Industry Blogs

Similar to the way the rest of the world was impacted, employers and employees of the propane industry in Canada found that the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a tremendous disruption to normal working patters. As the numbers of new infections continue to decline in most regions across the country, there are still longer-term safety Read more

Similar to the way the rest of the world was impacted, employers and employees of the propane industry in Canada found that the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a tremendous disruption to normal working patters. As the numbers of new infections continue to decline in most regions across the country, there are still longer-term safety concerns – many of which also include social distancing policies – that will likely alter the way propane workers operate in the foreseeable future. Technological solutions can help overcome some of the most challenging aspects of resuming and maintaining normal operations.

For many employers, addressing the question of how to bring propane workers back to the job in a safe and healthy manner presents a tremendous challenge. Contactless and remote solutions may be ideal for propane work, as these platforms provide a way to still effectively get the propane to end users despite any challenges that may be encountered while also preventing unnecessary physical contact.

Contactless technologies have the unique capacity for propane workers out in the field – even those who are not fully trained yet and those who are not familiar with the details involved and the safety issues that can arise when transporting and filling propane tanks. They can use the platform to connect with experts in the home office to clarify any questions that may arise in the normal course of doing their duties. In addition to the safety benefits offered by reducing physical contact, you can also make sure that any employees can get immediate access to safety experts who can walk them through any hazardous situations that may be encountered when filling and transporting pressurized propane, such as a leak or threat of combustion. And while it may be tempting to think that the same functionality can be achieved through a standard video call, contactless technology offers so much more.

In addition to functionality that supports HD-quality video calls, these technologies feature a unique drawing tool that works directly on the live video feed to make clear notes on the live screen, to put a circle around the targeted area or to sketch an arrow to pinpoint the precise areas of concern. Taken together, these features empower employees in the field and those in the office to work closely together without physical proximity, but still in a way that ensures problems are identified and resolved quickly. Workers get correct answers immediately in a way that addresses the uncertainty that may arise from a standard video feed. This uncertainty poses a huge problem when safety concerns arise or may arise if one step in a process is completed incorrectly or ignored. Anyone working with propane on a regular basis understands that a safe situation can quickly change – and it’s worth having immediate contact and clear guidance on how to best remedy any safety threat that may emerge.

For example, contactless technologies can clarify any questions that arise while on the job site in real-time, ensuring that processes are followed correctly, and questions are answered quickly. During the transport and filling of propane tanks, questions often arise about the differences in tanks and how to correctly align any valves or hoses to ensure that the tank is filled properly. Additionally, workers may have questions when they encounter older tanks and fittings that may not be in great condition. When questions like this arise, the field workers can show his supervisor a live video stream of the area in question and then use a digital drawing tool on the actual video to circle or point to the exact connectors, hoses, valves, etc. needing to be addressed so they together ensure the propane is delivered safely. This type of immediate and clear communication can ensure that workplace conditions remain safe for employees, without losing productivity by waiting for clarification.

However, before jumping in and implementing any new communication platform, companies should proceed cautiously given security concerns – which became paramount during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many companies made quick changes to enable a remote workforce, but unfortunately, this led to many hacks and data breaches. Without proper security protocols in place, there is always the danger that a video meeting could be hacked, which can lead to a devastating data breach for contractors and construction companies working on highly sensitive projects.

While the promise of contactless solutions is great, it’s still vital to ensure that these platforms are deployed in a secure environment. Companies should take precautions to ensure they are only working with trusted and reputable industry experts that can identify potential security concerns and ensure they are addressed fully. This is the best way to protect your company from a costly and reputation-damaging data breach.

Shifting to new working environments will be a challenge for companies in the propane industry. The best way to ensure your continued success is by identifying tools and resources that can be implemented in a way that promotes remote working and social distancing policies. Contactless technology also has the added benefit of enhancing workplace safety, which is crucial in an industry that has the potential to be dangerous.

Contactless solutions will likely play a big role in the transformation of these industries, to both meet the immediate safety concerns that arose from COVID-19 and to address long-term safety goals of the industry. They can be highly effective at both ensuring work still gets done on pace with project timelines and that it gets done with expert oversight and the safety guidance necessary. Now is the time to prepare for the future and begin to explore ways that contactless solutions can address the unique needs of your company in its new working environment.

