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A construction project in Calgary, Canada, called Cube, features several firsts. It’s the city’s first office-to-residential space conversion and real estate developer Strategic Group’s first re-purposing project. It’s also the first building in Canada to feature the latest advancement in condensing boiler heating technology from Weil-McLain. The Cube—a 52,000-square-foot, seven-story building in Calgary’s Beltline neighborhood—features Read more

A construction project in Calgary, Canada, called Cube, features several firsts. It’s the city’s first office-to-residential space conversion and real estate developer Strategic Group’s first re-purposing project. It’s also the first building in Canada to feature the latest advancement in condensing boiler heating technology from Weil-McLain.

The Cube—a 52,000-square-foot, seven-story building in Calgary’s Beltline neighborhood—features 65, one- and two-bedroom residential rental units and is just a short walk from the city’s downtown area. Once the aging Stephenson office building, the 38-year-old building was converted to new residential and rental units in 2019.

The building’s developer, Ash Mahmoud, Managing Director of Calgary-based Strategic Builders Inc (SBI), the construction arm of Strategic Group, which owns, manages and develops office, retail and apartment properties across Canada, oversaw the conversion project.

“Cities like Calgary have seen office building vacancy rates as high as 27% in the past few years,” said Mahmoud. “Rather than let downtown buildings go unused, it has been one of our core missions to convert them into residential.”

In addition to incorporating contemporary designs and styling finishes, Mahmoud also sought the latest in boiler technology to heat the new development.

Next Gen Heat

To conduct the HVAC overhaul, Mahmoud turned to Nu-Mun Contracting, a Calgary-based HVAC company offering commercial and residential plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning services.

Working with SBI and the project engineer, David Muncaster, owner of Nu-Mun Contracting, devised a strategy to convert the building to a high efficiency boiler system and recommended specification of the latest advancement in condensing boiler technology: the Stainless Vertical Firetube (SVF) from Weil-McLain.

Eric Cameron, project manager with Nu-Mun Contracting, oversaw the boiler installation at the building.

“We have a long standing relationship with Weil-McLain, and we trust the quality of their boilers,” said Cameron. “The SVF boilers were the perfect match for the space.”

To meet the building’s heating style and load, the team installed two SVF 1100 MBH high-efficiency condensing gas boilers in the building. The SVF boilers features industry-leading thermal efficiencies up to 97.1%, a clover-shaped stainless steel fire tube heat exchanger for corrosion resistance, and the intuitive and user-friendly Unity™ control system to simplify installation and operation.

“With superior thermal efficiencies, the SVF line offers cost savings and energy efficiencies that could allow owners to qualify for local utility rebates, if available,” said Craig Demaray, National Sales Manager with Weil-McLain Canada. “The SVF also meets all market-driven bid specifications, and is designed for most heating needs including applications in schools and other educational facilities, public institutions, healthcare buildings, offices, hotels, multi-family, churches and more.”

The high-water content design of SVF heat exchanger means a low loss header is not required providing cost savings so the boilers can simply be piped in a primary-secondary design.

The on-board Unity™ control system allowed the boilers to communicate with each other in a Multiple Boiler System (MBS). In this configuration, a master boiler controls the modulation and sequencing of the boilers on the network to achieve the desired system supply temperature. “With the automatic sequencing feature, the boilers communicate directly with one another so they sequence themselves and rotate as needed,” said Cameron. “They operate to optimize energy use and efficiencies. When heat is required, the boilers will stage on as needed.”

Cube Completion

The Cube conversion project was completed in 12 months and more than two-thirds of the building is already leased to residents. Mahmoud praised the experience with Nu-Mun Contracting.

“Working together with Nu-Mun was a seamless operation,” said Mahmoud. “It was a really great relationship and, as a result, the job was a complete success.”

“The start-up and installation progressed smoothly in part due to the way these boilers are designed,” said Cameron. “The SVF boilers offers time-saving installation features that include heavy-duty roller casters for improved maneuverability in confined spaces, industrial-grade leveling legs, and an end-shot burner design requiring only 18 inches overhead space.”

Mahmoud appreciates the ease of maintenance that the boilers offer for the building staff

“The boilers are really user friendly,” said Mahmoud. “We can even conduct the annual maintenance on the units ourselves to keep them in tip-top shape.”

