ACHRNEWS

Specifying valves ain’t like it used to be

September 13, 2000
It used to be that when you needed to specify a valve for a particular job, you had to sit down with pencil and paper and do the math to figure out the right size. After you figured out the size, you had to decide which manufacturer and valve material to use.

That was usually done by scrounging around, trying to find manufacturer literature and technical specifications. If you couldn’t find the information and it was outside of normal business hours, you were out of luck.

Well, times have changed. The Internet can be your late-night (or any time) valve-specifying buddy.

Manufacturer literature, selection software, and technical information abound for those who are connected. If they know where to look.

Site surfing

Most people who have tried to find a piece of information on the Internet know how frustrating it can be. You type in a keyword in any given search engine, and you get 200,000 “hits,” most of which don’t apply to what you’re looking for. (If you’re lucky, no X-rated sites show up in your search.)

Searching for valve specification information is no different. In response to my request for sites concerning hvac valve specification, I received information on everything from the petrochemical industry to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Thankfully, there were a few pertinent manufacturer sites sprinkled in the mix as well.

A much better way to pinpoint a site is to know which manufacturer you want to work with, as well as the company’s website address. Many manufacturers now list that address on every piece of literature they produce. Or, visit one of the sites out there that has manufacturer addresses listed. (The News has such a site at www.bnp.com/ thenews/resource.html.) Otherwise, you could be spending precious time sorting through tons of unrelated material.

One of the first sites that popped up in my request for information was NIBCO Inc., Elkhart, Ind. (www.nibco.com). This company manufactures multi-turn valves (bronze and iron gate, globe and check valves), residential plumbing valves, quarter-turn valves (ball valves and butterfly valves), and actuation for plumbing, hvac, and fire protection piping systems.

Steve Swartzenberg, NIBCO’s general manager of valves-actuation, says there are three types of information provided on the website. First there are valve product data and information sheets, which include all the technical information required to make a submittal to an engineer. These product sheets mirror information shown on the printed catalog page.

“We also provide access to our list price sheets, and allow printing of promotional literature to highlight specific additions or segments of our product offering,” he says.

Second, there is the valve selection guide, which is constructed to follow engineering specifications covering typical hvac, plumbing, and fire protection piping systems within commercial construction.

This guide provides recommendations (by figure number) on the NIBCO valve suitable for that application with a description of materials of construction, design features, size range, and compliance with general industry specifications.

Finally, there is informative technical data related to NIBCO products, including a chemical resistance guide, pressure-temperature curves, installation instructions, flow data, properties of material charts, and linkages to associated standard and code bodies that are involved in the industry.

Swartzenberg says putting all this information on the Internet allows the company to provide customers with more timely and accurate information.

“Printed material is accurate at the time of printing, but products are continually introduced, enhanced, changed, or made obsolete. It’s impossible for NIBCO to communicate the information in printed form to everyone who might be affected.

“Our website is updated regularly to reflect any changes, making it the most dependable repository for accurate information concerning our products.”

Honey of a site

Another manufacturer that offers a comprehensive website is Honeywell, whose valve information is located at www. honeywell.com/building/com ponents.

Honeywell manufactures control valves for all types of commercial building applications — everything from 1/2-in. unitary (or zone) valves, all the way up to 20-in. butterfly valves. Its valve portfolio serves both electric and pneumatic control systems and includes ball valves, globe valves, cage valves, pressure balanced valves, and butterfly valves.

According to Kevin Freidt, valve product manager, the website contains specification data sheets that provide general information for submittal purposes. “These also contain a section called a guide spec, which is information directed at consulting engineers to help them write job specifications.”

Product data sheets are also available on the website. These are more technical in nature and include information such as installation instructions and application specification information.

Valve application manuals on the site illustrate installation techniques, tips on piping layouts, wiring diagrams, troubleshooting, maintenance, and repair. Another reference that’s available is the Honeywell Engineering Manual of Automatic Control (also called the Gray Manual).

“That is an industry standard technical reference manual which has been around since 1934. It’s a controls manual for heating, ventilating, and air conditioning, and contains everything from definitions all the way up to direct digital controllers,” says Freidt.

Cross referencing information may also be of interest. Here you can cross reference other vendors’ part numbers and find out the comparable Honeywell product. Right now only the ball valve cross reference is online, but Freidt is working on the others. “We want to provide our end-users with one-for-one cross references on all our products.”

Finally, the company offers a free valve sizing software tool that can be downloaded from the website. Honeywell’s “Damper and Valve Sizing and Selection Software,” or HDVS3, can be used to compile a valve or damper schedule.

