Plumbers Training Institute 2021 Spring

Plumbers From Across the Nation Aid Texas in Storm Recovery

Last week, a major winter storm swept across many parts of the American south. The storm wreaked havoc in many states. But in Texas, it caused an ongoing power outage crisis. After the storm finally passed and temperatures started to rise, many Texans wanted to start recovering and get back to normal. But, as many plumbers know, extended power outages coupled with a quick freeze/thaw cycle brings one thing: burst pipes.

A broken water line flooding a church in Richardson, Texas is just one example of the plumbing issues Texans are facing right now | CREDIT: TONY GUTIERREZ/AP/SHUTTERSTOCK

Texas Facing Plumber Shortage

Temporary Regulation Changes - Only A “Band Aid” Solution?

Burst pipes, major leaks, and the many other plumbing related issues that emerged in the wake of the storm have exposed a major statewide workforce shortage. The need for plumbing services has become so overwhelming that Texas Governor Greg Abbott worked with the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners (TSBPE) (which the state tried to completely abolish in 2019) to create three temporary regulation changes.

  1. The Governor waived regulations for certain qualified Plumber’s Apprentices to allow them to perform plumbing repairs without ‘direct’ supervision by a licensed plumber so long as the qualified Plumber’s Apprentice works under the general supervision of a Responsible Master Plumber.
  2. Plumbers who were previously licensed by the TSBPE but whose licenses have expired for a period longer than 2 years may reinstate for a fee and without the current examination requirement.
  3. The yearly Continuing Education requirement is waived for all licenses and registrations with expiration dates in February, March and April of 2021.

Why Is Texas Struggling To Attract Plumbers?

While these temporary “band aid” measures are in place to get more Texas plumbers working again, many plumbers are arguing that there simply aren’t enough plumbers in Texas to meet demand. 

Chris Taylor, a field manager for Radiant Plumbing in Austin, said demand for plumbers has outpaced the number of available technicians. Radiant is currently receiving triple its normal number of calls per day, and the company has over 2,500 customers awaiting service.

“It’s heartbreaking, really. You’ve got a lot of people, thousands of people, that need help, that are desperate,” Taylor said. “And there’s nothing you can do for a lot of them because of the reality there’s not enough people out there to do the work.”

According to The Texas Tribune, factors like the state’s low minimum wage, a lack of cultural respect for “blue collar industries,” and a focus on college being the only path available after high school is keeping “plumbers from moving to Texas and young people from entering the industry.”

Out-of-State Help Arriving Just In Time

During last week’s storm, Gov. Abbott also signed orders allowing out-of-state plumbers to obtain provisional licenses to work in Texas. According to the Washington Post, Frank Denton, the TSBPE chairman, and his agency have been working long hours to accelerate the approval process for non-Texan plumbers. 

Out-of-state plumbers can submit an application that requires them to provide their licensing information and insurance coverage that meets Texas state standards. Because the demand is so high, the board has been working to process the applications in less than a day, Denton said.

“We are certainly inviting them to come to Texas. That’s for sure,” he said. “As a result, we’re trying to expedite and make it as seamless as possible.”

Good Samaritans From the East

Once this measure was in place, master plumber Andrew Mitchell, his apprentice (and brother-in-law) Isaiah Pinnock, and both of their respective families drove for 25 hours straight from New Jersey to Texas in order to help those in need.

The story about the brothers-in-law has garnered national attention, making plumbers throughout Texas and across state lines offer to send supplies as they run out. Other people who caught wind of their work through social media have offered financial help.

The generosity from others allows Pinnock and Mitchell to better help families who aren’t able to afford the costly repairs needed to restore some order in their lives, Pinnock said.

“A lot of people who go without water is because of financial reasons,” he said. “Yesterday, we went to a subdivision of very small houses and fixed income, and we could not feel right leaving them without running water.”

