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SUMMER 2013

Plumbing & Mechanical Professionals of Virginia Chairman James S. Steinle Atomic Plumbing 1377 London Bridge Rd Virginia Beach, VA 23453 757-464-2934; Fax 757-363-8403 jim@atomicplumbing.com

Vice Chair Michael Hurt Long’s Corporation 11215-G Lee Hwy Fairfax, VA 22030 703-323-1776; Fax 703-385-7446 mike@longscorp.com

INSIDE THIS ISSUE Chairman’s Report - Jim Steinle 4 Executive Director Report - Susan Milhoan 6 Northern Virginia Celebrates Apprentice Graduation

Past Chair Theresa Dagenhart Long’s Corporation 11215-G Lee Hwy Fairfax, VA 22030 703-323-1776; Fax 703-385-7446 longs@longscorp.com

Facebook - More Than a Social Network

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PMPV Committee Reports Laurie C. Crigler, Legislative Chair 14 Randy Baldwin, Communications Chair 16 Jason Richard, Apprenticeship & Education Chair 18 Matt Kemp, Industry Chair 20

Committee Chairs Laurie C. Crigler L & D Associates, Inc. 935 Good Hope Church Rd Aroda, VA 22709 540-948-6230; Fax 540-948-5617 lcc@ldassociatesinc.com

Jason Richard Parrish Services 7865 Coppermine Drive Manasass, VA 20109 703-656-2008; Fax 703-656-2006 jrichard@ParrishServices.com

Randy Baldwin Frugal Rooter, LLC 10476 Business Center Ct. Manassas, VA 20110 703-580-5325; Fax 703-392-6343 rlbaldwinva@frugalrooter.com

Dan Foley Foley Mechanical, Inc. 8390 Terminal Rd., Unit 1 Lorton, VA 22079 703-339-8030; Fax 703-339-8031 dfoley50@verizon.net

Matthew Kemp Aireco, Inc P.O. Box 414 Savage, MD 20763 703-209-7386; Fax 301-953-1962 mkemp@aireco.com

Executive Director Susan Milhoan PMPV-VAPHCC P.O. Box 11128 Norfolk, VA 23517 800-947-7450; Fax 800-947-7415 info@pmpv.org

SUMMER 2013 Volume 78 / Number 2 Senior Editor - Susan Milhoan

ADVERTISERS Aireco 8 Bradford White 23 Building Goodness 11 Cummins-Wagner 16 Delany Products 9 FastEst, Inc. 15 Federated Insurance 21 Hodes Company 10 Liberty Pumps 24 Parts Unlimited 2 Saniflo 11 Somerville 7 SureSeal 5 T & S Brass 15 Virginia Marketing Associates 22 Washington Gas 13 Watts Water Technologies 17 Image is the official magazine of the Plumbing & Mechanical Professionals of Virginia and is published four times annually. PMPV does not necessarily endorse any of the companies advertising in this publication or the views of its writers. Image is designed and published by Blue Water Publishers, LLC. Articles and information published in this magazine may not be reproduced without written consent of the PMPV or Blue Water Publishers, LLC. The publisher cannot assume responsibility for claims made by advertisers and is not responsible for the opinions expressed by contributing authors. For more information on advertising, contact Jim Aitkins, Blue Water Publishers, LLC, 22727 - 161st Avenue SE, Monroe, WA 98272 360-805-6474 / fax: 360-805-6475 / jima@bluewaterpublishers.com

Summer 2013 | IMAGE

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Where To Find Good Employees

