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Shortly before his inauguration on January 20, then- President-elect Joe Biden unveiled his 100-day plan to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. President Biden’s plan includes calling on Congress to invest $170 billion in K-12 schools and higher education, specifically highlighting increased funding for testing, transportation, cleaning and ventilation systems. As the HVAC industry awaits changes in Read more

Shortly before his inauguration on January 20, then- President-elect Joe Biden unveiled his 100-day plan to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Biden’s plan includes calling on Congress to invest $170 billion in K-12 schools and higher education, specifically highlighting increased funding for testing, transportation, cleaning and ventilation systems.

IAQ Effectiveness Against COVID-19, COVID, HVAC, ASHRAE Codes, IAQ Technology, Phenomenal Aire IAQ technology

As the HVAC industry awaits changes in ASHRAE codes 62.1 and 62.2, two things are very likely; ASHRAE may call for higher provision of outdoor air and more robust air purification measures in response to the pandemic. Specific to HVAC professionals, this creates opportunity in the commercial space.  In response to the pandemic, demand for residential and commercial IAQ systems are at an all-time high.  As of now, the list of manufacturers whose products have been tested against the novel COVID-19 virus is very short.

Phenomenal Aire IAQ technology, made by Top Product Innovations Inc., has been proven by third-party testing to effectively deactivate SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) surface strain with a 99.40% reduction. Phenomenal Aire’s bipolar ionization technology known as a Cold Plasma Generator (CPG).

Efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus

Independent testing conducted by Innovative Bioanalysis, (BSL-3 Laboratory), utilized a testing chamber to better emulate environmental conditions of HVAC systems found in both residential and commercial applications. The results for the 60-minute test verified that 99.9% of the virus was inactivated at 60 minutes, 99.4% at 45 minutes, and 82.3% at 30 minutes.

This in vitro study was to characterize the Phenomenal Aire series C6 (commercial) cold plasma system and determine efficacy against the SARS COVID-19 virus.  The test was conducted using the commercial unit, but the Phenomenal Aire R (residential) and D (ductless) units utilize the same cold plasma technology as the C unit.  All of these units are designed to deactivate viral and bacterial pathogens on surfaces and in the air to sanitize enclosed areas.

Experimental design

A custom designed metal container 72”x30”x30” was used for a direct inoculation testing site. The testing chamber had directed extraction exhaust vent on the top of the container with a HEPA filter to prevent accidental release of the viral media. During the course of the test, two AIC2 digital air ion counters were placed directly behind the sampling area and to map ion levels for the duration of the test. One ion counter recorded negative ions being distributed and one recorded positive ions being distributed. The ambient air inside the container was 71.3F to 72.7F.

IAQ Effectiveness Against COVID-19, COVID, HVAC, ASHRAE Codes, IAQ Technology, Phenomenal Aire IAQ technologyDuring the control testing and the viral load tests, temperatures inside the test container remained consistent. The ambient humidity inside the test chamber was 44.1% and the airflow speed passing across the Phenomenal Aire Series C6 unit at the time of testing was averaged at 432 FT/M. During the control testing, one fan was placed inside the chamber to create the same simulated air flow as within the container outfitted with the ionization unit.

Four stainless steel sample plates were placed 48” away from the center of the Ionization device down-wind from the airflow in an even row. (see Fig. 1) Test pieces were inoculated with the virus by directly applying 1mL of viral media with a known concentration of 6.32 X 10^6 TCID50/mL, spread evenly on the plate and allowed to dry in the testing area. After adequate drying time, one sample swab was taken from each test piece at 15-minute, 30-minute, 45-minute, and 1-hour time intervals post inoculation.

Swabs were sealed in individual tubular containers containing 1mL viral transfer media and stored in a sealed box for the duration of the test so no further ions could interact with them.

Control summary

For the control section, two separate AIC2 Air Ion counters were placed in the center of the testing chamber. The natural state of ions was counted and little fluctuations were observed. Ion counts were recorded every 0.5 seconds and the average for the duration of the test was 08 ions per cm3 without the needlepoint bipolar ionization units running.

IAQ Effectiveness Against COVID-19, COVID, HVAC, ASHRAE Codes, IAQ Technology, Phenomenal Aire IAQ technology

There was a spike to approximately 57 ions per cm3 when the unit was opened to remove the ion counters indicating the ion count outside the chamber was approximately 50-70 ions per cm3. Due to the negligible number of ambient ions in the air outside the chamber, it was determined they would not interfere with test results.

