Powerful Heat: Cougar USA and Fulton Boilers Join Forces in a Dynamic Partnership


Houston is heating up, and I’m not talking about the weather…Cougar USA is now representing Fulton Boilers! We’re very excited to partner with a family business that’s been providing innovative technology for the last 75 years.

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Pressure Boosting Systems – Pt3

Pressure Boosting Systems – Pt3

With few exceptions, the water demands of a Commercial Building are significantly overestimated, which has negative impacts on the long-term performance, reliability, and efficiency of a Booster System.  At Cougar USA, we design our systems to be most efficient at the partial load of the building, which improves performance & reliability and reduces operating costs.  In this Tech Talk, we cover the pump and system selection for Booster Systems.

Make sure to check out Parts I & II!

Pressure Boosting Systems – Selection – Part 3 Tech Talk Transcript:

Hi, I’m Tim Zacharias with Cougar USA, on this Tech talk we’re going to be going over system selection for pressure-boosting systems in commercial building applications. This is part three of a three-part series. So please check out Parts one and two if you haven’t already.

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Pressure Boosting Systems – Pt2

Pressure Boosting Systems – Pt2

The primary purpose of a Pressure Boosting System is to maintain constant pressure in the building (surprising, right?!).  In Part II of this Tech Talk, we explain the factors to consider when determining the pressure requirements for a building. 

Pressure Boosting Systems – Pressure – Part 2 Tech Talk Transcript:

Hi, I’m Tim Zacharias with Cougar USA. On this Tech talk, we’re going to be talking about calculating the system pressure required for a pressure boosting application of a commercial building. This is part two of a three-part series, so if you haven’t seen part 1 on the flow calculation, make sure to check that one out as well.

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Pressure Boosting Systems – Pt1

Pressure Boosting Systems are essential for delivering water to high-rise buildings; however, the method for sizing these systems has not changed significantly in over 50 years!  Cougar USA’s High-Performance Design approach combines our extensive knowledge & experience with the best products on the market to deliver systems that provide constant water pressure with little to no downtime and the lowest Life Cycle Cost.  Check out this three-part Tech Talk series on Booster System Design to see how we do it.  We will cover the flow and pressure requirements of a building and pump & system selections to meet them.

Pressure Boosting Systems Design Part 1 Tech Talk Transcript:

Hi, I’m Tim Zacharias with Cougar USA on this Tech talk, this will be the first of a three-part series for sizing and selecting pressure boosting systems. On this one, we are going to be looking at the flow rate for a commercial building.

Now, a couple of different things that we need to take into account when we are looking at flow. The first place that we can start is Hunter’s curve in the fixture unit counts. This is a method that goes back to the 1960s. Basically, we can count up our fixture units in the building, look at the chart for what that says the equivalent flow rates are, and what that is going to give us is our worst-case flow rate for that building.

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Water PRV Sequence of Operation

A High-Performance Water Pressure Reducing (PRV) Station requires valves that are properly sized for the flow rate and pressure drop of the zone they serve.  Also, the High Flow and Low Flow valves must have the proper pressure setpoints to balance the flow rates across them.  Cougar USA can help in the design, installation, and start-up of PRV’s to ensure constant pressure to the fixtures downstream of the PRV Station.

Water PRV Sequence of Operation Tech Talk Transcript:

Hi, I’m Tim Zacharias with Cougar USA on this Tech Talk, we’re going to be covering the sequence of operation for a Water Pressure Reducing Valve station or PRV station.

For this example, we are looking at a PRV station here that’s designed for a high-rise building. We’re generating a lot of pressure with our booster system, down the lower floor to be able to have usable pressure up at the top of the building, and in the lower floors, we’re having to knock that pressure back down to get it below 80 PSI.

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Storm Sump Pump Stations

Storm Sump Pump Stations protect the lower levels of buildings and parking garages from flooding.  Check out this Tech Talk on the application and design of Storm Sump Pump Stations.

