A highly efficient, environmentally friendly and safe system should be the outcome of all condensing appliance installations. The system is made up of many components and all must work together to achieve the goal of providing the end user with the best possible system. A high efficiency condensing appliance by itself does not mean a Read more
A highly efficient, environmentally friendly and safe system should be the outcome of all condensing appliance installations. The system is made up of many components and all must work together to achieve the goal of providing the end user with the best possible system. A high efficiency condensing appliance by itself does not mean a highly efficient, environmentally friendly and safe system. The boiler, water heater or furnace must be installed as per manufacturer’s instructions then combustion performance must be tested, and controls properly set for that application. The system, which the appliance is connected to, must also be designed and installed properly. This may consist of proper pipe sizing, pump sizing, duct sizing and other considerations.
All condensing appliances produce condensate. A condensing appliance operating in full condensing mode will produce up to one gallon per hour for every 100,000 BTU/hour of input. This can total over 2,000 gallons of condensate in a heating season. Even more if there is a condensing water heater. This condensate is acidic and will have a pH of somewhere between 1.8 and 4.5. Any condensate below 5 to 5.5 can and will cause damage if not treated before disposal. The actual pH of the condensate from the appliance is dependent on several factors including but not limited to chemical makeup of the gas, proper adjustment of the combustion process and any contaminants in the combustion air.
When condensing boilers and furnaces were first introduced, they were oftentimes replacing old cast iron boilers and atmospheric furnaces that were vented into a chimney. Because the new appliance was direct vented, the old gas fired water heater with the 3” vent was now venting into an 8” plus masonry chimney. And we all know what happened then! That’s right, it rained inside of that chimney. The resulting condensate ate away the mortar, the bricks and the metal vent itself. So new codes were put in place to govern proper chimney venting to prevent damage from acidic condensate. The same acidic condensate that we make with condensing appliances by the way. And what happens?
Non treated condensate will damage and destroy cast iron, galvanized, copper and other types of metallic piping. If it is going into your septic system, then you run the risk of destroying the bacterial environment which is crucial to a properly operating septic system. If you are disposing of it into a public sewer system, then it is contributing to the potential damage and higher maintenance costs to that system including piping and the treatment facilities. If you are disposing of it directly to the ground it will kill plant life in the general area and put acidic liquid into the ground water.
Treating this condensate with a quality condensate neutralizer is an easy and effective way to avoid the above issues. A neutralizer should contain a proven high-quality media to provide effective neutralization. The media should consist of calcium carbonate and magnesium oxide. Marble chips from the big box store are not the answer. These marble chips work for a very short period. The reason for this is that while marble does contain some calcium carbonate, it is also made up of many other minerals which make it harder thereby reducing its neutralizing capacity. You should be able to easily visually inspect the neutralizer to determine if it needs recharging. The neutralizer should be easy to recharge. Most neutralizers should be recharged annually when the appliance receives its annual preventive maintenance service.
Let’s make this necessary accessory a part of every condensing appliance system.
Mike Bernasconi is VP, Technical Operations, Neutrasafe Corporation. For more info, www.neutrasafe.com.
This Northern California plumber’s tenacity matches the company name through hard work, perseverance and a willingness to learn and to keep getting better at her craft. Self-employed and co-owner of Bulldawg Plumbing, Red Bluff, Calif., Laura Nobert’s (@bulldawg_plumbing) real first experience in the trades was working for a few years in general construction with a Read more
This Northern California plumber’s tenacity matches the company name through hard work, perseverance and a willingness to learn and to keep getting better at her craft.
Self-employed and co-owner of Bulldawg Plumbing, Red Bluff, Calif., Laura Nobert’s (@bulldawg_plumbing) real first experience in the trades was working for a few years in general construction with a company that did remodeling in San Francisco. “That job introduced me to power tools, jackhammers, sheetrock, etc. I started as a laborer and grunt and absolutely loved the challenge, and found the work incredibly fulfilling,” says Nobert.
Although Nobert is a first-generation tradesperson, she credits family first. “I had a twin sister who always had my back and supported and encouraged me no matter what my endeavors, successes or setbacks.”
