ZoomLock Value Calculator Review

ZoomLock Value Calculator Review

ZoomLock Value Calculator Review

The ZoomLock Value Calculator provides a quick way to analyze the cost difference between doing a project with brazed joints versus the ZoomLock press-fit connection method. In this article we will do a ZoomLock Value Calculator Review based on their online downloadable 2017 version of the calculator. If you want to follow along with this example, download the ZoomLock Value Calculator from the below link;

http://sporlanonline.com/zoomlock/value-calculator/ (2017 version)

ZoomLock Input Sheet

The following ZoomLock Value Calculator Review is based on the default values that come from the 2017 ZoomLock Calculator when you download it. We compare the default values against our values for the possible scenarios you may encounter in real life. We haven’t changed any of the default values in the screen shots of the ZoomLock calculator unless indicated otherwise.

ZoomLock Value Calculator Review
ZoomLock Value Calculator

As you can see from the screenshot above the ZoomLock Calculator groups all of the different sizes for a single fitting type together (Item #1). Such as, 1/4” to 1-3/8” Couplings have one unit price value. The material multiples shown in the ZoomLock Calculator based on one of each type fitting are as follows;

  • Couplings 24x (This means that a ZoomLock fitting cost 24 times that of a brazed fitting)
  • Elbows 12x
  • Caps 19x
  • Tees 13x
  • Reducers 15x

The average cost for one of each ZoomLock fitting type was 14x times that of a brazed fitting. Based on the quantities used in the above example the cost multiple is closer to 15x. The average cost multiple will depend on the various quantities of the different sizes and types of fittings needed for your project. (See our article on ZoomLock Cost Analysis)

My experience reflects a greater multiple for the couplings material cost impact. I show a multiple of 30x on average for the couplings through all size ranges on my most recent project, but maybe you will get a better price from your supplier. Its basic math, so check your material cost multiples.

What the ZoomLock calculator shows is that couplings are the most expensive fitting followed by Caps, Reducers and Tee’s with Elbows being the least expensive. Based on this, the more couplings you have the higher your material cost difference will be.

ZoomLock Calculator Input Values
ZoomLock Calculator Input Values

Labor Rates

The ZoomLock calculator shows the default labor rates as $95/Hour (Item #4) for brazing and a $75/hour (Item #5) rate for a ZoomLock fitting. For our cost analysis we used the same labor rate for both. You can change these values to reflect your crew rate. We also used the fire spotter at $50/hour (Item #7) or less when the field rate was lower than this in our evaluation.

Typical Job Cost

Remove this value ($2,000) as it doesn’t affect our analysis.

MCAA Labor Rate Efficiency Factor

MCAA (Mechanical Contractors Association of America) is a trade organization that makes available labor unit values for thousands of pipe, valve and fittings based on contractor surveys. An MCA labor factor of 1.0, means that the unit of labor is straight out of the book without any adjustments. The factor takes into consideration basic assumptions about job conditions, which are too many to list here. Contractors adjust up or down this factor based on the differences in the project they are bidding versus the MCA labor factor from the database. If the current project seems much easier than the factor is discounted, or if the project conditions are more difficult the factor is increased.

The ZoomLock calculator comes preset with a discounted MCA factor of 0.60 (Item #6), which amounts to a value 60% of what is considered the standard at 1.0. If you know how you perform against the MCA benchmark factor of 1.0 than this is an easy adjustment for you. If you’re unfamiliar with the MCA labor factor rates, than this could be a little challenging to understand.

Fire Spotter Time Overstated

The ZoomLock calculator is made so that if you enter values for a Fire Spotter (Item #7 & 15) and Burn Permit (Item #8 & 14) their fitting will always appear to be more financially feasible. This is because every hour you have of brazing they include a matching hour of fire spotter time (Item #15). So if you have 100 hours of brazing the ZoomLock calculator default setting figures an additional 100 hours of Fire Spotter Time (Item #15), which equals 200 hours compared to only 100 hours for ZoomLock.

They have put a lot of weight on the fact of using a fire watch and burn permit. They use a 1:1 ratio, meaning one fire spotter for every hour of labor for installation. On larger projects this ratio will obviously be less when working in the same area optimizing the fire watch.
The reason using a 1:1 ratio is excessive and overstated is because the MCA labor units include much more than just brazing. It includes labor task that have nothing to do with brazing and for which a fire watch or burn permit isn’t required such as;
MCA Labor Units for a Brazed System includes;

  • Receiving
  • Unloading
  • Stockpiling
  • Distribution
  • Handling and erection
  • Fitting & Joining. (Fire Spotter Required)
  • Pressure Testing

So adding an hour of fire spotting time for every hour of installation is unwarranted and confuses the cost analysis. We will use 25% of the installation time for the fire spotter and recalculate everything with and without certain percentages of brazed fitting leakage.

Burn permits are required on projects that use an open flame such as brazing or welding, often requiring the Fire Spotter to remain 30 minutes after the last braze.

