ProStaff Reviews

Looking to clean the messiest of jobsites? How about blowing leaves and cleaning the yard after a windy autumn day? Recently, we had ProStaffer, Jon Block, electrician, LH Block Electric Co., Inc., test out Milwaukee’s M18 FUEL Blower. New and improved from the original M18 jobsite blower, the M18 FUEL Blower—now with a variable speed Read More

An LH Block employee uses the M18 FUEL Blower to clean up debris at a jobsite.

Looking to clean the messiest of jobsites? How about blowing leaves and cleaning the yard after a windy autumn day? Recently, we had ProStaffer, Jon Block, electrician, LH Block Electric Co., Inc., test out Milwaukee’s M18 FUEL Blower. New and improved from the original M18 jobsite blower, the M18 FUEL Blower—now with a variable speed trigger—has the power to clear from 15 ft., generates up to 30% less noise than gas, and provides the longest, max CFM run-time.

Designed to meet landscape maintenance professional needs, and the needs of contractors with an untidy jobsite, the POWERSTATE™ Brushless Motor and REDLITHIUM™ HIGH DEMAND™ 9.0 Battery provide the best combination of power and run-time.”The 9.0 battery lasts long enough for most jobs, but when I used my smaller capacity battery, it runs down within a couple of minutes,” says Block.

The blower features a variable speed trigger for increased control.”The M18 FUEL Blower, it’s really nice. It has enough power to get most everyday jobs complete. I really like the selectable 2-speed control and the lock-on button. That helps so you don’t have to hold the button down,” says Block.

The ambidextrous cruise control allows the blower to be set to a desired power output, so the operating hand can be relaxed reducing fatigue.

Yet, according to Block, the downside of the blower is that it doesn’t have a lock-off button. “Whenever you are carrying it around—without operating it—your fingers and hands naturally go to the trigger causing it to turn on at inconvenient times. It seems like it always is turning on when I’m carrying it. I know it’s as easy as moving my hand back, but the grip isn’t large enough behind the trigger to have a place to hold it,” says Block.

Overall, Block likes the tool, “It sure beats lugging an extension cord around the yard/jobsite or mixing gas and oil in a gas-powered unit.”

Kit includes:
(1) M18 FUEL™ Blower (Tool Only) (2728-20)
(1) M18™ & M12™ Rapid Charger (48-59-1808)
(1) M18™ REDLITHIUM™ HIGH DEMAND™ 9.0 Battery Pack (48-11-1890)

In 1998, Jon Block joined the team at LH Block Electric. After serving his apprenticeship and acquiring his Chicago Supervising Electrician License, Jonathan brought his extreme work ethic and his many new innovative ideas to the company and currently serves as the job superintendent and chief estimator.

 

 

Eric Aune, Aune Plumbing LLC, Zimmerman, Minn.       Dan Foley, Foley Mechanical Inc., Lorton, Va.     Andy Mickelson, Mickelson Plumbing and Heating LLC, Missoula, Mont.     From across the PHCC Connect trade show floor, a new product offering recently caught the eye of our ProStaff team members. “I like to walk Read More

Eric Aune, Aune Plumbing LLC, Zimmerman, Minn.

 

 

 

Dan Foley, Foley Mechanical Inc., Lorton, Va.

 

 


Andy Mickelson, Mickelson Plumbing and Heating LLC, Missoula, Mont.

 

 

The Cross Manifolds with two primary zones: a garage and a partially finished basement.

From across the PHCC Connect trade show floor, a new product offering recently caught the eye of our ProStaff team members. “I like to walk trade shows as I need to physically see a new product before I can evaluate it. I need to touch it, pick it up, and examine it before I make a purchasing decision,” says Dan Foley.

The sparkle in Foley’s eye was the new Cross Manifold system, which combines a zone relay, manifold and zone valves in one compact, pre-wired package. “Any product that saves space, man-hours on the job site, and minimizes wiring gets my attention,” says Foley, whose company specialty is hydronic and radiant systems installations.

