Contractors radiant about today's radiant heat

May 15, 2000
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When it comes to radiant heating, the number of contractors involved in the trade is steadily rising — and enjoying the ride.

The News polled a number of contractors, members of the Radiant Panel Association (RPA), and asked them about trends in this relatively new business and how it has impacted their product mix.

Here are some of the results.

Impact on business

“Radiant heating means everything to our business, although in terms of direct sales, radiant is a small portion,” said Joel Boucher of Boucher Energy Systems, Inc., Mendon, MA.

“We have a reputation for doing it right and using the best products. This reputation has lead to a lot of boiler and a/c sales to high-end clientele, which is why I would say that radiant heating has had a huge impact on our business.”

“This year we’ve installed radiant in about 45 homes so far, as well as seven commercial and industrial projects,” said Doug Mossbrook of Eagle Mountain Inc., Canadaigua, NY.

“We expect to surpass 55 homes this year. I can honestly say that the radiant market is here to stay.”

“We were one of the first Long Island plumbing and heating companies to embrace the new radiant [market],” said Al Levi of Comfort Specialists, Oceanside, NY. “With a very strong working relationship with Radiant Technology, we forged a very profitable and rewarding niche in radiant heat that has served us and our customers very well.”

“In 1999, our hydronic business has been primarily radiant heating [75% to 90%],” said Tim Schirtzinger of B&G Heating & Plumbing, Marquette, MI. “It appears that consumers are more educated on the subject and generally know what they want before they contact us.

“We are finding that a lot of people are at least considering it as an option and putting it in their basements and garages.”

“Radiant heating is roughly 80% of our business and has been for some time,” said Ted Lowe of Lowe Energy Design, Vineyard Haven, MA. “It is the fastest-growing segment of the heating industry, with double-digit growth every year for the past eight years.”

“About 5% of our current business is radiant,” said Pete Hinrich of Hinrich, Inc., Clifton, IL. “Although that is a low number, we are always looking for new markets for our services.”

“We design-build solar-heated radiant floors and every year our radiant business has been growing,” said Mike Tierney, Aspen Solar Systems, Aspen, CO. “Radiant heating is now being specified by most contractors in our area of Colorado.”

“Radiant is 100% of my business,” exclaimed Brian Ward of Horizon Heating Inc., Lynnwood, WA.

“The radiant heating industry has enjoyed a 25% increase each year over the past four years,” said Judy Saffell, RPA program manager. “We currently represent 800 member companies, including over 500 member contractors.”

Market trends

“The marketplace speaks for itself,” said Doug Mossbrook. “In our first year we installed radiant heat in two homes.

“Our Component Sales Division now stocks two brands of European boiler systems, two brands of radiant tubing, and hundreds of other support parts including thermostats, controls, etc.

“We ship systems as far away as Alaska, California, and Florida [from New York]. With our new e-commerce Web site coming out soon, we will be able to supply all the components for a completely engineered radiant heating system, with the touch of a button.”

“We are still running up against contractors who have no clue as to what they are doing and the price is incredibly low because of it,” said Joel Boucher. “This is very alarming because the economy is good.

“What are these guys going to do when things get bad? Do a job and write the customer a check?

“We are also seeing many systems that just don’t work, with angry clients wanting to sue the manufacturers,” he added. “I’ve yet to see a system where the manufacturer did something wrong. The systems are being installed by people who had no business installing them in the first place.”

Boucher noted that a law is being considered in MA to license residential hvac and radiant heating contractors. He hopes it will pass soon.

“The key will be getting a license to do business, not to do the actual installations. Lots of guys can lay tube when they get out on their own, but they cut too many corners in order to control costs.”

Got any radiant heating stories? E-mail John R. Hall at halljl@bnp.com with your opinion of this “new” segment of our industry. For more information on the Radiant Panel Association, visit their Web site at www.rpa-info.com.

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