A highly efficient, environmentally friendly and safe system should be the outcome of all condensing appliance installations. The system is made up of many components and all must work together to achieve the goal of providing the end user with the best possible system. A high efficiency condensing appliance by itself does not mean a Read more
A highly efficient, environmentally friendly and safe system should be the outcome of all condensing appliance installations. The system is made up of many components and all must work together to achieve the goal of providing the end user with the best possible system. A high efficiency condensing appliance by itself does not mean a highly efficient, environmentally friendly and safe system. The boiler, water heater or furnace must be installed as per manufacturer’s instructions then combustion performance must be tested, and controls properly set for that application. The system, which the appliance is connected to, must also be designed and installed properly. This may consist of proper pipe sizing, pump sizing, duct sizing and other considerations.
All condensing appliances produce condensate. A condensing appliance operating in full condensing mode will produce up to one gallon per hour for every 100,000 BTU/hour of input. This can total over 2,000 gallons of condensate in a heating season. Even more if there is a condensing water heater. This condensate is acidic and will have a pH of somewhere between 1.8 and 4.5. Any condensate below 5 to 5.5 can and will cause damage if not treated before disposal. The actual pH of the condensate from the appliance is dependent on several factors including but not limited to chemical makeup of the gas, proper adjustment of the combustion process and any contaminants in the combustion air.
When condensing boilers and furnaces were first introduced, they were oftentimes replacing old cast iron boilers and atmospheric furnaces that were vented into a chimney. Because the new appliance was direct vented, the old gas fired water heater with the 3” vent was now venting into an 8” plus masonry chimney. And we all know what happened then! That’s right, it rained inside of that chimney. The resulting condensate ate away the mortar, the bricks and the metal vent itself. So new codes were put in place to govern proper chimney venting to prevent damage from acidic condensate. The same acidic condensate that we make with condensing appliances by the way. And what happens?
Non treated condensate will damage and destroy cast iron, galvanized, copper and other types of metallic piping. If it is going into your septic system, then you run the risk of destroying the bacterial environment which is crucial to a properly operating septic system. If you are disposing of it into a public sewer system, then it is contributing to the potential damage and higher maintenance costs to that system including piping and the treatment facilities. If you are disposing of it directly to the ground it will kill plant life in the general area and put acidic liquid into the ground water.
Treating this condensate with a quality condensate neutralizer is an easy and effective way to avoid the above issues. A neutralizer should contain a proven high-quality media to provide effective neutralization. The media should consist of calcium carbonate and magnesium oxide. Marble chips from the big box store are not the answer. These marble chips work for a very short period. The reason for this is that while marble does contain some calcium carbonate, it is also made up of many other minerals which make it harder thereby reducing its neutralizing capacity. You should be able to easily visually inspect the neutralizer to determine if it needs recharging. The neutralizer should be easy to recharge. Most neutralizers should be recharged annually when the appliance receives its annual preventive maintenance service.
Let’s make this necessary accessory a part of every condensing appliance system.
Mike Bernasconi is VP, Technical Operations, Neutrasafe Corporation. For more info, www.neutrasafe.com.
Against the odds, Dan Foley rises above, displaying courage, strength and exemplary work through steadfast leadership. We are honored to name Dan Foley Mechanical Hub’s Person of the Year. When the calendar flipped to 2020, the new year was looking like one of the best years for Dan Foley, owner, Foley Mechanical, Inc. (FMI), Lorton Read more
Against the odds, Dan Foley rises above, displaying courage, strength and exemplary work through steadfast leadership. We are honored to name Dan Foley Mechanical Hub’s Person of the Year.
When the calendar flipped to 2020, the new year was looking like one of the best years for Dan Foley, owner, Foley Mechanical, Inc. (FMI), Lorton, Va. Until the nasty pandemic hit back in March, that is. “It was the worst medical experience in my life. I got it the first week of April. I have no idea how I contracted the virus. I am at job sites, supply houses and architect meetings every day. Over the course of a week, I am in contact with dozens of people. Obviously, I picked it up somewhere along the way,” says Foley.
