ProStaff Reviews

Ah, the age-old question: is it duct tape or duck tape? Although often mispronounced, it’s actually duct tape (Duck is a brand of the tape) and covers a class of pressure-sensitive tapes that consists of three layers: polyethylene (plastic), scrim (mesh fabric) and rubberized adhesive. Yet, even with that clarification, the term “duct tape” can Read more

Ah, the age-old question: is it duct tape or duck tape? Although often mispronounced, it’s actually duct tape (Duck is a brand of the tape) and covers a class of pressure-sensitive tapes that consists of three layers: polyethylene (plastic), scrim (mesh fabric) and rubberized adhesive. Yet, even with that clarification, the term “duct tape” can still be a bit misleading – although it’s considered a fix-all that got its name from early-on usage in HVAC work, duct tape is, today, actually not recommended for use on ducts (though there are some versions that are approved for HVAC applications).

Here’s a rundown of tape types.

  • General Purpose Duct Tapes: Typical Thickness: 6-9 mils, handy for DIY home projects or light duty patching and bundling for pros on the jobsite.
  • Heavy Duty Duct Tapes: Typical Thickness: 10-17 mils, every tradesperson should keep at least one roll of heavy duty duct tape in the toolbox — and multiple widths or colors won’t hurt.
  • Clear Repair Tapes: Typical Thickness: Approx. 7 mils, your go-to tape for airtight, waterproof repairs on any surface that needs to be seen.
  • Structural Grade Duct Tapes: Typical Thickness: Approx. 17 mils, the most robust option for extreme jobs, including those that require a rope or chain.

Duct tape is undoubtedly one of those versatile items that’s earned a place in just about any toolbox. It’s flexible, resists tearing, and sticks to just about anything. As contractors know, when it comes to jobsite efficiency, having the right tools for the job at-hand makes all the difference—and saving time means saving money.

The Mechanical Hub ProStaff team recently took on the challenge of trying out a new tape to see if it was the one to grab to ensure the fix doesn’t fail and can save time, money and a lot of space in the toolbox.

Traditionally, ropes or chains have been the only option for contractors and installers when they encounter jobsite tasks that require intense strength and durability. Until now as one 36-inch loop of new T-Rex® Brute Force® can hold more than 700 pounds of weight and offers superior adhesion, so you can quickly secure, fasten and hold loads that you wouldn’t dare attempt with other tapes.

The high-bond, double-thick adhesive allows the tape to stick to rougher, dirtier surfaces and offers a durable, waterproof backing suitable for all-weather performance. Brute Force® represents the next generation of high-performance duct tapes with patent-pending Forge-Link™ Technology.

ProStaffer Andy Mickelson of Mickelson Plumbing and Heating, Missoula, Montana, was impressed with the strength and said, “T-Rex Brute Force tape has an incredible tear-resistant design, so much so that you’ll require a blade to cut it. The adhesive layer is much thicker than any other tape I’ve used previously. The tape seems to hold well when bonded to itself and smooth surfaces alike, even when the surface is not completely dry. It will make a great addition to any travel box or tool box.”

“We have found a number of uses for T-Rex Brute Force! Someone didn’t judge the width of the truck while backing up and managed to rip off a side mirror. The mirror was put back into place and held there with the tape until we were able to get it into the dealership,” said Shay Shepston of Reimagined Renovations, Champaign, Illinois.

Shay added, “It’s been used to hold a foam base cove to metal before installing a pool liner, to hold PVC pipes in place while we work, and many other odd jobs. It has been added to all our trucks and toolboxes!”

According to our ProStaff team, the only drawback—and one they all mentioned—was that you cannot tear it; it must be cut. Contractors are so accustomed to just tearing tape, it required remembering to have a utility knife handy to cut it.

ProStaff member John Thompson with Thompson Family Plumbing & Rooter, with shops in California and Arizona, put it to work with his team and shared, “T-Rex Brute Force tape was fantastic to have on our work trucks. On multiple occasions it was used to build confinement areas with plastic, plus a last-minute repair to hold the casing together on my jackhammer because I broke it during a project. You never know when you might need something of this strength to get out of a jam.”

