2012 November-December

Pump Technology Improvements Driven by Energy Efficiency When it comes to improvements in pump technology, energy efficiency is the name of the game. Today, manufacturers are designing pumping systems with components like variable-speed motors that improve efficiency and reduce operating costs, according to several experts interviewed by Perspective Media. For contractors, that means having new Read More

Pump Technology Improvements Driven by Energy Efficiency

When it comes to improvements in pump technology, energy efficiency is the name of the game. Today, manufacturers are designing pumping systems with components like variable-speed motors that improve efficiency and reduce operating costs, according to several experts interviewed by Perspective Media.

For contractors, that means having new options to discuss with homeowners and commercial customers considering remodeling projects, additions and new construction.  “You might want to explain to an end user that the new technology can result in 50 percent energy savings with perhaps a year’s payback period on that investment,” said Bob Reinmund, senior product specialist, Grundfos Pumps Corporation. “More often than not, the end user will opt for the new technology, which is easy to install and highly reliable as well.”

While the basics of centrifugal pump technology remain constant, new computer-aided design tools allow manufacturers to design energy-efficient pumps with tighter tolerances and less bypass flow around an impeller, according to Mark Handzel, director of building services marketing at Xylem Inc., Applied Water Systems. “The goal is to squeeze every possible ounce of efficiency out of the pumping system,” he said.

More efficient motors

In keeping with that objective, pump manufacturers are focusing on more efficient motor designs, such as bigger and better copper windings to minimize electrical losses. “We call it ‘wire to water’ because the goal is to transmit as much electrical power as possible to the water coming out of the pump,” said Handzel. Other advances include controls and software applications that adjust pump motor speeds to meet changes in demand. “Pumps are not smart on their own, so you have to provide feedback about increasing or decreasing the flow,” Handzel said.

Through these types of advancements, pumps are offering greater and greater efficiency in both residential and commercial applications, with the largest savings in high-volume environment like schools, hospitals and government buildings. “Instead of focusing on the purchase and installation cost, more users are paying more attention to energy efficiency,” Handzel said. “They are looking for systems that will deliver a better return on their investment.”

But achieving those desired savings requires that all elements of the system be designed to work in harmony. For instance, a hospital might require a pressure-boost package adapted to the pump requirements in order to ensure adequate water pressure in distant areas of the building.

“Many older commercial systems are designed with big pumps and pressure-reducing valves,” Handzel added. “That wastes a tremendous amount of energy. A much better solution today is to install a pump with a variable speed drive to match fluctuating demand. That can result in a great improvement in overall system efficiency.”

Reinmund says it’s also important to look at the boiler room as a whole in order to maximize efficiencies. “Boiler manufacturers had to meet a new efficiency standard this year, and the pump is the last part of that system,” he said. “Right now, several manufacturers are offering high-efficiency pumps that can lower overall energy consumption by at least 50 percent – even more if software is included.”

ECM technology

Residentially, the use of electrically commutated motor (ECM) technology is the most exciting pump technology development in recent years, according to Reinmund. “While new home construction is down, many owners are looking for more ways to lower their utility bills. “If I were a contractor, I’d say let’s go in and review the boiler room and see what we can do to reduce our energy costs. Look at the boiler and the pumps circulating the water. Often, this new ECM technology has a payback of just three to six months, and will certainly pay for itself in less than three years.

Hot water recirculation is another potential area of energy savings. “There are many products coming out that increase energy efficiency and hot water availability, along with water savings,” Reinmund said. “Why wait 15 seconds or a minute for hot water at your tap with that cold water going down the drain?”

Those savings could mount up quickly for a hotel, hospital or other institutional or commercial facility.  “With a hotel on a hot water loop, the pumps tend to be oversized to meet peak demands. “With ECM technology you can meet the peak demand and then slow down the pump, using only 50 to 60 percent of the electricity to supply demand the rest of the day. We as an industry need to think about how to do hot water circulation.”