Jim Steinle Chairman

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here are you finding employees today; especially technicians? As things turn around and call count rises, where are we going to find the next generation of service technicians? If you are waiting for them to walk through your door; then good luck, but it’s not going to happen. Quality service technicians, as well as any quality employees are hard to find; and when you do find them they will need training, experience, as well as the opportunity to succeed, and that just doesn’t happen by chance. If you are not training you must start. If you are training, you’re probably ahead of your competition. When I say “training,” I’m talking about all of your employees… from the person who answers the phone to the person running the business. That’s right; even the owner or CEO needs training. Just as the employees do, you should always be learning. I’ve been in business now for more than 34 years and I learn new things every day. I would not be where I am today without the training and help that I have received over the years. Training is definitely not cheap and it takes time, but you must invest in it if you want to succeed. Now, where do you go to get training and help in order to grow your business? That’s the easy part. You just need to join a Trade Association or Organization that will give you support and help; and PMPV/PHCC is a great start. This association has so many training tools that it would take you a year to get through them all; but more important is the help and support you receive from all the other members. We have a mentor list with more than 30 topics, and experts that would love to help you work through problems and give suggestions to make you more profitable. Training your technicians or apprentices? PMPV/PHCC has an excellent four-year apprenticeship program with a structured curriculum, designated pay scale, and a great career path for young people who have some enthusiasm and the willingness to learn. Put that person into the Apprenticeship Program and then watch him grow; seven of my 10 technicians have been through the school, and they are hardworking, productive employees who do well for the company, as well as for themselves. We just held our State Plumbing Apprenticeship Competition and that was a testament to how qualified and prepared these students are. The winner will get a chance to compete in the national contest in October. And it is all because your State Plumbing Association is here to help you. You can achieve so much more as a group or when you have help, and that’s what the association is all about. If you have any questions on how to become more profitable or want to join, please give me a call and I will make sure it happens.


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Facebook is an Opportunity

Susan Milhoan Executive Director

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ccording to my Facebook timeline, I joined the social network in 2008. Because I resisted, I remember it well: I thought it was dumb and a tremendous waste of energy. I had no interest in seeing kitten videos or reading that my friends were eating ice cream…or walking the dog…or stuck in traffic. Really? Who cares! In the interim, I have come to understand that Facebook can be all those things. But like a lot of life experiences, Facebook is what you make of it. Facebook is more than mindless entertainment; it can be used as a powerful tool to build your brand and grow your business. One business with which I worked quadrupled her business through Facebook in two years, adding a lucrative virtual store and consulting business at the request of friends. Another launched his business on Facebook before opening a brick and mortar operation. A Hampton Roads contractor (see related story) credits Facebook with accelerating his business growth and with generating a $150,000 contract. Getting started with Facebook is easy and making the most of it can take as little as 30 minutes each day. Effective engagement, however, is not a monologue but a conversation. Posting your information may take moments, but interacting with your friends/customers demands more time. Set limits and set goals: log on for a limited period and post something five times a week. Please remember that at its core, the media is social. If your goal is to become a social outcast, use Facebook to sell, sell, sell. To gain acceptance, treat Facebook as an opportunity to encourage customers to buy. There is a difference between a realtor consistently posting properties for sale and a realtor posting a photo of a home and asking “what do you think of this?” Lastly, enjoy it. Try it for two months and if you find it’s not for you, stop.

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Apprentice Graduation T hose gathered at the Dulles Marriott on June 12 were excited to celebrate the accomplishments of their sons, daughters, spouses, parents and employees. The event recognized the accomplishments of 43 graduates of plumbing and HVAC apprenticeship programs in Northern Virginia and marks the successful completion of hundreds of hours of classroom and on-the-job training. The Northern Virginia Apprentice Graduation was made possible through the support of sponsors, including event sponsors Aireco and ServPro of North Prince William County. Other generous supporters included: Platinum Sponsors: Bion, Inc., Dwyer Plumbing Corp., Foley Mechanical, Long’s Corporation, My Plumber, John Nugent & Sons, ServPro of Alexandria; Gold Sponsors: Ferguson Enterprises, Inc., Peed Plumbing, Inc.; and Silver Sponsor M. E. Flow, Inc. Among the graduates were also eight individuals recognized for achieving top marks in their programs. The top apprentices are listed on page 10. The primary reason for the evening was to celebrate the graduation of students. Most were accompanied by family and employers, recognition of the fact that the four year effort to graduate is a team accomplishment. Supportive families make it possible for graduates to maintain focus on the goal, sometimes encouraging, sometimes pushing; ever affirming. Employers support the Apprenticeship Program by allowing their apprentices to get to class on time and providing students with the additional knowledge that is best gained by working in the field. These employers value a well-trained professional and their support for the apprentice and the program is critical. The final component in this triumvirate of support are the teachers who give up their own evenings to make sure that students gain a [ 8 ] IMAGE | Summer 2013

