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Most challenging job?

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DanHolohan
DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,551
What was the toughest hydronic job you ever did? What made it that way? Site conditions? Client? Weather? Tell me a story. Thanks.
Retired and loving it.

Comments

  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,828
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    Apparently they are still out working on them.
    Erin Holohan Haskell
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,551
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    So it seems. 😂
    Retired and loving it.
  • rick in Alaska
    rick in Alaska Member Posts: 1,458
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    I guess looking back at the ones I did, most weren't that unusually difficult. Mostly tight spaces to work in, but that is a given here. I never had a client that gave me any grief, so that made it easier.
    I did have a job working for the city changing out their boiler that I won the bid for. I was supposed to take out the old really large Weil Mclain boiler and install two Buderus boilers in its place. I didn't do my research enough, and after I got the bid, I realized that the smallest section on the boiler was something like 175 pounds. I work by myself, so had to do some scrambling to figure out how to not kill myself getting it out. I managed to talk to one of the guys in the maintenance yard there and convinced him that part of my bid was for them to pull it out with their loader with a stick boom on it, so they did! He was barely able to reach in to the boiler, and barely had enough clearance through the door for head height, but we were able to pull it out with just a few inches of clearance. Once we got it outside, I called the local scrap guy and had him pick it up for the scrap value. Then I installed the two other, also heavy, boilers and got it done. Sometimes I am amazed I haven't seriously hurt myself moving heavy things like that without major body damage, but I am very good at moving heavy loads by myself.
    Not hydronic related, but I had to install two unit heaters in an airplane hangar in the interior, and the carpenter who was working the job was to be my helper. I had all my heaters, pipes, and fittings barged in before I got there. When I got there, the carpenter informed me that he had to fly out immediately for a court date and I was on my own. Also, they had just poured the slab so it was still a little soft. I asked him where my pipe was, and was then informed that the barge company left it on the beach, and someone stole it. So we had to have some new pipe flown in to replace it, at an ungodly price. In the meantime, I worked on installing the chimney, and hangers. When I was ready to install the heaters, I had to lay some plywood down to drive the forklift on so I didn't hurt the slab. It was a real challenge to put two unit heaters up to the ceiling and then have to climb a ladder to position them, and have to go up and down a few times to make it all fit, but I got it done as I usually do. Good thing I am used to working by myself.
    Rick
    CLambSolid_Fuel_Man
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,551
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    Thanks, Rick. I’m aching just thinking about all that. You continue to impress me. So well handled. Grace under pressure! Thanks. 
    Retired and loving it.
    rick in Alaska
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,710
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    I have a few but I'm gotta pick the right one.
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,113
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    As Ed stated there’s so many to pick from over 35 years of being in the business and 15 years or so on my own they meld together into a bad memory but those memories become experiences and you learn from them.
    I kinda think just about every job ends up having some hitch as I ve always said it’s just like rolling the dice and playing craps some times lucky 7 and other times it’s a snake eyes and you take the hit and live and learn that’s what we do .
    I think over the years between residential Hvac and commercial work it’s hard to narrow it down to the hardest or worse jobs . I think the hardest jobs are the ones that have been knuckle headed and where the lowest bidder or some one who was in over there head and your the new guy who has answers but the owners have heard it all before w no results and you basically have to convince them that you have a real fix and for them to trust you ,those are the hardest jobs but the up side of it is that when you succeed you have a customer basically for life or till they bury you or they fire you lol ,That’s all if you can convince them of the value you offer and the end results
    I think other hard aspects of the industry is pricing ,it’s truely these days the hardest part . Being every body does price checking on everything on line and They assume that’s what the cost is and that your to expensive and that your over charging them ,most not realizing the hidden cost of business and that it’s not all in the pocket . I think a lot of consumers are very hard to convince and most really don’t understand that what your really paying for is experienced heating and cooling contractors who are covering all the bases and looking out for there best interests but that is a hard sale after seeing prices and getting a low bid job .
    It s really after the fact of getting a badly installed system that works poorly ie heating cooling ,steam hot water what ever ,that they might see the valve in what you offer but at that point the cost for a re do is usually the grave stone for that idea unless there basically no choice ,and again it the pricing and now w recent increases in every thing and the not in stock issues it’s even harder .
    I live by a lot of time earned saying most passed down by my dad the most famous that always pops into my head when looking at truely junk is ,you can’t fix junk you can only marry it and who wants to do that if your already married unless your Mormon and I ain’t .
    Sorry for the long rant but I feel that any job can be difficult when trying to keep up your quality of work on the up and up w no short cuts and perform the work with out incidents or extras . When you want every job to be level square and properly operating and a thing of beauty for all to be hold and a happy customer . That’s the most difficult job and basically the most important part of a job , but convincing them of this while others pricing is less is the hardest job and after many years like fishing you can’t get em or keep em all you let them go and they get what they wanted .
    The hardest job basically keeping up the quality of workmanship ,sticking to your guns and not slacking in it and become compliant w doing shoddy stuff .
    Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    Solid_Fuel_Man
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,551
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    Clammy, your posts are always worth reading. So much to consider here. Thanks. 
    Retired and loving it.
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,528
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    My worst was at a ski resort in WV. We didnt install the boilers but sold them and had to start them on a Friday. The weather was terrible and my two wheel drive van was slipping and sliding all over the place. The conditions were almost a complete whiteout. I was white knuckled driving and exhausted before I arrived. The wind chill factor on top of the mountain was 40 below and the wind blew me all over the slippery sidewalk. When I got into the boiler room, the contractor didnt have the boilers wired. He said it should only take an hour. I nearly blew a gasket but smiled. It was apparent the guy knew nothing about wiring so I ended doing most of the work. We tried starting the boiler but the propane pressure wasn't enough. The maintenance person had to go to the bottom of the mountain and increase the pressure.
    We finally got the boilers running around midnight. I had to drive back down the mountain because the ski lodge was sold out. When they say Wild and Wonderful WV, it was the truth
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    Solid_Fuel_Man
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,551
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    Gosh, Ray. It's hard to top that one. White-knuckle indeed!
    Retired and loving it.
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,528
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    Traded the truck in for a 4 wheel drive after that LOL
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    PC7060
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,551
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    Life is a stern teacher. :D
    Retired and loving it.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,710
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    I can't top Ray's

