Featured Articles

M, System M

Taco’s System M air-to-water heat pump is meeting the demand for higher efficiencies and the inevitability of beneficial electrification. Coming off the heels of its 2023 AHR Expo Innovation Award for Sustainable Solutions, Taco’s System M’s air-to-water heat pump system is making waves in the field as well. “You really want to come out with Read more

Taco’s System M air-to-water heat pump is meeting the demand for higher efficiencies and the inevitability of beneficial electrification.

Coming off the heels of its 2023 AHR Expo Innovation Award for Sustainable Solutions, Taco’s System M’s air-to-water heat pump system is making waves in the field as well. “You really want to come out with innovative products that provide enhanced value in the marketplace. The System M is just that—the award is a great validation for the entire Taco R&D team,” says Mark Chaffee, Vice President, Product Management, Taco.

Why did Taco, a leading manufacturer of high efficiency indoor heating, cooling, and plumbing comfort systems, dive into the heat pump market? “We saw the trends in electrification coming so we wanted to include hydronically-based heat pumps to our line of already reliable comfort systems products. The last thing we need is more distributed refrigerant systems, if we are going fossil-fuel free and non-CO2 producing equipment, why not do it with water—with a GWP of zero,” says Chaffee.

The System M outdoor unit

System M responds to increasing HVAC electrification trends while providing superior comfort, high efficiency and ease of installation. With just six pipe connections, the heat pump provides up to 44,000 BTUh, 3½ tons of cooling, and a max COP of more than four.

The technology is solar PV and smart grid ready, designed specifically for a low carbon society and built with the knowledge that water is the most efficient and natural energy transfer medium on the planet.

Rural Application

In a single-family, older brick farmhouse in Plainfield, a small town located in north central Vermont, the System M was piloted and installed in February 2020. Thanks to the ingenuity of Rick and Peter Lloyd of Lloyd Home Services, Emerson-Swan and Taco, another satisfied customer was converted to a non-fossil fuel powered heating and colling system with full PV integration.

But, because of Vermont’s extreme cold winter temperatures, the installation did not come without its challenges. “Here in Vermont, there are old homes with little to no insulation in many parts, such as this application before renovations. Though air sealing and spray foam upgrades were added to the home, the seasonal winter temps do offer challenges to heat pump systems holding comfort levels without a back-up or supplemental heat source,” says Rick Lloyd, service manager.

The mechanical room at the Vermont farmhouse

As was the case with Plainfield home, a homeowner’s insulation mistakes, and outdoor temperatures dipping to -20F for consecutive days, concern for supplemental heat was valid, and a back-up pellet boiler was part of the design. When the temperature outside dropped, the back-up pellet boiler kicked-in to provide a secondary natural source of heating. Balancing the two heat generation systems provided the ultimate efficiency throughout the year for a first of its kind fossil-fuel free instalation in Vermont.

There were some early assumptions on BTU heat loss for the historic building that turned out to not be true, says Lloyd. “The proper BTU heat loss survey and calculation in any high efficiency equipment upgrade is important, especially one where the hot and cold extremes are as wide as here in Vermont. As a company we strive to ensure any work—whether a system upgrade or a repair we do in association with heating or cooling—meets or exceeds the desired results,” says Lloyd.

Taco System M air-to-water heat pump, System M, air to water heat pump, heat pump, hydronics, plumbing, electrification, sustainability

Chester Birchwood (r), owner, HVAC KINGS LLC, stands with the homeowner next to the exterior System M unit.

Because this particular example featured extreme frigid temperatures and excessive summer heat inside the brick house, coupled with inconsistant insulation, the team didn’t realize how much harder we had to work on this particular project, recalls Lloyd. However, “the System M package is well engineered and designed and made to attach easily to system piping, and because this was a 2020 pilot program, this particular system was closely monitored by Taco, and they were able to do most adjustments to the system remotely through the app, as needed to dial in the optimal performance,” says Lloyd.

“I will tell you this, if we’re talking a newly-built or well-insulated, slab home, the System M is definitely the cat’s meow,” says Lloyd. And, says Lloyd, the homeowner is extremely satisfied with the cooling of the home in the summer months using a hydronic-based system.