Big Sky Zoning

From almost entirely across the country, ProStaffer Andy Mickelson recently installed the Cross Manifold system on a job near Missoula, Mont. The Cross Manifolds were installed in a radiant floor system with two primary zones: a garage and a partially finished basement.

The project called for a simple electric boiler with one circulator feeding the two radiant manifolds. After receiving the manifolds, Mickelson was immediately intrigued with the packaging. Cross Manifold comes in what appears to be a plain cardboard box. On the inside is a well laid out divider that separates the smaller components from the manifold. The parts compartment features basic instructions, a plug-in 24 VAC transformer, the zone control, a pair of 1” NPT isolation valves with thermometers, drain and purge valves and a couple of spare O-rings.

Beyond the small parts divider is the manifold and actuator module. The manifolds come in 4-port thru 12-port configurations, with or without flow meter balancing valve assemblies. Mickelson ordered a 4-port and 6-port for our project, both with flow meter assemblies. When ordering the manifolds there is the option for 1/2” or 3/4” crimp PEX or 1/2” or 3/4” press–sweat adapters.

Installation of the manifold was a simple process, says Mickelson, who used 1/2” PEX adapters on the installation. “I have installed a number of manifolds that had poor threads on the adapter ports or on the isolation valve ports; this is not that type of manifold. Everything went together finger tight, at which time we then bumped them up with an end wrench. I was most impressed with the fit and finish of the sealing surface—not a single leak at the manifold,” says Mickelson.

Mickelson’s only complaint or suggestion was that he could not find anywhere in the manual where it indicated flow direction. It took playing with the flow indicator to figure out which was supply and which was return. The actuator module is attached with two thumb screws, one on each end. Something worth noting: All of the ports on the manifolds come with caps; the adapters are shipped loose. The advantage here is that any unused ports are already capped, no need to purchase additional components.

With all of the piping complete and the actuator mounted, we moved on to the wiring, continues Mickelson. The 24 VAC power supply is attached to the zone control module with two conductors. The thermostats are connected to the zone inputs along the bottom, which include “R”, “W” and “C” terminals. The “C” terminal being important these days, as nearly all Wi-Fi stats require a “C” terminal to operate the Wi-Fi radio properly.

The power draw on this manifold is quite low as the design allows only one circuit to be opening or closing at a time. In Mickelson’s installation, they had one thermostat controlling each manifold, so the circuits that we used had to have the “W” terminals jumped. The “SW Out” terminals provide a dry contact closure to initiate a call for heat to a boiler or other control. The control board also includes a 24 VAC output to operate pump relays or other pilot duty loads. This board has a 1.5 amp fuse holder built in.

“I would like to see an additional fuse included, as accidents do happen,” says Mickelson. The zone control does need to be mounted relatively close to the actuator module, as the two are connected with a Molex plug wiring harness. The harness is roughly 18” long.

Capitol Manifolds

Back in D.C., Foley had an 8-zone radiant heating project he needed to pipe and wire. Typically Foley would have piped a copper manifold, installed eight zone valves, and wired in two 4-zone relay panels. With the Cross Manifold System, the eight zones come pre-piped and pre-wired. The stainless steel manifold assembly is simply bolted to the wall and piped to the boiler. The radiant zones are tied in and the thermostats connected to the terminal strip. The zone valves are already wired.

Installation of the Cross Manifold from Foley Mechanical.

“The system was installed and started this past January. “Running nearly four months now, the system has performed flawlessly,” says Foley.

Foley had only one issue with the Cross Manifold, but it was self-inflicted: the installer over-tightened one of the connections causing it to crack. The instructions were clear: hand tight is sufficient. “Cross was kind enough to overnight a replacement fitting and we had it repaired the next day. Technical support was responsive and knowledgeable,” says Foley.

To the north, Minnesota’s Eric Aune installed a Cross system recently and offers some assembly and installation tips.

