MegaPress fittings saved the day for Holbrook Service in Colorado Springs, Colorado. When their crew was called to a bank in the city for work on an aging hot and chilled water system, Janson Fish and Russell Piano with Holbrook ultimately chose Viega for the repairs. They found tight quarters in the basement of the Read more
MegaPress fittings saved the day for Holbrook Service in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
When their crew was called to a bank in the city for work on an aging hot and chilled water system, Janson Fish and Russell Piano with Holbrook ultimately chose Viega for the repairs.
They found tight quarters in the basement of the bank with carbon steel pipe in sizes 2 ½” and 3”. Bank owners wanted to re-engineer the hot and chilled water systems for an optimal energy upgrade and for modernization purposes. This included changing from one pump to two, replacing hot and chilled water coils as well as a chiller, and adding more components that required an extensive redesign of the piping systems to make things more efficient.
Instead of threading or welding, Fish, Holbrook’s Division Manager for Colorado, and Piano, Service Manager for southern Colorado, gave Viega fittings a try.
“I had been reading about Viega, doing some research for this job. I went in originally bidding to thread or weld and subcontract some of the work out, but with Viega we could take it all in house. That increased our profitability and also made it much faster,” said Fish.
They used couplers, reducers, tees and flange fittings. Instead of having to redo whole sections of piping for design changes, the Holbrook crew used Viega fittings for a plug-and-play experience.
“Without Viega, you’d be looking at probably 80 hours instead of 20 to re-pipe a bank of chilled water coils,” Fish said. “If we’d done this another way, we would have needed a welder and a fire permit. We would have had to work late or early hours. This product really saved us a lot on labor!”
Piano added that because of all the piping systems that had to be manipulated, the ability to cut and press quickly with Viega was extra attractive.
“We looked at different options, threading or welding 3” pipe – but Viega was the way to go. It greatly reduced the manpower needed,” Piano said.
Work started in September and was a rush job with colder weather knocking on the door. Holbrook was able to get the heat on at least a week earlier than expected.
“We’ve discovered that we can expand and do so much more thanks to Viega,” Fish said. “We’re bidding three more boiler replacements with MegaPress. We can offer solutions – emergency repairs and other fixes – to our customers now that we couldn’t so easily before.”
Mechanical Hub introduces its inaugural Product of the Month (POM) series. Every month we will be sharing our picks for POM. Our first product of the month feature gives a shout out to the ADEY MagnaCleanse hydronic system flushing system. Combining the RapidFlush filter and VibraClean agitator, MagnaCleanse system flushing removes system debris. The precision Read more
Mechanical Hub introduces its inaugural Product of the Month (POM) series. Every month we will be sharing our picks for POM. Our first product of the month feature gives a shout out to the ADEY MagnaCleanse hydronic system flushing system.
Combining the RapidFlush filter and VibraClean agitator, MagnaCleanse system flushing removes system debris. The precision agitator removes more sludge in 20 seconds than can be extracted in 30 minutes without it. It even shifts hardened debris, reducing the need to remove radiators to completely clean the system.
ADEY products, the MagnaClean magnetic filter, MagnaCleanse magnetic filter flush station and chemicals all work together to filter an entire hydronic system of efficiency-robbing elements. The magnetic sludge, as you’ll see in the short 60 second video posts below—submitted by ProStaffer Andy Mickelson, can cause failure of system components such as circulators, valves, air eliminators and flow controls; depending on the type of heat exchanger used at the heat source the debris can even cause total failure from restricted flow and overheating.
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Introducing our MagnaCleanse RapidFlush unit & its component parts featuring @mick_plumb’s throwback video! ???????? More videos to follow, including sludge results! ???? keep a look out! ???? #magnacleanse #rapidflush #systemflush #systemcleanse #hydronicheating #budgethatsludge #powerflush #flushflux #hvaclife #byebyedebris #boilerservice #plumber #heating #hydronics #mechanicalservice #hvac #gasheat #hvacservice #boilertech
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The 2nd @mick_plumb throwback video of our MagnaCleanse! All of this collected WITHOUT the use of any cleaner! ????????????✖️✖️✖️ #throwbackthursday #tbt #throwback #magnacleanse #budgethatsludge #doneoncedoneright #systemclean #hvaclife #contractorsofinsta #boilerservice #boilertech #hvac #hydronicheating #watertreatment #magnetite #boilerprotection
Mechanical Hub recently talked candidly with three industry icons about their decision to retire from the trades. According to an article published by The Washington Post, “there were 76 million people born between the years 1946 and 1964, the traditional window for the baby boom generation. That means that they will retire over a 19-year Read more
Mechanical Hub recently talked candidly with three industry icons about their decision to retire from the trades.
