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The 2019 AHR Show in Atlanta is in the rearview mirror. Before I get into the meat of the show, I wanted to touch upon some of the “infrastructure” surrounding the show. First, most of the activities surrounding the Georgia World Congress Center are fairly concentrated, and that causes traffic problems at peak traffic times Read More

The 2019 AHR Show in Atlanta is in the rearview mirror. Before I get into the meat of the show, I wanted to touch upon some of the “infrastructure” surrounding the show. First, most of the activities surrounding the Georgia World Congress Center are fairly concentrated, and that causes traffic problems at peak traffic times. But I can’t express enough how with a great offering such as Uber and Lyft are, they weren’t a very efficient means of getting around, at least in this city. Most of the GPS coordinates were off, causing long waits or canceled trips. And, to my surprise, many drivers weren’t even familiar with the downtown area, as they were not even from around the area. Not all, but enough for me notice.

I stayed in an AIrBnb for the first time, and although the accommodations were nice, I was told by a driver that I was on the edge of the bad part of town. Not really something you want to hear upon arriving. I really hope everyone’s experience of the city was a good one. Just think, Atlanta sets the stage for one of the biggest events I n the world in a couple of weeks — the Super Bowl!

The AHR Show

The Expo drew more than 65,000 attendees, with 1,809 exhibitors total, 496 international exhibitors from 35 countries and 107 first time exhibitors. I thought the show itself was very good. Well organized, fairly easy to get to and from the two exhibits halls via a connector, once you knew where it was located. It seemed that a lot of the booths had girth, size, and were well presented and represented.

Taco’s John White, Jr. (l) presents the Taco Comfort Solutions 2019 Dan Holohan Lifetime Contribution to Comfort Award to Dan Foley.

Eric Aune tests the VR experience in the REHAU booth at AHR.

The show opened up on Monday, and the Mechanical Hub crew was busy before the opening bell. Eric Aune and his wife Heather were getting the scoop, shooting video on Milwaukee Tool’s new M18 Threader. Look for more information and videos here and on our YouTube channels coming soon. Tim Ward was visiting with our friends at Uponor, learning more about its Copper Press Adapter. Finally, I was visiting with Taco, watching good friend Dan Foley receive the Taco Comfort Solutions 2019 Dan Holohan Lifetime Contribution to Comfort Award. Congrats, Dan!

John Mesenbrink checks out the VR experience in the Bosch Thermotechnology booth.

Some trends worth noticing was the ever-emphasis on energy efficiency, lowering GHG emissions, virtual reality, and interconnected devices, combining Alexa with thermostats, for example, piggybacking off of the CES Show earlier this year, and some products at last year’s Builder’s Show.

Lochinvar had a big announcement, telling the media it has partnered with Danish company, EC Power, to offer a cogeneration system, which pulls waste heat into water storage tank. Using an internal combustion natural gas engine, Micro CHP (< 50 kW/hr), is designed to be an efficient and easy-to-install system intended for light commercial use. Using natural gas as a fuel, a commercial facility with a cogeneration system like the XRGI25 can produce both energy-efficient heat for domestic hot water and electricity to reduce energy consumption from external power sources.

Some pre- and post-show events were held at the nearby aquarium. #breakfastwithbelugas

Xylem Bell & Gossett introduced its new line of double suction centrifugal pumps designed specifically for HVAC systems. The Series e-HSC features advanced hydraulics for powerful performance and best-in-class efficiency, along with a compact design for easier installation and maintenance.

In the end, some would say that the best part of the AHR Show—other than being the largest HVAC event of the year—is connecting with industry peers and catching up with good friends. There were plenty of pre-show/after-show parties, including Taco, Rheem, Bell & Gossett, Emerson, Burnham/U.S. Boilers, Mestek, Weil-McLain and Viega. Thanks to all for their hospitality.

In the end, it’s all about the relationships. Tim Ward winds down after the show with the crew from Bradford White.

