HUNTSVILLE, ON, Canada — A household name among old-movie buffs is Edward G. Robinson. Ron Robinson would like to also make it a household name among radiant heating customers. He is the son of another Edward, whose business (Edward G. Robinson, Ltd., Stoney Creek, ON) specializes in radiant floor heat sales and service. Ron Robinson is company president.

He spoke to HRAI Meeting attendees about the ins and outs of radiant floor heating and why it has become so popular in recent years.

Besides the conventional applications of radiant floor heat, which is used to heat homes and businesses utilizing hot water heat transfer methods, radiant heat is also used to melt snow and ice on driveways, parking garage ramps, outdoor steps, intersections, and athletic playing fields. And what is one of the best, unconventional applications for commercial radiant floor heating? Dog kennels.

Reasons Behind Radiant’s Popularity

Robinson said there are two strong reasons for radiant floor heat’s surge in popularity.

“The life span of a radiant system can be upwards of 100 years,” he explained. “And the availability of PEX [cross-linked polyethylene tubing for hot water radiant heating] has aided in the explosion of the radiant market.”

Robinson said there are several methods of radiant heating installation: in poured concrete floors, suspended floors, “quick-track” poured-floor undercoating, and between floor joists.

The design process for the system must include heat loss calculation due to various types of floor coverings, such as carpeting, tile, and wood.

When designing a system with PEX tubing, proper installation of the tubing is vital (i.e., the tubing loops must be closer together near the outside walls of a room and spread out further toward the center of the room).

If contractors are working with a builder, it is vital to involve them in the design process, said Robinson. “You need to communicate with the builder. It is important that you have access to the floors during the building stages.”

Selling The System

Robinson said that a well-planned sales presentation should include questions about the customer’s heating needs and energy usage. “First, you need to qualify the customer,” he said. “Radiant heat is a costly system, so make sure they want it and can spend the money.

“There are many options available in a radiant floor heating system; this is your chance to give them exactly what they want.”

Radiant floor heating systems don’t sell themselves, Robinson added. Although customers expect to pay more for radiant, they need all of the information up front — and not just a bunch of numbers. “If you give them a number, you really aren’t serving your customers’ needs. You need to sit down with them. Lay it all on the line and put a good proposal together. That way you have a better chance of getting the project.”

Robinson said that contractors should be on the jobsite as much as possible during the installation process, because there will always be questions and concerns from the homeowners.

“Leave a lot of literature about the system as part of your interaction with the customer,” he added. “Make sure the customer understands system operation and preventive maintenance. Remember, they want you and need you to maintain their systems.”

He concluded that some of the best customers are often those that started small and came back for more installations later. “If you give a customer a small system, they may come back to you after they add on or renovate.”

Publication date: 09/24/2001