Big Apple Installation

To the south, a homeowner in Brooklyn, N.Y.—who was an early adopter of sustainable practices—purchased an old home in 2019 and quickly began demo work to gut the home prior to what would become a thorough renovation—removing layers of linoleum and vinyl flooring, and essentially all plumbing and wiring. As the work progressed, they began to specify high-performance windows and ample blown-in cellulose insulation. The home included mostly radiant floors and some in-floor convectors for supplemental perimeter “hydro-air” heat.

Taco System M air-to-water heat pump, System M, air to water heat pump, heat pump, hydronics, plumbing, electrification, sustainability

The homeowner called many New York City-area HVAC companies; however they were reluctant to move beyond their comfort work zone, and none were quick to accept the request to install an air-to-water heat pump system, like the System M. Eventually, calls and referrals led to Chester Birchwood, owner, HVAC KINGS LLC, who ultimately became the installation engineer.

Birchwood, in addition to installing a 3.9 Kw solar PV array atop the home, also  installed the System M for cooling, heating and domestic hot water. “I’ve become a big fan of the System M, and its viability for residential installations nationwide,” says Birchwood.

The Efficient Choice

The System M technology is solar PV and smart grid ready, designed specifically for a low carbon society and built with the knowledge that water is the most efficient and natural energy transfer medium on the planet. “Water has a global warming potential of zero. The System M offers resiliency, higher efficiencies and lower long-term operating costs,” says Chaffee.

Taco System M air-to-water heat pump, System M, air to water heat pump, heat pump, hydronics, plumbing, electrification, sustainability

Chester Birchwood use an infrared camera to examine operation of the radiant floor system.

The outdoor portion of the heat pump (monobloc) features advanced inverter technology, a variable speed fan and quiet operation. The indoor HydroBox unit contains an integrated buffer tank, simplified wiring hub, user interface with smartphone app control, and a high-efficiency, dual-ECM pump piping module. The modular design provides turnkey functionality and reduces installation time. “This cuts installation time in half, and gives contractors more confidence that they can do it,” says Chaffee.

A Rolls Royce with a Veto Pro Pac tool bag in the trunk. Now that’s pretty drippy. For Moe Hirsch, Moes Consulting and Mechanical Services, Rockland County, N.Y., his bucket list item is a good representative mix of work and swaggy. Hirsch basically started off in the trades when he joined his cousins, who were plumbers Read more

Moe Hirsch, Moes CAMS, Moes Consulting and Mechanical Services, plumbing, heating, HVAC, hydronics, coolingA Rolls Royce with a Veto Pro Pac tool bag in the trunk. Now that’s pretty drippy. For Moe Hirsch, Moes Consulting and Mechanical Services, Rockland County, N.Y., his bucket list item is a good representative mix of work and swaggy.

Hirsch basically started off in the trades when he joined his cousins, who were plumbers, for a few days and he immediately loved the excitement. Eventually, when things began to slow down, “I went out on my own using the heating knowledge I had learned. I had the mentality that if someone was going to figure it out, it might as well be me.”

From there, Hirsch grew into a plumbing, heating and cooling company, and two years ago began distributing and installing Cummins generators. Currently, the company focuses on the mechanical trades but offers property services to its clients as well.

Moe Hirsch, Moes CAMS, Moes Consulting and Mechanical Services, plumbing, heating, HVAC, hydronics, cooling

Hirsch says he’s learned a lot from so many that narrowing it down would be impossible to credit everyone. Having said that, “The trade leaders for me were Dan Holohan, Mark Eatherton, Bob Hot Rod Rohr and John Siegenthaler. In the business world, Grant Cardone and Brandon Dawson have showed me what my true potential is. You really can learn something from everyone,” says Hirsch.

