Some good stuff for your consideration, products that can I think can really benefit you if you’re a contractor. In no particular order:
Differential pressure regulators
This is a standard item on most European hydronic systems, but just coming into its own in North America. It’s a self-contained valve that pipes into the circulator’s discharge and allows water to flow from the circulator back to the return side of the system as necessary, depending on how many circuits are calling for heat. As it works, it mimics the system’s normal pressure drop, and that keeps the circulator nailed to the design point on its curve. So if your contractor is using zone valves (either electric or non-electric), the circulator’s flow rate will always be the same, no matter how many zones call for heat. Differential pressure regulators solve the problem of velocity noise and water hammer, things that plague hydronic systems when circulators are allowed to build too much pressure. You can get them from Danfoss, Honeywell, and others.
ESBE Thermic Valve
This is one of those simple products that meets a big challenge with modern hydronic systems. When you bring low-temperature water back to most boilers (as you will with radiant and old gravity systems) you face the possibility of flue gas condensation and thermal shock to the boiler. This valve from ESBE (available through Danfoss) is self-contained and pipes into either the supply or return of the boiler. It will allow the boiler to reach its optimum temperature before letting the return water enter. It’s similar in operation to the thermostat in your car’s heating system, and it does away with the need to manually balance a boiler bypass line. A simple solution to a big problem.
Bell & Gossett Isolation Flange
This is a full-port, non-ferrous ball valve with a free-floating flange that your contractor customer can rotate in any direction. It does away with the need to line up the bolt holes in the circulator flanges with the bolt holes in the isolation ball valve. It comes in 1/2″, 1″ and 1-1/4″ NPT as well as sweat, and it will fit any manufacturer’s circulators. This one has been getting a lot of attention on the Wall at HeatingHelp.com. The Wallies that have tried it are 100% sold.
Hydrolevel’s VXT electronic water feeder
I really like this feeder for steam heating because it has features you don’t find in most electric or mechanical feeders. This one keeps track of how many gallons of water enter a boiler. If the building owner keeps a notepad near the feeder, and takes a look at the readout on the VXT once a week, he’ll be able to tell if the boiler is suddenly taking on too much water, which would indicate a leak in the system (probably from a buried pipe). Nice cheap life insurance for the system! This unit also has the ability to feed past the minimum waterline to the operating water level. That’s a nice feature. And it will wait before feeding, should the low-water cutoff shut off the burner. This gives the condensate a chance to work its way back to the boiler and helps prevent overfilling. Smart stuff. See it at www.hydrolevel.com/pages/new.html
Raytek MiniTemp Infrared Thermometer with Laser Point
This is one of the coolest tools I’ve seen. Point and shoot and you’ve got the temperature of just about anything you can lay a laser on. This handheld unit measures temperature in both Fahrenheit and Centigrade, and from 0°F to 525°F (-18°C – 275°C), and it’s accurate within two degrees over most of its range. It’s a fine tool for checking thermostatic radiator traps, tap-water temperature, motor bearings, pipes that are up high, and you name it. I often take The Lovely Marianne’s temperature from the other side of the living room, much to her dismay. But that’s just me. You’ll find it at www.raytek-northamerica.com/index2.html.
Taco’s WAGS valve
There’s this classic episode of The Sopranos where Tony gets a call from Carmella, who tells him that there’s water in the basement. In the next scene, Tony is up to his waist in water, and I pity the poor plumber that installed that water heater. He really should have used a WAGS valve. This self-contained unit pipes into the water supply line, down low in the drip pan. Should the water heater spring a leak (and think about how often that happens), the WAGS (an acronym for Water and Gas Safety) will positively, and instantly, shut off the water and cut the power to the gas valve. Does it add to the installation price of a typical water heater? You bet it does. Does it provide unparalleled peace of mind for the customer? Yep! And I think that when contractors tell their customers about this product, and the safety it provides, it will be an easy sale. You have to tell the people, though. Check it out at www.wagsvalve.com.
Grundfos Comfort Series Instant Hot Water System
Here’s a great way to save water. This Grundfos product turns any conventional domestic hot water system into a recirculation system, providing instant hot water to every tap in the house. And it’s so simple. The contractor mounts the circulator on the domestic hot water line, and then pipes the Grundfos thermal bypass valve at the far end of the house. The circulator uses the cold water supply line as the recirculation return line, which I find delightful. The bronze circulator has a timer, and it should be a very easy sale if you’re marketing in a drought area.
Slant/Fin’s Hydronic Explorer software
I think it was a bold move on Slant/Fin’s part to develop this easy-to-use CD-ROM heat loss calculation software, and then to give it away to the industry. They raised the bar with this one. If you can fill in the blanks, you can now do accurate load calculations with this tool. Tell your contractor customers to forget those wacky rules of thumb and guesswork and step up to accuracy. They’ll sleep better at nights, and probably close more jobs as well. Anyone can get a copy by clicking on Free Heat Loss Calcs on the HeatingHelp.com navigation bar.
Earthlee Speed Headers
These good-looking, one-piece headers save time and money and they won’t leak. And very nice people make them, right here on Long Island. The standard units are 1″, 1-1/4″ and 1-1/2″ with two- three- or four stations. Each station has either a 1/2″ or a 1″ nipple. Earthlee also makes custom units, and they use either Schedule 40 steel or stainless steel for all of them. The Wetheads who visit the Wall at HeatingHelp.com have been buzzing about Earthlee for the past few years. There are a lot of satisfied contractors saving a ton of time and money with these Speed Headers. Well worth a look at www.Earthlee.com. Check ’em out.
Some more software for your consideration. If you’re sizing radiant systems, consider adding this program to your hard drive. LoopCAD automatically creates loop-layout drawings for radiant heating systems. It’s a stand-alone program, but is also AutoCAD compatible. You can create floor plan and circuit design drawings in minutes with this software, and the results are so professional. Take it for a test drive at www.loopcad.com.