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For the past 11 years, my job as a technical trainer has taken me from Alaska to Cuba, with many stops in between—I have been to all 50 states. Transitioning from a hands-on plumber to a talking head, standing in the front of the room addressing thirsty-for-knowledge contractors, took some getting used to. No doubt Read more

For the past 11 years, my job as a technical trainer has taken me from Alaska to Cuba, with many stops in between—I have been to all 50 states. Transitioning from a hands-on plumber to a talking head, standing in the front of the room addressing thirsty-for-knowledge contractors, took some getting used to.

No doubt the travel part of a “traveling trainer” job is the most challenging.  Hours spent squeezed inside an aluminum sausage, aka big, old jet-airliner, can be frustrating. I do love the views and amazing sunset and sunrises I have seen.  Lightning show, massive clouds are incredible, but they never look the same on the phone camera. For the most part the airline folks have been helpful and accommodating.

When they see the miles you rack up as a business traveler, they will almost always accommodate your request. Approaching them without a chip on your shoulder helps the outcome. Maybe it’s me, but it seems like a lot more delays and cancelations lately, busy times in the air travel business. So, I usually plan for some shuffling and exercise some chill skills. But I digress.

Once at the location, the fun part begins for me. I enjoy sharing what I have learned and listening to stories from attendees. For sure, my favorite parts of the job are the shop and jobsite visits. I learn from seeing how the new products and technology are actually being blended together on actual jobs. Browsing through the back rooms of the wholesaler and rep buildings can provide some good intel.

Living the Rock Star life.

I try to balance my training between product pitch and theory, applications, tips and tricks. It is important that the training sponsors advertise and promote the training accurately. If the training is intended to be all product and sales, that needs to be clear, so the folks attending know what to expect. Technical guys and gals prefer technical topics, from my experience.

I try to engage the group as much as possible, learn their skill level and expected outcome. Training for me is a give and take experience, as nobody knows it all. Except perhaps my wife. (Shhhh!) Generally, the room is a mix of expertise levels, so try to include info for everyone to leave with. Know your audience!

Hot Rod preparing for a Coffee with Caleffi webinar.

The dynamics of a room vary depending on the group. If you have a roomful of competitors, the questions do not flow so easily. Training at shops, reps and wholesalers always result in more interaction.

During the lunch break, spring for some food for the group, even if it is good pizza. Shop for the local brand favorite.

I’ve found a 4-hour maximum for tech heavy topics is a good lid for an event. It’s tough to keep a blue-collar person down as they need to keep moving. Their backs and knees make sitting for a long time challenging, too.

I always want to leave the attendees with a nice hard copy of the material we covered. The Caleffi Idronics are perfect handouts: They are a reference, both as a hard copy and online version. Also, it’s always nice to see the group taking notes in the margins.

Back at the office—in-house—I help produce the Coffee with Caleffi series, a webinar that cover important topics in the plumbing and hydronics industry.

If we haven’t met or shared a gab session together, I hope to do so soon. I’ll keep in communication with the Mechanical Hub community about dates and times for upcoming seminars, and webinars!

Bob ‘Hot Rod’ Rohr is director of training and education at Caleffi.

The Week in Review is a recap of the week — what’s trending, what’s breaking the internet on social, and what we’ve been up to. We’ll try our best to keep you up to date with the industry, social media and our travels. This past week the Mechanical Hub was at the 4th Annual Service World Read more

The Week in Review is a recap of the week — what’s trending, what’s breaking the internet on social, and what we’ve been up to. We’ll try our best to keep you up to date with the industry, social media and our travels.

  1. Service World Expo, Service, Copper Rule, Navien NPN non-condensing tankless, Condensate Neutralizers, skilled trades

    Thompson Family Plumbing’s John Thompson (l) and the Hub’s Tim Ward at the SWE event in Vegas.

    This past week the Mechanical Hub was at the 4th Annual Service World Expo in Las Vegas this week. #SWE2019 is a great event for HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, and Remodeling contractors to learn about business insights, marketing strategies, and moneymaking practices. The breakout sessions and trade show provided thousands of contractors all the info they needed to maximize their business focus.

Service World Expo, Service, Copper Rule, Navien NPN non-condensing tankless, Condensate Neutralizers, skilled trades

2. Had some interesting discussions on our Facebook private group Trade Talk — Mechanical Hub regarding promoting the skilled trades. I posed the question, “What are some of the biggest “selling” points you would share with a person deciding a career path, and considering the trades?”