Moe Hirsch, Moes CAMS, Moes Consulting and Mechanical Services, plumbing, heating, HVAC, hydronics, cooling

In addition to meeting and helping so many people, another rewarding aspect of the trades is that it can be very profitable. And while you can be in the trenches working hands-on, says Hirsch, you can use your skills to be a great manager, assistant or other asset to a company. “It’s not all wrenching knowledge. Business to me is 33% knowing your trade, 33% knowing business management, fact finding and sales, and the other 33% is just being a genuine, kind person.”

Moe Hirsch, Moes CAMS, Moes Consulting and Mechanical Services, plumbing, heating, HVAC, hydronics, cooling

How can the PHVAC industry do a better job attracting people to the trades? Hirsch, you could say, practices what he preaches. As he prepares for every job, Hirsch makes sure he has his MacBook, latest smart phone, his personal CO detector and his loaded Veto bag, and says, “Make trades cool again; show kids the cool stuff. If they’re into muscle cars show them a tradesman driving his mustang to work. If they’re techy, show them someone performing a diagnostic using a computer.”

Moe Hirsch, Moes CAMS, Moes Consulting and Mechanical Services, plumbing, heating, HVAC, hydronics, coolingMoreover, social media, whose influence on young people can’t be denied, has opened many doors for tradespeople. “Social media is a free outlet to showcase your work—you can share your work, learn from others and link up with locals. Plus, social media can make the sale easier. The client feels they know you and is more willing put their trust in you,” says Hirsch.

As far as balancing work/leisure time, “I don’t balance them,” says Hirsch. “I try to do both to the max.” And that includes spending time with his wife and kids, training his new Golden Retriever, Marshmallow, and, of course, bumping into clients and seeing their happiness.

A Time to Rise

Monumental concerns in the industry—from supply chain issues and inflation concerns to electrification and decarbonization—challenge contractors and manufacturers alike to be ready to rise above the fray. On September 28, Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm, hit the Florida coast, leaving a trail of destruction, loss of life, and people without power, and a place Read more

Monumental concerns in the industry—from supply chain issues and inflation concerns to electrification and decarbonization—challenge contractors and manufacturers alike to be ready to rise above the fray.

On September 28, Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm, hit the Florida coast, leaving a trail of destruction, loss of life, and people without power, and a place to live. The following week, after the residual rains moved through the South Atlantic states, PHCC CONNECT attendees, exhibitors and staff were fortunate to convene in Charlotte, N.C. for the annual show.

One of the many bright spots during CONNECT was the annual Industry Perspective panel—back by popular demand—which featured some of the industry’s finest: Elisabeth Sutton, Director—Marketing, Professional Channel, Kitchen and Bath Americas, Kohler; Bruce Carnevale, President and CEO, Bradford White Corporation; Randy Roberts, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Rheem; Scott Teson, Senior Vice President of Skilled Trades, Milwaukee Tool; Jeff Fetters, Chairman, Federated Insurance Companies.

PHCC CONNECT, plumbing heating cooling contractors, plumbing, HVAC, Bradford White, Kohler, Rheem, Milwaukee Tool, Federated Insurance, heating, cooling

As I prepared for the panel, I would have been remiss if I didn’t mention those people still struggling in the Sunshine State. And the more I thought about what was happening in Florida, the more I could draw some symmetry of what has been plaguing our nation the past few years.

Things like supply chain. Are the right people getting what they need in Florida? Labor shortage. Do we have the manpower to provide assistance? Or, do we have the proper infrastructure in place? What about electrification? I mean, I had just seen a meme that said something like, “2.8 million people without power, time to fire up the Teslas.” Now that could be perceived as a bit naïve, but when you look at California, for instance—declaring no new gas cars sold in the state by 2035—concerns about adequate infrastructure are real.

PHCC CONNECT, plumbing heating cooling contractors, plumbing, HVAC, Bradford White, Kohler, Rheem, Milwaukee Tool, Federated Insurance, heating, cooling

It’s a good thing we had the right people on the panel to address such concerns. I learned that Federated Insurance sent “catastrophic teams” to Florida to help. “We needed to have boots on the ground as quickly as we could,” said Fetters. “Businesses need to have high expectations for employees to remain safe. Disasters can strike at any time. A risk management culture has to perpetuate through every single employee,” said Fetters.

