Taco Comfort

For the past several years, the Youndts, a family of five, kept their eyes open for a rural property—a new place to call home. Turns out the 10-acre property the Youndt family bought (not far from the company they own) had the ideal fixer-upper of a home on it, with a big barn and bungalow Read more

For the past several years, the Youndts, a family of five, kept their eyes open for a rural property—a new place to call home.

Turns out the 10-acre property the Youndt family bought (not far from the company they own) had the ideal fixer-upper of a home on it, with a big barn and bungalow, too.

While the pond and swimming pool caught the attention of Vince Youndt’s wife Amy and their kids Brynn, Drew, Riley and Brady, Vince was smitten by the old stone home and its 70-year-old, oil-fired boiler. He just knew he’d have a fine time dialing-in the hydronic heat.

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Vince Youndt (pronounced “Yunt”) is president of Vertex Mechanical, one of the best-rated HVAC contracting firms in Central Pa. Twenty-some years ago, Vince followed his father Ray into the business; Vince has been president of the company since 2002.

“When the stone home and property hit the market, we knew we had to see it,” said Youndt. It wasn’t long before the Youndts were signing settlement papers.

There were a few surprises along the way. They soon discovered the home’s 1847 date stone, its three working fireplaces, a hefty 36-inch rock foundation and the property’s 15-gallon-a-minute freshwater spring.

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Youndt also learned that the home had only fireplace heating from 1847 to 1951.  “Imagine carting hardwood to all those fireplaces several times a day and night,” he said. In ’51, the home’s first heating system was installed: the boiler that still occupied most of the lower-level mechanical room.

$2,000/month for fuel oil

The old 500 MBH behemoth steel block boiler served just one zone:  the house.  All 4,300 square feet of it, with three floors and no insulation, five bedrooms and 3½ baths, were all on a single zone. On, or off.  In the shoulder seasons, the previous owner just opened windows to adjust the heat.

Youndt was also surprised to learn that the previous owner spent $2,000 a month to heat the place. “And that was long before fuel oil cost four dollars a gallon!” he exclaimed. “They also shelled out $600 a month through each summer season just to heat domestic water.”

A few months after buying the place and just after the 70-year-old heating system took its last gulp of fuel oil—Youndt decided to tackle the hydronic system retrofit.

Wedding venue

 Just as Vince was muscling through the demolition of the 1,500-lb. boiler, another need appeared on the horizon. The Youndt’s eldest son, Andrew (“Drew”) expressed interest in having his wedding at the new homestead.

While Amy, Drew and his fiancé were scouring bridal websites and landscaping with flowers, Vince ran the business. His lunch hours were spent specifying the boiler of choice, circulators and other components, or with calls to wedding vendors.

Dreamy hydronics

Amidst the onset of preparations for the wedding, Youndt sketched and re-sketched his circulation and piping strategy for the hydronic retrofit, then finalized his wish list for the boiler replacement. Taco ECM circs and several Zone Sentry zone valves were planned, followed by an NTI boiler and indirect, and a heat pump water heater for use in the summer.

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“At the time, I was having vivid dreams,” recalled Youndt.  “I’d wake up at night with thoughts about the wedding—intermixed with dreams about a heavenly hydronic system!  What a combination. It was all doable, and I knew that we’d have a really comfortable home.  We now wake up to birds chirping, feeling that the home and property were left behind by one of those dreams.”

Good nights of rest led to moments of tough labor—including the rigors of demo work in the home’s daylight basement level. “The space downstairs seemed to triple in size when we finally got that monster boiler out’a there,” said Youndt. Vertex technicians Jared Fox, Steve Zook and John Harris will never forget the day they muscled it—all in one piece—to an awaiting truck.

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It then took Youndt most of a weekend to drill an eight-inch hole through the foundation. He quickly learned—to make way for a planned passageway for insulated supply and return lines to a wood-fired boiler (yet to be installed)—that the home’s masons, long ago, sandwiched giant granite boulders between Berks County sandstone.

“That granite was a bear!” he exclaimed.

boilers, boiler replacement, HVAC, hydroponics, Vertex Mechanical, NTI boilers, Taco Comfort, Taco pumps, Fernox In the fall of ’22, Eric Grant, regional business manager for Fernox USA, visited the Youndt’s home. Grant arrived with the company’s PowerFlush flushing machine, a mobile system with pump and filtration, mounted on a dolly.  He also brought several gallons of Fernox hydronic fluids.

