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Online learning brings us together. Join Taco’s John Barba on Wednesday nights at 7:00pm EDT for fun, fast-paced training sessions. He’s broken down Taco’s full-day residential hydronics training class and will be delivering it to you one hour at a time, every Wednesday night. Topics include basic heat loss, boiler selection/pipe sizing, sizing & selecting Read more

Online learning brings us together.

Join Taco’s John Barba on Wednesday nights at 7:00pm EDT for fun, fast-paced training sessions. He’s broken down Taco’s full-day residential hydronics training class and will be delivering it to you one hour at a time, every Wednesday night. Topics include basic heat loss, boiler selection/pipe sizing, sizing & selecting circulators, DHW recirculation, and much more.

Join us on Wednesday, April 1 @ 7:00pm to learn about Basic Heat Loss. Click to register https://bit.ly/39o611c

I will always preach that a successful cast iron water boiler installation begins with proper planning. I worked for an oil company for 20 long years, and nine years of that I was a service manager. During this time, I came across many problematic jobsites. I would evaluate the installation issues and try to figure Read more

I will always preach that a successful cast iron water boiler installation begins with proper planning. I worked for an oil company for 20 long years, and nine years of that I was a service manager. During this time, I came across many problematic jobsites. I would evaluate the installation issues and try to figure out where the problems had started. This knowledge has greatly helped me as a Training Manager for U.S. Boiler Company. Now, after 40 years in the heating business, I know how important proper boiler installation planning really is for reducing the number of problem jobs and expensive callbacks. In fact, planning is much easier than you may think …

  1. Proper boiler sizing. Complete a thorough heat loss calculation. Do not fall into the trap of oversizing the boiler because you sized it based on the old boiler size or you measured the connected radiation load, and never allow the customer to talk you into a larger boiler than needed. Today, with physically smaller boilers and less water volume, oversized boilers will short cycle more than ever. Increased short cycling means higher maintenance, higher fuel costs, and higher installation costs.
  2. Follow the boiler Installation & Operation (I&O) Manual. Be sure to follow one of the suggested near boiler piping options listed in the manual. The boiler tapping may not have to be the same size as the manifold piping. Use the flow charts for pipe size. You can pipe the boiler the same size as the tapping, or in some cases, use smaller piping dependent on the heat loss requirement. When the heat loss is known and the proper boiler size is chosen, you may be able to use smaller air separators, expansion tanks, and piping. You can use the following as a guide to size the boiler and system piping:
  • 3/4” pipe = 40,000 BTU’s @ 4 – 5 GPM (gallons per minute)
  • 1” pipe = 70,000 BTU’s @ 7 – 8 GPM
  • 1-1/4” pipe = 160,000 BTU’s @ 16 – 18 GPM
  1. Bypass piping. Bypass piping is discussed briefly in the I&O manual. We cannot continue to install modern cast iron boilers the same way we used to install boilers with larger water volumes. When needed, a bypass system should be installed to protect the boiler. There are primary/secondary piping and circulated bypass options, both of which we will discuss later in this article.

The bypass system discussed in the manual is called a “boiler bypass” and is always installed the same size as the supply and return headers. When adjusted, the water flow through the boiler is slowed so the water spends more time in the boiler. This allows the boiler temperature to increase faster and decreases the possibility of boiler condensation. This means that some of the system return water is bypassed around the boiler and enters the supply beyond the boiler. I know what you are about to say. “Well, that will cool off the supply water going to the homes heating system!” That is correct, but it is not a problem. This is what I call a “poor man’s outdoor reset.”

 

The system will run quieter and the system water temperature will increase slowly until the radiation outputs enough heat to satisfy the thermostat. The colder it gets outside, the hotter the system supply water temperature will be. When the valve placement is installed as shown in the manual, we can easily adjust the ΔT through the boiler. Simply put, leave the bypass valve open and adjust the flow through the boiler with either valve located on supply or return pipes below the bypass pipe to slow the flow and force more water through the bypass. Partially close one of these valves and check the ΔT through the boiler. You will need a minimum of a 20°F rise. If this is a large water volume system, like cast iron radiation, increase the ΔT through the boiler to 35 – 40°F ΔT.

Quick Tip: If the bypass is hotter than the return pipe, the flow is backwards and you have piped a system bypass as opposed to a boiler bypass. Follow the piping in the manual to verify correct installation. 