As a side note, how can contractors prepare for such an event? “Make sure you sit down with an agent to see what it would cost to replace your business, and any personal property in the event of any potential catastrophe,” said Fetters.

Supply Chain Woes

Nonetheless, supply chain issues dominate conversation almost daily among working contractors. “We are still challenged by supply chain issues, and it has forced us as a company to better manage our supply chain. We do things differently now,” said Carnevale.

PHCC CONNECT, plumbing heating cooling contractors, plumbing, HVAC, Bradford White, Kohler, Rheem, Milwaukee Tool, Federated Insurance, heating, cooling

As a manufacturer, you’re never getting what you need from plastic resins overseas, nickel component slowing lines down to component issue challenges,” said Roberts. “This makes us be creative on managing supply chain.”

According to Sutton, “We see that luxury side of remodeling is still high. The thing impacting supply chain is that distributors are receiving more products, managing inventory for distributors.”

Investments in People/Training

Milwaukee Tool has made an $400 million investment in domestic manufacturing. “We want to control our own destiny,” said Teson. Yet, Teson pointed out that with more commercial construction projects on the books, how do we find the right people to support those jobs? “We need skilled tradesmen and women to support those efforts,” said Teson.

Sutton suggests that technology in products is a viable avenue to attract the younger generation. C’mon, who doesn’t like the way an impact driver or press tool feels in their hands?

PHCC CONNECT, plumbing heating cooling contractors, plumbing, HVAC, Bradford White, Kohler, Rheem, Milwaukee Tool, Federated Insurance, heating, cooling

Elisabeth Sutton

“We also need to attract people to the industry to show them how wonderful it is, and that should not be specific to one type of person,” said Sutton. “We need more diversity, not just one profile,” continued Sutton.

“This is a fantastic industry, and once people are a part of it, they stay,” said Roberts.

Yet, once in the building, how do we get people to stay? Training. “It has always been a critical part of what we do. We have been very flexible with our training—we will take it to customers and also bring them into our facility,” said Carnevale.

How do employees continue to get better year after year? The panel agreed that it’s about establishing a culture of training in your office. This gives employers a competitive advantage in keeping people and attracting people because they will be seen as investing in them.

Electrification is the Buzzword

According to Carnevale, topics surrounding electrification loom large. For example, will the infrastructure be in place to support the new products? How will the infrastructure build out in a very short time? This puts the consumer in a bad position and puts our national security at risk—i.e., supply chain issues and the country’s fragile relationship with China.

“Electrification and decarbonization, whether we like it or not, we need to be prepared. We have the products available,” said Roberts.

Government Regulations

Carnevale noted that he receives email relating to a regulatory issue almost daily. “The DoE is extremely active, and there’s a requirement that is in the foundational law that once the DOE sets a new minimum efficiency standard, it cannot go backward.”

PHCC CONNECT, plumbing heating cooling contractors, plumbing, HVAC, Bradford White, Kohler, Rheem, Milwaukee Tool, Federated Insurance, heating, cooling

The panel consisted of (from l to r): John Mesenbrink, moderator; Elisabeth Sutton, Kohler; Bruce Carnevale, Bradford White; Randy Roberts, Rheem; Scott Teson, Milwaukee Tool; Jeff Fetters, Federated Insurance.

According to Rheem’s Roberts, there is an “Install Date Standard for Air Conditioning Systems” looming and, “Contractors will be breaking the law if they install an AC system not rated to the new standard come January, 1 2023.” Efficiency standards dictate that sell through of existing systems will be allowed in the northern states if the product was manufactured prior to January 1, 2023. This is not the case in the South and Southwest. AC systems must comply with the 2023 federal minimums to be installed after January 1, 2023. Current Heat Pump systems can continue to be installed in all regions as long as they were manufactured before January 1.

And who is enforcing this, you may ask? “Contractors and distributors will be self-policing installations to make sure they meet the new standard. In addition, manufacturers cannot ship products that don’t meet the new standards or allow them to be registered for warranties if installed after January 1. A standard based on install date will ultimately create inventory challenges for everyone in the industry,” said Roberts.