Larry Dorie, CEO and Co-Founder of RHUB Communications, creators of one of the most secure on-premise web conferencing and remote support tools for enterprise organizations.

 

While many service leaders believe that providing service is the core of their business, it isn’t what ultimately drives their business’s success. Senior service leaders quickly realize it is the ability to win more sales and improve profitability, or their overall financial position, that will ultimately decide the fate of their organization. Aligning a service Read more

While many service leaders believe that providing service is the core of their business, it isn’t what ultimately drives their business’s success. Senior service leaders quickly realize it is the ability to win more sales and improve profitability, or their overall financial position, that will ultimately decide the fate of their organization. Aligning a service organization behind these “non-service” objectives can be challenging, but service leaders who’ve successfully grown their businesses have mastered this complex balancing act.

From the operational efficiencies that can be gained in scheduling, dispatching, service operations, and payment processing, to marketing and lead generation, business analytics and customer communications, every aspect of a field service business can be seen through the lens of creating a better service business that also delivers greater financial return. What, then, is the unusual approach these successful leaders are taking, and how is it driving their success?

Digital transformation – is it worth your time?

Admittedly the talk of “digital transformation” is getting a bit wearisome. At its core it is about using technology to create seamless efficiency across an entire organization, and this message resonates with service personnel. They get it.  But the best digital leaders understand it should be thought of as much more if it is going to be worth it. It is the vehicle that allows people to connect with the business, both internally and externally. From appointment scheduling to payment processing, throughout the entire service lifecycle, employees must connect to each other and to customers. And most of these interactions must occur without human intervention so that only the potential problems are highlighted for personal attention. At the same time, digital transformation seen this way also allows business owners to more easily keep track of their teams, manage profitability, communicate effectively, intervene and make more informed business decisions. Just as easily, it expands to include winning new customers, generating online reviews, increasing digital presence, and managing leads.

To successfully transform, a company needs the right technology platform in place. And this technology allows field technicians and back office workers to work more efficiently within their processes, ultimately saving time and money, and creating a better experience for their customers. Service leaders can focus on gaining these operational improvements, but deep down they know that what they are really working on is enabling this much larger transformation in how people communicate.

Open lines of communication

Even before COVID-19 created the need for more distant interactions, the move towards timely and on-point, yet fully-automated customer interactions was underway. Driven by technology, the right field service solution opens the lines of communication not only between employee-to-employee or the technician to the back-office, but most importantly between a company and its customers. Especially with remote work, employees and customers need to stay updated on important information, and be able to easily contact one another.

For example, live notifications when employees arrive on location can help limit customer and field technician interaction in the wake of COVID-19. This improves the experience for customers, because today’s consumers prefer real-time updates from their service partners, while also making the technician’s job easier (and more in alignment with post-COVID expectations). Customers can also receive updates when a job is finished or get notified if there is a change in status, as well as leave reviews and be added to email communications during the time when they are not receiving a service. Opening the lines of communication from the company to field technicians to customers creates an exceptional customer experience, full of trust and transparency, and it also helps increase operational efficiency for the company. In the duality of this message, service leaders find a way to both gain employee support, while also moving their company forward with less fear of change.

The ability to maintain open communication also allows field technicians to easily access the right tools and information they need in order to better do their jobs while onsite. This could include job details, locations, contact information, and even notes on past related jobs, which can also help with cross sell and upsell opportunities. It also includes communication-oriented steps within customer interactions that include activities such as taking payment. Software solutions that have highly integrated payment capabilities create a win-win for both the organization and the customer by offering customers what they prefer (whether it be through credit card, card on file, eCheck, Google Pay, Apple Pay, etc.), while reducing the load on technicians, and speeding the movement of cash through the organization – something every executive cares about.

A better experience does have a hard ROI

According to a recent WorkWave survey of over 150 service companies, online reviews, word of mouth, and referrals from existing customers are the top three ways that these companies are winning new customers. And you can be sure that a customer that will not refer someone else to you, won’t return to you when they have their next service need. All of this relies on a customer having a good experience.

