Service comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes. It can be as simple as lending a hand to someone in need, volunteering for a community project or, working in a line of duty that requires sacrifice or courage.
Some people thrive on providing service. These individuals seem to check all the above boxes on a regular basis. And in many cases, this trend seems to run in the family.
Military families, second and third-generation first responders, and volunteers that pass their passion on to their children are not rare. Tradesmen and women who hold their craft to the highest standard are no exception either.
These selfless, dedicated individuals live in every city and town across the country. A humble demeanor and great respect from their communities are the first indication you’ve met one. Maybe, with a bit of introspection, you find yourself among them.
In Cleveland, OH, 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.
At 13 years old, in 1912, Antonino Caruso stepped off a boat from Sicily and onto U.S. soil. He immediately went to work for the Nickel Plate Railroad in Conneaut, OH, working on steam locomotives and roundhouses. Nearly 52 years passed before Antonino’s son, Tony was born.
A love for big equipment, steam and water piping was passed on to young Tony, along with an affinity for hard work.
Tony grew up around the railroad, became a professional firefighter, and simultaneously learned the plumbing trade. Now, 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.
Monica, Anthony, and Michael Caruso now operate the 35-year-old, 14-person company in Bedford Heights, OH. AC Plumbing, Heating & Mechanical, specializing in hydronic retrofits, serves commercial and residential clients throughout a large territory north of Columbus.
Above: Anthony stands next to his father, Tony Caruso. Anthony and his siblings follow in their father’s footsteps as the family-owned company turns 35 years old.
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.
Monica runs the office full-time, and her husband, Kelly Miller, heads up the HVAC portion of the business.
Michael has a construction management degree, which has brought the company to a new technical level. He’s also the lead plumber.
Tony maintains a patriarchal roll, filling in as needed, mostly in the office and on intricate hydronic projects. Tony and Anthony’s shared passion for piping serves them well in northern Ohio.
“We often see 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.”
Careful product selection
The company’s ability to handle almost any residential or commercial hydronic projects, along with the family-oriented attitude of service, result in a lot of referral and return boiler customers. Such was recently the case at a 3,000-square-foot home in Pepper Pike.
Above: The 1960s home was purchased as a foreclosure eight years ago, and promptly received a radiant retrofit.
“This home was built in the 1960s, 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 MBH ES2 cast iron gas boiler, manufactured by U.S. Boiler Company, also supplies DHW through a 60-gallon U.S. Boiler 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.
“Of all the components used here, two that were selected for a very specific purpose at the time of installation were the U.S. Boiler ES2 and the three-speed 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.”
“For whatever reason, the owner didn’t want a condensing boiler,” he continued. “The 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.”
Known by many installers as a tried-and-true workhorse, the ES2 is a great replacement unit. Its control system also makes it a class-leader. Plug-and-play IQ control cards offer fast, easy integration of an outdoor reset sensor, low water cutoff, and auxiliary high limit.
Above: Anthony Caruso used an ES2 for its ability to handle lower supply water temperatures than most cast iron models.
Anthony has returned to the home annually for routine service. 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.
Within an hour of arriving, Caruso let himself back out of the house. The company has been working for the family for more than 20 years, and like many of their customers, trusts AC Plumbing to come and go as they please.
“Dad built this company based on family principals,” said Anthony. “Despite the fact that we’ve grown substantially, that hasn’t changed one bit. It’s the reason that customers often become friends, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Tony’s roll is now one of mentoring. He’s a teacher at heart, and practices that passion both at the AC Plumbing shop and at other facilities in the Cleveland area. In addition to being a fire instructor, investigator and inspector, Tony teaches hydronic and steam courses at a nearby supply house. One of his favorite classes to present is called “Near Misses.”
“Near Misses is essentially an accident avoidance course,” explained Tony. “We walk through different scenarios – usually true horror stories – and talk about safety and common sense that can get overlooked in the hustle of a full work day. It’s all about avoiding the things that can waste time, money, or become a legal problem.”
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.
“I want to be the best father, firefighter and hydronic technician I can be,” said Anthony. “Pretty much everything I do revolves around those three priorities.”
Operating at that level of dedication and professionalism constantly can be draining, they’ll admit. But as physically and mentally challenging as both career paths can be, they share another similarity. Whether wearing fire gear or his AC Plumbing uniform, Anthony finds the work rewarding.