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It doesn’t seem so long ago we were fending off the “green” movement that was being force-fed into the vocab of working contractors. From green building to green technology, greenwashing was so prevalent that really the only “green” contractors were concerned with was the one they were chasing every day—a profit. But alas, a new Read more

It doesn’t seem so long ago we were fending off the “green” movement that was being force-fed into the vocab of working contractors. From green building to green technology, greenwashing was so prevalent that really the only “green” contractors were concerned with was the one they were chasing every day—a profit.

But alas, a new word has dominated the marketing lexicon—“smart.” Smart cars, smart phones, smart homes and yes, even smart pumps. “The problem is they’re not that smart,” says John Barba, contractor training manager, Taco Comfort Systems. “I’ve heard people who you’d think would know better say idiotic stuff like ‘these pumps do the thinking for you,’ and ‘they take the thinking out of it,’” says Barba.

Smart technology, smart pumps, smart phones, Internet of Things, IoT, green technology, pumps, ECM circulators

Image Credit: Noven; Bethesda.net

How about giving credit to the users who actually interact with such devices? “The thing that separates the professional from the DIY’er or the handyman is his or her ability to think and their understanding of systems. That’s why people hire professionals, and that’s why our profession is so valuable. When it comes to systems and components, the professional is the smart one,” says Barba

“The professional knows what he’s holding in his hands, why he’s using it and what impact it’s going to have on the overall system performance. There’s not a pump made that can replace what the pro knows. The machines haven’t taken over yet,” continues Barba.

Intelligent Systems

If the integration or connectivity of disparate components to a holistic, communicative system is considered smart, then I’m buying in. Why not just say that in the first place? Because it’s not market-y, and it’s too long for a tagline. Okay, then the evolution of homebuilding can be categorized as being smart or intelligent because the integration of, say, lighting, security, home entertainment, etc., can be accessed from the convenience of your smart phone (more on that later). But I’d say that is more a matter or convenience than smarts.

In fact, as part of these communicative devices, perhaps on a broader, commercial stage, we are witnessing new phrases popping up such as the Internet of Things (IoT). According to Sokwoo Rhee, former associate director of the Cyber-Physical Systems Program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) from 2014 to 2021, IoT can be described as the advancements in sensors and communication technologies that enable us to collect data which was not previously practical; the explosive increase of the amount of collected data enabled us to perform analytics which was not previously practical or meaningful; and the advancements in data analytics that will enable us to better control and optimize the systems to benefit our daily life. Again, I can buy into that.

Remember when cell phones were labeled smart phones? I think they still are. It’s 2007 and my fancy handheld device can make calls and perform functions as a computer. Well guess what? Today, they are just considered phones. And, if they don’t perform almost any function you can think of, well, then perhaps they are just dumb.

And, oh yeah, what makes a smart car? Good gas mileage? Actually, the term Smart Car came from a venture between watchmaker Swatch and Mercedes-Benz, with Smart standing for Swatch Mercedes Art, a branding stroke of genius. Its small stature was designed for city driving with big gas savings and easy maneuverability, with not-so-good safety ratings, I’d imagine. Debuting in the U.S. in 2008, last I read, it was discontinued in 2019.

And back to those smart, magical pumps? “The only word I hate more than ‘smart’ is ‘magic,’” says Barba. “Anyone who says something like that really doesn’t know how ECM circulators really work, or how they interact with systems. No matter how ‘smart’ people claim these things are, you can’t get away from the fundamentals of circulators. These things have performance—or ‘control’ curves—and the system still has a system curve,” says Barba.

Smart technology, smart pumps, smart phones, Internet of Things, IoT, green technology, pumps, ECM circulators

According to Barba, there’s no such thing as magic, and the only circulator that can even come remotely close to sizing itself is the Taco VT2218—it’s a Delta-T circulator and varies its speed to maintain a fixed delta-T in the system.

“And I don’t care how many lights and buttons you put on the circulator, you can’t change the fact that when you have a fixed performance curve—as every Delta-P variable speed circulator has—the system has to work where the system curve intersects the control curve. If it’s a zone valve system, speed and flow will change as zone valves open and close, but it still works on the selected control curve. If it’s a zone pump system, a Delta-P circulator won’t vary its speed because there’s nothing in a zone that would create a change in pressure differential. It goes one speed and that’s it. That’s not what I’d call smart.

“Now, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use a Delta-P pump as a zone pump. You should—it’ll do some pretty cool things for you provided it’s set up properly. And for that, you need a smart installer who understands what these circulators do, what they don’t do and how they interact with the system,” says Barba.