Viral titration determined by TCID50 assay protocol

Each of the eight samples collected were subject to the same TCID50 assay protocol to determine viral concentration. Each collected swab was vortexed for 1 full minute in 1ml viral preservation media prior to serial dilution.

Inoculation of test carriers

Each of the four testing sites were simultaneously and equally subjected to a 1mL inoculation of viral media containing a known titer of 6.32 X 10^6 TCID50 per mL to ensure saturation of all materials.

Efficacy testing

Viral media with a known concentration was applied via aerosol to the materials in three locations throughout the containment unit and exposed to bipolar ionization for a period of 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, and 1 hour. Swabs were taken of all material and cultured by the same means as the original viral titration performed on the BEI Resources-provided SARS-CoV-2 USA-WA1/2020 viral culture. The viral media was exposed to a consistent flow of ion density. The test objective was to obtain 15.0 x 10^3 ions /cc. Ion densities were measured every five seconds and the averaged ion density delivered was 15.1 x 10^3 ions /cc. (see Fig. 2)

Relevance to the trade

There’s little question that IAQ will continue to be a rapidly-growing sector of the HVAC marketplace.  Public awareness of indoor air quality has increased tremendously as a result of the COVD-19 pandemic, and commercial sales will likely continue to see support for the same reasons, along with demand as a result of code changes.

Selling a specific IAQ system to combat the threat of COVID-19 is simplified when verification of results can be provided.

EPISODE 1:  The Color of Heat Monday, Jan. 25 6:30-7:30 pm CST There is a new sheriff in town!  Bob “Hot Rod” Rohr is back in the saddle for this 2021 edition of Shop Talk.   We’ve partnered up with Mechanical Hub to offer you a real good time. In Episode 1 Hot Rod will yarn Read more

Monday, Jan. 25
6:30-7:30 pm CST

There is a new sheriff in town!  Bob “Hot Rod” Rohr is back in the saddle for this 2021 edition of Shop Talk.   We’ve partnered up with Mechanical Hub to offer you a real good time.

In Episode 1 Hot Rod will yarn the hour away talking shop about thermal imaging and how it can help buckaroos young and old alike in the field.  He will share tips from the shop with a few infrared photos to boot.   Watch for a giveaway.  One ace-high member of our audience will take home a FLIR C3-X thermal camera.  Yee-haw!

Shop Talk, Shop Talk Showdown, Bob Rohr, Max Rohr, Caleffi North America, Hot Rod Rohr, thermal imaging, FLIR, hydronics, HVAC, plumbing

It wouldn’t be a Showdown without a duel.  Sheriff Hot Rod will moderate a spirited debate between guest speaker Eric Aune of The Hub and Max Rohr of Caleffi.

You’ll learn:
→ What role does a thermal imaging camera play in modern mechanical systems?
→ If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging; a.k.a. troubleshooting
→ How important is insulation on the side of a radiant slab?
→ How can you get the most accurate readings from a thermal camera?
→ Could you even use it to decide between zone pumps and zone valves for your next project?

Don’t know “Hot Rod“? Recently recognized with the 2020-2022 Carlson-Holohan Industry Award of Excellence, he effortlessly shares his 35+ years’ of experience as a contractor and currently serves as a training and education manager at Caleffi.

Eric, owner of Aune Plumbing and Heating and operating partner of the popular Mechanical Hub website, is driven to learn and motivated to teach. Aune specializes in radiant heating, high efficiency hydronic systems and – in his own words – is a “tool nut”.

Max is a self-described hydronics and thermostat nerd. He has worked in the hydronics and solar industries for 20 years in the installation, sales and manufacturing sectors. Like father, like son Max, currently serves as a training and education manager at Caleffi.

