The reinvigorated program pairs ideas with investment. Did you know that Uponor North America has a division called Uponor Innovations (UI), where highly motivated entrepreneurs can submit innovative ideas and turn them into protected, substantive, viable products or technology? What started seven years ago as a central resource site for entrepreneurs, startups, business owners, management Read more
The reinvigorated program pairs ideas with investment.
Did you know that Uponor North America has a division called Uponor Innovations (UI), where highly motivated entrepreneurs can submit innovative ideas and turn them into protected, substantive, viable products or technology? What started seven years ago as a central resource site for entrepreneurs, startups, business owners, management teams and investors to submit an idea that improves the way people design and construct the human environments, this accelerated think tank of innovative ideas is gaining momentum once again.
According the website (www.uponorinnovations.com), Uponor Innovation’s interests include acquisitions, equity participation and licensing. The approach is to pursue involvement where UI can best leverage mutual success through existing Uponor assets and resources. “Someone may have a good idea, but lack the resources to gain any traction or success,” says Bill Gray, president of Uponor North America. “That’s where Uponor can help. We have a successful and established infrastructure to help introduce ideas, products, processes and technology to our industry.”
A pipeline of ideas, the core concept that initiated the discussion behind Uponor Innovations was that “no one company has all of the good ideas,” says Carl Moe, Business Analyst at Uponor Innovations LLC. “We have the global expertise and employees in technical, marketing and product design areas where we can become a resource for idea generators.”
The force behind UI is that an idea will offer viability and acceptance, which, in turn, will contribute value to society. “We want to invest in an opportunity where the entrepreneur has a good idea and is already in a position to bring it to market—and we can help them. The strategy is for UI to invest more than just money. We have to see a way for Uponor to help leverage or help grow what we perceive to be a very good idea,” says Moe.
Piggybacking off the idea of growing and nurturing a very good idea,“Unlike a venture capitalist, we don’t have to ‘own’ your company. We can own it, but it isn’t a required part of our model. We want to invest in an opportunity where the entrepreneur has a good idea and is already in a position to bring it to market—and we can help them,” says Moe.
Gray believes that building an innovative culture internally and externally is a great opportunity to build products and create new processes and technologies that help its customers differentiate and grow their businesses. “We are looking for products and innovations that align with our sustainability goals and our vision of becoming a ‘recognized leader in sustainable building solutions,’” says Gray.
One recent success story was Uponor’s investment in Upstream Technologies. According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Upstream Technologies SAFL Baffle—developed out of the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering’s St. Anthony Falls Laboratory—has saved Minnesota taxpayers $8.5 million over the past few years and projects additional savings to the state of $26.4 million over the next 10 years. The product is a proven, cost-effective method to help municipalities, developers, watershed districts and transportation departments improve sediment capture in urban runoff before it goes into storm sewers and eventually ends up in lakes, rivers and oceans. Uponor subsequently supported launch of the Upstream’s new Modified Philip Dunne (MPD) Infiltrometer, which provides an innovative solution for quickly and efficiently measuring the rate of water infiltration into soil.
Another great example was the joint venture between Uponor and Belkin International to create Phyn in May 2016. Phyn’s mission is to help consumers reduce their water usage and contribute to the global water shortage problem, protect their homes and save money. “There was interest in it at Uponor because it pertains to water management, so the decision was to see if Belkin had interest to take on a partner. I reached out to the exec team at Belkin and introduced Uponor,” says Moe.
Currently, with multiple projects in the pipeline and in various stages of development, Uponor Innovations is an approach to pursue involvement through existing Uponor assets and resources, the UI infrastructure includes staff, funding, manufacturing, marketing, sales, technical support and a national distribution network.
Do you have an idea that would inspire the industry with fresh, innovative and sustainable solutions, and enrich people’s way of life? Uponor Innovations may be worth a look and worthy of consideration. “There is a wide network of really creative entrepreneurial people out there, for whom we would like to widen our front-door welcome mat to Uponor,” says Moe.
Drew Copeland is the rhythm guitarist and harmony vocalist for the rock band Sister Hazel — and the co-writer of the band’s biggest hit “All For You” that topped the charts in the late ’90s. Even though he’s made his living in music, Copeland knows quite a bit about homebuilding and energy efficiency because he Read more
Drew Copeland is the rhythm guitarist and harmony vocalist for the rock band Sister Hazel — and the co-writer of the band’s biggest hit “All For You” that topped the charts in the late ’90s.