Foley knew something wasn’t right with his body. “At first I felt a little funny but I did not feel sick. Then, extreme fatigue set in. I could not function. I would sleep 20 hours a day and was more tired when I woke up. I did not have a cough or high fever so I did not think I had Coronavirus, maybe just a bug or the flu. But think of it like this, I went 12 rounds with Mike Tyson and then got hit by a bus,” continues Foley.
A fairly rare acquaintance—Foley and the doctor visit—“I did a virtual appointment with my doctor and was instructed to go immediately to the emergency room where I tested positive for COVID-19, as well as pneumonia. Once admitted, my fever spiked twice to 103°F and I was in the hospital for seven days. When I was released, I was in bed for two weeks at home. I lost 30 lbs. over those three weeks, as I could not eat. At times, I felt like I was in a fog. Although it affected me mentally and physically, I slowly regained my strength,” says Foley.
Throughout this potentially perilous time, Foley’s employee Ron ran the ship. “He shut down for two weeks in April while he sorted everything out. Luckily, no one else in my company got sick,” recalls Foley.
Over time, Foley’s condition improved, and today he is back 100%. Back to record-breaking business months of June, and July is not far behind. It’s halfway through the year, and throughout all of it, Foley Mechanical is up for the year. “We were down in April and May, as clients understandably didn’t want anyone in their homes. June was a record month and July is shaping up to be the same. I believe it is a combination of pent-up demand, with more people staying at home and hot weather. When it is 65°F outside, there is no need for our service. When it is 95°F and humid, we worked out ways to service, repair and replace HVAC system while maintaining employee and customer safety,” says Foley.
And by customer safety, Foley stresses that they are following standard protocols—distancing, PPE (gloves, masks and shoe covers). Many of Foley’s service customers leave a basement door open for service techs. Customers can communicate by phone or Facetime so there is no direct interaction, and all billing is done through the office for the time being.
For Foley, he’s rested, ready to get back to work, Corona-free, with antibodies. Herd immunity, right? Not so fast, my friend. Pump the brakes, says Foley. “I thought the same—I’m home free now that I have antibodies. My doctor warned me that very little is known about the Coronavirus. It can evolve and mutate. He warned me to behave as if I never had it. I am following his direction. Respect the virus,” says Foley.
Getting Started in the Trades
Foley started out as summer help at Arlington Heating while he was in college. After he graduated in 1988 from Virginia Tech with a degree in Business Management, he went to work full time while he figured what he wanted to do. “Thirty-two years later, I’m still in the trade,” says Foley.
After spending fifteen years at Arlington Heating and A/C, Inc., rising to the position of Vice President, Foley left the company in April 2002 to start his own company – Foley Mechanical, Inc., an HVAC company specializing in steam/radiant/snowmelt/renewable/solar systems.
Foley currently serves on the executive board of ACCA national, and his local ACCP, the local chapter of ACCA, and has been a past board member of his local PHCC chapter. He is also a past President of the Radiant Panel Association. He is the current chairman of the ACCA Radiant & Hydronics Council. He holds Master HVAC and Master plumbing/gas fitting licenses in Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Maryland.
Foley’s perseverance, work ethic, and never-give-up attitude stems from his father, a retired Marine Corps colonel. “He taught me the values of hard work and persistence. Never quit, never give up,” says Foley.
Foley, while still learning the business and trade, attributes much to Woolye Croker, founder of Arlington Heating Co., and his bosses Tom and Linda Croker, who still have an influence on him to this day.
Other influences include Dan Holohan, who indoctrinated Foley on hydronics back in the early ’90s when he was strictly a forced-air guy. “He gave me the knowledge, encouragement and confidence to jump into the radiant and hydronics world.”
John Siegenthaler was very generous with his knowledge early on. Foley still uses design graphics and ideas he learned from him more than 25 years ago.
Mitchell Cropp, owner of Cropp-Metcalfe AC, and past chairman of ACCA, was very helpful sharing his business experience.
Skipper Joyce, founder of The Joyce Agency helped Foley open accounts with suppliers when he first started my company. “No one knew who I was but everyone knew Skipper. I was able to secure open accounts with several key suppliers on Skipper’s word alone.”
