Summertime is the perfect time to line up your snowmelt projects and installations heading into the upcoming unpredictable weather patterns of the changing seasons. For Jason Ridgeway, owner of Ridgeway Home Services, West Chicago, Ill., a provider of indoor home comfort services for the Chicagoland area, snowmelt has been added to his comfort portfolio, and Read more
Summertime is the perfect time to line up your snowmelt projects and installations heading into the upcoming unpredictable weather patterns of the changing seasons. For Jason Ridgeway, owner of Ridgeway Home Services, West Chicago, Ill., a provider of indoor home comfort services for the Chicagoland area, snowmelt has been added to his comfort portfolio, and an additional technology he encourages potential HVAC customers to pursue. “What used to be a popular choice for larger homes, snowmelt is becoming more commonplace in ‘regular’ sized homes in the area,” said Ridgeway.
Ridgeway was called to the near west suburban neighborhood to install snowmelt for a residence’s driveway/walkway, and in addition, believe it or not, a miniature railroad/train track system—which still runs, by the way—that meanders throughout the customer’s property.
The original homeowner decided to install the train tracks in the yard for his children and grandchildren, and when he sold the home to the current owner, “the railroad had become a neighborhood institution of sorts, with neighbors pleading to keep the landmark train system, and keep it operational,” said Ridgeway.
The project began with paving contractors removing the tracks and labeling them accordingly, while a welder repaired the tracks and fitted them atop the tubing, which was installed later.
Ridgeway began the snowmelt project in September of 2017, adding the “oomph” behind the system in the basement mechanical room. Prefabbed in his shop, Ridgeway constructed the mechanical panel, which consists of Grundfos circulators, an Axiom filling station, tekmar controls for the brains behind the snowmelt system sensing, and an HTP Elite 399 boiler—installed onsite. On a side note, Ridgeway left stub outs on the boiler panel in the event of upgraded in-home radiant heat, or in the case of a future boiler change-out.
Covering approximately 3,000 sq. ft. of outdoor space—with approximately 4,500 linear ft. of REHAU PEX tubing—which includes the area of the tracks, driveway and walkways, Ridgeway began the multiple week installation—due in part to an arduous concrete pour and curing timeline—with time to spare for the upcoming winter months.
Ridgeway came away impressed with the ease of the tubing installation with both the PEXGUN installation tool, an automatic, lightweight and compact hand-held tool that attaches PEX pipe to rebar or wire mesh, and his commitment to REHAU products, in this case, the tubing uncoiler. “With the PEXGUN tubing installation tool, and REHAU uncoiler, I personally can put down 300 ft. of tubing, the same as three guys using zip ties in equal amount of time or better. The extra plus is that I don’t have to go back and cut off the tails when I’m done,” said Ridgeway.
The supply water temperature was set to 160 F with the slab melting temperature set point at 34-36 F. The cold-water shutoff was set to -10 F.
The intelligence of the system is controlled by a tekmar 090 snow and ice sensor and a tekmar 665 snowmelt control system. Basically, the in-ground sensor—used in conjunction with the tekmar snow melting controls—“senses” the precipitation and intuitively correlates the freezing or below freezing temperatures and automatically detects precipitation as snow or sleet on the applicable surface, which tells the system to activate.
The tekmar 665 control uses the snow/ice detection sensor in order to automatically melt snow using Pulse Width Modulation and slab outdoor reset to maintain slab temperature. It is capable of controlling a single boiler, a system pump, and providing a signal when melting is enabled.
The existing system is one zone but is set up for the possibility of adding multiple zones, which is advantageous to Ridgeway. He will be going back to the residence to add snowmelt to existing pavers around the pool area in the back of the house. This added snowmelt will pull hot water from the existing HTP boiler.
Ridgeway ran into one challenge during the installation when the system, upon initial start-up, kept experiencing a drop in pressure. Initially thinking there was a leak in the lines somewhere, Ridgeway eventually resolved the issue by diagnosing the problem, finding an unusually high content of air in the system. An elongated purging of excess air in the system solved that minor glitch.
