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Instead of going off on a tangent on another recent post I figured I start a new post. I lived with Ken Secor (my father that passed away in 2016) for twenty three years and worked for him for twenty one years before he retired and sold the business to me back in 2006.
Yes, it's true we used copper for almost everything on hot water systems back then (heat and dhw). It's also true we did a bunch of new radiant slabs and regularly made repairs on older slabs with copper on Levittown style homes here in NJ. We also did radiant staple up jobs.
One of the toughest staple up radiant installs we did was in an enormous home that was built in the late 1800's. We would paint the tubing outside with black spray paint, solder u bends with 20 foot lengths of 1/2"copper tubing and install it between joists. On this particular job, we had four men working on the basement ceiling on this five thousand square foot house for about two weeks. The home had rock hard wooden beams that were loaded with nails and nearly impossible to drill. We used auger bits, speed-bore bits, boring bits that would dull on every hole. We went through more than a dozen bits on this job due to the nails and hardness of the beams and joists. Once the new radiant system was finally installed and air tested we installed the new boiler. When we finally started the system for the first time we the homeowner complained that the floors were barely warming up. Ken's written contract specified 'others' shall install a minimum of six inch insulation under the radiant tubing. Instead, the owner used 'bubble wrap' around the time it was first introduced. Basement area heated well, but first floor of the house was grossly under-performing. The homeowner finally had the appropriate insulation installed and the system has been working fine ever since. Most contractors were using some sort of flexible non-metallic tubing at the time, but Ken's insisted we use copper and only copper! I am certain Ken did not make money on that job.
Ken liked copper tubing so much that he made my mother a copper 'tree' sculpture as a Christmas present back in the 1970's. Ken's banister on his last house and 'dream' retirement house are made of copper. Soon after retiring Ken made a copper wall art project that still is proudly displayed at Mom's house in Vermont. Looking back, If Ken could have made gotten away with making copper hockey sticks or copper baseball bats when me and my three brothers were kids, he just might have.
Oddly, I don't think Ken ever got a nickel directly from the copper industry for his love of all things copper. Despite Dad's love of copper, he reluctantly did use some pex in the house he built when he and mom retired. Magically, there are no leaks on the pex (or copper for that matter) after thirteen years.