One such setback—an unfortunate incident a bit later in her foray into the trades—Nobert had an industrial accident where she fell from a significant height and landed directly on her head. “The doctors said it was a miracle I wasn’t dead or paralyzed, but I definitely was injured and was pretty much in bed for three years,” says Nobert.
Shortly after recovering, Nobert made neon signs and worked with hot glass, which was fulfilling, creatively. “But when I got the opportunity to try plumbing, I jumped at the chance, both boots in. Luckily, the idea of learning such a valuable and challenging trade TOTALLY eclipsed my lifelong ‘poop fear.’”
For the past eight years she’s been killing it as a plumber working mainly service work and drain cleaning. “I love the satisfaction that comes from solving a complex mystery or the feeling that comes with overcoming extreme physical challenges to get the job done,” says Nobert.
Yet, being a woman in the trades has its share of funny looks—from others. “When I knock on a door, I almost ALWAYS get met with confused or incredulous looks. Sometimes people blurt out stuff like, ‘Is the real plumber still in the van?’ Or: ‘You’re the WHAT?!’”
A real facet of working in a male-dominated industry, Nobert feels like she is under a higher level of scrutiny than male counterparts. “I’ve noticed that when I work with men, people will automatically talk to them first or make comments like: ‘Oh, is she your sidekick?’ Some will laugh at the idea of me crawling under a house, because they think it’s a joke. Oh, and I worry that if I ever need to find another job, seeing a female name on my resume might keep companies from considering me.”
Being a mentor or trailblazer for other women to follow in the trades, Nobert never really stopped and considered it. But perhaps she is already. “I guess I’m more of a one-on-one kind of person because I usually just focus individually on the people I come in contact with. Like when I work for women who seem interested in the trade/tools/mechanics, I try to explain things, show them how things work, how to do it themselves, etc. More often, I encounter women who are intimidated and scared by the whole process. Often, it’s just because no one has ever explained or showed them how things work, so the topic is just a big, scary mystery. I have a lot of compassion for those women, so I try to help them feel more secure by explaining things—showing them how to shut off water and gas supplies, clean aerators, etc. I always tell them they can call me if they have questions or are nervous about anything.”
And the best advice she can give anyone, “I would tell any person wanting to enter the trades that the desire to learn and the willingness to work hard and not give up are traits that really make a difference.”
That willingness to learn is so critical. “I know that blue collar work used to be kind of an embarrassing career and that tradespeople were considered uneducated but I feel as though shows like Dirty Jobs have really helped to elevate the trades to new levels in the United States. Social media accounts—like Mechanical Hub—are continuing to make great strides in promoting the trades and sharing the knowledge so that important progress continues. I think that encouraging pride and respect for the trades definitely increases its appeal,” says Nobert.
In fact, social media has had a great influence on Nobert (@bulldawg_plumbing). “I am so grateful I found this community on Instagram because it’s made a huge difference in my life and career as a plumber. It’s given me the opportunity to learn so much more than I ever would have without it—seeing what other people achieve inspires me to keep learning and trying to improve my skills and abilities. There are just so many talented tradespeople on Instagram. I love how supportive people are towards each other and how they are willing to share their knowledge so freely. It’s amazing to have a place to share this passion with other people.”
In closing, the last time Nobert said it was a great day? “I was probably crawling out from under a house, hanging out with my daughter, or playing with my son.”
Oh, and the name Bulldawg? “I’ve had two bulldogs in my life; they are an impressive breed. They never give up, even when they are in pain, and I really admire that kind of heart and tenacity,” says Nobert.
Jon Block, LH Block Electric Company, LLC, Bartlett, Ill., got the chance to get out of the shop and use the Milwaukee M18 FORCE LOGIC Knockout set (model #2677-23) out in the field with one of his foreman, Bruce, and an apprentice. “Bruce was super excited to try it out and couldn’t wait to use it. One Read more
Jon Block, LH Block Electric Company, LLC, Bartlett, Ill., got the chance to get out of the shop and use the Milwaukee M18 FORCE LOGIC Knockout set (model #2677-23) out in the field with one of his foreman, Bruce, and an apprentice.