Looking ahead, Reinmund says ECM technology will be the wave of the future. “It’s the only technology that meets the energy standards now being discussed,” he said. “The refrigeration guys have embraced ECM technology, and now it’s our turn. This technology is not intimidating, he added. “It’s designed for ease of installation and set up.”

Grinder pumps

Technology is also advancing in the grinder pump market, according to Randy Waldron, vice president, sales & marketing, Liberty Pumps. “A lot of older gravity septic systems are being replaced with centralized sewer systems,” he said. “Grinder pumps can be a good solution for these systems, providing difficult solids-handling in both residential and commercial applications. Newer designs have improved the cutting performance as well as pumping efficiency.”

Another consideration for contractors in a home remodeling or addition project is the inclusion of a macerating toilet. “This product allows for an easy bathroom addition when you don’t have gravity sewer lines,” said Waldron. “It macerates the solid waste and can pump it to an existing sewer line in the building. If the owner puts in a basement or addition, you can add a macerating toilet to the system and pump the waste water to an existing line, saving money and time on the project.”

Waldron adds that many pump manufacturers are now providing contractors with complete pumping systems, rather than having someone at the job site fabricate and assemble the basin, pump, control panel and other internal components. “Shipping the systems ‘job-ready’ saves time in the field and reduces errors,” he said, noting that factory-matched components also make it easier for the engineer to specify an appropriate system.  For commercial projects, pump manufacturers are adding building information modeling (BIM) capabilities that make it easier to “drop” the pumping system into the building design software, Waldron added.

Common errors

One of the most common errors in the pump technology sector is “over-designing” or “under-designing” the system, according to Handzel. The pump needs to be appropriately sized for the application, he added.

Waldron encourages contractors to talk to pump professionals to be sure the correct type and size of pump is used in a commercial or residential project.. “We have an 800 number with technicians who can help you size product, helping to eliminate problems down the road,” he said.

In the commercial sector, many building owners and operators hire a commissioning firm to be sure a new system is working as well as it should. “Since money spent on energy is a big part of the operating budget, owners want to be sure they have an efficient system,” Handzel said. “That means monitoring performance on an ongoing basis, since the weak link in the system can be the maintenance team.”

 

New energy standards

Looking to the future, Reinmund points to the growing importance of the federal Energy Independence and Security Act on the commercial segment of the market. “By setting specific energy standards, the act got the industry moving on new technology,” he said. “Energy efficiency has always been important, but it’s now a mandate in some areas. That leads to better technology, while reducing the carbon footprint and lowering energy costs and consumption.”

While the energy act didn’t impact residential applications, several federal agencies are now reviewing the fractional horsepower motor market. “I believe we will see ratings come out that will address these smaller motors,” Reinmund said. In that regard, the U.S. would be following the European Union (EU), which has a new energy mandate coming into effect in January 2013. “Europeans have had high energy costs for a long time,” Reinmund said. “They are always looking for ways to reduce their energy bills and tend to embrace new technology very quickly.”

 

 

Specialty Plumbing Fixtures – PATIENT CARE UNITS by Rich Grimes Specialty plumbing fixtures are common in healthcare patient rooms and combine a variety of plumbing fixtures in one nice package. There are quite a few features on Patient Care Units that allow for customization according to the end user’s needs. PATIENT CARE UNITS Patient Care Read More

Specialty Plumbing Fixtures – PATIENT CARE UNITS

by Rich Grimes

Specialty plumbing fixtures are common in healthcare patient rooms and combine a variety of plumbing fixtures in one nice package. There are quite a few features on Patient Care Units that allow for customization according to the end user’s needs.

PATIENT CARE UNITS

Patient Care Units are modular and feature a decorative cabinet. The plumbing is pre-piped for hot and cold water with integral lavatories and closets. The waste systems are also internally pre-piped for simple connection. Patient Care Units utilize compact stainless steel fixtures that are common to Securityware. Most of the manufacturers of Patient Care Units are also in the business of manufacturing combination securityware and other specialty stainless steel fixtures. The drawings and pictures provided are compliments of Willoughby Industries.