According to an article published by The Washington Post, “there were 76 million people born between the years 1946 and 1964, the traditional window for the baby boom generation. That means that they will retire over a 19-year period. Simple math shows that 76 divided by 19 is 4 million, or almost 11,000 people a day.”
With the average age of contractors reaching into the 50s, the inevitability is that people in the trades will retire sooner rather than later. Covering the p-h-c industry for nearly 20 years, I’ve made some great friendships. Over that time, some of my friends have retired from the trades, or are thinking about it. Guys who have invested more than 35 years in an industry that they love. How did they come to this conclusion? How did it feel? Were they ready? And, what’s next?
Recently, I talked with three gentlemen who have made the call to “hang up the wrenches” and they gave me a candid look inside the decision. “It’s quite emotional at first because, in my case, it is your life’s work, your passion, your baby, but you do gradually come around,” says Dave Yates, owner, F.W. Behler, York, Pa., who is in the transitioning phase of selling his business. “In some respects, it is hard to fathom that I’m actually retiring and will be turning over the reins to someone else. However, tough as it is to let go and wish new owners well, I’ll still be involved as needed or requested.”
For Yates, the wheels started spinning during one of those supply house incentive trips. Scott Weaver, head of APR Supply, had invited several couples to join him for breakfast on the last day. “I ended up sitting next to him. First thing he says to me and my wife Lois, ‘So, what’s your exit strategy?’ We had casually talked about that but we had never really gotten serious. In our early 60s, so we both felt like time was on our side, but that did start us planning.”
For Stephen Minnich, formerly of Minnich Mechanical Design, Elk Grove Village—which featured high-end hydronic projects—it was one of the toughest things he’s ever done. “I’ve worked with my hands and tools my entire adult life. I had a great reputation for the systems I put together. I loved my job.”
Minnich had been banged up physically for awhile—his knees, hips, and feet were shot; his back was a mess; he was 58 and already had two neck surgeries, shoulder surgery, two hand surgeries, and knee surgeries—but he absolutely loved what he did so he just kept on pushing forward. Minnich did ease up on the heavy lifting the last couple years and let his installers handle it—his focus was selling, designing systems, quality control, and all the other particulars of operating a business.
Yet after his lead installer left, and realizing that it wasn’t possible to train another boiler installer quickly, he started doing everything else himself again. “It was hard from the get-go. The jobs looked great, customers were happy, money was good, but I just couldn’t do the physical work anymore,” says Minnich.
The decision was clear that Minnich needed a change so he gave his customers a two-month notice. He ensured them that any warranties would be honored until they expired, and he even gave them referrals for other hydronic companies for the future, which, deep down, was a difficult thing to do.
“Those two months gave me enough time to be comfortable in my decision. I knew nothing could replace what I was doing but I also knew that my body wasn’t replaceable either,” says Minnich.
For Bob ‘Hot Rod’ Rohr, who owned Show Me Radiant Heat, the “time” varies from person to person. Financial ability to retire comfortably, health and body wearing out, lost interest and drive, the possibility feeling out of touch and left behind by technology. Seeing the clock moving faster and faster are all contributing factors. “It was a bittersweet experience. Hanging on to some tools helps ease the thought of quitting. I doubt a true wrench puller ever actually retires. They slow down, work for friends and neighbors without pay,” says Rohr.
But actually retiring, retiring? For these three, the plan is to remain active in the industry.
“I’ll let you know when I get there. I’m not ready for that yet. There’s still too much I want to learn and put into practice,” says Minnich, who has made the transition by working for a company in Chicago that facilitates the hiring of hydronic contractors for energy efficiency upgrades of complete systems, controls, ECM pumps, etc. He also writes a monthly column for a trade publication. “I focus a lot on design, but also the mistakes I’ve made and the things I’ve learned over the course of 40 years.”
As with most contractors, Yates has been hit with the “Can’t-sit-still-itis” bug, and although he certainly won’t miss being connected 24/7/365 and answering customer calls and emails every day, even on vacation, he will still continue work via writing, consulting and video production work. “After telling Lois it would be great to win the lottery and do nothing, many years ago, she replied. ‘Great, what are you going to do the second day?’”
As the day draws nearer for Yates, he’s been developing plans with manufacturers that will keep me quite busy. “Writing for a trade publication will also keep me going to trade shows, so I’ll be able to stay current with industry and product changes,” says Yates.
Hot Rod is currently busy traveling around North America training contractors as the lead trainer and education manager for Caleffi North America. And when he’s not on the road, you probably can find him tinkering with something back home at the shop.
