HOWARD, SD — In this small community of 1,150 citizens in eastern South Dakota, a hometown plumbing and heating business is trying to carve out a new niche for itself. Although radiant heat may never replace pheasant hunting as the major drawing card in Howard, the radiant industry is certainly taking hold among the surrounding communities.

Colin Wunder, president of Howard Heating & Plumbing, a 63-year-old business, said that the landscape for radiant heat in his part of the country is slowly changing. “The radiant heat business in South Dakota has been slow to start,” he said. “But it is picking up.”

Wunder recently talked about his company’s latest radiant heat project — a 12,000-sq-ft commercial building that houses a farming business, including a workshop and 40- by 60-ft office area. The owners of the business, Swenson Bros. 4 Bar S Inc., not only farm many acres in Miner County, they also sell global positioning equipment.

The installed system includes two Heat Transfer Munchkin (modulating) boilers, separate manifolds for the shop and office areas, and a high-velocity a/c unit, including a hot water coil for second-stage heating for the office area.

Wunder said this customer had viewed a few of Howard’s other radiant installations ahead of time. “They got our name from the other jobs and we called them with a proposal. Soon after that we got the job,” he said.

Wunder explained that the system will keep the shop area at a constant 65° to 68°F and the office area 68° to 70°. His customer recently started up the system, and everything worked well. It was immediately put to the test, as the area was blanketed with a 2-ft snowfall in late April.

Wunder said that his company is quoting ground-source heat pump jobs and geothermal systems, adding, “These niche markets are becoming our main focus now.

“We are quoting radiant heat jobs for residential and commercial customers, although most have been in the residential area.”

Wunder keeps photos of each job the company does and often posts them on the company website, HowardHeatingPlumbing.htm. He also likes to keep the photos in his “brag book.”

And speaking of websites, here is how the company describes itself to visitors:

“Howard Heating & Plumbing was established in 1938. Originally, our main business consisted of erecting windmills, installing steam heat systems, boilers, and plumbing. Today, we are still involved with steam heat systems, boilers, and plumbing, but we have added many more services.

“We are innovative by always keeping up with the latest advancements in the plumbing, heating, refrigeration, electrical, and building industries. Our trained technicians are continually updated on the latest products and services available. We learn in the classroom, not in the customer’s home.”

A growing radiant heating business supported by an informative website — seems that this small community has a very innovative company among its citizenry.