Industry Blogs

Homeowners in the United States are becoming more inclined to update their residences with the latest smart home technology. Smart homes are the homes of the future and come fully equipped with a range of interconnected devices to offer benefits to the average homeowner. Smart voice assistants, smart kitchen appliances, smart home security systems, and Read more

Homeowners in the United States are becoming more inclined to update their residences with the latest smart home technology. Smart homes are the homes of the future and come fully equipped with a range of interconnected devices to offer benefits to the average homeowner.

Smart voice assistants, smart kitchen appliances, smart home security systems, and smart HVAC systems are examples of smart home technologies that homeowners are looking to adopt. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering how technology has developed over the years and how the consumer market is becoming more tech-savvy.

As American homes are evolving, how will the role of technicians change? Will technicians learn new skills or technologies to earn business from homeowners? Below is more information about smart home technology and how the role of technicians may change in an interconnected digital era.

Smart Homes Becoming More Commonplace

Statista estimates that the number of smart homes will increase and surpass the 350 million mark by 2023.

Many big tech companies, including Apple, Samsung, Google, and Amazon, are releasing new smart home technologies for customers. Smart TVs, sound systems, voice assistants, security systems, lighting systems, and thermostats are some examples of popular smart home technologies.

Homeowners reap a handful of benefits by using smart home tech. Convenience is likely the primary benefit – most smart home tech can be controlled by one device, usually a smartphone or tablet. These internet-enabled devices connect to hubs or applications for ease of use.

Impact of Smart Home Technology on the Role of Home Technicians

Because so many homeowners are equipping their homes with smart technology, this will likely change, if it hasn’t already, how home technicians do their jobs.

Typically, smart home technology does not have to be maintained or repaired as often as traditional home technology. For example, most systems will alert homeowners in advance of a breakdown, and some will even help homeowners troubleshoot issues.

However, because smart home technology has complex inner workings, technicians may have more difficulty completing repairs. Higher-end equipment often requires more skilled technicians to handle these types of repairs, or those with knowledge of proprietary systems.

What Technicians Need to Know

It will be crucial for technicians specializing in home maintenance or repairs to educate themselves and understand how basic smart home technology works. Service technicians will have to learn how these home devices connect and how each device functions to diagnose and repair issues.

Beyond working on smart technologies within customers’ homes during repairs, technicians may need to rely on these technologies for their own operations. For example, technicians might employ the use of electronic signatures to fuel their business and close deals more efficiently. Or, they may use wearables to capture and improve upon connected data like inventory and location information.

One major reason technicians will need to become more knowledgeable about smart home tech is that homeowner expectations are changing. A technician who has expanded their skillset to repair smart home tech will be in higher demand than those who do not.

As smart homes go mainstream, technicians capable of working on these complex smart home technologies will be well-positioned to offer their repair services, allowing their business to grow and generate more revenue.

Technicians: Keep Your Skills Relevant in the Age of Smart Home Technology

All technicians need to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies. Whether they specialize in HVAC, lighting, or plumbing, modern technicians should be aware of the adoption of smart home technologies to better prepare themselves for these repairs.

Guest Blogger: April Miller is a managing editor at ReHack.com who specializes in engineering and construction technology. You can find her work published on sites like Open Data Science and The Society of Women Engineers.

 

 

Speed and accuracy are the name of the game when it comes to a successful piping installation and a thriving business. Whether you’re installing potable plumbing or hydronic piping, the faster and more precise the job, the more time and money you potentially have to work on other projects. While there are hundreds of tips Read more

Speed and accuracy are the name of the game when it comes to a successful piping installation and a thriving business. Whether you’re installing potable plumbing or hydronic piping, the faster and more precise the job, the more time and money you potentially have to work on other projects.

While there are hundreds of tips and tricks out there to make your installs faster, easier, and more effective, I’m going to concentrate on the following three methods almost any plumbing or mechanical contractor can use to bring greater productivity to projects.