Planning for Retirement
With retirement comes the need for financial security. “Begin saving and investing at an early age. Get a financial advisor and develop a plan for retirement,” says Yates. Through F.W. Behler, it was one of the first contracting firms to offer a 401K program to its employees. “Cost us a ton of money to develop, but a young apprentice starting here today should easily be a millionaire by retirement age. We contribute a percentage of their gross pay into their 401K account so, even if an employee doesn’t initially participate, their account still grows,” says Yates.
When Yates turned 62, a representative from a large company stopped in his office and told him that they wanted to purchase the business. “Given that we are one of the oldest mechanical contracting firms in the country with a rich heritage and stellar reputation, it was very important we sell to someone who would treat the company with the utmost respect and carry on the name F. W. Behler with honor,” says Yates.
Yet, Yates knew all this giant wanted was his customer list and would not necessarily keep his employees, and he knew their benefits did not match the company’s benefits. “However, it seemed like a great way to learn the ropes, so we hired a lawyer and got our accountant to establish a sale value. We had meetings and went through the process, which really opened our eyes to just how complex the process would be. Ensuring a smooth transition for our employees was paramount, too,” says Yates.
Rohr suggests start planning a few years upstream and meet with a financial planner. “Explore part-time positions, maybe look outside of your current occupation to learn new and challenging things that help keep the mind active. Talk with recent retirees for advice. Keep a lot of crossword puzzles on hand.”
One thing is for certain, these three guys feel the need to help the younger generation fall in love with the trades. “Part of a Masters license requirement should be that you pass the knowledge forward, or backward. This could be training, online seminars, blogs, chatrooms, school talks, etc. There are so many mechanisms available these days to share what you have learned to pass that energy to a newbie,” says Rohr.
Rohr continues, “Glamorize the trades—keep repeating the message of good wages, flexible hours. Compare the contribution to society between a reality star or lawyer and a plumber the protects the health of the nation. The trades are the first to respond after natural disasters to get water, power, etc. back online. Take the message to the schools early, grade school projects and talks, for example.”
Yates urges to continue to preach the gospel truth that a career in the trades can provide a very comfortable living. “It must be working because trade school enrollment has spiked upward and I heard a commercial for college careers where they were poo-pooing a career in the trades. We also, as an industry, need to embrace training minorities and that includes encouraging women to enter into the trades,” says Yates.
According to Minnich, “We have to start teaching our kids that there’s honor in having the kind of skill level you’ll have in the trades; there’s no shame in getting your hands dirty.”
When asked about what they would do with their spare time, all three had their dreams, but want to continue to stay busy. “Music, reading, and sports have always been a big part of my life so I get to indulge in more of that now. I’ve also caught the writing bug, so I tend to do a lot of that also. And last but certainly not least, I now have two young granddaughters and they’ve been game changers for me. They’re are so precious!” says Minnich.
For Rohr, “My plan would be to travel, hike, ski, explore the back roads of the U.S. Visit every national park.”
Yates plans to spend more time with his grandkids and try to go on a vacation for more than one week. Also, Yates belongs to a trout fly fishing club that was founded by his father and a group of men dedicated to conserving the sport. “I’ve only ever had time to go fishing one day each year so I’ll be on the stream more often. Oh, and play with my grandmother’s 57 Chevy 2-door 210 Belair and go for drives just for fun.”
Yet throughout it all, “Family always comes first,” says Yates. “Make time to do things with your kids, even if it means losing some work. Coach, assistant coach, be the scorekeeper, attend practices and games, or be active in other things such as scouts or community involvement.”
Recently, the Mechanical Hub team took part in a two-phase, two-state trip to visit Viega’s North American manufacturing in McPherson, Kansas, and toured the brand new HQ and Seminar Center in Broomfield, Colo. Impressive is the first thing that comes to mind when describing both facilities. The McPherson manufacturing facility exudes the company’s philosophy of Read more
Recently, the Mechanical Hub team took part in a two-phase, two-state trip to visit Viega’s North American manufacturing in McPherson, Kansas, and toured the brand new HQ and Seminar Center in Broomfield, Colo. Impressive is the first thing that comes to mind when describing both facilities.
The McPherson manufacturing facility exudes the company’s philosophy of both progress and vision for the future. “We are constantly looking past the immediate future and into the distant future,” Eric Wicker, director, manufacturing, Viega.
