It’s been quite the start to 2022 for Ryan Bickerton, owner/operator of Bickerton Plumbing and Heating LLC, Boston. Recently recovered from COVID, his phone hasn’t stopped ringing. He’s been busy, and that’s a good thing. Mostly specializing in high-end renovations, old houses in the historic areas of Boston and high-efficiency boilers, Bickerton has run his Read more
It’s been quite the start to 2022 for Ryan Bickerton, owner/operator of Bickerton Plumbing and Heating LLC, Boston. Recently recovered from COVID, his phone hasn’t stopped ringing. He’s been busy, and that’s a good thing.
Mostly specializing in high-end renovations, old houses in the historic areas of Boston and high-efficiency boilers, Bickerton has run his own company since 2014. At the age of 18, Bickerton started into plumbing, working for a larger residential company doing large multi-unit buildings where he worked for 2 1/2 years before moving to a smaller company doing mainly commercial work.
The itch started for Bickerton when he started in construction over the summers during high school, working for a roofing company and a general contractor, basically doing whatever was needed on a job site. “I tried helping whoever needed to be helped on the site—plumbers, electricians, carpenters—cleaning up, making coffee runs, etc. I remember those summers working for the GC and I enjoyed helping the plumbers more than anything else. I realized I was falling in love with the industry, and the rest is history,” says Bickerton.
Nevertheless, Bickerton was encouraged to make an attempt at college even though he didn’t really want to; he gave it a shot anyway. He lasted less than a year and decided that was it. “For me, it was a waste of time and money,” says Bickerton. “My parents were okay with me leaving after giving it a valiant effort, but my father said ‘pick a trade because you’re not going to be sitting around here all day.’”
Bickerton recalls speaking to his father, and a few other people he knew who worked in the trades, and was pushed in the direction of electrical or plumbing mainly because, “you’ll never be looking for work.”
After obtaining his Journeyman Plumbing and Gas Fitting License in 2008, Bickerton completely shifted gears and joined the United States Marine Corps where he was deployed to Afghanistan. It was a difficult decision but joining the military was something Ryan had always wanted to do. In 2008, it was the right time. After six years of service with the Marines, Bickerton returned to plumbing and got his Master Plumbing and Gas Fitting License. “I started doing more and more side work until I landed a few bigger jobs that motivated me to leap into owning my own company. I haven’t look back since,” says Bickerton.
Part of that drive came from his biggest role model, his father, who worked most of his life in a power plant in South Boston as a general mechanic—he could pretty much fix anything and everything that needed fixing. “My father is the hardest working person I know. I remember as a young kid not seeing him for days at a time because he was getting home late and leaving early before we were awake. I knew he was out working hard taking overtime to provide for us. He could and would fix most things around the house. I remember one year our water heater went out on Thanksgiving and he took care of it by himself. I thought that was pretty cool, and still do,” says Bickerton.
As for Ryan, he never considered himself a role model, but he tries to conduct himself that way. Any chance he gets, he’ll speak highly of the trades. “If any young kids ask me about the trades, I do my best to steer them in the right direction and let them know it’s a very viable option. It’s a rewarding career choice, and college and white-collar work doesn’t have to be for everyone,” says Bickerton.
Bickerton’s trade role model was his first foreman, Mike Sheehan, a plumber for 30+ years, his body broken from years of moving massive boilers and extra heavy cast-iron pipe. “But he still loved the trade. He taught me a lot of my early skills, and he would say that this trade has all the potential to do anything you want with it, which has really stuck with me to this day,” says Bickerton.
While respecting these two men’s work ethic, Bickerton knows that balancing work and family life is important. It’s probably his most difficult task, says Bickerton. “I’m usually out the door by 5 am and home around 5 pm, and the kids go to bed between 7:30-8 pm and then most nights I have to do estimates or invoices when they’re in bed so I don’t have as much ‘leisure time’ as I’d like. I try to make every second I’m home count.”
And the weekends are for family. Bickerton used to work every Saturday and even some Sundays. Lately, however, Ryan doesn’t work Sunday unless it’s a catastrophic emergency, and on Saturdays he tries to be done by 12 or sometimes not at all. “Like I said before, I love plumbing and working but I don’t think I’ll ever regret not working more and spending less time with my family so I try to best divide my time in the fairest manner possible.”