  1. Primary/secondary piping option. Primary/secondary piping utilizes hydraulic separation so that the water flow from system pumps do not affect boiler pump flow. This allows us to reduce the flow through the boiler to heat the water faster and heat the water to a higher temperature without affecting the flow in the system. In other words, we can have a higher flow in the system and a lower flow in the boiler. We still want a minimum of 20°F rise through the boiler, and for higher water volume systems we want a higher ΔT near 35°F – 40°F.
  1. Variable speed bypass pump option. To have the best boiler protection, install a variable speed bypass pump with a temperature sensor. This will change the speed of the pump to obtain the proper return water temperature. We offer a variable speed bypass kit with instructions for gas water boilers. This will protect the boiler in a high-water volume system or radiant in-floor radiation application.

Quick Note: My concern, and the reason for the above discussion of boiler protection from condensation, is excessive water flow through the boiler and slower temperature increase. I have experienced multiple boiler installations where the ΔT through the boiler is less than 20°F. In fact, I have witnessed some as low as 8°F. Lower ΔT’s are a result of excessive flow, possibly caused by the number or circulator sizes installed on the system. So, what is the minimum flow rate on cast iron water boilers? Look in the I&O manual under specifications and find the DOE heating capacity (MBH) of the boiler. For instance, the Series 3 model 304B has an input of 105k MBH and a DOE heating capacity of 88k MBH. Divide the DOE output by 10,000 to discover the maximum flow required by the boiler. If your flow exceeds that number, the ΔT will be less than 20°F. You can use this hydraulic formula to determine flow rate through the boiler.

  1. Avoid short cycling. Short cycling is caused by lower water flow, or higher ΔT. Higher ΔT may mean that the circulator is to small, the boiler is oversized, or the valves not adjusted properly. Generally, the minimum boiler flow should be half (but not limited to) of the maximum boiler flow.

Boiler Flow Formula:

Q/(500*ΔT) = Flow

Q = DOE Heating Capacity

Let’s put some numbers to that formula.  Let’s assume that a boiler has a ΔT of 15°F. The Series 3 model 304 (referenced above) has a DOE heating capacity of 88,000.

88,000/10,000 = 8 GPM. This is the maximum flow required by the boiler. Divide this in half to get the minimum boiler flow. In this case, it would be 4 GPM.

Now, back to the formula.

Q=88,000

ΔT = 15°F

88,000/(500 * 15) = Flow

88,000/7500 = 11.7 GPM

The flow is almost 4 GPM higher than the maximum flow the boiler should have. This tells us we need to achieve a 20°F ΔT, which means less flow through the boiler. Why do we have to much flow? There are oversized pumps or to many pumps. Using a bypass or primary/secondary strategy above, we can easily correct the flow through the boiler.

  1. Vent the boiler properly. If the boiler is chimney vented, the local and federal codes apply. A chimney liner may be required. If the unit is direct or power vented, the manufacturer dictates the venting according to the certifications obtained during testing. Since this article applies to cast iron water boilers, a sidewall vented boiler requires AL29-4C vent pipe. No plastic! 
  1. Outdoor air. I like to use outdoor air as much as possible to verify enough combustion air. Plus, there is less chance of contaminated air.
  1. Gas pressure. Check the incoming gas pressure and the manifold (outlet) pressure with other gas appliances running. Check all safeties. Finally, always complete a combustion check.

Ron Beck is Outside Technical Advisor and Manager of Training for U.S. Boiler Company, where he’s been since 1998.  Ron’s 34 years of experience in the heating industry include climbing the ranks of a HVAC company, from apprentice to service manager.  Currently, he’s the go-to solution guy for contractors in the field. 

Ron can be reached at RBeck@usboiler.net

This week’s episode of Beyond the Service discusses Appearance. The image you put out there is your first impression. Make it count, and for the sake of all that is holy, don’t go shirtless! https://youtu.be/OHiSBkOSMMw Read more

This week’s episode of Beyond the Service discusses Appearance. The image you put out there is your first impression. Make it count, and for the sake of all that is holy, don’t go shirtless!

A quick jobsite visit to the western suburbs of Chicago found hydronics guru Alan Carlson (Instagram @alan_carlson) swapping out leaking boilers at an 80-unit apartment complex. Carlson, a plumbing and heating industry veteran has been repping the trades for the past 19 years. He entered the plumbing trade back in 2001, and for the past Read more

A quick jobsite visit to the western suburbs of Chicago found hydronics guru Alan Carlson (Instagram @alan_carlson) swapping out leaking boilers at an 80-unit apartment complex.