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If you’ve ever seen Bob Baker’s Instagram page (@bakerplumbing), you’ll notice a few posts sprinkled in that show the beauty in this world, the good in people and an optimistic underlying tone. “It’s really become a focus for me as it seems that much of what is ugly and unkind dominates the news and many Read more

Bob Baker, Baker Plumbing, Calgary, Alberta, plumbing, Baker Barn, @bakerplumbing, heating, HVAC, water heatingIf you’ve ever seen Bob Baker’s Instagram page (@bakerplumbing), you’ll notice a few posts sprinkled in that show the beauty in this world, the good in people and an optimistic underlying tone. “It’s really become a focus for me as it seems that much of what is ugly and unkind dominates the news and many feeds I see. Honestly, it is therapeutic for me to focus on the wonderful things that this life, the world and the trade has to offer,” says Baker.

While it’s hard to escape all of the negativity, Baker sees the more positive approach as more of a mental exercise more than anything, to keep him focused on the good, simple, beautiful things that surround him if only he took time to notice. “I try not to let that negative stuff affect my mood and relationships so positive posts are really reminders to say the world, my life and this trade are wonderful, and have blessed my life and the life of my family more than I realize.”

Baker Plumbing

Baker Plumbing started in 1956, as Bob’s grandfather was an aircraft mechanic during WWII, and after the war he moved from Ontario to Alberta to start a family and started rehab training—provided by the military—to become a plumber. He got his license in 1952, then went on his own in 1956.

He had four boys—three of which became plumbers—one went stateside to become an engineer, one started a plumbing business in Cardston, and Bob’s father, Gerry, stayed in Calgary running mostly new construction, remodel, and eventually was heavily involved in septic fields and water treatment.

Fun fact: Alberta is actually the sunniest province in Canada with an average of 312 sunny days per year. The winters are dry, sunny and cold with an average temperature in January of -14C or 6.8F, but can get as cold as -51C (-59.8F), which it did for several weeks last year.

 

Probably the most unique feature of Calgary’s winter weather is what’s called a Chinook, where the warm winds from the Pacific Coast lose their moisture in the Rocky Mountains and then blow warm, dry air over Southern Alberta. The record is a 41C rise from -19C to +22C in an hour and once the Chinook is over the temperature can quickly drop to below zero. “That type of weather change is really hard on the HVAC equipment, which provides a lot of opportunities to maintain, upgrade or replace everything from RTUs to residential furnaces. It’s never a dull moment around this place,” says Baker.

 

Bob Baker now runs the company and he has been on his own since 1998, focusing on commercial service and renovations—multi-national restaurant and hotel chains. “It makes for an exciting and diverse scope of work. which frankly I love, and it keep me interested and highly involved in the day-to-day. The next generation is on its way as my two boys have taken to the trade as well. Isaiah just completed his journeyman tests (and passed) and Pete is half through his training.”

Bob Baker, Baker Plumbing, Calgary, Alberta, plumbing, Baker Barn, @bakerplumbing, heating, HVAC, water heating

Bob Baker with his two sons, Peter (l) and Isaiah (r).

Baker has never actually been out of the trade, really. With his grandfather, dad and several uncles trained as plumbers, he started out plumbing at three or four years old. Riding in the truck with his dad, making putty snakes, hauling garbage to playing gopher boy. That role continued until he finished high school and was accepted to university.

Baker spent a few years there, then switched to obtain a computer science degree. He got married and needed to make some money, took a job as a maintenance man for the several apartment buildings while continuing his schooling. “I actually realized that that all those years working with my Dad, I actually learned a lot and that I loved doing plumbing. I eventually quit computer science, went to trade school, got my ticket in 1997, and have been plumbing ever since.”

Bob Baker, Baker Plumbing, Calgary, Alberta, plumbing, Baker Barn, @bakerplumbing, heating, HVAC, water heatingBaker owes a lot of his success, in life and in his career, to his father. He spent a lot of time working with him, appreciating what he was teaching him as both a man and a plumber. “Since he’s been gone, in almost every situation I find myself in, I ask myself, how would dad handle this? The end goal really is to leave the same impression on my own children.”

Sadly, Baker lost his Dad to brain cancer in 2006, which was swift and brutal. “Prior to that experience I never really thought about legacy or traditions or even family as in generational stories, so in the midst of dealing with the emotions of loss, pride, sadness and gratitude, I felt the urge to create something meaningful to me, my business and hopefully to my kids,” said Baker.

