It doesn’t seem so long ago we were fending off the “green” movement that was being force-fed into the vocab of working contractors. From green building to green technology, greenwashing was so prevalent that really the only “green” contractors were concerned with was the one they were chasing every day—a profit. But alas, a new Read more
It doesn’t seem so long ago we were fending off the “green” movement that was being force-fed into the vocab of working contractors. From green building to green technology, greenwashing was so prevalent that really the only “green” contractors were concerned with was the one they were chasing every day—a profit.
But alas, a new word has dominated the marketing lexicon—“smart.” Smart cars, smart phones, smart homes and yes, even smart pumps. “The problem is they’re not that smart,” says John Barba, contractor training manager, Taco Comfort Systems. “I’ve heard people who you’d think would know better say idiotic stuff like ‘these pumps do the thinking for you,’ and ‘they take the thinking out of it,’” says Barba.
How about giving credit to the users who actually interact with such devices? “The thing that separates the professional from the DIY’er or the handyman is his or her ability to think and their understanding of systems. That’s why people hire professionals, and that’s why our profession is so valuable. When it comes to systems and components, the professional is the smart one,” says Barba
“The professional knows what he’s holding in his hands, why he’s using it and what impact it’s going to have on the overall system performance. There’s not a pump made that can replace what the pro knows. The machines haven’t taken over yet,” continues Barba.
If the integration or connectivity of disparate components to a holistic, communicative system is considered smart, then I’m buying in. Why not just say that in the first place? Because it’s not market-y, and it’s too long for a tagline. Okay, then the evolution of homebuilding can be categorized as being smart or intelligent because the integration of, say, lighting, security, home entertainment, etc., can be accessed from the convenience of your smart phone (more on that later). But I’d say that is more a matter or convenience than smarts.
In fact, as part of these communicative devices, perhaps on a broader, commercial stage, we are witnessing new phrases popping up such as the Internet of Things (IoT). According to Sokwoo Rhee, former associate director of the Cyber-Physical Systems Program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) from 2014 to 2021, IoT can be described as the advancements in sensors and communication technologies that enable us to collect data which was not previously practical; the explosive increase of the amount of collected data enabled us to perform analytics which was not previously practical or meaningful; and the advancements in data analytics that will enable us to better control and optimize the systems to benefit our daily life. Again, I can buy into that.
Remember when cell phones were labeled smart phones? I think they still are. It’s 2007 and my fancy handheld device can make calls and perform functions as a computer. Well guess what? Today, they are just considered phones. And, if they don’t perform almost any function you can think of, well, then perhaps they are just dumb.
And, oh yeah, what makes a smart car? Good gas mileage? Actually, the term Smart Car came from a venture between watchmaker Swatch and Mercedes-Benz, with Smart standing for Swatch Mercedes Art, a branding stroke of genius. Its small stature was designed for city driving with big gas savings and easy maneuverability, with not-so-good safety ratings, I’d imagine. Debuting in the U.S. in 2008, last I read, it was discontinued in 2019.
And back to those smart, magical pumps? “The only word I hate more than ‘smart’ is ‘magic,’” says Barba. “Anyone who says something like that really doesn’t know how ECM circulators really work, or how they interact with systems. No matter how ‘smart’ people claim these things are, you can’t get away from the fundamentals of circulators. These things have performance—or ‘control’ curves—and the system still has a system curve,” says Barba.
“And I don’t care how many lights and buttons you put on the circulator, you can’t change the fact that when you have a fixed performance curve—as every Delta-P variable speed circulator has—the system has to work where the system curve intersects the control curve. If it’s a zone valve system, speed and flow will change as zone valves open and close, but it still works on the selected control curve. If it’s a zone pump system, a Delta-P circulator won’t vary its speed because there’s nothing in a zone that would create a change in pressure differential. It goes one speed and that’s it. That’s not what I’d call smart.
“Now, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use a Delta-P pump as a zone pump. You should—it’ll do some pretty cool things for you provided it’s set up properly. And for that, you need a smart installer who understands what these circulators do, what they don’t do and how they interact with the system,” says Barba.
“Just because a circulator is variable speed, that doesn’t make it magic. This isn’t Hogwarts and you’re not Harry-freaking-Potter.”
