Featured Articles

Bosch Thermotechnology Corporation officially unveiled its new, 17,000-sq.-ft. data-driven labs Bosch Experience Center and Laboratory in Watertown, Mass. to distinguished from the media and local government dignitaries during its Brunch with Bosch event. The new innovation lab will focus on some of Bosch’s core objectives: better efficiencies, quieter operation, and connectivity and controls. “We are Read More

Bosch Thermotechnology Corporation officially unveiled its new, 17,000-sq.-ft. data-driven labs Bosch Experience Center and Laboratory in Watertown, Mass. to distinguished from the media and local government dignitaries during its Brunch with Bosch event. The new innovation lab will focus on some of Bosch’s core objectives: better efficiencies, quieter operation, and connectivity and controls. “We are a German company but we feel like a local company because we have been in North America nearly 125 years,” said Mike Mensuetti, president of Bosch North America. “The new lab will help us continue to help people with their quality of life.”

Mike Mensuetti, president of Bosch North America, addresses the assembled guests.

Why Watertown? According to Bosch, Boston has the highest millennial population out of 25 cities, 114 higher education institutions with more than 250,000 students, ranks third highest in jobs per square mile, and 13 companies with headquarters in Massachussetts with Boston ranked top startup community in the U.S.

The new space, conveniently located 10 miles from Boston, is now headquarters to Bosch sales, marketing, product engineering, human resource and business development, and is home to Bosch’s first-ever air-conditioning laboratory, which will allow the company to test and refine the performance, sound and connectivity of its air-conditioning units in-house.

A look into the Bosch Lab showroom.

The facility also includes a Bosch Experience Center, where visitors can immerse themselves in the company’s diverse portfolio of energy-efficient products. “Moving to a facility equipped with a full laboratory aligns with our vision to further design and manufacture leading HVAC solutions, especially in the air-conditioning industry,” said Vitor Gregorio, regional president at Bosch Thermotechnology. “It’s not just a new headquarters with a modern office space; it’s also a research and development investment in terms of people, talent and infrastructure.”

Goncalo Costa, director of air conditioning at Bosch Thermotechnology, and tour guide, talks about connectivity as it relates to products, such as the Greentherm boiler shown here.

Equipped with brand-new, advanced equipment that ensures highly accurate data, the full laboratory comprises three focus areas: a psychrometric lab, a noise vibration harshness (NVH) lab and an electronics lab.

  • The psychrometric lab allows Bosch to measure the performance of its air-conditioning units in multiple configurations.
  • The NVH lab measures the sound of the AC unit, which gives Bosch the ability to test the unit’s decibel and determine what adjustments will achieve a quieter product.
  • The electronics lab measures, tests, and simulates the behavior and performance of the electronic devices in the unit (the “brain” of the units). Bosch develops and produces numerous software prototypes for its connected products, which then are uploaded to the product’s “brain” and tested. Bosch can measure the performance of the software to see how fast end users are able to access the app and its information.

The sound lab gives Bosch the ability to test the unit’s decibel and determine what adjustments will achieve a quieter product.

“Being able to test Bosch air-conditioning units within this facility will provide real-time, highly accurate field data, accelerating product development,” said Goncalo Costa, director of air conditioning at Bosch Thermotechnology. “Product development is an intricate process, and combining these three labs will give Bosch greater agility as well as a competitive edge in the market.”

According to Mensuetti, “We want to be ahead of the megatrends.”

The new headquarters is just 50 miles south of its previous office in Londonderry, New Hampshire, which Bosch still uses for operational functions, including finance, customer service, training, warehousing and purchasing. The Bosch Thermotechnology facility in Florida remains unchanged.

St. Pauls, N.C.—Recently, members of the trade press were greeted by Watts Water Technologies executives for an exclusive tour of the company’s new Watts Works Learning Center. At the new, 3,000-sq.-ft. learning center, customers, channel partners, sales representatives, employees and other visitors can obtain hands-on and classroom training for a wide range of Watts products Read More

St. Pauls, N.C.—Recently, members of the trade press were greeted by Watts Water Technologies executives for an exclusive tour of the company’s new Watts Works Learning Center. At the new, 3,000-sq.-ft. learning center, customers, channel partners, sales representatives, employees and other visitors can obtain hands-on and classroom training for a wide range of Watts products and solutions, which include Orion chemical piping systems, BLÜCHER stainless steel drainage, Watts cast iron drainage, Watts rainwater harvesting solutions, and Mueller Steam Specialty products, among others.