Storm Sump Pump Stations Tech Talk Transcription:

Hi! I’m Tim Zacharias with Cougar USA. In this Tech Talk, we’re going to cover storm Sump Pump Station applications.

So when we’re looking at a storm sump application this is going to be anything in a building that’s collecting water from a clean source, rain, groundwater, condensate from Air Handlers, or fan coil unit, things like that. And it’s going to be in the typical locations in a building: at basement, parking garage, loading docks, spots where the water’s going to collect. We are typically going to recommend in this situation an N+1 design, meaning, both pumps can handle, one hundred percent of the load coming into the Basin. But in Houston, unfortunately, we have these high rainfall events where it might be normal or require two pumps to run in certain situations, so that’s going to affect the type of float switch assembly that we use and some of the programming so that we can run those two pumps with or without alarms.

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Flood Protection Valve

Rain isn’t the only way a building can flood. If there are Domestic or Fire Water Storage Tanks in the building, a flooding risk is always present.

Cougar Systems Level Controls constantly monitor for High Level and actuate a motorized valve to shut off the water supply to prevent overfilling the tank and flooding the space. 

Flood Protection Valve Tech Talk Transcript:

Hi, I’m Tim, Zacharias with Cougar USA. In this Tech Talk, we will cover flood protection valves for fill stations and atmosphere storage tanks. In the city of Houston, we have the requirement to go through the atmosphere storage tank before we add booster pumps into our building. So, a lot of these are going to be installed on the first floor, maybe in a basement on a vault outside, and we want to prevent those tanks from overflowing and flooding the building.

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Monitor City Pressure

In the city of Houston, we’ve had two major interruptions in water supply in the last 18 months. Unfortunately for many buildings, they didn’t find out until their tank and piping were dry and it was too late to act.

With a Level Control Panel from Cougar USA, you can monitor incoming city water pressure and receive an alarm as soon as the pressure drops, giving you time to conserve water and warn patients, tenants, and guests of the situation.

Monitor City Pressure on Fill Stations Tech Talk Transcript:

Hi I’m Tim Zacharias, with Cougar USA. In this Tech Talk, we’re going to cover Monitoring City Pressure on your fill station so when you have a flooded suction application, like in the city of Houston, where we have the code requirement to go through an atmosphere storage tank, like this before your booster pumps.

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Float VS Electronic Fill Valves

Fill Valves are the heart of a tank-level control system (making the control panel the brain).  There are two common types of fill valves, Float, and Electronic, used in commercial building tank fill applications.  While both can be effective, the electronic float valves (and paired controls) provide extended life through even wear, improved communication with the BAS, and ease of service. 

On this Tech Talk, we are going to cover the difference between the float style and electronic style fill valves for storage tanks. So in the city of Houston we have this code requirement where you have to go through an atmospheric storage tank before you add on a pressure boosting system.

To pressurize your building, you got two options on which type of fill valves, you would use for that tank. The style that’s been around for a long time, is going to be this one 2401 float valve from Cla Val using the 100-01 Hytrol valve, base valve configuration and we’ve got this CF1C1 Pilot assembly here that is controlling the water on, and off the valve to open and close it.Now, this is a mechanical assembly you got the float hanging down in the tank and literally just like the back of a toilet, you know, the float goes up the valve is going to turn off the flow goes down the valve is going to open up and refill the tank. Problem with these style valves is it’s mounted up on top of the tank it can be difficult and even dangerous to get in and service it and it’s all mechanical in terms of how you make any adjustments, how it turns on and off and when you have two of them, there’s no way to alternate which valve is the lead valve.

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Cougar USA Appoints New President, Expands Leadership Team

Cougar USA Appoints New President, Expands Leadership Team

We are excited to announce the promotion of Tim Zacharias to President of Cougar USA!  Tim has been with the company since 2007, having worked in various roles, most recently as Chief Operating Officer since 2017. 