Flexible PEX pipe with bend supports

If you’ve never heard of PEX, it’s an acronym for crosslinked polyethylene. It’s a flexible, durable plastic piping product that provides numerous benefits over rigid CPVC or metallic systems, including faster installs, zero corrosion, and freeze-damage resistance.

Many residential contractors are already using PEX (considering it’s the most installed piping system for new-home construction over copper and CPVC combined). However, PEX is still a relative newcomer in the commercial industry.

The biggest benefit of PEX is its flexibility, which allows you to simply bend the pipe with each change in direction. With a tight bend radius of six times the pipe’s diameter, you can practically make 90-degree bends without the need for a fitting.

For times when you do have a tight bend that needs to stay in a particular place, PEX manufacturers offer bend supports. For those of you that prefer to watch rather than read, here’s a video that explains bend supports in detail.

These helpful products are available for ⅜”, ½”, ⅝”, ¾”, or 1″ PEX pipe. They hold the bend in place at the proper angle and take a fraction of the time compared to making a 90-degree elbow.

Most contractors agree that using flexible PEX with bend supports can eliminate most fittings in smaller-diameter pipe sizes 1″ and down, saving up to half the install time of a rigid piping system.

Expansion tools

When it comes time to make a connection with PEX pipe, the professionals’ choice is PEX expansion. Note that expansion connections are only designed for PEX-a pipe. If you’re using PEX-b or PEX-c pipe, you’ll need to use a different fitting type as PEX-b and PEX-c pipes aren’t made to expand like PEX-a pipe, and they will experience microcracking during expansion.

Expansion connections require one simple tool that expands the pipe and an expansion ring before inserting a fitting. As the pipe and ring shrink back down around the fitting, it creates a solid, strong seal that can withstand up to 1,000 pounds of radial force. It’s quick and easy to do and simple to learn, so it’s highly beneficial with the skilled-labor shortage that’s challenging the trades. Here’s a quick, 20-second video on how to make a connection.

Now, to make installs even faster, expansion tools have advanced to make connections even quicker. For up to 1″ connections, the Milwaukee® M12 FUEL™ ProPEX® Expander with RAPID SEAL™ Heads is the fastest tool yet — with up to 65% faster sealing times compared to previous models.

For larger-diameter pipe connections, the new Milwaukee M18 FUEL™ ProPEX Expander with ONE-KEY™ is taking commercial installs to a new level by offering 3X faster 2″ connections. To watch how much faster, check out this video from Milwaukee Tool.

Prefab

Finally, let’s talk about prefabrication. This is becoming a big trend for national residential builders or large commercial projects that have a lot of repeatability on the project. By prefabbing certain sections of a project, it can shave days, weeks, or even months off a timeline, depending on how big the project.

Prefabricating piping assemblies in a controlled factory environment not only adds more efficiencies, it also provides an additional benefit of greater accuracy. By doing a job repeatedly, it hones the skill and gives installers greater confidence in their work.

Plus, having rows and rows of prefabbed piping assemblies in a shop environment makes it a lot easier to perform quality checks. Instead of walking for miles on a job site, a supervisor can save significant time simply walking a shop floor.

And here’s another area where flexible, durable PEX provides additional benefits. Transporting prefabbed PEX piping assemblies is much easier than transporting rigid assemblies that can crack or break. Because PEX is super flexible, it can withstand the rigors of being transported to a job site without worry.

So, there you have it…just a few ideas to keep in mind the next time you have a project with a tight deadline, and you’re squeezed on time and skilled labor. Every little bit helps when it comes to adding productivity to projects. If you have other ideas, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to email me at kim.bliss@uponor.com.

Kim Bliss is the technical and marketing content manager at Uponor. She can be reached at kim.bliss@uponor.com.

 

 

 

 

 

What is corrosion? We’ve all seen it and talked about it at some point, right? So, how well do we really understand it? It is important to understand that corrosion is a natural process, and it will occur in every system where any type of metal is present. From pipes and fittings to major components Read more

What is corrosion?