Pinnock said he and Mitchell coached “handyman uncles” and family members through repairs at about six homes in that neighborhood, leaving without much in their own pockets.

How You Can Help

If you would like to lend your expertise to the residents (and plumbers) in Texas who need all the help they can get, click here

If you know anyone who would like to become a licensed plumber or go from a journeyman to a master so they can go to Texas to help, click here then choose your state.

Or, if you’re unable to travel to Texas and help, here’s a list of charities gathered by Texas Monthly that you can support.

Here’s Why Industry Experts Are Feeling Optimistic About 2021

While there’s no doubt that 2020 was a difficult year for most of the country (and the world), plumbing industry professionals are looking to 2021 with cautious optimism. Below we’ll go over a summary of the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s (NKBA) annual Market Outlook Report, as well as some 2021 predictions from industry experts. 

NKBA StudyPredicts Large Kitchen & Bath Remodel Project Increase

According to the data gathered by the NKBA, 2021 residential bath and kitchen remodeling projects are expected to grow to $158.6 billion in 2021, a 16.6% increase from 2020.

“Last year, homeowners started the work of improving their living spaces with DIY projects. This year, with early distribution of the vaccine and other measures to reduce the public health impact of the virus, we expect to see continued renovations and more projects requiring our members,” said Bill Darcy, NKBA CEO.

NKBA research analyst Robert Isler says plumbing professionals should expect to see a shift to more “higher-end” and labor intensive home renovations in 2021. In 2020, more homeowners completed DIY-level projects due to a reluctance of having anyone in their homes. But in 2021, surveyed homeowners are expecting COVID-19 risks to diminish therefore want to address delayed remodels.

Industry Expert Predictions

Recently, Plumbing & Mechanical Engineer Magazine asked many plumbing industry experts for their opinions on what 2021 holds. Here are some of the highlights. 

Supporting NKBA’s project growth report, Kerry Stackpole, FASAE, CAE, CEO and executive director of Plumbing Manufacturers International said “individuals are choosing to invest disposable income into home improvements — many of which are plumbing related. We expect this general trend to continue into 2021, and according to the most recent PMI Market Outlook reports, retail sales of building materials and supplies through outlets such as Home Depot and Lowe’s continued to grow into the third quarter of 2020.”

Bruce Carnevale, CEO of Bradford White Corp., expects to see connected technology really start to take a foothold in the industry in 2021.

“Most of the growth in connected technology is going to be driven by the regulatory environment,” he says. “Washington, for example, has instituted requirements for grid-enabled products, which requires connected technology for heat pump water heaters. Demand for the technology will begin to hit critical mass in 2021, so that is definitely poised for growth.”

What a New Administration Might Mean for the Industry

According to Dominic Sims, CEO of the International Code Council, there are two key considerations for the industry to watch for now that Joe Biden is president: his support for increased infrastructure spending and workforce development.

“The president’s infrastructure platform calls for a significant investment in the country’s water infrastructure, as well as workforce training,” Sims says. 

Throughout the campaign, Biden supported investments to repair water pipelines and sewer systems, replace lead service pipes, upgrade treatment plants, and the construction of 1.5 million homes and public housing units. He also proposed a $50 billion investment in workforce training including community-college business partnerships and apprenticeships. 

“Programs to increase interest in the trades is critical for the HVAC industry, given much of the plumbing, mechanical and HVAC workforce is reaching the age of retirement. Without an emphasis on programs to increase interest in the trades, the industry could be facing a severe shortage of talent that will limit its overall growth and innovation,” Sims said.

Possible Challenges

There are plenty of reasons to be excited for what this year holds, but there are also potential challenges. 

“This is usually the time of year when local governments start making projections on proposed budgets,” Sims notes. “However, the tax base is a driver for most local economies, and this has been all-but non-existent for more than three-fourths of 2020. A September 2020 report from the Brookings Institute, a non-partisan think tank, projects that as a result of the pandemic, state and local income tax revenues will decline 4.7% in 2020; 7.5% in 2021; and 7.7% in 2022.”