The end result is a beautifully paved snowmelt area, complete with added railroad tracks crisscrossing through the driveway. Needless to say, when all was said and done, and a full season of experiencing snowstorms, ice and a wintry mix in between, the end result was one happy homeowner.
Manifold images: All REHAU manifolds are pressurized to 80psi.
Epoch Senior Living Inc. operates 10 Bridges by Epoch Memory Care Assisted Living Facilities throughout New England. Over the years, management has sought to provide the highest level of resident comfort and environmental sustainability. Partnering with architects, designers and mechanical system installers that understand these priorities has lead the company to continuous growth. At nearly Read more
Epoch Senior Living Inc. operates 10 Bridges by Epoch Memory Care Assisted Living Facilities throughout New England. Over the years, management has sought to provide the highest level of resident comfort and environmental sustainability. Partnering with architects, designers and mechanical system installers that understand these priorities has lead the company to continuous growth.
At nearly all the Bridges locations, consulting engineer Wozny Barbar & Associates (WB&A) has been hired for the mechanical system design. The 27-year-old firm specializes in assisted living facilities, with an impressive list of projects completed throughout the Northeast.
“We have 37 employees,” said Casey Archacki, PE. “As the market has changed and grown, so has our stake in the industry. We’ve done work for EPOCH specifically since 2011.”
In 2016, construction began on the newest facility, Bridges by EPOCH at Sudbury (MA). With help from manufacturer’s representatives at Emerson Swan, WB&A specified a mechanical system that has performed exceptionally well at other EPOCH properties: a cooling tower and boiler system providing heating and cooling capacity to a variable-speed loop for water source heat pumps, along with an extensive ventilation system.
Comfort and control
“The heat pump systems provide a high level of control and zoning throughout the building,” said Archacki. “At EPOCH, comfort is the main priority, followed by efficiency and lifecycle cost.”
Bridges at Sudbury is a 45,000 square-foot, single-structure facility with 54 resident apartments. An 85-ton cooling tower and two redundant 650 MBH condensing boilers serve the collection of water source heat pumps. Whalen vertical-stack heat pumps are used in tenant rooms, while horizontal heat pumps made by Florida Heat Pump are used in common areas.
The building loop serving the heat pumps is served by a pair of redundant Taco SelfSensing pumps, with a max 210 GPM and 70 ft. head. The use of SelfSensing pumps eliminates the need for pressure sensors within the hydronic loop, and speeds up the commissioning and balancing process.
“To improve the indoor air quality of the building, the owners request that all of the spaces be mechanically ventilated,” said Archacki. “In order to accomplish this, all the bathroom exhaust has to be mechanically balanced with ventilation air. Since each resident has a private bathroom, this means that outdoor air and exhaust air requirements are quite high for the building. In order to maximize the energy load, we provided a single energy recovery ventilator to handle all of the outdoor and exhaust air.”
EPOCH has hired WB&A for numerous projects in part because the engineering firm comes highly recommended by architects. Their systems continuously perform. Each time they’ve approached a new EPOCH design, WB&A has drawn on the experience of Emerson Swan.
Smart choice in pumps
Emerson Swan has supplied the pumps, cooling towers and heat exchangers, along with assistance during specification, since WB&A was founded.
“Wozny Barbar is self-sufficient, but we help in any we can,” said Bill Arscott, sales engineer at Emerson Swan. “WB&A has been installing these heat pump systems before my time at Swan, and precedes the release of the Taco SelfSensing pumps that have simplified installation of the systems. Back then, conventional pumps with pressure sensors were used.”
Taco’s SelfSensing line of VFD-driven pumps not only eliminate the need for pressure sensors, but the VFDs are pre-programmed at the factory.
“The challenge we faced when using conventional circulators with sensors was picking a location for the sensor early on in the design phase,” said Archacki. “This was tough because the piping was subject to change, meaning sensor placement would no longer be ideal. Not needing sensors has been a big advantage.
Because Taco installs the VFDs on the pumps at the factory, on-site programming is not needed. The engineer provides a nominal pressure drop measurement, and the factory programs the units to 10 steps below nominal. Once installed, a balancing team fine tunes the pumps.
