All in the Family

Nov. 15, 2017
Multi-generational, family-run AC Plumbing, Heating & Mechanical specializes in hydronic retrofits, serving commercial and residential clients in the Cleveland area.

BEDFORD HEIGHTS, OHIO — In Cleveland, the name Caruso might come to mind if you’ve spent any time in a fire hall, a supply house or a historic train station. That’s because the Caruso family legacy is one of courage, hard work, and a dedication to serving others.

In 1912, at the age of 13, Antonio Caruso stepped off a boat from Sicily and onto U.S. soil. Upon arriving, Caruso immediately went to work for the Nickel Plate Railroad in Conneaut, Ohio, working on steam locomotives and roundhouses.

A love for big equipment, steam and water piping was passed on to Antonio’s son, Tony, along with an affinity for hard work. Young Tony grew up around the railroad, became a professional firefighter and simultaneously learned the plumbing trade. After decades of managing two careers, he’s a retired fireman and is turning the family plumbing and heating company over to his three children.

Anthony, like his father, is a professional fireman and paramedic, working 24 hours on, 48 off. When he’s not on duty at the firehouse, he’s AC Plumbing’s lead hydronic technician.


Siblings Monica, Anthony and Michael now operate the 35-year-old, 14-person company in Bedford Heights, Ohio. Anthony, like his father, is a professional fireman and paramedic, working 24 hours on, 48 off. When he’s not on duty at the firehouse, he’s AC Plumbing’s lead hydronic technician. Michael has a construction management degree, which has brought the company to a new technical level. He’s also the lead plumber. Monica runs the office full-time, and her husband, Kelly Miller, heads up the HVAC portion of the business. 

When they’re not working at one of their multiple jobs, the Carusos are active in their local PHCC Chapter. What’s good for the company is good for the trades, and ultimately good for the community. So, they take the opportunity to learn as well as teach.

“We have turn of the century homes where giant coal-fired boilers have been converted to natural gas, and are still in operation,” said Anthony. “When we retrofit these, the original boiler is usually left in the basement, alongside the new condensing boiler. Other times, we’re installing completely new radiant systems in mid-century-modern houses. There’s really no ‘typical’ day when it comes to our hydronic work.”

Hydronics in action

Working on residential or commercial hydronic projects in the area result in a lot of referral and return boiler customers. Such was recently the case at a 3,000-sq.-ft. home in Pepper Pike. “This home was built in the ’60s, and the owner bought it as a foreclosure about eight years ago,” explained Anthony. “He completely renovated it, and at the same time, we installed a radiant in-floor system and retrofitted the ductwork.”

Half-inch PEX was stapled up to provide two zones of heat on the ground floor of the two-story home. Upstairs, a custom-made hydronic coil was placed in the existing ductwork.  The 105,000 Btuh Burnham ES2 boiler also supplies DHW through a 60-gallon Burnham Alliance stone-lined sidearm tank. Control for the whole system is provided by a tekmar system.

Fixed-speed circulators were used on the boiler, indirect tank and upstairs zone. The two radiant zones each used a three-speed Taco 0015 pump. The near-boiler piping also includes a Fernox TF1 Total Filter and Taco 4900 series air separator.

“Of all the components used here, two that were selected for a very specific purpose at the time of installation were the Burnham ES2 and the three-speed Taco pumps,” explained Anthony. “The three-speed pumps give us more flexibility to tune the flow rate to the radiant loop without using a variable-speed pump. Plus, we’re always well-stocked with 0015s because they fit nearly every residential application out there.”

“The owner didn’t want a condensing boiler,” he continued. “The Burnham ES2 is a cast iron boiler that’s designed to tolerate lower return water temperatures than most similar models, making it a perfect choice for a radiant system.  And at 85 percent AFUE, it’ll still provide a fuel savings over other atmospheric boilers.”

Service, when needed

This past summer, the system needed a little more attention than in previous years.  An air vent needed to be replaced, as did a radiant circulator. Instead of using another conventional three-speed pump, Caruso installed a new ECM-powered Taco 0015e3. The three-setting pump provides the same functionality, higher efficiency, and a number of technician friendly features that speed up installation and service.

“It feels like this pump was built for the technician,” said Caruso. “The details really make a difference, like the universal flange-to-flange width, nut holders that are cast into the flanges and the double-insulated construction, which eliminates the need for a ground wire. Also, the indicator light means I don’t need to put my ear up against the pump to see if it’s running.”

Piping passion

In the end, Tony and Anthony’s shared passion for piping serves them well when working on some of the area’s old mansions — like the Pepper Pike project — still heated by giant, high-mass steam and hot water systems. Maintaining, fixing and retrofitting these systems consumes most of Anthony’s time.

Tony built the company based on family principals. “Despite the fact that AC Plumbing, Heating & Mechanical has grown substantially, those family principals haven’t changed; it’s the reason that customers often become friends, and we wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Anthony.

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