Unpacking and assembly:

  • One box contains everything needed for the install.
  • The instructions are simple illustrations, and if one has never used one of the manifolds, it can be a bit confusing for first-time users.
  • In the event that any of the loop connections are not needed on the model you order, it is shipped with plugs on every outlet.
  • The manifold is shipped with every outlet connection plugged; tubing adaptor fittings are included in the box.
  • If you order flow meters, those will have to be assembled onto the manifold as well, removing the stainless plugs in their place for assembly.
  • The whole kit includes the manifold, tubing adaptor fittings, motorized control box, zone control module and power supply cord.

Installation on the wall:

  • This manifold sticks out from the wall more than other manifolds on the market, so if it has to be concealed in a stud cavity, you’re not going to do that without a 2 x 8 at least, this needs to be known ahead of time.”
  • The manifold brackets are like all other standard brackets and position the manifolds offset from each other and from the wall.
  • Since the loop actuators are actually ball valves installed on every outlet there is no additional valve actuator to assemble onto the manifold; the motor carriage simply bolts onto the front of the manifold and connects to the zone control module.
  • The motor carriage connects to the control module with a prewired molex-type plug. “I would prefer this was about a foot longer because it requires the module to be placed rather close to the manifold but it makes for very easy and fast wiring, eliminating the need to spend an hour or two wiring each zone individually,” says Aune. This also eliminates the need to have control wiring in stock for this task.
  • The quality of the stainless steel threaded connections seems better than some others Aune has worked with in the past. Rubber gasket connections on these types of manifold often leak upon initial fill requiring adjustments and time; the Cross manifold had zero leaks on fill and startup.
  • Each individual ball valve on the loops is made from an engineered plastic that moves very freely and gives the first impression of excellent molding and fitment. “These are serviceable/replaceable parts, I will be ordering a few replacements to keep on the truck,” says Aune.

Overall Impressions

“Overall, I would say the time saved by not having to wire individual zone actuators is noteworthy,” says Aune. Although the product is well designed, continues Aune, some improvements to the information and ordering experience on the website could be made to speed that process up and increase confidence that you’re in fact ordering exactly what you need the first time.

“Of course, as you install more of these, that will be less of a factor,” says Aune. “I have one manifold in operation at this time and have already considered using more for either replacement or new installation as I am overall impressed with its performance.”

Foley see several advantages to the Cross Manifold system. No. 1: It’s a time saver—it saved time vs. field fabricating and field wiring. No. 2: Neatness and uniformity: The compact manifold saves wall space and looks professional. It also eliminates the variation of field technicians piping and wiring jobs differently. No. 3: Pre-wired—Low voltage wiring can be a challenge at times. This system is pre-wired from the factory minimizing wiring issues.

“I give the Cross Manifold two thumbs up and intend to use it on future projects,” says Foley.

Overall, Mickelson was very impressed at how quickly the manifold was mounted, piped and wired. “If we had been using multiple thermostats on each manifold it would have been exponentially quicker than wiring up tele-stats and zone control boxes. Once we got the boiler mounted and filled, start-up was a breeze, only requiring us to balance each circuit with the flow meter balancing valve,” says Mickelson.

The actuator is incredibly quiet during its operation, which only takes a few moments to open all of the valves. Once the operation is complete, the actuator module is at rest until the valves need to be closed. Interestingly, the actuator module actively monitors the valves to ensure that they are not moved out of position. If a valve for some reason is incorrect or manually moved, the module will correct that condition accordingly.

“Overall I am impressed with the installation, operation and quality of the manifolds,” says Mickelson. “I look forward to adding these manifolds to our arsenal of products to offer to our customers.”

For more information on the Cross Manifold System, www.crossmanifold.com.

Cross Manifolds are available through plumbing & heating wholesale distributors nationwide.

OSHA’s Crystalline Silica Standard will be in effect September 23, 2017. OSHA is issuing the standard to protect workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica in the construction industry in order to allow employers to tailor solutions to the specific conditions in their workplaces. The new standard has had tool manufacturers working overtime to engineer Read More

OSHA’s Crystalline Silica Standard will be in effect September 23, 2017. OSHA is issuing the standard to protect workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica in the construction industry in order to allow employers to tailor solutions to the specific conditions in their workplaces.