“Just because a circulator is variable speed, that doesn’t make it magic. This isn’t Hogwarts and you’re not Harry-freaking-Potter.”

What’s my point in all of this? Dig deeper, educate yourself, rely on your experience and knowledge, and don’t rely on marketing taglines such as Smart or Green to sell you completely on something.

Source Brewing is a destination, a place to enjoy a craft brew in a scenic location. And while you’re there, look overhead – you’ll see some Viega products adding to the décor. Located in Colts Neck, New Jersey, Source Brewing is in a 125-year-old converted barn. In trying to maintain some of the character of Read more

Source Brewing is a destination, a place to enjoy a craft brew in a scenic location. And while you’re there, look overhead – you’ll see some Viega products adding to the décor.

Located in Colts Neck, New Jersey, Source Brewing is in a 125-year-old converted barn. In trying to maintain some of the character of the barn, there are exposed beams.

Matt Fleming, Vice President of All Star Plumbing, knew he’d be running copper and carbon steel lines in the building. He also knew some lines would remain exposed, so he suggested Viega, because of its clean look and for several other beneficial reasons.

“The owners liked the look of it, with the exposed lines and such,” Fleming said. “When this job came up, I thought, ‘Let’s press everything in here and see how it goes.’

The flameless connection of Viega press technology was another benefit, since the crew was working in an old wooden structure. There was nothing to worry about, with no flame needed.

The brewery contains 12 tanks with glycol for chilling, and 2″ ProPress fittings were used on those copper lines. The 2″ carbon steel line feeding steam to three tanks was pressed with MegaPress fittings, and there are ¾″ branches from the tanks also done with MegaPress.

For the gas, a 1½” line equipped with MegaPressG fittings runs to the steam boiler. There’s about 100 feet of 1″ carbon steel line with MegaPressG fittings going to the mechanical room.

Mike Glaser, President of Aqua Solutions, installed the water filtration system for the brewery. Nearly all of his Annihilator Ultra Systems are installed with ProPress, and have been for the past decade. He said he uses Viega, because he knows he can’t beat the product.

“Viega is always consistent,” he said simply. “The fittings don’t break, they are reliable, and we don’t have issues with ProPress.”

“This is the first brewery that we’ve done everything with pressing,” Fleming added. “We’re realizing the time savings and efficiency, plus the lack of leaks. We’re not a big company, but we have five other brewery projects now on the forefront!”

No doubt about it, COVID-19 quickly changed the way we work, and play. Travel and in person visits came to a screeching halt. Professional offices, suppliers, even many working shops closed their doors to visitors. Training in the not to distant past was done, for the most part, in person. Conveniently, most trainers adapted quickly Read more

No doubt about it, COVID-19 quickly changed the way we work, and play. Travel and in person visits came to a screeching halt. Professional offices, suppliers, even many working shops closed their doors to visitors. Training in the not to distant past was done, for the most part, in person. Conveniently, most trainers adapted quickly to offer online training options. Many of the companies in our industry were already familiar with platforms like Go To meeting. This made the switch to virtual training fairly easy for those trainers.

Some trainers I met through the ESCO group devised hybrid virtual training events. With a few cameras, one that would follow you around a room they kept the hands on training available also.

An instructor in front of a piece of equipment would be led through the troubleshooting in real time, clever and almost like being there.

The question remains, what happens going forward in the training world. In some cases offices that made the change to virtual workspaces plan on staying that way. In some larger cities’ that has created  office space vacancies and those building owners are scrambling to repurpose those spaces to get the rent rolling back in.

In cities like San Francisco it was a tough slog to see more than two engineering firms in a day due to traffic and parking logistics. With online, virtual sessions you can present to their entire staff as well as any locations they have scattered around the world.

I’ve started limited travel myself for training events. I doubt cramming 30 or more folks into a hotel meeting room will ever be attractive anymore. In some cases moving the training into the shop area, parking lot or a large cafeteria  area is a good option to allow attendees to spread out more.

I doubt anyone knows for sure how this will shake out or what “bug” will hit us next that makes  people want to avoid crowded rooms and spaces, but plan on having options. Come up with new ways to engage the attendees. Not being able to see faces, expressions and not getting that in person feedback changes the game for a trainer.  Add polls to your training to get some interaction and a feel for the groups. Consider multiple speakers or trainers to get some back and forth conversation in your online trainings.

