Not long ago, Ray asked the Wallies who post daily on The Wall at HeatingHelp.com what advice they would give someone just starting out in this business. Here’s some of what they had to say. There’s a lot of street-smart experience here.
Over the years, I've had many homeowners read my books and then write to tell me they knew more about their system than the contractors that came to their houses. This was particularly true when it came to steam heating.
Morris had me on the phone. It was 1974 and he was calling from Brooklyn, New York. I had a waxed handlebar mustache that year, and my workmates at the manufacturers’ rep were calling me Rollie Fingers because he was pitching for the Oakland Athletics in the World Series.
In 1885, when you could still buy a milk cow for $29.70, Albert Butz, a Swiss immigrant living in St. Paul, Minnesota, invented what he called the damper-flapper. He patented it the following year. The flapper opened a damper that allowed outside air to enter a coal-fired home furnace. This increased the oxygen in the furnace and made the fire burn hotter. When the temperature rose to a desired point, the damper closed.
People who knew Capt. Montgomery C. Meigs said he was occasionally pompous, but when the job was done to his satisfaction, he said, “This was the most difficult piece of engineering and construction that I have yet to undertake.”
I love all the advances taking place in the world of hydronics, but I’m still seeing plenty of steam systems out there in our older cities, so knowing about dry steam will help you if you’re replacing a steam boiler. The dryer the steam is, the better you’re going to look to your customers.
I began my career in the HVAC business in 1970 as a truck driver for an AC/refrigeration wholesaler. I stayed there just six weeks because my father — who worked for a manufacturers’ rep — told me there was an opening for a clerk at the rep. It paid $110 a week, which was $10 more than I was getting driving the truck. Plus, I’d get to work with him as my boss.
I have heating (plumbing, fire suppression, etc.) shops in New York and New Jersey. This is very much steam country, and we repair and replace steam boilers and systems all week long and have been for decades. All that is fine, but what I find incredibly odd is the polarized perception of the automatic water feeder.