What’s my point in all of this? Dig deeper, educate yourself, rely on your experience and knowledge, and don’t rely on marketing taglines such as Smart or Green to sell you completely on something.
Viega fittings and solar thermal heating – it’s a combination that for AET Solar has proven to be a perfect match. AET Solar, one of the oldest solar manufacturers in the United States, worked on the largest solar thermal project in the country at the time in 2018. Viega played an integral part. The project Read more
Viega fittings and solar thermal heating – it’s a combination that for AET Solar has proven to be a perfect match.
AET Solar, one of the oldest solar manufacturers in the United States, worked on the largest solar thermal project in the country at the time in 2018. Viega played an integral part. The project was in Hawaii at the U.S. Army’s Schofield Barracks. AET installed solar water heaters to provide hot water for a portion of the barracks.
There are eight buildings with a total of 560 solar collectors and seven mechanical rooms with custom skid-mounted pumping stations. The installations were done exclusively with Viega ProPress, copper and stainless, and AET was pleased with its choice of Viega.
“For us, it has been phenomenal to use the Viega components,” said Carlos Fernandez-Aballi, Ph.D. and Engineer with AET. “It’s a natural fit between a press fitting and the huge challenge of collecting the energy that the sun provides. Using Viega reduced our installation time and cost significantly.”
AET’s Executive Vice President, Andrew East, was aware of Viega prior to the Schofield Barracks job, and the company was looking for a more secure and labor-savings connection for its collectors.
“There are two attractive things about Viega for us,” Dr. Fernandez-Aballi said. “Once you set it up, there’s a huge savings in labor – thousands and thousands of dollars in savings in labor on a project of this scale. For a big solar collection system like this, you need large flow rates, which means using large-diameter tubing. When you’re talking about sweating large-diameter tubes on the roof in the sun and the wind and everything else, it’s very cumbersome, so a press solution is the ideal way to go.”
Using solar energy for the barracks will provide the Army enormous financial savings. Dr. Fernandez-Aballi explained that solar thermal solutions can provide 70- to 100-percent of water heating, creating huge energy savings over a traditional system. Solar collectors are seven times more efficient than photovoltaic panels and are the most economical alternative to water heating. In a location the size of a military base, the savings are phenomenal.
I’m a wrestling coach when I’m not working, and I often have to remind high school youth that, “Nothing in life is static. You are either getting better than your opponent or they are getting better than you.” And that same message pertains to my fellow “Wet Heads” here in the industry: we need to Read more
I’m a wrestling coach when I’m not working, and I often have to remind high school youth that, “Nothing in life is static. You are either getting better than your opponent or they are getting better than you.” And that same message pertains to my fellow “Wet Heads” here in the industry: we need to get better at showing the value of our trade or risk being passed up by other technologies.
That’s my advice because when I speak with many craftsman contractors across the country, several themes emerge: “I am too busy to sell”; “I do not want to deal with connected technologies”; “I do not have the time to attend training classes.” Some of those comments are becoming less common as our industry sees some of the old-timers retire—many of whom still lack an exit strategy beside selling their phone number and company name. There is a real opportunity to be gained from this exodus, which dovetails nicely into emerging energy trends.
How do we merge the escalating public concern for energy efficiencies and the desire for a smarter home with our hydronic heating and cooling comfort installations? The answer is education.
The next generation coming into the trade (for all their shortcomings us Gen Xers want to attribute to them), are more open to listening, learning and selling. They are listening to our counterparts from across the pond with the call to stop wasting energy and our natural resources.
Energy efficiency is not only a necessity, encouraged for the trade by the government, but a sales tool for younger home buyers concerned with their carbon footprint and older buyers concerned about their fixed income and the volatile cost of energy for their retirement home. However, in the words of the band The Who, they are, “air-conditioned gypsies.” Consumers want to be environmental conscious without sacrificing comfort. This is the time us Wet Heads can especially answer their call.
There is a seismic shift occurring right now in the United States toward heat pump equipment that cannot be ignored. According to the May 2021 AHRI shipment report to distributors in the U.S., heat pump shipments were up 49% over May 2020 and up 27% versus the average shipment rate from 2018–2020.