Last, and certainly not of least importance, Jeff Riley, owner of Coredron, and formerly with Thos. Somerville Co., has been a friend and supporter since the first day FMI opened for business, April 2002.
Foley truly loves his career in the trades. “I like the challenge of landing big projects and designing new mechanical systems. I like watching my crew bring my creation to life. And, I like working with the architect, GCs and owners to find creative solutions to problems. It is something new and different every day,” says Foley.
Foley is so dedicated to his craft and his business that finding balance between work and time spent away from the job can be challenging. “That is the hard part. There really is no balance, but I enjoy what I do. When I no longer enjoy it, I know it will be time for a change,” says Foley.
Yet, when asked the last time he had a great day? “Every morning! In all seriousness, I love what I do,” says Foley. “Aside from work, I last said that as I teed off for a round of golf with my father at Ford’s Colony Golf Club, Williamsburg, Va.”
As you read this, thousands of American families are considering a move to less densely populated areas. Towns and cities within the Rocky Mountain States – Idaho, Montana and Wyoming specifically – are seeing unprecedented population growth. The idea of living in rural and suburban areas is gaining a lot of interest among residents of Read more
As you read this, thousands of American families are considering a move to less densely populated areas.
Towns and cities within the Rocky Mountain States – Idaho, Montana and Wyoming specifically – are seeing unprecedented population growth. The idea of living in rural and suburban areas is gaining a lot of interest among residents of the country’s more populated regions.
Popular opinion in these scenic areas attribute the migration to three major factors: social unrest in urban areas, prevalence of COVID-19 cases, and the ability for more people to telecommute, professionally.
The owner of a moving company in Cody, WY, noted that they had relocated a dozen families from California in May alone. Real estate prices are rising, counter to what would be expected during a recession. Similar stories come from Montana.
“A customer of mine who is a real estate agent just sold a $700,000 home sight unseen to a family from back East,” said Andy Mickelson, owner of Mickelson Plumbing and Heating Inc. in Missoula, MT. “He took them through the home via Skype just before a contract was signed. Migration is extreme. Houses are selling fast, and high.”
Earlier this year, the same real estate agent referred a recent homebuyer to Mickelson for boiler replacement. Not surprisingly, the house was purchased in a hurry.
“The homeowner ran out of domestic hot water a week after buying the home, so we replaced the igniter on the mod-con boiler which was supplying heat to an indirect tank,” said Mickelson. “We also found that the heat exchanger had failed, so we returned to replace the boiler as soon as we could.”
Mickelson is a Montana native who started his own company in 2011, after 13 years at a large mechanical firm. Today he employs two full time technicians and has the work for more – if only he could find the right people. He’s a self-proclaimed wet-head, but his skill set also includes commercial controls, plumbing and air conditioning.
While Mickelson’s work can be seen in commercial buildings and full-blown mountainside mansions (he’s done work for some of the world’s most famous musicians), this specific home was average in every way.
The 2,500-square-foot bi-level was constructed in the 80s, and the aluminum-block condensing boiler he found in the house was, to his knowledge, boiler number two. Installing boiler number three, a 199 MBH Aspen Combi made by U.S. Boiler Company, would have been pretty straightforward if not for several messy system changes that had been done in the past.
“The system was a result of 30 years of additions and haphazard corrections,” explained Mickelson. “At one point a water softener had been added, and an irrigation system was tee’d into the domestic piping. On top of that, the first retrofit was a hack job.”
At least the three zones of fin-tube baseboard were in good condition; one downstairs and two upstairs. By the time he started to cut the supply and return piping out of the closet mechanical room, he already had a plan for the new system.
“I pair a heat load calculation with a radiation measurement,” said Mickelson. “This not only tells me the supply water temperatures I’ll need for proper outdoor reset programming, but it gives me the flow and head I’ll need out of my system pump. This is valuable information to optimize comfort and efficiency with two components I used on this job.”
Without the help of a buffer tank, the Sage Zone Control allows the boiler to start at low fire and only increase to the firing rate needed for the zone (or zones) calling. Mickelson inputs the size of all three zones, and the boiler fires accordingly, never exceeding the actual load, and the ECM circulator responds by modulating the flow rate across the system.