Mike Zacharias has served as President since co-founding the company in 2003 and will continue to work with Cougar in sales and as Chairman of the Board.  Scott Magee, co-founder, will continue his role as Vice President and as a member of the Board of Advisors. 

The Leadership Team has expanded to include three new members.  Randy Milian and Steve Hale both join as Operations Managers of Cougar Sales and Cougar Systems, respectively.  Both are exemplary members of the Cougar Family, and we are excited to see the new insight and perspective they bring to the Leadership Team!

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Green Stormwater Infrastructure article

Last August, the City of Houston’s Chief Recovery Office commissioned a one-year study to identify and recom­mend incentives to encourage the use of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) in private land develop­ment, leading to economic, social, and environmental benefits as well as resilience.

In the a report, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said “While we continue to pursue large-scale projects to reduce flood risk, Hurricane Harvey and other floods have highlighted the necessity to employ a holistic stormwater management approach which integrates green infrastructure into our existing drainage systems.”

GSI is a stormwater management tool that can increase a property’s operating income, provide green amenities for resi­dents and improve storm drainage, creating a win-win situation for owners, residents and the community. The report defines GSI and outlines the potential four incentives with implementa­tion timelines.

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Disaster Preparedness Planning for Hurricane Season

June 1st marks the beginning of Hurricane Season, and the NOAA predicts 2020 will be busier than average.  While many property & facility managers are still working through the building operations changes required due to COVID-19, there are some additional measures to consider in preparation for potential heavy rains and flooding.  The National Weather Service and FEMA have guidelines for the overall planning, so we will highlight a few items specific to water systems in commercial buildings.

Before the Storm

It is critical to regularly perform Preventive Maintenance (PM) on Storm Sump Pump Stations to ensure their performance.  A PM should include a visual inspection of the sump basin, verifying the operation of each pump, and the control panel.  Cougar USA now offers Preventive Maintenance programs on Sump Stations, as well as other water control systems.

During the Storm

If you have an issue during a storm, Cougar USA Technical Support and Service can be reached 24/7 at 832-678-3930.  We help troubleshoot issues over the phone and with our Remote Guidance App that allows us to see what you see in real-time. 

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Maintaining Water Quality in Under Occupied or Unoccupied Buildings

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything about our lives in the last sixty days.  With the “Stay Home, Work Safe” orders and school closures, many commercial buildings are now under-occupied or completely unoccupied and may continue to be for months.  Without regular use from tenants, guests or students, it can be a challenge to maintain a building’s water systems.  Reduced consumption at the municipal supply and within the building can lead to reduced levels of chlorine and allow for bacteria growth, most notably Legionella, in the piping. 

To maintain water quality, a building’s water systems need to be flushed and tested.  Opening faucets, showers (hot & cold), flushing toilets, draining dead legs, running drinking fountains & bottle fillers, ice machines, coffee makers, and other appliances on a regular schedule will prevent the water from becoming stagnant and potentially allowing bacteria growth.  If any of these fixtures drain to a sanitary sump station, it needs to be pumped down on a similar schedule to prevent water from sitting in the basin for long periods.  The schedule for flushing building’s water systems will vary depending on occupancy, size, age, and design.

Regular water testing will provide feedback on the building’s water quality.  Cougar USA can provide on-site Legionella testing Spartan Bio Cube and deliver results in 45 minutes.  If Legionella is detected in the water, we can provide recommendations for short-term remediation and long-term mitigation. 

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Cougar USA Customer Service during COVID-19 Outbreak

At this point, you have received multiple emails regarding companies’ response to COVID-19, so this will be a brief update on how Cougar USA can be of service moving forward. Our first priority is the safety of our employees, partners, and customers, and we will adapt to the changing situation to serve our customers the best we can.

Our office, warehouse, and panel shop are open with normal hours, but we will be limiting activities such as in-person training (more on that below). We will have a portion of our team working remotely; however, this will be seamless for you as we are using cloud-based communication systems.

Our service techs and sales team are available for site visits and will take all necessary precautions while on site.