Sims thinks the cost of lower tax revenue could bring greater delays in inspections and permit approvals which could, in turn, create “a ripple effect for all related industries.”

Despite these challenges, there are plenty of things in the plumbing industry to be excited about in 2021. What are you looking forward to? Let us know on social media!

Tips for Recruiting Young Plumbers

Statistics show that despite many aspects of life either stopping or slowing down during the pandemic, your plumbing workload isn’t one of them! If you’re struggling to find new skilled employees to help you juggle your projects, Plumber Magazine recently published an article that has some good tips for attracting young talent.

You can read the whole article here, or check out my “readable during your break” version below.  The original author, Anthony Pacilla, is a registered master plumber for McVehil Plumbing in Washington, Pennsylvania with 23 years of experience.

Mr. Pacilla’s first point is something I’m sure you already know: workforce demographics are changing. Many skilled trade workers are reaching retiring age, and the country is struggling to make recruitment meet the demand. With most high schools pushing college as the “best option” after graduation, Pacilla argues that you need to get creative and use their own weapon against them: effective marketing.

“Begin by getting involved locally with high schools, vocational schools, and trade schools. You need to take that aspect more seriously if you want to recruit employees. Run advertisements on social media promoting how you can have a great career with zero college debt.” Here are some of his advertisement examples:

  • “Don’t spend $200,000 and be in debt until you're 70 years old...start making money immediately!”
  • “Make money, don’t spend money.”
  • “The front line of defense protecting the health of a nation and its environment.”
  • “Tradition, glory, and big paychecks without the weekly exams and debt.”

Pacilla says in order to convince high school students that a profession like plumbing is a viable alternative to college, you need to “create a clear path to success from a new employee’s first day to how and when they get raises and training.” It also helps to emphasize the college debt aspect.

“These high school students are shopping for the next step in their life, and until we make adjustments to how we sell ourselves, they are never going to buy it. As the knowledge gap gets wider, and more of your employees retire or die, the situation will only get more desperate. Get a plan of action and take some steps now before it’s too late.”

What do you think? Have you already been trying ways to recruit younger workers? Let us know on social media!

Michigan LARA & BCC to Implement Citations This Fall

Effective October 1, 2020, Michigan Bureau of Construction Codes (BCC) team members may issue a citation to a person that is licensed under 1980 PA 299, or 2016 PA 407, or required to hold a license or certificate under these acts if staff observes from an investigation, inspection, or complaint that conduct or conditions exist or have existed that violate these acts. Citations will not be issued for violations of the code as there are existing remedies to resolve code deficiencies.

The following are a list of violations subject to a citation being issued along with a brief description of conduct or conditions observed, and individuals that may be subject to the citation being issued:

Lack of Identification

Conduct/condition:  No proof of licensure and government-issued photo identification.

Individuals:  Anyone required to be licensed under 2016 PA 407, specifically: building officials, inspectors, electricians, plumbers, mechanical contractors, and boiler tradesmen.

No Permit Status

Conduct/condition:  No documentation of permit where required before work commences.

Individuals:  Anyone required to be licensed under 1980 PA 299, or 2016 PA 407, specifically: building officials, inspectors, electricians, plumbers, mechanical contractors, residential builders, maintenance & alteration contractors, and boiler tradesmen.

Unregistered Apprentice

Conduct/condition:  Non-licensed individual on worksite assisting with electrical or plumbing work.

Individuals: Anyone required to be registered under 2016 PA 407, specifically: apprentice electricians and apprentice plumbers.

Operation of a Boiler Without a Valid Certificate

Conduct/condition:  Boiler found operating with a certificate blocking violation and existing code deficiencies that are not corrected.

Individuals:  Anyone responsible for the boiler.