Photos by William J. Baumbach, II

Northern Virginia Celebrates

thorough understanding of the material that will maintain public confidence in the plumbing and HVAC professions. The instructors who helped move students through the program include: HVAC Instructors: John J. Castro, Juan F. Correa, Danitra A. Daniels, James M. Eastman, Gerald H. Freking, Glenn A. Garner, Intissar T. Muneeb, Glenwood Sickels, John C. Vansickle and George C. Wiedemann. Plumbing Instructors: Mark W. Ardizzione, William A. Christmas, Theresa L. Dagenhart, Michael Hurt, Dennis A. McCrone, Darryl L. McDonald, Timothy O. Miller and John T. Walters. [continued on page 10]


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Photos by William J. Baumbach, II

Plumbing Graduates

HVAC

PLUMBING

(TOP MARKS)

(TOP MARKS)

Level One: John Merrifield

Level One: David Mooney

Level Two: Brendan Shaffer

Level Two: Joshua Phillips Level Three: Richard Terry

Level Three: Michael Deeben Level Four: Abdelaziz El Kasbi

HVAC Graduates PLUMBING GRADUATES

HVAC GRADUATES

Emmanuel Kweku Annan Antoney Baumbach Kori Brown Jose Caal Thomas Kelly Chaney Oscar R. Chavez Marvin O. Esquivel Juan Garay Francis Haynes Brian O. Hensley Colin Hoppe Michael Kennie Blake Musgrove Michael Putnam Mauricio Quiriga-Becerra Peter Schuster Kenneth J. Stone Franklin Wilkes

Seth Antwi Manolo Bonilla Demetrio Joaquin Callao Jeremy E. Cassell Mario Castellon Ronald Juan Choque-Herbas Abdelaziz El Kasbi Christopher J. Freeman Ren Haichen Abderrahim Hormi Jose De Jesus Ibanez Sam K. Jung Abdelhak Kherbache Francis J. Lyons Pedro Antonio Machuca Roman J. Majano Surapong Pengpalad Christophe A. Pierron Pedro Ramirez Erick A. Saravia Md Shahin Julio Somoza Adolfo Temoche Thy Tran Lorenzo Vargas

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Level Four: Thomas Chaney


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More than a social network Step-by-Step Facebook Set-up:

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arlier this year a local contractor addressed the Hampton Roads Chapter sharing how Facebook contributed to his business success. When he started his home remodeling/construction business in 2011, he identified social media as critical to his strategic marketing plan and with 2013 sales ahead of projections; he credits Facebook with making the difference. Like a lot of people, he was skeptical at first, viewing social media as a time wasting activity with little business value. That may have been true when Facebook debuted in 2004, but today nearly half of all B2B businesses report getting a lead from Facebook. According to HubSpot, “Not only is Facebook a valuable place for individuals to create a profile and connect with friends, family and brands, it is also a community where brands and customers can interact and create relationships. Businesses are moving away from traditional marketing efforts, and the customer/ business relationship is changing.” It is estimated that 93% of adults in the United States are on Facebook, so it’s a safe bet that your current and potential customers are also spending time on this network. Facebook now has more than 645 million users. It is estimated that 57% completed some college, 46% are over the age of 45, 57% are female and 58% make over $50,000 annually. The typical Facebook user spends four hours each week on Facebook, has 130 friends and adds eight new friends each month Facebook has the potential to help your business gain visibility, enhance credibility, create a “community” around your business, promote content relevant to your business and ultimately add to your bottom line by generating referrals and leads. Getting started is easy. Begin with a personal Facebook page, connect with your friends (see quick start box) and get comfortable with the process. Next, set up a page for your business and invite your friends to “like” the page. Make sure you stay at the top of your friends’ newsfeed by posting 4-5 times each week. You can track your success by watching your friend tally rise or enroll in Facebook “insights!” to see details about engagement.

