2014 July-August

By Carol Foster Every jobsite offers unique challenges. When it comes to higher-end residential or commercial installations, there are typically few choices to make selecting the right solution for plumbing, process, wash-down or exterior surface drainage: ductile iron, PVC, copper and nickel bronze are the usual candidates.  Now, forcing their way into the mix for Read More

By Carol Foster

Every jobsite offers unique challenges. When it comes to higher-end residential or commercial installations, there are typically few choices to make selecting the right solution for plumbing, process, wash-down or exterior surface drainage: ductile iron, PVC, copper and nickel bronze are the usual candidates.  Now, forcing their way into the mix for designers, specifiers and installers today are new, über-versatile stainless steel and plastic technologies.

It only makes sense, as new products are rushing in to improve all facets of building performance – from hydronic efficiency to water use, re-use and backflow prevention – that drainage technologies advance as well. But given their behind-the-wall, under-the-floor, bad breath status, the often lowly, maligned drain is often last on the list for specifier consideration. A recent entry onto the drainage “stage” has been the introduction of stainless steel systems. A wide variety of extremely durable, aesthetically-pleasing drainage pipe, fittings and trim have entered the global market, many of which got their start in Europe.

For example, Blücher, a Watts Water Technologies company, is recognized as a leading global manufacturer of stainless steel drainage systems for applications ranging from residential bathrooms to large industrial facilities. Stainless steel ensures high quality and offers outstanding flow characteristics with minimal maintenance.

Commercial + industrial use

Hospitals, hotels, shopping malls, and airports all benefit daily from the performance of stainless steel drainage solutions. Properly treated, low-porosity stainless steel has a uniquely smooth surface that guarantees excellent hygiene and resistance to bacteria-laden biofilm.

Stainless steel is also a strong, durable, pressure-and chemical-resistant material. Due to excellent material properties, with stainless steel, the weight of a drainage system can be reduced by more than 75 percent compared to cast iron; this contributes to ease of installation. Stainless steel is also entirely recyclable and non-toxic, making it an environmentally friendly solution, also favored by the USGBC for LEED certification.

Stainless steel drainage systems are also ideally suited for use in the food and beverage industries as well as pharmaceutical and chemical plants. Stainless steel floor drains with gas-tight covers, flushing-rim drains, dual-contained drains, pipes and channels provide superior fluid drainage from production areas, labs and clean rooms.

Stainless steel: ideal for hi-temp plumbing

In an interesting application south of the border, a 164,000 s.f., three-story, $80 million prison kitchen/warehouse facility is now being built in New Orleans that will soon have the capacity to prepare 25,000 meals every 12-14 hours if needed. It can also preserve meals in its freezer for up to 45 days. One of the most unique facets of the new facility’s construction was the specification for 8,000 lineal feet of stainless steel drainage piping, chosen because of the resilience and thermal characteristics of the material.

“Stainless steel was the ideal material for the job,” explained Jamey Logrande, vice president and senior project manager with Metarie, LA-based design engineering firm Huseman & Associates. Experts there were responsible for design of the building’s electrical, mechanical, plumbing and fire protection systems. “With stainless steel, bacterial growth in the drainage system is greatly reduced,” added Logrande. “And, of course, the very nature of this building is to assure permanence and durability.”

The material chosen by the general contractor, New Orleans-based Woodward Design-Build, was stainless steel pipe supplied by Blücher.

“We needed a plumbing system that could routinely move liquids at temperatures of up to 250° to 260°F because of the multiple 300-gallon steam pressure cookers dumping into the waste system,” explained Logrande.

Blücher has optional stainless steel gaskets that are rated for use at temperatures up to 390°F,” added Logrande. “And we needed to exceed the rated maximum temperatures for cast iron couplings and gaskets – just 210°F – so stainless became our choice for the best material for the job. ”The sometimes super-high temperature of heavy, semi-fluid, cooked goods was a key concern, but so was the weight and volume of the mass being drained in the large steel pipes used to transport soups and stews to packaging machines.

