2013 January-February

Blumenauer Corp.: A Reliable Source for Pump Solutions   With an eye towards the integration of cost-efficient, cutting-edge, and eco-friendly technology, The Blumenauer Corporation is a leading supplier of innovative pumps to its growing base of customers in Florida and overseas.   “Our firm is dedicated to serving the Florida market with products that save Read More

Blumenauer Pic

Blumenauer Corp.: A Reliable Source for Pump Solutions  

With an eye towards the integration of cost-efficient, cutting-edge, and eco-friendly technology, The Blumenauer Corporation is a leading supplier of innovative pumps to its growing base of customers in Florida and overseas.

 

“Our firm is dedicated to serving the Florida market with products that save energy, conserve water and bring comfort to the homeowner or commercial user,” says Wes Blumenauer, president and CEO of Blumenauer Corp., an Orlando-based statewide manufacturing representative firm. The company is also a leading exporter of pump products and works closely with the state’s exporters to supply the Caribbean, Central and South America with its products.

“Our product line encompasses residential, commercial and industrial applications, including new construction and retrofits, providing solutions for all our customers’ pumping needs,” says Blumenauer in an interview with Plumbing Perspective.

Opportunities in hot water recirculation

Looking at the state’s plumbing marketplace, Blumenauer sees excellent growth opportunities for contractors in the residential and commercial hot water recirculation market.  Since demand for hot water tends to peak in the morning and evening, with much lower requirements most of the day, many users can benefit by replacing older systems with new technology that can match that demand cycle.

Blumenauer Corporation offers several options for contractors and their customers considering retrofits.  For more than three decades, the company has been a leading representative and distributor for Grundfos Pumps Corporation, whose solutions include the Grundfos Comfort System, which pumps hot water through existing pipes, ensuring that water is not wasted and comfortable temperatures are available in an instant. The international company also offers the Grundfos BoosterpaQ system, using multistage centrifugal pumps.

Blumenauer notes that Grundfos was one of the first companies to develop this pump technology nearly 40 years ago, and his rep firm has worked with Grundfos for most of that period.  “I really appreciate your long commitment to Grundfos,” said Poul Due Jenson, a member of Grudfos’ international board of trustees and grandson of its founder, also named Poul Due Jenson.

Blumenauer Corporation is also a stocking distributor for Goulds pumps, another high-quality pump line. In addition, the company recently added the Advanced Conservation Technology (ACT) patented D’MAND® system for controlled hot water recirculation.  By providing instant hot water, the ACT system can save homeowners and commercial users thousands of gallons of water annually.            The Orlando company is seeing increased demand from engineers and contractors for energy efficient motors with variable frequency (VF) drives. “In the past, these pumps were quite expensive and difficult for users to manage,” he says. “Now they have come way down in price and have many convenient features, while providing money-saving benefits to the users,” Blumenauer says. “Florida contractors can point out the advantages of VF drives when discussing options with their customers.”

Another trend Blumenauer sees is a growing demand for pump packages that simplify the installation process while offering benefits to contractors’ customers. “Instead of running a circulating pump for 24 hours a day, you can save a lot of energy with packages that include VF drives, timers and aquastats,” he says. “Grundfos has packages that make the pump a more energy-efficient product by adding these features, reducing the owner’s ongoing operating costs.”

 

A long history of service

Blumenauer Corporation has been serving the Florida market for more than three decades.  Company founder Roy C. Blumenauer moved to central Florida from Maryland in 1956 at the start of the “Space Age.” He worked for Hicks and Ingle Mechanical Contractors and was involved in the construction of the rocket launch facilities for NASA at Cape Canaveral and Pratt and Whitney’s jet engine facilities in Palm Beach County.

After plans for the development of Walt Disney World were announced, Roy Blumenauer realized Orlando’s potential for growth. In 1973, he left Hicks and Ingle, moved to Orlando, and formed Blumenauer and Associates, supplying mechanical contractors with a variety of pump and boiler products to meet the demands of the rapidly growing market.

“Back in the 1970s, my father was selling plumbing, heating and air conditioning products,” says Wes Blumenauer. ” We had a broad line of valves, steam and hydronic equipment. Over time we decided to expand our lines and began to specialize in quality pumping products. That is where our main focus still lies today.”