“Bruce was super excited to try it out and couldn’t wait to use it. One of the first things we both loved about it was the punch and dies themselves. The cross lines on the MILWAUKEE EXACT die helped us get each punch exactly right and on the mark. We then began punching a series of 3/4”, 1”, and 2” holes and we both marveled at the ease and quickness of changing the punches back and forth,” says Block.
When using the old hydraulic knockout sets, someone always had to hold up the press and one guy would take off the die or punch. The press was always heavy and cumbersome and a hassle, and would leak hydraulic oil if not tightened properly. Granted, Block had one of its old trusty hydraulic knockout sets for 45 plus years and it did a great job for a very long time.
“My Father used this set when he was an apprentice so it’s had it fair share of use. My hope is that this new Milwaukee punch set will hold up just as well. It seems very well constructed and has that old school Milwaukee marketing slogan ‘Nothing but Heavy Duty’ feel to it,” says Block.
Punching knockouts is a one-person job now for LH Block. “We can do it from any position, which helps make it easier to use while up in the air or on a ladder. There are no hoses in the way to fumble around with.”
Overall, says Block, the tools performance itself was, for the most part, smooth as silk. “It took us a few seconds to get the trigger control down, but it was easy to adjust to. The dies are super sharp. I’m hoping that over time they’ll remain that way. I’m interested in how many holes we’d get in one battery, but we finished off 13 holes and it still had a full charge.
“My foreman is in love with this machine. Our apprentice, after very little instruction, was able to use it just as well. My guys always thought the best inventions in our trade was the Milwaukee M12 Bandsaw and the impacts. But I think they found a new favorite,” says Block.
Information from Milwaukee Tool
Our M18™ FORCE LOGIC™ 6 Ton Knockout Tool 1/2″-4″ Kit reduces the tedious steps of hole making, improving your speed and limiting your fatigue. This knockout punch tool is specifically designed to be the ideal mild steel punching tool. It is powerful enough to punch up to 4” holes in 14 gauge mild steel. It is also 40% lighter weight than other 6T knockouts available. The electrical knockout tool has a compact, right angle design that delivers you the best clearance in tight spaces. Our Quick Connect Alignment System provides you with easy set-up without the weight of the tool and speeds up repetitive punching. The tool is compatible with all our MILWAUKEE® EXACT™ punches and dies. The knockout dies are rated for both mild and stainless steel punching. Vivid red cross hairs provide you with accurate alignment and slug removal ports provide optimal slug removal. The gripping surface on the EXACT™ punches allows you to thread faster. The cordless 6-ton knockout tool delivers the Easiest Way to Punch.
Against the odds, Dan Foley rises above, displaying courage, strength and exemplary work through steadfast leadership. We are honored to name Dan Foley Mechanical Hub’s Person of the Year. When the calendar flipped to 2020, the new year was looking like one of the best years for Dan Foley, owner, Foley Mechanical, Inc. (FMI), Lorton Read more
Against the odds, Dan Foley rises above, displaying courage, strength and exemplary work through steadfast leadership. We are honored to name Dan Foley Mechanical Hub’s Person of the Year.
When the calendar flipped to 2020, the new year was looking like one of the best years for Dan Foley, owner, Foley Mechanical, Inc. (FMI), Lorton, Va. Until the nasty pandemic hit back in March, that is. “It was the worst medical experience in my life. I got it the first week of April. I have no idea how I contracted the virus. I am at job sites, supply houses and architect meetings every day. Over the course of a week, I am in contact with dozens of people. Obviously, I picked it up somewhere along the way,” says Foley.
Foley knew something wasn’t right with his body. “At first I felt a little funny but I did not feel sick. Then, extreme fatigue set in. I could not function. I would sleep 20 hours a day and was more tired when I woke up. I did not have a cough or high fever so I did not think I had Coronavirus, maybe just a bug or the flu. But think of it like this, I went 12 rounds with Mike Tyson and then got hit by a bus,” continues Foley.
A fairly rare acquaintance—Foley and the doctor visit—“I did a virtual appointment with my doctor and was instructed to go immediately to the emergency room where I tested positive for COVID-19, as well as pneumonia. Once admitted, my fever spiked twice to 103°F and I was in the hospital for seven days. When I was released, I was in bed for two weeks at home. I lost 30 lbs. over those three weeks, as I could not eat. At times, I felt like I was in a fog. Although it affected me mentally and physically, I slowly regained my strength,” says Foley.