In addition to offering class leading serviceability, the new boilers also offer low operating costs and are expected to bring energy savings and a reduction in gas usage to the facility.

But most important, Mahmoud reported that tenants are extremely pleased with the climate and comfort of the building.

When you take pride in your work, the craftsmanship shines through, and the customer receives a reliable, comfortable radiant heating system. Tim Kuhlman, plumbing tech, Grasser’s Plumbing & Heating Inc., McNabb, Ill., is no stranger to meticulous installs and a job well done. Grasser’s is a family-owned plumbing and HVAC company serving the Illinois valley for Read more

When you take pride in your work, the craftsmanship shines through, and the customer receives a reliable, comfortable radiant heating system. Tim Kuhlman, plumbing tech, Grasser’s Plumbing & Heating Inc., McNabb, Ill., is no stranger to meticulous installs and a job well done. Grasser’s is a family-owned plumbing and HVAC company serving the Illinois valley for more than 60 years.

Tim Kuhlman, Grasser's Plumbing & Heating Inc., Hydronics, radiant heating, plumbing, tekmar, grundfos, taco, uponor, weil-mclain

To put it directly, the Oglesby, Ill. customer at a larger residence—3,186-sq.-ft. main floor; 3,300-sq.-ft. basement; and 1,200-sq.-ft. garage—wanted a professional install that worked. As a result, “The customer is very happy with the boiler install and performance of the system,” says Kuhlman.

As part of the solution, Kuhlman used tekmar 4-way mixing valves to raise the return temps for the garage and basement — the main floor set point is 140 degrees F; the basement and garage set points are 120 degrees F. The garage is set to 58 degrees F, the basement at 65 degrees F and the main floor to 68 degrees F.

Inside the Mechanical Room

• Boiler — Weil McLain/ultra 230 series 3
• Water heater — Navien 240A (not shown)
• Pumps — Grundfos UPS15-58FC, 3 speed circulator Relays
• Zone controls — Taco 4 Zone pump relay
• Piping – All primary and secondary piping done in copper with sweat fittings • • Main Tools Used —Bernzomatic TS8000 torch,
• Valves — Webstone isolation pump valves
• Separators —2” spirotherm air seperatore, Flexconsole expansion tank holder
• Expansion tanks —#60 Extrol expansion tank
• Other—three 12-loop 1” stainless steel uponor radiant heat manifolds and one 4-loop uponor ep manifold for garage.

Bob Clark, College of DuPage (COD) Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVACR) program chair, has spent the last six years transforming the community college’s HVACR program and its interactive learning lab, built from within. GLEN ELLYN, IL—When you sit down with Bob Clark about training and education, he will not hold back about any Read more

Bob Clark, College of DuPage (COD) Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVACR) program chair, has spent the last six years transforming the community college’s HVACR program and its interactive learning lab, built from within.

GLEN ELLYN, IL—When you sit down with Bob Clark about training and education, he will not hold back about any aspect of his program, and his direction on post-secondary education. Clark started at the school with a nearly “empty” space and a vision. “In order to create an unmatched lab, you have to orchestrate a vision that people can believe in for your program. When you establish that vision with your industry partners and your instructors, now you have a vision that is ‘bigger than yourself.’” So Clark, his instructors and his students built an interactive classroom and lab environment that is changing HVACR education.

Bob Clark, College of DuPage (COD) Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVACR) program chair, College of DuPage HVACR program, HVAC post-secondary education, hydronics, trade schools, trades

The first time I visited with Bob Clark in 2017, he gave me a birds-eye view of the HVACR lab.

The HVACR lab was built from within—all of the teachers oversaw the lab being built by the students. “We built our own lab and we built our own central plant. The central plant project is going to be one of the most defining features of our lab. It is sized and designed so that we have exhibit a well-designed system, but we also have the ability to duress on every part of the system. We wanted a system that could demonstrate what happens in a building on a good day, a bad day and under extreme conditions. We have the capability to demonstrate primary/secondary, primary/variable or constant flow systems, which can flow in both direct and reverse return. Our lab concepts can experience multiple scenarios for critical systems that can not normally be studied. It’s not like any other system,” says Clark.

Bob Clark, College of DuPage (COD) Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVACR) program chair, College of DuPage HVACR program, HVAC post-secondary education, hydronics, trade schools, trades

On the floor in the lab, Clark shows that while in the lab, one can experience multiple scenarios for critical systems that can not normally be studied.