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Personal Page •

Go to www.facebook.com, sign up for a free Facebook account. Facebook will send you an email verification afterwards.

Facebook will guide you through the steps of creating a profile and finding friends.

Complete information about yourself.

Your cover photo can be anything of interest to you.

Your profile picture should be of yourself (you can change it as often as you like).

You can add substance at any time (photo albums, etc.)

Business pages you “like” will appear on your page.

You have the opportunity to accept or reject friend requests. You can also “defriend” a contact at any time without explanation. Keep in mind the adage “you are known by the company you keep.”

Your page (“wall”) is populated with your posts (status updates) and comments about those posts from your friends.

Your “newsfeed” is populated with posts from your friends and their friends.

“Liking” a post will put your name in the list of people who like the post; commenting on the post will make your post appear to all people who are also friends with or following that post, and sharing the post will make a duplicate post of this on a location of your choice -- your wall, a group, or a friend’s wall.

You can edit or delete posts on your page at any time (click on the icon at the upper right of the post).


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BUSINESS Page •

Go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/ create.php

Select a business category; Facebook will walk you through set-up.

Your cover photo can be anything you like; the profile picture should be your company logo. The “about” section defines your business: be clear about what you do.

If you elect to “enable ads” you can come back later and purchase Facebook advertising although it is not required.

Identify yourself as “administrator.” You may designate others as administrators as well; the names of administrators are not included in posts since they are speaking for your business.

Invite your personal Facebook friends to like your business page. Add a “like us” button on all emails and your webpage.

Create engaging content. o Be interactive, polite and professional. o Offer your business “friends” reasons to visit with contests, coupons or special offers. o Post industry information… HVAC tips, plumbing help, entertaining videos, etc. o “Like” other business pages. Doing so increases your visibility and traffic. o Engage with your friends. Ask questions, opinions and thoughts. Facebook is a conversation.

Announcing rebates for residential and commercial customers in Virginia.

The Washington Gas Energy Efficiency Program is offering substantial rebates on select natural gas products to homeowners and businesses in Virginia. It’s a terrific selling opportunity for you. These rebates are available for installations performed by qualified contractors before April 30, 2014. Don’t miss this great limited time offer — when the rebates are gone, they’re gone! For additional information and a complete list of eligible products and rebates, go to WashingtonGasRebates.com/PMPV.

o Don’t focus on selling. Friends may buy, but they resent being sold.

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COMMITTEE REPORT: Legislative Committee By Chairwoman, Laurie Crigler

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our Virginia contingent marched up on THE HILL in late May! Yep, as if we don’t make enough noise on our own Capitol Hill in Richmond, several of us chose to help out the PHCC-National Legislative effort by traipsing around on Capitol Hill in DC. There were about 140 contractors from across the country visiting their respective states’ offices and sending our message. The main message that was being sent was “PLEASE FIX OUR HEALTH CARE SYSTEM”. The Affordable Health Care program rolled out by our President is so convoluted and potentially expensive that even our own legislators don’t know how to fix it. PAY ATTENTION!!!! It will affect you and your company. We also discussed NOT expanding the “lead paint” rule to commercial properties. It is not that we are against the concept of the rule. It is a poorly constructed rule and with no testing devices that are accurate for testing the presence of lead paint in commercial buildings. It is PHCC’s position that the “rule” needs further development before trying to implement it. That is true of so many pieces of legislation that “come down the pike.” Someone gets a “great” idea and before anyone REALLY talks to the experts in the field, someone else has made it a “rule” or a “law.” We want our legislators to come to the experts (that would be US!!!) before they proceed with poorly thought out legislation. Our Virginia contingent spent time in Senator Warner’s office, Congressman Cantor’s office, Congressman Hurt’s office and Congressman Wolfe’s office. We sent our messages loud and clear….now whether the messages were delivered and understood is another issue. BUT, most importantly, contact your own Congressman and/or Senator