Bob Baker, Baker Plumbing, Calgary, Alberta, plumbing, Baker Barn, @bakerplumbing, heating, HVAC, water heating

The Baker Family Crest

Hence, the Baker crest of arms was initiated. The Bakers have a lot of English and Scottish blood and have some prints of family crests dated back to those eras. “I stole some of those ideas and created a few of my own and the response has been exactly what I’d hope for. As for symbols it goes like this: Fire for Heating; Water drop for Plumbing, The Snake head for Drain cleaning; the Winged Foot, because we’re fast; The Skull, because we’re Bakers that are Plumbers till death; and the inscription is: If We Can’t Do It, It Can’t Be Done in Latin. Of course, we have Baker and 1956, which is our beginning.”

For the Love of the Job

For Baker, that’s an easy one. He loves the people he’s met and worked with, and he has created some lifelong friendships with some fantastic people all because they plugged their toilet or their pilot light went out.

“If you’re able to walk into a stressful situation and be calm and reassuring all while actually delivering on the solution, most people consider that heroic. It’s one of the absolute coolest feelings in the world.”

Bob Baker, Baker Plumbing, Calgary, Alberta, plumbing, Baker Barn, @bakerplumbing, heating, HVAC, water heatingBeing an effective problem solver, says Baker, is an addiction, and plumbing and heating provide almost endless opportunities to get that fix. “Over the years I’ve tried really hard to learn and know a person’s name and then use it every time we met—it’s a difference maker. All those piled together have made the plumbing trade for me, more than I had hoped for some 30 years ago.”

Yet, according to Baker, the biggest issue facing the trades is the oldest issue. “Trades in general are thought of as second-tier jobs. Yes, I mean jobs. Nobody outside of the trade thinks of it as a career.”

Just last year Baker went to the local high school to talk to the principal about contributing to trade education. “He took me to the shop class and proudly pointed to the toilet and sink they had set up and said, ‘We got the plumbing side handled.’ Great guy and really good at his job, and I’ve even worked in his home, but plumbing is NOT a toilet and sink.”

The technology that is being developed for plumbing and heating systems will require some of the brightest and motivated minds, says Baker. “The message from us all in trade should be we need you. We need to do a better job at promoting ourselves and not in a selfish way but by being fine, upstanding citizens involved in current affairs, coaching little league teams, being out and about in our communities. As with anything else, the message starts and ends with each of us. The question is what message do we send both in and out of the work vans?”

Social Media—A Game Changer

“Being self-employed with your mentors being your dad and granddad makes for a pretty small circle. While clients and contractors are amazing and great to work with, no one really gets plumbing and its problems like plumbers,” says Baker.

Bob Baker, Baker Plumbing, Calgary, Alberta, plumbing, Baker Barn, @bakerplumbing, heating, HVAC, water heatingThe social channels have brought dozens of plumbers into Baker’s life in the most positive of ways. Other than the salacious DOPE-GATE scandal, Baker can’t think of a single negative interaction online, unless you count the private no-names that try to ignite fires where ever they go.

The summer of 2019, Baker spend a fantastic week in Chicago and was given the first-class treatment and tour by several of the plumbers from the area. While others in his group were hitting tourist traps, Baker was in the heart of Chicago until 2 a.m. experiencing some of the most amazing things.

Baker also went to WWETT in March of 2020 and spent three “unbelievable days visiting with some of coolest plumbers and people I’ve ever met, and all because I post my work on social media. It’s mind blowing,” says Baker

Fitness First

Every tradesperson experiences aches and pain sooner or later, says Baker. Some of those can lead to debilitating injuries if not properly looked after. Having experienced all of them—shoulders, wrists, knees, back, etc.—one in particular in 2015 put Baker out of commission for several weeks. “It was a wake-up call that unless I started really keeping myself healthy, my time in the trade was ending soon. With a family to feed and being self-employed, I needed no further motivation.”

Bob Baker, Baker Plumbing, Calgary, Alberta, plumbing, Baker Barn, @bakerplumbing, heating, HVAC, water heating

A new chapter — beekeeping

It started out simple with a few back exercises but exercise has grown into something Baker really enjoys. With the onset of COVID, I got serious about the home gym and the Baker Barn was born. “It’s been a life saver, both physically and mentally, to have a place where I can burn some calories and relieve some stress. I generally try and spend 90 minutes per day in the barn, and at 50 years old, I honestly have never felt better. If you’re not working out, then all of the fancy tools in the world won’t work by themselves,” says Baker.