This isn’t about me, says Clark, it’s about, “how we help this community and our industries succeed at growing their organizations with the right people?” It’s by building the greatest technicians that the program can yield. For example, “Our hydronic classes go through design, friction loss, and they also have to understand engineering concepts. There are very few programs teaching hydronics. You have to teach from a systems thinking mindset and get students to think within very complex systems. We have hands-on classes, not PowerPoints and some donuts for our classes.”

“Your mind is the only thing that separates you from every other technician out there—the most important tool you have is your brain. This field is about your mind.”

When you look at HVAC programs nationally, Clark bets the average age in post-secondary education—community colleges for HVAC programs—is 30 years old. “Most technical eduction funding is channeling into automotive, manufacturing and welding programs across the United States. Most high school counselors, career advisors and parents do not know how challenging, how complex, and how much the HVACR industry pays. The skilled workforce in America is losing its ranks and I do not believe that education understands or cares about its decline. It is sad that they will start to get it only when their homes are cold in the winter and their refrigerators stop working. It is a sad day in education when we care more about guiding children toward psychology, than towards meaningful, good paying, plentiful, and rewarding careers in the skilled workforce. This reminds me of how Rome fell: skilled workforce ceased to be a priority.”

Bob Clark, College of DuPage (COD) Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVACR) program chair, College of DuPage HVACR program, HVAC post-secondary education, hydronics, trade schools, trades

The “hands-on” lab is important for later work in the field (such as working with these wall-hung boilers.)

According to Clark, the industry is lacking accountability in education systems. “How are skilled workforce programs being supported across the country?  The people that want to pursue skilled trades do not even know about the programs that exist because counselors and advisors are not instructed to communicate all of the opportunities available in the public school systems. Students that attend community colleges are trying to change their lives while working a full-time job.

“Do you want to be bucket boy or do you want to pay attention in here and get yourself a career because your mind is the only thing that separates you from every other technician out there—the most important tool you have is your brain. This field is about your mind,” says Clark.

Clark says he’s tried multiple ways to see how you can use theory to communicate into the technical and “it’s impossible until they get down in the lab and experience failure and success.”

Bob Clark, College of DuPage (COD) Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVACR) program chair, College of DuPage HVACR program, HVAC post-secondary education, hydronics, trade schools, trades

In the lab, students will learn to hold the wrench the right way, back up the pipe wrench correctly, how to screw stuff together, experience special aptitude and understand system dynamics, among other things.

The program is teaching them mastery because HVACR is filled with a multitude of skills and the lab has been built to simulate multiple areas. “I do this because HVACR is a field that you can study the rest of your life and still never get it. Students need to learn to hold the wrench the right way, back up the pipe wrench correctly, how to screw stuff together, experience special aptitude, understand system dynamics, and if they don’t experience it, they won’t get it. It always makes me smile when I see a light come in a student because I know that their education is finally beginning,” says Clark.

Bob Clark, College of DuPage (COD) Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVACR) program chair, College of DuPage HVACR program, HVAC post-secondary education, hydronics, trade schools, trades

While the learning lab is the “jewel” of the program, classroom learning is just as important, taking technical theory and applying in into the lab downstairs.

The difference between here and anywhere else, says Clark, is that the program has four to five classes in the lab running Monday through Thursday night.  Their classes have a capacity of 16 students, “It’s packed. I won’t go above 15-16 because anyone that teaches an HVACR class with 25 people and thinks they are going to run a respectable lab with integrity is basically a moron. This is a highly technical field with a lot of equipment that can kill you. People that think that they can PowerPoint HVACR into a student’s mind are lazy and delusional. Running an effective lab is ten times harder than delivering the presentation of your life.”

Bob Clark, College of DuPage (COD) Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVACR) program chair, College of DuPage HVACR program, HVAC post-secondary education, hydronics, trade schools, trades

When Clark arrived at the school nearly six years ago, the space that the lab currently occupies was for the most part empty. The students built the lab and all of the piping was installed during the transformation phase.

Clark also says that holding accountability over his adjuncts is critical. “That’s why we have the best instructors. Our instructors know the importance of the lab environment,” says Clark. “The second you don’t understand that, you are violating the integrity of the whole program.”