After Youndt cut into the old boiler’s iron pipes, the two soon found what sort of mess the pipes contained.

“The crud went from semi-solid gobs of oily sludge, to thick metallic pudding, then a dirt slurry, and finally semi-transparent soup,” explained Grant.  That’s when Grant connected the cut pipes to the new PowerFlush. Together, he and Youndt then poured F3 cleaner into a reservoir that quickly mixed with water they ran through the flushing unit.

An hour later, the result of the chemical cleaning was made evident with crystal clear fluids returning to the PowerFlush unit. It pushes up to 30 gallons a minute to scour-out and capture all the scale and rust that can collect in a piped, hydronic system including—and especially—the heat emitters attached to it. The result:  a fully-cleansed, restored system.

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Before leaving the Youndt’s home, Grant left behind a couple of gallons of Fernox F1 Protector, a  solution for later maintenance of the system—all prearranged with Youndt.

Grant then presented Youndt with the last of his purchases, a nickel-plated brass TF1 Omega+ filter to be installed when Youndt finalized installation of the new equipment.

Hydronic minimalism

Youndt recalls the days, years ago, when he wanted to fill a wall with hydronic components. “It was the ‘Mad scientist’ laboratory’ look that appealed to me back then,” he said. Lately, though, he favors what he refers to as “hydronic minimalism.”

His plan called for five heating zones in the home, and one for domestic water.  Then, ultimately, the wood-fired boiler within a year or two.

One evening, he put two coats of gray paint on a single sheet of ¾-inch, pressure-treated plywood.  “I wanted to hang everything on one sheet, to get the NTI boiler and Taco components as tightly together as possible, yet with plenty of room for later service work,” he said.

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The plan materialized nicely. Youndt, Zook and Harris, armed with a stack of copper pipe and Viega press-fit couplings, began the process of reengineering the near-boiler piping. Now, the primary-secondary arrangement provides full-flow in the boiler loop, high- and low-temp distribution, and variable flow for secondary piping to all sources of heat distribution.

Throughout the house, there’s a mix of standing radiators, and baseboard for high-temp heat, with gentler provision of warmth for floor and ceiling radiant heat.

The NTI boiler was first in place. The 150 MBH, TFTN150 wall-hung boiler, representing a huge reduction in boiler output and physical size, and with outdoor reset, offers remarkable capability. “The boiler has the ability to control up to four zones of heat, each with its own temperature assignment,” stated Youndt. “Because of the five zones and a desire to use a sixth for domestic heating, we included NTI’s expansion board to add them; each zone now is independently managed.”

Youndt installed four Taco 0015e3 circulators. One serves as the boiler pump.  Another manages the secondary heating zones. The remaining 0015e3’s serve the 50-gallon NTI indirect water heater, and future wood boiler. A Taco Zone Sentry zone valve manages circulation for each of the home’s five space-heating zones.

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“We’re using only six circulators for the entire system, two of which are for the wood side of the system,” explained Youndt. “The NTI fires on a call from a thermostat, then looks first to see if there’s heat in the heat exchanger coming from the wood burner. If there is, it’ll be used as the first stage of heat.

“Because of the multiple low temp radiant zones in the system, the circulator for the heat exchanger offers variable speed with an outdoor reset control that governs the mixed temp coming from the heat exchanger—never to exceed the requirement,” added Youndt. “If the fire on the wood burner is out—maybe because I didn’t want to feed it, or we’re in the shoulder season—the NTI will kick in the burner utilizing the outdoor reset to determine the heat needed.”

In the summer, and with the old stone wall basement, the Youndts have a significant humidity problem. “But we don’t use a dehumidifier,” concluded Youndt.  “We shut down all the other equipment while operating the heat pump water heater. It’s pretty remarkable—the water heater then uses the energy from the humidity to heat all of our hot water—all summer long.  This allows us to keep the humidity in the basement at about 50 percent, and we never lack hot water, all at a cost of about $30 a month.”

A historic, and energy-efficient dream home.  What could be better?