Blumenauer joined his father in the business full-time after graduating from the University of Florida in 1979. “I always knew I wanted to go into sales and work here,” he says. In 1980 the firm changed its name to The Blumenauer Corporation and became the manufacturer’s rep for Grundfos Pumps Corporation.  The company soon expanded its product lines to include another well-known company in the industry, Goulds Pumps. Blumenauer Corporation continues to provide quality water products that the pumping industry demands today.

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Through the years, Blumenauer Corporation has received glowing testimonials from manufacturers, distributors and contractors. For example, , “On behalf of everyone here at Interline, I want to thank you for your loyalty and our strong partnership.”

Morten Lindkvist, managing director, Goltens Service Co., Miami said, “Thank you for your assistance in supplying two pumps on an emergency basis. It’s always nice to have a supply network that can be relied upon, and I’m confident that our client will never hesitate to contact us again based on the outstanding service we all provided.”

 

Strategies for the future

Reflecting on Florida’s economic downturn and slow recovery, Blumenauer says contractors and suppliers need to focus on operating efficiently while responding to market demands.  “This is a different era in terms of the way everyone does business,” he adds. “No one has the luxury of the higher margins of the past, and the market itself is smaller. An even bigger change is that more people – from homeowners to purchasing agents to business owners and contractors – have access to a flood of product information. However, plumbing professionals still have plenty of questions despite that access to information.”

In keeping with those trends, Blumenauer says the company is increasingly focused on developing professional relationships throughout the plumbing industry and building on those ties to generate referral business.

“All of us like to go out into the field and have our hands on the product,” he says. “We want our sales people to be talking with plumbing engineers and specifiers as well as contractors.  Most of all, we want them to know that if they run into any issues with the product, the Blumenauer Corporation will take care of them as quickly as possible.”

Another change for the company is moving to a “smart” inventory system for its main warehouse facility and service center in Orlando. “We are focusing on the products our customers need right away rather than stock the shelves to the ceiling,” Blumenauer says. “Control of inventory, along with investments in our website, have really helped us move through this challenging period. We use our website as a sales and educational tool designed to answer the questions that Florida engineers, contractors and users have for us.”

Blumenauer adds that the firm spends time training contactors and wholesalers on a pumping product or package. “Once they have a good grasp of the product, they’ll sell it for you,” he adds. “Normally, we have training sessions at our facility in Orlando, as well as lunch-and-learns or late afternoon sessions at wholesalers around the state. They invite their contractors to join with us and we give them a good overview of what’s new in pump technology and what those changes mean to prospective customers.”

Blumenauer states that the company has also taken advantage of social media like YouTube by posting instructional videos showing how to disassemble and reassemble pumps when servicing them. “This allows our customers to trouble-shoot an issue on site,” he says. The company is also an authorized warranty service center for Grundfos Pump Corporation and has trained technicians on staff to evaluate pump issues.

As part of its emphasis on service, Blumenauer Corporation’s technicians also provide engineers and specifiers with information to help determine the appropriate pump size for certain job applications.  “From time to time a customer will provide us with a rough drawing of a system and ask us to size the pump,” says Blumenauer. “This is one of the value-added services we provide.”

With new innovative products that will be introduced this year by Grundfos and Goulds, including the addition of the new ACT line, Blumenauer expects steady growth. He is looking forward to the return of  his eldest son Jeff from Afghanistan. “Jeff is an attorney and captain serving as a legal advisor with Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps,” he says. “As a third-generation member of the family business, Jeff will continue to work with the company in a consulting capacity, along with building his private law practice.” Today, Wes Blumenauer is accompanied by his wife Vickie in the day-to-day operations of the business.  He adds,” We are joined by a valued team of talented employees.”

 

FAQ: Water Heating Systems by Rich Grimes Welcome back to another edition of FAQ! This article will respond to common questions related to water heating systems. There are many variables involved with water heating such as electricity, gas, combustion, ventilation, exhaust and so on. DISSOLVED OXYGEN The effect of dissolved oxygen in the water supply Read More

FAQ: Water Heating Systems

by Rich Grimes

Welcome back to another edition of FAQ! This article will respond to common questions related to water heating systems. There are many variables involved with water heating such as electricity, gas, combustion, ventilation, exhaust and so on.