He joked, “I have never seen anything this durable. It’s truly remarkable to see the strength this tape has. I wish I could say that I’m putting together a zombie bunker, because I would seriously use it. It’s ‘Ferocious!’”

In addition to needing a utility knife to cut the tape, our ProStaff team suggested they would like to see the tape in more solid and neon construction colors such as red, white, green and possibly even reflective, as well as different roll size options.

T-Rex® Brute Force® is sold in 25-yard rolls and is available at national mass and hardware retailers. For more information, visit www.trextape.com/contractors.

Hot & cold frost proof hydrants are not new but the TrueTemp by PRIER is a totally different faucet compared to any I’ve ever worked with in the past. The TrueTemp is a single handle frost proof with the styling of an indoor fixture available in two finished, Satin Nickel Plated & Oil Rubbed Bronze Read more

Hot & cold frost proof hydrants are not new but the TrueTemp by PRIER is a totally different faucet compared to any I’ve ever worked with in the past. The TrueTemp is a single handle frost proof with the styling of an indoor fixture available in two finished, Satin Nickel Plated & Oil Rubbed Bronze.

Focus: True Temp Installation

As part of a larger review process, ProStaff’er Andy Mickelson, owner of Mickelson Plumbing in Missoula, MT and I are each installing one. Andy has a spot for it at his own home, I’ve got it going in at the #duluthbuild project for my little sister’s new home.

PRIER True Temp Installed

I took delivery of the Oil Rubbed Bronze finish 12″ model #P-118L12-ORB last week and took it out of the box minutes before the video to get it mounted.

One of the things that stands out immediately with this faucet is the lack of visible mounting hardware, I like that. As you’ll see in the video there is a stainless steel mounting plate/ring that when attached to the mounting surface is completely hidden. Furthermore, this gives the faucet a totally different look than other hot/cold models.

The faucet ships with Phillips head stainless screws and the mounting plate. There were no instructions in the box, although its pretty simple to figure out, I think it may have just been forgotten in packaging. Here’s a link to the install instructions.

Mounting Prep for the True Temp

I had a PRIER 12″ model frost proof faucet roughed-in already. This required me to enlarge the existing 1″ hole in the mounting block to accommodate the new TrueTemp. I simply traced the hole in the mounting plate and cut the mounting block with my M12 jig saw. The correct hole saw size would be 1-3/4″ if installing at a new location. Step two was to align the mounting plate hole with the newly cut hole and attach using the stainless screws. This step requires the installer to level the tabs on the mounting plate, the tabs are the connection point between the faucet and mounting plate and need to be level to ensure the faucet is plumb.

Finally, the TrueTemp body is inserted and a half-turn clockwise engages the tabs and body to securely position the faucet, the final step is to install the remaining stainless screw in the very bottom of the body.

Watch for more info, next time I’ll cover the piping connection options and hot I installed it on my job.

 

Makita Rebar Tool

Hands-on look at the new Makita Tools XRT01 Rebar Tool This week we traveled to the World of Concrete event at the Las Vegas Convention Center to see what’s coming from some of the biggest tool manufacturers in the construction industry. If you’ve never been to the WOC show, like myself, its huge and full Read more

Hands-on look at the new Makita Tools XRT01 Rebar Tool

This week we traveled to the World of Concrete event at the Las Vegas Convention Center to see what’s coming from some of the biggest tool manufacturers in the construction industry. If you’ve never been to the WOC show, like myself, its huge and full of hand-on displays for tool lovers of all types. We got our hands on a lot of tools, the Makita rebar tying tool was just one that left an impression.

Back in October, 2018 Makita announced the addition of 40 new tools to be available immediately. This announcement was made during the annual STAFDA convention in Atlanta and on the list of 40 new tools was the new XRT01 18V LXT Brushless Rebar Tying Tool. Normally a tool like this might slip by us here at MH but considering the usefulness to contractors tying radiant tubing to welded mesh or rebar for new installations, we wanted to get our hands on it.

Makita pulled out all the stops in designing and building their booth at WOC, they had literally dozens of tools powered up and ready to use in simulated scenarios. For the rebar tool they had two different forms built. When I first saw this tool back in October I immediately wondered how it would do for tying PEX tubing so I asked if they had any tubing around the booth to give it a try, they didn’t.