CABINET CONSTRUCTION

Patient care units are designed to be compact due to the nature of their use. They are typically used instead of a separate bathroom, such as in a hospital or nursing care facility. Rooms are not very big so a compact combination fixture can resolve the need for a separate bathroom or multiple fixtures.

Health care applications require the highest level of cleanliness and disinfection. Stainless steel is most often used for its inherent anti-microbial properties and physical strength. Over its lifetime, a patient care unit is subjected to all kinds of spills and splashes of waste, infectious disease, blood and other bodily fluids. Hundreds of patients will use a single hospital room in a year. It is important to look beneath the cabinet and to always specify a stainless steel inner framework. Units that use a wooden framework are subject to exposure to infectious diseases and promote microbial and fungal growth. Wood is porous and can be saturated so it is the perfect Petri dish. This is an important factor in design, selection and specification for a healthcare facility. You or one of your loved ones could be staying in that room!

SURFACES

Patient Care Units are available with a variety of cabinet finishes and countertop surfaces. Stainless steel and polymer are the most commonly used surfaces. Solid surface polymers are available in a variety of colors. They are non-porous with a very smooth finish that is easy to clean. Solid surfaces have rounded corners and edges for safety.

PLUMBING

The plumbing in Patient Care Units is unique and compact. Some popular models employ a swing-out elongated toilet that is concealed within the cabinet. They are constructed of stainless steel with siphon-jet operation. The fixture is flushed by a concealed flush valve within the cabinet and activated by a remote pushbutton. The design of a swing-out toilet does present a deflection challenge. For this reason, load bearing capacity is much greater than a standard fixture mounted on a carrier. These types of fixtures should be able to withstand loadings of 2000 pounds with no measurable deflection. The integrity of the swing-out trap and swivel assembly normally will determine how much of a load that a particular unit can handle before damage occurs. A locking lever allows the bowl to be locked into an open or closed position. A cabinet-mounted release handle can be also be used to operate the locking mechanism.

Lavatories and backsplashes are built into the countertop to create a single solid surface of polymer or stainless steel.

There are multiple options for colors, faucets, flush valves, grab bars, dialysis boxes, bedpan washers, foot pedal valves, toilet paper holders and more that can customize a unit to the specific needs of the application. Left and Right Hand arrangements allow the specifier to select the lavatory and toilet in different orientations and arrangements. Brushed stainless steel surfaces can also be powder-coated in various colors for a smooth, colored finish.

The swivel toilet is constructed with a 17″ high rim and available for use with a 1.6 gallon flush. There are many code-compliant options available for vacuum breakers, thermostatic mixing valves, P-traps and dialysis box drains, just to name a few.

SUMMARY

Patient Care Units must have high load ratings due to the fact that they are integral to the cabinet and anchored to the floor. The swivel bowl and trap assembly must be extra-heavy duty to be locked into and out of position with each use.

They are subjected to a highly infectious environment and must not promote any kind of fungus or microbe growth. The inner construction is as important as the outer. A stainless steel inner framework is essential to a long-lasting, heavy-duty unit that is most resistant to spills and sprays of germs and contaminants. It has to be capable of being properly cleaned with its high usage in a constantly contaminated environment.

Patient Care Units are used in many healthcare and hospital applications for their all-in-one design and small footprint. They are combination units that have a heavy duty design to stand up to their constant usage. They incorporate many useful features and built-in innovations.

Thanks and we’ll see you again soon.

Profit Potential for Plumbers By Dave Duren From Minneapolis to Miami, Vancouver to Newport News, the same questions from plumbers keep coming up and one of the most common is “How do I Sell a softener to a homeowner?” And I understand the need for help here. This “category” of the plumbing trade is NOT Read More

Profit Potential for Plumbers

By Dave Duren

From Minneapolis to Miami, Vancouver to Newport News, the same questions from plumbers keep coming up and one of the most common is “How do I Sell a softener to a homeowner?” And I understand the need for help here. This “category” of the plumbing trade is NOT your mainline bread and butter service area and may not have even crossed you mind before. Matter-of-fact, I bet a lot of you have NEVER had a call about “water quality” at your office. This is what I’d like to address here.