DISSOLVED OXYGEN

The effect of dissolved oxygen in the water supply and its reaction to heat comes up frequently. Water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen. Cold water will hold more oxygen than hot water and when water is heated, the oxygen will escape. The best analogy is when a pan of cold water is heated to a boil. As the water heats up it becomes cloudy. Before reaching a boiling point, oxygen bubbles form on the bottom of the pan. As the heating surface transfers more heat, water temperature in the pan increases and amount the escaping air bubbles increase.

The effects of dissolved oxygen will increase as the ground water temperature decreases. It is more noticeable in winter months where the incoming ground water drops in temperature. Dissolved oxygen cannot hurt you and it does not take very long for the cloudy water to clear up. Once the oxygen escapes, the water becomes clear in appearance.

Dissolved oxygen can be more acute on a new heater installation and can also be exacerbated by aerators. New heaters have a clean heating surface that transfers heat very effectively and efficiently. New electric resistance heating elements can also make some noise as the oxygen bubbles will form on the hot element. An elevated tank temperature can help to ‘burn off” the oxygen bubbles as a thin film of scale will begin to form on the element surface. This thin film prevents the oxygen bubbles from direct contact with the element surface and the high-pitched squeal goes away.

 

FUEL SOURCE COMPARISON

I am often asked to explain what products are the most efficient in their class and how they compare to each other as far as operating costs. A good comparison is to look at residential products and what would could be used in that application. The DOE label indicates an estimated yearly cost to operate the heater on its designated fuel source, using an average fuel cost. The heaters are rated with an Energy Factor (EF).

 

Standard electric water heaters are rated at an average of .92 EF. They have higher EF ratings than a gas heater but they have a higher energy cost. The Hybrid Heat Pump is the newest electric technology that employs a dedicated heat pump. It is rated at an incredible 2.4 EF that makes it one of the least expensive ways to heat water.

Standard gas fired tank-type heaters have an average EF rating of approximately .58 EF. Higher efficiency tank-type units range from about .60 to .76 EF. Condensing tank-type heaters like the State Premier Power Vent are at the top of this class at with thermal efficiency rating of 96% or approximately .93 EF.

Standard Tankless heaters have a mid-range efficiency that is typically .82 to .84 EF. Condensing Tankless heaters and Hybrid Gas heaters range from about .88 to .95 EF.

Let’s compare a 50-Gallon heater and see what this all means…

 

HEATER /                             EF                                DOE YEARLY

FUEL TYPE                           RATING                       COST TO OPERATE

Standard Electric                          .91                               $514

High Efficiency Electric             .95                                $492

Hybrid Heat Pump Electric       2.4                               $201

Standard Gas                                .60                               $315

High Efficiency Gas                    .70                               $261

Condensing Gas Tank-Type     .93                               $233

Standard Tankless Gas              .82                               $224

Condensing Tankless Gas        .91                               $202

Solar                                              10.1 SEF*                    $154

 

*Solar systems are rated with a Solar Energy Factor (SEF)

As you can see, there are many options and levels of efficiency that are available. Each category has fuel saving technology that can be employed. I always remind customers that fuel costs will only go up over time, not down.

 

EQUIVALENT PIPE LENGTHS

It can be confusing when calculating a vent piping or gas piping arrangement. Equivalent pipe lengths refers to the total footage of piping AND fittings. If a heater is rated to vent at a maximum of 100′ of equivalent vent, we must consider the elbows in our calculation. In a 4″ size vent system, each elbow is counted as 5′ equivalent. If we have (4) 90° elbows on a particular vent system, it will be counted as 20′ of vent. We can only have 80′ of straight pipe plus the 20′ for the elbows for a maximum equivalent length of 100′.

The attached gas fitting chart indicates the equivalent lengths of fittings based on pipe size. The larger the fitting, the more equivalent length.

 

FLEXIBLE GAS CONNECTORS

Many gas supply issues center around undersized flexible connectors. Flexible gas connectors are rated for a certain amount of BTU’s, based on length and ID (Inside Diameter). Many connectors will have full size threaded ends but reduced tubing. A connector with ¾” ID will have a larger hose that is approximately 1″ OD (Outside Diameter).