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and tell them your personal/ company story….those stories make a difference!!! Speaking of making a difference….the main issue I have been following is a potential regulatory change: the potential elimination of the CEU program. As you remember, there was a 30-day “Public Comment” period that ended on February 27. Thanks to the “Alert” sent out to the industry by PMPV, many of you submitted your comments to the Board for Contractors. DPOR accumulated all the public comments and decided to go forward with a “Proposed Regulatory Change.” The “Proposed Regulatory Change” will eliminate the CEU programs for all trades except waterwell drillers and elevator mechanics (and that is because their CEU’s were written into the law when they got their licensing passed by the General Assembly a couple of years ago). The “Proposed Regulatory Change” has to go through several stages….as of this writing is has been certified by the Attorney General. Next it goes to the


Secretary and then the Governor. Once they have signed off on it…it will be published in the Virginia Register and there will be a “Public Comment” period (again) and several Public hearings across the state. It will be VERY important for us to be present at the public hearings to state our case. We need to put together a package that outlines how we can help DPOR save money and still keep the CEU program. I think the bottom line is the Governor wants to cut expenses and DPOR has targeted this CEU program as inefficient and costly. The inspectors association (VPMIA), the Building Officials Association (VBCOA) and several PMPV representatives met together to discuss our strategy and how we can help the Board for Contractors resolve this issue AND cut expenses without necessarily eliminating the CEU program. Maybe through this all, we will end up with a MUCH better CEU program…..talk about making a difference!!!! Stay tuned as this develops further and if you want to be part of it…..let me know….I can find a job for you! Remember to join PMPV/VAPHCC, a professional organization which looks out for the public AND the industry. Be part of the solution! Laurie C. Crigler is Legislative Chair for PMPV and owner of L&D Associates, Inc. in Aroda, Virginia. She can be reached in her office (540-948-6230), on her cell (540-718-3000) or by email at lcc@ldassociatesinc.com.

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COMMITTEE REPORT: Communications Committee By Communications Chairman, Randy Baldwin

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f you happen to Google the term “communication” In. We know these social media tools may not appeal to you will be rewarded with thousands of quotations, everyone, but we want to be available to those who prefer theories and workshops on the importance of effective to get their information that way. communication. Let’s just agree that businesses intent on In short, we want our communications with members, achieving organizational goals will get there faster if they partners and others to be meaningful conversations, not communicate effectively. monologues. With your help we will get there. We have all worked in situations where communications was not a priority. Goals are not clear, Randy L. Baldwin is a licensed Master Plumber and owner direction is fuzzy, successes are unrecognized and the of Frugal Rooter Plumbing & Drain as well as Homedic business misses opportunities and loses employees. The Home Improvement. He has over 20 years of experience same is true for organizations. Members are a critical in the field. He can be reached at rlbaldwinva@ component in the life and effectiveness of this association, frugalrooter.com. and by sharing information with each other we can accomplish great things. This year we have added an online monthly newsletter and have invested in technology that allows us to effectively invite and register members for events. These simple Cummins-Wagner has solutions for all of your wastewater applications, like steps help us share information with these great products from Bell & Gossett and Vertiflo: you, but we will be more effective if you share your thoughts with us. Tell us what you think, what you need or want from this association and how Sump & Sewage we can remain relevant. Impact Series Submersible Self Cleaning Sewage Pumps Heavy Duty Sump Pumps Early this summer the Plumbing • NON-CLOG STYLE, CAST IRON IMPELLER. • CAPACITIES TO 3000 GPM. and Mechanical Professionals of • CAST IRON CASING, 2” NPT, 3“, 4” OR 6” ANSI 150# FLANGED • HEADS TO 230 FT TDH. VOLUTE WITH SPECIAL RELIEF GROOVE FOR SELF-CLEANING • TEMPERATURE TO 350° F. Virginia completed an overhaul of AND REDUCTION IN CLOGGING. • PIT DEPTHS TO 26 FEET. our communications channels in • EFFICIENT AIR-FILLED MOTOR. • CONSTRUCTION: an effort to achieve organizational • DUAL MECHANICAL SEALS. - CAST IRON, 316 STAINLESS STEEL FITTED, ALL 316 STAINLESS STEEL, goals. I hope you will take the ALLOY 20, HASTELLOY, CD4MC time to visit our newly updated Packaged Grinder Systems website (www.PMPV.org) where • DESIGNED FOR HIGH HEAD SEWAGE APPLICATIONS. you will find basic information, WHERE A GRAVITY SYSTEM IS NOT PRACTICAL. calendars, archived newsletters and • IDEAL FOR PRESSURE SEWAGE SYSTEMS. • CAPACITIES: TO 41 GPM, TOTAL HEADS: TO 95’ TDH. IMAGE magazines, membership • DISCHARGE: 1¼” NPT. directories and access to a variety • SINGLE MECHANICAL SEAL. of membership benefits. You might • COMPLETE TURNKEY SYSTEMS FOR SUMP, SEWAGE OR EFFLUENT. also consider taking one of the online courses. We have also fully engaged with both Facebook and Linked

