hot water to meet surges in demand In industry, fossil fuel-fired boilers are commonly used to produce steam or hot water for space and process heating. However, traditional boilers may not be flexible enough to respond quickly to demand surges during peak periods. To Read more
Electrode boilers are ideal for quickly, efficiently supplying auxiliary steam and hot water to meet surges in demand
In industry, fossil fuel-fired boilers are commonly used to produce steam or hot water for space and process heating. However, traditional boilers may not be flexible enough to respond quickly to demand surges during peak periods.
To compensate, processors and manufacturers often keep more than the required number of boilers running – usually at less than full capacity. When more steam or heat is required, the units are already in operation and so require less time to increase output. Even if burning at 75% however, fossil fuel boilers take time to heat up internally.
“If you want to use a gas-fired boiler as an auxiliary, you’d better know in advance when you will need it since it takes time for the heat to rise and disperse before reaching the target output [of steam or hot water]. If you have gas-fired boilers run at 75% capacity and there is an increase in demand, you cannot quickly reach 100% capacity, says Robert Presser, Vice President of Acme Engineering, a manufacturer of industrial and commercial boilers with operations in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
Today, a much more efficient and cost-effective approach is available: auxiliary electrode boilers. These modern electrode boilers can almost immediately provide supplemental steam or hot water as required. The approach minimizes the number of gas-burning boilers on standby, provides greater operational flexibility, and reduces operating and maintenance costs.
The components of these auxiliary high-voltage electrical systems – boilers, superheaters, secondary pressure vessels, and associated control systems – are readily available from experienced suppliers and can be customized to specific industrial needs.
“A gas-fired boiler cannot go from zero to 100% capacity in less than two minutes – but an electrode boiler can,” says Presser. He points out that modern electrode boilers are designed so temperature, pressure, and output can quickly rise or fall as needed with no “flywheel effect.”
Electrode boilers have existed in various forms for many decades. However, recent design improvements have closed the output gap while surpassing conventional units not only in terms of efficiency and simplicity but also responsiveness and safety.
Modern electrode boilers utilize the conductive and resistive properties of water to carry electric current and generate steam. In a jet boiler, water jets flow from a central column to electrodes of each phase, using chemicals in the water to create resistance and generate heat and steam as the water passes from ground to phase. More steam is produced as the water flows from the electrode to the counter electrode placed below the electrode box, before the water returns to the reservoir at the bottom of the vessel.
“The more current [amps] that flows, the more heat [BTUs] is generated and the more steam produced. Nearly 100% of the electrical energy is converted into heat with no exhaust stack or heat transfer losses,” says Presser.
As an example, in the CEJS High Voltage Jet Type Steam Boiler from Acme Engineering, the electrodes are vertically mounted around the inside of the pressure vessel, which enables the unit to produce maximum amounts of steam in a minimum amount of floor space.
The electrode boilers operate at existing distribution voltages, 4.16 to 25 KV with exceptional efficiency – up to 99.9% efficient at converting energy into heat. The boilers can produce steam in capacities up to 270,000 pounds per hour, with pressure ratings from 75 psig to 500 PSIG. All CEJS boilers are designed to ASME Code or EU Pressure Vessels Directive and are certified, registered pressure vessels. Electrical standards meet CSA, UL, or CE requirements.
The advanced steam boilers have a 100% turndown ratio, the ratio between a boiler’s maximum and minimum output. Most gas boilers have a 10:1 or 5:1 ratio.
“The turndown means you can leave the boiler in standby at low pressure and, when needed, bring it to full capacity in about 90 seconds, which no other boiler type can achieve today,” says Presser. “With the electric boilers, the energy input and adjustment are very precise and virtually immediate.”
The ability to rapidly increase or decrease boiler capacity “on demand” can save industrial processors and manufacturers a substantial amount in operational and maintenance costs.
“Instead of running five gas-fired boilers on moderate capacity, you can run three or four boilers at full capacity, which maximizes their efficiency, and have an electrode boiler on standby. The electrode boiler can be used in short bursts only when you need peak performance. This is less expensive than running more gas-fired boilers,” says Presser.
The economics of using auxiliary electrode boilers further improve when utilizing discounted off-peak electricity at night when demand is low.
Electrode boilers also lower the costs of installation, operation, and maintenance. Gas-fired boilers require fuel lines, storage and handling equipment, economizers, and emission control equipment. Advanced jet type electrode boilers have a minimal number of components and electrical controls, with fewer parts. Under normal operation, the absence of excessive temperatures and electrode burnout assures long operating life.