Each rated gas connector has a label attached that indicates how much gas it can flow based on its length. Always read the label and make sure that the connector you are installing can carry as many BTU’s as the appliance you are connecting to.

 

GAS TANKLESS VENTING

Gas tankless heaters use Category III Stainless Steel, non-corrosive, sealed vent material. When a customer upgrades from a tank-type atmospheric heater is when this comes up. Atmospheric gas heaters are Category I rated and use a double wall metal vent. It is not a sealed system and it is constructed of a galvanized exterior with an aluminum liner.

The question is “Can I use the existing Type B vent and tie in the new tankless heater to it?”. The answer to this question is NO. The tankless heater has a positive draft and it creates condensation in the venting. It will create an extremely hazardous condition and erode the Type B vent. It will leak combustion products at the joints and into the building, creating a potential for injury or death from carbon monoxide. NEVER use an existing Type B vent for anything other than a Category I appliance. Know and plan to replace the vent system if you are removing a standard gas tank-type heater and replacing it with a tankless heater. Condensing tankless heaters typically use PVC, CPVC or ABS pipe for vent material. Check the heater’s rating label and installation manual for approved vent materials.

 

GAS PRESSURE REQUIREMENTS

Gas fired appliances are considered as low-pressure operation. Low pressure Natural can be summarized as a gas requirement at the appliance inlet of 7″ Water Column (.25 PSI) minimum and 14″ Water Column (.5 PSI) maximum. LP Gas is typically a delivery pressure at the appliance of 11″ Water Column minimum and 14″ Water Column maximum. ANSI listings have slightly lower ratings as a safety factor (example: they list the maximum as 13.5″ WC). A lot of newer appliances will operate on lower gas inlet pressures.

It is important to remember that Natural and LP Gas are delivered at higher pressures (typically 2 to 35 PSI) and MUST be regulated down to supply the appliances. This can be a Single-Stage regulator for the entire piping system or it can be Two-Stage regulation.

We thank you for taking the time to read this article and we hope you find it helpful. We will see you in a future article!

 

Customer Rescue: Unpredictable Iron by Dave Duren – Northstar Water   Just as sure as winter comes, winter goes and spring arrives. Oh how I wish that Iron in the water was as predictable. There is a huge wow factor in the thought of “what if” a well driller knew where the Iron was when Read More

Customer Rescue: Unpredictable Iron

by Dave Duren – Northstar Water

 

Just as sure as winter comes, winter goes and spring arrives. Oh how I wish that Iron in the water was as predictable. There is a huge wow factor in the thought of “what if” a well driller knew where the Iron was when he drilled that well for you? Oh how predictable that would be (and profitable). But guess what? We cannot predict where the Iron is and a lot of times we don’t know how heavy it will be day after day, month after month, even year after year.

I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the best places to find common ground on the subject, is that treating Iron is never fun, but most of us will encounter it sometime in our water treatment career. Now please keep in mind the target audience of this magazine is the plumbing contractor and not necessarily the water treatment dealer (I term this as the guys whose entire business is water treatment and filtration 24/7). Those guys see it A LOT more than you guys and thus have their own opinions about Iron and how to treat it. From previous articles you may recall that in general, your more likely to find water with Iron that will be troublesome from a private well supplying water to the home or building (We’ll keep it to home in this article). Although I have encountered some smaller, regional water suppliers that have not totally eliminated Iron and have complaints of iron in their water also. For instance, I do recall this in Pasco County, Florida working long ago with my good friends Eric and Colleen Suojanen from Suojanen Plumbers and a sub-division they were working in.