Freidt says the software is very easy to use, and ultimately makes a contractor’s or engineer’s job easier by quickly and accurately sizing the valves for a job.

“The bottom line is maximizing profits for our customers,” says Freidt. “That’s what people need us to do to help them stay in business and make money. The way we can do that is to first of all, give them the information they need for their project and make sure it’s accurate. If they put the wrong valve in or select the wrong size valve, that leads to problems.”

These problems usually stem from someone using a “rule of thumb” instead of accurate calculations to size a valve.

“One of the historic industry trends is that a person selecting a control valve will just pick a valve that’s one size smaller than the pipe. We try to impress upon people that when you have a tool that’s as easy as this software tool to size and select your valve, which is the proper thing to do from a customer perspective and from an energy-saving perspective, why not take the time to do it right. It’s important.”

Take a peek at Taco

Taco Inc., Cranston, R.I., has an informative website out there as well. This company manufactures a variety of hydronic components for heating and air conditioning systems.

Tim Smith, director of marketing programs, says, “Some of our largest moving products are our zone valves, which are used predominantly for zoning space heating and cooling.

“You would use one of our zone valves, for example, to turn on or off the flow of hot or cold water to a room or a zone that might be going to a fancoil, baseboard, radiator, or anything like that.”

For those products, the company essentially offers the complete catalog online, which is all the product specifications, sizes, flow rates, etc. The company also offers a product called the “Accu-Flo,” which is a balancing valve.

Again, the company has the complete catalog online, including all the features and benefits of the product. Specifications are also there, including size, dimensions, and flow rates. “You could actually calibrate the valve to know exactly what flow you’re getting out of the valve at any given valve setting,” says Smith.

The company also offers larger multipurpose valves, which are used typically in the pump room to balance and control the flow of water coming from a pump into the system. For each of those, all of the catalog information is available on the Internet.

While Taco doesn’t see a need to include valve sizing software on its website, the company does offer software to allow contractors to select and specify heat exchangers, expansion tanks, or pumps.

“The manual sizing of a heat exchanger is fairly difficult, because you have all the temperature variations to worry about, as well as the actual heat transfer of the tubes in the bundle. With ‘TacoNet,’ you can look at a number of selections and determine which one actually meets your conditions the best in terms of size, efficiency, and velocity in the tubes,” says Smith.

He adds that one of the benefits to being online is hearing from a wide range of people. “We get all kinds of questions from homeowners who are contemplating building new houses and looking at doing radiant heating systems and want suggestions and help. That’s very rewarding.”

Park your browser here

Parker Hannifin Corp., Cleveland, manufactures thermostatic expansion valves, constant-pressure expansion valves, solenoid valves, hot gas defrost valves, pulse-width-modulating valves, pressure-regulating valves, shut-off valves, and check valves for air conditioning and refrigeration applications.

The company offers its standard catalog information at www.parker.com/cig; however, the company suggests using its “inPHorm” product-selection software for actual valve sizing (available for a small registration fee).

The program can be downloaded from the website (www.parker.com/inphorm), or is available on CD-ROM. It allows users to design, select, and order all kinds of refrigeration and air conditioning components, including valves.

Jim Jaye, marketing services manager, says Parker decided to offer the CD-ROM because customers were asking for it. “Customers want an interactive tool that actually helps them select, manipulate, and order air conditioning and refrigeration components; inPHorm lets them accomplish this quickly and easily.”

He explains that the software is easy to use and product categories include thermostatic expansion valves, pressure regulators, solenoid valves, filter-driers, and many others.

“The software asks the user describe the application; inPHorm quickly uses the information to recommend the proper component(s) for the user’s application,” he says. “The software also includes a built-in help system, a line sizing tool, and full parametric CAD capabilities with DXF, HPGL, and IGES file output.

“A browser tool for searching product lines and part numbers is included, and a comprehensive reference library is also included.”

Jaye says the reason for offering the information on CD-ROM is that contractors often need the information in the field.

“A contractor at a remote jobsite may not have ready access to an Internet connection. However, he may have a laptop computer with a CD-ROM drive in his truck. He can go out to his truck, load the CD, and get the information he needs.”

Jaye adds that while the portability of the CD-ROM is advantageous to those in the field, having it available on the Internet is probably a better solution for oem design engineers, because these people probably have a high-speed connection to the Internet right at their desks.

If you’re new to the Internet, it may seem like a confusing world at first. But don’t be afraid. There is so much useful information now available at your fingertips, it’s a shame not to take advantage of it.

Jaye notes, “Invest some time in exploring and learning. Although the choices may seem overwhelming at first, we believe contractors will soon wonder how they ever got along without this type of information.”