Radiant Contractor Uses Expo as Business Tool

October 8, 2007
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Caleffi’s Mark Olsen (center) points out some new product features to Matt Jarchow (left) and Paul Rohrs, who were looking for new products and ideas at the RPA REX Expo. Rohrs and Jarchow also visited the Oventrop booth (shown in background).

HARTFORD, Conn. - Paul Rohrs spends a lot of time finding better ways to run his business, including giving much attention to the products he sells and uses. He believes that finding new products and learning about new ideas will continue to make him more competitive in his marketplace and raise his company’s level of professionalism.

Rohrs, the manager of Biggerstaff Radiant Solutions of Lincoln, Neb., recently visited a trade show and meeting sponsored by the Radiant Panel Association (RPA) in Hartford, Conn. The REX Expo drew a large number of attendees and exhibitors who learned about radiant and hydronic heat technologies, as well as some good ideas on how to run their businesses better. One highlight of the show was the System Showcase Awards, in which Rohrs played a key role. (See sidebar article on page 18.)

The NEWS went along with Rohrs as he visited the trade show floor, learning what goes through a contractor’s mind as he maps out his strategies to get the most out of his time at various booth visits. Some of Rohr’s stops were planned while others were spontaneous, fueled by eye-catching displays and familiar faces in the booths.



THE STOPS: FAMILIAR FACES AND PRODUCTS

Rohr’s first priority was to visit Lochinvar’s booth (www.lochinvar.com) where he wanted to ask specific questions about the availability of the company’s Knight wall-hung boiler. His company had been working on a new radiant heat installation in a customer’s home and he wanted to use the Knight in this system - as long as it was available.

“I don’t want to train my people on a product if it isn’t available now,” he said. “We are always trying to step up our game as a responsible contractor. That’s why I need to know about the availability of a good, new product.”

Before making his way back to the Lochinvar booth, Rohrs and his lead installer, Matt Jarchow, stopped by the Caleffi booth (www.caleffi.us) where he was eyeing the Hydro Separator, which keeps hydronic circuits totally independent from each other. Rohrs, by no surprise, was checking on its availability. “I don’t want to be a beta tester for new products,” he said. “I want something that has been on the market for a while. But I’m not afraid to spend money on new technology if it will make my business better.”

Lochinvar’s Michael Juhnke (left) spent time with Rohrs at the expo. Juhnke wanted to make sure that Rohrs gets a Lochinvar Knight wall-mounted boiler as soon as possible.

After seeing a few product demonstrations, Rohr and Jarchow visited the Lochinvar booth, hosted by Michael Juhnke, product program manager.

Rohrs and Juhnke were ac-quaintances who had previously discussed the availability of the Knight modulating-condensing boiler. Rohrs is well known to the Lochinvar people - his photo and testimonial appear in the Knight boiler brochure. Rohrs had mentioned that his customer “was on a fast track” for completing the radiant system in his home and the Knight boiler was precisely what he wanted.

“The Knight boiler is my preferred choice because all of the components are in the box, including outdoor reset controls,” said Rohrs. “I believe it is really a well-built mousetrap.”

Juhnke arranged for Rohrs to get an advanced copy of the installation-operation manual for the wall-hung boiler, and said he would see how quickly he could get a Knight unit shipped to Biggerstaff.

Robert Hutslar (right) of Laing Thermotech talks with Rohrs and Jarchow about the features of his company’s low-power DC pumps.

The next stop was at the Laing Thermotech booth (www.lainginc.com) where Robert Hutslar, division manager of plumbing and heating, talked about the features of the Ecocirc Solar DC pump, which is described in product literature as “the first DC spherical motor pump for direct connection to photovoltaic panels with automatic performance optimization using Maximum Power Point tracking.”

Once again, Rohrs was asking about availability and was told it would be out in 2008 once it is U.L. certified.

Rohrs stopped by the Oventrop booth (www.oventrop.com) to point out a product that had caught his eye at a previous trade show. Oventrop’s solar collector was eye-catching and had attracted several visitors to the booth.