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COMMITTEE REPORT: Apprenticeship & Education Committee Apprenticeship & Education Committee Chair, Jason Richard

Apprentices

Labor to Win

The Annual PMPV Plumbing Apprentice Competition

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une 15 dawned hot and clear…perfect weather for the annual PMPV Plumbing Apprentice Competition. Eight contenders arrived at the tent outside Ferguson Enter-

prises in Virginia Beach, anxious to demonstrate their understanding and mastery of plumbing practices. Eight identical benches were set up and the contestants were instructed to rough-in a half bathroom on a pre-built module with the materials provided by sponsors Ferguson Enterprises, Copper Development and Sioux Chief. Contestants were given a layout, specification sheets, and the needed materials to compete in the assignment; and just seven hours to get the job done. Done perfectly right. To the satisfaction of judges and coaches Jim Steinle (Atomic Plumbing), Mike Hurt (Long’s Corp.), Jim Howe (Evan Hibbs Plumbing), Jason Richard (Parrish Services) and Paul Keane (Atomic Plumbing). The contestants were well-prepared. The field consisted of Antoney Baumbach (Baumbach Plumbers, Inc.), Jose Noe Hernandez (D.F. Williams Plumbing), Shawn Jackson and John Monaghan (Paul Southwick Plumbing), Jason Nunden (JRC Mechanical), T.J. O’Bryen (Norfolk Air, Heating and Cooling), William Skelsey (Cameron Plumbing, Inc.) and Judson Steele (Atomic Plumbing). The day got hotter and the tension increased. The judges were impressed with the competitors and conferred for a long time before declaring winners. First place was awarded to Jose Noe Hernandez, second place went to William Skelsey and third place honors were accorded to T.J. O’Bryen. First and second place winners have a chance to attend the national Plumbing-Heating-Cooling-Contractors Association competition in Las Vegas October 2013. Jason Richard serves as Apprenticeship Chair and works with Parrish Services in Manassas, Virginia. He can be reached at jrichard@ParrishServices.com.

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Education: You Want It You Need It

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ou may be a master in your work, but there is always an opportunity to learn. You may have never heard of magazine publisher William Feather, but you can probably appreciate his comment, “In education it isn’t how much you have committed to memory or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t. It’s knowing where to go to find out what you need to know and it’s knowing how to use the information you get.” That is one of the strengths of PMPV: the association offers a variety of educational opportunities based on the interests of its members and the challenges of the industry. If you are in the business of water distribution, you know the importance of backflow prevention. PMPV is one of very few organizations that offer training and certification. You can find a listing of seminar dates at www.PMPV.org. Similarly, you can expand your business by becoming certified to conduct water audits, helping home owners and businesses recognize their water use and identifying ways to conserve…and save. You can access training at a special educational seminar in September (see the PMPV website for details). Every month in Northern Virginia, and quarterly in the Hampton Roads area, PMPV Chapters offer informative programs on topics relevant to your business. A calendar of programs is available on the website, or you can sign up for the monthly e-newsletter for reminders. Take advantage of the opportunity!