“A single circulator with baseboard and zone valves is perfect for this setup,” said Mickelson. There’s never a concern about being over- or under-pumped. This house needs about five feet of head and five GPM with all zones open.”
“Both the Sage Zone Control and the 0018e are very easy to program,” he explains. “The panel is accessible through the boiler’s Sage Control, which is connected to the boiler via a CAT 5 cable. I access the pump via a Bluetooth app on my phone. It has a number of different modes; constant speed, proportional pressure, and constant pressure, as well as a self-adjusting proportional pressure mode.”
The perfect fit
For simplicity and space savings, Mickelson installed the Aspen Combi instead of adding an indirect tank. The house only has two occupants, so there’s never a concern of running more than two showers at a time.
Connections to the combi boiler were very easy to make from the bottom side of the unit, even in the cramped closet. Adjusting the burner for Missoula’s 3,200 foot elevation was simple. The factory-supplied exhaust fitting has a built-in test port for a combustion analyzer, and the boiler cabinet has a side access panel for easy access to the gas valve.
“Taco’s mobile app for Bluetooth connection to the circulator makes changing modes, etc., very easy, and all feedback from the Aspen boiler and the Sage Zone Panel read out in plain English on the boiler’s touchscreen display,” said Mickelson. “I didn’t need a secret decoder ring to set the unit up.”
The homeowner’s frustration at buying a property that immediately needed a new boiler came at least with a silver lining. The new system is comfortable and reliable. Ignition is smooth, and the loudest noise that the system makes is the baseboard heating up. That’s a very good thing, considering that the mechanical closet is adjacent to the owner’s home office.
As working from home in the Rocky Mountains becomes more popular, the mechanical contractors who’re best suited to provide the right solutions will benefit while western towns grow.
A new life. Nicholas Verkhoturtsev’s story starts in his hometown of Ural—everybody calls it Siberia—Russia. In 2002, Nicholas graduated from Law State University with a Bachelor’s degree. That same year, a company Nicholas worked for as a lawyer, purchased a plumbing company and Nicholas became co-owner of that company. Teaching law at the University and Read more
A new life.
Nicholas Verkhoturtsev’s story starts in his hometown of Ural—everybody calls it Siberia—Russia. In 2002, Nicholas graduated from Law State University with a Bachelor’s degree. That same year, a company Nicholas worked for as a lawyer, purchased a plumbing company and Nicholas became co-owner of that company.
Teaching law at the University and working on his Master’s degree seemed to be the career path he set for himself. “I didn’t do anything in that plumbing company; I just controlled its finances, but I paid attention and learned their work, skills and knowledge,” says Nicholas.
In the meantime, with increasing corruption in Russia, Nicholas became disenchanted and bored with law so he turned to plumbing. “I got interested in plumbing because I liked it as a field where everything depended on my skills and knowledge, not on other people—judges, prosecutors, government people etc.—or how much money I bring them under the table. Yes, I would make more money if I stayed in law, but I fell in love with plumbing because of that independence,” says Nicholas.
He created a plumbing company and hired the guys from the company he controlled previously. “I continued to learn their plumbing skills and did all paper work and management of operations. In 2003-2004, I started to do all work myself and fired the guys who worked for me. Most of my jobs in Russia was residential, but I did some big projects such as a water park—the radiant heating system with mixing and pump units, used 18 miles of PEX pipe—an auto dealership—radiant heating system with climate control, for example,” says Nicholas.
Nicholas soon realized that growing and developing his plumbing business looked grim, and any outlook for making his family’s life better looked increasingly bleak, “because of huge corruption, a sputtering economy and terrible politics by fucking Putin and his people,” says Nicholas.
What was supposed to be a planned vacation to the United States turned out to be a lifetime commitment. “I tried to change things by becoming a peaceful political protester in my home city, but with very bad results. I ultimately decided to move to the U.S., got all of the necessary documents, and did it.”
Upon arriving in the United States, Nicholas worked for David Hesson, and for the past five weeks has been working for Robbie Mann at A. Mann Plumbing LTD, Centerburg, Ohio, as a tech for residential and commercial plumbing and hydronic heating systems, service plumbing and drain cleaning. “I am very happy to be a part of their team,” says Nicholas.