Even though he’s made his living in music, Copeland knows quite a bit about homebuilding and energy efficiency because he received a building science degree from the University of Florida. His first exposure to A. O. Smith excellence was when he participated in the Hootie & The Blowfish celebrity golf tournament that the company co-sponsored.
In 2018, Copeland began building two houses on a large lot outside of Gainesville, Florida. The larger house is for Drew and his wife and three children. It has 3,500 square feet of heated/cooled space. The smaller, 1700-sq. ft. house is for Copeland’s sister-in-law who was involved in a serious accident and requires a caretaker. Copeland went with two propane A. O. Smith ProLine XE Gas Tankless Water Heaters in the larger house and one in the smaller house. “When people ask me why I chose A. O. Smith, the answer was easy,” said Copeland. “A. O. Smith’s reputation of the highest quality in equipment as well as customer service made my decision very easy.”
“I’m really excited about getting instantaneous hot water with the A. O. Smith units,” said Copeland. “In previous homes we had tank-type water heaters. With teenage kids, especially on hair-washing days, my chances of getting a hot shower were pretty slim,” he said. “In our new house, there are 4½ baths, and a need for hot water in the kitchen, laundry room and the summer kitchen outside and our outdoor shower. That’s a high demand, but the A. O. Smith tankless units have performed very well.”
Despite its smaller size, the adjacent house also has high demand for hot water. “My sister-in-law’s house has a big sink and dishwasher, plus a washer and dryer in the laundry room,” said Copeland. “There are also two bathrooms in the house – one for the caretaker. We’ve been pleased with the performance of the A. O. Smith tankless unit in that house, too.”
All the tankless units at the two homes are equipped with A. O. Smith Product Preservers that protect them from damage due to scale formation and make maintenance fast and hassle-free.
There’s a song called “Happy” on Sister Hazel’s best-selling album – and Copeland is indeed happy with the service and expertise that A. O. Smith provided. “The A. O. Smith team has really made the installations effortless,” added Copeland. “They came out to my site and helped me figure out exactly what I needed. I can’t sing their praises enough.”
Mechanical Hub recently chatted with Bryan Cordill, director of residential and commercial business development for the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) to discuss his role and efforts to support and grow propane demand in the residential and commercial construction markets. Cordill spent 17 years working as a sales manager for his family’s propane business Read more
Mechanical Hub recently chatted with Bryan Cordill, director of residential and commercial business development for the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) to discuss his role and efforts to support and grow propane demand in the residential and commercial construction markets.
Cordill spent 17 years working as a sales manager for his family’s propane business, Cordill Butane-Propane Service — an independent propane supplier in Monroe, Louisiana. He was then named business development officer at Ajasent Inc., where he provided cloud hosting services for propane and related service companies. Most recently, Cordill co-founded Proponent LLC — a consulting company — where he worked with company leadership to develop and deploy new strategies.
Cordill has a master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology from Louisiana Tech University. He lives in Monroe, Louisiana.
MH: Bryan, great to run into you at AHR Expo and glad that you can give us a few minutes to beter understand your role with PERC. Can you give us a bit about yourself: How long have you been involved with the Propane Education & Research Council. (PERC), in the industry, and what has your journey in this industry looked like up to this point? What is a day like for you at PERC?
BC: Thanks Tim, I started with PERC as the director of business development for residential and commercial markets in June of 2019. My family has been active in the butane or propane industry since about 1932 when my grandfather started the Winnsboro Butane Company in Louisiana. He and his partners ended up selling that business as WWII was starting and they knew they wouldn’t be home to work it. He had several other companies with partners, but eventually opened Cordill Propane with my grandmother in 1963. I started working there part-time when I was about eight years old — riding with drivers, pulling hoses for them, and fetching tools for service techs. After college, I went to work full-time mostly in growth area for the company and did that until my dad retired and sold the business a few years ago. So, I have pretty much had every job there is in a propane company.