You can hear the passion in his voice. He is proud of his work and his ability to mold people into working HVAC technicians. And the lab is his oyster. “At the end of the day, our students build our labs. And nobody will ever take that shit away from us. That was the concept: How do you make a statement to the industry? This is it,” says Clark.

Retrofitting heating and air conditioning into older homes is always difficult, but historically relevant or protected homes are the ultimate challenge. The construction style of past centuries usually does not lend itself to install bulkheads for conventional duct systems. In those days, they used furniture for storage so closets were rare, and hand formed plaster Read more

Retrofitting heating and air conditioning into older homes is always difficult, but historically relevant or protected homes are the ultimate challenge. The construction style of past centuries usually does not lend itself to install bulkheads for conventional duct systems. In those days, they used furniture for storage so closets were rare, and hand formed plaster moldings around ceilings leaves nowhere for ductwork to be hidden.

SpacePak Solstice Extreme 4-ton heat pumps, SpacePak HighWall Hydronic Fan Coil, SpacePak ThinWall Hydronic Fan Coil, SpacePak Hydronic Air Handler

Rose Hill Manor

Often times there are concerns regarding impact on the landscaping outside of the home as well. This was exactly the case when the new owner of Rose Hill Manor in Port Tobacco, Maryland reached out to SMO Energy when he wanted to install central air conditioning and supplemental heat for his steam boiler in his 18th century home.

— JOHN WILKES BOOTH IS SAID TO HAVE HID ALONG THE POTOMAC RIVER BANK BELOW THE ROSE HILL MANOR HOME ON HIS FLIGHT SOUTH, AFTER ASSASSINATING PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN. —

Aside from the typical challenges associated with historic homes, the new homeowner did not want multiple condensers scattered around the outside of the large exquisite home, affecting the landscape and aesthetic appearance. The homeowner designated a single area specifically for the outdoor components and with a cooling load of eight tons, conventional mini-split systems were not an option for multiple reasons.

SpacePak Solstice Extreme 4-ton heat pumps, SpacePak HighWall Hydronic Fan Coil, SpacePak ThinWall Hydronic Fan Coil, SpacePak Hydronic Air Handler, COREDRON

SMO Energy worked with COREDRON, the local SpacePak manufacturer’s representative and SpacePak’s team of Application Engineers.

SpacePak’s Solstice Air-to-Water Heat Pump System was the chosen solution because it met all design, performance and aesthetic requirements of the job on top of protecting the architectural integrity of the renowned historic property.

Two SpacePak Solstice Extreme 4-ton heat pumps were cascaded with an 80-gallon buffer tank, servicing five separate zones throughout the home. SMO Energy installed a SpacePak hydronic air handler in the attic to service the top floor of the three-level home using SpacePak’s small 2-inch flexible ducts discretely fed down between the existing walls and floors.

SpacePak Solstice Extreme 4-ton heat pumps, SpacePak HighWall Hydronic Fan Coil, SpacePak ThinWall Hydronic Fan Coil, SpacePak Hydronic Air Handler

4-ton Solstice Extreme Air-to-Water Heat Pumps

To meet the needs of other areas, a combination of SpacePak’s HighWall and ThinWall hydronic fan coils were installed to service the basement and extended wings of the house, while dual SpacePak Air Cells conditioned the first floor of the main house. Everything was connected using PEX tubing making it infinitely easier to install and also hide the supply and return lines, a task not easily accomplished using refrigerant piping or traditional ductwork.

SpacePak Solstice Extreme 4-ton heat pumps, SpacePak HighWall Hydronic Fan Coil, SpacePak ThinWall Hydronic Fan Coil, SpacePak Hydronic Air Handler

Two SpacePak Solstice Extreme 4-ton heat pumps were cascaded with an 80-gallon buffer tank, servicing five separate zones throughout the home.

Another added advantage of using a hydronic system is that the individual air handlers are zoned separately for custom temperature control, and each zone is valved at the manifold for ease of service. Hydronic-based systems keep potentially harmful refrigerant outside the home using clean, efficient water as the heat transfer medium inside the occupied space.

SpacePak Solstice Extreme 4-ton heat pumps, SpacePak HighWall Hydronic Fan Coil, SpacePak ThinWall Hydronic Fan Coil, SpacePak Hydronic Air Handler

SpacePak Hydronic Air Handler – WCSP

SMO Energy worked with COREDRON, the local SpacePak manufacturer’s representative and SpacePak’s team of Application Engineers to design the optimal system layout including determining the proper pipe sizes and pump selections to ensure the most efficient performance of the overall system.