Errors made in the field cost companies far more than they understand. A lost invoice could result in the company never being paid, and never knowing it. And it can result in a frustrated technician that might carry that frustration into the next customer interaction. The right software solution can help reduce both human error in the field, and alert management when potential problem situations like this occur. Perhaps just as important, it makes the technician’s job easier. Technicians running rural routes in the midwest don’t want to carry around customer checks (and potentially lose them) any more than companies want to wait an extra week or two to deposit these checks into their business account. These seemingly small errors and inefficiencies can be prevented, and again, reinforce that the customer, the employees and the company can all win together.

An individual error might ruin the experience for one customer, but when added up they make or break a company – and as socialized as the importance of a good customer experience is these days, employees aren’t going to see it as potentially company-killing. Customers want a partner who keeps them updated not just on their services, but who also keeps them updated about the fact that they are updated. They want a company that runs efficiently and reliably, so that they feel they can trust them. At the heart of doing this effectively lies the right technology, but savvy service leaders know that they have to position technology as something that doesn’t just highlight errors, but helps prevent those errors by making individual employee jobs easier. The end result will be customers that are more likely to call back for another service, enter long-term contracts or make that all important referral.

The hidden ROI in employee satisfaction

One of the few times a client (an owner) completely surprised me in recent years, was when he said that the best thing he ever did to increase employee satisfaction and reduce technician turnover was to implement route optimization. We try to sell route optimization into every customer, not just because we sell software, but because it produces a greater overall ROI than almost any software component we sell.

Owners and executives love huge efficiency boosts, employees usually don’t. He explained that his technicians like providing service, and they hate driving, getting stuck in traffic, and criss-crossing back and forth across their territory day after day. Their frustration goes up and when they get a call to jump ship and go to a competitor they take it. Route optimization reduced this frustration for his employees. Behind the scenes it allowed them to do more of what they love, fixing and installing things, and less of what they didn’t – wasting time.

In today’s technician starved landscape, it isn’t only the customer experience that matters. Great leaders know the employee experience matters too. Tremendous focus has been applied to giving technicians the proper tools and technologies in order to be successful while they are onsite with customers. But the right technology can increase efficiency, while also building employee confidence and satisfaction, which is essential for retention and even recruiting. Simply put, a happier technician is also more likely to provide a better experience and go the extra mile for your customer – win, win, win.

Today, every service operation relies on a field service platform to drive their success. But it is the successful adoption of this technology that will help a company move beyond just thinking of operational efficiency as the key to its success – that technician effectiveness when on-site can yield more than just a better first time fix rate. The key to success at this next level is changing the way service leaders have long thought about service as the main driver of their company’s performance.

Today’s best service leaders understand that the right technology can prevent failure, provide critical information, prepare employees to answer questions, deliver services, and provide accurate, up-to-date information to customers. But it can also control, influence and monitor performance in a way that helps make each employee’s job easier, identifying top performance areas where you can help other employees to learn and improve. All of this can add up to employees who feel their company is investing in them and their abilities by providing tools necessary for the job and increasing efficiency, which has higher job satisfaction. And these great leaders also know that all of these things will add up to the bigger wins that the company needs to truly succeed.

About David F. Giannetto

David F. Giannetto serves as Chief Executive Officer of WorkWave, where he leads all aspects of Sales, Marketing, Customer Service and Success, Product Design and Engineering, Development and Technical Operations. David’s extensive experience across software-as-a-service (SaaS), cloud, service, performance management and emerging technology allows him to further align the WorkWave functions that touch customer needs in a strategic way. David is also a respected thought leader, published author, keynote speaker and frequent writer for national magazines. He authored two books, Big Social Mobile, How Digital Initiatives Can Reshape the Enterprise and Drive Business Results, and was co-author of The Performance Power Grid, The Proven Method to Create and Sustain Superior Organizational Performance. He was also a former columnist with UBusiness Review, Strictly Marketing Magazine and the American Management Association.

For years, the question posed in the title wasn’t heavily considered. Vented roofs were the standard, and unvented roofs were practically unheard of. Unvented roofs have become more popular in recent years for a wide variety of reasons, many of which we’ll examine in the body of the article. Before getting into the meat of Read more

For years, the question posed in the title wasn’t heavily considered. Vented roofs were the standard, and unvented roofs were practically unheard of. Unvented roofs have become more popular in recent years for a wide variety of reasons, many of which we’ll examine in the body of the article.

Before getting into the meat of things, it’s worth noting that “what is the best design?” never has a clean answer; if it did, things would be a lot less interesting. Instead, what we’re considering is the advantages of both roofing types given certain circumstances. In other words, vented roofs may well be the best design for one home, while an unvented roof will be a better solution for another home.