The answers were right on:

  • “Trade schools are much quicker and cheaper than any 4-year college. Large demand for workers in trades. — Jay Parham, service tech, Hans Heating and Air.
  • “When you graduate college or university it will be hard to find a job, and you will finish being thousands in debt. With a trade you can be working while going through school and have good paying job when you graduate. Also, most companies will pay your way through school. As well the government gives you grants where I live. Really, it’s a no brainer.” — Jim Roberts, transitioning between jobs.
  • “It has to be stated that going into the trades is NOT about not being academically inclined or not, nor does it make one any less than than a person who chooses college. It is a path of equal and sometimes greater value and utility. It is more about application and getting immediate use and feedback from what you learned the day before.
    “I have learned a lot more from pipe fitters about metallurgy, pipe stress, deflection, and anchor forces than I have from fellow engineers. They make me a better designer and engineer to this day.
    “The trades are NOT a lesser path, but a different path that makes useful and enduring things, most unseen but nevertheless appreciated. — Brad White, mechanical discipline lead for Arora Engineers Inc.’s Boston office.
  • “You can become your own boss, live the American dream and retire financially secure.” — Dave Yates, F.W. Behler.
  • “Quoting an uncle who was a master carpenter: ‘A good mechanic will never be unemployed unless he wants to be.’ I’ve never been unemployed in 63 years.” — Dennis Treacy
  • “Something I used to tell my guys was to fit the job to your personality. I like tools, tangible results to physical problems, working with my hands, being independent, not staying in one place too long, so a service plumber fits my personality but a rough-in plumber would not. — Ben Kohn, CEO & Founder of From Sinks to Sewers.
  • “Not just taught a single skill but a life skill. With many opportunities and ability to do things yourself at home.” — Jason Ridgeway, Ridgeway Home Services
  • As my grandmother advised me, learn a trade then get a profession. You’ll never be out of work. Of course my trade became my profession!! I’ve never been unemployed! — Steve ‘Wheels’ Wieland.

Check out more great stuff on the page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1545670948828435/

3. With all of the craziness going on with the government—from impeachment inquiries to unrest in the Middle East, perhaps some better news. PMI says the EPA’s long-awaited proposed revisions to lead and Copper Rule an important step forward.

The proposed rule represents the first major overhaul of federal protections for lead in drinking water in two decades. The rule would require community water systems to take new actions regarding lead service line replacement, corrosion control, sampling, and testing for lead in schools and day care centers.

4. Navien’s Big Reveal — The Hub traveled to SoCal last week to learn of some exciting things going on at Navien. We told you then that Navien had a big announcement. Well, here it is:

 

5. Finally, the ProStaff team has been busy testing products and tools; the Hub’s Eric Aune reviews the Neutra-Safe’s Condensate Neutralizer Pump NSP-50. Check it out:

 

Navien enters non-condensing market with two new models On October 9th mechanical-hub.com was invited to the formal announcement of Navien’s newest tankless offering, the NPN [Navien Premium Non-condensing] series of tankless water heaters. Navien has held the number one spot for tankless sales in volume for condensing units, this is a first for them having Read more

Navien enters non-condensing market with two new models

On October 9th mechanical-hub.com was invited to the formal announcement of Navien’s newest tankless offering, the NPN [Navien Premium Non-condensing] series of tankless water heaters.

Navien has held the number one spot for tankless sales in volume for condensing units, this is a first for them having never before offered any non-condensing models in North America. When asked what the target market is for their new non-condensing models is VP Eric Moffroid stated “we are targeting the new construction, multi-family and retrofit segments of the market.” Moffroid went on to point out the many features that set Navien’s offering apart from other competitor’s models already in the market. “We are the best at stainless steel heat exchangers, we build them in-house and have multiple proven designs at work in homes and commercial properties all over the world. The NPN model line continues this concept with a totally new heat exchanger and burner system, all made from stainless steel in our factory in South Korea.”

All the details of the two models are shown by Navien’s National Training Manager Dave Hoskyn in the video below. If you have any questions please leave them here below.