The new standard has had tool manufacturers working overtime to engineer tools and too attachments that will keep us productive while meeting the dust collection requirements. Here at The Hub we will be sharing reviews and information in the coming days and weeks leading up to September 23 date showing the various tools and attachments you might consider for your own compliance. Here is our first review:

Bosch HDC100 Dust Collection Attachment

Bosch knows concrete and the tools needed to work efficiently and effectively on the plumbing & hvac job site. Whether you’re working with a Bosch Bulldog rotary hammer or nearly any other modern rotary hammer of another brand this attachment is simple to install and use and is priced right in our opinion.

BoschHDC100We’re referring to the HDC100 as a “universal” attachment, though it’s not listed as such on Bosch’s website it will fit any modern rotary hammer with a barrel mounting neck for a standard auxiliary handle (see pic above).

The 1.5lb composite plastic dust collection attachment has a built-in depth stop with a maximum drilling depth of 4-3/4” and can handle SDS drill bits up to ¾” diameter, dry core drilling up to 3-1/8” diameter [when using the core bit adapter, included].

As seen in the video the HDC100 is very effective at collecting nearly 100% of the dust from the ½” holes drilled for the drop-in anchors, an extremely common task on any mechanical job site. The dust port can be hooked up to a 1-3/8-In. vacuum hose nozzle, or it can accommodate 1-1/4-In. or 2-In. nozzles when combined with an appropriate optional adapter.

It is important to note that the HDC100 alone is not all that is needed for compliance with the OSHA standard. The HDC100 must be connected to a HEPA rated dust collector vacuum that meets the minimum requirements of the Crystalline Silica Standard to be compliant. In the video we are using the Bosch GBH18V-26 18V EC Brushless 1 In. SDS-plus® Bulldog Rotary Hammer and Bosch VAC090A 9 Gallon Dust Extractor with Automatic Filter Clean.

We have done some online price searches and found that nearly all Bosch tool retailers are listing the HDC100 at $69-70 US, its available for purchase currently.

This is only one of many tools Bosch has engineered to meet the OSHA standard, please watch for reviews of additional tools soon here on mechanical-hub.com.

 

 

 

 

It’s been two months since I took delivery of the Dewalt DCE200 press tool and I’ve had the opportunity to put it to work on a handful of jobs now. This is a feature-packed tool unlike many on the market today. With capabilities of handling any and all press systems common in North America and Read More

DewaltPress4It’s been two months since I took delivery of the Dewalt DCE200 press tool and I’ve had the opportunity to put it to work on a handful of jobs now. This is a feature-packed tool unlike many on the market today. With capabilities of handling any and all press systems common in North America and Europe team Black & Yellow pulled out all the stops in engineering their first at what I’m guessing will be a team of press tools to come.

First off I’d like to cover the important specs.

  • Capable of pressing ½”-2” copper & stainless steel V-groove fittings
  • Compatible with competitor jaw sets for Iron Pipe [Mega-Press]
  • Compatible with competitor jaw sets for PEX press [Viega/Nibco]
  • 4-ton pressing force
  • Current online pricing searches average $1999.00

I first learned of this tool back in July/August of 2016 at the annual new tool event hosted by Dewalt. When I first put my hands on it I admit I was a little surprised of the physical size overall but after using it for both boiler and tankless water heater installations now I can honestly say the size of the tool has not proved to be an issue at all. Weighing in at 7.16lbs without a jaw it is lighter than other comparable tools common on the job today. Ergonomics may be a slightly different story and I do carry a bias toward in-line design press tools. This tool is front-end heavy, loaded with anything over 1″ jaws and it will not stand on it’s own. That may be partially due to the small footprint of the 20V battery or the handle angle and placement. Either way its a strain on the wrist and requires two hands to steady the tool most of the time.

Features

This pistol-grip press tool is packed with some new innovation to the market that should prove useful to many contractors working on commercial & residential projects alike. Notably, Dewalt’s proprietary software system Crimp Connect. This free software download allows the owner/user to connect the press tool via the onboard mini USB port providing ability to print detailed reports of the date, time, force, and successfully completed cycles of the presses completed by the tool as well as the tools calibration and service history.