To the Future

According to Baker, for the past 28 years or so there really wasn’t much of a work/leisure balance. Raising five kids was truly a 24-hour endeavor, but Baker has been humbled as his kids have turned into men and women to start their own lives. Both Baker’s boys have chosen the plumbing trade path, and they can now start to take over some of the duties. “My new passion has fallen to bees. This past year was my second full year as a beekeeper and so far it’s been a lot of fun learning something totally new. The hope is to turn bees into the next Baker Empire over the next five years, but I’m just enjoying the nuisances of the new craft,” says Baker.

Bob Baker, Baker Plumbing, Calgary, Alberta, plumbing, Baker Barn, @bakerplumbing, heating, HVAC, water heating2020 was a hell of a year. COVID wreaked havoc on a lot of what Baker does. Being mostly hospitality focused proved to be challenging, but Baker has some tremendous relationships with many of his clients, and as he has supported them, they have supported him back. It’s also given the company a chance to zero in on its 3,000 residential clients that use Baker’s services once or twice a year. “With the boys taking a more active role, we’ve been able to provide faster and more efficient service to those sequestered at home. Of course, it’s also provided ample opportunity to reflect on the blessings of being considered essential, and helping those that need some assistance as things appear to get a wee bit darker.”

Bob Baker, Baker Plumbing, Calgary, Alberta, plumbing, Baker Barn, @bakerplumbing, heating, HVAC, water heatingBut as the calendar flips to 2021, Baker expects a banner year. He’s secured some great new contracts, and with the help of his boys, the ability to serve even more continues to grow. “We’re grateful that everyone is healthy and progressing through the challenges that our little moment in history is giving us the opportunity to participate in. We’re optimistic about the future and truly believe that there is no better time to be in the trades. We wish everyone, everywhere all the best in 2021. I’m especially delighted to start the year off by answering these questions and contributing to the foundational work Mechanical Hub provides at no charge. I do mean it: I think you and the team are doing great and important things,” says Baker.

Finally, when asked the last time he said, “today is a great day,” Baker can honestly say that he says that almost daily. “Maybe not in the moment of things going sideways, but the days of discouragement and disappointment are few and far between. I am a blessed man, mostly because I’ve worked hard to be so.”

Around the time you start thinking about the rest of your life, Seth Michael was seriously considering becoming a police officer. “In high school, I took two years of criminal justice classes and thought I wanted to become a police officer. Toward the end of my senior year, I realized I didn’t have a passion Read more

Around the time you start thinking about the rest of your life, Seth Michael was seriously considering becoming a police officer. “In high school, I took two years of criminal justice classes and thought I wanted to become a police officer. Toward the end of my senior year, I realized I didn’t have a passion for police work, nor was that what I wanted to do the rest of my life. By then I realized I wanted to work with my hands, and heard about Vincennes University and their welding degree. I took a leap of faith and entered their program,” says Michael, who graduated with a degree in welding technology in 2018.

Vidimos Inc., sheet metal contractors, SMACNA, SMART, Sheet Metal Workers Local 20, skilled trades, trade life

Seth Michael

Michael’s first welding job out of college was with a company that was low paying and non-union. “I realized it was not a good career choice for me in the long run. That is when I started researching various trades in Northwest Indiana,” says Michaels, who is currently paving his career path as an apprentice welder at Vidimos Inc., a union sheet metal shop established in 1945 in East Chicago, Ind., a contractor member of the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA), and a member of Sheet Metal Workers Local 20.

Vidimos Inc., sheet metal contractors, SMACNA, SMART, Sheet Metal Workers Local 20, skilled trades, trade life

A SMACNA-member contractor works on a welding job.

There are many benefits to joining the trade, says Michael. “Good starting wages with about a $2-an-hour increase every six months while in the apprentice program, finishing with a minimum hourly wage of $43 after five-year apprenticeship program.” Michael also highlights a good pension, 401A, and health insurance. “One of the most important benefits is that my union is there to represent and train me as a member of the Local 20, Sheet Metal Workers,” says Michael.

In addition to the invaluable training through the Local 20, Michael draws knowledge from SMACNA, of which his employer is a member. “Knowledge is powerful. Sheet metal work is creative and fast-paced with cutting-edge technologies that are helping shape the future of the industry. It is important to stay at the forefront in order to grow in your career, but to also learn and practice in-demand skills that set sheet metal workers apart from other tradespersons,” says Jeff Henriksen, executive director of communications at SMACNA.