 

From l to r: left to right: Andrew Windsor, Watts Senior Vice President, Sales – Watts; Mark Hamilton, VP Drains, Americas – Watts; Roberto Vengoechea, Senior VP, Fluid Solutions – Watts; Jackie Comiskey, Indirect Sourcing Manager – Watts; Dennis Fackler, Facility Engineer – Watts; John Palotta, Vice President, Carolinas Operations – Watts; Chris Jamieson, Vice President, Marketing & Business Development – Watts; Gerald Weindel, Mayor, St. Pauls NC; Greg Gyorda, Director, Customer & Employee Training – Watts.

“This newest world-class Learning Center is part of our ongoing investment in education and training for our customers and our commitment to remaining a leader in training the industry,” said Greg Gyorda, Director, Customer & Employee Training.

“Through the Watts Works learning program, we are helping customers enhance their knowledge of a broad range of plumbing, drainage, HVAC, and water quality solutions,” he said. “In our hands-on demonstration labs and comprehensive classes led by experienced instructors, customers are able to enrich their professional skills.”

While taking the tour of the 220,000-sq.-ft. St. Pauls facility, products such as drains, strainers, butterfly valves are made, and the assembly of the IntelliStation digital mixing system, seen here.

Visitors to the St. Pauls Center—located within the 210,000-sq.-ft. St. Pauls manufacturing facility that employs 220 people—can also tour the factory to production of Orion Chemical Piping Systems, the Powers IntelliStation Digital Mixing System, Watts Manifolds and RainCycle Rainwater Harvesting systems, Mueller Steam Strainers, Check Valves, and many other products.

A look into the hands-on learning center.

According to VP Carolina Operations, and tour guide for the day, John Palotta, Watts has made a tremendous investment in time and money with the new Center. “Success is reflected in the products and support, but all of that would be nothing without the people here,” says Parotta.

The St. Pauls Center is the third Watts Works Learning Center in the U.S., joining Centers in North Andover, Mass., and Woodland, Calif.

Chris Jamieson, Vice President, Marketing & Business Development, gives a brief history of the company to start the tour.

Last fall Mechanical Hub had the pleasure of traveling to Moody, Alabama to visit the Jones Stephens plant and meet some of the team that produces, sells and markets over 18,000 SKUs of plumbing specialty products. For a historical perspective, Jones Stephens opened the doors of their 30,000 sq. ft. facility in Leeds, Alabama in Read More

Last fall Mechanical Hub had the pleasure of traveling to Moody, Alabama to visit the Jones Stephens plant and meet some of the team that produces, sells and markets over 18,000 SKUs of plumbing specialty products.

For a historical perspective, Jones Stephens opened the doors of their 30,000 sq. ft. facility in Leeds, Alabama in October 1993. While offering a modest number of 1,200 specialty plumbing products, they quickly grew to meet the needs of consumers with higher expectations of quality in their field. In August 2000, Jones Stephens relocated into a massive 260,000 sq. ft. facility and increased their product line to 9,000 items.

Since its founding, Jones Stephens has grown to a nationally-known organization in the industry offering a wide range of plumbing specialty products, decorative items, toilet seats, copper, and HVAC products. Currently, Jones Stephens offers an astounding 18,000 SKU’s with operations covering a combined 360,000 sq. ft. of warehouse space.

We recently chatted with Michele Hudec, SVP, Wholesale Channels and asked her about Jones Stephens, its focus on the future, including challenges and technology.

Michele Hudec, SVP, Wholesale Channels with Jones Stephens

Mechanical Hub (MH): Give us a little background on the Jones Stephens plant, number of employees, location of plants such as the one in Moody, Alabama.

Hudec: Jones Stephens is a manufacturer of plumbing specialty products with a well-established brand name in the industry. With 18,000 SKUs within 14 product categories, Jones Stephens provides the broadest and deepest selection of innovative, hard-to-find specialty and common plumbing products. Primarily servicing the commercial and industrial market, Jones Stephens continues to develop and add superior products to its line to help maximize the competitive position of its wholesale customer partners. Jones Stephens is headquartered in Moody, Alabama, with additional distribution centers in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and Valencia, California. Jones Stephens’ competencies, along with their extensive product offering, allow them to say with confidence, “We Got It”.