Get in the Uber and head to The Depot

The only way I was going to get first hand experience on whether my ideas for this tool would work was if I brought my own PEX to the show and tried it myself. So that’s what I did.

When I walked up to the concrete forms of rebar in the booth I got a lot of inquisitive looks, it only took about two minutes for nearly every one of the Makita employees to gather around and watch me as I began to test the XRT01 out as a true plumbing/heating contractor would on the job.

It worked flawless. All I did was adjust the torque setting to its lowest level and let’er rip. No kinking, not too tight, not too loose. The capacity of the tool is capped at tying two #5 bars together so the combination of the #5 bar they had and my 1/2″ PEX was well within that range. Check out the video from my tests, all tool specs included at the end of this post.

Makita Tools Rebar Tying Tool features:

 

  • Up to 5,300 ties of #3 x #3 diameter rebar using an 18V LXT® 5.0Ah Battery (battery not included)
  • Multiple bar tying capability; ties up to two #5 diameter bars or four #4 diameter bars in under 1 second
  • 2-mode operation provides single or continuous wire tie actuation for fast and efficient tying
  • Fast and seamless wire reel easy-load design with automatic locking mechanism built into protective cover
  • The BL™ Brushless Motor eliminates carbon brushes, enabling the BL™ Motor to run cooler and more efficiently for longer life
  • Digital adjustment of tying strength to match various tension strength requirements
  • Delivers up to 120 ties of #3 x #3 rebar per wire reel allowing for maximum productivity
  • Trigger power switch with lock-off feature requires two actions to power the tool
  • Center load reel position provides added balance for more comfortable handling and less fatigue
  • Transparent wire reel cover protects the feeding mechanism from harmful job site debris
Makita XRT01 Rebar Tying Tool

Myself and mechanical-hub.com ProStaff contractor Andy Mickelson @mick_plumb have each been using the newest RIDGID tool to join their already mega huge offering. RIDGID’s thermal imagers are definitely well thought out and made with very high-end components, that’s good considering they carry the Lifetime Warranty @ridgidtools is famous for among plumbing and mechanical contractors. There Read more

Myself and mechanical-hub.com ProStaff contractor Andy Mickelson @mick_plumb have each been using the newest RIDGID tool to join their already mega huge offering. RIDGID’s thermal imagers are definitely well thought out and made with very high-end components, that’s good considering they carry the Lifetime Warranty @ridgidtools is famous for among plumbing and mechanical contractors.

There are 4 imagers currently offered by RIDGID. All are point and shoot handheld models and range from high quality entry level (RT-3) to the fully featured RT-9X.

Andy and I have the fully loaded RT-9X. Like the others it has a rechargeable 3.7 Li-ion battery, super resolution capability and a rugged housing. In addition to other features the RT-9X has WiFi connectivity to the RIDGID Thermal mobile app which allows for fast and simple image sharing and saving across multiple devices.

There are so many features built in to this imager I simply cannot list them all. The standard 320×240 infrared resolution is clear and perfect for job site diagnosis. Turn on the Super Resolution mode and turbo charge the thermal image capturing to 640×480 and it’s operating at levels typically only ever seen by much higher priced units.

This is prime-time infrared season for Andy and I as we take on more heating calls and installs. I can speak for both of us when I say this technology has not only opened doors for our businesses but made us faster and more efficient when troubleshooting and diagnosing problems inside and outside the building. It’s like having a super power.

Eric Aune, Aune Plumbing LLC, Zimmerman, Minn.       Dan Foley, Foley Mechanical Inc., Lorton, Va.     Andy Mickelson, Mickelson Plumbing and Heating LLC, Missoula, Mont.     From across the PHCC Connect trade show floor, a new product offering recently caught the eye of our ProStaff team members. “I like to walk Read more

Eric Aune, Aune Plumbing LLC, Zimmerman, Minn.

 

 

 

Dan Foley, Foley Mechanical Inc., Lorton, Va.

 

 


Andy Mickelson, Mickelson Plumbing and Heating LLC, Missoula, Mont.