 

 

 

 

 

When ProStaffer Tim Kuhlman isn’t busy testing and reviewing products and tools for our ProStaff program, he does have a busy, full-time job as a plumbing tech for Grasser’s Plumbing & Heating Inc., McNabb, Ill., a family-owned plumbing and HVAC company serving the Illinois valley for more than 60 years. Recently, Kuhlman was tasked with Read More

When ProStaffer Tim Kuhlman isn’t busy testing and reviewing products and tools for our ProStaff program, he does have a busy, full-time job as a plumbing tech for Grasser’s Plumbing & Heating Inc., McNabb, Ill., a family-owned plumbing and HVAC company serving the Illinois valley for more than 60 years.

Recently, Kuhlman was tasked with a new construction job, installing a two-zone radiant heating system for a machine shed for farm equipment and office in Peru, Ill. This is a boiler system for 9,000-sq.-ft. building. With a 130,000 BTU load that will be capable of flowing 27 gpm @ 114 ft. (H2O)—they broke one zone down to 3 pumps , 10 loops per pump; flowing 1gpm per loop—that will heat this building with 90 F water by design.

The roughly 4-day job featured a Weil-McLain Ultra 230 series 3 gas-fired, cast aluminum heat exchanger boiler to “fuel” the radiant heating and four Grundfos 3-speed circulators for hydronic distribution for 8,100+ ft. for the shed and 500+ ft. for the office.

Kuhlman’s coworker Jesse Middleton installed the Uponor EP manifolds—with 36 loops of hePEX oxygen-barrier tubing—and helped solder some of the primary looping. The radiant job also features four Grundfos 3-speed circulators, a Taco Zone Valve Control Module, Webstone isolation valves.

Kuhlman is known for his work ethic and clean designs. He would, in turn, like to throw praise to his boss Chris Davis, and a shout out to his mentor, Jacob Hook, a coworker with an enormous amount of industry knowledge.

At a nearby assisted living facility in Gorham, Maine, which featured a failing atmospheric boiler—with no redundancy—and aging indirect tanks, the building was fraught with hot water disaster potential. The 18,000-sq.-ft. building relied on radiant heat throughout the 50-unit residential units for the health of its elderly residents, and they relied on continuous hot water Read More

At a nearby assisted living facility in Gorham, Maine, which featured a failing atmospheric boiler—with no redundancy—and aging indirect tanks, the building was fraught with hot water disaster potential. The 18,000-sq.-ft. building relied on radiant heat throughout the 50-unit residential units for the health of its elderly residents, and they relied on continuous hot water service, as well.

Four Viessmann CU3-57 boilers with a proprietary cascade control system

Godbout’s crew remove the ineffective atmospheric boiler.

Fortunately, Jim Godbout, Jim Goudbout Plumbing & Heating, Biddeford, Maine, and his crew of five—for installation and removal, chimney lining, balance piping in boiler room and wiring—were able to swap out the old, tired equipment while still providing continuing heat to the building’s residents. This was due to the fact that the replacement was done during an off-heating month and through the installation of temporary electric water tanks so the occupants would not be without hot water.

The two-day install, which included the one day for installing the temporary electric tanks, featured four Viessmann CU3a-57 boilers with a proprietary cascade control system, two Viessmann EVI-79 indirect tanks and Grundfos MAGNA3 circulator pump.

 

Godbout’s loyalty to Viessmann lies in the fact that “having installed installed Viessmann for 30 years, for us, they are the most sustainable, efficient  product in marketplace. We stay with brands that work and easy to maintain,” says Godbout.

Depends on how you look at it, but DIYers could either be killing the trade or providing contractors with more work, when these installs ultimately fail. But one thing is for sure: purchasing plumbing and heating equipment through back channels or online is not an advisable route to take. It usually ends up—in the long Read More

This tankless unit was purchased on eBay and installed by the homeowner. Because the unit—which was intended for outdoor use only—was installed and vented inside the basement, it was fortunate that no one was seriously hurt.

Depends on how you look at it, but DIYers could either be killing the trade or providing contractors with more work, when these installs ultimately fail. But one thing is for sure: purchasing plumbing and heating equipment through back channels or online is not an advisable route to take. It usually ends up—in the long run—turning into a disaster of some sort.

Case in point: Dan Foley, Foley Mechanical, recently texted an image which read, “Can you believe this?” Foley was called to a job to replace a tankless water heater, which was originally purchased on eBay, of all places. The homeowner bought the unit online, and being the weekend warrior he was, installed it himself.