MH: You have a huge selection of innovative, hard-to-find specialty and common plumbing products. How many products do you offer contractors?

Hudec: 11K of our 18K SKUs are in stock at all times. The remaining SKU’s are pre-assembled kits.

Drain Test Plug

MH: What are some of the recent product introductions to the plumbing category that contractors should be aware of for their next projects?

Hudec: Yes, we’ve had several recent product introductions and a few that are top of mind for your readers are:

  • Washing Machine Boxes
  • Stud Guards
  • Hammer Arresters
  • Wax Ring with Horn
  • Drain Test Plug
  • Jones Stephens Pipe Insulation

Washing Machine Boxes

MH: We understand that your custom kitting program is a key focus; what makes it so valuable for contractors?

Hudec: We understand time is money for contractors.   We know how busy they are and have put our logistics expertise to work to save them time on the jobsite.  This thinking resulted in the creation of the Jones Stephens Kitting Program.

With this program, Jones Stephens creates customized kits based on the individual contractor’s needs.  As the end user of these kits, the contractor can select which Jones Stephens products go into their customized kits, which they order and purchase through their wholesaler.  Our most popular kits are filled with products necessary to install faucets, toilets, sinks, water heaters and washing machine hook-ups.  Kits can actually be labeled by room or installation to further enhance job-site efficiency.  Particularly in multi-family renovation or new construction.

These kits are given a unique product code and can be delivered anywhere, such as directly to the job site or the contractor’s warehouse.

No searching for parts numbers, one call, one purchase order, one SKU and all in one kit. Great for any job site.

Hammer Arrester

MH: Are there any new products or services in the future that contractors should be on look-out for?

Hudec: Jones Stephens has a constant flow of new product introductions as well as a robust new product pipeline. But, your readers will need to wait for the big reveal.

MH: Jones Stephens is known for their quality and customer service. Can you tell me a little about your quality control processes and how your team of employees make the difference?

Hudec: The Jones Stephens team prides itself on always putting the customer first.  That means that every process in the organization from product management to customer service and shipping is managed with our customer’s satisfaction top-of-mind.  If our customers and end users are not delighted with their experience, then we have not met our goals.

MH: What has been a big challenge for Jones Stephens and how did you resolve the challenge?

Hudec: With success, comes challenges.  Our most recent challenge has been “growing pains.”  As we continue to win in the marketplace, we are continuously streamlining processes to guarantee that we live up to our value promise; to provide excellent service always, to every customer, regardless of where they fall in the supply chain.

MH: As smart technology becomes a part of everyday life for homeowners, how are you working with contractors to ensure you have products that they need?

Hudec: Our product development team spends the majority of their time looking for new and innovative ways to make the contractor’s life easier.  As we continue to explore new product design, we are excited about developing products in the future that will integrate seamlessly into the smart technology trend.

MH: Any expansion plans coming up?

Hudec: Our business is always growing. As our customer base expands, our business must expand to handle the volume.

MH: What’s next for Jones Stephens?

Hudec: We are constantly exploring new ways to delight our customers and end users.  As that process continues, we are confident that “what’s next” will be something relevant and exciting to the marketplace, whether it be a product, service or program.

MH: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Hudec: Jones Stephens is entirely customer focused, and we entertain visitors in our corporate facility weekly.  We welcome and encourage contractors to contact us if they are interested in touring our facility, learning about our company and products, and enjoying all that Birmingham, AL has to offer.  Our guests are never disappointed and are always amazed at the vast selection of products and services we offer that help the contractor save time and money on the job site.

This edition of “They Said It” concentrates on prefabrication in construction of plumbing and hydronic systems. After attending numerous conventions and seminars over the course of the past six months, one topic resonated: prefab is the future of construction. We talked with industry experts from across the board—contractors and manufacturers—to share viewpoints on the benefits Read More

This edition of “They Said It” concentrates on prefabrication in construction of plumbing and hydronic systems. After attending numerous conventions and seminars over the course of the past six months, one topic resonated: prefab is the future of construction. We talked with industry experts from across the board—contractors and manufacturers—to share viewpoints on the benefits of prefabrication.