Any citation issued will include actions required for compliance along with the payment of a fine not to exceed $100.00 for each violation.  Please note that a citation can either be accepted or contested within 30 days of issuance. If you have any questions concerning this notification, please contact the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs at 517-241-9302 or LARA-BCC-Help@michigan.gov.

EPA Lead Pipe Regulation Update: What it Means for Plumbers

On July 29, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the "Use of Lead Free Pipes, Fittings, Fixtures, Solder, and Flux for Drinking Water" ruling. The purpose of this rule is to reduce lead in drinking water by giving states, manufacturers, inspectors, and consumers a uniform definition of “Lead Free” plumbing.

Under this rule, “lead free” means not more than a weighted average of 0.25% lead when used with respect to the wetted surfaces of a pipe, pipe fitting, plumbing fitting, and fixture. The rule also requires not more than 0.2% lead when used with respect to solder and flux.

This rule changes existing regulations based on the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act (RLDWA) and the Community Fire Safety Act enacted by Congress. With the inclusion of this rule, RLDWA now requires manufacturers or importers to certify that their products meet the requirements using a consistent verification process within three years of the final rule publication date.

The new rule added the following products to the exemption list:

  • Clothes washing machines
  • Emergency drench showers
  • Emergency face wash equipment
  • Eyewash devices
  • Fire suppression sprinklers
  • Steam capable clothes dryers
  • Sump pumps

Make sure you’re always up-to-date with the latest safety standards by registering for on-demand CE courses. Just choose your state to get started!

How COVID-19 Is Changing Our Bathrooms

This pandemic has changed the public’s relationship with bathrooms. With a hyper-focus on things like sanitized surfaces and clean hands, here are some ways bathrooms are evolving to meet current (and future) needs.

Touchless Fixtures

Touchless fixtures have been a fixture of many bathrooms for years now, but now they’re more important than ever. According to a recent Bradley Corp. survey, 91% of Americans believe public restrooms need touchless fixtures. Voice command technology is becoming more widespread, as well as automatic door openers for the sake of limiting contact instead of purely for accessibility.

Antimicrobial Surfaces

Because not everything in a bathroom can be touchless (like grab bars), there is a rising demand for using antimicrobial finishes on high-touch surfaces. When possible, copper, an inherently antimicrobial material, is also being considered as replacements for existing door handles. One company in Traverse City, MI has been offering copper coverings for the past few months.

Sink Materials

Jon Dommisse, director of strategy and corporate development at Wisconsin’s architectural firm Kahler Slater, said “For sinks, using smooth and nonporous materials with seamless construction like solid surface and natural quartz helps prevent bacteria, mold and delamination accumulation.” He also mentioned new wash basin designs with more space between hand washing areas to allow for social distancing.

Conservation

With more people washing their hands, at home and at work, the importance of water and energy efficiency is growing. Kris Alderson, senior marketing manager with Bradley Corp., said there is now a focus on using more sustainable bathroom solutions such as efficient faucets, hand dryers, and recycled building materials.

With the growing demand for cleaner and more efficient plumbing solutions, be sure you’re managing business expenses appropriately. With our Pricing Plumbing for Profit professional development course, you’ll learn the best ways for charging enough to still make a profit. Choose your state below to get started.

Toilet Trends

Customers are demanding more eco-friendly options. Whether they’re at the mall, at the grocery store, or looking to update their bathroom, they want products that have low environmental impact. Homeowners are trending towards low-flow toilets that maximize flushing power and reduce water consumption.

Low-flow models rely on pressure and gravity to get the most bang per flush without relying on excessive water. Some models show that switching to a low-flow commode can save up to 4,000 gallons of water annually, because they use just over a gallon per flush.

While the models can save customers money and help the environment, they can present certain challenges to plumbers.

“The margin for error for providing adequate evacuation and drainage has now shrunk considerably and can result in less than optimal performance in challenging situations, such as when there is marginal water pressure or old and poorly pitched drain lines. The industry needs to take a hard look at building and plumbing standards and determine if they need to be updated to account for the changes in water usage,” said Mark Lawinger in an interview with Supply House Times.