This trend to heat pump technology is being driven by the efficiency of using electricity to heat AND cool from a single piece of equipment, governmental legislation and utility incentives. Federal and state government energy plans (such as New York aiming for 100% renewable electricity by 2030) are shaping this market. They are driving up the interest for newer technologies to be utilized.
As manufacturers see the demand for these types of equipment, they tend to spend more resources developing them. For example, the affordable inverter technology allows for highly efficient, externally grid-controlled units, which make it possible for the utilities to manage power consumption and utilize off peak control with demand response. Couple this with the federal infrastructure spending focused on renewable energies, these types of units are going to be one of the best solutions for the future. How are we Wet Heads going to respond?
Our Response, Our Responsibility
It is our responsibility as an industry to offer our customers the best solution that provides comfort and energy efficiency to the end user. The partnership between manufacturers and the trade to educate the professional installer base is critical to the proper design and installation of these technologies. And their overall adoption.
These systems can provide the best of what hydronics has to offer as a comfort system and the ability to provide cooling for year-round climate control comfort. Embracing this technology in conjunction with hydronics will be critical to moving the hydronic industry forward. If we don’t promote the development of these systems, hydronics could be displaced by mini-splits as a comparable alternative. This would result in a loss of the benefits gained from a radiant system, which provides a level of comfort and efficiency that is far superior to moving and conditioning air in a space.
We must sell our industry to a new generation of consumers who are yearning for energy efficiency and comfort. This is our time, Wet Heads of all ages. Whether you’re looking to retire in the coming years, or have a lot of time left in the industry, let’s step even deeper into the arena and answer the call!
Jason Abajian is the North America Water Sales Manager for Resideo’s Hydronic & Potable Water Solutions. Jason has spent more than 15 years working in the HVAC industry for Resideo Technologies, and previously Honeywell International. With a passion for education and making an impact on future generations, Jason worked for an HVAC installer in the summer, and was a high school teacher during the school year. What started as a summer gig turned into an ideal springboard for his purpose-driven career as a “Wet Head.” Jason is proud to work for an industry that can inspire others and deliver superior craftmanship, comfort and control with minimized environmental impact.
The Northeast U.S. has been the hydronics stronghold in America since boilers were first put to use as a source of heat. To serve the interests of trade professionals, especially those just entering the field (though by no means limited to introductory training), the Pennsylvania Petroleum Association (PPA) technical education center (PPATEC) has substantially expanded Read more
The Northeast U.S. has been the hydronics stronghold in America since boilers were first put to use as a source of heat. To serve the interests of trade professionals, especially those just entering the field (though by no means limited to introductory training), the Pennsylvania Petroleum Association (PPA) technical education center (PPATEC) has substantially expanded its facility in the Harrisburg, Pa. area.
For over 35 years, PPA has offered oil-fired hydronics and forced-air equipment training at the facility, serving thousands of trade professionals who came to hone their skills while under the skilled guidance of expert instructors. The equipment in PPATEC’s oil-fired training room is connected to a large, primary hydronics loop, enabling all of the heating systems to operate under real-world conditions. PPA won accolades as having one of the best facilities of its kind, and with quality of training second to none. Currently, classes range from one-half day to two weeks in length.
Though PPA is recognized for excellence in oil-fired training, association managers recognized the need to evolve their programs to train for all types of energy sources. This included a greater focus on gas-fired equipment, air conditioning, and electrical components, and to accommodate larger classes. By late 2019, preparations for the new facility had begun.
Though, soon after the association initiated an expansion to accommodate the need for gas-fired training, COVID-19 swept in with hard repercussions worldwide. “Among the many concerns we had, we had to consider the negative impact on the new facility’s mission, and had we chosen exactly the wrong time to expand?” asked PPA’s Executive Vice President Ted Harris. He and Trainer Alan Mercurio certainly had their hands full since the expansion project began in early 2020.
As it turned out, the forced pause in association activity allowed its managers to turn their full attention to making sure the new facility, including a modern classroom and a working lab, would exceed the needs of trade professionals “when they returned; not if,” insisted Mercurio.