The Week in Review is a recap of the week — what’s trending, what’s breaking the internet on social, and what we’ve been up to. We’ll try our best to keep you up to date with the industry, social media and our travels. It’s been a pretty busy couple of weeks for the Mechanical Hub team Read more

The Week in Review is a recap of the week — what’s trending, what’s breaking the internet on social, and what we’ve been up to. We’ll try our best to keep you up to date with the industry, social media and our travels.

Week in Review: PHCC CONNECT, Legionella, Women in Construction, Skilled Trades

Jed Christner during the Plumbing Apprentice Contest at PHCC CONNECT.

It’s been a pretty busy couple of weeks for the Mechanical Hub team. The boys headed down to Indianapolis last week (Oct. 1-3) for the PHCC CONNECT Show. I have to say there was a nice buzz to the show, and every trade show booth we visited, we heard the same positive feedback. It’s always nice to see our friend from PHCC and other industry reps. We were also there to support our plumbing apprentice contestant, Jed Christener, from JRC Mechanical, Chesapeake, Va. This is something we are very passionate about—supporting the skilled trades push!

Week in Review: PHCC CONNECT, Legionella, Women in Construction, Skilled Trades

A plumbing apprentice contestant.

• To start the week, the Hub’s John Mesenbrink was in Boston for the 2nd Healthcare Symposium, hosted by Watts Water Technologies. The day was packed with critical information on the topic of opportunistic pathogens in water, especially Legionella. Shatha Salah, Environmental Manager at UAB Medicine, talked about the journey from recovering from a Legionella outbreak to developing a Water Safety Plan. Her experience includes four years of managing and implementing the ASHRAE 188 compliant water safety program that covers 19 healthcare buildings. “It’s important to get plumbers involved in a water safety plan since they are on the “front lines.” “The plumber’s role is important in protecting patients from water borne illnesses,” said Salah.

Week in Review: PHCC CONNECT, Legionella, Women in Construction, Skilled Trades

Shatha Salah

Other keynotes highlighted were Frank Sidari, Chief Consulting Engineer, Special Pathogens Lab, who cited a NASEM report that states, “Stronger policies are needed to protect the public against Legionnaires’ Disease.” Why the heck do cases continue to rise?

Dr. William Rhoads, Research Scientist, Va. Tech, touched on the idea of unintended consequences, when he said that sustainability in buildings may increase water age, which is the Distribution System Water Age + Premise Plumbing System Water Age, which can lead to more waterborne pathogens.

Finally, the Symposium featured Aaron Bock, PE, Plumbing & Fire Protection Discipline Leader Cannon Design, who says it is imperative to “educate building owners during the design phase.”

What’s interesting in all of this is why not be proactive and create the water safety plan instead of reactive when the damage is already done? Lives are at stake, potential lawsuits loom, and the overall negative press your facility might endure after the fact. It’s worth the proper investment to help mitigate against potential harmful water borne pathogens.

Week in Review: PHCC CONNECT, Legionella, Women in Construction, Skilled Trades

A look inside Navien’s live fire training lab at their headquarters in Irvine, Calif.

• Mid-week, the Hub’s Eric Aune headed out to SoCal to visit our friends at Navien. The attendees had a great time learning about a couple new products coming soon from Navien and touring their headquarters training center. “Navien had us out this week to their North American headquarters in Irvine, Calif., for the unveiling of two new products. We can’t say much more than that yet but watch our site and social channels on Monday for what’s new in tankless,” says Aune.

They have some interesting new things up their sleeves, but we can’t tell you until next week. Evidently, tankless will never be the same. What a tease!

• From the awesome department, Friday, October 4 through Sunday, October 6, North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) successfully convened its ninth international Tradeswomen Build Nations Conference, the largest gathering of its kind in the world. More than 2800 tradeswomen representing 48 states and 10 provinces gathered in Minnesota to share experiences and best practices with fellow tradeswomen, to learn about new programs and opportunities in the industry, and to engage with top leaders from government, industry and the biggest fifteen international building trades unions.

The three-day conference, held over the weekend, featured a day of service with Haven House Ascension Place and Second Harvest Heartland, formal plenary sessions and over 25 workshops on a range of topics addressing unique and critical issues of tradeswomen.