The units further lower operating costs with automatic controls that reduce the need for operating personnel.
Presser points out that the most advanced types of these boilers, such as Acme’s CEJS, also operate more safely than traditional fuel burning models.
“With the jet type electrode boilers, there are no combustion hazards because there are no flames, fumes, fuel lines, storage tanks, or hazardous emissions. There are no problems with heat buildup or electrode burnout even if scaling should occur, and thermal shock is eliminated. There is also no ‘low water’ danger since the current cannot flow without water,” says Presser.
With all the advantages of high-output auxiliary electrode boilers, industrial processors and manufacturers that utilize them will have a competitive advantage over rivals relying on gas-fired boilers alone.
The flexibility, precision, and responsiveness of electrode boilers will allow cost-effective “on demand” steam and process heating, eliminating the need for extra traditional units to be continually kept online at low capacity, ready to be “fired up” during peak periods. This approach will minimize operating costs including energy, labor, and maintenance.
By joining forces with Uponor, GF is set to become a global leader in sustainable water and flow solutions. To support this ambition, complementary businesses will be grouped together under one roof: the new division GF Uponor will focus on Building Technology, whereas the infrastructure and utility business will move to GF Piping Systems. Michael Read more
By joining forces with Uponor, GF is set to become a global leader in sustainable water and flow solutions. To support this ambition, complementary businesses will be grouped together under one roof: the new division GF Uponor will focus on Building Technology, whereas the infrastructure and utility business will move to GF Piping Systems. Michael Rauterkus will join GF’s Executive Committee and will lead the new division together with his Uponor leadership team.
After all conditions of the tender offer have been fulfilled, GF closes the transaction as of 13 November 2023.
To accelerate the implementation of GF Piping Systems’ Strategy 2025 and to further benefit from global megatrends, GF will start an ambitious value creation program to unleash the full potential of this acquisition. GF Piping Systems will focus on the industrial and utility business, providing its customers with sustainable leak-free piping solutions for numerous end markets such as microelectronics, water treatment, energy, chemical processing, marine, data centers or water & gas utilities. Uponor’s infrastructure business will become part of GF Piping Systems and will further strengthen the division’s portfolio to provide customers with combined solutions.
In the new division, GF Uponor, the building technology businesses will be combined to offer a complementary portfolio for safe and clean water, as well as energy efficient heating and cooling. The consolidation of complementary businesses provides an ideal platform to develop markets with high potential for both divisions. As the brand Uponor stands for high quality and innovation, it will drive growth in intelligent Building Flow Solutions.
These organizational changes will be implemented during the course of 2024 while GF will ensure operational excellence and business continuity to customers.
“We will continue to implement our strategy, and leverage powerful global trends, such as the need for safe and clean water, or more efficient energy use,” GF CEO Andreas Müller said. “On behalf of all my colleagues, I am happy to welcome Uponor employees and start this new chapter together.”
Yes! (If the boiler does it for you) Of all the commodities available to us, time is the most precious. As humans have done for eons, we all trade in the commodity of time. Successful contractors regularly step back to assess whether they are getting the most out of the hours they’ve bartered. This is Read more
Yes! (If the boiler does it for you)
Of all the commodities available to us, time is the most precious. As humans have done for eons, we all trade in the commodity of time. Successful contractors regularly step back to assess whether they are getting the most out of the hours they’ve bartered.
This is where the team at U.S. Boiler Company was determined to add value with the high efficiency Alta boiler. Innovation at U.S. Boiler goes beyond durability and performance to saving your most precious resource: a skilled tradesperson’s time.
What are the most time-consuming and painful steps of installing or servicing a boiler? The Alta boiler addresses several steps near the top of your list, but it doesn’t just make them easier. You can skip them. Let’s start with combustion setup.
First, we can all agree that combustion setup takes time, and that improper setup can lead to big problems. What are the biggest challenges with combustion set up?
If you have a passion for all things measured in horsepower, you know that your car, boat, motorcycle, etc. runs best on cool fall nights. This is because the cooler air is denser. That is, it contains more oxygen per cubic foot. The more oxygen in the cylinder, the more power generated.
With boilers, we face a similar dynamic. Most of us perform preventative maintenance during the summer months. At this time of year, air temps can range from 50°F to 100°F or more, depending on your location.