Assuming that you don’t pay the person doing the fire watch any more than the installer, we can than find a breakeven labor rate using the same labor rate for everyone including the fire watch, unless we exceed the $50/Hr default setting, at which point we will hold at the $50/hr rate for the fire spotter. There are a lot of people who would stand around looking for a fire hazard for $50/Hr or less.

We will also use 25% of our total hours as the time required for the actual brazing that requires a fire watch. The rest of the time is comprised of the other task related to the installation as outline above.

Breakeven Labor Rate

This is the minimum hourly rate that you must pay your crew in order to make the cost premium for ZoomLock™ fittings to pay for themselves through labor savings based on the different scenarios as shown in the table. This is the point at which material and labor when added together is the same for either a ZoomLock or Brazed fitting.

ZoomLock Calculator Review
ZoomLock Calculator Review

At an MCA factor of 1.0 this makes the breakeven labor rate at approximately $33/Hr, (Item “A”) assuming no leaks. So if you pay your workers $33/Hr or more, than using ZoomLock under these conditions makes financial sense. Let’s look at an MCA labor factor of 0.6 (Item “B”) the default setting.

With the same parameters as the above, except with a 0.6 MCA factor, we get $57/Hr as the labor rate breakeven point. So, if you pay your workers $57/Hr or more under the above conditions using an MCA factor of 0.6, than once again ZoomLock™ makes financial sense, anything less than brazing would be least expensive.

For a Union company these labor rates make a lot of sense, making ZoomLock™ a great solution, but for the non-union companies, your labor rates are going to be the major deciding factor. And if the breakeven point is close and leaning towards brazing, it may still make sense to go with ZoomLock™ for several other reasons, such as shifting the risk of labor cost and avoiding the ramifications from using an open flame as previously discussed in other articles.

Basically, the higher your labor rates the more financially feasible ZoomLock™ becomes. The higher labor rates offset the higher material cost, as it takes more labor for brazing while costing more for ZoomLock™ materials.

Brazed Fitting Leakage Percentage

The ZoomLock™ calculator comes with a default setting of a 10% leakage rate (Item #9) for brazed fittings. This adds another 10% (Item#13) of the brazed labor cost to the cost analysis. We rerun the calculations with a 5% and 10% leakage rate (Item “C”). If your leakage rate is any higher than that, you probably need to practice more, or just give up and go with flared fittings or a press-fit joint.

Brazing requires practice and understanding the proper preparation techniques to ensure a leak free fitting. The same is required for the ZoomLock™ fitting but to a much lesser degree. Each connection type requires that you follow proper protocol as dictated by the manufacture for a leak free joint.

As can be seen in the example, adding a 5% leakage rate to the two different MCA Labor factors will drive up the cost of brazing and lower the breakeven labor rate at which ZoomLock™ becomes feasible. And by increasing the leakage rate to 10%, the breakeven labor rate is reduced more, so that under the most extreme conditions of this analysis, a rate of $28.90 (Item “D”) can get you either method at the same cost. Anything above $28.90 leans towards the ZoomLock™ fitting at this last condition.

ZoomLock Average Fitting Cost
ZoomLock Average Fitting Cost


Determining if ZoomLock™ is feasible for your project will be based highly on your field labor rates, the requirement for a fire spotter, your MCA labor productivity factor and your leakage rate. All of these play into your analysis. We suggest you play with the ZoomLock calculator using different values that you believe represent your company’s profile. On a strictly financial basis labor rates will be the strongest influencer on feasibility.

Our ZoomLock Value Calculator Review has identified a Labor Rate range from a low of $28.90 to a high of $95.70 based on the MCA Labor Factor, Fire Spotter, Hot Permit Cost and the leakage rate from brazed joints.

Beyond the financial aspects of brazed versus ZoomLock™, there are many benefits to a non-flame approach that we have discussed elsewhere. We believe ZoomLock™ has a place in this industry and will only gather more market share as companies become aware of the benefits and the price difference decreases overtime.

Schedule a demo with your supplier and see for yourself how quickly and easily a joint is made, and you may never turn back. This doesn’t mean you have to throw away your beloved torches, as there will always be a need to burn something.

Important Notice for ZoomLock Users
Important Notice for ZoomLock Users

Also checkout ASHRAE’s Study on Mechanical Piping Joints

Checkout our other ZoomLock Articles;

ZoomLock Kluake 19 kn Tool Review

ZoomLock Cost Analysis

ZoomLock vs Brazed Fittings

Also check out our article on the Lokring fitting which is another pressfit fitting, and the Reftekk Piping Solution which claims to reduce brazed connections by 75%, and the SmartLock fitting which claims to reduce labor by 90% over brazed.

ZoomLock™ is a trademark of the Parker Hannifin Corporation.

ZoomLock™ Value Calculator Version 2017 downloaded 11-7-17

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