Decoupling Boiler and Installing Water Heaters in Century-Old San Francisco Apartment House Brings Relief to Residents Nothing lasts forever. That is especially true with mechanical fixtures, where the corrosive nature of water, the environment in which units are located and frequent use all work against fixture longevity. Nearly a century of service isn’t forever, but Read more
Decoupling Boiler and Installing Water Heaters in Century-Old San Francisco Apartment House Brings Relief to Residents
Nothing lasts forever. That is especially true with mechanical fixtures, where the corrosive nature of water, the environment in which units are located and frequent use all work against fixture longevity.
Nearly a century of service isn’t forever, but it’s a pretty good run. Some steam boilers, especially in inner-city buildings, that were installed in the 1920s and ‘30s are still in service. The reliance on steam-heated buildings in that era was a “direct result of theories of infection control” to help fight the global pandemic of 1918 and 1919, according to a Bloomberg article in 2020. Masks, shots and forced isolation fought against the most recent pandemic, but a century earlier the solution was far simpler – open the windows.
The theory followed the correct premise that fresh air would help fight off airborne diseases. In New York City, for instance, the Board of Health ordered windows to remain open to provide ventilation – even in winter. Steam heating and radiators thus packed plenty of punch. They provided heat for building residents on the coldest days and with windows open. Efficiency, obviously, was not top of mind when the boilers were installed.
In San Francisco, Excalibur Water Heaters solved a heating issue for an 8-bedroom apartment house that relied on a steam boiler that been in place since the building opened in the 1930s. The steam boiler provided hot water and radiant heat. “Because of the age of the boiler, the hot water was never reliable,’’ said Anthony Achermann, one of the owners of Excalibur.
Excalibur designed a solution that solved the problem in just one workday. The company installed two American Standard Water Heaters to provide hot water to the building. Due to space limitations, Achermann’s team used two 50-gallon tanks instead of one 100-gallon tank. Even more interesting, the ancient boiler remained in place and will remain the heating source for the apartment house.
A Hot Mess
The simple solution would have been to repair the ancient boiler – again – or install a new one. Achermann knew neither would be terrific options.
Replacing the steam boiler would have required a lengthy wait due to supply chain issues. The boiler had been repaired and serviced frequently, but few products that are nearly 100 years old work like they did when they came out of the box. In addition, many repair technicians avoid a challenging boiler replacement project.
“Most plumbers in this industry when they see a boiler, they run,’’ Achermann said. “Boiler service people are few and far between these days. Retrofitting any building with a boiler is hard.”
The boiler – “about the size of MINI Cooper,” Achermann said — operated on a timer, so hot water availability differed throughout the day. “Sometimes hot water was readily available,’’ Achermann said. “Other times it was lukewarm or no hot water.”
Steam boilers undergo significant stress and age over time. Poor water chemistry, corrosion, extreme temperature shifts and even the environment where the boiler is installed can contribute to the degradation of a unit.
Caustic embrittlement due to corrosion is a serious form of boiler metal failure. Even worse, chemical attack of the metal is usually undetectable. Failure occurs suddenly, often with catastrophic results. While aging, the apartment house boiler still has enough juice to provide heat. Perhaps it will need to be replaced at some point, but for now it serves the building. Certainly, the building owner can hardly quibble after receiving a lengthy amount of service from the heating beast.
The project was part of a remodeling of the apartment house. “The steam boiler was as old as the building,’’ Achermann said. “If they wanted to replace the boiler, they would have had to wait weeks, if not months. It was a common problem, but I’m seeing it less and less. When I come into a situation like this, I try to identify an out-of-the-box solution that can solve the problem.”
Achermann solved the issue by decoupling the boiler from providing hot water. The in-place boiler still runs the heating system for the apartment house, but his team installed two American Standard Water Heaters for the building’s hot water service.
Because of space issues, Excalibur installed two 50-gallon tanks. “We didn’t have the space or the height clearance to install a 100-gallon tank,’’ Achermann said. “It was a pretty tight fit.”