Once winter rolls around and the outdoor temps drop, those combustion targets we worked so hard to achieve go right out the window. The dense air will skew your combustion to the leaner side of the spectrum (not enough fuel for the oxygen present) because your calibration was conducted when the ambient temperature was higher.
The problem gets worse if the combustion check was skipped altogether. If the boiler is already too lean, you might be required to pay a free visit to the site during the colder months and encounter the homeowner sporting what is colloquially known in the industry as “lemon face” due to a no heat call.
Well … It’s Complicated
Technicians face the daunting task of working on a wide variety of equipment and trying to keep pace with industry advancements. When setting the combustion on most high efficiency boilers, proper setup requires tuning at both high and low fire. This means knowing which screw to adjust, how to lock the boiler in high and low fire, and hoping the system has enough capacity to dissipate the heat generated during testing to keep the boiler running. That’s a lot to expect of a seasoned tech, much less some of the newer faces joining our industry.
Like fishing, combustion testing is frequently accompanied by “far away eyes and bold-faced lies.” I’m constantly amazed by the number of technicians who share the following comments with such a level of innocence, sincerity and/or ignorance that I’m not always sure how to respond.
- “We don’t have an analyzer. Never have! Boss says we don’t need one.”
- “We don’t have an analyzer. Boss keeps it in the office…”
- “We have an analyzer, but the last time it was calibrated was during the Nixon administration…”
- “We have an analyzer, but it doesn’t work. Ever since we left it in the truck last winter the numbers are all wonky.”
- “We have an analyzer, but I’m not trained on it.”
These are just a small sample of the excuses I’ve heard. There are many, many more, some of which deserve an A+ for creativity. Long story short, there’s cause for concern on whether the boiler was set up correctly, if at all. Which brings us to the Alta.
Alta Does It for You
The gas train in the Alta boiler utilizes an adaptive combustion system. Unlike a simple pneumatic gas train, gas adaptive technology uses the flame signal to constantly tune combustion. What does this mean to homeowners, contractors, and technicians?
Everyone is familiar with the K.I.S.S. concept. We use it in a slightly different manner for the Alta. Keep It Sweet and Simple!
Sweet—Alta’s adaptive system constantly tunes burner combustion, keeping the boiler consistently in the sweet spot, maintaining the cleanest heat exchanger possible while achieving optimal efficiency.
Simple—Because the Alta adaptive combustion system uses basic components and a time-tested method of monitoring, the Alta solution is elegant and ingenious, without being complex. No more worries about changing combustion air temperatures or watching over techs as they adjust combustion.
Alta does the heavy lifting for you by tuning itself to site conditions. The boiler runs its own combustion setup, so you don’t have to.
Technology should not replace knowledge of hydronic systems, but it should make your life easier. You should own and be competent in the use of a combustion analyzer so you can be sure there are no installer-induced failures like reversed low profile termination fittings (it’s happened) or wads of insulation that inadvertently get lodged in the combustion air piping (yep, this happened too!), or cross contamination at the vent termination (the list goes on).
Adaptive combustion delivers faster installations and fewer callbacks on combustion issues. That’s how you do more with the time you have. So go ahead, skip combustion setup with Alta.
Tom Secondino is a Technical Sales Support Specialist for U.S. Boiler Company, a manufacturer of residential and commercial heating products, including condensing, non-condensing and electric boilers. For more information on the Alta boiler, visit our Alta Product Page
Jimmy Anderson has been a boiler technician in Burnley, Lancashire, UK for 26 years. His story is unique. While he’s made appearances in the United States on social media, to my knowledge, his story has never been told among the skilled trade community in North America. I believe it’s worth telling, especially now, during the Read more
Jimmy Anderson has been a boiler technician in Burnley, Lancashire, UK for 26 years. His story is unique. While he’s made appearances in the United States on social media, to my knowledge, his story has never been told among the skilled trade community in North America. I believe it’s worth telling, especially now, during the holiday season, while we’re reflecting, spending time with loved ones, and enjoying the warmth that our heating systems provide. – Dan Vastyan
A promise made
It was 2013. William Edgar James Ward Anderson, only 16 weeks old, lie in a hospital bed dying. Bedside on his knees was his father, Jimmy, who made a promise to his infant son: William, if you pull through this, I will become the man I should be.
William passed away shortly thereafter, leaving a gaping void in his father’s heart.
“I became very angry with the world and couldn’t accept that I’d lost my son,” said Jimmy. “I carried that anger with me. It ate me up and led to misery and a chain of poor decisions.”