The need for having a trained workforce is critical. Equipment is becoming more sophisticated and specific, so factory training will march forward. We would love to hear from all the players in the industry, thoughts suggestions, what we can do to keep you’ all coming back.

Let’s rid the ‘VID and get back to the normal face to face that we all crave.

Wireless network technology is continuing to evolve, and members of the transportation industry who have come to rely on 3G networks for telematics in their connected vehicles have to consider how they’re going to keep up, lest they get left behind. Driven by ever-growing demands for more and faster data, major network providers are working Read more

Wireless network technology is continuing to evolve, and members of the transportation industry who have come to rely on 3G networks for telematics in their connected vehicles have to consider how they’re going to keep up, lest they get left behind.

Driven by ever-growing demands for more and faster data, major network providers are working ceaselessly on their respective rollouts of the fifth generation of mobile network capabilities, known as 5G, promising greatly reduced latency along with incredible speed and the ability to transmit large amounts of data in much reduced time. At the same time, the 3G networks are being phased out, with most networks set to go offline next year. Current 3G hardware is incompatible with the newer networks, and fleets that don’t upgrade in time will find themselves in the dark before long.

3G’s Clock is Ticking

Fortunately for fleet owners, there is still time to make the transition. Of the biggest providers, only AT&T is currently set to sunset 3G early next year – in February – with both Sprint and Verizon planning their shutdowns for December 2022.

Those dates come with a caveat, however: depending on the region, existing 3G infrastructure isn’t guaranteed to last until the sunset date, as regular maintenance may be dropped in favor of implementing hotly demanded 4G and 5G infrastructure instead.

Faced with uncertainty, fleet owners would be wise to get ahead of this technological leap. This is especially true for fleets that are using electronic logging devices (ELD). No fleets are more at risk of being negatively impacted by this change than those mandated to use ELDs. If these fleets fall offline, the systems will no longer be accurately tracking hours of service, and the drivers will be non-compliant, introducing a risk of those vehicles being pulled from service. To make this jump correctly, companies must carefully craft an internet of things (IoT) strategy that accounts for these newer, high-speed networks. Doing so will require implementation planning, cost analysis and training, giving all the more reason to act quickly.

The Benefits of Modern Hardware

Newer technology introduces greater functionality that will undoubtedly come in handy in the regular operation of a fleet. Even going from one step from 3G to 4G, the improvement will be immediately noticeable. Further futureproofing for 5G will ensure fleet owners stay at the forefront of technology for decades to come, all while enjoying the smoothest experience possible as the new networks roll out. The perks of being on a cutting-edge network are myriad, but highlights include:

  • Faster speed and a wider network mean more reliable connections, particularly in areas where the wireless network is congested.
  • Improved latency allows for sending a large mass of data such as alerts and events, including data-heavy content such as video.
  • Communications between connected vehicles and the surrounding infrastructure is far more reliable and operate in close to real-time on high-speed connections providing instant information from the fleet and drivers.
  • Massive amounts of data can be fed into AI-enabled telematics systems, turning real-time data into actionable safety, efficiency and compliance gains.

The key takeaway is that moving to new hardware isn’t a needless burden, but a net gain for a fleet’s drivers, customers and bottom line. Owners who get ahead now will avoid challenges down the line and reap the benefits above in the meantime.

The Road Ahead

Adopting 4G and 5G capable hardware is both an exciting opportunity and a growing requirement as older networks sunset, but the biggest reason for fleet owners to get started sooner is to make sure they have time to do it right. In the coming months, owners will want to take the following steps:

  • Determine how many devices are still on the 3G network, and how many need to be migrated.
  • Understand what kind of lifecycle to expect from new telematics equipment.
  • Research modern telematics speed- and data-focused features made possible by new hardware, including AI and machine learning options, and consider how they can improve the fleet’s operation.
  • Discuss the upgrade with the fleet’s telematics provider and learn about modern telematics and future facing solutions.
  • Discover whether or not the telematics provider is charging their current customers for this type of upgrade, this can give you a glimpse into how they will handle related future tech refreshes.
  • Ensure the new hardware is properly certified and has a pathway to helping companies with their regulatory requirements such as ELD or other regional specific programs
  • Schedule the necessary vehicle downtime to make the upgrade with the minimum possible impact on downtime.
  • Once everything is in place, implement a migration plan well ahead of your wireless network provider’s 3G sunset period.