I had a great plumber from St. Paul and my local rep come into our offices yesterday and present me with some cool ideas about selling softeners. The contractor was a young man with his own company that he possibly purchased from a long time existing contractor. He was creative, innovative, and always looking to come up with new ways to PRESENT products to the homeowners. But the bottom line to the conversation was that it always begins when he starts “talking” about their issues. Maybe he is being called out for a standard boiler problem or clogged toilet but he leaps at the opportunity to head to that house and get in the door! And why does he want to get in the door (as most of you know)? To first and foremost, fix their issue and make them happy, but also to observe, look around and ask questions about other issues they might have.

For instance, he might look around and see white build up on a shower head or aerator at the sink or lav. He might also see quite a bit of soap scum in in the tub/shower, shower doors and on the tiles. There may be cloudy dishes around the kitchen. On another job, he might replace a water heater and upon removal, see mineral built up in the pipes or maybe he takes the element out and see a ton of mineral build up on it. He may even see some reddish rings in the toilet and laundry sink or clothes washer. (Evidence of Iron) Then in the basement, he may or may not see a water softener. These are all “TALKING POINTS” for the contractor and the homeowner…..a time to start a conversation about water quality.

As I spoke to my new friend yesterday, I told him out of the 25+ years I’ve been selling water softeners in the wholesale plumbing trade, there are two major areas I’ve seen contractors consistently fall short in generating more revenue and fixing an unnoticed, but “real” problem for homeowners. The first is that most don’t even mention to the homeowner that they sell and install water softeners! The second is that many contractors underestimate their power of persuasion. The homeowner VALUES the opinion of the professional they’ve selected to come into their house and provide a service.

We all have our style of communication and I’ve truly found that a good honest approach is about the best there can be. To take it a step further, when it’s a professional in front of a homeowner telling them in a truthful manner, the cause of their plumbing headaches, they listen! If you’re on the job and see the issues I just spoke about or other similar issues, don’t be shy, whip out your test kit and check for hardness. I know some contractors that may not even say anything until they perform the test. Sometimes the homeowner may see them doing the test and ask “what are you doing?” Bam! An even better time to start talking about water softeners. Here’s a few lines you might consider:

  1. I see you have a water softener and I just wanted to check for you that it’s working hard to keep your water free of troublesome mineral.
  2. Oh, I’m sorry; I didn’t tell you that we perform a FREE water test with every visit to check the potential of scale problems down the road?
  3. I saw a few signs of mineral intrusion in your plumbing system and just want to make sure I was correct before offering you some solutions.
  4. Our company also provides water treatment solutions and it looks like you might benefit from these options based on what I see here today.
  5. And so on etc…

Once the conversation starts, you may have the ability to pitch a softener solution based on the good, honest approach to the situation. You’ll find most homeowners very understanding and feel they have been treated fairly and respectfully.

I have also spoken with many companies that do similar things in the house but then ask to set some kind of appointment to further go over all options for their “troubled water”. Some even have a dedicated employee who only sells water softeners using good leads generated by the service techs in the field. There are many types of companies out there and many different angles to approach the “selling side” of the model. But what is the bottom line and where do you begin? It starts with having conversations with your customers.

I’ve been traveling quite a bit lately as the year starts to wind down and like most of us, I’ve been contemplating 2013 and what can I be doing to gear up for a great year and another year of growth in my channel of the wholesale trade. And as I fly around, what strikes me hardest is still the fact of how few plumbing contractors even mess around with water softeners and selling them! Our industry calculates loosely that only 10% of the homes in the US that could benefit from a softener even have one. Do you know how much potential that is? 90% is currently untouched revenue generating possibilities! And that is what keeps me getting up every day still pumped up in my job and driving me to find one more wholesaler and one more plumber to convince that they’re leaving a huge chunk of revenue on the table. And the process is so simple. Like I always say in my presentations, all you have to do is cut a pipe plumb an inlet and outlet, plumb a drain line to a drain and plug the darn thing in, push two buttons, and the softener is raring to go! Yes, it is that easy and with a great piece of certified equipment, backed by years of experience in this field the unit can be trouble free for a long time.