Through last year, as the economy’s pace slowed to a crawl—sure enough, and just as predicted—a silver lining emerged. Addition of the association’s new gas-fired hydronic facility was not only completed, but attracted the attention of manufacturers, reps, wholesalers and installers who wanted to help. And now the expanded facility is teeming with students.
The new facility – with Ed Howell as the key “gas-side/HVAC” instructor – offers plenty of room for students and additional instructors and serves as the ideal training venue for a wide range of classes. Students receive training on all facets of gas-fired equipment and mini-split system operation, service work and troubleshooting.
As many veterans to the mechanical trades will affirm: it’s easy to install new equipment; it’s another thing entirely to know how to diagnose and treat ailing systems. Students who attend classes at PPATEC’s now-enhanced training facility get the best equipment service training available anywhere.
Classes resumed early this year, with lots of interest in troubleshooting and service work, allowing “students” to hone skills in a lab setting that allows instructors to replicate a wide variety of especially challenging conditions. “The repeatability of any technical challenge is one of the greatest assets of our facility,” said Mercurio. Not only do students get to work through a problem until it’s fully solved, giving them the best hands-on experience with it, but instructors can also add new challenges to reproduce a real-world encounter.
Trade Pros Give PPATEC Two Thumbs-Up
One trade professional who recently completed training at PPATEC’s workshop—on the “oil side”—is Damon Allen, an 18-year air-side veteran of the HVAC trades based in Randallstown, MD. Allen, an HVAC service technician with H. B. McClure Company said, “I was glad that H. B. McClure saw the advantage of sending me to PPATEC training because it allowed me to expand confidently into hydronics work. The three-day service course, focusing mainly on service and maintenance of oil-fired equipment, was extremely valuable.”
Another veteran of the trades—and also a military vet who served four years in the U. S. Marines—is Shane Lang, a service technician with Philipsburg, PA-based J J Powell Inc. Last fall, Lang attended PPATEC’s two-week training, affectionately referred to by attendees as “burner school.” Lang said that, “A number of trainers, each coming from different manufacturers, provided detailed instruction in trouble-shooting, maintaining and servicing equipment—from boilers and furnaces, to burners. The course taught me a lot about burner technology, and how to keep the systems running at their best.
“The quality of training [at PPATEC] was excellent,” added Lang. “I’d recommend it to anyone ion the HVAC trades. I’ll hope to return for more instruction there.”
Yet another military vet, and rather new to the HVAC trade, is Jeremy Perez, an ex-Marine and NATE-certified HVAC tech with Towanda, PA-based Energy Distribution Partners. “The training at PPATEC goes deeper than NATE schooling, so I appreciate that. The hands-on experience is valuable, and the simulator training—which allows us to run through various conditions with live voltage—is very helpful.”
Cody Watts, also an HVAC technician with Energy Distribution Partners, was attending a two-week PPA course with Perez. After serving for a decade on shale gas drilling rigs where he worked routinely with industrial pumps and three-phase equipment, Watts chose to enter the HVAC trade and quickly found that PPATEC’s training played a valuable role in helping him make the transition. “Most beneficial for me has been the hands-on experience I got at PPATEC, the simulators for real-world troubleshooting, and the binder that’s full of material—tied to each aspect of the training.”
“Throughout the training – whether it’s a few days or a few weeks in length – we provide all students with plenty of review and instructional material,” assured Mercurio. “It’s one of our hallmarks. We hear routinely [from students] that it’s greatly beneficial.”
Veteran benefits/”Gateway” program
Mercurio says that they’ve trained a substantial number of military veterans at the PPA facility. “Aware of that, one of Ted Harris’ visions for training here is to develop a 10-week workforce development program specifically for vets. The plan [now underway] is to meet conditions for GI Bill veterans benefits so that ex-military students can use funds available to them for extensive training, even to include travel and hotel expenses.”
PPATEC received approval and recognition from the PA Dept of Education in February 2021 as a private licensed school. This allows PPA to admit students to a 10-week, entry-level trade course, one not paid by a current employer. PPA is set to introduce the course in 2022. “This segment of the market [individuals not currently employed in the HVAC industry] is one we very much want to cover, ideally allowing graduates to be hired by one of our members,” added Harris.