“We’ve always specified Taco in part because they’re a local company,” said Archacki. “When the SelfSensing product line came out, I attended a lunch-and-learn hosted by Rich Medairos at Taco. “That was several years ago, and we’ve now installed the pumps at nine properties without a single issue.”
Because the SelfSensing line of pumps can sense and respond to pressure changes within a hydronic system, DDC controls are eliminated from the picture. The big advantage is that the capability is all found in a single pump, as opposed to fishing wires, paying the set-up and maintenance contract for controls, and installing pressure sensors throughout the loop.
When compared to fixed-speed, centrifugal pumps – which are specified for maximum flow rate – the savings provided by SelfSensing pumps are even greater. Fixed-speed pumps spin literally non-stop, regardless of whether there’s a call or not. By slowing or stopping the pumps, literally millions of revolutions per heating season are eliminated. This dramatically extends the life of pumps, seals and bearings and translates into a very big savings in wear and tear.
A 1750 RPM design pump will save at least 225,000,000 cycles every heating season.
From a design standpoint, SelfSensing pumps provide more leeway in pump selection, since the pump will adjust to the need.
“At most senior living facilities, residents don’t pay utilities, so they expect a lot, and that typically means very warm spaces,” said Archacki. “In addition to the high ventilation rate, we must be able to maintain 80°F at an outdoor design temp of 0°F.
Bridges By EPOCH has considered installing a VRF system at one of the properties in place of the heat pump design, but the systems typically have lower performance in the middle of winter. Discharge air temperatures can drop, resulting in lower comfort levels.
“In general, natural gas costs in this area have been stable and very cheap when compared to electricity,” said Archacki. “Massachusetts pays some of the highest electricity rates in the country. This, along with high comfort levels, is one of the main reasons we continue installing heat pump systems for EPOCH.”
The success that EPOCH has had since its inception is evident. Roughly one new property is constructed and occupied each year. Currently, WB&A is designing systems for two coming EPOCH facilities simultaneously, one in MA and one in NY.
Is it Time to Stand for Those Who Protect the Health and Safety of the Nation? By Jay Peters, Codes & Standards International In one of my recent articles, “Building Products, They Comply with Code But Are They Safe,”I insinuated that PVC and some plastics could become the next asbestos or lead and caught some Read more
Is it Time to Stand for Those Who Protect the Health and Safety of the Nation?
By Jay Peters, Codes & Standards International
In one of my recent articles, “Building Products, They Comply with Code But Are They Safe,”I insinuated that PVC and some plastics could become the next asbestos or lead and caught some flak from friends in the plastic piping industry. Plastics are used in children’s toys, food containers, furnishings, finishes on furniture, countertops, cabinet pull handles, toilet seats, tubs and shower enclosures, plumbing piping, ductwork, cabinetry, carpet, electrical wiring, insulation, drinking cups and utensils, televisions, shelving, flooring, and the list goes on and on. If you check history, you will find that lead and asbestos products followed the same path, and both were even used to transport drinking water. A recent study found that the average person ingests the equivalent of the weight of a credit card in plastic every week, mostly via drinking water. Only time will tell if there are major health effects, but there are those not willing to wait for history to play out.
In 2019, the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA) and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) released a joint statement in support of restricting the use of plastic pipe (PVC and ABS) in specific types of buildings, including healthcare facilities and high-rise residential occupancies. Although this may send shock waves through some in the plumbing industry, or seem an inconvenience to others, they see it as a matter of life and death for their members. Their individual press releases can be found at IAFF.org or UA.org.
Plastic pipe emits toxic gases when burned and requires more complex firestopping systems in fire-rated construction than non-combustible pipes. If improperly installed or inspected, these systems allow fire to spread more easily.
The IAFF members, made up of mostly first responders, are getting cancer at an unprecedented rate. The toxic byproducts of plastics, especially PVC, are some of the deadliest when burned. Not only are these byproducts ingested through inhalation, but they are also absorbed through the skin. Can the cancer be pinpointed to PVC pipes in buildings? Probably not. In fact, there is so much plastic in these specific buildings that it may be impossible to place any blame on piping. However, the issue really doesn’t lie in placing blame. The real issue is in controlling that which can be controlled through wise design choices and appropriate codes and standards. In this case, it seems to make sense to consider the opportunity to address the piping as a controllable addition to the total plastics fire load of the building. After all, while wall coverings, furnishings, etc. may change over time, the piping itself in these piping-intense occupancies will remain. Just as air-conditioning system materials, installation, and repair have been changed to address their likely small role in the overall issue of ozone depletion and climate change, there is benefit in solving big problems by tackling the small problems we can control.