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COMMITTEE REPORT: Industry Committee By Industry Committee Chairman, Matt Kemp

Service Surprises

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hen I returned from the 2013 AHR Expo, in Dallas, I had to climb out from under a mountain of messages, phone calls, emails and such that piled up, as is typical when I am away for a week. It was Saturday morning and I was planning on dropping by several jobsites. I had two crews working that morning. I planned on a leisurely Saturday morning walking a few sites, planning for the following week and enjoying the light traffic, which made for easy travel. I typically take the phones over the weekend so I can determine if a call is truly an emergency call and, as important, whether they owe me money. I find it easier to collect past due accounts when the client is in dire need of our service. The phone rang as I was driving to my first stop. A friendly competitor had referred this client to me when he learned he had a steam boiler. I love steam and I love a challenge, so I told the client I would stop by later that morning. After a quick stop at a boiler replacement job on Capitol Hill, I was off to take a look at this recalcitrant steam boiler in Chevy Chase, Maryland. On the way to the job, I committed the cardinal sin of trying to diagnose the problem before I even saw it. The owner gave me several clues: No heat in the second floor radiators, slightly warm radiators in the first floor, strange noises from the boiler he had never heard before and no water line in the sight glass. “This one is easy,” I thought to myself. “The boiler is flooded. I will be in and out in no time.” I arrived at the home, in Chevy Chase Village, introduced myself to the owners, and proceeded down the basement steps. As I was headed into the boiler room, the client asked when the heat would be back on. Since I already knew what the problem was, I responded, “Oh, in about 30 minutes.” This is when I committed my second cardinal sin: Never tell the client what is wrong with the system until the heat is back on. Too many times I have stumbled upon a problem but not necessarily THE problem (or the ONLY problem). Then you have to backtrack and explain the problem was really something else or there was more to it than you originally thought, rapidly losing your credibility. Owners always want to know immediately what the

problem is, even before you have a chance to set down your tool bag. I have several pat ways of responding to this question hopefully without appearing rude. One is: “I’m good, but not that good. Give me a few more minutes and I will have the problem accurately diagnosed.” I say this with a smile and that usually does the trick. Another is this one: “Before I leave, I will have your heat back on. I will give you a full report when I am done. Right now, I need a few minutes to find the problem.” I don’t mind an owner watching me while I work. But, I have found that if I am discussing the problem with a client and answering questions, I am not fully focused on the task at hand and tend to make mistakes, such as valves left closed, jumpers left in place, switches left off, etc. Everyone works differently and I have found that I work better when not conversing with the owner. In this case, I ignored my own advice and declared the problem fixed before I even saw the boiler. The boiler was a gas-fired Weil-McLain, about 20 years old. I immediately noticed some piping and venting issues but they were not the acute problem, as they had been that way since installation. The acute problem was a perfectly clear sight glass. The boiler was flooded. One key bit of information: I don’t drive a service truck. I had my SUV with hand tools in the back and a bucket and hose I grabbed from one of my techs at the previous stop. I retrieved the bucket and hose in order to drain the excess water from the system. There was no floor drain in the boiler room so I would have to lug full buckets to a laundry tub in an adjacent room. I planned to drain the boiler down to a normal water level and then determine the cause of the flooded boiler. Once again I broke my own golden rule. I was chatting with the client and answering questions instead of paying attention to what I was doing. This is no big deal, I thought to myself. It will be a few minutes of manual labor draining the boiler until I get into the real troubleshooting anyway. I screwed the short hose onto the boiler drain and put the other end into the bucket. I was still chatting up the owner when I gave the stubborn valve a good hard twist. I went from surprise, to shock, to panic in a split second as the entire valve came off in my hand. Water was spraying [continued on page 22]