Some low-flow customers report having to flush multiple times to clear away heavier loads. Other homeowners with older houses don’t have compatible plumbing lines to connect a more efficient toilet.

PlumbingHelpToday.com reports that when there are too many low-flow toilets in one area, a stinky problem can arise: if there’s not enough water to push sewage through, waste can back up. This same problem can happen on a smaller scale: inside the house. Non-flushable waste is more likely to back up when it’s being handled by a low-flow model.

As customers demand more low-flow toilets, manufacturers will have to continue working on a solution that strikes the perfect balance between eco-friendliness and power to avoid these issues.

New Course: Intro to Fire Sprinklers, Valves, and Hydraulic Calculations

We have a great new course available for continuing education, taught by a new instructor, Karl Wiegand, who really knows his stuff. The course is titled Introduction to Fire Sprinklers, Valves, and Hydraulic Calculations.

This is an introduction to the basics regarding fire sprinklers, valves and hydraulic calculations. By the end of the course, students will be familiar with the parts of a sprinkler assembly and the significance of sprinkler orientation. They will also learn the basics of sprinkler system valves and the types of systems they service. Finally, hydraulic calculations are discussed as they relate to water supply, water flow and friction loss.

Read on for a sneak peak from the first lesson in the course all about Sprinkler Basics:


Most sprinklers have six main components: the deflector, frame arm, activating link, orifice cap, threads and the orifice.

  1. Orifice. “K-factor” is the relationship between the pressure and the flow in the sprinkler. See the equation below:
    • K = Q/sqrt(P)
    • Q = flow (gpm)
    • P = Pressure (psi)

      There are a large range of K factors, the larger the orifice, the more flow you can get without increasing the pressure. K-factors typically range from 1.4 to 28.0, with the most common K-factor at 5.6.

  2. Threads. Usually you are looking at the size of the connection that the sprinkler will screw into. Smaller orifice sprinklers have smaller threads.
    • ½ in thread: K 1.4 – K 11.2
    • ¾ in thread: K 8.0 – K 16.8
    • 1 in thread: K 19.6 – K 28.0

This is important, especially when replacing systems, The thread dictates the size of the opening.

3. Orifice Cap. The orifice cap is used on automatic sprinklers to keep water from flowing, it keeps the water in the system. Open sprinklers do not have orifice caps, the norm is a closed system.

4. Activating Link. This a heat sensitive device that holds the orifice cap in place on automatic sprinklers and keeps them from going off at the wrong time. Open sprinklers do not have an activating link. Sprinklers are designed to react at different speeds, to operate at different temperature ranges (depending on what they are protecting). There are two different types of links - solder and glass bulb.

Activation speed is dictated by the thickness of the link. Typical bulb links are either in 3mm or 5mm bulb sizes. The 3mm is a quick response link, whereas the 5mm bulb is the standard response because it activates slower. All can be fit on a RTI (Response Time Index), which is the relationship between how fast the sprinkler activates with different heat velocities at different temperatures.

Temperature Ranges. Normal temp sprinklers are designed to be in areas up to 100° F. Other commonly used temperatures are intermediate and high with are allowed in 150° F and 225° F respectively. Temperature ranges go up to 625° F. Links are color coded to the temperature range they fall in. The set temperature can be regulated by increasing or decreasing the size of the air bubble in the ampule itself.

Solder Links. Like most typical solders, eutectic solders are used in sprinkler systems. Solder links have a few pros and cons. One advantage to a solder link is that it is more robust than a glass bulb. Any jostling, or rough handling on the bulb can cause damage. Soldered links can also tell you more about the physical cause of an activation that may not have been caused by heat. Soldered links are, however, more difficult to control in terms of the melting temperature.