The codes must be responsive not only to information available when products are submitted for inclusion and acceptance, they must also be responsive to hazards and risks that arise long after those adoptions occur.
The codes can and should play a large part in this responsible control. The codes must be responsive not only to information available when products are submitted for inclusion and acceptance, they must also be responsive to hazards and risks that arise long after those adoptions occur. Many refrigerants, lead, asbestos, polybutylene and other materials and systems were approved and used widely. Later, they were deemed unsafe, phased out and every trace was erased from all construction codes. The codes can always be safely and easily corrected after the product was approved.
About the joint statement, a colleague said, “I don’t agree with their position. They lost that battle a long time ago and plastics are allowed in the plumbing codes. This is just an effort by lobbyists to sell more products and get rid of plastics.” Yes, the plastic and chemical industry was relentless and successfully lobbied to remove many restrictions in the codes decades ago. If you ask the fire fighters and first responders that are losing their brothers and sisters every day, that was a mistake. A mistake they believe needs to be fixed. If we applied the same logic to asbestos and lead, we’d still be installing both of those today. In those cases, safety experts had no problem updating the codes with safer provisions. No product is guaranteed a lifetime of acceptance because it made its way into the code. There are always opposing sides, and this is no different. Which side do you want to stand on?
No product is guaranteed a lifetime of acceptance because it made its way into the code. If that was the case, we’d still be installing lead and asbestos today.
Although the water, drain, waste and vent piping may be a small percentage of the overall plastic load in most buildings, there are miles and miles of it in the specific buildings referenced in the statement. After construction is completed, people bring the plastics in from everywhere, including the one-time use items, such as plastic bags, bottles, packaging, containers and utensils. It is estimated that approximately 40 percent of the plastic used in society is in the form of single use. The difference is that piping systems are intended to be a permanent part of the critical internal systems of the building and remain in place for its lifetime. Although it may be durable, plastic piping does not yet have the extended track record (about 50 years) that noncombustible materials have proven (about 100 years). The materials for this type of fixed system can be controlled during the building code and standards development process as well as during installation. The plastic load that comes in after construction is nearly impossible to regulate.
According to a recent CBS News report, the biggest danger to today’s firefighters has morphed from the flames they are fighting to the smoke those fires produce. According to the IAFF, almost two out of every three firefighters who died in the line of duty, died of cancer since 2002.
In the article, Boston Fire Chief Joseph Finn said, “We have about 13 members right now who are battling various stages of cancers, active members.” Since 1990, Finn said cancer has killed more than 200 of his colleagues. He was asked to compare it to the number of firefighters who die in the fire itself, he said “it certainly outnumbers it at least ten, 20, 30 to one”. He went on to say that scientists believe it may be linked to another change in modern building materials. “Everything you buy today is laced with plastic,” he said. “So, once they decompose and they combust, they’re going to give off all these toxins and carcinogens that are really deadly to firefighters.”
According to Boston Fire Commissioner Finn, “Everything you buy today is laced with plastic, so, once they decompose and they combust they’re going to give off all these toxins and carcinogens that are really deadly to firefighters.”
In previous articles, I have promoted the concept that buildings should be constructed in a holistic manner. We should be cognizant of an overload of materials that could have a detrimental effect on the health and safety of the public and the environment when taken into account as a total load. In the joint statement released by the UA and the IAFF, they also take a measured, holistic approach by not calling for an all-out ban on plastic piping, but rather promoting responsible restrictions of plastics in the codes for specific piping intense occupancies. Instead of asking “why,” maybe the question should be “why not?”
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When meeting a crucial deadline, many contractors know that using Viega products will get the job done well and without worries of missing a deadline. It’s why Moe Saavedra, General Manager of Devix Heating and Cooling in West Allis, Wisconsin, called on Viega ProPress and MegaPress fittings for a boiler repiping project. In September, when Read more
When meeting a crucial deadline, many contractors know that using Viega products will get the job done well and without worries of missing a deadline.