A custom hydronic panel set up by O’Brien.

What are some of the major benefits of prefabrication?

Robert O’Brien, owner of Technical Heating Co. LLC, Mt. Sinai, NY.

Prefab speeds up installation time, shaves hours, and, quite often, a day from installation time. This is huge since all we do is replacements and not many homeowners want to spend a night or two without heat, particularly in the winter. We do in one day that others would take two days. Also, it is aesthetically pleasing, offers better serviceability. It has become a signature and a selling point.

 

Barry Campbell, vice president of marketing, Aquatherm

Prefabrication can save time and money on the jobsite, as well as help ensure consistent, high quality assembly. Prefabrication services allow a manufacturer to serve as an essential extension of a contractor’s team, easing the workload and helping a project meet its deadlines.

Time is money—and nowhere is that more evident than in today’s construction industry. Since plumbing and mechanical profit margins are tighter than ever, contractors need solutions that separate them from their competition. A good manufacturing partner that offers prefabrication services can add value and help make a contractor’s job easier.

Aquatherm getting ready to ship some prefabbed piping.

 

By having systems prefabricated and shipped directly to the jobsite, the labor savings compared to onsite fabrication can be significant, as prefabricated parts can simply be moved into place and connected together to form a system. In addition, safety can be improved by removing the fabrication work from the jobsite and outsourcing it to the manufacturer. The prefabrication process can be as simple or as extensive as a customer and a project requires.

Aquatherm, for example, can take a simple hand drawing and turn it into an intricate digital design document. Or, the company’s extensive engineering expertise and fabrication skill can be extended as a service to help show a customer the best way of designing a mechanical system and providing complete fabrication drawings. The Aquatherm team brings an array of building information modeling (BIM) tools to the table, including a full Revit library and a team with the skills to use it.

Shane Fink, owner, Triple H Hydronics, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

One of the most overlooked benefits is having detailed layouts and extensive system planning done well before construction ever starts. Many systems today are designed “as you go” in a mechanical room, and there are many mistakes made in the haste of designing and building the system at the same time.

Another major benefit is time savings. We are able to help design and prefabricate the systems, sometimes before the building structure is even standing. By having a well-executed layout and design, we are able to cut time on site by more that 50%. Many times this saves money on temporary heating costs, as well.

Another great benefit is workmanship and attention to detail. When we are in a controlled environment with all of our tools at our fingertips and not in the elements—cold winters—we are able to take the time required to do an excellent job. In the field there are many pressures to “get it done” and use what you have, so sometimes that attention to detail can slip away.

Triple H Hydronics excels in workmanship and attention to detail with its hydronic panels.

 

One of my favorite benefits would be quality testing. In our shop, we are able to test every system before it leaves from the loading docks. We have to ability to hydro-test the systems @ 5 times working pressure, to ensure the systems are leak-free. We are also able to electrically test the systems for proper operation and pre-program settings to save time and money in the field.

For custom-built hydronic panels, for instance, take me through the process. Are you onsite consulting with the client? (Measurements, heat load calcs, etc.)

O’Brien: We make site visits to take measurements, size boiler, water heater and accessories. We take pics to facilitate panel construction, and most importantly, sell the job!

A prefabbed panel in place at a customer’s residence.

 

Campbell: Customers contact their Aquatherm representative to initiate the process, then the Aquatherm Design & Fabrication team works directly with the customer to obtain drawings and walks them through all the steps necessary to deliver final drawings for approval. The pieces are then meticulously created and shipped to the jobsite.

Whether it’s a detailed spool, large diameter elbows, or complex manifolds, Aquatherm offers a dedicated and experienced professional staff and a vast collection of high-tech design and heat fusion equipment to create it. The company also produces unitary spool fabrications that can help reduce a project’s bottom line.

Prefabrication with Aquatherm often is possible where it would not be with other materials, as Aquatherm pipe is considerably lighter than metal pipe. This results in an easier prefabrication process and simplified transportation to the jobsite.

Prefab on Aquatherm small diameter piping.

 

A proper heat fusion connection results in a joint as strong as the pipe itself. Additionally, PP-R is incredibly sturdy, yet slightly flexible. So after Aquatherm prefabrication services has meticulously created a custom spool, it will be carefully shipped to a jobsite anywhere in the U.S. or Canada, typically resulting in significant material and/or labor savings. Often, the prefabbed pieces are simply flanged into place.

