“Commercial Condos” are gaining popularity nationwide for small businesses in the service industry. These spaces, typically found in large post-frame buildings, offer a workshop atmosphere perfect for a company with a small fleet of vehicles that’s in need of garage bays, storage space and an office. Property developers and managers have seen increased demand for Read more
“Commercial Condos” are gaining popularity nationwide for small businesses in the service industry. These spaces, typically found in large post-frame buildings, offer a workshop atmosphere perfect for a company with a small fleet of vehicles that’s in need of garage bays, storage space and an office.
Property developers and managers have seen increased demand for medium-sized commercial space, and that constructing a large, simple building and dividing it into several smaller spaces has presented a new development option for bare commercial property when a town is already saturated with storage units. For professionals in a variety of trades, the buildings offer everything they need and nothing they don’t, and the spaces can often be rented, leased or purchased outright.
Late last year, Aune Plumbing & Heating was hired to install a hydronic heating system and a plumbing system at a commercial condo in Monticello, Minn. A refrigeration contractor bought the building as a well-insulated shell and required further build-out.
“This was a very simple project,” said Eric Aune, owner of Aune Plumbing & Heating, in Elk River, Minn., and co-owner of Mechanical-Hub.com. “It started like any other hydronic job, with a heat load calculation.”
The spray foam insulation, insulated slab and two walls that are shared with other conditioned spaces kept the heat load low, relative to the condo’s 4,000 square feet and 20-foot ceilings. There’s only one restroom and no full-time occupants.
Combi Is Key
Because the single shower, utility sinks and heated indoor hose bib are used only occasionally, it would have been a waste of space to install a tank-style water heater, especially considering that all mechanical components had to fit under a stairway.
“We suggested the use of a combi boiler,” said Aune. “A tank wasn’t necessary, and there simply wasn’t space for it in the mechanical room, meaning it would have been outside in the garage bays and susceptible to damage.”
The system Aune designed includes a single zone of Smith low-temp baseboard radiation paired with a 136 MBH Alta condensing combi boiler made by U.S. Boiler Company, the industry’s first and only 10:1 gas-adaptive combi boiler.
“The 50 feet of baseboard receives a maximum water temperature of 130°F on a design day with an outdoor temperature of -15°F,” said Aune. “When possible, I like to use low-temp baseboard with high-efficiency boilers because it keeps the boiler in condensing mode for as long as possible, similar to in-floor radiant, though not quite to that degree.”
All mechanical components are contained in a closet under the staircase leading to a storage loft. Even using a small, wall-hung boiler, Aune was cramped during the single-day boiler installation. The system includes a Taco 007e pump for the system and a Caleffi AngleMix thermostatic mixing valve on the domestic hot water side.
“The Alta fit nicely on one wall, but what really helped was the FastPipe premanufactured primary/secondary piping kit that U.S. Boiler Company includes with the boiler,” said Aune. “That reduced the amount of time I spent crammed in the closed. It all installed very quickly.”
The high efficiency Alta line includes 136 and 200 MBH combi models, as well as heat-only boiler models of 120, 150 and 180 MBH capacities. Its best-in-class gas adaptive technology provides simplicity and rapid installation and optimal efficiency in all variety of outdoor conditions. This technology also provides “no touch” adaptive combustion setup, with no manual throttle or offset adjustments.
The boiler self-calibrates in response to component wear, variation in fuel, environment and vent air pressure. No additional parts are required to convert from natural gas to propane.
“I had never installed an Alta Combi before, so a few things came as a surprise,” said Aune. “I’m very accustomed to installing an outdoor reset sensor, and this boiler doesn’t have one. Instead, the Alta features sensor-less reset, and the boiler modulates water temperature perfectly. I think the unit is running more often than not, which is exactly what a condensing boiler is intended to do. It just runs almost continuously on low-fire.”
The Alta’s sensor-less reset monitors home heat load rather than outdoor air temperature. It assesses home heat input (firing rate) patterns. Monitoring heat load allows boiler water temperature setpoint to be responsive to everything impacting home heat loss, including outdoor air temperature, wind, rain, clouds, home occupancy, and activities like cooking and showering. Once home heat loss is known, the boiler water temperature can be set in very much the same way that outdoor air reset adjusts setpoint.
