TORONTO - Robert Bean would like more HVAC contractors to sell hydronic heating systems, namely radiant heat. Bean, a Registered Engineering Technologist (R.E.T.) and founder of, knows the indoor comfort level is greatly enhanced by the qualities of radiant heating. But he was delivering a bigger message to attendees of the CMX CIPHEX show.

Bean told his Canadian audience that the benefits of healthy heating should be the No. 1 item on the mind of contractors since it is the No. 1 item on the mind of aging homeowners. He said that the number of hydronic heating contractors has been steadily declining over the past 30 years, and it is too bad because hydronic heat is still in demand from a large number of niche market customers.

Add to that the rising energy costs and a shortage of qualified installers, and the window of opportunity to sell to this niche market continues to shrink.

"People are building bigger homes for fewer occupants," he noted. "And then they are shocked when they get the utility bills.

"You have a short opportunity to harvest what the baby boomers want - comfort."

Bean added that the aging baby boomer market is also having an impact on the skilled labor market as fewer and fewer young people are replacing the older workers.

"The demand is high and the supply is low," he said. "And one more thing: get your prices up!"

He said that too many contractors worry about the price-conscious customers instead of worrying about solving their comfort and pocketbook concerns.

"With the rising cost of energy, you now have two things going for you: You are in the comfort business and now you are in the energy-savings business."


Bean said it is important to condition people first, not the buildings. He noted that only one profession has truly grasped this concept - interior designers. "They under stand the human condition and know it is more important to design for comfort rather than art.

"Consumers want warm towels and warm floors, they don't care about boilers, pumps, or valves."

He said that recent studies show that almost one in two consumers are not happy with their indoor environment, adding, "We are doing a lousy job of conditioning the body."

Besides conditioning the customer, Bean said there are other things contractors must do:

  • Rename the business or create a new profession (move past conventional HVAC moniker).

  • Target the audience by understanding the importance of women as decision makers.

  • Learn human physiology.

  • Raise your rates.


    Bean said there should be little temperature difference between the head and the ankles, noting that cold feet have a big effect on the head. "If you can perceive more than a 5 degree difference between your ankle and your head, you are uncomfortable."

    He said there are little temperature variations with radiant heating. That's good because he reasoned the older people do not want "whacked out temperatures."

    The principle of radiant heating is to heat objects in a room, not the air. That's why a wall thermostat may not be the best way to judge comfort, according to Bean. He said that thermostats are not always a true indicator for achieving maximum comfort.

    "Thermostats do not read radiant transfer - the transfer of heat from the body."

    But he also noted that radiant heating does not do a good job of controlling humidity, making products like humidifiers and dehumidifiers an important supplemental part of radiant heating.

    "The home heating pie has gotten larger, but hot water heating remains the same percentage as it was 30 years ago," Bean said. "We have to do a better job of selling hydronic home heating."

    Sidebar: Fundraising

    TORONTO - One year ago the Canadian Institute of Plumbing & Heating (CIPH) began its fundraising campaign on behalf of Habitat for Humanity Canada (HFHC) with a goal to raise $1 million in cash & products. During the March 22, 2006 gala dinner held at the Fairmont Royal York, Charity Committee Chairman Paul Lachance (Wolseley, Canada) announced that the Institute and its members had raised a record-breaking $1,021,678 in the 2006-2007 campaign. Since 1994, CIPH members have contributed a current total of $3,521,613 in cash and products to Habitat for Humanity Canada and helped more than 500 Canadian families move into their own homes across the country. CIPH is one of HFHC's top corporate donors.

    "One year ago we pledged with the support of all CIPH's members that CIPH would set a great example of how an industry can help improve the quality of life for many Canadians," said Lachance. "We went to you with a request to donate products and funds for 2006 and 2007. We have been overwhelmed by your response.

    "CIPH members didn't just say yes to Habitat again, they increased their contributions, new members joined the cause and a record number of CIPH members contributed to the fundraising campaign."

    Over 300 industry members attended the elegant event that featured an exquisite gourmet meal, charity auction, and entertainment supplied by The Second City and the Rat Pack Tribute with the 16-piece Starlight Orchestra.

    Publication date: 04/24/2006