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REMEMBERING CUSTOMER CORNER

By: Holly Haining – Zulieve

Undoubtedly, my most enjoyable project as a contributing writer to Mid-Coast Energy Systems (MCES) has been the Customer Corner feature in The Pipeline Newsletter.  I have met some wonderful people and spotlighted some impressive projects over the last ten years. Behind all of the monotonous details of any mechanical installation lies the human story behind the story – and everybody has one. It’s always fascinating as to why someone chooses to live in Maine; and if they are relocated, what drew them here? I am a lover of real estate and architecture, so I never tire of hearing how a customer found a particular property,  what they love about it and how they made it their own.  An extra bonus is that I’ve also had the opportunity to meet a lot of great pets along the way.  Perhaps most importantly from a customer service point of view is – I’ve learned how and why in a vast sea of HVAC contractors, these customers chose MCES.

I’ve interviewed customers who have lived all over the world, worked for the U.S. government, commanded nuclear submarines, taught school or were farmers.  We’ve highlighted installation of everything from geothermal to generators, age-in-place bathroom modifications to water treatment and radiant in-floor heating to air conditioning.

Here are some highlights of past Customer Corner articles:

In July 2008, we featured a new propane wall-hung boiler installation in a historic house in Waldoboro.  Cutting edge innovation at the time, today wall-hung boilers are routinely in use.  In January 2011 we began introducing new mini-split heat pump air conditioners.  What began as cutting edge technology and seemingly foreign then is now common place.  MCES has installed thousands of units since 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyone who has been reading The Pipeline regularly knows about the geothermal revolution that we experienced beginning in 2012.  We highlighted geothermal projects in Madison, Brunswick, Cushing, Newcastle and Damariscotta.  While solar and geothermal are interesting technologies, getting to know these customers and why they chose to install geothermal was even more interesting. 

One of the most meaningful stories involved one of my favorite people Bob Hardina -who founded MCES in the 1970’s and still remains involved today.  Bob shared the story behind his master suite addition and how his new accessible bathroom has improved his quality of life.

 

Age In Place Testimonial – Marjory’s Story

“I trust Mid-Coast Energy- they have been there in the middle of the night when I’ve needed them- I just like the company.”

MCES customer Marjory Lalime is a prime example of someone who is mindfully choosing her fixtures wisely during her bathroom renovation –with an eye to living many more years at home. Here’s her story.

Marjory’s Story

Marjory Lalime may be in her seventies but she is young at heart and in spirit. She is physically fit and very active. About ten years ago, Marjory decided she was ready for a change and sold her older home in Newcastle for a condo overlooking the lovely Damariscotta River.

Marjory’s Home and New Needs

Marjory’s new home was actually restructured from an old colonial farmhouse in the 1980’s and still retains a level of charm and early detailing.  Since nearly thirty years have now passed, the bathroom would benefit by some updating and it is conveniently located right next to a bedroom that may one day become her primary first floor bedroom. Since over thirty years have passed, Marjory is replacing all fixtures and is taking advantage of the timing of her project by thinking long term.

“Over this past year, I have watched a few older friends become ill and struggle to continue to function within their living environment.” Marjory says,” That has given me pause to think about what my own needs may be in the years to come. I was already planning to renovate a downstairs bath…now seems like the perfect time to look into some of the new universal fixtures on the market geared toward ease- of- use and safety for people of any age, and capability.”

Being Prepared

While none of us have a crystal ball, Marjory realized that by being prepared for a broken bone, temporary limited mobility due to a surgery or other incident like a mild stroke, could mean the difference between going home to convalesce or being forced to stay at a rehabilitation center for awhile, or even face permanent placement in a nursing home. With a little extra forethought during her already scheduled renovation, she can better extend the time she’ll stay in her own home, no matter what life’s physical challenges occur. By enlisting universal design principals and safety features that modify the home in key areas, Marje has joined the growing trend.