 

 

The Cross Manifolds with two primary zones: a garage and a partially finished basement.

From across the PHCC Connect trade show floor, a new product offering recently caught the eye of our ProStaff team members. “I like to walk trade shows as I need to physically see a new product before I can evaluate it. I need to touch it, pick it up, and examine it before I make a purchasing decision,” says Dan Foley.

The sparkle in Foley’s eye was the new Cross Manifold system, which combines a zone relay, manifold and zone valves in one compact, pre-wired package. “Any product that saves space, man-hours on the job site, and minimizes wiring gets my attention,” says Foley, whose company specialty is hydronic and radiant systems installations.

Big Sky Zoning

From almost entirely across the country, ProStaffer Andy Mickelson recently installed the Cross Manifold system on a job near Missoula, Mont. The Cross Manifolds were installed in a radiant floor system with two primary zones: a garage and a partially finished basement.

The project called for a simple electric boiler with one circulator feeding the two radiant manifolds. After receiving the manifolds, Mickelson was immediately intrigued with the packaging. Cross Manifold comes in what appears to be a plain cardboard box. On the inside is a well laid out divider that separates the smaller components from the manifold. The parts compartment features basic instructions, a plug-in 24 VAC transformer, the zone control, a pair of 1” NPT isolation valves with thermometers, drain and purge valves and a couple of spare O-rings.

Beyond the small parts divider is the manifold and actuator module. The manifolds come in 4-port thru 12-port configurations, with or without flow meter balancing valve assemblies. Mickelson ordered a 4-port and 6-port for our project, both with flow meter assemblies. When ordering the manifolds there is the option for 1/2” or 3/4” crimp PEX or 1/2” or 3/4” press–sweat adapters.

Installation of the manifold was a simple process, says Mickelson, who used 1/2” PEX adapters on the installation. “I have installed a number of manifolds that had poor threads on the adapter ports or on the isolation valve ports; this is not that type of manifold. Everything went together finger tight, at which time we then bumped them up with an end wrench. I was most impressed with the fit and finish of the sealing surface—not a single leak at the manifold,” says Mickelson.

Mickelson’s only complaint or suggestion was that he could not find anywhere in the manual where it indicated flow direction. It took playing with the flow indicator to figure out which was supply and which was return. The actuator module is attached with two thumb screws, one on each end. Something worth noting: All of the ports on the manifolds come with caps; the adapters are shipped loose. The advantage here is that any unused ports are already capped, no need to purchase additional components.

With all of the piping complete and the actuator mounted, we moved on to the wiring, continues Mickelson. The 24 VAC power supply is attached to the zone control module with two conductors. The thermostats are connected to the zone inputs along the bottom, which include “R”, “W” and “C” terminals. The “C” terminal being important these days, as nearly all Wi-Fi stats require a “C” terminal to operate the Wi-Fi radio properly.

The power draw on this manifold is quite low as the design allows only one circuit to be opening or closing at a time. In Mickelson’s installation, they had one thermostat controlling each manifold, so the circuits that we used had to have the “W” terminals jumped. The “SW Out” terminals provide a dry contact closure to initiate a call for heat to a boiler or other control. The control board also includes a 24 VAC output to operate pump relays or other pilot duty loads. This board has a 1.5 amp fuse holder built in.

“I would like to see an additional fuse included, as accidents do happen,” says Mickelson. The zone control does need to be mounted relatively close to the actuator module, as the two are connected with a Molex plug wiring harness. The harness is roughly 18” long.

Capitol Manifolds

Back in D.C., Foley had an 8-zone radiant heating project he needed to pipe and wire. Typically Foley would have piped a copper manifold, installed eight zone valves, and wired in two 4-zone relay panels. With the Cross Manifold System, the eight zones come pre-piped and pre-wired. The stainless steel manifold assembly is simply bolted to the wall and piped to the boiler. The radiant zones are tied in and the thermostats connected to the terminal strip. The zone valves are already wired.

Installation of the Cross Manifold from Foley Mechanical.

“The system was installed and started this past January. “Running nearly four months now, the system has performed flawlessly,” says Foley.