It’s clear that family time is most important. “In my spare time, more than anything, I enjoy hanging out with my wife and our children. My wife Micayla and I have been married for six years and our three kids are growing up fast. If I’m not working, I’m with them. They are starting to get into different activities, hockey, baseball, football, swimming, horseback riding, and I just enjoy every second of that. Even if it’s just hanging out and watching a movie, it’s never wasted time for me,” says Bickerton.
Perhaps family means a bit more to Bickerton because his daughter, Mallory, was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Rubenstein Taybi Syndrome (RTS). In 2017, Ryan and Micayla, along with some close friends, started a non-profit organization called Mals Pals Foundation. “We have been very fortunate with Mallory. We live in the epicenter for healthcare; she has had an inclusive educational opportunity here in Boston and it helps that we are able to pay for anything and everything she has needed in order to thrive,” says Bickerton.
Mal’s Pals Foundation aims to ease the burden of other families who maybe are not as fortunate. The Bickertons raise awareness for rare diseases like RTS, and they help educate newly diagnosed families. “We are trying to make difference in other people’s lives even if it’s just a small one. You can check us out at malspalsfoundation.org.”
Mallory is now seven-years-old and doing well. “Initially, there were concerns, but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Bickerton.
Bickerton looks forward to going to work every day. “But the most rewarding to me is being able to sit back at the end of the day or at the end of a job and look at what I’ve done,” says Bickerton. “I like having something tangible, that I can look at and touch and say I did that, or I fixed that or I created that. Whether it’s fixing a leaking faucet, creating a bathroom where there wasn’t one before, plumbing a 5-unit building completely from scratch or providing someone with heat and hot water for the next 20-30 years. That’s pretty cool.”
In the end, Ryan really loves plumbing, even if he’s stressed out and jobs are behind, or he’s behind on paperwork, or he’s made a mistake and or redo something. “I still consider myself lucky to be doing what I love every day. And on those harder work days, I still get to come home to three beautiful children and a wife who loves me. Every time I walk in the door and they scream ‘DAD!’ all that stress lifts off instantly, and it’s all worth it.”
Neutra-Safe Corporation, based in Stoughton, Mass., has redesigned its four-inch, tube-style condensate neutralizers. The high capacity neutralizers now include all the same features that make Neutra-Safe’s two-inch models so easy to install and service. Features of the new design include full opening integral union ends, bi-directional condensate flow, ¾” Female NPT inlet/outlet tappings and ¾” Read more
Neutra-Safe Corporation, based in Stoughton, Mass., has redesigned its four-inch, tube-style condensate neutralizers. The high capacity neutralizers now include all the same features that make Neutra-Safe’s two-inch models so easy to install and service.
Features of the new design include full opening integral union ends, bi-directional condensate flow, ¾” Female NPT inlet/outlet tappings and ¾” male NPT x socket fittings. The unit also comes with snap-in mounting brackets included.
The redesigned CN4B-600C, CN4B-850C, CN4B-1200C, CN4B-2000C four-inch neutralizers are designed to facilitate the use of Neutra-Safe’s proprietary media sacks for simple recharging of the unit. This Neutra-pH media blend is a blend of blend of 99 percent pure calcite and magnesium oxide, provides the most efficient neutralization possible. It eliminates clumps that can clog traditional neutralizers. The sack can be opened to release the media for use in Neutra-Safe’s older four-inch tube models.
The best features of the original four-inch neutralizer remain, including a clear tube for easy visual inspection and patented integral union ends with O-ring seals for a leak-proof connection.
Neutra-Safe’s tube style condensate neutralizer line includes seven models, serving high-efficiency, gas-fired appliances up to 2 million BTUH input capacity.
For more info, www.NeutraSafe.com.
Watts is helping bring heat to a Nebraska veteran’s tiny house—soon enabling him to live in a heated home for the first time in years. The project in Hubbard, Nebraska, is a partnership between “Project Veteran Tiny Home” in Hubbard, Nebraska, and Support Siouxland Soldiers in Sioux City, Iowa. Recently, the “Tiny Home” project lead Read more
Watts is helping bring heat to a Nebraska veteran’s tiny house—soon enabling him to live in a heated home for the first time in years.
The project in Hubbard, Nebraska, is a partnership between “Project Veteran Tiny Home” in Hubbard, Nebraska, and Support Siouxland Soldiers in Sioux City, Iowa. Recently, the “Tiny Home” project lead contacted Watts, who, in turn, donated 500 square feet of its SunTouch WarmWire heating cable, Command Thermostat, plus related supplies.