Throughout this potentially perilous time, Foley’s employee Ron ran the ship. “He shut down for two weeks in April while he sorted everything out. Luckily, no one else in my company got sick,” recalls Foley.
Over time, Foley’s condition improved, and today he is back 100%. Back to record-breaking business months of June, and July is not far behind. It’s halfway through the year, and throughout all of it, Foley Mechanical is up for the year. “We were down in April and May, as clients understandably didn’t want anyone in their homes. June was a record month and July is shaping up to be the same. I believe it is a combination of pent-up demand, with more people staying at home and hot weather. When it is 65°F outside, there is no need for our service. When it is 95°F and humid, we worked out ways to service, repair and replace HVAC system while maintaining employee and customer safety,” says Foley.
And by customer safety, Foley stresses that they are following standard protocols—distancing, PPE (gloves, masks and shoe covers). Many of Foley’s service customers leave a basement door open for service techs. Customers can communicate by phone or Facetime so there is no direct interaction, and all billing is done through the office for the time being.
For Foley, he’s rested, ready to get back to work, Corona-free, with antibodies. Herd immunity, right? Not so fast, my friend. Pump the brakes, says Foley. “I thought the same—I’m home free now that I have antibodies. My doctor warned me that very little is known about the Coronavirus. It can evolve and mutate. He warned me to behave as if I never had it. I am following his direction. Respect the virus,” says Foley.
Getting Started in the Trades
Foley started out as summer help at Arlington Heating while he was in college. After he graduated in 1988 from Virginia Tech with a degree in Business Management, he went to work full time while he figured what he wanted to do. “Thirty-two years later, I’m still in the trade,” says Foley.
After spending fifteen years at Arlington Heating and A/C, Inc., rising to the position of Vice President, Foley left the company in April 2002 to start his own company – Foley Mechanical, Inc., an HVAC company specializing in steam/radiant/snowmelt/renewable/solar systems.
Foley currently serves on the executive board of ACCA national, and his local ACCP, the local chapter of ACCA, and has been a past board member of his local PHCC chapter. He is also a past President of the Radiant Panel Association. He is the current chairman of the ACCA Radiant & Hydronics Council. He holds Master HVAC and Master plumbing/gas fitting licenses in Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Maryland.
Foley’s perseverance, work ethic, and never-give-up attitude stems from his father, a retired Marine Corps colonel. “He taught me the values of hard work and persistence. Never quit, never give up,” says Foley.
Foley, while still learning the business and trade, attributes much to Woolye Croker, founder of Arlington Heating Co., and his bosses Tom and Linda Croker, who still have an influence on him to this day.
Other influences include Dan Holohan, who indoctrinated Foley on hydronics back in the early ’90s when he was strictly a forced-air guy. “He gave me the knowledge, encouragement and confidence to jump into the radiant and hydronics world.”
John Siegenthaler was very generous with his knowledge early on. Foley still uses design graphics and ideas he learned from him more than 25 years ago.
Mitchell Cropp, owner of Cropp-Metcalfe AC, and past chairman of ACCA, was very helpful sharing his business experience.
Skipper Joyce, founder of The Joyce Agency helped Foley open accounts with suppliers when he first started my company. “No one knew who I was but everyone knew Skipper. I was able to secure open accounts with several key suppliers on Skipper’s word alone.”
Last, and certainly not of least importance, Jeff Riley, owner of Coredron, and formerly with Thos. Somerville Co., has been a friend and supporter since the first day FMI opened for business, April 2002.
Foley truly loves his career in the trades. “I like the challenge of landing big projects and designing new mechanical systems. I like watching my crew bring my creation to life. And, I like working with the architect, GCs and owners to find creative solutions to problems. It is something new and different every day,” says Foley.
Foley is so dedicated to his craft and his business that finding balance between work and time spent away from the job can be challenging. “That is the hard part. There really is no balance, but I enjoy what I do. When I no longer enjoy it, I know it will be time for a change,” says Foley.