Rohrs talks with John Mann of MANN-I-TECH LLC about fasteners and fastening tools from Winkler Technik for tubing in radiant floor heat applications.

Some of the other stops included visits to:

• Winkler Technik (www.winkler-shop.com), which featured underfloor fasteners that replaced plastic tie wraps, as well as installation tools for mounting pipes on wire mesh.

• Flir Systems (www.flirthermography.com), which sells infrared cameras for building diagnostics and inspection. The booth was eye-catching because an infrared camera set up at the front of the booth projected the hot spots of each visitor on a screen.

• Piping Tools (www.pipingtools.com), where Rohrs renewed acquaintances with old friend Leonardo Pirito. “I’ve bought clamps and fasteners from Leo for years,” he said. Pirito demonstrated many new lock bolts and channels for mounting pipes, which he described as “Legos for big kids.”

• Alberta Custom Tee Ltd. (www.customtee.com), where a tube resizer caught Rohr’s eye. The resizer is used to repair and resize damaged tube openings.

Leonardo Pirito (center) demonstrates pipe clamps and fasteners to Jarchow and Rohrs during their expo booth visits.

• Viega (www.viega-na.com), manufacturer of products for radiant systems, where Rohrs talked with old friend, Julius Atkins about some of the new Viega products. As usual, Rohrs asked about product availability as Atkins showed him several products including radiant manifolds.

Rohrs made a few more stops during his day-and-a-half visit and came away with some good product knowledge and good expectations. He is aware of the cost of attending trade shows, both for the travel expenses and time away from work. But he said it is worth the investment if it will help his business.

For example, Rohrs is interested in solar energy because he believes it is making a comeback. He was looking at components that can be used in solar systems and exploring the possibility of creating a hybrid system out of solar and other energy sources - another way of staying on the leading edge of technology.

And he expects the people he visits at trade shows to help him out, too. “I look for people who can follow up with us after we visit their booth,” he said.

Visit www.biggerstaffradiantsolutions.com for more information on the company.

Sidebar: The Big Prize

Paul Rohrs and the company he manages, Biggerstaff Radiant Solutions of Lincoln, Neb., does a lot of quality work. It paid off recently at the Radiant Panel Association (RPA) REX Expo in Hartford, Conn. During the annual System Showcase Awards, Rohrs walked off with the Judge’s Choice award. The project that won the award for Biggerstaff was a radiant heat system for a newly constructed 8,100-square-foot home in Lincoln.

Rohrs said, “We submitted an entry for the category of Residential New Construction 6-15 Zones. We used 9,880 linear feet of 1/2-inch pex-al-pex for our infloor tubing. We also used 920 linear feet of 3/4-inch pex-al-pex for our supply and return lines to our remotely mounted manifolds strategically located throughout the house. All eight zones of floor heat are controlled by Tekmar TN4 system that control eight zone pumps with integral flow-checks coupled with visual flow indicators (flow-setters) on the return line.

“The Tekmar TN4 system controls two modulating Lochinvar Knight boilers and one HTP 120-gallon indirect water heater.” The TN4 system modulates the boilers based on an outdoor-reset principle for this single low-temp system, also giving priority to the direct hot water system.

“Zone synchronization is a very nice feature for this home so that even with two boilers that can low fire at 20,000 Btu’s each, the zone synchronization function allows multiple zones to engage at optimum times together, rather than on-off (bang-bang) zoning principles of yesteryear. With eight zones of heating, the TN4 thermostats also perform additional roles in providing temperature averaging for three zones of cooling.

“An additional Tekmar 480 control can provide 1 button access to engage all thermostats in occupied, unoccupied, and away modes. The Caleffi Hydro Separator performs air and dirt separation responsibilities as well as simplifies boiler and system loop piping.

“One other notable feature on this job was the insulation package. Glossy black PVC skin was applied over the jacketed fiberglass insulation which surrounds the copper Pro-Press™ fittings and the brazed copper header.”

Publication Date: 10/08/2007

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