That Dreaded ‘R’ Word

There are whispers of the “R” word and I don’t think it means that “relief” is on the way anytime soon. From inflation to fuel prices, contractors have faced economic hardships that may continue to linger into 2023, and beyond. “We’ve been bearish on the economy longer than the financial press has been,” says Carnevale. “It is pretty clear that we are in a recession. There have been some positive signs, the fed is getting aggressive, and we will see significant drop in housing market.”

Carnevale continued that he is concerned about the macro economy, even though there are some good signs. “Labor shortages continue to be a vexing problem, and we need to focus on the labor participation rate compared to pre-pandemic, meaning there are a lot of people who are choosing not to work,” said Carnevale.

Teson said that interest rates are the real threat. “We’re watching it very closely and trying to make decisions that will make us come out stronger than our competitors.”

Carnevale added that there is a very distinct demand for discretionary vs. non-discretionary products. In the end, “As the demand starts to soften, we are subject to the laws of supply and demand. It is not going got back to where it is pre-pandemic, but will see some softening on pricing.”

Roberts says that overall, we should see a correction. “How do you position yourself to come out stronger than you go into it?” That’s the question.

For more info, visit PHCC.

How Sam Wyatt with Protec Industrial uilized RLS press fittings to deliver high quality work, win more jobs and increase efficiency, profits. The knowledge of how to service, install and operate HVACR systems is a science. In theory, HVACR systems often rely on the similar basic components and fundamental concepts from one project to another Read more

How Sam Wyatt with Protec Industrial uilized RLS press fittings to deliver high quality work, win more jobs and increase efficiency, profits.

The knowledge of how to service, install and operate HVACR systems is a science. In theory, HVACR systems often rely on the similar basic components and fundamental concepts from one project to another. However, even an untrained eye will recognize that no two projects are identical. Some take an afternoon and others can take weeks or months depending on factors like project scope, location conditions, and crew size.

HVACR systems, HVAC, HVACR, Mitsubishi City Multi unit, RLS press fittings, plumbing, tools, Protec Industries, press fittings

That’s why understanding the science behind HVACR systems is only part of what makes contractors successful in this industry. To be prosperous, contractors need to master how to efficiently apply their technical knowhow to the unique circumstances of each job, and do so efficiently, which is undeniably an art. The best are always looking to work smarter, because minutes add up to hours and hours translate to dollars.

Sam Wyatt, a mechanical foreman at Protec Industrial in Asheville, North Carolina, knows this firsthand through his work on-site at a nearby liberal arts college in Brevard. The college enlisted the services of Protec Industrial to outfit two of its on-campus residence halls with air conditioning, when they previously relied on only a boiler and open windows for temperature control. Over the course of nearly five months, Wyatt and only one apprentice installed a Mitsubishi City Multi unit at each of the two buildings on custom, ground-level deck areas that could be later concealed by landscaping.

HVACR systems, HVAC, HVACR, Mitsubishi City Multi unit, RLS press fittings, plumbing, tools, Protec Industries

Over the course of nearly five months, Wyatt and only one apprentice installed a Mitsubishi City Multi unit at each of the two buildings on custom, ground-level deck areas that could be later concealed by landscaping.

Throughout the installation process, Wyatt turned to RLS press fittings to eliminate the need for the open flame, nitrogen gas, and fire protection that are unavoidable requirements for brazing line connections. A flameless installation was important for this project because the line set was to be installed in the dropped ceilings of each building, which only provided about twelve total inches of clearance—much of which was already occupied by other utility components.

“The fire considerations for this project were very significant and brazing would’ve posed a real challenge, even for the most experienced contractor,” Wyatt said. RLS press fittings allowed Wyatt and team to prep, press and establish reliable, mechanical connections in the lines with a quick press of a hand tool, saving him the time, effort and potential challenges that come with brazing in a confined space.