Foley had only one issue with the Cross Manifold, but it was self-inflicted: the installer over-tightened one of the connections causing it to crack. The instructions were clear: hand tight is sufficient. “Cross was kind enough to overnight a replacement fitting and we had it repaired the next day. Technical support was responsive and knowledgeable,” says Foley.

To the north, Minnesota’s Eric Aune installed a Cross system recently and offers some assembly and installation tips.

Unpacking and assembly:

  • One box contains everything needed for the install.
  • The instructions are simple illustrations, and if one has never used one of the manifolds, it can be a bit confusing for first-time users.
  • In the event that any of the loop connections are not needed on the model you order, it is shipped with plugs on every outlet.
  • The manifold is shipped with every outlet connection plugged; tubing adaptor fittings are included in the box.
  • If you order flow meters, those will have to be assembled onto the manifold as well, removing the stainless plugs in their place for assembly.
  • The whole kit includes the manifold, tubing adaptor fittings, motorized control box, zone control module and power supply cord.

Installation on the wall:

  • This manifold sticks out from the wall more than other manifolds on the market, so if it has to be concealed in a stud cavity, you’re not going to do that without a 2 x 8 at least, this needs to be known ahead of time.”
  • The manifold brackets are like all other standard brackets and position the manifolds offset from each other and from the wall.
  • Since the loop actuators are actually ball valves installed on every outlet there is no additional valve actuator to assemble onto the manifold; the motor carriage simply bolts onto the front of the manifold and connects to the zone control module.
  • The motor carriage connects to the control module with a prewired molex-type plug. “I would prefer this was about a foot longer because it requires the module to be placed rather close to the manifold but it makes for very easy and fast wiring, eliminating the need to spend an hour or two wiring each zone individually,” says Aune. This also eliminates the need to have control wiring in stock for this task.
  • The quality of the stainless steel threaded connections seems better than some others Aune has worked with in the past. Rubber gasket connections on these types of manifold often leak upon initial fill requiring adjustments and time; the Cross manifold had zero leaks on fill and startup.
  • Each individual ball valve on the loops is made from an engineered plastic that moves very freely and gives the first impression of excellent molding and fitment. “These are serviceable/replaceable parts, I will be ordering a few replacements to keep on the truck,” says Aune.

Overall Impressions

“Overall, I would say the time saved by not having to wire individual zone actuators is noteworthy,” says Aune. Although the product is well designed, continues Aune, some improvements to the information and ordering experience on the website could be made to speed that process up and increase confidence that you’re in fact ordering exactly what you need the first time.

“Of course, as you install more of these, that will be less of a factor,” says Aune. “I have one manifold in operation at this time and have already considered using more for either replacement or new installation as I am overall impressed with its performance.”

Foley see several advantages to the Cross Manifold system. No. 1: It’s a time saver—it saved time vs. field fabricating and field wiring. No. 2: Neatness and uniformity: The compact manifold saves wall space and looks professional. It also eliminates the variation of field technicians piping and wiring jobs differently. No. 3: Pre-wired—Low voltage wiring can be a challenge at times. This system is pre-wired from the factory minimizing wiring issues.

“I give the Cross Manifold two thumbs up and intend to use it on future projects,” says Foley.

Overall, Mickelson was very impressed at how quickly the manifold was mounted, piped and wired. “If we had been using multiple thermostats on each manifold it would have been exponentially quicker than wiring up tele-stats and zone control boxes. Once we got the boiler mounted and filled, start-up was a breeze, only requiring us to balance each circuit with the flow meter balancing valve,” says Mickelson.

The actuator is incredibly quiet during its operation, which only takes a few moments to open all of the valves. Once the operation is complete, the actuator module is at rest until the valves need to be closed. Interestingly, the actuator module actively monitors the valves to ensure that they are not moved out of position. If a valve for some reason is incorrect or manually moved, the module will correct that condition accordingly.

“Overall I am impressed with the installation, operation and quality of the manifolds,” says Mickelson. “I look forward to adding these manifolds to our arsenal of products to offer to our customers.”

For more information on the Cross Manifold System, www.crossmanifold.com.

Cross Manifolds are available through plumbing & heating wholesale distributors nationwide.