Industry support is crucial
Harris explained that industry support from manufacturers, wholesalers and contracting firms plays an important role in making PPA’s mission viable. “Our purpose here is to offer valuable, maybe even life-changing instruction, but without the help of our industry partners, we simply couldn’t do it.”
Key supporters of the association include Taco Comfort Solutions, NTI, APR Supply, Fujitsu, Sid Harvey, Rheem, Crown, Rhoads Energy, Tevis Energy, Ferguson, Navien, Friedrich, Burnham, Honeywell, Energy Kinetics, Ray Murray Inc., R. W. Beckett, Field Controls, Mitsubishi Electric, and F.W. Webb Company.
“Overall, the support we receive from manufacturers and other industry stakeholders is terrific,” added Harris.
Taco Gear + Dave Holdorf Expertise
Shortly after learning of PPA’s desire to install a new hydronic training lab with gas-fired (and ductless HVAC) technology, Johnny White, Jr., CEO of Taco Comfort Solutions, asked for a list of needed components.
Taco residential systems trainer Dave Holdorf also got wind of the project. He and White soon offered not only to provide many of the essential hydronic system components—including many of their newest, most advances ECM circulators—but that Holdorf would also make trips from Long Island to deliver the materials and to serve as a consultant to the installation firm (Stevens, PA-based Vertex Mechanical) chosen to assemble all of the new, hydronic lab equipment. “Johnny’s words to me were, ‘Give them anything they need, and all the support they can use,’ said Holdorf.
“I designed the facility to represent realistic conditions as closely as possible, with an emphasis on real-world variations and practicality,” said Holdorf. “For instance, I designed-in system circulation with zone valves for one of the cast iron boilers, and zone valves for the other. And, for the NTI boiler, the addition of a hydroseparator—just because it’s a possibility that a service tech will encounter scenarios like these in the field.”
Vince Youndt, owner of Vertex, explained that they wanted to do the installation work; he chose HVAC/hydronic systems installer Jared Fox as the lead technician. Holdorf used Taco’s FloPro Design software to develop a spreadsheet with all of the needed components and to design the systems, with many integrated boilers, as well.
Steve Wieland, MidAtlantic sales manager for NTI Boilers, Inc. was also one of those who, after learning of the association’s needs, quickly expressed interest in providing support. Not long after that, the very first, newest FTVN-110 boilers were rolling off the line. He received two of them, and soon delivered one of the company’s newest, most advanced mod-con boilers—an up to 11:1 turndown system with sizes of 85-200 MBH (purely) for heat, and 110-200 MBH for combi (heat with domestic water). “We’re delighted to support them, and I must say that after seeing the installation work there, the new lab is extraordinary. It’ll serve them well,” said Wieland.
The new hydronics lab now includes a variety of mod-con gas boilers (including the latest from NTI) and two that are atmospheric. And, according to Mercurio, software in equipment sends diagnostic signals to the cloud for instant access to operational conditions, quickly availing information to any portable device.
PPATEC has also added three HVAC simulator units from iConnect Training. According to Harris, the new simulators allow students to better understand the theory and operational techniques for electrical components, gas furnace systems and heat pumps. The simulator workstations feature a variety of live-fire conditions for heating and cooling systems:
- 9240 HVAC Electrical Control Trainer This simulator—with A/C, heat pump, basic electricity, commercial electricity and supermarket refrigeration modules, among many others—allows a trade pro to “build” a complete HVAC system by connecting the wires to the appropriate modules. Once complete, instructors can demonstrate how everything is working properly, or if there are failures, what can be done to solve the problem.
- 9250 Gas Furnace Controls Training Systems Specifically built to replicate a high efficiency gas furnace with air conditioning, this simulator allows an instructor to walk students through wiring from one module to the next until a system is fully operational. The sim has an actual gas burner to replicate close-to-real conditions. Students then learn about adjusting gas pressure and combustion air, and how to properly use a multi-meter to check flame rectification and a variety of faults, among other things.
- 701 Table Top Heat Pump Trainer Instructor use this simulator to demonstrate the proper way to use refrigeration gauges. Super-heat sub-cooling is also taught. Students can see refrigerant going through glass tubes to help them understand at which point the refrigerant flashes off from a liquid to a vapor and back to a liquid. A reversing valve gives an instructor the ability to explain its purpose, and troubleshooting techniques.