“The touchless works perfectly, but after installing condensing boilers for years, it definitely felt odd firing this boiler and walking away,” said Aune. “I didn’t have to input any information, and the unit just works as intended. It’s that simple and straightforward.”
The customer maintains the building at 68°F, and every time Aune has checked, the farthest from setpoint he’s ever seen the temperature is half a degree.
“We also found that the Alta produces domestic hot water very quickly,” said Aune. “There’s never been a complaint about the speed of hot water delivery or hot water volume. I think the owner would literally have to run the shower, the hose bib, and all sinks simultaneously to see the water temperature begin to drop off.”
The boiler has only been running for a month, and an unseasonably warm month at that, but based on how much time the unit spends on low-fire, Aune is confident the owner isn’t going to have any issues with his gas bill.
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.
According to Robert O’Brien, owner at Technical Heating Co., in Mount Sinai, NY, he’s currently spending 80 percent less time working than usual. With New York appearing to be ground zero of the US COVID-19 threat, the company – and many other HVAC and mechanical contracting firms in the area – is responding to emergency Read more
According to Robert O’Brien, owner at Technical Heating Co., in Mount Sinai, NY, he’s currently spending 80 percent less time working than usual. With New York appearing to be ground zero of the US COVID-19 threat, the company – and many other HVAC and mechanical contracting firms in the area – is responding to emergency calls only. Not that many customers are inviting technicians into their homes for anything less than an emergency anyhow.
O’Brien has made use of the time, though, in part by attending online training hosted by a wide variety of suppliers in the heating industry. No time like the present to sharpen the axe.
Over the past six weeks, he has logged in to webinars hosted by no less than a dozen manufacturers. O’Brien is learning for his own sake, but he’s also a NORA consultant, and wants to stay abreast of the issues, techniques and technologies affecting the industry as a whole. In the process, he’s found that some companies excel at online presentations, while others still have progress to make.
“I think the biggest pitfall for manufacturers is to turn online training into a sales pitch,” said O’Brien. “Also, our attention spans aren’t so short that a webinar can only be 20 minutes long. If I’m going block time out of my schedule, it may as well be worthwhile. The best, most compelling webinars are interesting, insightful and maybe even entertaining.
“I’m not usually a fan of webinars, but given the circumstances, there’s not much choice,” he continued. “I’ve been watching the Taco After Dark series of presentations and, without a doubt, it’s by far the best I’ve come across. Having incredibly talented trainers helps, but they’ve done a few other things right, too.” The content for these webinars comes from Taco’s full-day hydronic courses, broken into one-hour segments.
O’Brien thinks that the Wednesday night Taco After Dark series has been able to capture and hold the attention of hundreds of attendees each week for several reasons. The webinar is hosted by Mechanical-Hub.com, increasing its visibility, and its format keeps people coming back.
“Taco After Dark is presented by John Barba, Dave Holdorf and Rick Mayo,” said O’Brien. “There’s back-and-forth discourse between these guys, so the content is conversational instead of feeling like a lecture. Also important, viewers can see the presenters. The entire screen isn’t filled up with a graph or an image. This lets you stay connected to what’s being said. Boring webinars, on the other hand, take too much effort on the part of the viewer to remain engaged.”
The Taco After Dark series is one of several online training platforms currently offered by the company, including Taco Tuesdays and personalized webinars, the latter being available for reps, wholesalers, and their customers.
Taco Tuesday is a weekly webinar hosted each Tuesday at noon EST. The webinar alternates between residential and commercial topics. John Barba and Dave Holdorf host the residential webinars while Rich Medairos and Brett Zerba host the commercial webinars. These webinars last about an hour, with roughly 15 minutes dedicated to Q&A. More than 1,500 attendees have been signed up for a single session.
“Our goal with these training sessions is to learn, socialize and have fun in an otherwise difficult time,” said Holdorf, who appears in the webinars wearing a suit and ascot necktie. “It’s always lighthearted and the feedback has been fantastic.”
Taco’s current online courses aren’t the company’s first attempt at providing online education. Far from it. Taco was an early adopter with FloPro University, beginning in 2009. They’ve been conducting webinars since 2010, all of which are archived on the Taco website. The company has provided a steady stream of online learning opportunities since; over 40,000 people have gone through one of the 12 available programs.
