Why You Should Learn Hydronics

Hydronics takes some time to master, but the investment is worth it for the fast-growing market

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Smart contractors never stop learning.

Besides the fact that many of them are naturally curious, they know that every bit of knowledge acquired and every skill learned makes them that much more valuable and their future that much more profitable and secure.

Sometimes, it’s a little thing — a trick learned on the job — but continuing education can also be a major investment in time and money and require mastering a whole new body of knowledge.

That’s the case with hydronics systems. It’s not intuitive, even for the most experienced plumber, and it’s not something anyone should fumble through on the job. But it can open up a fast-growing market that needs skilled designers, installers and service contractors.    

A 2018 report from Research and Markets predicted the global hydronic system market would experience a compound annual growth rate of 7.14% from 2018 to 2022. These four factors are driving the continued growth of hydronic piping in residential and commercial markets:

1. Improved energy efficiency — Hydronic piping systems are simply more energy efficient than their counterparts, such as forced air. As buyers and builders look to make buildings as efficient as possible, radiant heating and cooling becomes more popular.

And hydronics efficiency continues to improve with the adoption of new infrastructure advancements, such as the outdoor reset controller. This device uses the outdoor temperature to calculate the supply water temperature to the hydronics system, leading to a better alignment between indoor and outdoor temperatures and lower energy use.

2. Increased control over system functions — Traditionally, HVAC systems have distributed warm and cool air evenly throughout a structure. A single thermostat doesn’t allow for control from room to room. That’s not the case for hydronics systems where Powerheads (control valves on each radiant loop) allow for the creation of varying zones within a structure.

3. Longer equipment life — Hydronic piping systems not only are more efficient than other methods, but they last longer. Whereas variable refrigerant flow systems might need to be replaced after 15 years due to continuous compressor use, hydronics systems have been shown to last up to 25 years. That lifespan is expected to increase as advancements in hydronics design minimize problems like erosion, making the systems more attractive.

4. Simplified installation — Installing hydronic piping used to require contractors to spend a lot of time on their hands and knees, manually spacing tubes to ensure they were equidistant and positioned to avoid hot and cold spots.

But installation has become easier and more efficient with products like Viega’s ProRadiant Climate Mat, which arrives on the job site completely assembled with spacer clips and strips that ensure equal heat distribution and allows 20,000-square-feet of hydronic tubing to be installed in the average workday. New software, such as LoopCAD, also makes it easier to design radiant systems.

Certifications or official credentials aren’t required for hydronics professionals, but it’s a mistake for a plumber or HVAC contractor to enter the field without additional training. It’s simply too complex and requires too many calculations to pick up easily or without outside help.

In fact, it can take several years to master hydronics. Luckily, there are sources of information, including manufacturers. At Viega, we offer online and/or in-person training. The Radiant Professionals Alliance offers a variety of resources, as well. And, of course, there are plenty of books available.

It’s a serious commitment, but contractors who make the time to learn hydronics will find it’s worth the time and effort. 

About the Author

Brett Austin is a supervisor of heating and cooling design at Viega LLC.          


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