NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Dave Yates wants more HVAC contractors to know more about hydronics. If they do, he believes more will add hydronic heating and cooling equipment to their product lines. Yates, the owner of F.W. Behler Inc., York, Pa., told attendees of HVAC Comfortech 2005 that hydronics is slowly catching on in the United States.

"Ninety-four percent of North American heating is hot air," he said. "In Europe, 98 percent is hydronic heat."

Yates explained that hydronic is a heating or cooling system that transfers heat by circulating a fluid through a closed system of pipes. Hydronic heating can include radiant floors, baseboard, towel warmers, and snow melting systems.

"Many people aren't even aware of how uncomfortable they are - until after they switched to hydronic heating," said Yates. "Studies have shown that 85 percent of people are unhappy with their heating system, presenting an opportunity for contractors to sell hydronic heating."

He noted that with the upcoming increase in efficiency standards to 13 SEER, hydronics becomes even more attractive.

"Hydronics are efficient," Yates said. "These systems get people away from having to heat their whole home."

Getting People Involved

Since educating people is the first step in selling hydronic systems, Yates suggested that contractors work with local homebuilders. He realizes that homebuilders often shy away from the more expensive hydronic systems and favor gas forced-air. But he believes there is a compromise. "Introduce builders to hydronics by installing radiant heat in the bathroom of a new home," he said. "The rest of the home can remain gas."

In fact, Yates believes that some homeowners may want to mix radiant heat with gas forced air in the same manner. Areas of the home that are often tiled, including kitchens and bathrooms, would be ideal for radiant floor heating.

Yates said that contractors should educate themselves and employees on the benefits of selling and installing hydronic systems. "You don't need a torch to put in a radiant system," he said. "There is no welding or soldering."

He believes that many contractors like to design custom systems for their residential and commercial customers. Hydronics, i.e. radiant heating, fits the bill perfectly.

"Radiant heat is not a commodity item," he said. "This is something that you create. You are the orange and all of the other guys are the apples.

Why HVAC Contractors?

Selling hydronics is a natural fit for HVAC contractors, according to Yates. He listed several reasons why:

  • Familiarity with heat gain/loss calculations.

  • Learning curve has been established for selling high efficiency.

  • Hybrid systems are a natural fit.

  • Zoning knowledge.

  • Knowledge of combustion analysis.

  • Business savvy.

  • Marketing skills.

    Yates said that radiant systems could be installed with dual-use water heaters, a product that HVAC contractors are already familiar with. "The radiant system won't interfere with the normal water heater operation," he added.

    If HVAC contractors can demonstrate the comfort of hydronic heating, they should be able to win the customer over, according to Yates. "Comfort will always trump everything else."

    Publication date: 10/17/2005