We’ve all seen it and talked about it at some point, right? So, how well do we really understand it?

It is important to understand that corrosion is a natural process, and it will occur in every system where any type of metal is present. From pipes and fittings to major components, corrosion is part of a natural process for any metal that has been refined and then formed into a manufactured component.

Once formed, the clock begins! These metal parts and pieces are actively working on returning to their natural form, into a more stable state such as an oxide. This is how we end up with black iron oxide, or magnetite as one result of this natural process.

How does this apply to hydronic systems?

While there are many causes and contributing factors to corrosion, the biggest concern for any hydronic system is the risk of blockage. Blockages can not only dramatically reduce the efficiency of your system, they can prematurely shorten the functional life of your major components.

Knowledge is power, and a little extra effort now can yield years of higher efficiency and longer life for your systems’ components. Another important concept to realize, particularly in hydronic heating systems, is that heat accelerates the process of corrosion. That’s right, a hydronic heating system by its very nature is a catalyst for corrosion!

Black iron oxide or magnetite is often recognized as black water, black sludge, mud, dirt, or metal flakes in the water.

Counteract Corrosion

We can prevent corrosion from occurring in a new system, and we can even slow down the process in an existing system via three simple steps: Test, Clean, Protect.

Test

Testing is a vital step in understanding the quality of the water in the system. A test identifies whether corrosion is occurring, and also advises on what needs to be done to recover the system water and components. Read more about our water testing tools here.

Clean

Any system with corrosion occurring will need a clean. Our MC3+ cleaner is a neutral based cleaner, designed to lift and dislodge scale and iron oxide that has built up on system components and pipework. This cleaner also contains a small amount of inhibitor that will protect the components as it’s cleaning. For more information on our MC3+ cleaner, click here.

Flushing the system is also required after cleaning, and this can be done using our MagnaCleanse flushing machine. The unit works as a by-pass, allowing the system to be cleaned with no system shutdown; this also means that the system water remains hot, providing a better clean. Find out more about this money-making machine here.

Protect

Unfortunately the process of corrosion never stops, which is why any hydronic system will need the long-lasting, continuous protection of a magnetic filer. Our MagnaClean filters collect the iron oxide that has been loosened by the cleaner, and will continuously collect any future iron oxide to provide on-going protection for the system and its components. MagnaClean filters are available in a wide range of residential and commercial sizes for any type of hydronic system, whether it be a boiler, chilled water, or steam system.

Inhibitors are also vital in ensuring the on-going protection of the system. Our MC1+ protector provides a protective coating on all system components to prevent future corrosion from building up, and also contain pH buffering agents to neutralize pH levels which will prevent future acidic or alkaline corrosion. More information about our MC1+ protector can be found here.

Counteract corrosion: TEST. CLEAN. PROTECT.

Warning: Chemicals should not be used in steam systems due to higher temperatures. Magnetic filters can be used for steam system protection. For more information, please visit https://www.adey.com/us/corrosion

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BIM, which stands for “building information modeling” is becoming the fastest-growing innovation for managing commercial construction projects. From adding greater efficiencies and productivity to reducing product waste and employee resources waste, BIM is providing benefits for everyone in the design and construction chain — from engineers to project managers to installing contractors. BIM defined So Read more

BIM, which stands for “building information modeling” is becoming the fastest-growing innovation for managing commercial construction projects. From adding greater efficiencies and productivity to reducing product waste and employee resources waste, BIM is providing benefits for everyone in the design and construction chain — from engineers to project managers to installing contractors.

BIM defined

So what exactly is BIM? Simply put, BIM is a collaborative process. It incorporates teams, technologies, and tools to generate and manage digital assets that represent the physical space of a building to be renovated or newly constructed from the ground up.

Engineers are able to design a building holistically with improved visualization based on higher-quality 3D models generated from the BIM process. Contractors are then able to gain greater efficiencies and productivity during the installation process because issues and conflicts have already been addressed before construction even begins.