    But this one had me biting my nails.

    It was a hospital outside of Worcester, MA

    They had 3 Roof top units that were all messed up. The originals were Carriers. Those of you that have done OLD roof tops will know what I mean.


    The original units were 1960s. They didn't have downflow units then. If you wanted downflow you bought the side discharge unit with the factory plenum which was basically a factory made 90 degree elbow box that contained the supply and return ducts.

    Well, someone had replaced two of the old units with Trane down flow units with curb adapters.

    It was a mess. The units were too close together and were recycling hot condenser air among other problems they were impossible to service as a lot of panels were blocked. In addition that wouldn't allow us to cut the roof open or rework the ducts below the roof

    They wanted to use two of the Existing Trane units and replace the 1 remaining old Carrier with a new Trane and make this work as far as access and service and not recycle condenser air etc.

    I spent a day there measuring and sketching and I finally found a way to make it work,

    We had our sheet metal Shop fabricate 3 different roof curb adapters.

    Now all I had to do was spend time at the office drawing out these 3 curb adapters so they could be fabricated. I drew them all out in Microsoft Visio.

    Don't forget all the measuring had to fit. None of the units were removed for measuring. All the units were repositioned/replaced in 1 day (crane day) and had to be running at the end of the day.

    I sweated that one out for a while. Lucky for me it all worked out
    Alan (California Radiant) ForbesSolid_Fuel_Man
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,551
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    I like love your Worcester stories, Ed. Thanks for sharing. This one really shows you at the top of your game. 
    Retired and loving it.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,710
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    LOL. Not the top of my game. A pipefitter measuring sheet metal. lol Don't know how I got stuck with that job when we had a shop full of veteran sheet metal guys
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,551
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    Probably because you’re the best. 😉
    Retired and loving it.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,710
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    @DanHolohan

    Thank you, Dan., but I am far from the best. Just an average guy that did a lot of different things. Jack of all trades master of none
    Solid_Fuel_Man
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,551
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    I’ve learned so much from you over the years, @EBEBRATT-Ed. Thanks for everything you’ve shared with us. 
    Retired and loving it.
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,528
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    wow @EBEBRATT-Ed I feel your pain Kudos for getting the measurement right and getting the unit running
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,710
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    Thanks @RayWohlfarth

    The knowledge on this site comes from guys like you, Dan, and @Tim McElwain and others on this site that contribute their experience. I just kick in a few grains of sand once in a while
  • Alan (California Radiant) Forbes
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    I’ll chime in as well on Ed’s knowledge that he shares here. Much appreciated, Ed!  You’re pretty amazing. 
    8.33 lbs./gal. x 60 min./hr. x 20°ΔT = 10,000 BTU's/hour

    Two btu per sq ft for degree difference for a slab
    Erin Holohan Haskell
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,710
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    Thank you @Alan (California Radiant) Forbes You are also invaluable contributor.
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,646
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    Mine is just a few grains of sand as well, but is a bit like Ray's. 