Vidimos Inc., sheet metal contractors, SMACNA, SMART, Sheet Metal Workers Local 20, skilled trades, trade life

A sheet metal shop in Pittsburgh.

Making sure a job is professionally completed is critical and there are no better trained or skilled workers than the signatory sheet trade. “Every single worker on a SMACNA contractor’s jobsite is highly qualified, and they all received the same four years of training. That provides many general contractors, builders and developers with greater peace of mind,” continues Henriksen.

Michael loves that he is constantly learning while on the job and through the apprentice class. “I love the journeymen that I get to work with on a day-to-day basis, and the knowledge I gain from them. I get to see and do new things every day, and I can see myself in this trade until retirement.”

Vidimos Inc., sheet metal contractors, SMACNA, SMART, Sheet Metal Workers Local 20, skilled trades, trade lifeRefreshing to hear, for sure, especially with the aging workforce top of mind within the industry. “Workforce development initiatives like Ignite Your Career are a great opportunity to build awareness of rewarding career opportunities. It is important to attract and retain the best candidates, showing the valuable benefits of establishing a career in sheet metal—which is one of the highest salaried trades,” says Henriksen.

Ignite Your Career is one piece of SMACNA’s larger workforce development initiative designed to promote the advantages of working in the sheet metal industry and supporting our members in recruitment efforts. It stemmed from recognizing a need to address the aging workforce and it has been a continued priority for SMACNA. The site itself, IgniteYourCareer.com, launched earlier this year and is a valuable resource for supporting recruitment needs of our members and helping those interested in the trade learn more about career opportunities.

Related, SMACNA and SMART (the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers) jointly own and run more than 130 training centers across the country as part of a Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP) that enables people to receive cost-free training while working in the industry. “The equipment in each training center may vary slightly by location, but to be a RAP, you have to register and have your national training program approved by the Department of Labor. This provides our members who graduate with the ability to take their skills anywhere in the country and be qualified to work for SMACNA Contractors,” says Henriksen.

Vidimos Inc., sheet metal contractors, SMACNA, SMART, Sheet Metal Workers Local 20, skilled trades, trade life

A SMACNA contractor asks questions regarding the robotic equipment.

All the apprenticeship programs allow people to enter the sheet metal trade, earn while they learn and leave debt-free with opportunities to grow their career and earn a great living. Typically, apprenticeship programs see 15,000 people in the apprenticeship program at any one time. “Upon graduation, they become a journeyperson, earning around $90,000 per year, after serving as an apprentice for four to five years during which time they earn more than $250,000—a substantial difference from those that choose the college route and end up in debt with no guarantee of a well-paying job,” says Henriksen.

For Michael, he continues to work on his apprenticeship, even through COVID. “Thankfully, I have been working throughout COVID, and although work has been slow here and there, I’ve been maintaining a regular work schedule of 40 hours a week. With little social opportunities outside of work, I’ve been able to be more focused on my apprentice class and my tasks at work,” says Michael.

SMACNA is an association of Signatory sheet metal contractors, so if a sheet metal contractor wants to become a union shop, they are welcome to contact the association to begin that process. Those interested in the apprenticeship program can contact the International Training Institute (ITI) jointly run by SMACNA and SMART. Call SMACNA at 703-803-2980 or email memberservices@smacna.org. Call ITI at 703-739-7200 or visit https://www.sheetmetal-iti.org/.

The Drain, Waste and Vent (DWV) piping system in a building is a crucial component of the overall plumbing infrastructure. In a building, the Drain, Waste and Vent (DWV) system is an often overlooked, yet it is an essential component of the plumbing infrastructure. The majority of DWV piping systems are hidden below floors, behind Read more

The Drain, Waste and Vent (DWV) piping system in a building is a crucial component of the overall plumbing infrastructure.

In a building, the Drain, Waste and Vent (DWV) system is an often overlooked, yet it is an essential component of the plumbing infrastructure. The majority of DWV piping systems are hidden below floors, behind walls, and in ceilings. Out of sight, out of mind. That is until your previously fully functional plumbing system has a problem.