As a refresher on this subject, let me explain a bit about Iron. And I’m purposefully keeping this article “high level” without throwing a bunch of numbers or elemental symbols at you. Our government has set standards and levels of various contaminants that are “allowable” in the drinking water that a municipality may supply its population with. This is called the Safe Water Drinking Act (SDWA). In general there are two areas that impurities in the water fall into. They are what we call “health effects” and “aesthetics”. An example in the first area that most of us can relate to in the health effects category is Lead. Lead is not good for us. The government has set certain limits as to how much lead is permissible in drinking water. Most of us receive a statement from our municipal water supplier each year telling us what is in our water. This includes lead. The second area is aesthetics, which includes iron. The general thought here is that ingesting iron will not hurt you; it just doesn’t taste real good. So the government allows iron. Probably the most dis-liked part of iron is its staining characteristics. And it doesn’t take very much at all to cause these problems. Stop and think about it. Iron is OK, by government standards to leave in your drinking water. So what if the city of Eagan (where I live) took their water from a well that had iron in it and just got all the “bad” impurities out and left the iron. Now they are charging me for the water and I then get nasty red rings in my tub, toilet, showers, laundry sinks, etc. from iron, not to mention white clothes are ruined and turning red. I wouldn’t put up with it. So the municipalities spend the money and remove the iron, even though it is just an aesthetic problem or else their “customers” would be up in arms about it.

So that leads us back to you, our plumbing contractor. So when you come across some iron issues the homeowner is complaining about, what do you do? The first thing is do an iron test. If more than .3 ppm of iron is present, then staining can occur. The major second step is to determine what TYPE iron is there. What you really need to know is that the iron IS NOT “Bacterial Iron”. (I’m not dealing with its removal in this article). One of the fastest and best ways to check is to go to a toilet in the house, take off the tank lid and look into the tank. If you see a bunch of slimy, reddish algae-ish looking crud, then it’s bacterial iron. If you don’t see this then you can pretty much proceed and deal with the iron in a more simple fashion. You probably have “clear water” iron, called Ferrous Iron. If you have clear water iron, when you can draw a glass of water, the water will look clear. But if you let it sit awhile, you’ll start to notice red sediment appearing in the bottom of the glass. This is iron that has “oxidized”.

In general there are a couple of ways to get iron out of the water. The first way is with ion exchange. This would be a traditional water softener. Softeners are rated for a certain amount of iron so you will need to check the manufacturer’s specifications. They do a great job removing iron to certain levels. But here’s where you need to step with caution. If the iron test shows the iron to be near the top of a spec for a certain water softener, then additional equipment solely to treat the iron may be needed. This brings me to the second way to treat iron, which is by oxidizing the iron into a particle and then filtering it out. And in the arena of oxidizing, there are “generally” three most popular ways this is accomplished.  The first is using chlorine as and oxidizer. The second is using potassium permanganate to oxidize and filter with greensand media. The third way is using oxygen as an oxidizing agent and then filtering the iron. This way has been gaining in popularity due to no chlorine issues and potassium permanganate stains things horribly purple if spilled. It is also very expensive to ship due to its chemical makeup.

So here is the general overview of oxidation. Let me take you back to the glass of water from the well. When it sits, oxygen is now coming in contact with water that has been below the ground with no air or oxygen present. Now that it is up out of the well and exposed to air, the iron changes form from clear water iron to red water iron. The good part to this is that in the red water form, the iron can be trapped and filtered out of the water.

An oxygen-Iron filtration system is a perfect solution for this. In this system, air is introduced into a vessel and the water enters it coming in contact with the air. The iron almost instantly converts from clear water form to red water form, and then proceeds through the tank and media, then captured and filtered out. The unit this is pre-programmed to flush itself out and remove the trapped iron. It’s a great method without having to use harsh chemicals or depending on an additional loud, pump to shoot air in the line. A simple system that works!

Overall, iron can be an issue so I’ve attempted to bring you up to speed on iron and how you may get involved with correcting your customer’s issues with their iron problem. Always make sure to do the iron test then read the specifications of the unit BEFORE you buy it. Once purchased, reading the directions BEFORE installation is a good thing. Or you may even get them before buying it to make sure you’re very clear on proper installation, the biggest problem I see as a manufacturer. And never be afraid to ask questions. Call your local rep first, as they deal with their line every day. You may also call the tech service dept. and I’m sure you’ll get good answers there also. But the biggest thing is, don’t be afraid to expand your horizons and learn one more way to rescue your customer, which can add profit and good referrals! Until next tim

It’s On My Heart: Great Customer Service by Jim Hinshaw   So I do hope you had a great Christmas and New Year’s celebration, probably ate more than you expected, but many of you worked out more so the scale is even.  Sorta.  But now the new year is the current year, we have started Read More

It’s On My Heart: Great Customer Service

by Jim Hinshaw

 

So I do hope you had a great Christmas and New Year’s celebration, probably ate more than you expected, but many of you worked out more so the scale is even.  Sorta.  But now the new year is the current year, we have started a new page, new month, call it whatever you want, but we are now back to work.  And the bar has been raised.

