ProStaff Reviews

So, as the story goes, a sales rep out west who had spent decades selling a competitor’s plumbing products is hired by General Pipe Cleaners. After initial training, he returned to his territory with a smattering of cables, cutters and drain cleaning machines to get him started. The first time he demonstrated the Flexicore Cable Read more

So, as the story goes, a sales rep out west who had spent decades selling a competitor’s plumbing products is hired by General Pipe Cleaners. After initial training, he returned to his territory with a smattering of cables, cutters and drain cleaning machines to get him started.

The first time he demonstrated the Flexicore Cable, he called the company to complain that the pipe snake, “just didn’t feel right!” It felt “limp”, not “springy.”

As Dave Dunbar, National Sales Manager with General Pipe Cleaners explained, “the Flexicore engineering process has the effect of making the cable feel less springy than hollow cables.”

It took a few phone calls to get things straightened out with the rep, but then six months later, he was complaining that the cables lasted so much longer than his former brand’s that he was only selling a fraction of his previous replacement snakes. A small fraction.

It was this story that interested a few of our contractor friends. Why would it be springy? Is it really that stiff and is that a good thing? Would it really last longer?

Knowing General Pipe Cleaners would be at the WWETT Show this past spring, I introduced the General’s team to a few drain cleaning contractors that we are big fans of and have worked with in the past. It was my hope that we could create some valuable and interesting content based on the original story and the contractors having never used Flexicore.

It was soon after the show that we asked for them to send a few of their Flexicore cables to a few of our ProStaff team members to get their thoughts on the cable. They obliged and three drain cleaning pros were sent the cables to use on their existing cable machines, which for transparency, were all competitor drum machines.

As you may know, the Flexicore cable is the result of a process, where instead of coiling a hollow cable, they tightly wrap spring steel around a 49 strand aircraft quality wire rope. This provides the cable additional strength when it is under torque.

Each member of our team received a variety of Flexicore cables based on their typical daily drain cleaning challenges with the request to use them over a couple of months and provide feedback. The team of contractors included Felix Delgadillo, DrainGuys (Chicago), Terence Chan, Impetus Plumbing (Vancouver) and Jeff Keller, Bulldog Contractors (Texas), all are longtime drain cleaning professionals in their area of the country.

As expected, those daily challenges included providing both residential and commercial services, addressing clogged kitchen drains, clogged bathroom drains, clogged outdoor drains, and clogged sewer lines using today’s best technology to unclog lines to keep the water flowing.

While Keller, Chan and Delgadillo confirmed that this was the first time using the cable, Chan stated what all three mentioned, “I’ve never used the product but very excited to see what it can do.”

Chan went on to say, “Initially seeing the product, I was a bit leery how it may hold on to the heads, but it did, really well. In fact, I’ve had trouble with heads from a competitor and the Flexicore held.”

“The screws to hold on the head versus a snap lock is a nice addition,” said Keller.

One of the unique byproducts of the Flexicore process is that the cable stiffens and gets stronger under torque, which Delgadillo agreed, “the cable feels less springy and it does get quite stiff when the operator needs it the most.”

Keller continued, “it caught me off guard and took some getting used to. Most if not all drain cleaners/plumbers are used to listening to their machines and the feel of the strain on the cable to evaluate the blockage, so this was a bit different, but did a solid job.”

As discussed in the WWETT video, when a drain cleaning machine rotates a pipe snake down the drain and it hits a clog or stoppage, tension or torque builds up in the cable. Because of the direction the drum is turning, the reaction of the outer coil of spring steel is that it wants to contract due to the tension. However, because the wire rope is in the way, the only thing that it can do is tighten, which makes it stiffer and stronger and the cable much less likely to kink or break when in use.

Chan concluded, “I would recommend this to peers in the field as it got the job done. I’m curious to see the long-term difference versus some of the cables we typically use and recommend everyone make sure they have the cable sizes they need for their machines.”

We second that Terence! Be sure to size your cables correctly so it all works perfectly.