The durability of the American Standard Water Heater brand was important to their inclusion in the project. “Over the years, water heaters have been getting lighter, they are making the walls on many brands thinner,’’ Achermann said. “Over time, water will try to corrode the tank. Anode rods are supposed to prevent that, but eventually they’ll leak and fall apart. The water doesn’t have anywhere to go, and it leads to leaks. By having a heavier tank, it’s buying more time.”
One of the most dangerous tasks for the project involved separating the boiler and installing the water heaters. With the gas and water lines coming into the building, the team took extreme care to complete a smooth transition.
“It’s important to understand the severity of what could happen if something goes awry,’’ Achermann said. “If something goes wrong, it could create a pressurized vessel that can cause an explosion. We had to make sure the steam radiators work appropriately, and that the boiler only has to make the steam.”
The warranty and burner assembly on the American Standard Water Heaters also factored into the selection for the project, Achermann said.
“With many manufacturers, the water heaters just make it past the warranty,’’ Achermann said. “The American Standard Water Heaters last well past their warranty date. They are also the only manufacturer in the San Francisco area that uses a mechanical gas control valve.”
The gas control valve is a traditional assembly that has served the industry well for decades. Many newer models have electronic assemblies that break down far earlier. “The electronic ones are harder to repair, while the mechanical heaters are much more robust overall,’’ he said. “I was getting tired of explaining why a unit we installed two years ago was failing.”
Workers completed the 10-hour project safely, and tenants celebrated that consistent hot water would flow to their apartments without interruption. “They’re excited because they now have consistent hot water,’’ Achermann added. “Sometimes it would take 3-4 minutes. We installed a recirculation pump and now the water gets hot within seconds.”
Overall, the project married Excalibur’s ingenuity, durable products and working with mechanicals already in place. Sometimes plumbers don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Making a few subtle tweaks saves time, money and energy, even if the units were around during the Hoover administration.
“It was a project that required some creativity as to how we could solve the problem,’’ Achermann said. “We came up with a good concept and the owner and the tenants are happy.”
Thomas Renner writes on trade industry topics for publications throughout the United States.
A part of Emerson’s professional tools portfolio, RIDGID will select five winners for this year’s trip RIDGID®, a part of Emerson’s professional tools portfolio, is once again giving trade professionals a contest to win the trip of a lifetime. The company announced today they have begun accepting entries for the RIDGID Experience contest, being held Read more
A part of Emerson’s professional tools portfolio, RIDGID will select five winners for this year’s trip
RIDGID®, a part of Emerson’s professional tools portfolio, is once again giving trade professionals a contest to win the trip of a lifetime. The company announced today they have begun accepting entries for the RIDGID Experience contest, being held Aug. 3-5 at RIDGID world headquarters. Five grand prize winners will be selected to receive the event’s signature VIP treatment at the annual, all-expenses-paid trip that continues to grow in popularity.
Entries will be accepted through April 29, 2022. Contest winners will be selected based on their response to questions, trade involvement, enthusiasm for RIDGID tools displayed in submitted picture or video, and originality and uniqueness of entry. To enter, and for additional rules and details, visit the RIDGID Facebook page.
“It is so important to us as a brand to recognize the hard work, commitment and dedication that trade professionals put into their jobs every day. The RIDGID Experience contest gives us the opportunity to reward a select group of individuals with a truly unique event, and it puts a spotlight on the work they do,” said Becky Brotherton, director of engagement marketing, RIDGID for Emerson. “This year marks the fifth RIDGID Experience contest and the excitement it generates is a direct result of the people who join us: their enthusiasm for what they do is evident. Our goal always is to highlight the importance of the skilled trades, and every year we’re thrilled to see that pride within our winners.”
Past contest winner, Bobby Scirica, a plumbing service technician from Arizona described the trip this way, “I’ve been using these tools for years and being here and seeing the machines and people who make the tools, it’s emotional.” And another past winner, Rob Broccolo, owner of Professional Drain Services of Southern New England, said, “RIDGID is a big name in the industry and it felt incredible to be selected for a once in a lifetime opportunity. By far the highlight of my career and time in the trades.”