Jimmy drifted through life, working, existing in pain, and quietly raging against his loss. This continued for four years. Then a service call changed everything.
A scene from the past
In 2017, Jimmy was called to a property to look at a malfunctioning boiler system. When he knocked on the door, he heard someone faintly shout for him to come in.
In the back room, Jimmy found an old man lying in bed. It was obvious from his condition and the hoist next to the bed that the man was very ill.
“The sight immediately took me back to the day I said goodbye to William, the day I made the promise,” said Jimmy. “The room reminded me so much of the hospital, and the man looked like a bigger version of my son when he died. I thought, ‘Wow, is this William’s way of telling me to follow through on my 2013 promise? I took it as that.”
Jimmy learned that the man needed a second opinion on his boiler system. Another company had visited previously and told him that the system needed to be replaced at a cost of £5,500. While inspecting the boiler, Jimmy found that the unit had been deliberately tampered with.
It became obvious that the first technician (or “engineer,” as the British call techs) to visit the house was trying to rip off the old man. Jimmy contacted the company about the scam and they denied it, so he gave them an ultimatum: “fix it or I’ll prove you’re running a scam.”
It turned out the technician had been acting on his own and was fired immediately. The company made good on the mistake by installing a new boiler and gave the old man an additional £1,000.
In March of 2017, just two weeks after that incident, Jimmy founded Disabled & Elderly Plumbing and Heating Emergency Repairs (DEPHER).
Almost any need
DEPHER began small, with Jimmy conducting charity plumbing and heating work whenever he identified a need. In short order, the need among his local community outpaced his ability to respond.
Today, the company employs 13 technicians in the Burnley area, and subcontracts charity work to a network of other involved companies. In all, there are roughly 530 technicians across the country who answer the call.
DEPHER also conducts for-profit work, which, along with donations, is used to fund the charity work. For example, actor Hugh Grant has donated £55,000. As time went by, DEPHER expanded its impact beyond plumbing and heating.
“We have several community support initiatives for people genuinely in need,” said Jimmy, who is a father of six and grandfather of four. “We provide food to low-income individuals, at times we cover gas and power bills, we provide terminal illness support, offset funeral expenses and we provided COVID support during the pandemic.”
So how do potential recipients of this support – whether directly related to a plumbing or heating issue or not – qualify for DEPHER aid?
Anyone over 65, anyone who is considered vulnerable, terminally ill, or handicapped, receives free or deeply discounted boiler or plumbing work. Anyone struggling with low income can receive free food deliveries. Anyone who loses a family member and cannot afford the final expenses will be given £500 to offset funeral costs.
To date, DEPHER has helped 52,000 families; Jimmy is now known as “Britain’s kindest plumber.”
Of course, all the people that DEPHER helps are very grateful, but there are a few detractors.
“A few people, specifically among other plumbing and heating companies, don’t care for me,” said Jimmy. “They think that the charity work we do takes money out of their wallets.
“The simple fact is that the people we’re helping can’t afford professional services,” he added. “But I don’t need fans. This is what we do, and we’re not going to stop. If you like it great, if you don’t, that’s fine too.”
“If you aren’t doing God’s work, the devil wouldn’t be pointing his finger at you,” said Jimmy regarding the nay-sayers. “I get all the validation I need from seeing the impact we’ve made. Each situation is unique, whether DEPHER is providing food or fixing boilers. They all stand out, but occasionally, one really leaves a mark.”
Jimmy can recall an 84-year-old woman who’d hung a noose from her rafters because she could no longer afford to live and was ready to end the suffering. DEPHER got her the financial and psychological help she needed, and she’s still alive today.
While the US housing market, energy costs and food expenses have squeezed American budgets, Great Britain has had it worse. Food and energy costs across Europe have been higher than in the US for decades, but the energy crisis resulting from the war in Ukraine has pushed current living costs to new heights. The English have given this a name: the Cost-of-Living Crisis.
“The Cost-of-Living Crisis has impacted DEPHER in two ways,” explained Jimmy. “There’s more need for community support than ever before, and even those who’ve made donations in the past are feeling the crunch. So, there’s less donation money coming in.”
Unlike most charitable organizations, DEPHER can at least partially self-fund its giving through the for-profit work they do. About 30 percent of their work is hydronic, and the rest is plumbing.
If you’d like to learn more about DEPHER, you can find them on Instagram (@dephercic2021 and @depher_cic), X, formerly Twitter (@depherUK), Facebook (Depher CIC) and TikTok (@dephercicuk1066).