All I want for Christmas

Lots of publications have their annual issues of holiday gift ideas or recommended products each year. Here is ours, albeit perhaps not quite as exciting as some of those – It’s our list of recommended professional meters for water systems troubleshooting.

There are five on the list. There are lots of other good meters out there, but here’s what Franklin Electric’s team of Field Service Engineers use on a day-to-day basis:

  1. First on the list is the Fluke 177 Digital Multimeter from John Fluke Mfg (www.fluke.com). As the name implies, this meter can be used to measure voltage, capacitance, resistance, and frequency. Measuring frequency is especially handy when you’re using a generator or variable frequency drive. List price is around $250.
  2. Also from John Fluke Mfg is the Fluke 375 Digital Clamp-On Ammeter. This meter measures current and is crucial for determining how hard the motor is working. List price on this meter is $325.
  3. In a previous post, I stated that a megger could turn time into money (Turning Time into Money). The one Franklin uses is manufactured by Universal Enterprises (www.ueitest.com). Their digital version is called the UEI DMEG3 Digital Megohmeter. It lists for $250 and is worth every dollar. It also can do double duty and measure resistance.
  4. The Simpson 372 Analog Ohmmeter has been a mainstay of our industry and others for literally decades. The 372-3 is the latest version and available at www.simpsonelectric.com. List price is $175.
  5. Is that capacitor still good? If you have a MFD-10 Digital Capacitor Checker from SUPCO (www.supco.com), you can find out in a snap. This little meter is ideal for control box troubleshooting and is only around $75.

MetersThere you have it. A list of the five meters for your toolbox that will allow you to handle just about any water systems troubleshooting scenario you run into. So, while this list may not seem as exciting as others you see this time of year, quickly and effectively diagnosing what’s going on with your customer’s water systems can be satisfying in its own way, not to mention profitable.

If you have any questions about these meters or how to use them, Franklin Electric’s Key Dealer Hotline can help. Don’t hesitate to give us a call at 800/348-2420.

Thanks to Rick Campbell, Franklin Electric, for his contributions to this post.

Once again, the right tool for the job

I witnessed an interesting debate this week within a small group of Franklin Electric’s Field Service Engineers. The topic was enclosure knockouts. Franklin Electric now offers some VFD accessories (reactors/filters) that are available in NEMA 4 enclosures that have no knockouts. That is, the conduit holes must be made by the installing contractor. Of course, a special hole saw or scoring tool is required to do this.

On one side of the table, the position was that the vast majority of water systems contractors don’t have these tools, and therefore we are not giving the customer what he wants. It’s up to us, the manufacturer, to supply enclosure knockouts across all water systems products.

CaptureHowever, on the other side of the table, a couple of others took the position that these products are going into higher end, sophisticated installations. As a result, many of these enclosures will be installed by the electrical contractor and this is their preferred method. They make conduit holes in enclosures as standard procedure and always have the tool kit to do it. This way, they can always cut only the exact hole sizes they need for the cable and Romex seals. And it leads to a better-sealed NEMA 4 installation since you don’t have to worry about water entry via the unused knockouts. Their position was that if a contractor is installing these enclosures, they simply need to invest in the right tool to do the job.

I was seeing both sides of the issue until I posed the question of, “So, how much is the tool and how long does it take?” The answer came back as, “Oh, probably less than $50 for a single and maybe $300 for an entire kit of several sizes; in terms of the actual process, just a few minutes”.  For me at least, that settled it, although it probably didn’t settle it with the entire group. Once again, as a professional contractor, you need to have the right tools to do the job. It’s especially true if that tool is a minimal investment that can lead to a higher quality installation.

WE DON’T COMPROMISE! Well actually, you do

There’s a truck advertisement out there with the tag line of “WE DON’T COMPROMISE!” That sounds good, but actually they do. Are there other vehicles that have a better ride or a lower cost or better fuel economy or the option of putting the top down? Of course there are; they’re generally called cars. That truck manufacturer has compromised those other benefits for the major benefit of hauling stuff.

All products are compromises, and with any product, the trick is finding the perfect balance between matching the need with everything else, including the ability to actually manufacture the product at a competitive cost.

Which brings us to a commonly asked question about Franklin Electric’s variable-speed, constant pressure SubDrive product, “Can I repair the components inside?”

The answer is “no” and the reason has everything to do with balancing size, manufacturability, cost, features, and reliability. As with any electronic-based product today, to get there requires state-of-the-art manufacturing technology. This is exactly what we have at Franklin Electric’s facility in Grant County, Indiana where SubDrive is manufactured. This manufacturing technology is same or very similar as to what is used in your cell phone or computer and it results in a small, very reliable package at a competitive cost. But much like your cell phone, the end product, as good as it is, is not repairable.

Could SubDrive (or your cellphone) be made totally repairable, right down to the component level? It could, but your customers wouldn’t be able to afford it, it would be terribly unreliable because of all the connections, and it would physically be so big as to take up the entire bed of your truck. That truck of yours may be a compromise, but perfect for the job.

It’s good for more than getting sports scores

If you’re the proud owner of a smartphone, here’s a scenario of where that little device might come in handy.

You’re at a job site, it’s after hours, and there’s one piece of information you need to get the job done. Maybe it’s sizing a generator, maybe you need to verify drop cable sizing, or possibly determine the proper size for a circuit breaker. The problem is, you can’t find your AIM Manual. You left it back at the shop, at the last job site, whatever.