A day in the life a PERC looks different every day. We met at the AHR Expo and I spend a lot of those days walking tradeshow floors meeting with our OEM partners to talk about ongoing projects. Sometimes, I help them by being a subject matter expert on what propane marketers or customers are looking for in a product. I like to be available for media interviews like this and have even been interviewed on a couple of podcasts lately. I set our communications strategies for both markets, but fortunately I have a ton of help executing that. Commercial and residential markets are just under 70 percent of all propane sales today, so in growing that across 50 states, no two days are alike.
MH: Please provide us with a quick elevator speech about today’s PERC, including the mission and vision of PERC?
BC: Our overall goal at PERC is to grow users and uses of propane here in the United States. To that end, we educate and train today’s propane industry workers on safety, as well as the skills necessary to provide superior customer service. We partner on research to hopefully find the next big thing, or maybe the next several little things, that will help develop those uses and grow users. And we act as a conduit of information between industry, builders, site planners, equipment manufacturers and distributors, specifiers, architects, designers, allied trades, and the end user of the products.
MH: The market has seen significant growth over the past 10+ years, how is the current economic climate affecting the industry? What are some of the challenges and how is PERC addressing those challenges?
BC: When you consider where we were in new residential construction prior to the housing or lending crisis of 2007, we haven’t seen a return to new installs of that level, but we have experienced a more sustainable, steady growth in year-over-year market share. One challenge is the continued efficiencies in products and busy lifestyles of families. The same home today uses less energy than 10 years ago. There has been a good bit of consolidation in our industry, just like my family selling its business, many families have sold to larger regional or national companies. It’s important to PERC that those surviving companies remember that their competition is not another propane company. Our industry only grows and gets stronger if we focus on our competing fuels and their use in our homes, offices, warehouses, cars, trucks, busses, and on our farms. The truth is, propane can and is successful in all those places. We just can’t take our eye off the ball. PERC has to continue sharing our stories so customers know that propane can do that.
MH: How is PERC addressing environmental issues in the industry and the “Green” movement?
BC: I think we see the electrification of everything as a major challenge and concern for the industry. Propane can play a significant role in reducing carbon emissions as well as greenhouse gasses. Propane has a very attractive carbon footprint, it is not a greenhouse gas, and is incredibly more efficient than electricity when compared on a source-to-site evaluation. Source-to-site includes all of the energy required to produce, transport, go through transformers, and then finally delivered to the appliance. On a national average, it takes over 3 units of energy at a power plant (3.03) to get 1 unit of energy at the power plug. It takes 1.15 units of energy at the propane plant to get 1 unit of energy at the home in a burner. To make things worse for electricity, we are able to use all of the renewable energy that is produced in our country, and nuclear plants work best at stable output rates. If we keep moving to require more electrical demand the plants that can meet that need are fueled by either coal or natural gas. In all reality, electrification does not equal de-carbonization. If anything, using more electricity in our homes and business will cause greater emissions of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses.
I believe we have to understand there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will solve this. If we use the right fuel, in the right place, for the right thing, we will all be better off. I have no desire to go back to coal lamps or candles — I really like my led light bulbs. But we also don’t want to see consumers being told they have to use lesser-quality, more expensive electric appliances than the high comfort products that deliver continuous supplies of hot water, warm air and chef-preferred cooking.
In addition, PERC is working to increase the availability of renewable propane. We currently have two plants in production and working to grow more. PERC is also in the process of getting resources to our marketers so they can speak confidently with their customers about propane’s role in a clean environment. Part of that may be talking to school districts about clean, quiet propane-fueled school busses that have over 90 percent fewer emissions than a clean diesel competitor, and studies have shown students that ride on these busses actually score better on standardized test. Another component may be talking to the school about converting their older, inefficient boilers to newer, high-efficiency units. And that by planning that installation and budgeting the cap ex, you save tremendously over having to do an emergency repair. Or maybe it’s talking to customers in California that have experienced regular and prolonged power outages to meet their onsite needs with generators or even combined heat and power units.
MH: What are a few trends that PERC has identified in the industry?