While growing in the trades and starting his own plumbing business in Russia, Nicholas didn’t have any mentors, really. But, according to Nicholas, “I would call Eric Aune a friend and mentor; I learned a lot from him on Instagram while I worked in Russia.”
Now in the states he’s learned from Hesson, and his current teachers and mentors, Robbie Mann and Mark Starkey. “Every hour, every minute when I work with them I gain knowledge and skills. And, they always answer my stupid questions,” jokes Nicholas.
The Next Generation
Nicholas does express concern about the future of the trades. “I don’t see many young people who are ready to grow and learn things in plumbing, here is the USA and Russia.” And, from what Nicholas has seen is that plumbing in America is always growing. The importance of the trades has never been more evident than in these uncertain times of the pandemic. “After fucking Covid starts, we are getting more service calls. Covid just proves plumbing is as necessary ever,” says Nicholas.
“We all need to reach to people, young people and make them able to realize that plumbing is an essential job, a necessary job, and that people can’t live without water, heating and waste management.”
Nicholas’s advice to those entering the trades? “Learn everything yourself; learn more than you should know. When you start to work in plumbing, do more than you should do and don’t wait for someone to give you skills and knowledge. Just get all this yourself.”
Me Time, Social Media
In his spare time Nicholas continues to learn plumbing, and he reads American plumbing codes. As well I do some exercises on my knees and back. That is what plumbers need. And, according to Nicholas, balancing family/work life is sharing every concern, every thought, every action about your work with your spouse. Your family should know every detail of your work life. “In my opinion, it helps find necessary time for your family.”
Social media has been instrumental in Nicholas’s growth, as well. He has found many of his current friends in the states on the social media platform. “A couple of my best friends from Instagram are Eric Aune and my boss Robbie Mann. Eric has always supported me, and when I arrived in the U.S., he sent me a bunch of tools which I’m still been using every day,” says Nicholas (@installer.nicholas). “I think Instagram is the best network to share work, knowledge and skills. And sharing these things is a way to find people who understand you totally.”
The last time Nicholas said, “Today is a great day”? It’s hard to say, says Nicholas. “In plumbing I enjoy results done perfectly; when everything is perfect, especially systems water flow and efficiency. Sometimes I even lose time/money to get something perfect, but I do it to enjoy the result … to enjoy my life, finally.
Earning a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, Michael Flynn’s (@flynnstone1) career path took an unexpected turn. “I fell ass-backward into the trade,” says Flynn. Early on, Flynn worked as pool lifeguard for six years, and, at the time, he knew a family that owned a plumbing and HVAC business. “They asked me to come Read more
Earning a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, Michael Flynn’s (@flynnstone1) career path took an unexpected turn. “I fell ass-backward into the trade,” says Flynn. Early on, Flynn worked as pool lifeguard for six years, and, at the time, he knew a family that owned a plumbing and HVAC business. “They asked me to come on as a helper and driver, and they said I could go on my interviews and take care of my criminal justice stuff any time I needed.”
After realizing that he wasn’t getting hired due to the job shortage in 2008, Flynn focused all of his energy on the trade; he started paying more attention because this was his new career path.
When the guy Flynn was driving for left that company a year and a half later, Flynn’s boss at the time threw him the keys and told him to hop in the truck. “Needless to say, I was shaking in my boots. I was super nervous to run my own truck and service calls. Yet the boss told me to call him anytime I needed help to describe what I was looking at. The dude was a genius; he helped me fix it every time, and this was before FaceTime and good quality phone pictures, lol,” says Flynn.
With this new-found confidence instilled by his boss, it finally clicked in Flynn’s head that he could succeed in the field. Then, a self-inflicted roadblock. Flynn got a DUI and the company couldn’t keep him on, which inevitably led him on the path to sobriety. “I’m going to be four years sober on the 19th of this month,” says Flynn.
Searching for new work, he worked for a company for six months and eventually moved to another company. “That company’s boss taught me a lot about the business aspect of the trade, and he was super hard on me to succeed. Because of that, I did 1/2 million in sales for him on the service side in one year.”
