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More than 10 years ago, ThermOmegaTech developed the CircuitSolver, the first thermostatic balancing valve used in domestic hot water systems to overcome the challenges inherent in traditional manual balancing methods. This year, ThermOmegaTech is celebrating this milestone.
PHCPPros recently spoke with Tom Ruggierio, Director of Sales for Commercial Plumbing at ThermOmegaTech and the subject matter expert on thermostatic balancing valve technology and the CircuitSolver thermostatic balancing valve.
PHCPPros: Who came up with the idea of the thermostatic balancing valve?
Tom Ruggierio: A plumbing sales rep in Texas by the name of Bob Anderson presented the concept of using thermostatic technology to balance domestic hot water systems. That was the genesis of this product.
PHCPPros: How is CircuitSolver different from manual balancing valves or pressure-independent balancing valves?
TR: The manual balancing valves and the pressure-independent valves are both flow devices; the challenge there is to determine how much flow is required in a branch or riser to offset the heat loss. Building engineers are constantly trying to figure out how much flow they need to offset the heat loss by either constantly manipulating the manual balancing valve or selecting certain flow cartridges with the pressure-independent valves.
There are two characteristics that separate CircuitSolver from the other two types of balancing valves. First, it is inherently a temperature device solving a temperature problem. The other two devices are flow devices trying to indirectly solve a temperature problem. Second, CircuitSolver is dynamic, continuously changing the flow rate as required to maintain a constant temperature. The other types are fixed devices; once you set them, they do not react to changing conditions that may require re-balancing.
PHCPPros: How does CircuitSolver address the temperature loss problem?
TR: With temperature loss, what you’re trying to do is figure out how much flow you need in a branch or riser to overcome the temperature loss. The higher the flow rate in the branch or riser, the faster that water is going to get from point A to point B. CircuitSolver will dynamically adjust the valve’s position to increase or decrease the flow as required to offset the heat loss and maintain a constant temperature.
PHCPPros: ThermOmegaTech is celebrating CircuitSolver’s 10-plus years of active use in the plumbing and construction industry. How has CircuitSolver evolved over the years?
TR: The basic technology hasn’t evolved much over the years. What has changed is we’ve enhanced the product by adding different features based on the feedback we’ve gotten from engineers and contractors. For example, about five or six years ago, we took our basic CircuitSolver and added an integrated union and check valve to it. Having these elements integrated into one valve provides a solution with a better cost-benefit and a more integrated solution with less leak points then adding these components discretely.
In addition, we started creating assemblies with ball valves, strainers and thermometers, providing temperature measurement capability to the CircuitSolver. We also added several different types of end connections. These assemblies now represent 50% of our sales.
Engineers and contractors prefer these assemblies because the trades are hurting for qualified plumbers. Having these assemblies already premanufactured and tested at our facility gives the engineer the comfort that when they specify the solution, it will be installed as they designed it; contractors like it because they don’t need to worry about leaks, etc., in the assembly.
PHCPPros: How many variations of the CircuitSolver are out there?
TR: I’ve never totaled up the number of permutations and combinations, but you can have a basic CircuitSolver, which has no union or check valve, in six sizes — from 1/2 inch to 2 inches. The CircuitSolver with the union and check valve comes in 1/2-inch, 3/4-inch and 1-inch sizes. The assemblies are combined with our union and ball valves with optional strainers and optional thermometers; then all those can be combined with different types of end connections.
There are a large number of combinations. The enhancements we’ve added over the last 10 years are the result of us listening to the plumbing community and responding to their needs.
PHCPPros: What’s the latest evolution of the CircuitSolver?
TR: Within the last year, we released a CircuitSolver thermostatic cold water balancing valve, which is used for balancing cold water in domestic water systems.
This product is still in its infancy, but we have done several VA hospitals that are recirculating cold water. This reverse-acting valve works the opposite of a hot water valve because it starts closing its position based on cooling water. Recirculating the cold water in the system eliminates stagnant lines, helps mitigate Legionella and other waterborne pathogens that can develop in the plumbing system, creating health risks.
It also helps keep chlorine distributed throughout the system since the chlorine can start dissipating if it’s not recycled throughout the cold water, and it keeps the temperature of the system more uniform.
PHCPPros: What would you tell someone specifying a large building on why they should use the CircuitSolver?
TR: Compared to other types of balancing valves, this is an automatically balanced system based on the temperature of the water going through it.
Imagine having a large hotel or a hospital with up to 200 balancing valves in it. To try and manually balance the system and do it correctly, as well as be able to react to system changes, would be a daunting task. CircuitSolver does it easily. In addition, it eliminates callbacks, which contractors generally think is its biggest advantage.
CircuitSolver is the best solution for anyone challenged with trying to balance a hot water system with a large amount of balancing valves in it. That’s what contractors like about it; they put it in and walk away and the system balances itself within a couple of hours.
PHCPPros: Reflecting back, what has the uptick been for this technology?
TR: You know, the plumbing industry is very conservative and unwilling to make changes, so you can imagine what it was like when we introduced a new technology 10 years ago. We were a new company in the plumbing industry and had a lot of resistance from plumbing engineers to try our CircuitSolver because it was an unproven technology for balancing domestic hot water systems, which is understandable.
The primary way we got our start early on was strictly out of desperation. Basically, there would be situations where people had hot water issues and they couldn’t get the system balanced. They tried all different types of things — changing pumps, water temperature, rebalancing and rebalancing — to no avail.
Out of desperation, they Googled balancing valves and CircuitSolver came up. By that point, they were willing to try anything. So, after speaking with us they tried CircuitSolver and it proved successful. That’s how we started building our success — one installation at a time.
It’s how we overcame the resistance from the plumbing industry to try new technology. Now, it’s the solution of choice when it comes to balancing hot water systems.
PHCPPros: How does CircuitSolver comply with codes or standards?
TR: CircuitSolver has NSF 61 certification. Most states mandate that components used in domestic hot water systems have NSF 61 certification. This certification covers two major areas: having metal components within the valve that have low/no lead, such as stainless steel; and ensuring that other types of components used in the valves, such as plastic parts, O-rings and sealants, will not leach harmful chemicals into the potable water system.
In this past year, we worked with IAPMO and ASSE to create a thermostatic balancing valve standard. Now, we’re working to get that standard into code so it will be mandated. We’re excited about working with ASSE and IAPMO to create this thermostatic balancing valve standard. It is a big step for the industry, which presently has no standards for any type of balancing valves.
At the end of the day, our goal is to keep everyone safe and comfortable.
PHCPPros: Is there anything you’d like to add?
TR: I want to thank all of those in the plumbing community for their confidence in our products over the past 10-plus years. We have many loyal customers, several of which were naysayers 10 years ago; now they won’t use anything else but CircuitSolver.
We’re very grateful for all of the effort our sales reps have put in over the years to help promote this innovative solution, as well as the engineers and the contractors who adopted our CircuitSolver products and use them religiously. We thank you!