It’s why Moe Saavedra, General Manager of Devix Heating and Cooling in West Allis, Wisconsin, called on Viega ProPress and MegaPress fittings for a boiler repiping project. In September, when a 60-year-old large boiler at the Contessa Apartments in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, quit working, a fix was needed – and fast.
“It was all natural gas, and it was an oversized unit, so we converted the one very large boiler into a staged multi-boiler system,” explained Saavedra. “They work in stages, depending on the outdoor ambient temperature.”
Saavedra said there was a 2 ½” carbon steel water main coming in from the building, but everything else was 2” copper tubing, so his crew used Viega transition fittings to connect 2 ½” carbon steel into 2” copper. Their vendor, Ferguson, helped gather all the parts needed quickly so they could get the work done.
“Viega made this job happen quickly, because typically we’d cut back and use a threaded fitting, but in this situation it was all welded pipe, so MegaPress was the best repair option for this. We’ve used Viega ProPress for about three years, but this was our first time to try MegaPress,” Saavedra said.
Devix Heating and Cooling uses ProPress for nearly all its water heater and boiler repairs and installations. Saavedra said the fittings are a big benefit to the company.
“A job that might take us six days can take us just two or three (with ProPress), which means that it cuts our labor in half. And that means we can pump out twice as much work! It’s a huge win,” he said.
Saavedra admitted that after being introduced to Viega initially, he still wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from the products, but after putting Viega press fittings to work on a job, he became a believer.
“Everyone loved it. The job was done super quick. It was just phenomenal,” he said.
One of Devix’s customers is a building management company in Milwaukee that owns 40 to 50 buildings. The company regularly calls on Devix to do maintenance, repairs and replacement work, such as the Contessa Apartments. Before switching to Viega, Saavedra said they did things “the old school way” via solder and flux. Their clients are seeing the return on investment they’re getting by way of Devix using Viega.
“They love that we can replace a boiler in a day. We’re not a big company, but is allows us to cut and press and we’re done,” he said. “The only reason we can pump out these things so fast is because of Viega.”
Family businesses work when everyone is invested in a common goal. Half-hearted efforts and attitudes, jealousy or near-sightedness are the kiss of death when parents, siblings and in-laws are involved. But when all are engaged and aligned fruitfully, the result can be an uncommonly strong enterprise with long-term potential. AC Plumbing, Heating & Mechanical in Read more
Family businesses work when everyone is invested in a common goal. Half-hearted efforts and attitudes, jealousy or near-sightedness are the kiss of death when parents, siblings and in-laws are involved.
But when all are engaged and aligned fruitfully, the result can be an uncommonly strong enterprise with long-term potential.
AC Plumbing, Heating & Mechanical in Cleveland, OH, seems to have written the handbook for success in family business, though that wasn’t initially the plan. Tony Caruso started the firm with his wife LuAnn, in 1980, while also serving as a professional fireman.
Today, their children operate the 14-person company in Bedford Heights, OH.
Daughter Monica runs the office and her husband, Kelly Miller, is head of the HVAC shop. Anthony, like his father, is a professional fireman and paramedic, working 24 hours on, 48 off. When he’s not on duty at the firehouse, he’s the lead hydronic technician. Michael, who has a construction management degree, is the company’s lead plumber.
Under their direction and Tony’s mentorship and guidance, the business has flourished.
“I never envisioned all of this with my children,” said Tony Caruso. “I didn’t plan for them to join the company, let alone see the potential for them to propel us forward. But I’ve always believed this profession was something special. Having them join me has been a tremendous source of pride.”
Today, the company’s reputation for outstanding craftsmanship is validated by long-standing customer relationships, both commercial and residential. Some of those clients haven’t changed since the early years, when LuAnn was still writing invoices from notes that Tony scratched in the firehouse breakroom.
As Tony takes a back seat to day-to-day operations, it has given him time for volunteer work, and to tackle personal projects.