DewaltPress2Located on the top rear of the tool you’ll find a somewhat familiar interactive panel where the tool’s power is controlled along with LED light indicators showing the successful completion of a single press, battery indicator, low & high temperature warnings. There’s even a “service required” indicator light telling the user that the tool has reached the cycle limitations.

While the power panel is not unique to press tools of this caliber, the Crimp connect feature is. An added feature I found interesting is the double trigger.

DewaltPress3The bottom trigger controls the start and completion of the press cycle. Dewalt went with a “manual” cycle operation here. You’ll need to depress the trigger completely for the duration to complete the press cycle. Cycle time is anywhere between 4-6 seconds depending on the diameter and type of material being pressed. The unique second trigger, the top trigger can be used to release the press cycle at any point. This is useful when a cycle has started but the operator decides [far various reasons] to stop the press. When pressed fully, the top trigger will release the pressure in the hydraulic cylinder and allow the ram to retract quickly. This would allow for repositioning of the tool or fitting when needed, potentially saving a fitting from incorrect attachment to the piping.

A shoulder strap and ring attachment point are included with the tool. Dewalt states in the manual that it should be used for transporting the tool on the jobsite. Some feedback I have received from other plumbers is the strap may be useful when working on a ladder, a situation that often lends to the possibility of dropping a tool like this….I’ve done that and it wasn’t pretty.

The tool is made in France but the jaw set is delivered to Dewalt from Germany. Dewalt is offering a 3 year limited warranty, 1 year service and 90 day money back guarantee. You’ll most likely have to order this tool from specialty tool suppliers offering the whole Dewalt lineup. You can also look to plumbing and mechanical supply houses for stock as well.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_b-m69_obcM I have to be honest. I don’t normally stand around in 4”-5” of water on the job. I do however walk through unplowed driveways, parking lots and through the rain while moving tools and equipment in and out of the truck so having dry feet is paramount to capping off a good day at Read More


I have to be honest. I don’t normally stand around in 4”-5” of water on the job. I do however walk through unplowed driveways, parking lots and through the rain while moving tools and equipment in and out of the truck so having dry feet is paramount to capping off a good day at work.

I’ve been wearing the KEEN Utility Pittsburgh boots for work [and play] for a couple months now and I’m impressed not only with the KEEN.DRY system but the comfort and support has surpassed my expectations. For those not familiar, the KEEN.DRY system is a proprietary waterproof membrane that lets vapor out without letting water in. I’d put it up against the major brand of waterproofing we’re all familiar with.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 11.35.07 AMThe support and protection built-in include full-length TPU stability plate providing forefoot flexibility and underfoot stability; when mated with the metatomical footbed design where an engineered arch support cradles your foot for all day comfort.

I’ve been a longtime wearer of natural leather upper boots so moving into a composite build boot of natural leather and cloth took a little getting used to. Boots like the Pittsburgh are slightly bulkier than the typical all-leather boot but that has more to do with the engineering in design for flexibility and durability. Rubber, cloth, nubuck leather all play a role in the upper build of the boot.

The soles are non-slip oil resistant rubber and provide aggressive traction on this model. I’m more accustomed to a less “off-road” tread but I haven’t found anything negative to say about the tread pattern; if I have any comments on the tread I’d say climbing my step ladder is where I most notice the aggressive pattern. Once in a while my foot will catch on the edge of a ladder rung where it may not have with a smoother, more typical work boot tread pattern.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 11.35.37 AMOverall I’m impressed with the KEEN Utility Pittsburgh boots. Material quality is very high, build quality as well. Comfort concerns went straight out the window after day one of wear and have not changed in the short time I’ve been putting them to work. I’ve got my eye on a few other models that may be a little closer to what I’m used to for style and features but, these being the most popular model in the US [in Canada they’re known as the Hamiltons] I’m not surprised based on the overall quality and design.

Click this link to visit KEEN’s site and see more about the Pittsburgh boots.