These steps will take time, and fleet owners will want to feel confident in every step of the process. As such, waiting until the last minute to get started on the transition is ill-advised. Moving up from 3G isn’t as easy as flipping a switch. However, those owners who do put in the effort will avoid having to worry about their telematic systems potentially going out on them, crippling their essential dataflow for safety, compliance and business efficiency.

Now is the time to check with your telematics provider about the imminent 3G sunsetting or find a new vendor who can handle the inevitable upgrade.

Guest Blog By Andrew Rossington

Andrew Rossington joined Teletrac Navman in February 2016, working first as Vice President of Transtech (Division) before becoming Vice President, Transport Solutions in February 2018 then onto becoming Chief Product Officer in October 2020. In this role, Andrew is responsible for all transport industry solutions, including product development, go to market, team development and financial responsibilities. Since joining the business, he has overseen year-on-year growth in the transport vertical across the Australia/New Zealand region of Teletrac Navman. Prior to this, Andrew was the Chief Executive Officer for Transtech, which was acquired by Teletrac Navman. He has spent the last 20 years focused on transport industry solutions and has extensive experience managing software development teams and implementing key business systems for some of Australia’s largest transport operators and software companies, including Toll, ComTech and Dimensions Data. He is passionate about the transport industry and using technology to enable successful business outcomes.

If you buy an ECM circulator later this summer, you’re likely to see something new stuck to it: an Efficiency Rating label courtesy of the Hydraulic Institute. The labeling represents independent, third-party verification of each circulator’s overall electrical efficiency. That sounds pretty cool, but what does it all mean? Well, for starters, it means you Read more

If you buy an ECM circulator later this summer, you’re likely to see something new stuck to it: an Efficiency Rating label courtesy of the Hydraulic Institute. The labeling represents independent, third-party verification of each circulator’s overall electrical efficiency.

Hydraulic Institute Circulator Ratings, Do the Math, ECM circulator, Taco Comfort, Efficiency Rating labels, Efficiency Ratings

That sounds pretty cool, but what does it all mean?

Well, for starters, it means you don’t have to rely on marketing claims or sales mumbo-jumbo to determine who has the most advanced and efficient circulators. And you don’t have to rely on vague math to determine how much less an ECM circulator will cost to run compared to its standard efficiency counterpart.

In other words, it’s there in black and white.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s get started.

First Off, Just What Is the Hydraulics Institute?

The Hydraulics Institute, or HI for short, touts itself as the global authority on pumps since 1917. It’s an industry association working on behalf of the pump industry and works with the U.S. Department of Energy to establish guidelines and regulations for pumps of all types and sizes. Most recently, its efforts with the DOE led to commercial pump efficiency regulations that went into effect in January of 2020, covering all pumps 1 H.P. and above.

Hydraulic Institute Circulator Ratings, Do the Math, ECM circulator, Taco Comfort, Efficiency Rating labels, Efficiency RatingsThe new labeling on ECM’s under 1 HP can be considered a pre-cursor to DOE regulations that will ultimately phase out standard efficiency circulators. However, don’t expect those regulations to go into effect for at least two, maybe three more years.

While HI is an organization made up of pump and circulator manufacturers, it’s important to note that all of its guidelines and regulations are set in concert with the DOE. In its most basic form, the DOE says, “this is what you have to do.” HI, in turn, develops guidelines, test procedures and processes manufacturers need to follow in order to be rated.

HI also certifies each manufacturer’s test lab, and it fully audits all test results. Yes, manufacturers test their own pumps, but only if their test lab is certified. HI creates all testing procedures and guidelines, including machinery calibration, personnel training and record keeping. Labs are periodically inspected, and all test results are reviewed and audited.

The whole process is set up so there’s no scamming the system. The results are the results.

But What About the Ratings?

You’ve no doubt seen those ubiquitous yellow EnergyGuide stickers on just about every appliance under the sun. They’re not only on fridges, dryers and other everyday items, they’re also on boilers, furnaces, A/C units and heat pumps. The Federal Trade Commission requires those stickers to give consumers an idea of relative energy efficiency compared to similar units.

The new HI Energy Rating stickers on circulators are pretty much the same thing, only different.

Hydraulic Institute Circulator Ratings, Do the Math, ECM circulator, Taco Comfort, Efficiency Rating labels, Efficiency Ratings

Instead of giving you an estimated yearly energy cost, the new HI Energy Rating stickers give each circulator an Energy Rating score, or an ER. It’s a pretty easy rating to decipher: the higher the number, the more efficient the circulator.

For example, an ECM circulator with an ER of 188 consumes 10 percent less energy than a circulator with an ER of 178.