Carlson, a plumbing and heating industry veteran has been repping the trades for the past 19 years. He entered the plumbing trade back in 2001, and for the past few years now, he has moved over to the hydronics side of the job with Ambrust Plumbing & Heating Solutions, Carol Stream, Ill., to where—back in 2014—he took his plumbing skills. Since 1918, Armbrust has provided DuPage County residents exceptional residential/commercial plumbing and heating services.

hub on the road Alan Carlson, Alan Carlson, Armbrust Plumbing & Heating Services, plumbing, Hydronics, HVAC, heating

Carlson is testament to hard work and dedication to his craft. “I knew I wasn’t cut out for college and the trades has afforded me the opportunity to make a good living and provide for my family,” says Carlson.

Alan takes great pride in his work and it shows with the finished product. “I am a hard-working, goal-oriented person who specializes in problem solving, job quality and customer satisfaction.”

hub on the road Alan Carlson, Alan Carlson, Armbrust Plumbing & Heating Services, plumbing, Hydronics, HVAC, heatingAnd don’t take his word for it, read what customers are saying about Alan and his professionalism. According to an online review, “This is the second time I have had Alan C. over to check on our plumbing. He is always friendly and very knowledgeable. He has a considerable level of experience and he has been able to answer all of my questions. When presented with options for needed services, he is honest in giving feedback with absolutely no pressure. Armbrust is a great plumbing company.”

Carlson was introduced to the trades at a very early age because his great grandfather, C.J. Erickson, started one of the oldest, and still one of the most successful, plumbing businesses in Chicago. In 1906, Carl Joseph “Joe” Erickson immigrated to America from Sweden, settling in Chicago. Joe, an accomplished plumber, signed with Plumbers Local 130 and set out to live the American dream, opening his own shop.

hub on the road Alan Carlson, Alan Carlson, Armbrust Plumbing & Heating Services, plumbing, Hydronics, HVAC, heating

Although Carlson never worked at his great grandfather’s shop in the city, he got a taste early in his youth of what working in the trades would be like. “I didn’t know what career I wanted after high school. I tried the local junior college without any direction, hoping I would magically find something. I didn’t even finish a year. I decided that if my family can run a successful plumbing company in Chicago for four generations, and if my neighbor who owns his own company can make a good living, I would try plumbing,” says Carlson.

hub on the road Alan Carlson, Alan Carlson, Armbrust Plumbing & Heating Services, plumbing, Hydronics, HVAC, heating

The trades have enriched Carlson’s life because he now possesses important and highly desired skills. “I also have a better understanding and much higher respect for those who work physically hard to earn their wage,” says Carlson.

Carlson stresses that there never should be a negative stereotype attached to being in the trades. “Having a career in the trades does not mean that you’re dumb or dirty or should be looked down upon. A trade is a highly skilled and highly needed job. If you want to have a career where you will always be needed, regardless of the economy, become a plumber. And if you do decide to get into it, work hard, never stop learning and never stop asking questions; be the first one there and the last one to leave,” says Carlson.

Mechanical Hub recently interviewed David Fink, President and Executive Director of The Plastics Pipe Institute, Inc. (PPI). Mr. Fink, a veteran of the plastics pipe industry, previously served as the Chairman of the PPI Board of Directors from 2017 to 2019, and has held a number of other leadership positions within the organization.  PPI is Read more

Mechanical Hub recently interviewed David Fink, President and Executive Director of The Plastics Pipe Institute, Inc. (PPI). Mr. Fink, a veteran of the plastics pipe industry, previously served as the Chairman of the PPI Board of Directors from 2017 to 2019, and has held a number of other leadership positions within the organization.  PPI is the major North American trade association representing all segments of the plastic pipe industry.

Fink most recently served as the Senior Vice President at PPI member company, WL Plastics, and previously at Dow Chemical in the company’s polyolefin resin business with the majority of the years being part of growing its plastics pipe resin business.  While at WL Plastics, he oversaw significant growth of the company’s sales in the polyethylene pipe market segments including gas gathering and distribution, municipal water distribution, industrial and mining applications, telecommunication conduit, and geothermal.

MH: You’ve been on the job for a little more than a month, what’s a typical day at PPI?

DF: Working with our talented PPI engineers, staff, and membership to meet the needs of the plastics piping industry. This includes helping design engineers and pipe users to understand correct applications of the products we represent; overseeing the development and revision of industry regulations, codes & standards; and advancing the industry’s knowledge of Plastic Piping Materials through various education and advocacy activities.

MH: What is the mission and vision of PPI?