Use that smartphone to access the Franklin Electric AIM Manual. Your smartphone has a web browser and instead of using it to just check the latest sports scores, go to:

www.franklin-electric.com

From there, click on Americas Water Systems, then on AIM Manual. A table of contents will appear. Click on whatever part of the AIM Manual you need. Once it loads, you’ll probably need to zoom in to make the information readable, but presto, there’s exactly that piece of info you needed to complete the job.

Is it as handy as having a hard copy of the AIM Manual in your hand? No, of course not. But in a pinch, don’t forget that the information you need may be right there on your belt.

P.S. Once you pull up the AIM Manual, bookmark it! Next time you can go directly to it. Click here for a SHORTCUT.

It’s always something

This week’s post comes from Rick Campbell, Manager, Inside Technical Support, at Franklin Electric.

The best thing about working a technical service hotline is that every day and every phone call is a different challenge; no two are ever alike and it’s never dull. However, after more than 20 years of dealing with technical issues over the phone, some calls and situations are just more memorable than others. Here’s one from several years ago that has stuck with me:

A contractor called for help troubleshooting a two horsepower, single-phase submersible installation. The system ran great – most of the time. But every few days, without any rhyme or reason, the overload in the control box would trip. Sometimes the system would run for a week or more without issue, and then the overload would trip several times in a week. Each time the contractor came out to check the voltage, it was well within limits. Over the phone, I helped him check out the entire system and it was good. We also tried to identify a pattern to no avail.

Knowing that the issue was most likely voltage-related, we eventually decided a voltage monitor was the only alternative. And sure enough, after several days of recording, it showed that the bottom would randomly fall out of the voltage. The power company was contacted, but they maintained that based on their data and the load on the system, everything was good.

The “aha” moment came when the contractor discovered that the next door neighbor was restoring a car in his garage in his spare time. In the restoration, the homeowner was using an industrial-size arc welder that when used, caused the voltage to drop at all of the surrounding houses. Of course, he was using it randomly and the pump was running randomly. Hence, the pattern of overload trips was even more random.

I don’t know how things were resolved between the neighbors, but it was another case where there was a reason behind the problem, and it was up to us to find out what it was.

Nation’s water costs not rushing higher everywhere

You may have seen this USA TODAY front page headline from Monday:

USA TODAY analysis: Nation’s water costs rushing higher

Here are the first couple of paragraphs:

While most Americans worry about gas and heating oil prices, water rates have surged in the past dozen years, according to a USA TODAY study of 100 municipalities. Prices at least doubled in more than a quarter of the locations and even tripled in a few.

Consumers could easily overlook the steady drip, drip, drip of water rate hikes, yet the cost of this necessity of life has outpaced the  percentage increases of some of these other utilities, carving a larger slice of  household budgets in the process.  Read the whole article here.

David Bumbalough, Franklin Electric Field Service Engineer, had the following reaction:

This is exactly why I recently had a well drilled. My average water bill in 2011 was about $47 a month. This year, it was at $72/month, a 53% increase for the same amount of water, about 7000 gallons per month. With my new well, I calculated that my one-half horsepower, 10 GPM pump will accumulate about 17 hours of run time each month for electrical costs of $2. I do need a filter, and that runs me $30 every 3-months. So, total cost to run my well is $12/month. I can pay back my investment in my well in just 5 years (faster if I figure in an increase).

And, I don’t have to put up with the smell of chlorine and the taste that comes with public water.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Simply by applying common sense thinking, David once again demonstrated why a private water system is truly the deal of a lifetime. When clean, fresh water is available from my own property, it doesn’t make sense to get it any other way.

Matching their lifestyle

This week’s post comes from Bob McClain, Franklin Electric’s Technical Specialist, Drives & Controls

Just a few decades ago, the average new home was around 1,000 square feet, had three bedrooms and one bathroom (one and a half baths if it was an “upscale home”). The typical day consisted of dad getting up, showering, going to work and mom spending the day getting the kids off to school, doing some laundry during the day, and hand washing the dishes after dinner.

Fast forward to today. The average new home is more than twice as large, even though we have fewer children. There are at least 4 bedrooms, with 4 to 5 bathrooms. Mom, dad and the kids all get up in the morning within an hour of each other and take showers before heading out the door for work, school, or daycare. Then, the water system probably isn’t used for the next 8 to 9 hours. But come evening, it’s showers for everyone after ball practice, along with running the dishwasher and washing machine. Throw in lawn irrigation or a geothermal system, and you see that today’s water system needs are nowhere near what they were like just a few decades ago. Not only are the total requirements greater, but water demand is far more driven by peak demand.

So, more than ever before, it’s not a matter of how much, but how much when. An extreme example really illustrates this – On average, each person in North America uses 105 gallons of water per day. Doing some quick math, a 3 gallon per minute well and pump can produce 4,320 gallons per day. That’s enough water to supply a home of 41 people, but unless water the supply is very limited, no one installs 3 GPM pumps. The reason of course, has more to do with our lifestyles than it does with the math.

So, we have to size our water systems based on the consumer’s lifestyle, and especially focus on that one hour in the morning and those three to four hours in the evening. This is where constant pressure, variable speed systems really shine. By matching the performance of the water system to the demand placed on it, these systems provide the water delivery that your customers demand and matches their lifestyle. That’s a good deal for them and for you.