Glass Bulbs. Glass bulbs are filled with a sugar solution that expands when it is heated. An advantage to glass bulbs are that they are easy to design to activate at a specific temperature. And as discussed above, a disadvantage is that glass bulbs are easier to damage than solder links.

5. Frame Arm. The frame arm holds the deflector, the orifice cap, and the activating link in place. It needs to be able to keep the deflector in position when water is flowing through the sprinkler. The frame arm actually does have an effect on the spray pattern because the water hits the frame arm before the deflector.

6. Deflectors. These are arguably the most important component of the sprinkler. Deflectors are used to create spray patterns. Deflectors come in different shapes, each shape creates a different pattern with a different purpose or application. Most shapes are proprietary from one manufacturer to another.

 


DO YOU NEED VIRGINIA CONTINUING EDUCATION?

High School Senior’s Essay about Plumbing Makes it into New York Times

Each spring, the New York Times selects five moving college admissions essays to publish. The topics range from work to money to social class and are written by teens with diverse backgrounds.

This year, one of the five essayists reflected on her time as a plumber’s daughter, and the lessons she learned in that role. While many teens babysat or hung out by the pool lifeguarding, Kelley Schlise of Milwaukee spent her summers as a plumbing assistant. She went out on calls with her dad and worked for his one-man plumbing business.

As a young girl, Kelley navigated pipes, cords, walls, bathrooms and kitchens and chaos to help her dad diagnose and then fix the problem. The job was often messy and cumbersome, which conflicted with Kelley’s need for control and perfect organization. Plumbing challenged her controlling tendencies and perfectionism and taught her the value of elbow grease and perseverance.

Excerpt from her essay:

“As much as my dad and I create chaos, we create order, and if I look carefully I can find it in each newly soldered array of copper pipes or in the way my dad’s toolboxes all fit together in the back of his van. Moreover, when customers express gratitude for our work, I understand that, in a small way, we bring order to their lives. The physical and mental discomforts of plumbing are worth it.”

To read Kelley’s essay in its entirety, click here.


ATTENTION PLUMBERS AND PLUMBING INSPECTORS

We are looking for instructors and presenters to help us grow our plumbing school. If you are a UPC plumber, have experience working with Fire Sprinkler Systems or have ideas for plumber courses, we want to hear from you. 

Benefits to becoming part of our instructor/presenter team

  • Opportunity to create course materials or simply present materials we have created.
  • Option for bulk payment or passive income
  • Nationwide name recognition in your field

Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary: Be a Plumber, Get Rich

Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary knows money: how to make it, save it and spend it. The $400 million-dollar-man is used to dishing shrewd business advice. His latest recommendation? Get rich quick by becoming a plumber.

“Be a plumber, they get rich,” O’Leary said to CNBC. “Everybody has to have a plumber, even in a recession.” After all, plumbing will always be in style and it will always be in demand. Plus, the career is recession-proof.

“Every single building on earth wants to have electricity and plumbing working,” O’Leary told CNBC. “Think about it that way. I don’t care where you are, people are going to want your services.”

The need for plumbers is growing. Between 2016 and 2026, the job outlook will grow 16%, much faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average income of a plumber is $53,910. There are fewer barriers to entry in the plumbing career field than getting a college degree. Many university graduates leave with student debt and aspiring plumbers can train then hop right into their careers.

U.S. News and World Report ranked plumbing as the 59th best career field in 2019, based on good pay, challenge, opportunity for advancement and good work-life balance.

Plus, plumbing exam prep and continuing education courses are easy and accessible with online programs.


ATTENTION PLUMBERS AND PLUMBING INSPECTORS

We are looking for instructors and presenters to help us grow our plumbing school. If you are a UPC plumber, have experience working with Fire Sprinkler Systems or have ideas for plumber courses, we want to hear from you. 

Benefits to becoming part of our instructor/presenter team

  • Opportunity to create course materials or simply present materials we have created.
  • Option for bulk payment or passive income
  • Nationwide name recognition in your field
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