It’s not Mechanical-Hub’s first online education rodeo, either. They also feature Shop Talk on Monday evenings. Their Beyond The Service show on its YouTube channel helps small business owners run successful firms, and they’ve provided content online via Jobsites Plus+, Hub on the Road visits and ProStaff team reviews.
“We’ve pursued online training opportunities more aggressively since the virus showed early signs of escalating,” said John Mesenbrink, Mechanical-Hub president and director of editorial content. “In late January, I reached out to our manufacturer partners, telling them to use Mechanical-Hub.com as a resource,” he said. “Several responded quickly, and the turnout has been great.”
“I think the success of our current online training platforms—with more than 7,000 trained over the past five weeks—is revealing of two things,” said Barba. “Of course contractors have more time right now than usual, but there’s no doubt that we, as instructors, are finding better ways to engage the audience and present the material online. And, participants are becoming better online learners.”
“I’ve been asked if this is ‘the new normal’ for all manufacturer training,” continued Barba. “Definitely not. Online training will never completely replace classroom training. This business has a major hands-on element, and a human element. Relationships are so vital to the trade, and it’s much harder to build those through a computer screen. Though, under the circumstances, we’re doing the best we can.”
Independent testing shows new Greenlee® PVC Cutter reduces operator hand force and that mechanical and electrical contractors will appreciate the simplistic design that delivers straight, burr free cuts. Greenlee Textron Inc., is expanding its PVC cutter offering with the new 1 5/8-inch O.D. PVC Cutter. Its comfortable rubber grips and shorter handle span reduce the required handle Read more
Independent testing shows new Greenlee® PVC Cutter reduces operator hand force and that mechanical and electrical contractors will appreciate the simplistic design that delivers straight, burr free cuts.
Greenlee Textron Inc., is expanding its PVC cutter offering with the new 1 5/8-inch O.D. PVC Cutter. Its comfortable rubber grips and shorter handle span reduce the required handle force for easy ergonomic cutting of PVC.
“Professional contractors are getting a premium PVC cutter that is durable, functional and safer to use,” says Dale Speggen, product manager at Greenlee. “Having low handle force not only means the new PVC Cutter reduces hand strain, but it allows for more cuts per day, which can increase user productivity.”
Third-party testing performed by Materials Engineering, Inc. shows the new Greenlee 1 5/8-inch cutter requires less operator handle force than competitive 1-5/8-inch O.D. PVC cutter models made by Klein Tools® (21.9 percent less force), Ridgid® (36 percent less force), and Lenox® (69 percent less force) when cutting 1-5/8″ O.D. schedule 40 PVC. See how the Greenlee 1 5/8-inch O.D. PVC Cutter compares to other cutters on the market at Greenlee.com/PVCCutter.
A right-angled jaw and a corrosion resistant blade are designed to achieve burr-free, clean, straight cuts with every use. The new Greenlee 1 5/8-inch O.D. PVC Cutter is also designed for the easiest quick-blade replacement on the market, allowing the user to efficiently change blades without using tools or loose parts. The new locking mechanism feature located at the top of the tool is designed to prevent unintentional locking while in use. A unique compact storage process gives operators the ability to store the PVC Cutter with the blade fully open or closed without the risk of having an exposed blade.
The new Greenlee 1 5/8-inch O.D. PVC Cutter (catalog number 864QR) is now available for purchase. Professionals can see the new PVC Cutter in action at Greenlee.com/PVCCutter. To schedule a demonstration or purchase the tool, contractors should locate the nearest dealer by visiting Greenlee.com/where-to-buy.
https://youtu.be/5pajEpHuDUs Eric Aune talks to Chip O’Neil with Reliance Worldwide Corporation about several brands and products in their booth at the 2018 AHR Expo. The many products focused on plumbing for residential and commercial applications that serve the new residential and commercial construction markets, service & repair market & water heater installations. To learn Read more
Eric Aune talks to Chip O’Neil with Reliance Worldwide Corporation about several brands and products in their booth at the 2018 AHR Expo.
The many products focused on plumbing for residential and commercial applications that serve the new residential and commercial construction markets, service & repair market & water heater installations.