Yet, when asked the last time he had a great day? “Every morning! In all seriousness, I love what I do,” says Foley. “Aside from work, I last said that as I teed off for a round of golf with my father at Ford’s Colony Golf Club, Williamsburg, Va.”
By Justin LaRosa In today’s digital economy, catching the attention of potential customers is evolving faster than ever before. Up until roughly 10 years ago, there was nothing wrong with simply buying ad space in local newspapers, pennysavers, yellow pages, and calling it a day. In 2020, using traditional print advertising exclusively is no longer Read more
By Justin LaRosa
In today’s digital economy, catching the attention of potential customers is evolving faster than ever before. Up until roughly 10 years ago, there was nothing wrong with simply buying ad space in local newspapers, pennysavers, yellow pages, and calling it a day.
In 2020, using traditional print advertising exclusively is no longer a viable and cost-effective way to get the attention of new homeowners. The fastest growing segment of homeowners are millennials, who prefer to spend their free time on the internet and also use it to research products and services.
The New Kids on the Block
Internet companies are now the new dominant gatekeepers of information and entertainment for consumers, which means they are also the best place to advertise. Our number one favorite for plumbing advertising is Google, but there are definitely other valuable channels out there such as Facebook, Instagram, and Bing.
Setting a Goal
Before spending a single dollar, we recommend you define goals for your ad campaign. These pre- defined goals will help determine how you approach audience targeting and writing ad copy. The three major objectives to pick for a particular ad campaign are 1.) raising awareness, 2.) Influencing consideration for your services, or 3.) Driving sales.
Key performance indicators, also known as KPIs, are used to track the effectiveness of ad campaigns. Listed are particular KPIs you should focus in on broken out by advertising objective and the best platforms to run each campaign on.
Awareness: You should be tracking increases in website traffic & number of ad impressions. When you’re trying to raise awareness for your business, the goal is to get your brand in front of as many people as possible, regardless if they have shown intent to book your services.
Ideal channels for raising awareness: Google, Facebook, and Instagram
Influencing Consideration: Ideally with influencing consideration, you also want to see an increase in website traffic, but we also want to see how many unique pageviews visitors are viewing on your site. This shows visitors are educating themselves on your business and getting an idea of what services you offer.
Ideal Platforms for influencing consideration: Google, Facebook, and Bing
Driving Conversions: Driving conversions through an ad campaign takes a little more precision. Ideally, you have a proper website built with analytical capabilities that captures website visitors. Ultimately, the best indication of success in this type of ad campaign is consultations booked.
This collected data from your website can then be turned around and used to retarget those same website visitors on Facebook or through a Google display ad campaign. I’ll expand on the concept of ad retargeting more in part II.
Be sure to check out part II of this blog to find advice on choosing an ad channel, ad targeting, designing your ads, and tracking their effectiveness.
Targeting your Audience
Improper ad targeting can be extremely expensive and highly ineffective. These digital platforms are not going to coach you through how to properly target your ads. In fact, it’s in their best interest to have you unsure of how to properly run your ad campaign because it’s better business for them. Without a strategy you’ll end up spending more money with less results.
Although every ad channel is going to have a slightly different method for deciding who sees your ad, let’s dig into some basic principles for ad targeting.
Social Media Ads
Facebook and Instagram (if you didn’t know they are actually the same company!) offers three ways to target audiences.
Core Audiences—This traditional targeting option allows you to define an audience based on several criteria including age, gender, interests, job title, and even their behaviors on the platform and who they’re connected to.
Ideal objectives for core audiences: Raising awareness.
Lookalike Audiences—This option requires a data source of people you already know, like your current customers or previous website visitors. All you have to do is upload your external data, and Facebook targets your ad at people that shares important features/attributes. Lookalike audiences are a more sophisticated targeting option, as it requires you to have database of current customers available.
Ideal objectives for lookalike audiences: Raising awareness, influencing consideration
Custom Audiences—Targeting a custom audience is very similar to using a lookalike audience in the fact that you need an external data source, but with custom audiences you are directly targeting your current customers or past website visitors. There’s a good chance this audience already recognizes your
brand and has considered booking your services. This strategy allows for you to write more compelling ad copy as you know your audience is already familiar with your brand.