MidCoast Energy Solutions Assists in ‘Age In Place’ Modifications

Gina Philippon, sales & estimates Manager for MCES assisted Marjory with her choice of fixtures. Since one of Marjory’s concerns was being able to climb in and out of the tub in the future, Gina’s design included a walk- in tiled shower that could easily accept a wheelchair if need be. A comfort height toilet will be installed which is higher than the standard making rising much easier and gentler on the knee joints. Marje made it clear that one of the reasons for hiring MCES was to ensure that the quality of the installation of the plumbing and electrical service was high, and she says “I trust Mid-Coast Energy…I want to make sure that things are installed properly so that repairs are not an issue in the future…they (MCES) have been there in the middle of the night when I’ve needed them — I just like the company.”

I was already planning to renovate a downstairs bath…it seemed like the perfect time to look into some of the new universal fixtures on the market geared toward ease- of- use and safety for people of any age, and capability.

For questions on any of the above information, universal fixtures, home modification, or other questions regarding how we can help you to live in your own home safely- longer, please call Mid-Coast Energy Systems at 1 207 563 5147 for a free consultation.

At MCES, the Learning Never Stops

In March, Estimators Richard Gross and Katie Eugley attended a series of 4 seminars hosted by the Maine Indoor Air Quality Council. Learning how to manage indoor air quality and how insulation and building practices can affect it is critical to the HVAC industry. Pictured above from left are Instructor Bill Turner, Katie Eugley, Instructor David Johnston and Richard Gross.

 

Estimator Katie Eugley and Sales Manager Gina Philippon spent 3 days in Appleton Wisconsin at Water-Right water treatment training. Pictured above at the Water-Right facility are Water-Right President Kurt Gruett, Katie, Gina, Water-Right founder and CEO Glen Gruett and Vice President Greg Gruett. MCES is armed with some of the best treatment equipment and education about water quality in the area thanks to the enthusiasm of the Gruett family and the training sessions that they offer to their dealers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most all MCES Technicians attended a series of three trainings in March hosted by The Bell/Simons Co. in Waterville.  Troubleshooting, repair, maintenance and service on Riello oil burners, NTI boilers and Mitsubishi heat pumps were the topics covered over three evenings. Technicians make the sacrifice of personal time to attend these trainings after hours.It is necessary to stay on the leading edge with constant continuing education and training. 

The 124th annual Maine Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors Association Expo and Trade Show was held at the Augusta Civic Center on Friday March 23rd. MCES employees Gina Philippon, Katie Eugley and Richard Gross attended the morning Plumbing Code update and Fuel Code update seminars. After the seminars a buffet lunch was served to all in attendance followed by a trade show until 4:00pm. Service Manager Ethan Werner and Installation Manager Chris Salatino attended the afternoon trade show. The Civic Center was filled with booths ranging from product suppliers, manufacturers, insurance companies and many others offering service and support to the professionals in the Plumbing, Heating, Cooling trades.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WRIGHT’S GO TO WASHINGTON

Customer Corner

by Holly Haining -Zulieve

What’s on your Priority List?

A person in the United States is expected to move 11.4 times in his or her lifetime.  Though I consider that to be overly ambitious (unless you are military) it speaks to the fact that life is a progression of ever changing needs that dictate what we look for in a living environment as we go along.  So it’s safe to say that when we are in our sixties, we look at a house through a completely different lens then when we were in our thirties.  For instance, in our sixties instead of asking the number of bathrooms, or if they feature granite countertops, we’re apt to consider the location of the bathroom (hopefully near the bedrooms).  Instead of being blinded by the beauty of a large garden landscape, we probably stop to consider how much work or the cost it would require to maintain.  Instead of worrying about the proximity of schools and shopping, we are more concerned with the location of the closest hospital.  Instead of requiring the ambiance of a fireplace, we may pay more attention to the homes central heating system, and whether or not it’s adequate to keep us comfortably warm, effectively and efficiently over the long haul.

 

The Wright’s go to Washington

MCES customers Sharon and David Wright knew they needed a more manageable home.   Their old house in Otis was very large and became far too much for the couple to care for.  The search for lower maintenance was satisfied in October of 2017, when the couple found and bought a house in Washington.  The quaint 1980’s Cape Cod reproduction fit a lot of their requirements.  For one thing, it is much closer to the VA Hospital in Togus where Sharon’s husband David must pay regular visits.  The 2 hour trip from their old house in Otis was impractical at best.