“We knew of the need for massive dumping of high-temp fluid on a regular basis and, with very expensive, very temperature-sensitive food storage spaces below the kitchen, we knew there’d be no room for error,” said Logrande. “We can’t afford a leak; the result would be catastrophic.”

Ships ahoy

Stainless steel sanitary discharge systems have also proven their reliability in more than 10 million lineal feet of piping aboard cruise ships, ferries, luxury yachts, naval vessels, cargo vessels and offshore platforms.

The marine industry relies on the performance of stainless steel drainage solutions at sea, where durability and light weight are essential. Clean and hygienic conditions in cabins, kitchens and sanitary facilities are important elements contributing to efficiency onboard.

Dead-on trench drains

Another example of commercial drainage innovations is new, lightweight, plastic trench drains. This technology such as the Watts’ DeadLevel™, are pre-sloped trench drain systems. Each drainage system comes complete from the manufacturer with channels assembled to frames, grates, lockdowns, frame connectors, end caps, construction covers that eliminate the unpleasant task of attempting to remove hardened concrete from the channel after the pour.

With a simple sketch, showing lengths, flow direction and outlets – professionals can prepare a package or a list of components to complete the required layout. Systems do not necessarily have to be sloped. In fact, neutral trench runs are frequently installed where the ground is already pitched, or where depth constraints restrict the use of deeper channel sections. A two-man crew with rebar driver and laser level can easily set a 100′ (30m) drain system in less than a day.

Author bio:

Carol Foster is the North American product manager for drains and BLÜCHER for North Andover, MA-based Watts Water Technologies.  Carol, based in Ontario, Canada, is responsible for all commercial drainage business management.

By plumbing expert Rich Grimes In this special article of “In Hot Water”, we will discuss components external of the water heater that can result in hot water complaints. It is everyone’s nature to blame the water heater first but many times these external forces are the culprit. HOT WATER RECIRCULATION If a return pump Read More

By plumbing expert Rich Grimes

In this special article of “In Hot Water”, we will discuss components external of the water heater that can result in hot water complaints. It is everyone’s nature to blame the water heater first but many times these external forces are the culprit.

HOT WATER RECIRCULATION

If a return pump is not functioning, the hot water supply line will go cold until hot water is drawn down the line. If a building has a hot water return system, then they are going to immediately notice lack of hot water at the fixture. They are not used to waiting for hot water and the first complaint is “NO” hot water. So you race over to the site to find out that the heater is working fine and full of hot water…

Another HWR item that can effect the pump operation is an Aquastat. It is designed to cycle the pump on and off based on return water temperature. If it is not functioning properly or the setpoints have been changed, it may be exactly what is causing the hot water problem.

CHECK VALVES

A check valve that is stuck open or closed will create various issues, especially if it is part of the HWR system. A check valve that is stuck closed can overheat and potentially fail the circulator. A check valve that is stuck open can create a cross connection or a point where water can flow in the wrong direction. I have seen quite a few check valves installed in the wrong position. A horizontal swing check has a loose-swinging flapper that will only go to its normally closed position if is mounted horizontally.

Spring-loaded check valves are to be used when mounting vertically and the can also be installed horizontally. The spring assists the check in returning to its normally closed position when there is no flow against it.

GAS SUPPLY

It is important to take a quick check for presence of gas as well as proper supply pressure. Every gas-fired water heater indicates its minimum/maximum supply and manifold pressures on the rating plate. Take the time to verify gas pressure with a manometer, with the heater off and then with the heater on. If the gas pressure falls below the minimum required pressure, the heater can go into flame failure lockout. The pressure or volume issue must be resolved for the water heater to stay on and make hot water.

If you are servicing an Electric water heater, verify that you have supply voltage and secondary voltage.