The home is one of a growing number of “tiny homes” in the U.S., which meet a variety of low-cost housing needs. When finished, the veteran’s 500 square foot home will include a bedroom/living room, full kitchen, a bathroom, and will enable him to leave the camper where he lived previously.
“We finally got everything installed and it’s warm! I cannot thank you enough for everything,” said Heather Millard, the project lead, who approached Watts after living for years in a home with a Watts heating system. “Rick (our veteran) was so impressed!” For more information about SunTouch heating systems, go to SunTouch.com.
Recently, the Mechanical Hub team took part in a two-phase, two-state trip to visit Viega’s North American manufacturing in McPherson, Kansas, and toured the brand new HQ and Seminar Center in Broomfield, Colo. Impressive is the first thing that comes to mind when describing both facilities. The McPherson manufacturing facility exudes the company’s philosophy of Read more
Recently, the Mechanical Hub team took part in a two-phase, two-state trip to visit Viega’s North American manufacturing in McPherson, Kansas, and toured the brand new HQ and Seminar Center in Broomfield, Colo. Impressive is the first thing that comes to mind when describing both facilities.
The McPherson manufacturing facility exudes the company’s philosophy of both progress and vision for the future. “We are constantly looking past the immediate future and into the distant future,” Eric Wicker, director, manufacturing, Viega.
This summer, Viega completed a two-year building program in McPherson that included: a 90,000-sq. ft. expansion of a manufacturing plant, completed in Dec. 2017; a new 205,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing plant, completed in June; and a new 25,000-sq.-ft. tool shop and apprentice building, completed in July. And, the company is currently building a 55,000-sq.-ft. logistics expansion—a high-bay storage and retrieval area for inventory.
Mimicking some of the processes from its global HQ in Germany, robotics and machining take center stage throughout the meticulous McPherson plant. Fear not, all of this new-fangled technology is not taking jobs away, rather increasing them. Currently at approximately 300 employees, the company hopes to hit the 500 mark by years ’23-’24.
McPherson is where Viega produces its PureFlow line of PEX product, as well as select fittings from the ProPress Copper and 80,000 sq. ft. dedicated to its MegaPress product lines. McPherson is also home to Viega’s master distribution center for North America.
Continued expansion is a testament to the company’s progressive philosophy. For instance, the company has dedicated 270,000 sq. ft. to the copper fitting production. “The goal is to be producing the majority of copper fittings sold in the U.S. right here in the states,” says Wicker.
The state-of-the-art distribution center incorporates the latest technology and automation, as well as an upgraded warehouse management system that provides faster product turnaround. With additional metals products being manufactured in McPherson, a larger distribution center for both metals and PEX products was necessary.
Although media wasn’t allowed to shoot photography inside the plants—understandably—the tour started in the 36,000-sq.-ft. Plastic Injection Molding area which exemplified the company’s high investment in tooling. Twenty machines produce approximately seven million fittings per month. This particular building was well lit and comfortable, due, in part, by the implementation of its own radiant heating and cooling technology.
Quality is never understated at Viega; we strolled through the Quality Assurance Lab where dedicated staff monitor product and equipment through a series of rigorous testing.
Next, we toured the 200,000-sq.-ft. Extrusion Area where the plastic piping is made. Once made and exported from Georgia, Viega now produces its own resin—which is transformed into pellets—onsite. The rejected pellets are not repurposed, yet recycled and sold.
There is a Special Extrusion Area where plastic metal plastic tubing extrusion is performed. The only company in America making this, the plastic piping is integrated with aluminum so it can better hold its shape rather than returning back to its original form. (Nearby is a 40,000-sq.-ft. dedicated machine shop.)
We then toured the 270,000 sq. ft. of ProPress copper fittings production area and 80,000 sq. ft. of the MegaPress/Metals production area. Strategically, it makes sense for Viega to start producing here in the states. With press technology introduced here in 1999, education and awareness of the process and technology have helped contractors nationwide run a more efficient business. Viega system solutions are designed to work together in plumbing, heating, cooling and pipe joining applications, making the contractor’s work fast, easy and safe.
The following day we were flown to Denver to tour the recently opened Viega North American headquarters and Seminar Center in Broomfield, Colo. The 55,000-sq.-ft. headquarters resembles a pipe fitting, and its interior is the real testament to Viega innovation. I can’t express enough how beautiful these two buildings are, and, of course, amid the breathtaking backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. The HQ building opened in January and the first official training took place April 8, and weekly training is booking fast. “Viega is absolutely committed to its customers and their success in the field,” says Bo DeAngelo, manager, technical training at the center.