BIM Services departments

With this growing trend, companies are seeing the bottom-line benefits of BIM and are now creating their own BIM Services departments. These teams are typically led by a vice president or director and include project managers and business development managers that work one-on-one with clients to provide everything from modeling and coordination, laser scanning, BIM coordination management, BIM training, onsite collaboration, template development, and workflow optimization.

For modeling and coordination, a BIM Services department can provide hanger layouts and structural supports, in addition to spooling and fabrication detailing along with shop, install, and as-built drawings. Some BIM Services teams can even offer laser scanning services, which can include everything from scanning of existing buildings for renovation, scanning completed projects for documentation, and scan-to-BIM services.

How BIM supports installing contractors

By utilizing BIM or partnering with a BIM Services provider, it can increase efficiencies in workflows to help identify issues early on in a project to maximize productivity and minimize waste.

For example, a company can leverage 3D models to validate designs from the onset of design to improve overall project execution and collaboration. This leads to reduced design errors, resulting in higher design accuracy, which saves time and money by reducing rework and change orders.

Accurate and well-coordinated designs also lead to improved job costing through more accurate quantities and estimates, resulting in reduced job-site waste.

Contractors can also gain more precise site logistics by leveraging accurate models to create model-based schedules or sequences. Additionally, look-ahead plans, work-in-progress models, materials planning, equipment and rigging locations, site traffic patterns and controls, and even location-based schedules can all be derived from well-coordinated 3D models to optimize daily job-site activities.

Choosing a BIM Services provider

What is true with real estate is also true with a BIM Services provider: it’s all about location. Some BIM Services companies are located overseas, so the opportunity to have live interaction or even in-person collaboration is very challenging or impossible. Be sure to go with a BIM Services provider located in your region, or at least in your country, so collaboration can happen in real time.

It is also important that the BIM Services team has knowledgeable experience with the codes and standards in your jurisdiction as well as the construction practices in your area. Certain commercial projects, like hospitals, may have specific construction methods that must be adhered to for code. Make sure the BIM Services team you’re partnering with knows these important details.

Additionally, it’s beneficial to work with a team that has affiliations with industry organizations such as ASPE, ASHRAE, and MCAA, to ensure they’re up-to-date on the most current trends and information in the industry.

Finally, it’s important to consider cost when it comes to choosing a BIM Services provider. It’s true what they say: you get what you pay for. So, when researching providers, consider the experience of the team and the support they can provide when weighing how much you want to pay for these services.

Because BIM is a relatively new concept to the construction industry, experience is in short supply. That said, look to these providers for training for your staff. It’s a great way to add value to your company and provide future projects with greater efficiencies and productivity.

Kim Bliss is the technical and marketing content manager at Uponor. She can be reached at kim.bliss@uponor.com.

 

 

Two directors discuss how switching from PEX-b pipe with crimp-style fittings to Uponor PEX-a pipe with ProPEX® expansion connections made a big impact on their business. Kimbel Mechanical Systems is one of the nation’s preeminent mechanical contractors, specializing in plumbing, HVAC, and electrical work in more than a dozen states on both sides of the Read more

Two directors discuss how switching from PEX-b pipe with crimp-style fittings to Uponor PEX-a pipe with ProPEX® expansion connections made a big impact on their business.

Kimbel Mechanical Systems is one of the nation’s preeminent mechanical contractors, specializing in plumbing, HVAC, and electrical work in more than a dozen states on both sides of the country — from Montana to Massachusetts. Headquartered in Fayetteville, Ark., Kimbel currently maintains 12 regional offices, including six in Arkansas, three in Colorado, and one each in Tennessee, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

The company was originally established as a one-person, new-residential plumbing shop in 1984 in northeast Ohio. A decade later, founder Miles Kimbel relocated and reconstituted his firm 900 miles southwest to pursue new opportunities in Arkansas. Fast-forward a few more years, and Miles’ son Rob Kimbel took over the reins, broadening the company’s reach to include mid- to large-scale multifamily projects, as well as single-family residential.