Week in Review: PHCC CONNECT, Legionella, Women in Construction, Skilled Trades

Photo Credit: @UnitedSparkies

“This conference grows exponentially every year, and the impact is phenomenal,” said NABTU President Sean McGarvey. “NABTU is committed to empowering current and future tradeswomen as we increase opportunities for and retention rates of women in fulfilling union trade careers. Every day, we recruit more women into great union construction apprenticeships and careers, and these trailblazing tradeswomen are moving up in the top ranks of leadership. This conference is a celebration of these trailblazers and a testament to the growth of tradeswomen among our ranks.

Last Saturday afternoon, participants took to the streets of downtown Minneapolis for a parade and rally. The conference concluded on Sunday with a keynote speech by UA union International President Mark McManus and a panel on pathways to apprenticeship led by Arlene Dunn, Canada’s Building Trades Unions’ Director. For info, www.nabtu.org

• This week, AHR Expo announced its 2020 Innovation Award Winners. Danfoss, LG, Fresh-Aire IV were among some of the big winners. Check here for more, https://mechanical-hub.com/ahr-expo-announces-2020-innovation-award-winners/

• Finally, I’ve noticed a story shared on social media that is making headway. PBS shared a story titled, “After decades of pushing bachelor’s degrees, U.S. needs more tradespeople. (https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/decades-pushing-bachelors-degrees-u-s-needs-tradespeople?fbclid=IwAR3NVI0nFrF4hdrc0EItmmeqj7YcAur1eF4Ia9hxE9uv70LaPT9PviVLyjI).

We are delighted to see that more “mainstream” media types are giving this important issue the coverage it deserves. Good on them. But it also reminds me that we at Mechanical Hub have been preaching this for the past 10 years!

Here is something I wrote five years ago, which, I think, still holds water.

https://mechanical-hub.com/path-to-the-trades-starts-in-the-living-room/

So … continue to preach the good word of the trades!

An international fast food franchise with an inoperable gas “clamshell” griddle was forced to close early the day before. The manager who called the equipment service firm was panicked: the griddle had lost its flame and couldn’t be reignited. Their all-new commercial equipment wasn’t supposed to have problems like this! Already, managers had made frustrated Read more

An international fast food franchise with an inoperable gas “clamshell” griddle was forced to close early the day before. The manager who called the equipment service firm was panicked: the griddle had lost its flame and couldn’t be reignited. Their all-new commercial equipment wasn’t supposed to have problems like this!

Already, managers had made frustrated emails to the griddle’s manufacturer and sales rep who in turn reached out to Calgary, Alberta-based LDI Technical Services, Ltd. for help.

Commercial Kitchen Service Firm Tackles Challenges with New Diagnostic Technology, Calgary, Alberta-based LDI Technical Services, Ltd., gas metering

The service firm responded quickly, sending a technician known for his ability to troubleshoot. He soon found a vexing challenge: everything checked out fine; the griddle was working at the moment. They shouldn’t have a problem.

While LDI’s Senior Technician Ryan Marr was still on site looking further into the mystery, the griddle failed again, and couldn’t be reignited. He determined it was an intermittent building gas pressure issue of some sort.

“Marr texted me, as it was an early evening, after-hours call,” recalled service manager Bob Rogers. The 30-person firm (also with a shop in Edmonton), commissions and services commercial food service equipment.

Marr was one of Rogers’ best technicians; surely he’d have a resolution soon. An hour later, Marr was on the phone to say that it appeared to be a building gas pressure issue. They discussed their options, settling on a plan for Marr to recommend that the restaurant’s managers to call the gas utility, immediately.  Soon a utility trouble-shooter was on the way, yet his research merely dug them deeper into the mystery: pressure within the facility was optimal; no problem.

Commercial Kitchen Service Firm Tackles Challenges with New Diagnostic Technology, Calgary, Alberta-based LDI Technical Services, Ltd., gas meteringUnfortunately, that’s not what the restaurant’s managers wanted to hear. They were distressed to learn that two experts were mystified. Of course, they knew there was indeed a problem, and if it wasn’t solved they’d have no choice but to close the restaurant—again.

So, this was bad news. After all, the griddle was their kitchen’s crown jewel: burgers were their main offering.

Eventually, Marr and the gas utility tech left for home. The next day, Rogers got an urgent call during the lunch rush hour: the griddle’s down again!

It was a very fortunate coincidence for the restaurant that, a few hours earlier, Rogers received a package sent from Export, PA-based Dormont. In it was a hand-held diagnostic device—the FloPro™MD—a tool that allows technicians and installers to perform gas equipment start-ups, commissioning and maintenance with accuracy. The device quickly diagnoses gas pressure and flow for gas-burning appliances while logging data via Bluetooth connectivity.