This summer, Viega completed a two-year building program in McPherson that included: a 90,000-sq. ft. expansion of a manufacturing plant, completed in Dec. 2017; a new 205,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing plant, completed in June; and a new 25,000-sq.-ft. tool shop and apprentice building, completed in July. And, the company is currently building a 55,000-sq.-ft. logistics expansion—a high-bay storage and retrieval area for inventory.
Mimicking some of the processes from its global HQ in Germany, robotics and machining take center stage throughout the meticulous McPherson plant. Fear not, all of this new-fangled technology is not taking jobs away, rather increasing them. Currently at approximately 300 employees, the company hopes to hit the 500 mark by years ’23-’24.
McPherson is where Viega produces its PureFlow line of PEX product, as well as select fittings from the ProPress Copper and 80,000 sq. ft. dedicated to its MegaPress product lines. McPherson is also home to Viega’s master distribution center for North America.
Continued expansion is a testament to the company’s progressive philosophy. For instance, the company has dedicated 270,000 sq. ft. to the copper fitting production. “The goal is to be producing the majority of copper fittings sold in the U.S. right here in the states,” says Wicker.
The state-of-the-art distribution center incorporates the latest technology and automation, as well as an upgraded warehouse management system that provides faster product turnaround. With additional metals products being manufactured in McPherson, a larger distribution center for both metals and PEX products was necessary.
Although media wasn’t allowed to shoot photography inside the plants—understandably—the tour started in the 36,000-sq.-ft. Plastic Injection Molding area which exemplified the company’s high investment in tooling. Twenty machines produce approximately seven million fittings per month. This particular building was well lit and comfortable, due, in part, by the implementation of its own radiant heating and cooling technology.
Quality is never understated at Viega; we strolled through the Quality Assurance Lab where dedicated staff monitor product and equipment through a series of rigorous testing.
Next, we toured the 200,000-sq.-ft. Extrusion Area where the plastic piping is made. Once made and exported from Georgia, Viega now produces its own resin—which is transformed into pellets—onsite. The rejected pellets are not repurposed, yet recycled and sold.
There is a Special Extrusion Area where plastic metal plastic tubing extrusion is performed. The only company in America making this, the plastic piping is integrated with aluminum so it can better hold its shape rather than returning back to its original form. (Nearby is a 40,000-sq.-ft. dedicated machine shop.)
We then toured the 270,000 sq. ft. of ProPress copper fittings production area and 80,000 sq. ft. of the MegaPress/Metals production area. Strategically, it makes sense for Viega to start producing here in the states. With press technology introduced here in 1999, education and awareness of the process and technology have helped contractors nationwide run a more efficient business. Viega system solutions are designed to work together in plumbing, heating, cooling and pipe joining applications, making the contractor’s work fast, easy and safe.
The following day we were flown to Denver to tour the recently opened Viega North American headquarters and Seminar Center in Broomfield, Colo. The 55,000-sq.-ft. headquarters resembles a pipe fitting, and its interior is the real testament to Viega innovation. I can’t express enough how beautiful these two buildings are, and, of course, amid the breathtaking backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. The HQ building opened in January and the first official training took place April 8, and weekly training is booking fast. “Viega is absolutely committed to its customers and their success in the field,” says Bo DeAngelo, manager, technical training at the center.
Yet, I am always interested: when a new facility is built, does it incorporate its own products? While the cross-laminated timber beams are imported from Austria, the exposed ceilings give employees and visitors a clear view of the many uses of Viega’s innovative technology.
Potable water is carried through copper pipes connected with ProPress fittings. The carbon steel fire sprinkler system is joined with MegaPress fittings. Radiant heating and cooling keeps the building comfortable, while a snowmelt system keeps the courtyard free of ice and snow. Manifolds ensure the systems operate smoothly and efficiently. The restrooms feature wall-hung bowls and no exposed tanks, thanks to in-wall carrier systems and Visign style flush plates.
The new 23,000-sq.-ft. Broomfield Seminar Center next door supplements Viega’s Nashua, New Hampshire Seminar Center, which has trained thousands of people since opening in 2006. The new center is an innovative training experience and is equipped with four classrooms, two hands-on labs, and interactive displays throughout, which allows attendees to see, touch and experience Viega products. “Demand for training has been increasing steadily. This facility will allow us to continue to provide and expand on the training that our industry deserves,” says CEO Dave Garlow.
Viega experts lead single- and multi-day classes in everything from radiant system design and fire protection to hydronics and pathogen prevention. Despite being open only since April, it is on track to host more than 2,100 students this year, says DeAngelo.
I walked away very impressed, telling DeAngelo I—and I’m sure the clients that visit—can’t help but feel energized the minute I walk in this facility. Shaking his head in agreement, “That’s what Dave Garlow tells me every day he walks in here,” responded DeAngelo.