RIDGID Experience contest winners will receive:
- An all-expenses-paid trip to RIDGID world headquarters
- A VIP RIDGID headquarters tour
- A custom RIDGID pipe wrench
- Hero photoshoot, celebrating winners’ dedication to the skilled trades
- Suite seats to see the Cleveland Guardians
- A trip to Topgolf, a sports entertainment complex that features an inclusive, high-tech golf game
- And more
Winners will also have the opportunity to shape the future of professional tool development by providing their expert insights with RIDGID leadership including the engineering, marketing, research and product developments. How to enter and full 2022 RIDGID Experience official contest rules can be found here.
Emerson’s professional tools business, which includes RIDGID as well as the Greenlee® and Klauke® brands, provides the industry’s broadest portfolio of advanced, reliable tools and technologies for the mechanical, electrical and plumbing trades globally. Visit emerson.com/professionaltools for more information.
“We get 100% of our business through word-of-mouth. Our customers expect professionalism in our service. And we expect our drain cleaning tools to work first time, every time – no exceptions.” So says Charles “Chuck” Maggiore, owner of Grassroots Plumbing in Perryville, Maryland. “I only put my hard earned money into trustworthy, durable equipment – Read more
“We get 100% of our business through word-of-mouth. Our customers expect professionalism in our service. And we expect our drain cleaning tools to work first time, every time – no exceptions.”
So says Charles “Chuck” Maggiore, owner of Grassroots Plumbing in Perryville, Maryland.
“I only put my hard earned money into trustworthy, durable equipment – tools that handle the toughest jobs, and tools that make satisfied customers.”
And that’s why he’s anchored his growing drain cleaning business in rugged, reliable equipment from General Pipe Cleaners.
Generations of General Users
A third-generation plumbing and drain cleaning pro, Chuck comes by that choice honestly. Both his father and grandfather were strong proponents of General tools. And he’s literally witnessed decades of reliable General performance.
But Chuck is the first in his family who actually owns the business. And with his name on the door, he’s doubly serious about keeping his expanding customer base happy.
His main tool of choice? General’s tough, durable Metro® mid-size drain cleaner.
The popular machine packs the performance, punch, and portability to unclog 3” to 6” diameter lines up to 100 feet long.
Compact, Powerful Package
“We handle a wide range of ‘commercial’ customers – emergency drain cleaning for restaurants, auto body shops, breweries, condos, apartment buildings, even churches,” Chuck says. “And the Metro definitely takes a beating – and handles 90% of my jobs!”
Plumbing, drain cleaning, and maintenance pros love it. With more cleaning power than its predecessor, the Metro now carries 100 feet of 9/16” Flexicore® cable to clear stubborn stoppages in 3” to 4” inside lines. Heavy duty 9/16” cable provides more torque than traditional 1/2” cables offer, yet can clean the same size drain lines.
General’s heavy duty Flexicore cable offers superior kinking resistance and unequalled strength with the right amount of flexibility. It’s so tough that it carries the industry’s best warranty protection – one-year against breakage.
Features Enhance Productivity
To clear tree roots and other tough clogs from 3” to 6” lines, simply switch drums to 75 feet of 5/8” Flexicore cable. To adjust to different cable sizes, just turn a knob atop the feed. No special tools are required.
“The Metro has helped me through lots of tough clogs – like roots,” Chuck agrees. “That little machine has taken care of some really big jobs – including clearing out main lines!”
The Metro’s variable speed Power Cable Feed helps. General’s labor saving feature offers enhanced safety and control through blockages. Users easily guide the cable in and out of the line at up to 20 feet per minute – yet keep hands clean and off spinning cable.
“The feed is awesome,” Chuck beams. “Even my apprentice uses it with ease – and she loves it!”
The Metro is lighter and more compact than other mid-range drain cleaners. Its narrow profile facilitates handling in tight spots, on stairs, and during vehicle loading. The maneuverable machine features a fold-down handle, stair climbers, truck-loading wheel, and tough, lightweight frame on heavy duty 10” wheels for easy transport.
Renting Expands Service Options
Chuck quickly adds that, while the Metro packs plenty of muscle, he occasionally rents General equipment for longer tough jobs. And top of the list is the Speedrooter 92R®.
“It’s a favorite of my dad and grandfather,” He recalls. “In particular, my company uses it on one local franchise restaurant that regularly needs long-distance clog removal.”
