This Old House's Trethewey Addresses Conference

June 26, 2000
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PROVIDENCE, RI — Calling himself the most visible spokesperson for the radiant heating industry, Richard Trethewey of PBS’ This Old House gave the keynote speech at the Radiant Heating Conference and Trade Show 2000.

Trethewey got the audience warmed up with comments about his business background. “I’m in a fourth-generation business, which means I’m the third generation in a row who couldn’t get a job.

“When we got wrenches for Christmas, we knew what direction we were headed.”

He told attendees that the radiant heating business is the “smallest big industry and the biggest small industry” in the country. His own interest in radiant was piqued during a visit to Europe in 1985.

He believes that his name is synonymous with the industry. “I’m now called ‘Richard Radiant.’ My epitaph will include radiant heat on the headstone.”

The State of Radiant Heat

Trethewey was passionate when speaking about his love for the industry and how it has been generally ignored by commercial and residential builders, despite that fact that more than 120 million ft of tubing for radiant heating systems was sold in 1999.

“It is a crime against humanity to pour a floor without tubing in it,” he said. “It should probably be a punishable offense.”

Trethewey gave these tips to radiant heating contractors:

  • “Stop building monster, custom, one-of-a-kind walls that no one can figure out. If an installer dies, the homeowner should not have to move.”

  • “We are over-pumping and under-expansion tanking.”

  • “We’ve got to get close to the day when we can just plug and play.”

  • “Radiant flooring for sale at Home Depot is the end of our industry. Please fight this.”

  • “Geothermal is a future technology that has to be explored because we have no idea of the future of our energy situation.”

  • “Let’s standardize pipe sizes. This will be better for the entire plumbing industry.”

  • “We have to make the RPA [Radiant Panel Association] logo mean something. How do we grow this group?”

  • Finally, “The RPA has to be a standard setter with a DIN equivalent. We have to educate the consumer and set the standards. Recent tubing litigation has been a public relations nightmare.”

Trethewey wrapped up his presentation with some inspirational words: “Think about ways that radiant heat will be here for your grandkids. This industry is filled with good people who are passionate about their work.

“We can go in and retrofit cold kitchens and make some money.”

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