Vented Roofs

Vented roofs serve a number of different purposes and their roles vary from climate to climate. In colder climates, the main purpose of a vented roof is to keep the roof cold and reduce the formation of ice dams. A secondary goal is to vent moisture that infiltrates the attic from the conditioned home.  In warm climates, ventilation serves to reduce the cooling load of the rest of the building by reducing the impact of solar heating, though studies have shown this method isn’t as effective as we previously thought.

There are a couple of disadvantages to vented roofs; they tend to be more susceptible to certain hazards. Windstorms, for example, can cause vented soffits to collapse, creating excessive pressure which may lead to window blowout and roof loss.

Unvented Roofs

Unvented roofs have a number of advantages. Ventilation becomes more difficult the more complicated a roof’s construction is. As a result, unvented roofs have become popular in homes with feature-dense roofs – think multiple skylights, dormers, and other aesthetic flourishes.

The disadvantages of unvented roofs have, to a certain degree, been overstated – in hot climates, the extra heat gain from unvented roofs rarely exceeds a couple of degrees Celsius.

Moisture from the conditioned section of the building must be addressed when using an unvented model. Generally, this can be handled by employing moisture barriers during the construction process, effectively creating something of a self drying roof. The folks at Quik-Therm Insulation say you can employ permeable insulation because “a self-drying non-vented roof design is unattainable if the roof assembly can’t dry both inward and outward”.

Roofing and HVAC

There are a number of reasons why you might want to install ductwork and mechanical systems in the attic of a home, including aesthetic considerations and saving space. In light of this, it’s important to think about the difference between vented and unvented roofs and different HVAC configurations.

When ductwork and mechanical systems are located in the roof, an unvented roof is generally preferred. When the roof is vented, exfiltration from leaky ducts and air handling units is intensified, and infiltration from the external climate is accelerated by the change in pressure from air loss. This creates thermal penalties in both hot and cold climates. What’s more, heat leaking from ducts can melt snow and create ice dams, the prevention of which is one of the key reasons to employ vented roofs in the first place.

There is much debate about whether or not HVAC systems should ever be placed in the attic. Many modern green building principles rely on a completely sealed building envelope to avoid hot and cold spots caused by increased thermal transfer. The attic and roof can play an essential role in building envelope construction; sealing the roof off from the rest of the house can allow the creation of a highly insulated barrier to the conditioned areas of the home.

Should you opt to run ductwork or place mechanical systems in the attic, an unvented roof is best for avoiding thermal penalties as the ductwork will be located in a conditioned space, allowing the system to recover thermal losses through the ducts. As Provincial Heating points out, any weakness in your thermal envelope can cause problems: “Wood studs between sheets of insulating fiberglass, for example, have a lower R-value and thus reduce the R-value of the total system

What’s Best?

As you can see, the best type of roof is highly variable. Are you in a cold climate with an uncomplicated roof? Is your HVAC system entirely located within the conditioned area of your house, and you want to use your attic as a thermal barrier? Your best bet is likely to be a vented roof.

Are you in a warmer climate? Is your roof difficult to construct? Do you want to keep ducts and the like in your attic? You’re probably better off with an unvented roof.

Keep in mind that vented and unvented roofs are quite different; everything from the building materials you use to the type of insulation you’ll install will vary depending on what type of roof you opt to construct. When advising clients on their HVAC systems, it’s important to consider the type of roof they have as well as their overall building envelope. Optimally, this should all be done during the planning and construction stages, but for replacements and renovations, roof type needs to be kept in mind.

Authors Bio:  Kiara Fullam is a blogger and some of her favorite pieces can be found on Powertec Electric’s website.

As I sat watching the president’s recent press conference on the coronavirus, I listened to a health expert say that sunlight and humidity was a bad thing for this pesky virus. These two things can suppress and kill it. Earlier the same day, the governor of my fine state extended the stay-at-home order to the Read more

As I sat watching the president’s recent press conference on the coronavirus, I listened to a health expert say that sunlight and humidity was a bad thing for this pesky virus. These two things can suppress and kill it. Earlier the same day, the governor of my fine state extended the stay-at-home order to the end of May. I get confused easily, so stay at home but go outside? It’s not safe to be on a golf course or out with my family on a boat, but it’s okay to go shopping for flowers at a big box store with my family?