Heating System Considerations

Since the Washington house had no central heat (just a pellet stove), the Wrights were unable to leave for any extended period of time.  Luckily, Sharon and David had a previous experience with MCES when they lived in Waldoboro before moving to Otis.   At that time MCES foreman Tim Harriman just happened to be their neighbor.  When they needed service, Tim introduced them to MCES.  Soon after the move to Washington, Sharon invited Tim and his wife Kris over to see the new house.  During dinner and while getting reacquainted, they casually discussed the need for a central heat source to supplement the pellet stove.  Tim suggested they call the MCES office and ask Sales Manager Gina Philippon to provide an estimate.  After Gina assessed the couple’s lifestyle, their particular needs and considered the limited space in the basement where the heating unit would be located, she suggested a Maytag warm air furnace.  The Maytag system was the best overall fit for their needs and lifestyle.

There’s a solution for nearly everything.

Besides the central heat issue, the Wrights had a few other concerns which they posed to MCES.   Sharon had noticed brown sediment in the toilet every day and feared that it would continue to stain new fixtures.  A water test determined the water was high in manganese and iron, so Gina recommended installing a Water Right® Impression + Water Conditioning System.  MCES regularly recommends Water Right® products because they are considered the best equipment in the industry.  For the Wright’s situation, MCES installed the Impression Plus Series® that provides clear, soft water.  The system features an easy to read, backlit LED screen and user friendly console that allows the homeowner to monitor all operating functions. Now the Wrights enjoy water that is conditioned, won’t stain fixtures and is great to drink.

 

 

 

 

And then – there’s the issue of bathrooms.

The Wright’s house had the all too common issue of a bathroom located on the second floor with a deep bath tub and no shower.   Creating a safe and accessible showering area for the Wrights proved difficult due to the roof line and limited space.  According to Gina “It took weeks to find the exact right fixture and shower base.  Because of the space constraints we needed every tiny bit of space available to make this work. “  Gina conducted an extensive search for an exposed shower system rather than the normal valve that’s roughed in behind a wall.   An exposed system would save room and allow for just the right amount of space needed. Ultimately, Gina found a Hansgrohe brand shower valve unit that turned out to be the perfect answer.  It not only fits the space, but is also quite handsome.  Gina also took considerable thought to come up with just the right shower base to fit the odd space.

The Report Card….

With the heating system installed and the water treatment in place, once the electrical work is completed, the upstairs bathroom will be completely finished. Technician Eric Morgner installed all of the plumbing, including the water softener and furnace.  Technician Brian Warren installed the electrical and lighting and reworked some of what was there to make it safe and more convenient.  When asked to grade her overall experience with MCES thus far, Sharon offered these comments “Things have gone well and people show up in a timely manner. Gina has been great in making these transitions happen and the technicians have been very pleasant and polite.” Though the furnace has been very recently installed, Sharon says she has had to use the furnace a few times, and is happy with the performance.

Water Availability Following A Disaster – Are You Prepared?

Written by Kerri Pawlina of A&L Laboratory

In New England, we are relatively safe from natural disasters occurring but it’s not impossible for one to hit and potentially cut you off from clean drinking water.

How ready are you and your family if this happens? Preparation is key to survival.  First, you should determine your water needs. Store at least one gallon of water per person which would last about three days; this number can vary based on age health, physical condition, activity, diet and climate.

Water should be sealed and stored in a dark cool place. If the disaster outlasts your stored water supply, it may be necessary to treat water at home prior to drinking.  There are several ways you can do this to help assure your water is potable; boiling, chlorination and distillation.  Before you start with any of these methods, you must first let the water sit and allow any suspended particles to settle to the bottom or strain them through a coffee filter or layered cloth.

Boiling is the safest method of treating water.  Bring water in a large pot to a rolling boil for one full minute; let the water cool before using.