While the contractors are still using the cables in the field, it was a unanimous decision that more time in the field was needed to truly understand the value of Flexicore cables and how it holds up long term versus other options.

We will continue to check in with the team to provide updates later in the year.

Contractor Bios:

Felix Delgadillo – He has been in the plumbing trades for over 15 years. Most of his experience has been in remodels & new construction for both commercial and residential. He is passionate about new construction and wanted to expand professionally to the service side. In 2019 he started his second company, Drain Guys, LLC. Drain Guys specializes in commercial and residential sewer cleaning, camera inspections & locating.

IG: www.instagram.com/drainguyschicago

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Drainguyschicago

 

Terence Chan – He is a plumbing, heating and gas contractor out of Vancouver, BC, Canada. His company is Impetus Plumbing and Heating. Impetus stands for a force that makes something happen, which stands for everything their name defines them to be.  We make everything happen and will never say no to any job. This company wants to be seen as the next up and coming generation that will make a difference and disturb the status quo in the current trade.

IG: www.instagram.com/impetuspandh

Facebook: www.facebook.com/impetuspandh

 

Jeff Keller – Bulldog Contractors allows him to work alongside his father Carl and other Bulldog team members. For over 35 years, Bulldog Contractors have brought areas of Northeast Texas first class plumbing and septic service, experience, and quality work with exceptional results. They are committed to exceed the expectations of our customers with quality service and expertise on every project we do. With a lot of repeat business, they have built long-term & trusting relationships over the years.

IG: www.instagram.com/jkeller1.0

Facebook: www.facebook.com/builditlikebulldog

The Hub's Eric Aune holding the NFC boiler heat exchanger

The Navien NFC (Navien Firetube Combi) boiler is one heck of a performer for a combi-boiler. I have made a list of details I would recommend changing, I’ll list them below. This is the only combi that I have exeperience with that will handle any typical three bathroom home. The DHW production is very impressive Read more

The Navien NFC (Navien Firetube Combi) boiler is one heck of a performer for a combi-boiler. I have made a list of details I would recommend changing, I’ll list them below. This is the only combi that I have exeperience with that will handle any typical three bathroom home. The DHW production is very impressive.

This model combi has a modular piping arrangement that is removable for service if needed which is a huge improvement over the previous model NCB boiler (they’re going that route with the new NPE and NCB in 2020).

Navien NFC Firetube Heat ExchangerNavien designed and manufacturers the all stainless steel heat exchanger in house, this isn’t common of most boiler manufacturers. Having complete control over all aspects of the boiler is what tends to set companies apart from others. In this case its too early to tell if they’ve got an advantage here since the new boiler and Combi have only been on the market for less than two years.

The control for the NFC [and NFB] boiler is the first we have seen from Navien with a plain English line-by-line display. A huge step forward when compared to previous code display models.

Packaging

Navien decided to go a new route with the NFC, something we haven’t seen from them in the past. Included with the NFC is a laundry list of additional components. First and foremost would be the stainless steel low-loss header designed specifically for the NFC [and NFB], its manufactured in house by Navien.

Additional components in the box include a “Naviclean” magnetic filter made by Adey and a universal temperature sensor that can be used on the supply or return system piping; parameters within the control allow for the choice of placement and control function if installed. Add to this you’ll find the usual parts like a pressure relief valve, outdoor sensor and even a 1″ iso valve kit with unions for the heating supply & return. An impressive accessory package to say the least.

Of course all these accessories add to the cost of the Combi. When added up individually the additional components would likely cost more than $1300, you can expect the contractor cost of a NFC 175 to price out about $1K more than the previous Combi (NCB), of course every market is different and discounts vary so your best bet would be to contact your supplier for current pricing.

Models

The Navien Firetube Combi (NFC) is available in two sizes, NFC 175 & NFC 200, the differentiating factor is the space heating capacity.