After weeks of hearing that masks were no deterrent to the virus, now the government is telling us that masks are a good thing. Where do we find these masks now? Most people I know are now making their own and wearing these self-made fabrics when out in groups. Social distancing up to 13 ft., wearing masks in public groups of six to 10 (i.e. supermarkets), proper handwashing, etc., are all effective ways to prevent the spread.

COVID-19, coronavirus, America's Paradox, essential workers, HVAC, plumbing, service technicians, social distancing, flattening the curve

But here’s the thing: After more than a month of being cooped up indoors, I could see this coming from a mile away—people are getting restless. Half want the country to gradually reopen, now. The other half wants to heed the advice of scientists. And there are those that still think this is a hoax, or not that big a deal as portrayed by the “fake media.” The early retort was, “Do you even know anyone that has this disease?” Actually, I do. A few neighbors and a good contractor friend of mine had it. He is healthy, and he said it kicked his ass for the better part of 10 days. He had never experienced an illness like that.

While I tire of hearing of “bending the curve” or “flattening the curve,” especially in my state where we still are hearing about thousands of new cases per day, from what I understand, the shelter in place order is really about keeping the hospitals from becoming inundated with incoming patients. But the “Why can’t the immune-compromised and elderly stay home and let those ‘healthy’ people return to their normal lives” discussions have dominated some circles. Yet the caution here is that people who have it can be asymptomatic for a few days before showing symptoms and could be carriers unknowingly. Again, the dilemma. What to do? What to do?

But, you see, we Americans can be spoiled. You can’t infringe upon our constitutional rights and civil liberties. I can’t say I completely disagree with this. The collapse of the U.S.—and global—economy could have more lasting detrimental effects on families, jobs and mental well-being.

Nevertheless, huge props go out to all of the healthcare workers, first responders, grocery store employees, all of those who still get after it daily. We work in an industry where tradespeople are considered essential, and they continue to go to work every day. Yet, most contractors and service techs tell me they don’t need the accolades, they just want to do their job, and do it well, and safely, of course. Some contractors are adjusting by wearing facial coverings—masks and eyewear—and practicing safe social distancing to keep themselves safe and give the customer peace of mind. Supply houses are adjusting protocols to offer curbside or parking lot pick-ups or letting a few people in the building at a time.

My hope is that we find a cure or some mixture of drug therapies that, if we contract the virus, there’s a very good chance we won’t die if we take the drugs. I’ve been reading success stories regarding plasma infusions that contain the corona antibody, an Ebola drug Remdesivir, and the malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine. All have shown promise in some cases, but potentially deadly—or with debilitating side effects—in others. Some of these controlled trials may take months to fully understand the efficacy, or to issue as an FDA-approved drug therapy.

And another thing. I keep hearing about not enough ventilators: Hospitals are running low on ventilators to help keep people alive. However, in a recent report, nearly all COVID-19 patients put on ventilators in New York’s largest health system died. In fact, a friend of mine recently wrote a piece from the University of Chicago that shows “remarkable” success using ventilator alternatives as a way to treat critical care patients. Something to think about. (https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/uchicago-medicine-doctors-see-truly-remarkable-success-using-ventilator-alternatives-to-treat-covid19)

All signs point to a vaccine as the only way to fully get past this. I recently saw a headline that read “Vaccine Coming Soon.” When I clicked on the story, it mentioned that the vaccine will be here by next spring. SOON?! There will be rioting in the streets if progress isn’t made as early as this summer—or at least opening up the economy in gated stages, which in some parts of the country are starting to implement.

How the world has changed over these past few months. So, where do we go from here? That’s the question we all have been asking ourselves. Information, misinformation, rumors, fake media, etc. all can play into education, and fear. I’ll continue to maintain safe and healthy procedures, heed the advice of people that know more than I do, and always support and commend those that are going above and beyond.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Boiler Flow Formula:

Q/(500*ΔT) = Flow

Q = DOE Heating Capacity

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

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

Now, back to the formula.

Q=88,000

ΔT = 15°F

88,000/(500 * 15) = Flow

88,000/7500 = 11.7 GPM

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

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

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

Ron can be reached at RBeck@usboiler.net