PPA and PPATEC members
Currently, PPA has about 400 members, most of which are fuel delivery firms who offer HVAC services. Though, there’s a wide range of wholesaler and manufacturer members. “Statewide, there are about 5,000 HVAC service and installation companies; we invite them all,” said Harris. Through membership, all member firms benefit through their alliance with PPA through the availability of training for techs, and through a greatly-improved, higher-skilled workforce.
“Fortunately, we now have over 40 HVAC contractor firms that don’t offer fuel delivery who’ve joined the association as PPATEC members. This new membership category, introduced in 2019, now provides installing contractors the opportunity to receive various PPA benefits such as discounts for technical training,” added Harris. “We hope to continue to expand [membership] regionally—say, within a four-hour radius of Harrisburg.”
Equipment and components
Generous donations of HAVC and hydronic equipment, and components, came in from many manufacturers. “We were thrilled that, shortly after announcing our plan to expand the training facility, offers began to stream in,” said Harris.
Key contributors included Taco, which supplied a wide range of ECM circulators, zone valves, zone controls, hydraulic/dirt and air separators, boiler feed valves and other hydronic components. APR Supply chipped in with ductless mini split systems, one each from Fujitsu, and Friedrich. James Miracle and Mike Woods from Mitsubishi Electric contributed a two-head multi-zone system. John Monaghan, with Crown boilers, informed them that they had two atmospheric boilers and one condensing boiler to provide. Condensing boilers were also given by Energy Kinetics. Steve “Wheels” Wieland called from NTI to say that one of their newest boilers would soon be on its way (its only other twin, just off the line, would serve as a demo unit for Wieland’s own training efforts); he made the delivery personally.
Doug Oest called from Lancaster, PA-based Burnham Corporation to say that they would provide a very substantial nine-section, cast iron light commercial V9 gas boiler. Matthew Nowicki and Kurtis Mumma called from Ferguson HVAC to say that they would provide (in partnership with Navien) a tankless gas water heater. In partnership, Rheem and Sid Harvey supplied a tank-type gas water heater.
Residential and commercial gas burners were donated by R. W. Beckett. A power vent was donated by Field Controls; RegO and Fischer regulator products were donated by Ray Murray Inc. and F.W. Webb Company. A variety of Honeywell thermostats were given by Venco Sales Inc., and Viega ProPress fittings were discounted by RF Fager Company. A Monessen vent-free log set was donated by Ray Murray Inc. A Premier propane cooking range was donated by Martin Appliance.
John Vastyan owns Common Ground, a plumbing and mechanical, hydronic, HVAC and geothermal trade communications firm based in Manheim, Pa. He can be reached at JohnV@SeekCG.com.
The son of an arcade owner, you could say that business ran in his blood. Born into an entrepreneurial family, Terence Chan (@the_impetus), owner, Impetus Plumbing and Heating LTD, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, practices networking and customer service daily to grow his business. But it didn’t come easy, at first. With a goal of becoming Read more
The son of an arcade owner, you could say that business ran in his blood. Born into an entrepreneurial family, Terence Chan (@the_impetus), owner, Impetus Plumbing and Heating LTD, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, practices networking and customer service daily to grow his business.
But it didn’t come easy, at first. With a goal of becoming an engineer, Chan found himself in the “slumps,” after dropping out of the local university. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do and my parents told me to try plumbing,” says Chan. “Instead of just playing video games all day and waiting for something to happen, I decided to take on that challenge and try working with my hands,” says Chan.
Chan ended up really liking the trade—more so because he found out how plumbing and heating is so important in everyone’s day-to-day lives—and he was adamant about being the best out there, and his sights were set on owning his own business one day. “My goal was to get all types of experience before I start my business; commercial, residential, construction, service and sales,” say Chan.
In fact, Chan worked in commercial construction, working on high rises, schools and low rises. He then moved over to a sales position learning how to sell, diagnose boilers/heating issues, inside/outside sales and customer relations. From there, Chan moved over to a service company that did commercial service for restaurants and multi-complex buildings. After a stint doing residential construction for custom homes, Chan had the final experience of working for a full-service company doing residential/commercial service to finish his plan of starting a business with the experience he had built.