Eventually, Flynn sought an opportunity to advance his career and he moved to the company he is at now, Service Professionals, Union, New Jersey, to do installs. Working with Service Professionals for the past six years, Flynn wears many hats and has multiple responsibilities. “I am a lead installer for residential installations for plumbing and boiler service, and I oversee all operations on the jobsite, and entire projects. I’m also a field supervisor, and take care of warranty issues, difficult service calls, and sometimes oversee other installs that I am not even a part of,” says Flynn.
The last few months have been rather difficult, but lately business has picked back up. When COVID-19 first started here in the states, work was extremely slow, says Flynn. The company had to lay off a few installers—some who weren’t comfortable coming into work and some that just wanted to take off. “It was rough; fighting to get 25-30 hours a week when I’m normally at 50-60. People wouldn’t let us in the house. Now it has picked up because the weather is getting warmer and people need their AC. We are wearing masks and gloves, and asking customer to keep their distance when we are performing an install.”
Flynn owes much of his growth and success to his father. “I’m adopted, which can be tough for some people. He showed me the meaning of hard work, but most of all, he showed me the love and affection I needed,” says Flynn. “He told me that if I wanted something, I had to put in the work to get it, and I still carry that to this day.”
That hard work translates to happy customers. “I get the best feeling when a customer sees the finished install and says ‘wow’! Taking a really bad looking and terribly functioning system and turning it into gold is what I live for,” says Flynn.
Flynn’s advice to those considering the trades is to dive head first into the trade and don’t be afraid to ask questions. “The lead, boss, or owner knows a lot more than you will ever know. That doesn’t mean they are not willing to teach you what they know. Are a hands-on learner or a watch and learner? It helps so they can get you to a point where you can perform tasks on your own,” says Flynn.
While the job is very rewarding, it’s not all puppy dogs and rainbows. “It’s a rough and tough industry. You have to lift stuff, push stuff and pull stuff; that’s just the nature of the beast. But, it’s also extremely fun. We have a great time every day, whether it’s joking on the job site—while still getting work done—or problem solving in a customer’s home. It really is a great place to be.”
Yet, people have to know that the trade and industry is always changing, says Flynn. “My concern is people’s unwillingness to change with it and adapt. Some things never change. But some things are completely different. You have to look at things totally different now and be able to adapt. There is a lot of technology that can help people improve system performance, for example.”
According to Flynn, that excitement and visibility for the trades needs to start with shop classes in middle school and high school. For instance, recently Flynn was cleaning out his basement and found some woodworking projects he did in middle school. “I said to my wife, ‘Damn, I wish they had shop in high school.’ I might have been even further in my career if they did,” says Flynn.
Moreover, the trades need to more in the discussion as a viable option. “Everyone is pushing college, college, college when you can go to trade school and be debt-free. Don’t get me wrong, I benefited from college as far as knowledge and people skills, but I am not using that degree.”
Finding success in the trades does take time, hard work and dedication. And finding the right balance between home and work life can be difficult. “Balancing is hard, but it’s great for me because when I’m home, I’m home. I don’t have to go out. No on-call for me at all. There is an install weekend rotation, but that’s it. My wife knows that I am working very hard to provide so she doesn’t give me a hard time. If I know it’s going to be a long day, I let her know beforehand. She really is a great support for me. Communication is key to that, as well,” says Flynn.
In what spare time he has, Flynn enjoys reading and researching, BBQs and cookouts with family and friends, concerts and fishing trips. That researching includes scrolling through IG and absorbing as much information as he can. Social media has been a beneficial frontier for Flynn. “IG has been great for me. Connecting with everyone in the trades is incredible, and it really has helped me up my game on install with cleanliness and functionality. All of the tips and tricks is amazing.
I’ve also made some contacts with some tool companies, which is cool. Obviously, being part of the RIDGID Experience was one of the best things in my career, and I found out about that through Mechanical Hub!” says Flynn.
The last time Flynn said it was a great day? “It may sound cheesy, but every time I step back and look at a completed job that is running perfectly, I have a good day. I really do love what I do.”