Aquatherm’s design coordination and fabrication process cab help ensure a smooth job. With an extensive list of past projects, Aquatherm’s fabrication services team will find a solution to fit any project’s needs. For more information, www.aquatherm.com.

Fink: Most of our clients have either worked with us for years, have been referred by another client or find us on social media. In most cases the process is the same. First we start with the blueprints. Our clients send over architectural drawings of the building proposed. We do a heat loss/heat gain calculation and start working with the client to determine their needs. This usually involves laying out zones for heating, determining domestic hot water consumption demands, ventilation requirements and other items such as snowmelt, heated towel bars, pools, spas, etc. Once we determine what the client requires, we complete a loop layout for all the floor heating so that they can be submitted with the heat loss calculations and building permit applications.

After the panel has been built and polished, we start the wiring and controls. This can sometimes range from a couple hours to a week or more, depending on the size and complexity of the system.

 

At this point an estimate is produced for the manufacture of the hydronic heating panel.  Once the client has approved the estimate, we go to work on the design of the panel itself. The panel design has many considerations and we do our best to ensure a smooth installation. This design includes boiler/venting locations, condensate drain locations, floor or wall mounted boilers, which side of the pre-fabricated panel will the boilers be, will the panel be shipped in one piece, two or more. This helps us as we start to physically lay out the system on a work bench. At this time we have hand drawn boiler panel layout with the basic information. Pipe size, hardware etc. Now we can build the system. Most systems we can build in a few days. Some of the simple panels can be built in a day or less.

After the panel has been built and polished, we start the wiring and controls. This can sometimes range from a couple hours to a week or more, depending on the size and complexity of the system. After all the wiring is done and sensors are attached, we can test the panel. Testing is always done with two or more people present. This helps to ensure that the entire checklist is done correctly. If the tests all check out, the panel is dressed with any loose accessories, labeled and serial numbered and is ready for shipping. For more info on Triple H Hydronics, www.triplehhydronics.com.

Elder care is an ever-increasing area of growth for the businesses that serve it. This holds true for all segments of the market, from 55+ communities to hospice facilities. America is aging, and there’s no place in the country not affected by the retirement of the Baby Boomer Generation. This predicament is a boon to Read More

Elder care is an ever-increasing area of growth for the businesses that serve it. This holds true for all segments of the market, from 55+ communities to hospice facilities. America is aging, and there’s no place in the country not affected by the retirement of the Baby Boomer Generation.

This predicament is a boon to the contractors who’re poised to capitalize on it. New elder care facilities are cropping up everywhere, and existing buildings are being retrofitted at a blistering pace. But the scope of work can be a far cry from residential work. The nature of these projects, and the colossal amount of money involved, typically demands uncompromising quality of work and compact timelines.

Like most medical facilities, redundancy in mechanical systems at a retirement facility are a must. The best components are used and designs are very carefully scrutinized. Few mechanical contractors understand this market and its challenges better than Dominick Fausto Sr., third-generation master plumber and owner of Absolute HVAC in Farmingville, NY. Absolute provides design-build hydronic solutions to New York City. Now in his 40th year in the trade, about half of Fausto’s work is commercial.

“Assisted living facilities and hospitals account for a lot of our work, both on the installation and service side,” said Fausto. “We’ve retrofitted two large systems in the past 10 months or so.”

From l to r: Darnell Coleman and Dominick Fausto Sr. outside the Elmhurst Care Center.

 

Much like finding good technicians, Fausto says that finding good customers in New York City can be problematic. In years past, doing great work at a good pace was enough to keep a customer for decades. But the current fluidity in the health care industry – whether through employee turnover or mergers and acquisitions – mean that long term customers are scare, regardless of how dependable you are. With that said, Absolute HVAC still nurtures some relationships forged long ago.

Fausto’s most loyal customer owns countless retirement and medical facilities in numerous states, and has trusted Absolute HVAC for 39 years. As the man’s empire slowly changes hands to his children, he’s insistent that the trust between the two companies remains intact.

Turning the tables: Burnham Alpine boilers now heat the building and provide DHW, but one scotch marine boiler was left in place for back-up.