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Guide to Reopening Buildings After COVID-19

Guide to Reopening Buildings After COVID-19

Reopening buildings that have been unoccupied or under-occupied for the last 30-60 days may create some water quality issues you may need to address. Here are some resources to help this transition as smooth as possible:


We recently hosted a webinar with Patrick Verwys from Triple Clear where he explains the potential water quality issues and how the Force Field filter technology can help in multiple applications when reopening buildings.  Watch the webinar here.


Mike Fehr (owner of Fehr Solutions, an independent water consultant), created two checklists that outline a detailed plan to identify systems, how to flush and/or change filters, and how to test the results to ensure the system is clean. Click below for the guides on Potable and Non-Potable water systems.

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5 Ways to Protect Your Building From City Water Disruptions

5 Ways to Protect Your Building From City Water Disruptions

Water is the Life Blood of commercial buildings, used for consumption, comfort heating & cooling, and patient care & sterilization in Hospitals. Disruptions in the city water supply can cause major issues from building closures to damaged equipment. Here are some ways to protect your building before, during and after losing the city water supply.

Monitor City Pressure

The City of Houston has a unique amendment to the UPC that requires an atmospheric storage tank of water before adding pressure boosting pumps. During an outage, the tank water level will be drawn down by consumption in the building, mainly the cooling tower make-up, and eventually, the tank and your piping will go dry because the tank level is not restored by city water. Getting a low city water pressure alarm from your tank level control panel allows you to take action and reduce water consumption before the tank and piping run dry.

Monitor Storage Tank Levels

Many storage tanks in Houston use Float Style valves to make up the water in the tank. These are mechanical valves that do not require a control panel to operate them, however, a simple Tank Level Alarm Panel can monitor the tank level and provide feedback to the Building Automation system in the event of a High or Low-Level Alarm. The Level Alarm Panel also can be used to protect your Booster Pump System from running dry through a Pump Low-Level Cutoff output. Without monitoring city pressure and/or tank water levels, there is no way to know there is an issue until it’s too late.

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Low-Flow Shutdown Sequence for Pressure-Boosting Systems

Low-Flow Shutdown Sequence for Pressure-Boosting Systems

According to ASHRAE 90.1, Domestic Water Booster Systems must shut down during periods of no flow demand. Operating pump systems when there is little or no demand wastes energy and increases wear and tear on the pump and piping system. While this sounds simple, it is one of the most challenging control sequences for a Booster System.

Domestic Water Booster Systems are used to supply water to commercial buildings to be used in restrooms, kitchens, and to make up water to Hydronic Systems like Cooling Towers. The demand for water will change throughout the day and the pump system must be able to respond to these changes. In commercial office buildings, for example, there can be long periods of little or no water demand overnight when the building is empty or even in the middle of the afternoon when the building is occupied.

For a pump system to perform a low-flow shutdown, it must first be able to measure the flow demands in the system. Flow Switches and Flow Meters are mechanical means of measuring flow, which can work, but both require proper installation in the system piping for proper readings. Space and piping constraints can limit the installation of switches or flow meters.

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Design Considerations for Water Pressure Reducing Valve (PRV) Stations in Commercial Buildings

Pressure Reducing Valve (PRV) Stations are an important component of a water-distribution system in a commercial building. The 2015 Uniform Plumbing Code Section 608.2 states that PRVs are required at any point where the system static pressure exceeds 80 PSI. Typically, this applies to mid- and high-rise buildings when the pressure boost required at the ground floor to serve the upper floors in the building is over 80 PSI. When you need to design a PRV Station, you must consider the station pressure drop, water flow, and safety devices.

To calculate the Pressure Drop across the PRV Station, we have to determine the inlet and outlet pressures. The inlet pressure is determined by the PRV location in the building. The lower the PRV is in the building, the higher the static inlet pressure will be. Typically, the PRVs are fed by a Pressure Boosting System that feeds the entire building, so the inlet pressure may also fluctuate a little, depending on the demand in the rest of the building.