Specs:

NFC 175 – 18,000-175,000 Btu heating, 18,000-199,900 Btu DHW

NFC 200- 18,000-199,900 Btu heating, 18,000-199,900 Btu DHW

Both Combi units offer control and power of en external DHW circulator and up to 3 zones of heating control [pumps or zone valves] built in to the internal control and control board. This is a smart move by Navien in my opinion that will save contractors working in single or [up to] three zone systems to save on additional component costs. Outdoor reset is standard.

Now the wish list:

1: Include a tankless service valve kit. This is a premium combi at a premium price, the cost for the add by navien would be about $25-35 and when passed thru the channels probably an add on of $50-60 for us. Having to order or stock a separate item for install is higher cost and can delay projects. Just include it in the box, I don’t want to deal with this, I have too many other parts and pieces I need to worry about.

2: Package the accessory box separate or attach the outer box to the skid because the straps don’t hold the outter box secure and you definitely DO NOT want to unpackage anything until it’s in the room you’re installing it.

3: Add a 1/2” tapping on the front of the LLH that is included with the boiler. A low point drain is needed and that header is already long, add adapters to size down from 1-1/2” connections. I would use this 1/2” tapping for a drain, could be used for a tridicator gauge. Either way it would save me about $20 and time. This add on would not effect the LLH packaging.

4: Get rid of the dip switches. Integrate those settings into the control. They’re annoying and I’m nearly certain most installers don’t touch them.

5: Put a wire diagram, large print, on the inside of the boiler cover. The labeling at each terminal is extremely small, numbers would be better, but a large print schematic would be best.

Summary

I want to go on record by saying my wishlist is not a dig on Navien or their engineers. The quality and functionality of the NFC places it in the premium boiler category in my opinion but like any other equipment I have installed throughout the years I will find ways I think it could be improved. I wouldn’t focus on the list, my intention is Navien may consider it as feedback, none of the items on that list will keep me from buying another unit and installing it in my costomer’s home because I certainly will install more in the future. To me, that’s a true testament to the product’s design. Hope this helps.

AHR Expo “Best In Show” See Eric’s picks from the show!

 

This is it! The big giveaway I’ve been hinting at for a while over on our Instagram page. This is the only place you can enter the giveaway so watch the entire video for details on how to enter! Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for exciting new, regular content planned for 2020 Read more

This is it! The big giveaway I’ve been hinting at for a while over on our Instagram page. This is the only place you can enter the giveaway so watch the entire video for details on how to enter!

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for exciting new, regular content planned for 2020! You can find us at MechanicalhubTV

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Viega Rapid Grid

Viega Rapid Grid A recent radiant floor install was the perfect opportunity to try out the high impact polystyrene foam board system for my first time. Rapid Grid is a 2’x4′ interlocking foam board system with raised knobs that hold 3/8″-5/8″ PEX tubing with minimal use of staples or the need for wire tying to Read more

Viega Rapid Grid

A recent radiant floor install was the perfect opportunity to try out the high impact polystyrene foam board system for my first time. Rapid Grid is a 2’x4′ interlocking foam board system with raised knobs that hold 3/8″-5/8″ PEX tubing with minimal use of staples or the need for wire tying to grid work.

Typically my radiant floor installs consist of using 2-1/2″ foam board staples to attach 1/2″ oxygen barrier tubing directly to 2″-25psi 4’x8′ foam board insulation. Normally the insulation is installed by the general contractor or another sub but I have done it many times so installing the Rapid Grid was useful for comparison purposes.

Our building code requires a vapor barrier, regardless of the insulation system used but the typical 4’x8′ foam board also requires a poly seam tape coverage on all joints. That’s the main difference I took away from the actual laying of the Rapid Grid. The Rapid Grid has a directional tongue and groove type of system that joins each piece to another. This overlapping joint system negates the need for sealing the seams and also holds the insulation together well.

I did go over each loop and staple where I felt needed, especially on each loop end. Staples are not entirely eliminated but mostly due to the memory in coiled PEX tubing. The tubing is held very well withing the Rapid Grid knobs however its not perfect. Watch close in the video and you’ll see very brief spots where I stapled in between loop runs.

