HET Misconceptions
Needed: Women Contractors
The Job You Do

HET Misconceptions

The March issue of Plumbing & Mechanical had a very interesting column on high-efficiency toilets (HETs) by a very knowledgeable (and outspoken) individual, Julius Ballanco (“HET – Here We Go Again”). Although Mr. Ballanco expertly covers a lot of territory in his many columns, he is off base on this one. Let me just point out the most glaring mischaracterizations:

  • Mr. Ballanco implies that “some” manufacturers support the EPA’s voluntary WaterSense program designed to promote HETs.

    In fact, every manufacturer supports the move to HETs to some level or another. At this time, 21 manufacturers of plumbing fixtures are producing and delivering HETs to the marketplace. More than 130 different HET fixture models are currently available. The number of fixture models will probably be close to 200 by year-end.

  • Mr. Ballanco asserts the “government” has ignored the consensus process.

    Absolutely not true. All manufacturers, testing organizations, users and other stakeholders were invited to the table in a vigorous consensus process. All of the major manufacturers participated and the HET specification issued in January of this year was truly the result of consensus among dozens of stakeholder participants.

It appears that Mr. Ballanco’s concern was that the process used was not his favorite process - the slow-moving American Society of Mechanical Engineers national plumbing standards process. Remember, the ASME process is the one that failed to improve the national standard for toilet fixtures for 10 years after EPAct 1992 was passed, thereby allowing states and other jurisdictions to preempt EPAct and go their own way - but that’s a discussion for another day.

Coincidentally, in the very same issue of the magazine, there was discussion of another WaterSense consensus process currently under way for residential lavatory faucets on page 12. Much debate among stakeholders has already taken place on this specification as well, but I am confident that ultimately it will also yield a well-thought-out specification that preserves choice for the consumer, but offers a special product for those focused on green building and water efficiency.

By the way, other than a brief speech by its executive director a couple of years ago at an EPA stakeholder meeting that I attended, the American Society of Plumbing Engineers has been absent from these ongoing consensus processes. I believe that it is time for Mr. Ballanco to bring his organization into the WaterSense discussions to offer its contribution to the discussion.


  • Mr. Ballanco decries the use of what is essentially the MaP test for certifying HETs in the WaterSense program.

    Maximum Performance - MaP - testing uses soybean paste as a realistic test media (for further information, visit www.cuwcc.org/maptesting.lasso). He also states that the national standards committee that writes the toilet standards has “ … continually rejected soy paste as a test media … ” over the past 27 years. Of course, I have only been involved in this very committee (ASME A112.19.2) since 1994, but have never heard the paste media discussed as a full proposal, much less rejected. (Of course, such may have occurred prior to 1994.)


  • Finally, Mr. Ballanco appears to be offended by the term “toilets” and instead favors the 18th century term “water closets” (or is it 17th century?).

    Of course, we all know that consumers don’t go to Home Depot or Lowe’s looking for a sign that says “water closets,” or looking for manufacturer packaging with the words “water closet” on the box. They seek “toilets.” Manufacturers use the term “toilet” on their literature and in their advertising because that is what consumers, retailers and others recognize as contemporary in North America. The fact is that the term “water closet” is largely unused in the United States outside the realm of codes, standards and mechanical specifiers. Whether we like it or not, today’s term is “toilet.”

    Mr. Ballanco offers his opinion on another subject with which I am in complete agreement: gray water capture, processing and reuse. The reuse of water within a building or on a landscape is not only logical but, at some future date in drought situations, may be the only cheap source of water available for fixture flushing and landscape irrigation.

    Sending near-potable water down the drain without considering how that water can be filtered and treated for use in a toilet, urinal or landscape irrigation system does not fit with today’s emphasis upon water efficiency and green building. Many packaged gray water systems are available in North America for use in new construction, but the conflicts with numerous health codes, state regulations and other regulatory interpretations are seriously hindering needed advances in the marketplace.

    Once these conflicts are resolved (through consensus, we hope), expect to see the use of gray water become a very conventional “best practice.”

    John Koeller, P.E.
    California Urban Water Conservation Council
    Sacramento, Calif.

    Needed: Women Contractors

    I want to write this letter to call on the industry to do what it can to recruit more female plumbers and mechanical contractors. I am a female mechanical contractor located in Colorado and have been in the HVAC business for many years - but I have yet to come across another female contractor.

    I have seen a few female technicians in the field, but not any mechanical contractors. Why is this? Am I the only one in the country?

    I have recently attempted to acquire a grant for this very purpose, but couldn’t get it since I do not run a nonprofit organization. Women need to get out there. Not because the men cannot do the job, but because the public needs to have a choice.

    Let me share with you a few words about that. A woman contractor needs to have a few qualities about her. First of all, she has to let things go. As one of the only women who will walk into a supply house with all men, I hear things and things are said to me. Sometimes I need to just laugh and walk away. (They do not realize I am really laughing at them.)

    I even get smirks as I drive down the road in my service truck by guys who just assume I cannot do the job. I have gotten comments by male customers asking if I knew what I was doing. To those I respond with a smile and say, “No, I’m just practicing on your gas line. I hope it doesn’t blow.” That usually lightens the mood.

    Oddly enough, the local building department sends those who cannot pass their mechanical contractor’s test to me for tutoring. It is awkward for many of these guys as some won’t call for help.

    The point is, I am capable in this career. And although I learn new things every day, I have an awesome understanding that other women should have the chance to have, too. Unfortunately, they are not always given that choice and find it difficult to get a chance.

    What they may hear are comments such as one that was said to me many years ago: “It’s a man’s world. We run the show, so act like a man.” That deters women from wanting to deal with it. However, I found that jumping those hurdles became a challenge, and here I am a licensed industrial, commercial, federal and residential mechanical contractor. And I own my business.

    I love what I do. Now if I can just help other women to get here.

    Cindy McKeon
    A Star Heating & Air-Conditioning
    Peyton, Colo.

    The Job You Do

    I read Jim Olsztynski’s editorial on cheap labor with sadness (“The High Cost Of Cheap Labor,” April 2007). Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I was always taught to be proud of the work I do.

    My father was insistent that his kids did the best they could in anything they did, and without any bragging. I am proud of my work ethic, even though I am chided by other plumbers who always have those cute little sayings that we’ve all heard a million times and maybe said a time or two ourselves: “I can’t see it from my house.” (That one makes my skin crawl.) “It’s good enough. Besides, you can’t see it once the wall is up.” “The gas pressure is only a half pound. It doesn’t have to be that tight.”

    It just makes me wonder what kind of mechanics we are dealing with these days. I can see ignorance as somewhat of an excuse, if they are new to the business because they have yet to learn a proper work ethic. But when people say, “They don’t pay me enough to care,” it’s worrisome.

    We all have to start at the bottom and work up. But these days everyone wants a big paycheck, and then they promise to do a better job. I see so many new construction jobs that are re-done after the owners move in, and the owners kind of accept it. They think it’s the norm. Maybe I and others of my ilk are dinosaurs.

    Thomas Rose
    Glenn Thorn Plumbing and Heating Repair Co.
    Sea Girt, N.J.  

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