Worthwhile tradeshow visit

(Rogers) LDI had purchased one of the tools a few weeks earlier. He’d sent three of his senior technicians to the NAFEM (North American Food Equipment Manufacturer’s) expo show in Orlando. They texted him from the show floor to say they’d seen and learned about the device from Watts sales pros at the show.

“Clearly, they were impressed with the tool’s capabilities and were excited about it,” recalled Rogers. “So I looked it up online while they were still in the manufacturer’s booth. It wasn’t long before I saw that it had exactly the capabilities we were looking for: fast, accurate diagnostics and to solve more challenging jobsite problems as well—so I placed an order immediately.”

Commercial Kitchen Service Firm Tackles Challenges with New Diagnostic Technology, Calgary, Alberta-based LDI Technical Services, Ltd., gas meteringWhen the package arrived, Rogers immediately reviewed the materials and an online video, then put it in his toolbag and told the dispatcher he and Marr would be at the restaurant that Marr visited the day before.

“Rather than sending a tech with a new tool, I was eager to see it perform personally,” said Rogers. “Besides, the restaurant’s call for help—now involving a problem that spanned two days—had already become an unusual challenge.”

“Sure enough,again: nothing was immediately apparent with the restaurant’s griddle,” said Rogers, recalling his visit to their location.

The Dormont FloPro-MD accurately provided gas pressure within, and outside the gas appliance, and flow available to the burners. With the device connected to the griddle, Rogers explained to the restaurant’s staff that he’d leave it there to monitor gas pressure conditions continuously—hoping that this target and identify the inconsistencies that eluded them previously.

“The tool’s capability to monitor conditions over time was invaluable,” continued Rogers. “Soon, I was receiving intel on my phone via the tool’s app— something that we’d never had before. Every 60 seconds, the tool measured all conditions.”

According to Rogers, there was no software to install, and everything worked just as promised. The Dormont diagnostics tool monitored gas pressure’s average, maximum and minimum. It also monitored gas flow within the appliance and—because the FloPro was also connected to the “suspect” gas line, he also received information about capacity (BTUs), based on pressure and flow.

Smoking gun

Another advantage to the tool was that, when Rogers received another call—with yet another problem to help solve, elsewhere, he could leave the tool to do its job.

“Within 3 or 4 hours, it was apparent that the utility’s pressure was . . . inconsistently inconsistent,so there was real value to the longer-term readings. It was no surprise to me that the griddle wasn’t working,” said Rogers.

Commercial Kitchen Service Firm Tackles Challenges with New Diagnostic Technology, Calgary, Alberta-based LDI Technical Services, Ltd., gas metering“I returned to the restaurant that evening after receiving another urgent call—the griddle was down again,” continued Rogers. “Of course, I also wanted to check data that the tool had developed during its monitoring.

“Data was revealing: I had to explain to managers that the griddle was functioning properly when it had sufficient gas pressure,” he added.  “Yet, they did indeed have an issue with utility—outside pressures were fluctuating erratically. There was no question the problem inside was coming from a problem outside. I provided them with the reports—which in essence became the smoking gun.”

Rogers said that, so armed, the restaurant’s managers were able to substantiate their claim to the utility. Fortunately, utility technicians were ordered to move swiftly to correct the problem.

“We now have two of the FloPro-MDs here at the shop with three more ordered so that, whenever a tech goes out on a call to commission, service or troubleshoot gas appliances, one is ready for use,” said Rogers. “It’s become one of my favorite tools. A FloPro connects quickly and is easy to use. With it, we can ‘be live’ readily with real-time data.”

Other functions, which the tool could have provided but Rogers didn’t need at the time, included barometric pressure and ambient temperature. More common use of the tool may be to diagnose an appliance’s incorrect burn, or combustion, or insufficient to gas flow.

The FloPro-MD generates easy-to-read data that can be uploaded to an iOS or Android smart phone or tablet via Bluetooth Connectivity (BTLE) and used to generate reports. By emailing those reports to the equipment manufacturer, or to a customer, technicians can clearly validate the performance of their customer’s equipment.

To learn more, visit https://go.dormont.com/flopromd.

 

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