The Speedrooter 92R clears stubborn stoppages in 3” to 10” lines. Variable speed cable feed offers raw driving and pulling power for long, tough jobs – feeding and retrieving 3/4” and 5/8” cables at up to 20 feet per minute.
Renting also led to a real bargain when Chuck purchased a used General Metro from a local rental center.
“That was about five years ago,” he continues. “We had rented the Metro before, and knew it’d be a great addition to our equipment.”
Chuck likes tools that produce satisfied customers – and help his young business grow.
“That’s why I prefer General machines over competitive brands,” he adds. “They’re tough, job-proven, and easy to maintain.”
“General’s customer service is stellar, too!” Chuck Maggiore continues. “When I started my business, I called competitors for equipment information, and General’s specialists were, by far, the most professional and helpful.”
“It’s another reason why I’m sticking with General.”
It’s evidently working.
“I’m looking to hire more employees now!” he beams.
To learn more about The Metro, and General’s complete line of rental-tough drain cleaning machines, visit http://www.drainbrain.com/rental or call the Drain Brains at 800-245-6200.
A lot changes in a decade, but for A. Pederson’s Plumbing in Dallas, Oregon, you wouldn’t know it by looking at one of the Maxi-Rooters from General Pipe Cleaners coming off the company’s trailer. Pederson’s two Maxi-Rooters have been the company’s go-to machines for more than 10 years, and with the exception of the feed Read more
A lot changes in a decade, but for A. Pederson’s Plumbing in Dallas, Oregon, you wouldn’t know it by looking at one of the Maxi-Rooters from General Pipe Cleaners coming off the company’s trailer. Pederson’s two Maxi-Rooters have been the company’s go-to machines for more than 10 years, and with the exception of the feed bearings, they retain all their original components, including the original Flexicore® cable.
“When you look at what else is out there on the market, there’s nothing quite built like the Maxi-Rooter,” says Trenton Hargrove, plumber at A. Pederson’s Plumbing. “While other companies’ machines are predominantly plastic, the Maxi-Rooter is built like a tank. It’s a really beefy machine you can throw around and don’t have to worry about it breaking down.”
Family owned and operated since 1973, Pederson’s provides a wide range of plumbing services to Oregon’s Willamette Valley region. In recent years, the company has taken on more jobs in the commercial and industrial sectors. One such job that comes to mind for Hargrove involves a new construction site, an uncooperative line and a can of glue.
“A site had 3″ lines that were clogging up, which is uncommon for new construction,” Hargrove recalls. “A company that specializes in drain cleaning wasn’t able to figure out the problem, so we pulled the toilet and put a camera down the line. We found out someone dropped an ABS glue can down the line that glued itself to the pipe. We sent our Maxi-Rooter and ripped it right out!”
Built for portability as well as power and capacity, the USA made Maxi-Rooter rolls on 10″ ball bearing semi-pneumatic wheels and has V-belt stair climbers for easier transport up and down stairs. The machine clears roots and heavy stoppages in 3″ to 10″ lines and holds 125 feet of 3/4″ and 150 feet of 5/8″ Flexicore cable.
General’s heavy-duty Flexicore cable has a wire rope core tightly wound inside. It offers superior kinking resistance and unequalled strength with the right amount of flexibility. It’s so tough that it carries the best warranty in the business. Take a look for yourself and see it in action!
For cutting tough tree roots, Hargrove and his team use a 24″ leader at the end of the snake on the Maxi-Rooter. The flexible leader helps get around tight bends and traps and takes most of the abuse on a job, which helps preserve the integrity of the machine’s snake. Hargrove remembers one particularly daunting root job in which a giant oak tree outside a house had caused a significant line break in a 3″ pipe.
“These roots kind of make their way in there and we were probably 35 to 40 feet down the line the line,” Hargrove remembers. “With the Maxi-Rooter, we were able to clear it in 45 minutes with no problem. That’s why it’s our go-to machine!”
Pederson’s loyalty to General products goes back more than 20 years. Along with its trusty Maxi-Rooters, the company carries General’s JM-3080 gas powered water jetter and several Super-Vee small line drain cleaners in its arsenal. However, the Maxi-Rooter is a company favorite. Beyond its low maintenance and heavy-duty construction, Hargrove says the Maxi-Rooter’s sheer performance makes the machine a worthwhile investment.