    Here in the arctic tundra of Maine, winter is pretty much 6 months a year. 

    It was -30F and windy. Whiteout conditions, but too cold to snow. 
    I was working in a nice warm home on a bathroom remodel in the basement when I get a call from a school superintendent in a town 30 miles away. He tells me they had no heat. I packed up my tools, and get in my van around noon. Seats are hard in vehicles when it's below zero ya know. It was a white knuckle drive for sure with that urgency we all know of a quickly cooling building, and frigid winds blowing your van all over the road. 

    They have a woodchip boiler and an origional 1972 clever brooks oil boiler. One CB was removed in 2006 when the chip boiler was installed. The remaining CB had been slated for replacement due to leaking and had been valved out.  But the replacement pair of WM boilers had been on backorder since last summer..... There was a small weil mclain boiler that heated an indoor pool during the summer. It didn't leak, but was a 2.75gpm nozzle or something small. 

    The chip boiler has a 20HP ID fan which is controlled by a VFD. Well as you'd imagine the chip boiler had a really big heap of coals from heating this building and the boiler room was a total fog with thick humid woodsmoke. The building was at 62 degrees and we turned off the leaky univents which we knew pulled in some outdoor air even when the OA dampers were closed. 

    I tried firing up the CB but water began running out the burner, no go for sure. I moved some wires around in a control panel and got the small WM boiler going and turned on its little injection circulator. With the univents off, there was only a few hundred feet of fintube in the halls to dissipate heat. This is a school built for 1200 students. Back when we had an Air Force base in this town. 

    We kept all the water moving and the Pneumatic zone valves were all full open. Coughing with all the dense smoke and with the boiler room doors open for air, we didn't want to overcool the boiler room, but I needed air. 

    With the small boiler running our heat loop was up to 110F and holding. No chance of freezing so I could now move on the the smoldering and oozing chip boiler. They said they thought it stopped sometime that morning after a custodian emptied the ash bins at 7am. It was now 4pm. 

    I climbed up to the ceiling where the ID fan was located and removed the belt cover. A newish pair of V belts were installed and it seemed to move freely. I began thinking that I could hotwire the ID fan with the 3 phase power and see if the VFD was the problem.

    There was a sticker with an arrow on the housing indicating direction of rotation which looked backward to me. Having been down this road before with blower rotation, I trusted the factory sticker, especially since I couldn't see the blower wheel and this was a special application. I bypassed the VFD down at wall and had one of the custodians throw the fused disconnect while I watched the shaft rotation. It was going in the correct direction according to the arrow. 

    Smoke began pouring out in my face! Ahh, I could taste it! I scurried down the 14' step ladder and reversed the rotation of the motor. We repeated out bump procedure and it was turning opposite the arrow now. Smoke wasn't blowing at me, and we went outside to see all sorts of smoke billowing from the stack. I guess the factory got it wrong..... I'm still amazed by that. 

    With the fan running at full tilt we found the Magneheilic daught gauge pegged. And thr shouldering chips beginning to relite. Sparks and chips lifting off the grates.... this wasn't going to work! 

    It was now after 6 on a Friday, did I mention it was Friday? And we still didn't have any real heat. The building was in the high 50s at this point and it was really cold and dark outside. 

    I made some phone calls and called in a  favor and was able to find a suitable VFD a few towns away....further away from my nice warm bathroom remodel job....

    One of the custodians went to get the drive and I proceeded to remove the old Danfoss VFD. Trying to figure out the PID loop they were using to tell the drive how fast to run the ID fan based on boiler draught and heating demand. About 2 hours later the VFD was in my hands and the custodian went home. I'm there alone. 

    I wired up the new VFD and programmed it for the motor HP, voltage etc. Now the fun part, getting it to work with this system, which I had no paperwork for. 

    In the end, there were 3 small wires, UP, DOWN, and COMMON. The controller on another wall just told the drive, "speed up"  or "slow down" and I programmed in a slow response time and it all worked. 

    I went home after midnight with a much less white knuckle drive and a pungent smell of green woodchips burning. 


    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
    bburd
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,551
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    Gosh, @Solid_Fuel_Man, you just made me think of that film, The Martian! Talk about working with what you have at hand and thinking deeply. This is such a terrific story. Thanks for sharing it with us! 
    Retired and loving it.
    Solid_Fuel_Man