Chlorination is another method to help kill any microorganisms that might be present.  Using only unscented household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 to 6.0% sodium hypochlorite add 1/8 teaspoon per gallon of water, stir and let it stand for 30 minutes. There should be a slight but apparent bleach smell, if there is not then repeat the dosage and let it stand for another 15 minutes.  If you still do not smell bleach discard and find a different water source.

Distillation is the most complex way to treat your water at home.  This process involves boiling your water and collecting only the vapor that condenses.  Fill a pot halfway with water.  Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up when the lid is upside-down, making sure the cup is not sitting in the water, boil for 20 minutes.  The water collected in the cup from the lid is distilled.

All of these methods will kill harmful microorganisms; distillation however will also remove other contaminants such as heavy metals, salts, and most other chemicals.

Prepare before the unthinkable happens, it could save your life!

What’s Going on at Mid-Coast Energy Systems? A Lot! ~ By Gina Philippon

Pictured above from left to right: Justin Ward, Chris Salatino, Nick Mason, Patrick Willette and Mick Gregg.

What’s Going on – Our crew continues to grow!  New faces in the Service Department are Chris Salatino and Nick Mason.  Chris Salatino is a 20 year Plumbing and HVAC professional and his career has taken him from Hawaii to much of the east coast and now to Maine.  Originally from Rumford, Chris now resides in Boothbay Harbor with his wife and is an avid motorcycle rider.  Welcome Chris!

Nick Mason graduated from KVCC in 2015 with an Energy Services degree and has spent the last 18 months working in the field as a technician.  Nick lives in Vassalboro where he was born and raised and also enjoys motorcycle riding.  Welcome Nick!

The Installation Department has also grown by 2.  Mick Gregg and Justin Ward have joined the ranks.  Mick Gregg spent two years of his high school career at Sanford Regional Vocational Center followed by two years studying Electrical Engineering at Southern Maine Community College.

Mick lives in Jefferson with his wife and child.  Welcome Mick!

 Justin Ward lives in Warren with his wife and two children. His field of specialty is oil burner service. Justin has been working as a technician since 2009 after graduating from the Maine Energy Marketer’s Association oil burner program.  Welcome Justin!

Patrick Willett is no stranger to MCES.  He began his career here 18 years ago and has been an asset to the company as a Plumbing and HVAC installer for most of that time.  Patrick had to take an unexpected medical leave of absence from MCES and has returned to us healthy and working in shipping, receiving and inventory.  He is getting used to working inside the building after 18 years in the field.  Welcome back Pat!

Accounting Department Manager Marcia Orff welcomed her second grandchild in December. Grace Katherine was the best present under the Christmas tree last Holiday season. Welcome Grace!

Colin Fournier joins Pat in the warehouse every afternoon after school.  Colin lives in Washington and is a senior at Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro.  This is not just an after-school job for Colin as he plans on making the trades his career.  Working with our warehouse crew will give Colin a solid foundation to build his future career on.  Welcome Colin!

Another new Hovance! Master Plumber James Hovance and his wife Tracy have welcomed another Son to their home. In the January 2016 issue of The Pipeline we introduced big brother Calvin Scott Hovance and now we welcome William Louis Hovance to the MCES family! Congratulations James and Tracy and welcome William!

After 17 years of service as a field service Technician and Dispatcher, Ed Anderson has retired.  He and his wife sold their home in Bristol and are now residing in Florida.  Ed is pictured at left with a gift of a mug filled with golf tees. We all miss you and wish you the best Ed!

RADIANT HEAT: The Good, The Bad and the Inefficient: Not all Radiant Heating Systems are Created Equal ~ By Gina Philippon

RADIANT HEAT – Not all Radiant Heating Systems are Created Equal-

What could be better on a cold, windy winter day than a cozy warm floor to walk on?  Radiant heated floors are considered to be one of the most comfortable, steady and efficient ways to heat your home.  But not all radiant heating systems are created equal.

Example of a dry panel radiant installation.