“Basically, I was able to change jobs each year to get the experience that I needed. Fast forward to this day, I have my own business, freedom, and I challenge myself to change the trade daily,” says Chan.
Six years later and Impetus is a leader in Vancouver area, receiving multiple awards for plumbing and customer service. “Even through all the years, the biggest thing I’d say in running a successful business is customer service. I may not know everything, but I sure as hell know what it takes to provide good service. Service goes a long way—learn and master it!” says Chan.
The Next Generation
According to Chan, the industry should invest more in marketing to the next generation. The industry should continue to create scholarships, giveaways, recognition, anything captivating for plumbing so that younger generations can see it as a feasible career path. “It needs to provide more interest to the next generation so that they want to come into the trade. For the longest time, everyone believes the trade to be butt cracks and the uneducated. That was not true back then nor is it true now, especially now,” says Chan. “There is so much technology and so much change that we need younger people to work on the equipment. Everything can be connected to a phone, everything is automated. So much has changed, a plumbing job is almost like an IT job,” says Chan.
As for taking on the role of being a role model? “100%. I try to be the role model to show them that someone young can make the difference—showing everyone that if someone young can do this, so can they. I want to show that trades can be fun and rewards in all aspects,” says Chan.
And how about attracting more diversity to the trades? “Social marketing would be my answer. The more we get everyone on there and flood the world with plumbing content, the more people will eventually see it. Quantity is key in my opinion,” says Chan.
As for social media, “it has opened an unimaginable number of new doors for me,” says Chan. “From new friends, to learning, to connecting, to networking and to sponsorships, all of that came from the power of social media. It has been an amazing ride and I believe it has just started, there is a lot more to come and a lot more to share,” says Chan.
In fact, Chan says that the closest thing to a mentor would be Instagram. “On the platform, I’ve met so many awesome people and learned so much from others just by watching and observing—accounts like Mechanical Hub, my BC plumbers, people from overseas, there are just so many to mention,” says Chan.
If you’ve followed Chan on Instagram lately (@the_impetus), you’ll know that a lot of his work gets done in the bathroom—not just plumbing. “Don’t ask for more information than that,” says Chan.
A lot of that has to do with work on the phone. “I carry two phones with me, one company and one personal. But both of them impact my day to day hugely. People would think, ‘well isn’t he a plumber: what about wrenches and other things?’ Of course, I have all that stuff and use that from day to day, but I’m more of a business guy,” says Chan.
Chan’s personal phone is for taking videos, answering emails, answering calls from his guys to troubleshoot and editing videos. His other work phone is for taking calls, forwarding calls, taking videos, tracking jobs through his Jobber app, and also acts as an extra battery, in case the other phone dies.
“Without my phones, I wouldn’t be able to operate my business at all, as I start moving up and doing less plumbing work, managing a business becomes crucial. Communication becomes key,” says Chan.
And let’s not forget about his computer. That’s where the quotes happen, that’s where the approvals happen, that’s where the networking happens and that’s where the learning comes from.”
As far as balancing his work with leisure? “I don’t. I let them balance out themselves. I do what makes me happy on a daily basis. It sounds greedy and selfish but my true belief is that you can only make people around you happy by being happy yourself,” says Chan.
But there is some personal time mixed in, and that includes golf, lots of golf. In addition, Chan enjoys hanging out with his friends and his team, going out to eat new food at new places he’s never been before, and shopping for tools or golf stuff. “But all of it revolves around work,” says Chan.
It always comes back to customer service, however. “The most rewarding thing about my job is being able to help a customer with their issue. It always feels like I’m a hero and that I actually made a difference in someone’s life. It’s so rewarding to have a happy customer knowing that you solved something essential in their life while getting paid. It doesn’t get any better!” says Chan.
In the end it’s about being satisfied with yourself and your work. “If I were to enter a business or a job that I don’t like. I wouldn’t be doing it. I’m all about being happy with everything I do. Unluckily, having my own business, I have to do everything so I don’t bother hating or not liking anything because I love what I do every day,” says Chan.