The outlet pressure is determined by two factors. First is the number of floors the PRV Station is serving, and the second factor is whether the station is feeding the floors above or below the station. A good rule of thumb is that each floor will result in a pressure change of 5 PSI. If the floors fed by the PRV Station are the floors above, then you would need a higher outlet pressure at the PRV Station (around 65 to 75 PSI) because the pressure will drop about 5 PSI each floor higher in the piping. If the PRV Station is feeding the floors below, the outlet pressure would need to be lower (around 40 to 50 PSI) because the pressure will increase 5 PSI for each floor lower in the piping.

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Avoiding Cavitation in Water Pressure Reducing Valves

High-rise buildings present multiple challenges for water distribution due to the high pressures required to reach the top of the building. The high pressures in the lower levels of the building cause high-pressure drops across Pressure Reducing Valves (PRVs), over 100 PSI or more, creating the potential for cavitation within the valves.

Cla-Val explains cavitation in this white paper, saying “Cavitation occurs when the velocity of the fluid at the valve seating area becomes excessive, creating a sudden, severe reduction in pressure that transforms the fluid into a vapor state, resulting in the formation of literally thousands of minute bubbles. The subsequent decrease in velocity and pressure rise that occurs after the valve seating area, when the pressurized condition resumes, causes these vapor bubbles to collapse at the rate of many times per second. Should this occur in close proximity to any metal surface, damage can take place. Over time, this can lead to valve failure.”

The damaging effects of cavitation include excessive noise, erosion of the valve and eventual valve failure. When designing a system with pressure drops greater than 100 PSI, there are two ways to avoid cavitation.

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A personal story of living Cougar’s mission

Cougar USA’s mission is to make buildings work, so the people inside can do theirs. Over the last few months, this has become a personal mission of mine as well.

In November, my son Joey was born at Texas Children’s Hospital Pavilion for Women, and earlier this month had surgery in Legacy Tower to remove a benign cyst from his abdomen. Thanks to the amazing doctors and staff at TCH, Joey made a quick recovery – he definitely handled the surgery better than my wife Ashley and I did! After spending a few days recovering in West Tower, Joey was back smiling and being his happy self. Ashley and I feel very blessed that Joey’s case was minor compared to many families at Texas Children’s.

I have worked at Cougar for almost 12 years and I have always appreciated what our systems are used for in buildings, but it wasn’t until it was my son who needed them that I truly felt the impact of our work. It was a great feeling to know that Cougar helped provide the systems and services for the building’s operations.

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Cougar’s Mission & Values


At Cougar USA we are proud to provide complete, tailored solutions for our customers. We have the technical knowledge and experience to identify their needs, wants and potential issues. We also help design, deliver and support a complete solution. Every day, Cougar supports Consulting Engineers, Installing Contractors and Building Engineers, especially after hours and weekends for emergencies. We continue to serve our customers long after the initial sale. This level of service and quality of products build trusting, long-term relationships with our customers and partners.

Cougar USA makes buildings work, so the people inside can do theirs.

People trust our Water Control Systems to deliver efficient, reliable solutions for plumbing and mechanical applications in commercial buildings.

Our systems play an important role in the operations of hospitals, hotels, Schools, universities, commercial office buildings and event centers. Cougar is proud to serve Houston’s best buildings and institutions like Minute Maid Park, NRG Stadium, George R. Brown Convention CenterThe Post Oak HotelThe Houstonian, JPMorgan Chase Tower, Capital Tower, Heritage Plaza, Texas Children’s Hospital, MDACC Cancer Center and hundreds of others.

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Overflow and Flood Protection for Break Tanks in Commercial Buildings

Overflow and Flood Protection for Break Tanks in Commercial Buildings

Many commercial buildings in Houston have large water storage tanks to meet city plumbing code requirements. These break tanks provide water for fire protection pumps and domestic (potable) water pumps to supply the building. A major concern with break tanks in the building is the potential for flooding due to tank overflow. This is especially critical when the tanks are in a basement level.