BC: There is a lot of discussion and traction for the rapidly growing cannabis industry. A lot of these facilities are built in places without access to natural gas, and many don’t have adequate high voltage power lines to meet their demand in a cost-effective means. We see increased adoption of gas heat pumps in those and other commercial spaces where electric rates continue to climb. There are still many oil-fired boilers in the northeast and mid-Atlantic. Converting those to clean propane boilers or commercial water heaters is seeing continued growth. Tankless water heater technology continues to improve, and we see new installations that free up so much floor space in the mechanical room you hardly recognize it. There’s also tremendous growth in hospitality, not just restaurants but also hotels. CHP, CCHP and micro-CHP are all getting attention from manufacturers. We saw four or so different manufactures and approaches to delivering these products while at the show.
MH: How do you see PERC changing in the future, and how do you see yourself helping in creating that change?
BC: We are really in the middle of the change. We have completely rebuilt what business development looks like for PERC, we have taken full control of the industry safety and training program, and we are building out a modular training curriculum that will be available soon. We will also be able to deliver propane safety training to our allied industries — particularly the plumbing and HVAC communities. I get to be in the middle of delivering all of that knowledge to our commercial and residential partners. Last week alone, our team met directly with over 20 different companies about their products and commercialization efforts. It really is an exciting time.
MH: How are standards used in the industry, and what have they meant to its overall history and development?
BC: There are a number of different standards that impact the propane industry. Many are the ones that affect how products are built and certified, so ANSI, ASME, UL, CSA, CARB, and plenty of others. But the ones that directly affect the delivery and installation of the product are things like CFR49, Pipeline Safety, and NFPA 54 and 58, those are the main fuel gas codes. These have helped to provide a very safe and dependable storage and delivery plan that allows builders, engineers, specifiers, or owners to feel comfortable using propane in their projects.
MH: How are you strengthening and building on your brand, training and resources available to members and non-members?
BC: PERC doesn’t really have members and non-members. We are funded by an industry-adopted mandatory assessment. We are a non-profit, so our resources are available to all. Just last year we migrated a ton of different websites to a single destination, Propane.com, which is a great source for everything we do. There are separate sections for commercial buildings and operations, as well as residential construction. We have a ton of information that is just focused on the consumer and answering questions they have. This is also the portal for our new learning center and all of the associated training that will be housed there. On top of all of that, we have resources that are designed and set up to help propane marketers grow their business.
MH: What are some of the things you’re doing to boost PERC’s visibility and grow market share?
BC: Obviously, one is getting the chance to visit with professionals like you and telling our story to your audience. We also invest in case studies and research to give real examples that propane can do that. I work on reaching every level of the decision chain — from site selectors, to planners and engineers, to installers. For the site selectors who are looking for land to build a project, I want them to know gas is available to them even when natural gas might not be. To the planners and engineers that are laying out the project and specifying the mechanical components, I want them to be sure they understand all of the products that are available to them. To the installers, we want to help them feel comfortable and confident in propane. And through all of that engagement, we will grow market share by having a well-informed customer reaching out to a well-prepared and knowledgeable propane marketer at the time of purchase. I don’t get to actually sell or deliver propane anymore. I just get the great job or working across the country with all of our wonderful partners to deliver that market share growth.
MH: In closing, is there anything you’d like to add?
Dallas — Flashback to the year 1945. A 17-year-old Robert Tiner becomes the youngest master plumber in the state of Texas. Mr. Tiner lays the foundation for what will evolve into one of the most reputable home-service providers in Dallas-Fort Worth. Originally Mr. Tiner partnered with two brothers whose last name was actually Baker, he and his team focused Read more
Dallas — Flashback to the year 1945. A 17-year-old Robert Tiner becomes the youngest master plumber in the state of Texas. Mr. Tiner lays the foundation for what will evolve into one of the most reputable home-service providers in Dallas-Fort Worth. Originally Mr. Tiner partnered with two brothers whose last name was actually Baker, he and his team focused on providing quality plumbing while the Baker brothers specialized in insurance. After several successful years of growth Mr. Tiner bought the company outright but kept the Baker Brothers name as an ode to his former business partners and to continue to build the brand in the local area. Now in its third generation of being a family-owned-and-operated, Baker Brothers is pleased to announce the celebration of its 75th anniversary. From 1945 to present day, Baker Brothers has continued to proudly serve the community with the same type of superior quality service originally envisioned by Mr.Tiner.