DF: The Mission of the Plastics Pipe Institute is to advance the acceptance and use of plastic pipe systems through research, education, technical expertise and advocacy. There are 4 pillars within our strategic plan:

  1. Research & Education (develop technical information about the products and connecting target audiences with content)
  2. Advocacy/Voice (Serve as the voice of the industry for plastic pipe systems)
  3. Expansion and Growth (Support market share growth for plastic pipe systems, and broaden the sphere of influence for the industry)
  4. Member Engagement (increase the value of membership through active involvement in PPI)

MH: The market has seen significant growth over the past 10+ years, how is the current economic climate affecting the industry? What are some of the challenges and how is PPI addressing those challenges?

DF: The recent strong construction economy has provided the plastics pipe industry lots of opportunity for growth and expansion, including both new construction and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure.  Plastic piping is finding its way into new applications every day, as engineers and end users better understand the capabilities of these proven systems.  This stems from the continued success of plastic pipes to outpace the growth of alternate materials due to extended service life, corrosion resistance, ease of installation, and lower total installed costs and maintenance over the lifetime of the system.

MH: How is PPI addressing environmental issues in the industry and the “Green” movement?

DF: Plastics piping systems do not corrode or leak over time, and thus save valuable resources like our water supply.  Their longer life expectancy saves on replacement materials and costs.  They are lightweight, so more material can be shipped on a truck, reducing carbon emissions related to transportation.  And many plastics can be recycled at the end of their lifetime.  Some plastic pipe materials, such as drainage pipe, already  utilize post-consumer recycled plastic material content.

Renewable energy sources, solar and wind for example, utilize plastic conduit to protect the power cables.  In the plumbing and mechanical industry, plastic pipes are an essential part of geothermal ground loops, ; radiant heating and cooling systems,, snow melt systems; and fire protection systems. In agriculture, plastic pipes provide irrigation and drainage for fields to increase crop production.

MH: What are a few trends that PPI has identified in the industry?

DF: With greater acceptance of plastic materials, especially for commercial plumbing and mechanical applications, comes the growing demand for education and training, so we are innovating to try and meet those needs. With economic growth challenging the N.A. workforce, including contractors and engineers, there is also higher demand on non-biased industry experts, such as PPI staff, for design and application guidance when using these materials.

MH: How do you see PPI changing in the future, and how do you see yourself helping in creating that change?

DF: I look forward to leading the organization as PPI will continue as the voice of the plastics piping industry.  As new plastic materials are created or as current materials evolve, PPI will work with the industry to provide the technical support for the standards and codes arena and educate and train the next generation of engineers, contractors, and other key stakeholders on the value that plastics piping systems bring to the industry. PPI has been growing constantly since the year 2000, in terms of members, staff, and the scope of our work. We don’t see this trend slowing down any time soon.

MH: How are standards used in the industry, and what have they meant to its overall history and development?

DF: Standards improve product quality, provide engineers and end users with confidence that these are products that they can count on to meet their needs, and strengthen the market by providing consistency, safety, and reliability. Believe it or not, several plastic pipe standards were first developed in the 1970s. In fact, the first ASTM standard for PEX was published in 1984. These standards are constantly evolving, and PPI’s engineers focus a lot of their time on standards development. It’s an essential part of the safety and reliability that our systems deliver every day.

MH: How are you strengthening and building on your brand, training and resources available to members and non-members?

DF: Continuing to develop technical content including design manuals; installation guidelines; engineering calculators, case studies, and other related materials, and sharing these tools through our website.  PPI engineers are present in various organizations, such as ASHRAE, ASPE, RPA and HIA-C, to act as the Subject Matter Experts on plastic piping materials and systems.  PPI remains active in standards and codes organizations to create and improve their publications by continuing to raise the bar on reliability and performance of plastics piping systems.  Finally, PPI is out in the field with our members, training and educating and will be developing more online educational content to provide this training to a broader audience.

MH: What are some of the things you’re doing to boost PPI’s visibility?

DF: I’ll be active with other organizations with similar interests in advocacy efforts to raise awareness on the features and benefits of plastics piping systems.  PPI is also increasing our social media and website presence to reach a larger audience and has begun development of online education platform using a learning management system.

MH: In closing, is there anything you’d like to add?

DF: It’s an exciting time for plastics in piping applications as more and more people are learning about the features and benefits that plastics bring to the built environment over older, traditional materials.  Plus, improvements in current materials and innovations in new materials are opening new applications for plastic materials.  I’m looking forward to working with PPI staff and its membership and partner organizations to continue to grow the marketplace for plastics piping solutions.