So in closing, instead of me asking what will you do in 2013 with water softening, I’d rather ask, why not make a commitment for next year. For those who like to take baby steps, maybe to at least learn more about the softener market and it’s opportunities. For those who are leapers of faith, how about committing yourself to sell your first water softener in 2013. And for you really bold contractors with to-do lists, committing to sell your first water softener by March 1st 2013 (Or some other specific date). Then set goals to follow through. Let me tell you, it can be done and it can be done well. I’ve seen it through my 25+ years and I know many contractors that have absolutely integrated water softening as part of their everyday business model and make a nice profit at it. Mr. Culligan man, move over because plumbers are elbowing in on the profits! Happy New Year and Happy Selling! 

YOU DECIDE What does the election results mean for our industry? Survey results from the industry community.   While President Obama carried virtually all the “swing states” in his successful re-election campaign, the plumbing, mechanical, and HVAC industry is in a downbeat mood following the November election. An informal survey of industry professionals conducted by Read More

YOU DECIDE

What does the election results mean for our industry?
Survey results from the industry community.

 

While President Obama carried virtually all the “swing states” in his successful re-election campaign, the plumbing, mechanical, and HVAC industry is in a downbeat mood following the November election.

An informal survey of industry professionals conducted by Perspective Media found that 70 percent of the industry community feels the president’s re-election will have a negative effect on the industry, while only 20 percent feel it will have a positive effect. Another 11 percent feel there will be little impact one way or the other. Respondents to the mid-November survey included contractors, engineers, wholesalers, manufacturer’s representatives, manufactures, inspectors, associations, educators and trainers. To get a clear perspective, we have included some responses on how many industry professionals view the election results will impact the industry.

“Small businesses have already been negatively affected over the past four years with the policies of this administration,” said one Florida manufacturer’s rep. “More of the same will only make it worse! I expect to see another recession as a result of the inflexible attitude of this administration to work across the aisle. If you compare the Obama policy to the Reagan policy, they were polar opposites, as are the results.”

A Wisconsin manufacturer said, “The current administration believes the only way to reduce the debt is to raise taxes.  This will have a negative affect on the economy as many homeowners and business owners alike prepare for tougher times.”

The industry responses were similar on a second question, “How will the election results will affect your business, company or job?” Fifty percent responded negatively, 23 percent were positive and the rest said there would be little effect or were not sure.

“The expected loss of confidence might cause investors and manufacturers to back off from the boost early this year,” said one Florida manufacturer. “Such a blip in confidence and investing could claim the life of many small business operators in the plumbing/mechanical trades before it is restored.”

A Florida engineer criticized the Obama administration for failing to create promised jobs, while spending government money overseas.  A manufacturer’s rep added, “I doubt that any industry will see a positive impact from the re-election of Obama. All those people complaining about there being no jobs who are looking for work will only see more companies close or move to other countries where taxes are lower and regulations are more reasonable.”

Responding to another question regarding the impact on the nation’s economy over the next few years, a Wisconsin contractor said, “The economy will decline, fewer jobs will be available, people will become more dependent on government subsidies and eventually those subsidies will dry up because there will be fewer companies to pay the taxes that provide those subsidies. We are falling into a black hole.”

 

A wide range of concerns

Much of the post-election concern focused on over-regulation of the business community. “Industry is seen as a cash source for government and will see increasing regulation, said a Wisconsin contractor. “That is NOT a positive development.”

A Florida contractor added that the high level of regulation from Washington will “slow down and stop the growth we have seen as of late.”

Referring to the regulatory burden, another Florida decision-maker said, “I see our manufacturers revisiting their commitment to American-made products.”

Others pointed to a negative impact on consumers and private investors. “Spending of discretionary income will be reduced, which will impact both industry and construction,” said a Wisconsin contractor.

A Florida contractor agreed, saying, “The work on the commercial side will continue to be slow as investors are not sure what to expect.