In honor of this milestone anniversary, Baker Brothers will conduct a year-long campaign to captivate the customers and the community that have made the company successful for so many years. Baker Brothers will share its extensive history over the course of the year through its initiative – 75 Days of Baker. This campaign will feature stories on the history of the company, as well as special limited-time offers for customers. In addition, Baker Brothers and its employees will be collecting and donating a total of 7,500 cans for local charities, Dallas Life and North Texas Food Bank.
Through the years the company has expanded its specialties from plumbing to now include heating and cooling services as well as electrical services. The Baker Brothers’ legacy continues by staying committed to its core values of “Trust, Quality, and Care” to ensure customer and employee satisfaction. Baker Brothers is home to 262 employees that strive to make customers feel like family by meeting their needs at the highest level. It is also part of the mission of Baker Brothers to give back to the community it serves and beyond, by partnering with various charities to help feed the homeless, draw water wells in Africa, and volunteer resources to no-kill animal shelters.
Third-generation company president, Jimmie Dale Jr. says of the anniversary “It is with great pride that I can say we’ve been in business for 75 years! Since our inception in 1945 as a small plumbing company specializing in leak locates, we were the first plumbing company to utilize a camera to help locate the leaks. Seventy-five years later the same spirit of innovation and relentless commitment to customer service allows us to not only meet the plumbing needs of our customers but also provide additional services in HVAC and Electrical.”
The Baker Brothers family is grateful for the opportunities it’s had to serve and make a difference in the lives of others in the community.
A quick jobsite visit to the western suburbs of Chicago found hydronics guru Alan Carlson (Instagram @alan_carlson) swapping out leaking boilers at an 80-unit apartment complex. Carlson, a plumbing and heating industry veteran has been repping the trades for the past 19 years. He entered the plumbing trade back in 2001, and for the past Read more
A quick jobsite visit to the western suburbs of Chicago found hydronics guru Alan Carlson (Instagram @alan_carlson) swapping out leaking boilers at an 80-unit apartment complex.
Carlson, a plumbing and heating industry veteran has been repping the trades for the past 19 years. He entered the plumbing trade back in 2001, and for the past few years now, he has moved over to the hydronics side of the job with Ambrust Plumbing & Heating Solutions, Carol Stream, Ill., to where—back in 2014—he took his plumbing skills. Since 1918, Armbrust has provided DuPage County residents exceptional residential/commercial plumbing and heating services.
Carlson is testament to hard work and dedication to his craft. “I knew I wasn’t cut out for college and the trades has afforded me the opportunity to make a good living and provide for my family,” says Carlson.
Alan takes great pride in his work and it shows with the finished product. “I am a hard-working, goal-oriented person who specializes in problem solving, job quality and customer satisfaction.”
And don’t take his word for it, read what customers are saying about Alan and his professionalism. According to an online review, “This is the second time I have had Alan C. over to check on our plumbing. He is always friendly and very knowledgeable. He has a considerable level of experience and he has been able to answer all of my questions. When presented with options for needed services, he is honest in giving feedback with absolutely no pressure. Armbrust is a great plumbing company.”
Carlson was introduced to the trades at a very early age because his great grandfather, C.J. Erickson, started one of the oldest, and still one of the most successful, plumbing businesses in Chicago. In 1906, Carl Joseph “Joe” Erickson immigrated to America from Sweden, settling in Chicago. Joe, an accomplished plumber, signed with Plumbers Local 130 and set out to live the American dream, opening his own shop.
Although Carlson never worked at his great grandfather’s shop in the city, he got a taste early in his youth of what working in the trades would be like. “I didn’t know what career I wanted after high school. I tried the local junior college without any direction, hoping I would magically find something. I didn’t even finish a year. I decided that if my family can run a successful plumbing company in Chicago for four generations, and if my neighbor who owns his own company can make a good living, I would try plumbing,” says Carlson.
The trades have enriched Carlson’s life because he now possesses important and highly desired skills. “I also have a better understanding and much higher respect for those who work physically hard to earn their wage,” says Carlson.
Carlson stresses that there never should be a negative stereotype attached to being in the trades. “Having a career in the trades does not mean that you’re dumb or dirty or should be looked down upon. A trade is a highly skilled and highly needed job. If you want to have a career where you will always be needed, regardless of the economy, become a plumber. And if you do decide to get into it, work hard, never stop learning and never stop asking questions; be the first one there and the last one to leave,” says Carlson.