Costs

In the end, after a cost comparison using current pricing available for 4’x8′ 25psi foam insulation board and my current pricing from a local supplier, Rapid Grid is higher price per sq. ft.

My thoughts

Given the labor savings, this system was installed in just over 3.5 hours verses an average 4.5-5 hours of my typical installs this size, I can see the Rapid Grid being competitive when typical foam board market pricing is elevated. This floor is just under 3K sq ft, smaller projects like slab on grade additions could be an excellent application.

Hilti’s newest laser entry into the cordless layout and measurement category comes with proven tech in a robust package. There is no shortage of line lasers on the market today. The PM 30-MG cordless multi-line laser from Hilti is 360 degree green beam laser powered by their Li-Ion B 12/2.6 battery. I have been working Read more

Hilti’s newest laser entry into the cordless layout and measurement category comes with proven tech in a robust package.

There is no shortage of line lasers on the market today. The PM 30-MG cordless multi-line laser from Hilti is 360 degree green beam laser powered by their Li-Ion B 12/2.6 battery.

I have been working with the PM 30 Hilti laser for a couple months, primarily using it for simple layout and leveling in different tasks like panel radiator installs or boiler piping layouts. I’ve used both the included wall mount bracket and magnetic base. The PM 30-MG has a very useful fine adjustment dial at the base that makes for quick alignment when rotated either direction.

Hilti PM-30MG radiator layout

Bracket alignment for hydronic panel radiators.

The Hilti PM 30-MG is intended for indoor use

Hilti has other laser models intended for outdoor use but as stated in the manual the PM 30-MG can be used outside if conditions are dry (manual pg 5, sec 3.2). Its intended use is to allow a single person to transfer right angles, level horizontally, carry out alignment work and plumb accurately.

The product has three green 360° laser lines, a reference point directed downward on the right-hand front of the measuring device, as well as four beam intersection points (front, back, left, right and above) with a range of approx. 65ft/20 m. Range depends on the brightness of ambient light.

How long will the battery last?

Runtime will vary based on laser projection. The ability to select plumb, level or cross-line (both plumb & level) beams depending on the job at hand will determine the battery life. Max operating time is published at 12 hours, I have used the PM 30-MG enough for one battery recharge but the bulk of my use has been in the cross-line mode. The selection of beam projection is easily done with a single button on the side of the laser housing.

Hilti PM 30-MGSelf-leveling or Locked

The Hilti PM 30-MG can be set to auto-level or locked for use of setting slope. This is done with the sliding power button on the side of the unit. In the locked position the leveling pendulum is fixed allowing for grade or slope projection on a horizontal plane. Moreover, the unlocked (most used mode) will allow the pendulum to self-level. If the laser is not able to self level the projected beam(s) will blink rapidly until corrected.

The tool complies with Laser Class 2 in accordance with IEC / EN 60825-1: 2014 and in accordance with CFR 21 Sec. 1040 (FDA). These devices can be used without further protective measures. Nevertheless, as with the sun, do not look directly into the light source. If you do inadvertently look into the laser beam, immediately close your eyes and move your head clear of the laser beam. Do not aim the laser beam at persons.

Finally, the Hilti PM 30-MG is backed by Hilti’s 20 year materials and workmanship, 2 year wear & tear coverage and 1 day turnaround in the repair center warranty. The Hilti PM 30-MG laser was shared with mechanical-hub.com ProStaff member Eric Aune via Hilti’s tool lease program free of charge and will be returned after use required for full tool review. You can find more info for this and other Hilti products and tools on their website: hilti.com

Job site pics of the Hilti PM 30-MG

Aligning and setting laser elevation with the Hilti PM 30-MG
Hilti PM 30-MG beam projection at 40 feet

With a intended max working range of 65ft the line stays crisp at 40 in shaded daylight.

Hilti PM 30-MG beam projection at 80 feet

Same conditions and site as the 40′ measurement, at 80 feet the line is getting much thicker and less crisp.

Hilti Cross-line laser Hilti PM 30-MG