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An Uncommon Common Man

I just finished reading the article, "Radiant For the Common Man" in the May 2001 issue. As pleased as I am that the "common man" got his wish of radiant floor heating in part of his home, I couldn't get past the way Dave Yates saved him money. It looks to me like the common man saved on radiant heating by not using it!

That is kind of like saving money on a car by not buying it. If the numbers listed in the article are correct, the homeowner saved a total of $14,000. That is almost what a typical forced air system would have cost for a 3,000-sq. ft. home.

I have no doubt that the system is an outstanding system. Dave does excellent work. But, I do think it is a stretch to call this homeowner a common man in the first place. This is an exceptional person and the house looks to me to be an upper-end custom home. Not too many of the common men I know could afford the house, let alone the heating system.

If you want to do an article on radiant for the common man, you will have to look elsewhere. Believe it or not, there are contractors who can install simple radiant systems in average houses for close to the cost of forced air. They don't have many bells and whistles, the boiler may actually be a water heater, there may only be one thermostat per floor, but it is closer to what the common man can afford.

I am not advocating the use of water heaters or installing "cheap" systems, but I do believe that, if our industry is truly interested in providing the comfort of radiant heat to the common man we have to simplify. The trend today is toward more controls, sophisticated boilers, high-tech manifolds, indirect water heaters, and complex systems. That is fine in an upscale home or commercial project, but it leaves the common man out in the cold.

I may be an idealist, but I still believe that our industry can find a way to make it possible for the average family to enjoy the benefits of radiant heating. I have to admit, after 25 years in the business, I am getting a little tired of making the well off more comfortable while the common man can only wish.

Larry Drake
Executive Director
Radiant Panel Association
Loveland, Colo.

Excellence Is Color Blind

Let me congratulate you for publishing the remarks from Julius Voss, ("Where Are The Contractors Of Color?" Letters To The Editor, April 2001). As someone who has been involved in the plumbing industry for quite a few years, my experience has been that exclusion is not the practice - but recognizing excellence is.

My personal observations have been that there is an extremely low number of female and minority involvement in the plumbing industry. Naturally a small part of this can be attributed to low numbers of licensed individuals. This will change as more qualify over time. Every licensed individual who enjoys the benefits of our profession should be involved. Role models are important in all walks of life.

Perhaps Mr. Voss knows a contractor that he looks up to. If so, recommend this person for an article. Excellence should be embraced as something that is color blind, lest we endorse substandard performance under the guise that we need to fill a politically correct void.

Mark Evans
The Backflow Guy, LLC
Allen Park, Mich.

Don't Mess With Backflow Installations

I enjoy reading Julius Ballanco's column month after month. His columns are thought provoking, but then there is this month's ("Who Should Install Backflow Preventers?" May 2001). I would like to ask Mr. Ballanco several questions of my own:

1. How long is the apprenticeship of a "sprinkler man?"
2. Who administers the test for the "sprinkler man license?"
3. How many hours of continuing education does a sprinkler man take a year to maintain his license?
4. Can a sprinkler man explain what an approved backflow device is, how it operates and in what applications to differentiate between a DC or an RPZ?
5. Can the sprinkler man's license be revoked if he has a major mishap?

If we allow the sprinkler man to open the plumbing system and alter it without a license, can we then start allowing him to also replace the water line going into the house? After all, it's just a water line. Do we then allow him to continue on into the house and pipe it, too? After all, it's just some more piping. I own a pair of wire strippers, so I guess I can rewire a house. After all, it's only wire.

There is a reason I have spent five years under the instruction of a master plumber. There is a reason why I had to pass a test to get my license. There is a reason why I have to attend continuing education every year.

I don't take public safety lightly, and neither do the authorities that made me complete the years of training I had to endure to get my license.

Let's let plumbers protect the plumbing system.

Otherwise, I have a vision for a new poster: A sweaty individual holds a can of PVC solvent in one hand and a PVC fitting in another. Throngs of people stand in the background lauding his efforts to protect their shrubbery. Above the scene, bold letters spell out, "The Sprinkler Man Protects the Health of the Nation"

Ted Melko
Superior Plumbing
Kennesaw, Ga.

Let Go Of The Handle

Thank you for an excellent and timely presentation of a real problem ("Aging Low Flows," March 2001). "Alterability" and flapper leaks are more serious than double flushing, but there is a bigger problem you did not expose: the "hold the handle down" syndrome. This, of course, defeats the "early flapper" design and allows the oversized storage tank to dump its entire contents.

Ultimately, a small flushing device will be concealed in a 6-inch wall, consume only 4 liters and operate by sensor. Superior performance, less maintenance, positive flushing upon use and greatly reduced water consumption are the guaranteed features that will sell this change in the market. The water industry will climb on this bandwagon very soon.

Andrew C. Wehrli
A.C. Wehrli Consulting Service
Naperville, Ill.