“I’m drawn to old things, especially mechanical in nature,” said Tony. “Volunteering at a historic railway has been rewarding, especially when I can involve my grandchildren. I love to bring things back to their proper vintage and grace; cabooses, automobiles, buildings, etc.”
In part to scratch an itch and partly as a long-term investment, Tony and LuAnn purchased a 100-year-old building near downtown Cleveland in 2017. The Detroit Avenue area is slowly experiencing a renaissance of sorts. Young people are moving back in, small businesses are cropping up, and property values are plodding patiently upward.
Caruso bought the old building as a rundown residence. Police were frequently called to the address for one sort of disturbance or another. But with plenty of vision and know how – not to mention the involvement of a team of mechanical technicians – Tony and LuAnn had other plans.
They’re just now finishing the details on the 5,000 square-foot building. An upscale salon and spa occupies the ground level, with floor-to-ceiling windows along the sidewalk. The upstairs is divided into two apartments, with a third being added behind the salon.
Half of the basement slab received a pebble finish called Natural Stone. No sooner had the top coat cured before water backed up into the basement.
“We thought we’d need to hammer out a part of the new floor to access a clog in the old porcelain plumbing, and install a drain at that spot,” said Caruso. “So we purchased a Watts Pronto!™ floor drain because of the ability to do post-pour adjustment between the concrete and finished floor.”
Then Michael and Zac Wood, one of the company’s plumbers, scoped the pipe. It became apparent that the clog could be remedied without digging up the floor. Jagged edges on the old cast iron pipe within a fitting were catching sewer debris. By snaking the pipe with a heavy cutter tip, the issue was remedied.
In an adjacent basement room without finished flooring, the building had a plumbing stack coming down from the first floor. It was no longer in use, and just in the way.
“We wanted to remove the stack for more storage space,” said Michael. “But in a building like this, where the use of occupied space can easily change in the future, we try not to eliminate sewer connections. We already had the Pronto! drain in the van. It’s a little overkill for an unfinished slab, but it definitely served the purpose.”
Zac hammered-out the floor, installed a new trap, then poured new concrete and installed the drain.
“The real benefit of the Pronto! floor drain is that the drain can be adjusted twice,” said Zac. “The basin can be raised or lowered to match the initial concrete pour, and then the strainer can be adjusted to match the finished floor grade. It comes with a set of shims to get a perfect level. On this installation, though, we only needed to make one adjustment. Using the drain’s integral bubble level, I was able to plumb-in the drain perfectly just by adjusting it after making my PVC connection.”
The Watts Pronto! floor drain is available in either cast iron or PVC, and comes in grate sizes of 5”, 6” or 8”.
“We’ve used a variety of Watts products since I started the company,” said Tony. “Our hydronic installations are covered in Watts valves, and we often use tekmar controls. We also like their backflow assemblies. We picked the Pronto! drain, despite it being a completely new product, based on the quality of products we’ve come to expect from the brand.”
With the plumbing issues resolved at the investment property, the Carusos can focus on finishing the final rental unit. The building is now an integral part of the Detroit Avenue urban revitalization effort, inside and out. Two walls on the building feature giant murals, a theme throughout the area. It’s another source of pride.
“Not everyone at AC Plumbing is family, but they may as well be,” said Tony. “Every member of our team is vital. We hire people that want to provide service. That is, in my judgement, the finest pursuit. The responsibility to our team is never to do less than the right thing. That may include engineering the correct system, performing the proper replacement or repair, or taking responsibility for mistakes. Good business ethics.”
Tony’s quick to note that the industry and market is changing rapidly, and is thankful that his children are proactively keeping pace with it. Clients have become much more astute in regard to what they want in their homes. Systems are now “on demand,” “green” or otherwise designed primarily for comfort.
“The daily challenge we now face is installing a system that never compromises safety, comfort or efficiency,” Tony continued. “In years’ past, things were simpler, and efficiency wasn’t as critical. These factors have truly raised the bar on what it means to be a plumbing or HVAC professional. Fortunately, manufacturers and reps are providing more support than ever before.”
“I feel that being trusted in a customer’s home is the greatest responsibility,” Tony said. “As my career winds down, I feel that my family has that same passion. At the end of the day we can all rest knowing we’ve done what is dutifully right.”