Foley commented that because the flue products were vented indoors, in the basement, the homeowner was lucky that he wasn’t dead.

In reaction to the social media post, Jeremy Plasse, heating specialist, United Plumbing Supply, Springfield, Mass., said, “I hate to say this but this is what the Internet has spawned—between this and the YouTube people who think they can do everything. With most manufacturers, though, if you did buy it online you should have voided the warranty. Yet some manufacturers let it happen because that means more units sold.”

This pic was shared by Tim Duff, owner, Breezy Mechanical, Breezy Point, N.Y. Duff was called in to replace the heating unit—which had been running like this for a year The local maintenance man installed this on a side job. He tried to fix the boiler, took it all apart, and couldn’t fix it. Duff solved the problem by replacing it with a Navien combi unit.

“Unbelievable! Unit made for outdoors so no connection for exhaust. Internet or not, if a homeowner wants a unit, they’ll find one. The Internet just makes it easier,” says Steve “Wheels” Wieland, NTI.

Nevertheless, this isn’t to say there aren’t legit online resources such SupplyHouse.com, which acts as “virtual wholesaler.”

Yet, according the Ryan Devries, plumbing and heating technician at Schubert Plumbing and Heating in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada, speaking on the topic of bad installs of DIYers, “This kind of thing is unfortunate but it just supports why we do what we do.”

The social media post sparked other comments relating to the dangers of installing without the help of a licensed professional. One comment featured a comment from a contractor that was called to a home that had a unit venting into the garage, and the garage had a vent fan that blew into the house. The homeowner, his wife and kid had all been seeing a doctor about headache for close to a year. I believe I saved some lives with the change-out and proper venting.”

 

 

In late winter 2016, Dan Foley, Foley Mechanical Inc., was called in to look at a commercial boiler system in a 52-unit apartment building in Arlington, Va. One of the building’s board members was a current customer and thought Foley could help sort out some issues they were having with this building. When Foley surveyed Read More

In late winter 2016, Dan Foley, Foley Mechanical Inc., was called in to look at a commercial boiler system in a 52-unit apartment building in Arlington, Va. One of the building’s board members was a current customer and thought Foley could help sort out some issues they were having with this building.

When Foley surveyed the system in late March 2016, the weather was mild but the cast-iron forced draft boiler was firing away and the boiler room had to be close to 100ºF. Water was dripping from a cracked boiler section. Several cracked sections had been replaced over the past several years. The section now leaking had been replaced the previous December. It did not make it through one season.

Dan Foley stands beside two Peerless PureFire boilers. The heating system consumed 47,017 cubic feet of gas before the retrofit and 28,729 cubic feet of gas after the upgrade for a total savings of 40%.

The board was tired of paying repair costs and high gas bills, while dealing with “no heat” situations on a regular basis. The tenants were complaining of being uncomfortable with “too hot” being the biggest complaint. During his survey, Foley noted numerous open windows with temperatures close to 80ºF in the units. No wonder the gas bills were so high!

The boiler was from a reputable manufacturer. It was unlikely defective castings that were the cause of the cracked sections. This was proven out as Foley dug into the control strategy. The boiler was turned on in the fall with the burner controlled by the high limit. T-T was jumped out and boiler hovered around 180ºF. The system pumps were controlled by an outdoor thermostat set to 60ºF. When the ambient temperature dropped below 60ºF, the pumps kicked on circulating hot water to the radiators.

The boiler room includes two Peerless PureFire condensing gas boilers, which provide heat and domestic hot water (DHW) to the building.

Not only was this control setup extremely wasteful and inefficient, it was murder on the cast iron. When the pumps first kicked on, the flow of cold water hitting the 180ºF cast iron caused them to eventually crack and fail.

Domestic hot water was provided by a 20+-year-old copper fin tube boiler tied to a storage tank. This system was piped and controlled properly but was old and in need of constant repair. It was also suffering from regular breakdowns leaving 52 units with no hot water.