SpacePak Solstice Extreme 4-ton heat pumps, SpacePak HighWall Hydronic Fan Coil, SpacePak ThinWall Hydronic Fan Coil, SpacePak Hydronic Air Handler

SpacePak HighWall Hydronic Fan Coil

Serving Maryland for over 90 years, SMO Energy is one of the largest businesses of its kind in the region. They pride themselves on providing high quality equipment with courteous, efficient and quality service.

SpacePak Solstice Extreme 4-ton heat pumps, SpacePak HighWall Hydronic Fan Coil, SpacePak ThinWall Hydronic Fan Coil, SpacePak Hydronic Air Handler

SpacePak ThinWall Hydronic Fan Coil

 

COREDRON, represents leading plumbing, heating, & HVAC equipment manufacturers from around the world, and covers the Mid-Atlantic region for SpacePak. Partners Jeff Riley and Duane Withers have over 60 years of combined industry experience.

 

 

For the past 11 years, my job as a technical trainer has taken me from Alaska to Cuba, with many stops in between—I have been to all 50 states. Transitioning from a hands-on plumber to a talking head, standing in the front of the room addressing thirsty-for-knowledge contractors, took some getting used to. No doubt Read more

For the past 11 years, my job as a technical trainer has taken me from Alaska to Cuba, with many stops in between—I have been to all 50 states. Transitioning from a hands-on plumber to a talking head, standing in the front of the room addressing thirsty-for-knowledge contractors, took some getting used to.

No doubt the travel part of a “traveling trainer” job is the most challenging.  Hours spent squeezed inside an aluminum sausage, aka big, old jet-airliner, can be frustrating. I do love the views and amazing sunset and sunrises I have seen.  Lightning show, massive clouds are incredible, but they never look the same on the phone camera. For the most part the airline folks have been helpful and accommodating.

When they see the miles you rack up as a business traveler, they will almost always accommodate your request. Approaching them without a chip on your shoulder helps the outcome. Maybe it’s me, but it seems like a lot more delays and cancelations lately, busy times in the air travel business. So, I usually plan for some shuffling and exercise some chill skills. But I digress.

Once at the location, the fun part begins for me. I enjoy sharing what I have learned and listening to stories from attendees. For sure, my favorite parts of the job are the shop and jobsite visits. I learn from seeing how the new products and technology are actually being blended together on actual jobs. Browsing through the back rooms of the wholesaler and rep buildings can provide some good intel.

Living the Rock Star life.

I try to balance my training between product pitch and theory, applications, tips and tricks. It is important that the training sponsors advertise and promote the training accurately. If the training is intended to be all product and sales, that needs to be clear, so the folks attending know what to expect. Technical guys and gals prefer technical topics, from my experience.

I try to engage the group as much as possible, learn their skill level and expected outcome. Training for me is a give and take experience, as nobody knows it all. Except perhaps my wife. (Shhhh!) Generally, the room is a mix of expertise levels, so try to include info for everyone to leave with. Know your audience!

Hot Rod preparing for a Coffee with Caleffi webinar.

The dynamics of a room vary depending on the group. If you have a roomful of competitors, the questions do not flow so easily. Training at shops, reps and wholesalers always result in more interaction.

During the lunch break, spring for some food for the group, even if it is good pizza. Shop for the local brand favorite.

I’ve found a 4-hour maximum for tech heavy topics is a good lid for an event. It’s tough to keep a blue-collar person down as they need to keep moving. Their backs and knees make sitting for a long time challenging, too.

I always want to leave the attendees with a nice hard copy of the material we covered. The Caleffi Idronics are perfect handouts: They are a reference, both as a hard copy and online version. Also, it’s always nice to see the group taking notes in the margins.

Back at the office—in-house—I help produce the Coffee with Caleffi series, a webinar that cover important topics in the plumbing and hydronics industry.

If we haven’t met or shared a gab session together, I hope to do so soon. I’ll keep in communication with the Mechanical Hub community about dates and times for upcoming seminars, and webinars!

Bob ‘Hot Rod’ Rohr is director of training and education at Caleffi.