 

“You wish all your customers were like this gentleman,” said Fausto. “We’ve given him our best for many years, and he appreciates it. No matter which one of his buildings we’re working on, he wants all of his systems to be built and maintained without compromise. And he means it.”

Most recently, Absolute HVAC technicians, lead by Field Supervisor Darnell Coleman, found themselves retrofitting the boiler system at the Elmhurst Care Center, in Elmhurst, N.Y. The 410-bed nursing home in Queens was named one of the best in the nation by US News and World Report, a reflection of great health inspections, nursing staff and medical care.

Redundancy and efficiency

The 11-story building was constructed in 1997, but before the walls went up, two massive, scotch-marine boilers were craned into the basement. The gas boilers were each rated at 6.28 million BTU/H. The boilers and everything else in the cavernous mechanical room, including a pair of 10-HP base-mounted pumps, were completely redundant.

The new Alpine Boilers, at 95% thermal efficiency, should save the facility more than 40% on natural gas expenses.

 

Field Supervisor Darnell Coleman checks electrical connections on one of six Burnham Alpine boilers.

Absolute HVAC installed the original boilers 20 years ago, and has serviced it since. So when the call came to replace one of the units, Fausto was already intimately familiar with the whole system. His suggestion was to use a high-efficiency alternative to replace one of the redundant units, and leave the other big boiler in place as backup.

Over the course of a few weeks, Fausto worked with US Boiler’s northeast regional director, Chris Massey, and some of the pros at Venco Sales Inc. to design a condensing boiler system for the building. Once completed, the design was approved by an engineer of record and a demo team was soon onsite to remove one of the big fire tube boilers.

“With Massey and the guys at Venco, we have a great support network,” said Fausto. Chris McCorvey is lead service tech at Venco, and he was onsite for startup. Jake Greenwood and Frank Brecher were instrumental when it came time to specify equipment.

Absolute HVAC technicians started by extending the concrete boiler pad and rolling six new Burnham Alpine modulating boilers into the mechanical room. At 95 percent AFUE, the Alpine’s onboard Sage control simplifies integration of numerous boilers into one larger system.

“Six years ago we made the Alpine boiler our primary condensing unit,” said Fausto. “It’s extremely dependable, very easy to install and service, and comes in such a broad size range that it can be installed in a salt box home or, as you see here, a massive commercial application.”

The 800 MBH boilers are daisy-chained in a lead/lag configuration, effectively giving the facility a 30-to-1 turndown. The new condensing system heats the entire structure as well as providing domestic hot water through the use of three, 120-gallon, high-recovery Techtanium instantaneous indirect-fired water heaters. The remaining scotch-marine boiler sits cold, and would only be needed in the event of a catastrophic failure.

A Grundfos VersaFlo Cast Iron Circulator Pump

 

The height of the building demands an extremely high system pressure, so the boilers are isolated from the building via the use of two Alfa Laval plate-and-frame heat exchangers. The heat exchangers connect the four-inch boiler loop to the six-inch system loop.
Throughout the building, bedrooms are heated by PTAC units featuring a hydronic coil. Lobbies and various common spaces are conditioned with fin-tube baseboard, and a few recreation areas feature hydronic air handlers.

The height of the building demands an extremely high system pressure, so two plate-and-frame heat exchangers are used to isolate the boiler and building loops.

With a solid design and ample support from Venco, the installation progressed smoothly. The only challenge came when it was time to run vent pipe. Two 18-inch thick walls required core drilling to terminate the six, four-inch fresh air intakes and six, six-inch exhaust pipe.

“Within four weeks we had half the new boilers up and running,” explained Fausto. “After another four weeks, the whole system was online. I think that a 40 percent energy savings this winter is a conservative estimate. We did a similar installation with three Alpines in an assisted living facility for the same client last fall and saw a 42 percent reduction in fuel use over the heating season.”

All six boilers will run at 65% capacity when the outdoor temperature reaches 38°F. So far, the proof of Absolute’s work has come from the inspector and from the building occupants. Since the retrofit, they’ve not received a single domestic hot water complaint.

The retrofit at the two retirement facilities is part of a larger effort the owner is making to help his children move smoothly into a leadership role at the company. He wants to leave them with as much updated infrastructure as possible. And for the projects that don’t take place be for he retires, Absolute HVAC will still be in business.