Pointing to a reduction in government construction projects, a Florida engineer said, “The military contracting business will suffer due to the weakening of our military.  Existing small business will suffer and new small business will be  suppressed.”

A Florida manufacturer added, “Residential will stumble in an attempt to re-start, however, the lack of buyers will continue to drag on the residential market.”

 

Some positive responses

Although a smaller segment, there were a number of respondents that felt positive about the election outcome. “Housing continues to improve in Minnesota with increased sales and higher home prices,” said a manufacturer’s rep. “Recent news reports indicate there is a big need for contractors and plumbers now, so I feel positive about the outcome.”

An industry professional from Florida also felt there would be “a positive impact with the continued growth.”

Another manufacturer’s rep added, “All signs have been trending upward for sometime now and we feel optimistic that positive impetus will continue going forward.  We’re hopeful those in Washington will now work together for a balanced approach to solving our pressing issues.”

 

Impact on hiring

Another survey question asked, “If you’re a decision-maker for your company, how will the results affect your workforce in 2013?”  Of the respondents, 50 percent said they were likely to decrease their workforce and about 7 percent said they would increase their workforce. The others said the election outcome would have little effect on their plans or were not sure of what they will do.

The key issues for most decision-makers appeared to revolve around taxes and the increased financial burden of employee health insurance. “Healthcare and costs are growing. Tax increases and the uncertainty of the economy will slow growth even more,” said one Florida manufacturer’s rep. Another said, “After they force all small business out of this country, the only jobs left will be for regulators!” Echoing that comment, a Wisconsin manufacturer’s rep. said, “If tax and spend continues as the current administration has previously demonstrated, then I think all people who earn an income will be affected more than anyone expects.” Another Wisconsin decision-maker said, “Healthcare alone and the expenses that will be incurred due to Obamacare will probably not allow for new hires.” Another industry professional added, “As we have to pay for out-of-control spending and a government healthcare system, we will need to pay for new taxes out of profits, which means layoffs. Noting that construction in Florida has been slow, an engineer noted that “many architectural and engineering firms have scaled back to the bare minimum workforce.”  Another said, “We will not look at hiring based on the uncertainty of what is in front of us with health care and taxes. We have concerns of another recession.” Laying out the concerns of his company, a Wisconsin business owner said. ”We are about to weaken America and strengthen countries like China, Brazil, Central America etc. Companies will not expand, they will cut out full-time employees and hire part timers to avoid the healthcare bill. The next option will probably be to not offer healthcare at all and opt for the fine rather than pay for something that will consume all their profits.” Summing up the feelings of many respondents, a Wisconsin wholesaler said, “It’s time to run this country like a responsible business leader runs his or her company.”

 

The survey results show most industry professionals feel discouraged and see a negative impact on our on industry because of the re-election of President Obama and the overall election results. However, President Obama was still re-elected into office for a second term and proves the great divide that exists in our country. There is very little middle ground left as most individuals in America reside fully on one side of the issue or the other. So what does this mean for 2013 and beyond for our industry? We’ll let you decide. In fact, according to many of you in the industry, you already have. Time will tell quickly in 2013.

 

Survey Snapshot from the Industry

Do you believe the re-election of President Obama will have a positive, negative, or have little affect on our industry?

Positive                                   18.5%

Negative                                 70.3%

Have little affect                    11.1%

Not sure yet                              0.0%

 

What impact do you believe the re-election of President Obama will have on our nation’s economy over the next few years? 

Positive                                   22.2%

Negative                                 66.6%

Have little affect                       7.4%

Not sure yet                              3.7%

 

How will the election results affect your business, company, or job?

Positive                                   22.2%

Negative                                 51.8%

Have little affect                      7.4%

Not sure yet                           18.5%

 

If you’re a decision maker for your company, do you believe the results of the election will have an affect on your workforce in 2013? 

Likely to increase workforce              7.4%

Likely to decrease workforce           48.1%

Have little affect on workforce        18.5%
Not sure yet                                           22.2%
No response                                         3.7%