Yet, I am always interested: when a new facility is built, does it incorporate its own products? While the cross-laminated timber beams are imported from Austria, the exposed ceilings give employees and visitors a clear view of the many uses of Viega’s innovative technology.
Potable water is carried through copper pipes connected with ProPress fittings. The carbon steel fire sprinkler system is joined with MegaPress fittings. Radiant heating and cooling keeps the building comfortable, while a snowmelt system keeps the courtyard free of ice and snow. Manifolds ensure the systems operate smoothly and efficiently. The restrooms feature wall-hung bowls and no exposed tanks, thanks to in-wall carrier systems and Visign style flush plates.
The new 23,000-sq.-ft. Broomfield Seminar Center next door supplements Viega’s Nashua, New Hampshire Seminar Center, which has trained thousands of people since opening in 2006. The new center is an innovative training experience and is equipped with four classrooms, two hands-on labs, and interactive displays throughout, which allows attendees to see, touch and experience Viega products. “Demand for training has been increasing steadily. This facility will allow us to continue to provide and expand on the training that our industry deserves,” says CEO Dave Garlow.
Viega experts lead single- and multi-day classes in everything from radiant system design and fire protection to hydronics and pathogen prevention. Despite being open only since April, it is on track to host more than 2,100 students this year, says DeAngelo.
I walked away very impressed, telling DeAngelo I—and I’m sure the clients that visit—can’t help but feel energized the minute I walk in this facility. Shaking his head in agreement, “That’s what Dave Garlow tells me every day he walks in here,” responded DeAngelo.
Make no mistake, there is a lot of money, time and resources invested in Viega North America. But it’s a huge testament to the dedication the company believes is its biggest investment: its customers and its employees.
Forced air is still the traditional method of heating homes, but radiant heat is gaining significant momentum as an alternative. According to HGTV, the growth rate of in-floor radiant heating systems was estimated at 30 to 50 percent per year. At the heart of this shift is not just one single benefit. It’s a variety of advantages Read more
Forced air is still the traditional method of heating homes, but radiant heat is gaining significant momentum as an alternative. According to HGTV, the growth rate of in-floor radiant heating systems was estimated at 30 to 50 percent per year.
At the heart of this shift is not just one single benefit. It’s a variety of advantages that radiant floor heating systems bring to the table, the combination of which enhance the daily lives of a home’s occupants:
Even Heat Distribution
When a house is heated by a forced-air system, it will always be warmest near the vents that distribute the air. This can lead to “hotspots” on one end of a room while the other side of the room remains cool. And because hot air rises, upstairs rooms will be warmer than those downstairs.
With radiant floor heating systems, homeowners control how heat circulates in their home. Rather than heating the surrounding air, the heat that radiates from the floor warms other objects in the room and is evenly distributed without the potential for heat loss.
Improved Air Quality
While air pollution is more often associated with the outdoors, indoor air can be dirty as well. Whether it’s dust, pet dander or chemicals from fragrances (among other sources) that pollute the air, forced-air systems exacerbate the problem for allergy sufferers. That’s because the forced, heated air will stir up and mix with these airborne particles.
Since radiant floor heating systems don’t move air to deliver heat, the circulation of indoor particles is minimized. With less pollutants blown around, indoor air quality improves, which benefits allergy sufferers.
The ductwork in forced-air systems further contributes to air pollution. When it’s riddled with cracks and holes, more dust and odors can enter and circulate. Without proper insulation, these same cracks and holes can cause air to leak out of the system and hinder its overall efficiency.
With no ducts, radiant floor heating systems reduce the churn of dust and allergens while curtailing heat loss. The absence of ducts means less work for homeowners as it eliminates the need for repairs like cleaning out ducts clogged with particles or adding insulation when heat loss mounts.
With their uneven distribution of heat and potential for heat loss, traditional heating systems can be energy hogs.
Depending on how well a house is insulated, radiant floor systems can save up to 30 percent compared to forced-air systems. In terms of bills, the impact is quite significant as space heating is the largest energy expense for the average U.S. home, accounting for around 45 percent of energy bills.
Homes should be quiet, but forced-air systems can be noisy as furnaces cycle on and off, gaps in the ductwork whistle and loose parts rattle.
By comparison, radiant floor heating systems are exceptionally quiet.
As consumers learn more about the advantages of radiant heating, its popularity will continue to grow.
Josh Quint is product manager, heating and cooling, for Viega LLC.