Taco Comfort Solutions® is expanding its light commercial ECM pump offering with the 1911ecm and 1915ecm high-efficiency pumps. The 1911ecm is a 425 watt, self-sensing, close coupled, mechanically sealed pump that features a high-efficiency volute, ECM motor, and an integrated frequency drive. It is easy to install and program, and provides a maximum 50 feet Read more

Taco Comfort Solutions® is expanding its light commercial ECM pump offering with the 1911ecm and 1915ecm high-efficiency pumps.

The 1911ecm is a 425 watt, self-sensing, close coupled, mechanically sealed pump that features a high-efficiency volute, ECM motor, and an integrated frequency drive. It is easy to install and program, and provides a maximum 50 feet of head and 105 GPM.

The 1915ecm offers all the user-friendly features of the 1911ecm, but in a more powerful package.   At 650 watts, the 1915ecm provides a maximum 65 feet of head and 120 GPM.

Simple yet versatile control options on both circulators include constant pressure, constant speed, proportional pressure, 0-10Vdc and parallel pump alternation. These standard features, combined with the intuitive user interface, allow for quick start-ups achieving optimum system efficiency and maximum comfort.

Both pumps are both available in ductile iron for closed loop hydronic heating and cooling systems or stainless steel, NSF/ANSI/CAN 61 & 372 Commercial Hot Certified for domestic hot water applications. Taco’s 1915ecm is available now, and 1911ecm will be available in the 2nd Quarter of 2023.

For more information, visit www.TacoComfort.com

If you buy an ECM circulator later this summer, you’re likely to see something new stuck to it: an Efficiency Rating label courtesy of the Hydraulic Institute. The labeling represents independent, third-party verification of each circulator’s overall electrical efficiency. That sounds pretty cool, but what does it all mean? Well, for starters, it means you Read more

If you buy an ECM circulator later this summer, you’re likely to see something new stuck to it: an Efficiency Rating label courtesy of the Hydraulic Institute. The labeling represents independent, third-party verification of each circulator’s overall electrical efficiency.

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That sounds pretty cool, but what does it all mean?

Well, for starters, it means you don’t have to rely on marketing claims or sales mumbo-jumbo to determine who has the most advanced and efficient circulators. And you don’t have to rely on vague math to determine how much less an ECM circulator will cost to run compared to its standard efficiency counterpart.

In other words, it’s there in black and white.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s get started.

First Off, Just What Is the Hydraulics Institute?

The Hydraulics Institute, or HI for short, touts itself as the global authority on pumps since 1917. It’s an industry association working on behalf of the pump industry and works with the U.S. Department of Energy to establish guidelines and regulations for pumps of all types and sizes. Most recently, its efforts with the DOE led to commercial pump efficiency regulations that went into effect in January of 2020, covering all pumps 1 H.P. and above.

Hydraulic Institute Circulator Ratings, Do the Math, ECM circulator, Taco Comfort, Efficiency Rating labels, Efficiency RatingsThe new labeling on ECM’s under 1 HP can be considered a pre-cursor to DOE regulations that will ultimately phase out standard efficiency circulators. However, don’t expect those regulations to go into effect for at least two, maybe three more years.

While HI is an organization made up of pump and circulator manufacturers, it’s important to note that all of its guidelines and regulations are set in concert with the DOE. In its most basic form, the DOE says, “this is what you have to do.” HI, in turn, develops guidelines, test procedures and processes manufacturers need to follow in order to be rated.

HI also certifies each manufacturer’s test lab, and it fully audits all test results. Yes, manufacturers test their own pumps, but only if their test lab is certified. HI creates all testing procedures and guidelines, including machinery calibration, personnel training and record keeping. Labs are periodically inspected, and all test results are reviewed and audited.

The whole process is set up so there’s no scamming the system. The results are the results.

But What About the Ratings?

You’ve no doubt seen those ubiquitous yellow EnergyGuide stickers on just about every appliance under the sun. They’re not only on fridges, dryers and other everyday items, they’re also on boilers, furnaces, A/C units and heat pumps. The Federal Trade Commission requires those stickers to give consumers an idea of relative energy efficiency compared to similar units.

The new HI Energy Rating stickers on circulators are pretty much the same thing, only different.

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Instead of giving you an estimated yearly energy cost, the new HI Energy Rating stickers give each circulator an Energy Rating score, or an ER. It’s a pretty easy rating to decipher: the higher the number, the more efficient the circulator.