COMBUSTION AND VENTILATION AIR SUPPLY

Too many boiler rooms and closets are starved for air intake. A gas-fired appliance must have proper air supplied for good combustion. Sometimes the mechanical room becomes a storage area. As the room is filled with various items (many are combustible!) the heater is choked for air. Or the louvers have been covered up by stored items with the same result. The heater cannot ignite and combust correctly and the bad combustion can cause flame failures, sooting and excessive carbon monoxide. Again, the complaint is “NO” hot water that it is not a heater fault, but rather a safety lockout.

VENTING

On many occasions it is the venting system that can create shutdowns. If the vent system is not compatible with the heater it can corrode or condense. If the vent system is undersized, it can cause back-drafting, flame roll-out and improper combustion. If an vent system is oversized, it can cause flame failures due to flame lift-off, flame sense, etc. A barometric damper can alleviate high draft but an oversized stack can still condense due to its lower than normal operating temperature. The location/mounting position of the barometric damper can also affect venting.

It is important to review the vent system to make sure it conforms with the specific appliance category and that it has been installed per manufacturer’s instructions. Improper venting can cause numerous shutdowns but it is a safety issue first and foremost.

HEATER/BOILER CONTROLS

Water heaters and boilers have various safety switches that are designed to shut the unit down if the environment becomes unsafe. For instance, an Intake Air Switch proves that there is enough air for combustion. A Blocked Flue Switch proves that the heater is exhausting properly and there is no vent blockage.

A Flow Switch or Low Water Cut Off prove water flow or water in the vessel. A flow switch also proves circulator operation on forced-circulation boilers.

High Limit controls are designed to shut the unit down in the event of over-heating. A Manual Reset type requires that the user physically push the reset button.

High and Low Gas Pressure Switches insure that the gas pressure is within operating parameters.

It is important to note here that it should never be assumed that the control is bad. If a specific control is not operating, perform diagnostic tests to verify if the part is good. But more importantly, look into external influences like gas pressure, open air intake and proper exhaust, etc. I have seen a few jobs where napkins were sucked up against the air intake pipe by the heater fan motor. They can block off enough air to make the air intake switch blink on and off. This can make it hard to diagnose the switch if some type of blockage really does exist… Take the extra step to verify that connected components are correctly installed, located, and functional.

EXTERNAL CONTROLS
External controls such as a Building Management System (BMS) can enable or disable a unit based on its protocol. Once again, we have “NO” hot water but the heater has had its power disabled by the BMS system.

External Sidewall and Rooftop Venters will have their own pressure switches that must be made before the heater/boiler will receive its power. If the venter does not prove proper operation, the water heater will not have power to operate.

An Aquastat and Flow Switch will function similarly to not switch power to the heater/boiler until its internal switching has been made.

MIXING VALVES

Mixing valves can also create a scenario where the end user is sure that the water heater is not working correctly. The mixing valve can be out of adjustment and most times they are in desperate need of cleaning. A scaled valve cannot sense temperature very well nor adjust to varying flow rates. The simple check is to determine what temperature is the heater storing or producing compared to the mixing valve outlet temperature.

Other issues can arise with mixing valves relative to HWR piping. For the building to maintain a temperature in the HW piping loop, the HWR must pass through the mixing valve in no-demand periods such as overnite. Many piping arrangements that are in the field do not meet the manufacturer’s recommended piping. The HWR balancing can be tricky as one portion of HWR must pass through the mixing valve at the CW supply or internal By-Pass, while another portion of HWR may need to be sent to the vessel for balancing. Too little or too much HWR flow can make the mixing valve malfunction with erratic (low or high) output temperatures.

MOP SINKS/PRE-RINSE STATIONS

Mops sinks and pre-rinse stations are notorious for creating a cross connection of hot and cold water. Many are installed with a three-handle mixing faucet but without inlet check valves on hot and cold supplies. End users will leave the hot and cold valves open which creates an immediate cross connection. A lot of these fixtures will also employ a Vacuum Breaker which can also create a cross connection when it fails.

Check for tempering at these fixtures which can cause low HWR temperatures and wastes vast amounts of gas or electricity.