[ 20 ] IMAGE | Summer 2013


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everywhere as I tried to shove the valve back into the brass nipple and ball valve with a hose end. To my relief, boiler block, like the little Dutch boy shoving his thumb in as well as the owner’s, the repair held. I like to use this the dike. setup, even on new installs, as it is less likely to create Water was spraying all over the floor as I tried to stem the exact situation we had just dealt with. Also, the ball the flow. Ordinarily, there would only be maybe eight or 10 valve is less likely than a boiler drain to become clogged gallons in a residential steam boiler. Sure, 10 gallons on with mud and sediment. the floor would make a mess but it was nothing to panic over. In this case, the boiler was flooded. The mains, We set the boiler water line and flipped the switch, first floor radiators and risers were full of water and this thinking we were done. We watched in amazement as standing column of water was exerting all its pressure on the feeder kicked in and quickly flooded the boiler. This the stub of rusted steel I was trying to re-insert into its is exactly why I try to avoid declaring a system “fixed” original location. until the heat is back on. Mark quickly found a leak in The owner’s eyes were wide as saucers as I tried, the electronic low water cutoff probe that shorted out the unconvincingly, to act like this was a normal occurrence. circuit board. Luckily, he had a replacement part on his When the client ran to grab some rags and towels to truck that resolved the issue. mop up the widening pool, I had a chance to regroup Three hours after I had arrived, the heat was finally and figure out how I would extricate myself form this restored. If I had followed my own procedures and advice, unfortunate situation. I managed to open the sticky boiler I would have made less of a mess and been better drain while pushing what was left of it back into the boiler prepared to deal with this problem. That’s what happens block allowing roughly 2/3 of the flow to make it into the when you get complacent. bucket. With my free hand, I called my ace service tech, Mark Wilson, praying he would answer on a Saturday Matt Kemp serves as Industry Chair for PMPV and is morning. Mark handled service while I was away so he General Manager of Aireco Supply Advanced Products had the weekend off. To my luck, he answered and I Group in Savage, Maryland. He can be reached at quickly explained the situation. He hopped in his truck and mkemp@Aireco.com. was there within 30 minutes. By that time, I had managed to drain the boiler, empty countless buckets into the sink, and mop up the rest. I had a chance to find the cause of the Maryland and Virginia Listing situation in which I found myself. Zoeller: The boiler drain was extended Sump, Sewage, Grinder Pumps up to 7.5 HP, Basins, Controls & Accessories beyond the boiler jacket by a Zoeller Engineer Pumps: Sump, Sewage, Grinder Pumps and Pumping Stations up to 100 HP, Basins, Controls & Accessories short ¾-inch black nipple and Flint & Walling: coupling. This had been leaking Submersible & Jet Pumps for wells. Constant Pressure & Booster Pumps slowly for some time causing the Clarus: nipple to corrode. There was not Advanced Treatment Systems, Effluent Pumps, Septic Tanks Filters, Recirculating Media Filters, Controls & Accessories much left by the time I grabbed Mustee: ahold of it. To his credit, the owner Shower Bases, Laundry Tubs, Mop Sinks, Tub/Shower Wall Kits, ADA Grab Bar & Fold-up Seats recognized that this was the cause Schier: and realized that I just happened Grease Interceptors, Oil Separators, Solid Interceptors, Acid Neutralization Tanks Custom Process Systems to be the last fool to touch it. Quick Fittings/ProBite: There was still a rusted stub Push to Connect Fittings. No-lead, Low Lead and Copper of the nipple left in the boiler Outdoor Shower Company: block. The question was whether Stainless Steel Outdoor Showers Systems & Accessories the threads in the boiler block Virginia Only Listing were rusted out or if they would State Water Heaters, Symmons, Insinkerator, Chicago Faucets, Accor, Guardian, Oatey SCS, Harvey, and Woodford be damaged while trying to Praxis Industries: remove the stub. If so, the boiler Aquarius, American Whirlpool & Comfort Design would need to be replaced. Mark carefully removed the stub with an Please see Web Site for Links to all Factories and full list of Associates Web: www.virginiamarketingassociates.com easy-out and a 24-inch wrench. MD PH: 1-301-432-5028 F: 1-301-432-5721 | VA PH: 1-804-569-0360 F: 1-804-569-0361 He then chased the threads with Email: jcvamarketing@verizon.net | cjvamarketing@gmail.com a pipe tap and threaded a new [ 22 ] IMAGE | Summer 2013


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