Just exactly what do you mean, bar has been raised?  Well, for one thing, the consumer is smarter than ever before.  They know your cost on most things you sell, and if not sure, they can jump on the internet and do their homework.  There is also a move toward better customer service today; many companies are working hard to develop those emotional connections that are so important to survival in this economic climate. I have the benefit of the 30,000 foot view, and here is what I see from my perch.

The successful companies are working hard to equip their front line (or field) personnel to take action immediately to solve a problem, even if it takes some money off the table.  So you may not hear: “let me call my manager…”, you may hear: “I can do this, will that work for you?”  Just had an incident with my ipad that illustrates that very well.  By the way, if you have not read the bio of Steve Jobs, spend some of that holiday cash and get a copy, it is well worth the time spent.  Steve obsessed over all the details, to make the purchase of an Apple item an event, down to the windows in the stores.  They all look alike, and when you enter, you are greeted by a young, smiling, knowledgeable representative.  Every time I have gone into an Apple store, they knew the product that I was asking about: iphone, ipad, Apple TV, Mac book pro or air, they know the details and how they work.

So May and I are on a shopping trip in Phoenix, end up at the Apple store.  I had brought in my ipad because it was locking up, could not re-set it manually.  Of course when we arrived, it worked just fine.  The young man said if it happened again, they would give me a new one.  More facts, he did not ask for a receipt, guess he could have looked it up by serial number, but did not see him do anything like that.  Didn’t ever ask me how old it was, or if I had purchased it there.  The reality was it was only 4 months old, got it for my birthday, bought a refurbished one from Apple.  Full warranty.

Move forward 2 months.  It misfires again.  Cannot get it to open, screen was locked, this time I am at home, took it down to Boulder to the Apple store.  Walked in, again it worked fine.  Lady said it may need a full re-boot, told her that had been done.  She said if it happened again, they would replace it.  I said it just did happen again, guy in Phoenix told me the same thing.  She said: Are you ready for a new one?  I said yes, and she brought out a new one.  That simple.  So that is excellent customer service.  When there is a problem, even if you cannot see it for yourself, it is really nice to be able to make that problem go away.  That is how you get customers for life.

My message this month is this: equip your people to make decisions to handle those occasional customer opportunities.  Give them the freedom to offer something to make the customer want to stay with your company.  Let it happen without them having to go to the service manager, office manager, owner, President, or any one of the other titles that we sometimes hid behind.  One thing the customer hates to hear these days: Our policy is…  They would much rather hear: here is what can be done, here is what I can do for you, will this work for you?

The second part of my message is to micro-manage the customer interaction, from the call into your store to cashing their check.  Make sure everyone is on their game, calls are answered quickly, no one is left on hold, you get back to the customer with answers fast, and when you said you would, the technicians are polite, clean, and address the customers correctly.  They not only look correct with clean shirts and jackets, but they smell good too, breath mints are part of the package.  You as the owner/manager should randomly call every 10 or 20th customer to see how everything went.  That would be a couple of calls a day.  Ask about all the details, how long they waited for the tech, did he call them by name, can they read his paperwork, did he explain exactly what he was going to do, did he offer any other services or solutions to their home comfort system?  What can we do to improve our process?

Then keep notes for the next service meeting.  Make the comments anonymous, but share your findings with the entire team, for purposes of raising the bar, not to publically embarrass anyone.  Make this a regular part of your monthly meetings, share what happened last month, and the steps the company is taking to be sure it won’t happen again next month.  It will pay dividends.  Some may say, we didn’t do this in the past.  That was then, this is the new now.  We must do it today.  Or maybe not, survival is not mandatory.  Thanks for listening, we’ll talk later.