IMPROPER PIPING/RESTRICTIONS

If a heater’s water or gas piping is incorrect it will have a definite effect on flow and operation. One piping restriction can affect the heater’s operation and output. Reduced gas inlet pipe size and unbalanced water piping are two examples of this.

These are all items that can make an owner point to the heater or boiler and claim “NO” hot water! While you cannot argue that there is no hot water being supplied, you can determine if it is a heater control issue, an external component issue or installation. Any one of these can render your heating system useless and start your phone ringing! There are other environmental conditions that should also be considered such as chemicals, salt and other contaminants that can play into heater operation.

By Jim Hinshaw Just heard of a hamburger joint that is known for developing the skills of the employees to unheard of levels. In fact, their training is so good they have won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, putting them in the same group as Ritz Carlton, Cadillac and Federal Express. The CEO, Thomas Read More

By Jim Hinshaw

Just heard of a hamburger joint that is known for developing the skills of the employees to unheard of levels. In fact, their training is so good they have won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, putting them in the same group as Ritz Carlton, Cadillac and Federal Express. The CEO, Thomas Crosby, who has been with the chain since 1981 tells us that they are in the education business, and they want their employees to be the equivalent of valedictorians. That is the goal they set to beat the competition.

Their training program starts with how to iron the uniform (really?), and moves on to each process they work with in the restaurant. Each employee is certified and recertified on each machine. When they are re-tested, if they don’t score 100%, they are off that machine. Each person in a leadership role spends 10% of their time helping another employee master a skill, it is a well-defined system.

They took the dedication to a new level a few years ago, when they were awarded the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, given by the President Bush in 2001. Part of the tradition that goes with that award is that the recipient agrees to share their business practices with others to help them improve quality. So out of that the Pals Business Excellence Institute (BEI) was born. It is a school where the participants pay from $350 for a half day to $900 for 2 days. In the 2 days they visit a real operating Pals restaurant, go behind the counter to watch the crews work, see how a team can make a difference in speed and delivery. The school is run on a break-even basis, many attendees return year after year to refresh. One of those returnees is Ken Shiller from K & N Management (Rudy’s “Country Store” & Bar-B-Q and Mighty Fine Burgers, Fries, and Shakes, located in Texas), who has brought his management team to BEI many times. They attribute over $10 million dollars in annual sales growth to the techniques learned from BEI, and won the Malcolm Baldrige award themselves.

Pals was started in 1956 by Pal Barger, they now employ over 900 people, have only gone through 7 general managers in the last 33 years, has a turnover rate that is half their nearest competitor, and average a customer complaint once in every 3500 transactions. Crosby says he wants the experience that each employee has at Pal’s to last them a lifetime, and no matter if they are a doctor or chemical engineer, the things they learned at Pal’s still apply today.

My question (and you knew it was coming) is this: does your company have a training program for each employee? Are they tested and re-tested on their specific job? Do they help the other employees as part of their duties? Do they know how to iron their uniforms? What are you doing different than the competition to train and keep employees, and help them succeed in a competitive environment. Hamburgers are somewhat of a commodity: some meat, a bun, mustard and relish. Commodities are bought and sold at the lowest price. What makes the difference at Pal’s is the service and quality control they bring to a commodity.

Our business is, and should be, completely customized. We have to buy plumbing fixtures, water and sewer lines, water heaters and install them with all manufacturer, state and local codes complied with, then and only then will they get the health, safety and performance they paid for in the system. No two systems are exactly alike, even if the homes are the same. A different family lives in the home, so things like hot water needs, fixture details, decorating tastes and utility bills pay different roles in what the customer wants and needs. In fact, we offer some of the best looking fixtures in the home, no one ever shows off their new furnace, it may be in the attic.

One of the topics that come up all across the nation is how do we find and attract good employees to join our team. The answer, make the team better than the competition, train them better, let them know more is expected, pay them better, they will come. So set up a training program for your company, follow the example of Pal’s. and if you get into Tennessee or Kentucky, stop by a store, get a meal, watch them perform.