“In addition to the power and mobility, we are able to clean these lines out faster, which saves our customers money,” Hargrove concludes. “We’re able to fit more jobs in our day, so we’re making more money. And when you don’t have to worry about downtime of fixing machines, it makes the Maxi-Rooter a very desirable piece of equipment to carry around.”
Nathan Harwood is no stranger to challenges in high-leverage management environments. With a background in the automotive and aviation industries, and with Greenlee the past four years, newly appointed Vice President and General Manager, Mechanical, Harwood is now responsible for growing the mechanical segment of the business, developing a strategic pathway, and developing products for Read more
Nathan Harwood is no stranger to challenges in high-leverage management environments. With a background in the automotive and aviation industries, and with Greenlee the past four years, newly appointed Vice President and General Manager, Mechanical, Harwood is now responsible for growing the mechanical segment of the business, developing a strategic pathway, and developing products for the marketplace.
Harwood has been tasked with taking the firmly and reputably established electrical and utility company and creating a mechanical division, which will feature high-end tools for the end user. “We’ve established ourselves over many years as a leader in professional tools and we’ve leveraged our engineering expertise to establish ourselves as the go-to brand for the high-end professional products for electricians. I think a lot of the same products and expertise translate into the mechanical space,” says Harwood.
For 155 years now, Greenlee has been designing, engineering and manufacturing tools for professionals largely here in the United States. The company has recently kicked off its “Building America” campaign to highlight more than a century of designing, building and packaging products in the United States. The Rockford, Ill.-based company supports its local manufacturing workforce, as well as, five other manufacturing facilities and one distribution facility across the nation. Since 1862, Greenlee has utilized a combination of traditional hand craftsmanship and state-of-the-art equipment to produce high-quality tools. Rockford is the company’s home for manufacturing knockout punches, dies, auger bits and other tools for professionals in the electrical and mechanical trades.
Leveraging this moving forward is key. “With several factories and a solid manufacturing footprint in the U.S., we can introduce products that are very specific to mechanical tradespeople,” says Harwood.
Greenlee is dedicated to bringing products that are focused on solving problems faced by contractors. “We can bring high-end type products to market that maybe others don’t because it won’t sell hundreds of thousands of units,” says Harwood.
Greenlee has a full line of professional hand tools and are now adding in the specialty tools (See Product Sidebar). “We have specialty products that we are working on; we are reimagining them and taking it [the product] to the next level by putting it through our engineering pipeline. That pipeline includes more higher value-type specialized products that the market has not seen too much of that are going to help primarily in larger industrial and commercial-type applications,” says Harwood.
Harwood admits that with some strong players in the marketplace, competition will be a challenge. While mechanical contractors have heard of Greenlee in the electrical space, says Harwood, the company needs to earn its way into the plumbing and mechanical market. “We want to make sure our message is clear. We are going to try to bring high-quality, reliable tools that are very specific to the mechanical trade. We are Professional. Nothing less.”
Greenlee’s parent company acquired Klauke in 1996, for example, has brought high quality and impeccable reputation to the hydraulics space. “We are leveraging Klauke’s engineering expertise in battery-powered hydraulics as it relates the specific needs of the North American market,” says Harwood. Klauke helps introduce next-generation products, which integrate connectivity and smart tool technology that bring good value to the end user, says Harwood. “For instance, the Gorilla™ Press tool includes a pressure monitoring feature that ensures a proper press fitting is made. Once the tool reaches optimal pressure, the piston is automatically returned to the starting position. If the force is below specifications, the operator is alerted in real time by both an audible and visual que on the tool.”
Ergonomics is a key part of the Greenlee message, as well. Focused on weights and balances, and every ergonomic aspect of a specific tool, Greenlee employs a classically trained ergonomics specialist that puts every one of its products through a rigorous testing process to make sure that the design is giving the end user the best possible chance at keeping their bodies healthy. Bottom line: Working with a more ergonomic tool means that the end user is less likely to have life-long ailments such as musculoskeletal disorders—carpal tunnel syndrome, degenerative disc disease, etc. “Greenlee’s investment in ergonomics is an investment in the professional,” says Harwood.