Plumbing may be out of sight, but just like any other mechanical system, your DWV piping should be properly and regularly maintained, regardless of the material. Developing a DWV maintenance plan will keep your plumbing system top of mind. This will help facility management to budget effectively for your system maintenance and diminish the likelihood of plumbing emergencies that could send your building occupants reeling.

DWV System Evaluation

There is no one-size-fits-all maintenance program for DWV systems. Building occupancy type and usage, piping material, and other special conditions that are unique to your building requires evaluating your DWV systems as a first step.

Facility management can start by performing a regularly scheduled visual examination of the DWV system. You are looking for proper slope, appropriate support of the piping system and components, suitable venting and clear vents, and of course, any visible leaks in the piping system, among other things. Regular visual inspection is just one step in a larger effort to maintain your DWV system.

If your visual inspection reveals no obvious signs of wear and tear, do not assume that you are in the clear. Many factors outside of the DWV system can have negative effects on it and its long-term functionality. These factors are what are at the heart of the maintenance program. As conditions change, the frequency and the way you maintain your system should change with it.

Once you have completed your visual inspection, consider the risk factors that make your building unique. What are some of the considerations when determining the factors and frequency of your maintenance program?

  • Cleaning chemicals Harsh cleaning chemicals having a pH range outside the normal range of expected sanitary effluents could be harmful to the DWV system, unless properly flushed.
  • Grease Interceptors These should be serviced in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations so as not to allow its contents to go septic. Proper disposal of food particles is key to the health of an interceptor.
  • Gases from the municipal sewer Some municipalities depend on the building’s vent system to vent gases from the sewer, which can be harmful to the building vent piping because this is not the intended application. When these gases are in the system, regular flushing should be performed to minimize the impacts.
  • Building usage Is the buildings occupancy year-round or seasonal? If usage is low, more frequent maintenance of the DWV system may be required.
  • Low flow or no flow fixtures The proliferation of low flow and waterless fixtures for conservation have unintended consequences. Not enough water in the lines to self-scour or to float the proverbial boat leaves behind microbes that are potentially harmful to your piping system.
  • Soda fountains Sodas are typically low pH fluids. In high concentrations, they can be detrimental to pipe and fittings, especially if they are not properly flushed through the system.
  • Commercial kitchens High temperature fluids from pasta stations or commercial dishwashers can exceed the working temperatures of certain piping systems and lead to system failures.
  • Special waste Any waste outside the scope of normal sanitary effluents should be treated as such, with piping approved for the materials that they are conveying. Any special chemicals must be properly diluted before being allowed in the city sewer.
  • De-icing Agents De-Icing agents (road salts, sand and the like) used on roadways can accumulate in the DWV system in parking garages. This accumulation needs to be assessed and a maintenance schedule developed to flush and clean the system to the municipal sewer.

How To Maintain Your DWV System

There are countless tools available for you to incorporate into a facility maintenance program. Here are just a few:

  • Camera inspection allows you to see inside your piping system and identify issues that would otherwise remain hidden until it is too late.
  • Jetting, drain cleaning, cabling, or rodding to the municipal sewer are also effective methods for cleaning and clearing your DWV system.
  • Solenoid may be installed to introduce water to dilute, wash or clean the DWV system where needed.
  • Installing vented running traps to isolate the building’s DWV system from the city sewer will prevent your municipality from relying on your building to vent gases into the city sewer system.
  • Follow the manufacturer maintenance recommendations of any dilution tanks the building may have.
  • Identify and replace any aggressive cleaners that the building cleaning or maintenance personnel may be using with a neutral pH cleaning alternative.
  • Consider installing upstream flush valves on soda fountain lines for proper dilution.

Many factors outside of the DWV system itself can have long-term effects on the system’s performance and functionality. Slope, system design, fixtures, frequency of use, chemicals and cleaners, maintenance, materials, and water levels and quality are just some of the factors that can affect a DWV system. All of these influences and more need to be examined and properly assessed by facility management when creating an effective plastic or cast iron DWV system maintenance program.

The information above is not meant to be a complete list of all factors that need to be considered and are merely suggestions for formulating a maintenance program. Proper flushing of your DWV system on a regular time schedule is crucial to a long service life.  It may be necessary to consult a plumbing professional when designing an effective DWV preventative maintenance program to keep your plumbing system from being top-of-mind for all the wrong reasons.