For example, an ECM circulator with an ER of 188 consumes 10 percent less energy than a circulator with an ER of 178.

By comparison, a common standard efficiency circulator, such as a Taco 007 or a Grundfos 1558, would have an ER in the neighborhood of 48 to 50.

The math to calculate the ER is fairly detailed, so it would take someone way smarter than me to walk you through it. The ultimate value of ER, however, is to provide a simple way to show a customer how much less an ECM circulator will cost to operate compared to its standard efficiency counterpart based on independent, third-party testing.

Let’s Do THAT Math!

Let’s look at the ER label for the Taco 0015e3. The 0015e3 is a variable speed Delta-P circulator with three settings, two for constant pressure and one for full-speed, fixed speed. It’s the perfect pump to use for zone valve applications and does a dandy job as a zone circulator as well.

As you can see, the 0015e3 has an ER ranging from 152 in its least efficient mode, which is that full speed, fixed speed setting. In its most efficient operating mode setting – variable speed, constant pressure Delta-P – the ER goes to 188.

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And not for nothing, Taco has four circulators with 188 ratings (and a fifth rated at 187). Those are the highest rated circulators on the HI database (Armstrong also has a circulator rated at 188. No one else is within six ER points). You can access the HI database here.

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The full ratings label provides you with the math to determine how much a particular circulator will save. You first multiply ER by something called WAIP, which stands for Weighted Average Input Power. WAIP represents the average input power in horsepower for an ECM circulator without controls:

188 x 0.071 = 13.348

Next, to convert horsepower to watts, you’d multiply by 7.46:

13.348 x 7.46 = 99.58 watts

From here on it, it’s a simple kWh/cost calculation. To convert watts to kilowatts, you divide by 1000, and then multiply by the estimated number of run hours over a heating season. For this example, we’ll use 2500.

99.58 ÷ 1000 = 0.09958 kilowatts

0.09958 kW x 2500 hours = 248.95 kWh

Last, multiply kWh by your cost per kilowatt hour. That will tell you how much less the 0015e3 would cost to operate compared to a 007 or 1558:

248.95 kWh x 0.15 per kWh = $37.34

Is that a Lot?

Well, it depends. If you’re trying to justify replacing four perfectly good and not terribly old circulators with four ECMs, you’ll save just under $150 per heating season. Depending on how much you charge for the swap out, it might be a hard sell. And there’s nothing “green” about dumping four perfectly good circulators before their time.

Hydraulic Institute Circulator Ratings, Do the Math, ECM circulator, Taco Comfort, Efficiency Rating labels, Efficiency RatingsHowever, if you’re trying to show a customer (or yourself, for that matter) that replacing a dead circulator with a more expensive ECM is worth it, you now have something to sink your teeth into.

Say a standard efficiency 007 or 1558 dies and you want to replace it with a 0015e3. Yes, the 0015e3 costs more. But just channel your inner Cosmo Castorini from Moonstruck and tell them, “it costs money, because it saves money.”

Without getting into wholesale costs, profit margins and selling prices (those are your business), it’s fair to say that based on a $37.34 annual savings, the 0015e3’s higher selling price will be offset in less than two heating seasons. After that, the homeowner pockets the rest.

And if you want to talk about how a properly programmed ECM, particularly one that operates on a fixed Delta-T, will help the overall system work better, let’s make an Outlook appointment. There’s a LOT more to discuss.

What’s the Point?

So, why HI is doing this labeling thing in the first place? Simple: to give the industry an easy—and independent—way to show the value of converting from standard efficiency to ECM.

In markets where local utilities do not offer incentive rebates to drive conversion, ECM conversion has been snail’s pace slow. Some of it is a little of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” mindset. Some of it has been ridiculous claims of “magic” and the misguided promise that these circulators somehow mean you don’t have to know how to size a pump. No one with half a mind believes that nonsense.

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And some of it is, to put it gently, giving new technology a healthy—and distant —respect.

But for the most part, it’s been price resistance.

What the ER label does is give you an easy way to show a customer a fundamental truth: they’re going to be paying for the ECM circulator one way or another. The only question is whether they actually get it or not.

Remember Cosmo’s words.