HOW IT IS INSTALLED:  There are many different ways to install radiant heat.  Tubing can be tied to box mesh and poured directly into a concrete slab or basement floor to create a thermal mass.  This method referred to as “radiant slab” is the least expensive means of installation.  It is also the slowest to respond to adjustments of the thermostat due to the mass of concrete that needs to either heat up or cool down.  The recommended way to control a radiant slab is to “set it and forget it.”

 

The “lightweight over-pour” is a way to achieve the same mass on upper level living floors.  The tubing is fastened to the subfloor and a light weight gypcrete is pumped onto the floor covering the tubing.  Once cured, it will perform in a similar way to the radiant slab described above.

 

 

⇐Pictured here is the most common method of installing radiant heat on levels above the basement is known as “staple-up.”  In a staple-up installation aluminum heat transfer plates, with a track to accept the tubing, are fastened to the under side of the floor in the joist cavity.  The tubing is placed into the track and once heated, the aluminum transfers the warmth evenly over the floor.  Thin bubble wrap insulation with a reflective coating is installed under the tubing to encourage the heat up towards the floor. The response time is faster than a slab or over-pour installation but still relatively slow. “Staple-down” is similar but as the name suggests, it is installed over the sub flooring rather than under.

Another method which is becoming more popular is the dry panel radiant heating system which installs as the sub-floor.  Similar to staple-up, it has a track and aluminum plates. This product is in direct contact with the finish flooring so it provides rapid response while maintaining low temperature efficiency.

NOT ALL RADIANT SYSTEMS ARE EQUAL.   There is a radiant floor and then there is a radiant floor done right.  Frequently MCES has bid on radiant installation projects to be told that our price was significantly higher than competitors.  What is the reason for the difference?  We do it right.  Tubing can be fixed to the underside of flooring without plates which saves significantly on materials and labor but the water temperatures must be much higher to adequately heat.  The installation cost savings will be negated over time by increased operating cost and fuel consumption.  One manufacturer produces a radiant tubing specifically designed to be used without plates and is rated for 180° supply water.  The efficiency of a system like this is poor compared to a high-efficiency installation method. And we here at MCES are all about efficiency!

Whether you want to add a radiant floor zone to your existing home, trouble shoot a problematic system or are building new and want the comfort and convenience of a radiantly heated home, you can trust MCES to recommend the REHAU family of radiant products and to install it right!

 

HUNKERING DOWN: Do’s and Don’ts for Winter ~ By Bob Hardina

Do’s & Don’t for Winter – For many years we would get together for the last visit of the summer to my grandparent’s home in Wallingford, Vermont. As that final weekend drew to a close we would begin the annual ritual of “Hunkering Down.”  We would close down the second floor of the house, bank the perimeter of the house with hay and plastic and get the last load of wood into the basement.  The storm windows would be hung and the parlor would be closed off for the winter. Doors would be closed and the space under the doors sealed with draft dodgers, those fabric strips filled with sand.  For the winter, grandma and grandpa would occupy their bedroom and bathroom, the dining room and the kitchen.  If we returned for Christmas the second floor of the house would be opened again for kids to sleep, dormitory style under piles of blankets and quilts.  By this time we hope that you have performed your own “hunkering down” ritual. If not, we suggest the following.

Perform a windy day “walk around” to check around baseboards and windows for air leaks.  Seal them up.

Ignore the public service announcement to leave a faucet dripping on cold nights.  Dripping faucets may keep water lines from freezing but you run the risk of freezing the drain line.  To keep water lines from freezing eliminate any drafts that may blow on them.  Keep kitchen cabinet doors open to allow air to circulate.  Don’t put a light bulb under the kitchen sink.  It’s better to take the fan you use during the summer and direct the air flow to the piping under the kitchen sink or bathroom vanity.   If you prefer to burn wood, resist the temptation on the coldest of days.  Wood stoves and fireplaces will prevent your boiler from running leading to potential freeze ups.  On those bone chilling days, let your heating system do what it should and run.

