Mark Hunt (left) makes a point during a discussion about carbon monoxide poisoning.
BALTIMORE - They are often referred to as "Wallies," but they are also known in the hydronic heating industry as "wetheads." Call them what you will, a group of 150 plumbing and heating contractors and technicians gathered this spring for the fourth edition of "Wetstock" at the BWI Airport Holiday Inn in Baltimore.

Wetstock is a semi-regular gathering of people who have formed a solid bond of friendship through their contributions to "The Wall," a popular feature of the Web site, a gathering portal for hydronic heating professionals. The site is the brainchild of industry expert Dan Holohan, a popular lecturer, teacher, and author.

Holohan and his staff hosted the informal event, which took place in one day in one large conference room at the hotel. The concept of Wetstock is to bring together businesspeople to informally discuss issues and topics important to them. A number of different round tables are set up with placards denoting particular topics. Attendees are invited to sit down and talk about the subject on the placard. There are no moderators, and people have the option of leaving one table and sitting down at another to discuss a different topic whenever they choose.

This year, the topics included:

  • Marketing hydronics.

  • Control strategies.

  • Boilers: old and new.

  • Pricing strategies.

  • Radiant controls.

  • Steam heating.

  • Overcoming price objections.

  • System piping.

  • Work vehicles.

    Robert Bean (left) is interviewed for taped segments to be broadcast on

    Passionate Debate

    One discussion focused on contractor-wholesaler relationships. Participants said that the key ingredients in the relationship include price, availability, and service. One attendee said, "There is a lack of qualified people on the wholesale level, people who know what they are talking about, people you can build a relationship with."

    Robert Bean anchored a discussion on industry trends, noting the increasing number of new commercial buildings and the decreasing number of service technicians who can maintain building systems.

    He predicted that the systems built today will someday be "outdated with no one to service them."

    Another discussion centered on do-it-yourselfers. Participants discussed what to charge homeowners who buy their own equipment or if a contractor should even install equipment that the customer purchased from someone else.

    A lively discussion on carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning was highlighted by comments from Mark Hunt, a contractor who is very passionate about the topic. Hunt said, "If you call me complaining of CO symptoms and you aren't calling me from outside your home, it means the CO has killed you or I have killed you. I'm not trying to rock the boat. I'm trying to capsize it."

    Cindy Rea, Christy Farver, Dan Holohan, and Alex Marx hosted Wetstock IV.

    Cindy's Walk

    In addition to the discussions, attendees were asked to bid on silent auction items and purchase 50/50 raffle tickets. All proceeds went to Cindy's Walk, an event to raise money for breast cancer research.

    The raffle and silent auction raised $5,270 during the one-day event. Raffle winner James Eliott donated the $1,050 he won back to Cindy's Walk.

    Plans are already under way for Wetstock V in Providence, R.I., in the fall of 2004.

    For more information, visit

    Publication date: 05/24/2004