Ideal objectives for custom audiences: influencing consideration, driving conversions
Search Engine Ads
Advertising on search engines like Google and Yahoo! are personally my favorite channel to advertise home services. If executed properly, your ad is only shown to people that are interested in researching or hiring you.
To get your search ad campaign up and running, you first have to define what geographic locations your ad will be shown, and what keywords your ad will show up for. As an example, a high-intent keyword phrase for plumbing services would be “Plumbers near me.” Each keyword you select will have a different cost-per-click price associated with it. The CPC price based on the competitiveness for the keyword and the amount of intent that is expressed in the query.
The keyword “plumber” commands a high CPC price due to the number of advertisers that bid on this particular keyword. More niche keyword phrases like ‘plumbers that specialize in sink replacement in Rochester, NY’ will likely have a lower CPC based on the uniqueness of the search query. Additionally, the name of your main competitor would be considered a high-intent keyword as the searcher in this case is looking for a specific service provider.
As a starting point for keyword research, you can enter different keywords into Google Trends and once you are ready to create you ad campaign you will find better insights into keyword volume and CPC prices.
Google Local Service Ads
Although traditional search engine and social media ads are effective, there are several key advantages to advertising your plumbing services through a local Google service ad.
1.) You’re placed above traditional paid ads on the page. The top result slot on the Google search page is prime real estate that will drive more clicks and leads to your business.
2.) With local service ads you only pay Google for leads and not for clicks. Once a prospect clicks on your service ad, they are asked what type of service they are looking for. If you do not offer the specific job a prospect is seeking, then you aren’t charged. Be aware though, leads DO NOT mean booked customers. You will be responsible for following up with these leads yourself. We know home service business owners are always strapped for time, that’s why SureQue handles lead follow up and books more jobs and revenue for their customers.
3.) No keywords to manage. Service ads are automatically displayed for thousands of different queries that Google has already tagged as relevant. This means you don’t have to go through the tedious process of optimizing the keywords you are bidding on.
4.) Be included in voice search responses. Often times customers that are dealing with water damage or an urgent plumbing issue are going to ask a voice assistant to find them a plumber. These high intent voice queries only give users limited results so it’s important to have your company show up here.
5.) Highlight positive Google Reviews. Granted you have a solid repository of Google reviews built up, you can pick your favorite positive reviews to show up on the ad. If you feel like you are struggling to build up your online reputation, SureQue’s client communication hub can help you build credibility for your business in a short amount of time.
Note: Service ads are still only available in major metro areas, but advertising experts expect Google to roll these out to the rest of the United States by the end of 2020.
Writing Ad Copy
With each advertising objective comes a different approach to writing your advertisement.
Awareness: When trying to raise awareness, you should mainly focus on showing off your brand, contact information, certifications & credentials, along with a value proposition that sets you apart from your competition. With awareness-based ads I advise you to keep the copy high-level. The focus here is to get people to your website where they can take further action to get in touch with you.
Influencing Consideration: With search engine ads or lookalike audiences on Facebook, you can write more targeted ad copy that catches the attention of potential customers. Since you know these prospects have a higher likelihood of needing your service, you can get into more detail about the services you offer. I would suggest highlighting the services you struggle to get word of mouth referrals for, or your highest margin services.
Driving Conversions: Equipped with your website visitor data, you can write highly targeted ad copy that pulls prospects back into the specific pages they were looking at on your website. For example, if someone looked at your website page on bathroom remodeling, you can target them with an ad that showcases a testimonial from one of your bathroom remodeling clients.
Lastly, you’ll want to check back in frequently with your ad campaign dashboards to see how well your ads are doing. It’s very important to set up daily budget limits that you are comfortable with, or else you will see hundreds or even thousands of dollars spent in the blink of an eye (for reference, I recently ran an ad campaign for less than 30 minutes on LinkedIn and spent over 50 dollars).
If you don’t see your ad performing how you want it to, pause the campaign, rework the targeting and/or copy, and give it another go. You might find it takes several iterations before you see the results you want.
Time, skill and patience are all necessary to succeed in digital advertising. This guide should be viewed as a starting point for you on your journey towards running effective ad campaigns.