Air leaks where vertical walls meet the floor are common in older houses.  If you finally get tired of winter and opt for a week or two in a warmer climate, turn the heat in your house down slowly, especially if you have a hot water baseboard heating system.  If you pack the car and turn the heat down when you leave, no water will circulate in the baseboard heating units.  The wind will blow and the baseboard piping will develop an ice block.  It only takes a few minutes for the ice to block the flow of water. On a cold windy day, your heat distribution system could be frozen before you get to the end of the turnpike in Kittery.   We’ve seen it happen more than once. There is a lot of excellent information available on the internet.  Search for, “Make your Home Winter Ready.”  You’ll find a wealth of information.

Hunkering down is a great way of experiencing the “Three C’s” of winter: Enhance your comfort, save your cash and avoid a catastrophe.

Winter well friends.

Water Conservation Made Easy

Water Conservation made easy – It is no secret to those of us who live in Maine, that even with recent heavy rain, we remain in our third year of drought!

What can we as individuals do to help?  It is easy to say, “Conserve water”, but what does that mean?  We still need to use water and we use a lot of it. Statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency claim that the average person uses 100 gallons of water per day with 70% of that being used in the bathroom.  What a great opportunity that is to save!

Water Conservation means replacing older, inefficient plumbing fixtures with new water saving fixtures will not only help to conserve water today but they will continue saving water for the life of the fixture.  Replacing a 1.6 gpf (gallon per flush) toilet or older 3.5 gpf with a 1.28 gpf or dual-flush toilet is the first place to start.  Research and development into water saving designs has led to the availability of toilets that have superior flush quality using a fraction of the water.  Some very good quality options are available from Kohler, American Standard and Toto.  How about showers?  Surely there must be room for improvement there?  The current Federal Mandate for showers restricts single shower heads to 2.5 gpm (gallons per minute) @ 80 psi.  Some shower valves have a volume control which enables the user to reduce the gpm of the shower.  If your shower control does not have a manual volume control, replacing shower heads with low- flow alternatives with flow rates as low as 1.8 gpm can save a significant amount of water during a ten minute shower.  If you have been considering updating your bathroom, help conserve water while giving your bathroom a fresh contemporary look.  If a remodel project is not on your “to-do” list a quick fixture change will accomplish the same result.

 

How much water is wasted while waiting for hot water to arrive at the faucet after you turn it on?  Hot water in the pipes cools when unused and that cool water needs to be run out before hot can be delivered to the faucet. Hot water recirculation pumps can eliminate that waste and wait time by circulating hot water from the water heater.  Easily installed in usually 1 day, a hot water recirculation system will not only save water but it will also save time.

 

Call the MCES office today to schedule a no-cost quote or to learn more about our water saving plumbing fixtures.

KATIE EUGLEY EARNS AGING- IN- PLACE CERTIFICATION

KATIE EUGLEY EARNS AGING- IN- PLACE CERTIFICATION

MCES Estimating & Sales Assistant Katie Eugley has completed the educational and experience requisites for the Aging in Place Specialist Certification through the National Association of Home Builders. This Nationally recognized certification program was developed to help professionals accommodate the needs of the senior population. Because we are living longer, the trend to live independently at home by postponing or even avoiding institutional living has grown exponentially. Because the bathroom is the number one obstacle to the safe living at home, the importance of planning and incorporating safety modifications during a routine bathroom update or remodel cannot be overly emphasized. The most compelling information supporting this growing concept commonly known as Aging in Place is that these home safety modifications rarely cost more than the equivalent of just four to six weeks in an assisted living facility. And, accessibility modifications, properly done, may very well add to the resale value of a residence.

Katie is the second Certified Aging in Place Professional on the MCES staff. She joins sales manager Gina Philippon who earned her certification in 2016. Katie & Gina’s advanced training elevates the level of proficiency at MCES by allowing them to look at a space and re-design it into safe, functional and stylish environments that MCES customers will be happy and comfortable in for years to come. Katie says that her favorite part of the training was the design aspect, and says that “now when I enter a customers’ home, I know exactly what to look for and how to accomplish it.” For more information & ideas relating to bathroom safety modifications, please call MCES at 1-800-890-7196.