HVACR systems, HVAC, HVACR, Mitsubishi City Multi unit, RLS press fittings, plumbing, tools, Protec IndustriesThe time and efficiency advantages of RLS press fittings also played an important role in why Wyatt used them almost exclusively over brazing. The massive scope of this project included 1,300 feet of line that ranged from 1⁄4” up-to 1-1/8” and required over 300 line connections, which RLS press fittings helped him to accomplish with only the assistance of an apprentice.

“I am never going to braze again unless I absolutely need to,” said Wyatt. “RLS press fittings are faster and safer to install, but provide just as reliable of a connection as if it had been brazed. They are a gamechanger that have saved me countless hours of installation and fire prep.”

Press fittings from RLS allow Sam, his colleagues at Protec Industries, and other contractors nationwide get more done in less time, without compromising on installation quality. Learn more about how RLS can help improve the efficiency of your next job at press-fits.com.

The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) was pleased to have participated in the Plumbing and Heating event at WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition (WSC2022SE), Nov. 2-4 at GROHE Technikum in Lahr, Germany. The competition showcased national champions from 20 WorldSkills member countries. IAPMO CEO and World Plumbing Council (WPC) Deputy Chair Dave Read more

WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition, Plumbing, IAPMO, World Plumbing Council, WPC, WorldSkills, heating, HVACThe International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) was pleased to have participated in the Plumbing and Heating event at WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition (WSC2022SE), Nov. 2-4 at GROHE Technikum in Lahr, Germany. The competition showcased national champions from 20 WorldSkills member countries.

IAPMO CEO and World Plumbing Council (WPC) Deputy Chair Dave Viola relished the opportunity to present medals to the winning champions, concluding a thrilling three-day competition at the celebratory closing ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 5. Viola was joined by IAPMO Chief Administrative Officer and WPC Secretariat Gaby Davis, as well as IAPMO President David Gans and Vice President Steve Panelli, both experiencing a WorldSkills competition for the first time.

WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition, Plumbing, IAPMO, World Plumbing Council, WPC, WorldSkills, heating, HVAC

Plumbing and Heating competitor Florian Bliem of Austria captured the gold. Joint silver medals were awarded to Tom Pean of France and Marton Offner of Hungary, and the bronze medal was won by Tai-Yu Chen of Chinese Taipei.

WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition, Plumbing, IAPMO, World Plumbing Council, WPC, WorldSkills, heating, HVAC

Dave Viola

Indicative of the high standard of this year’s long-awaited, rescheduled competition, six additional entrants were awarded medallions for achieving a final assessment above WorldSkills’ benchmark for excellence: Sangyeop Kim (Korea), Saku Hurtig (Finland), Luca Herzog (Switzerland), Connor Cruden (United Kingdom), Fabian Grün (Germany), and Yuto Itahashi (Japan).

“What we are seeing today at WorldSkills is the best of the best, showcasing their skills and inspiring other people to do their best quality work,” Gans said. “We are looking at the future of plumbing, and plumbers. These are the young men and women who are going to take plumbing to the next level and help change the world.”

WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition, Plumbing, IAPMO, World Plumbing Council, WPC, WorldSkills, heating, HVAC

The event also showcased a new Plumbing Champions training activity, sponsored by the World Plumbing Council and delivered by the International Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Foundation (IWSH), charitable arm of The IAPMO Group. Three young students, accompanied by one mentor and one interpreter — all from Ukraine — were sponsored to participate in an educational workshop completing the same test project as was tackled in the WorldSkills competition, guided and supported by technical experts from IAPMO and GROHE.

WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition, Plumbing, IAPMO, World Plumbing Council, WPC, WorldSkills, heating, HVAC

Mayor of the city of Lahr Markus Ibert paid a special tribute to the Ukrainian group in his closing remarks.

“I would like to thank all participants who made this special event possible, and I wish you all the best for your ongoing life; success, and peace — especially to our guests from Ukraine. To you, to your families and your neighbors, have a good time, in peace, and with benefits, for a good life.”

The biennial WorldSkills international competition returns in September 2024, where it will be hosted in Lyon, France.

For more information about WorldSkills, visit https://worldskills.org/.