In order to maintain a constant water level in the break tank, float style or electronic fill valves and controls must be used. The valves open when the tank level is low, and when the tank level returns to normal they close. With either system, there is a potential for the fill valve to fail in the open position, allowing water into the tank without control.

The Houston Amendments to the Uniform Plumbing Code Table 607.7 has specific guidelines for tank overflow and vent sizing, so in the event of a valve failure, the excess water will flow through the overflow to a floor drain. Especially on a fire tank system with large fill valves, this can be up to 1,000 gallons per minute of water pouring onto the floor of the pump room. Even when properly sized, floor drains may not handle this sudden demand (trash, etc.), and water can flood the pump room.

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Break Tank Fill Valve Types – Float Versus Electronic

Many commercial buildings use storage tanks for Domestic (Potable) and Fire Water Applications, especially in Houston where it is required by Houston Amendments to the Uniform Plumbing Code Section 607. As water is used in the building, an automatic system is required to replenish the water and maintain a constant level in the tank. In domestic applications, this process can repeat multiple times an hour during peak demand loads. An automatic level-control system has two main components, Fill Valves and Controls.

Float Controlled Valves (Cla-Val model 124-01) are widely used on break tanks in commercial buildings. Float valves operate on the same principle as the valves in the back of a toilet: a float attached to a rod moves up and down with the level of the water in the tank. Float valves are simple and effective, but there are drawbacks in commercial applications. Most valves are installed on the top of tanks with the float rod directly attached to the valve, making them difficult to access and maintain. Tank-water-level adjustments are also difficult because the float rod length and float position must be changed on the valve itself.

When two float valves are used, there is no alternation between valves. The lead valve (shorter float rod) will always operate first, with the lag valve going long periods without use. This combination will eventually cause failures in both valves without proper preventative maintenance. Also, these systems typically provide little or no feedback to the Building Management System.

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Why are Break Tanks Required in Houston for Pumping Applications?

Why are Break Tanks Required in Houston for Pumping Applications?


Some call them House Tanks, others Break Tanks, Storage Tanks, or Buffer Tanks. If you have been in the pump room of a building in Houston, you’ve seen these large water tanks, but why are they used? The Houston Amendments to the Uniform Plumbing Code Section 607 states that upstream from a pump system, an atmospheric storage tank with an air gap between the tank and city water supply must be used. This applies any time the city water pressure is insufficient to supply a building for both Domestic (potable) and Fire Water applications and the addition of pumps is required.

The City of Houston is one of a few municipalities across the country with this requirement for both Domestic and Fire Water Pumps. The tank air gap effectively separates the building’s water supply and consumption from the city water lines. This should stop any contamination from a building from getting back into the city supply and affecting others. Also, large sudden demands in a building (i.e., fire pumps) shouldn’t affect the water supply to those around it.

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Older Domestic Booster System Modifications Versus Replacement

In Houston, there was a construction boom in the 1970s and ’80s, with hundreds of high-rise buildings adding to the skyline. Many of these buildings are still using the original mechanical systems for HVAC and pumping applications. Potential mechanical failure and energy savings are forcing building operators to choose between modifying their domestic booster system or replacing it all together.

Commercial buildings have seen a lot of changes in the last 50 years. The push for energy efficiency and a reduced carbon footprint affect everything in the building, from the exterior designs to the mechanical systems in the basement. Low-flow water fixtures, water recovery systems, and improving HVAC systems reduce water flow load profile today compared to years past.

Pressure Boosting System Design has also seen drastic changes in the same time period. Fifty years ago, large constant-speed, single-stage, centrifugal-pump systems were the design standard. These workhorses run 24/7, 365 days a year, regardless of the system demand in the building. This results in wasted energy and unnecessary wear on the pumps and piping. With smaller flow demands today, older pumps still in service are grossly oversized, making them much less energy-efficient.

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