Residential plumbing with Uponor PEX-a and ProPEX fittings.

While the residential side of the business is still mainly involved in single-family work, the commercial side encompasses multifamily projects, hotels, schools, military housing, assisted-living facilities, and other types of large-scale structures. The company’s total number of employees exceeds 500, and they also rely on a large pool of subcontractors for their commercial work.

Several years ago, directors in both halves of Kimbel’s business found themselves struggling with “huge” and mounting warranty problems caused by damaging pipe leaks — damaging to the properties in which the product had been installed, as well as to the company’s professional reputation.

As a result, they decided to begin transitioning away from PEX-b pipe with crimp-style fittings and start using Uponor PEX-a pipe with ASTM F1960 ProPEX® expansion connections for their plumbing projects.

Hear Kimbel’s journey firsthand from Ryan Pinkerton, Director of Operations in Colorado and Tennessee, along with his colleague Mark Evans, Director of Pre-Construction – Commercial Housing, as they detail the factors that drove the company-wide shift, as well as the beneficial impact Uponor PEX-a and the ProPEX expansion method have subsequently had on both sides of their business.

Residential plumbing with Uponor PEX-a and ProPEX fittings.

Residential: Ryan Pinkerton, Director of Operations, Colorado and Tennessee

What is the primary piping product your company uses?

PEX is the known method among the single-family homebuilders we work with today. We might use Schedule 80 CPVC for pipe runs larger than two inches — mains and so forth. But, the majority of our single-family housing work is PEX.

How long have you been using PEX?

We began using PEX not long after I entered the plumbing trade 15 years ago. At that time, for our residential work, we were using PEX-b from another brand. However, we were having so many leaks with the crimp-style connections.

What were some of the issues you encountered with PEX-b crimp connections?

Over-calibrating was an issue. Because you can over-calibrate crimpers, it created a weak spot in the fitting that can crack under use. Also, if you position the crimp ring too far back, it can hold under the air test, but blow off when you turn on the water. The problems were huge, ongoing, and cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs.

Why did you switch to Uponor PEX-a pipe and the ProPEX® fitting system?

We needed to decrease our warranty costs to repair crimp connections as well as improve the relationships with the homebuilders we served. We also liked the increased water flow that the Uponor system provided. Crimp-style connections reduce the diameter of the PEX-b pipe and, as a result, lower the flow rate. That’s not the case with the ProPEX expansion-type fitting on PEX-a pipe. That has been a key, positive factor for us with the switch.

Commercial: Mark Evans, Director of Pre-Construction – Commercial Housing

Why did your commercial team choose to make the switch?

We use contract installers, and we had so many different people doing the work, it was hard to maintain quality with crimp. The Uponor ProPEX expansion method and the simplicity of the expansion tool for making PEX-a connections worked a lot better for us.

Were there issues with other piping products?

We had numerous leak issues with our larger water mains where we used CPVC at the time. CPVC joints are only as good as the installer who glues them. Once we learned Uponor offered PEX-a in larger diameters, that opportunity to reduce our water-main leak problems also helped drive the switch to Uponor.

Was it difficult for your workers to switch?

Uponor came to our job sites to train our crews on the ProPEX connection method. This training was quick and simple. Once we got everyone on board, the leaks went down drastically. Additionally, our contract plumbing installers are now faster and more productive with Uponor PEX-a. Although most of our contract installers work only for us, we still pay them for piecework. As a result, installation speed really matters for these independent contractors. They know that if you are not fast, you are not profitable. Thanks to the training they received, these contract installers are now familiar working with PEX-a. They have learned to install it quickly without mistakes.

To learn more about Uponor training opportunities for your team, visit uponor.com/training. To learn how Uponor can help bring greater productivity and performance to your residential or commercial projects, visit uponor.com.