Convincing distributors to put Greenlee products on their walls is also challenging, but with a dedicated, 100% full-time mechanical sales team in place, Harwood is confident in the value of the products and the Greenlee brand through strong relationship building.
This is where the strength of Greenlee’s Professional Tool Specialist program plays a significant role in the relationship in the field. Launched in 2012, Greenlee’s PTS program brings former trade professionals and end users together by having Greenlee specialists travel the country in trucks decked out in with the complete Greenlee tool portfolio. “With 14 PTS professionals across the country, we are able to show end users how our products can and should be used in the field, and the benefits to them.”
Admittedly, primarily known on the electrical side, “we’re still leveraging quite a bit on our mechanical side, as well,” says Harwood. “Industry experts driving our tool-filled trucks can go to a jobsite and can demonstrate the tools and their ergonomic value. This brings an added dimension to our brand recognition.”
It doesn’t hurt that Greenlee’s corporate headquarters near Rockford, Ill., is situated right next to a Local UA apprentice training center. It’s a win-win for both as having them next door to gives Greenlee great feedback, and it gives the UA new products.
“You’ve got some really experienced tradespeople there doing the training, setting our products up and being able to see it and use it, and train on it with an apprentice. The students see and experience the Greenlee brand inside of their Local UA, these are products they may need as mechanical contractors moving forward,” says Harwood.
“What are the real problems and the real challenges that end users face everyday and how can we help solve that?” asks Harwood. “Greenlee is going to bring the more than 155 years of experience to the marketplace. We’re going to continue to focus on the mechanical space by bringing top quality products that we expect will differentiate the way contractors do work and keep them safer while they do it,” says Harwood.
Gorilla Pressing Tool
The new Gorilla pressing tool line features two separate tool platforms: the inline battery pressing tool (INLNPRESS-TOOL19kN) and the pistol grip battery powered pressing tool (PSTLPRESS-TOOL32KN). Both tools quickly press watertight connections in three to four seconds. The tools can be used while a system is still wet, unlike with soldering, so the contractor does not have to drain the system and wait for it to dry before pressing. The inline pressing tool has a fitting capacity of 1-1/2” (38.1mm) on PEX and 1-1/4” (31.8mm) on copper and stainless steel, and the pistol grip pressing tool has a fitting capacity of 2” (50.8mm) on PEX and 4” (101.6mm) on copper and stainless steel. The tools have a patented twist and release pin, making jaw exchange even easier. The kits come with four jaws for the inline and six for the pistol grip.
These new pressing tools utilize intelligence for accurate pressing and are designed with Autostop technology, which automatically stops the piston when the optimal force is reached, sealing the fitting properly. Precise pressure monitoring and diagnostics ensure appropriate specifications for each fitting. The Quickstop feature built into both tools elicits an immediate stop to the piston once the trigger is released safeguarding the user’s hands from pinch points. The lightweight design, 350-degree rotating head, and LED work light allow for both products to be used in dark tight spaces.
For more info, www.greenlee.com.
Next Generation Tool Bags
These bags are engineered to reduce strain on the user and withstand wear and tear. In addition, the two backpacks allow for customization with a personalized name patch.
“Greenlee is committed to producing ergonomic tools and products that reduce injury and increase productivity to support the professionals who use them daily,” said Dale Speggen, product manager at Greenlee. “Our network of professional contractors helped to test the Next Generation tool bags and provided valuable feedback. We are confident these durable, long-lasting and lightweight bags will help get the job done.”
Engineered to be rugged, the Next Generation tool bags can manage heavy loads and harsh work environments. Next Generation bags are constructed from a poly and nylon Ripstop fabric. This construction contains any tear that should ensue, maintaining the durability and utilization of the bag. Critical seams that receive stress from weight are reinforced with double and triple stitching to prevent separation. Next Generation bags are lined with a light green interior to increase visibility of bag contents. A durable, hard plastic bottom keeps dirt and water out and allows the bag to stand in an upright position for easy access.
For more info, www.greenlee.com.