Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning, and Fire Sprinkler Blog

Why a tankless water heater is really thankless.

Posted by Brian Johnston on Thu, Apr 21, 2011
earth-dayOn the eve of Earth Day, I find myself doubting all marketing that says it is "good for the earth" and "green". Especially when green marketing of an appliance is a nicety, not a necessity. (i.e. a "green" clothes dryer...is a clothes line and it is not available with a steam feature, LCD screen, or a clothes are dry app for your phone)

We have a lot of residential plumbing customers who want to become more environmentally friendly. Most want to start with the purchase of a tankless water heater in hopes that they can save substantial amounts of money on their utility bill and it is considered "green".

However Floridians and other warm climate residents should be mindful of over zealous marketing of tankless water heaters. When it comes to looking at all of the costs involved, you may not be able to save as much money as advertised with this type of water heater.

It is true that tankless water heaters are more efficient than their counterparts. Tankless water heaters can operate at over 80 percent efficiency, while tank water heaters generally operate at 50 or 60 percent.

This will allow you to save a little bit of money on your heating bills at the end of the year.water-heater

However, here in Florida both water heating methods have less work to do. Considering they have to warm the incoming cold water more in Michigan than Florida since the groundwater coming into the unit can be 30°F colder in Michigan (42°F) than Florida (72°F). According to Florida Power and Light, the water heater uses a large amount and the average household spends about $15 per month to heat water.

Tankless efficiency comes at a price quite a bit more than what you could buy a traditional water heater for. In fact, many of them cost as much as three times more than a regular water heater. In addition to that, you will have to run special lines into the water heater which can get very expensive if you are installing one into an existing house.

With this large initial investment, it would take you many years to be able to break even on your original investment with the savings that you are realizing from the utility costs. Many estimates have said that it would take you over 15 years to repay the initial cost of purchasing the tankless water heater.

For a much less investment and efficient alternative, consider a Hot Water Recovery Unit. Most in Florida have and use central Air-conditioning or a Heat pump system that the Hot Water Recovery Unit on the cooling cycle uses heat that would normally be wasted to outside air to help heat the water. 

Using a Hot Water Recovery Unit to recycle wasted heat from your central A/C to provide free hot water to your tank hot water heater, thereby removing the cost of hot water from your electric or gas bill.

A hot water recovery unit added to your central A/C unit can almost offset the cost of running the air conditioning.

If you have a heat pump unit then the savings are even greater. A heat-pump unit typically uses 1/3 (33%) the electricity to make heat as straight electric heat. Of course, an electric water heater uses 100% electricity to make heat. If connected to a heat-pump whenever the unit is running, hot water is being made at a reduced rate.

So happy Earth Day! And know that going without the need of hot water is better for the earth than being pushed into tankless water heater because the green marketing.

Tags: Shop Talk, Residential Plumbing

Fire Suppression Systems Save Lives!

Posted by Brian Johnston on Mon, Apr 18, 2011

Concerned about Fire Safety? We know the answer, Fire Suppression Systems.

Safety improvements made since a fatal fire at a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill fraternity house more than a decade ago helped stop a recent fire at a UNC fraternity house from spreading.

Sadly, the Fire Suppression System requirement and changes came after an early-morning fire on graduation day and Mother's Day -- May 12, 1996 -- at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house caught fire at the university killed five people.

All fraternity and sorority houses at the University of Northfire-suppression-systems Carolina at Chapel Hill now have Fire Suppression Systems and are inspected twice a year. And each Greek house has its own student fire marshal. The Phi Gamma Delta house has since been rebuilt and safety-equipped, including two stairwells on both ends of the house that are shut off, according to Sam Heathcote, who serves as the house's fire marshal. There are also fireproof doors.

Chapel Hill firefighters responded last week to a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill fraternity house after a bed there caught fire on Monday. Chapel Hill Deputy Chief Fire Marshal said a small personal electric fan fell onto the bed, heated and ignited the fire. The building’s Fire Suppression System extinguished the fire and there were no injuries.

Did you know there has never been multiple deaths caused by fire in a fully sprinkled building?

Tags: Shop Talk, Fire Suppression Systems

Why a plumbing and fire sprinkler sub with overhead is better.

Posted by Brian Johnston on Fri, Feb 4, 2011

Sub's with Overhead vs. Low-Ball Bidder
Case No. 2009-2011

In today’s "price shop" orientated society, subcontractors must work on ways to provide the best bid number and still produce Plumbing and Fire Sprinkler Subcontractorbetter customer service. Whether that customer is the general contractor, project owner, a homeowner with a leaky toliet or a condo manager who needs a fire sprinkler inspection. As a Florida commercial plumbing and fire sprinkler contracting company, we changed our way of doing things to stay in front of our customer and still providing excellent service. Your past successes may have been good but now you need to continue with:

  • Gain better awareness of how our company is perceived by the customer
  • Provide what the customer is seeking from our service
  • Determine at what cost to overhead

So where does that point someone looking to sell their overhead and improved customer service in our industry filled with low bidders?

To be a good subcontractor, commercial plumbing, fire sprinkler or other trade, they should focus their attention to cost efficacy and the results from recently completed jobs and jobs in progress.

With that data in the bid, you know it’s correct. Well, all bid estimates are wrong so, more correct. Revisit this several times during the job.

  • Determine what is your true cost of a job? Commercial Plumbing and Fire Sprinkler Contractor
  • What labor hours you have on the estimate versus hours off the time cards?
  • Have you included the overhead burden for office staff?

If not, you might be missing the true cost to offer and maintain good customer service and might not be managing those costs efficiently.

We have to ask ourselves, "does the consumer want a fire suppression system installed by a contractor focused on excellent service and quality or the lowest bid number?"

The established subcontractor with an overhead-burdened cost structure may not have the lowest bid but I know will provide a better service and complete working system. They chose to seek good business relationships and work for and with a team that recognizes having a well-established subcontractor specializing in installation, repair and service. Unlike their low bidder competitors, they are able to maintain a staff of highly trained craftsmen, consultants and experts, so every job receives the attention of skilled masters with a singular goal: getting the job done right. It is a cost and the time to educate the buyer that they should want:

  • Better bid accuracy
  • Meets or exceeds the construction schedule
  • Subs that will construct a good product for the owner’s intended purpose
  • A vendor that will be in business to offer future maintenance and service

At the end of every job, everyone evolved has made an investment. Knowing most reflect on that investment when closing a job file…should you follow up with those that took the low bidder when their project completes? Maybe your company might make their project manager’s buy out list on their next job.

Do you think a "lesson-learned?" call could result in more work for the overhead-burdened sub?

Tags: Shop Talk, Commercial Subcontractor