By comparison, a common standard efficiency circulator, such as a Taco 007 or a Grundfos 1558, would have an ER in the neighborhood of 48 to 50.

The math to calculate the ER is fairly detailed, so it would take someone way smarter than me to walk you through it. The ultimate value of ER, however, is to provide a simple way to show a customer how much less an ECM circulator will cost to operate compared to its standard efficiency counterpart based on independent, third-party testing.

Let’s Do THAT Math!

Let’s look at the ER label for the Taco 0015e3. The 0015e3 is a variable speed Delta-P circulator with three settings, two for constant pressure and one for full-speed, fixed speed. It’s the perfect pump to use for zone valve applications and does a dandy job as a zone circulator as well.

As you can see, the 0015e3 has an ER ranging from 152 in its least efficient mode, which is that full speed, fixed speed setting. In its most efficient operating mode setting – variable speed, constant pressure Delta-P – the ER goes to 188.

Hydraulic Institute Circulator Ratings, Do the Math, ECM circulator, Taco Comfort, Efficiency Rating labels, Efficiency Ratings

And not for nothing, Taco has four circulators with 188 ratings (and a fifth rated at 187). Those are the highest rated circulators on the HI database (Armstrong also has a circulator rated at 188. No one else is within six ER points). You can access the HI database here.

Hydraulic Institute Circulator Ratings, Do the Math, ECM circulator, Taco Comfort, Efficiency Rating labels, Efficiency Ratings

The full ratings label provides you with the math to determine how much a particular circulator will save. You first multiply ER by something called WAIP, which stands for Weighted Average Input Power. WAIP represents the average input power in horsepower for an ECM circulator without controls:

188 x 0.071 = 13.348

Next, to convert horsepower to watts, you’d multiply by 7.46:

13.348 x 7.46 = 99.58 watts

From here on it, it’s a simple kWh/cost calculation. To convert watts to kilowatts, you divide by 1000, and then multiply by the estimated number of run hours over a heating season. For this example, we’ll use 2500.

99.58 ÷ 1000 = 0.09958 kilowatts

0.09958 kW x 2500 hours = 248.95 kWh

Last, multiply kWh by your cost per kilowatt hour. That will tell you how much less the 0015e3 would cost to operate compared to a 007 or 1558:

248.95 kWh x 0.15 per kWh = $37.34

Is that a Lot?

Well, it depends. If you’re trying to justify replacing four perfectly good and not terribly old circulators with four ECMs, you’ll save just under $150 per heating season. Depending on how much you charge for the swap out, it might be a hard sell. And there’s nothing “green” about dumping four perfectly good circulators before their time.

Hydraulic Institute Circulator Ratings, Do the Math, ECM circulator, Taco Comfort, Efficiency Rating labels, Efficiency RatingsHowever, if you’re trying to show a customer (or yourself, for that matter) that replacing a dead circulator with a more expensive ECM is worth it, you now have something to sink your teeth into.

Say a standard efficiency 007 or 1558 dies and you want to replace it with a 0015e3. Yes, the 0015e3 costs more. But just channel your inner Cosmo Castorini from Moonstruck and tell them, “it costs money, because it saves money.”

Without getting into wholesale costs, profit margins and selling prices (those are your business), it’s fair to say that based on a $37.34 annual savings, the 0015e3’s higher selling price will be offset in less than two heating seasons. After that, the homeowner pockets the rest.

And if you want to talk about how a properly programmed ECM, particularly one that operates on a fixed Delta-T, will help the overall system work better, let’s make an Outlook appointment. There’s a LOT more to discuss.

What’s the Point?

So, why HI is doing this labeling thing in the first place? Simple: to give the industry an easy—and independent—way to show the value of converting from standard efficiency to ECM.

In markets where local utilities do not offer incentive rebates to drive conversion, ECM conversion has been snail’s pace slow. Some of it is a little of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” mindset. Some of it has been ridiculous claims of “magic” and the misguided promise that these circulators somehow mean you don’t have to know how to size a pump. No one with half a mind believes that nonsense.

Hydraulic Institute Circulator Ratings, Do the Math, ECM circulator, Taco Comfort, Efficiency Rating labels, Efficiency Ratings

And some of it is, to put it gently, giving new technology a healthy—and distant —respect.

But for the most part, it’s been price resistance.

What the ER label does is give you an easy way to show a customer a fundamental truth: they’re going to be paying for the ECM circulator one way or another. The only question is whether they actually get it or not.

Remember Cosmo’s words.