Make no mistake, there is a lot of money, time and resources invested in Viega North America. But it’s a huge testament to the dedication the company believes is its biggest investment: its customers and its employees.
Summertime is the perfect time to line up your snowmelt projects and installations heading into the upcoming unpredictable weather patterns of the changing seasons. For Jason Ridgeway, owner of Ridgeway Home Services, West Chicago, Ill., a provider of indoor home comfort services for the Chicagoland area, snowmelt has been added to his comfort portfolio, and Read more
Summertime is the perfect time to line up your snowmelt projects and installations heading into the upcoming unpredictable weather patterns of the changing seasons. For Jason Ridgeway, owner of Ridgeway Home Services, West Chicago, Ill., a provider of indoor home comfort services for the Chicagoland area, snowmelt has been added to his comfort portfolio, and an additional technology he encourages potential HVAC customers to pursue. “What used to be a popular choice for larger homes, snowmelt is becoming more commonplace in ‘regular’ sized homes in the area,” said Ridgeway.
Ridgeway was called to the near west suburban neighborhood to install snowmelt for a residence’s driveway/walkway, and in addition, believe it or not, a miniature railroad/train track system—which still runs, by the way—that meanders throughout the customer’s property.
The original homeowner decided to install the train tracks in the yard for his children and grandchildren, and when he sold the home to the current owner, “the railroad had become a neighborhood institution of sorts, with neighbors pleading to keep the landmark train system, and keep it operational,” said Ridgeway.
The project began with paving contractors removing the tracks and labeling them accordingly, while a welder repaired the tracks and fitted them atop the tubing, which was installed later.
Ridgeway began the snowmelt project in September of 2017, adding the “oomph” behind the system in the basement mechanical room. Prefabbed in his shop, Ridgeway constructed the mechanical panel, which consists of Grundfos circulators, an Axiom filling station, tekmar controls for the brains behind the snowmelt system sensing, and an HTP Elite 399 boiler—installed onsite. On a side note, Ridgeway left stub outs on the boiler panel in the event of upgraded in-home radiant heat, or in the case of a future boiler change-out.
Covering approximately 3,000 sq. ft. of outdoor space—with approximately 4,500 linear ft. of REHAU PEX tubing—which includes the area of the tracks, driveway and walkways, Ridgeway began the multiple week installation—due in part to an arduous concrete pour and curing timeline—with time to spare for the upcoming winter months.
Ridgeway came away impressed with the ease of the tubing installation with both the PEXGUN installation tool, an automatic, lightweight and compact hand-held tool that attaches PEX pipe to rebar or wire mesh, and his commitment to REHAU products, in this case, the tubing uncoiler. “With the PEXGUN tubing installation tool, and REHAU uncoiler, I personally can put down 300 ft. of tubing, the same as three guys using zip ties in equal amount of time or better. The extra plus is that I don’t have to go back and cut off the tails when I’m done,” said Ridgeway.
The supply water temperature was set to 160 F with the slab melting temperature set point at 34-36 F. The cold-water shutoff was set to -10 F.
The intelligence of the system is controlled by a tekmar 090 snow and ice sensor and a tekmar 665 snowmelt control system. Basically, the in-ground sensor—used in conjunction with the tekmar snow melting controls—“senses” the precipitation and intuitively correlates the freezing or below freezing temperatures and automatically detects precipitation as snow or sleet on the applicable surface, which tells the system to activate.
The tekmar 665 control uses the snow/ice detection sensor in order to automatically melt snow using Pulse Width Modulation and slab outdoor reset to maintain slab temperature. It is capable of controlling a single boiler, a system pump, and providing a signal when melting is enabled.
The existing system is one zone but is set up for the possibility of adding multiple zones, which is advantageous to Ridgeway. He will be going back to the residence to add snowmelt to existing pavers around the pool area in the back of the house. This added snowmelt will pull hot water from the existing HTP boiler.
Ridgeway ran into one challenge during the installation when the system, upon initial start-up, kept experiencing a drop in pressure. Initially thinking there was a leak in the lines somewhere, Ridgeway eventually resolved the issue by diagnosing the problem, finding an unusually high content of air in the system. An elongated purging of excess air in the system solved that minor glitch.
The end result is a beautifully paved snowmelt area, complete with added railroad tracks crisscrossing through the driveway. Needless to say, when all was said and done, and a full season of experiencing snowstorms, ice and a wintry mix in between, the end result was one happy homeowner.
Manifold images: All REHAU manifolds are pressurized to 80psi.