Foley’s goal was to present a solution that was comfortable, reliable and efficient, in that order, and he solicited the help of his local Peerless rep, Jeff Riley of COREDRON LLC. Together they came up with a solution which Foley presented to the board. One board member was recalcitrant and wasn’t buying into Foley’s solution, “We do not have the capital budget to replace all of this equipment at this time. We need a lower cost solution.”

Natural gas usage: The payback is in the numbers. (Click on image to view.)

To which Foley responded, “You are paying for this whether you want to or not. You are paying for repairs and emergency service. You are paying high gas bills. And you are paying through tenant dissatisfaction with the no heat and no hot water situations. Why not direct this capital towards a permanent solution?”

After some conjecture, the board approved Foley’s proposal in the summer of 2016 and his crew got to work in late September. Foley demo’d the cast iron boiler as heat was not yet needed. They also removed the near boiler piping, pumps and controls. They left the domestic hot water (DHW) system connected, as they needed two weeks to pipe the boiler room.

Foley selected two Peerless PureFire stainless steel modulating condensing gas boilers. After performing a load calculation, Foley was able to reduce the boiler capacity by over 20%. The existing boiler was grossly over-sized. Foley chose two boilers to provide redundancy, as well as to provide low load capacity without short cycling. The PureFires have a cascade control built in eliminating the need for an external staging control.

All line voltage wiring and switches, which serve the boiler system, were upgraded.

Venting the boilers was a challenge, as Foley could not sidewall vent the boilers due to the proximity of windows above the boiler room. Riley connected Foley with the Peerless engineering department to come up with a solution. They enlisted help from Centrotherm to devise a custom vent design utilizing the existing 40’ tall chimney as a chase. A twin 4” flexible polypropylene (PPS) liner connected to a custom designed chimney cap solved the problem. Fresh air was piped in from the sidewall while combustion products were vented safely through the PPs vent pipes up the chimney chase to the roof.

The near boiler piping was replaced along with the boiler and system pumps. A hydro-separator was utilized to balance boiler and system flow. The new boilers provide the building’s domestic hot water through a commercial reverse indirect tank. Foley also replaced a broken domestic recirc. pump. All of the exposed piping was insulated with fiberglass pipe insulation and identified with pipe markers.

Recently completed project; before piping was insulated.

Foley was ready to fire up this system in late October 2016. This was perfect timing as the Indian summer gave way to colder autumn weather. Foley enlisted the help of Rich Michael, Peerless Commercial Specialist, to help with the start-up. Foley programmed the controls to turn on the heat when the outdoor temperature dropped below 58ºF. An integral reset control adjusts the supply water temperature to match the building heat loss, ensuring tenant comfort. The PureFire control system will modulate and stage the boilers as necessary to maintain the comfort level in the building, as well as to rotate the lead boiler for even wear.

The boiler control will also handle the DHW priority load and direct the hot water to indirect tank. When the indirect tank calls, the boilers ramp up to high fire and run up to 180ºF supply water temperature to quickly handle the load.

Rich worked with Foley’s lead tech, Brian Golden, to adjust the combustion parameters and get the burners dialed in. This was a great help as these boilers were new to Foley. Rich was also helpful by phone as we fine-tuned some of the control parameter settings as the weather turned colder.

The 1950s apartment building in Arlington, Va. gets a mechanical upgrade.

After the initial tuning, the system worked flawlessly to provide even heat and endless domestic hot water. The board decided to have us install the identical system in an adjacent building the following month. Both buildings have been operational since November 2016.

Neither building has suffered a no heat or no hot water since the systems were installed. Comfort level has been optimized through the reset control eliminating the open window solution to over-heating. Foley knew they would decrease fuel usage but he could only guess at the savings.

 

One of the board members compiled and tabulated fuel usage for two years before and after the upgrade. In summary, the heating system consumed 47,017 cubic feet of gas with the previous system and 28,729 cubic feet of gas after the upgrade for a total savings of 40%. At this rate, it won’t take long for the board to recoup their investment.

We have since replicated this system in another adjacent building with one more scheduled for spring 2019.

Dan Foley is president and owner of Foley Mechanical, Inc. based in Lorton, Va. (www.foleymechanical.com) FMI specializes in radiant, hydronic and steam systems, as well as mechanical systems for large custom homes. He can be reached at 703-339-8030 or at dfoley50@verizon.net.