Mark Eatherton, Executive Director, Radiant Professionals Alliance authored the below article. We had a chance to see Mark at the ASHRAE conference a few weeks ago and when we told him we’d love to feature him in HeatSpring Magazine, he sent us this article.

In the article, Mark outlines the 2015 initiatives happening at the Radiant Professionals Alliance:

Who Should Read This: 

  • Contractors
  • Builders
  • People interested in networking with likeminded professionals
  • Lifelong learners interested in new courses

Why We Chose HeatSpring as Our Educational Partner
By Mark Eatherton, Executive Director of the Radiant Professionals Alliance

About two years ago, when I was serving as chairman of the Education Committee for the Radiant Professionals Alliance (RPA), we were tasked with coming up with a way of providing high-quality education, at the lowest possible cost to the end users, which in our case were contractors. We looked at the small list of choices. Face to face has been the traditional delivery method, but it causes contractors to have to leave their work stations for a minimum of two days at a time and possibly as many as four days, depending upon location and classroom demands.

After having gone through the rough economic times, pulling contractors away from their pay stations was the last thing we wanted to do and the last thing the contractors could afford to do. Hence we began our search of new, alternative methods of teaching and distributing information.

We as an organization were in the throes of rebuilding our organization, and it entailed the development of a nationally recognized designer/installer certification program, a rebuilt and updated educational program along two fronts: one for installers and one for designers. This new program required a completely different mindset as it pertained to delivering the education we offered. The prior RPA focused mainly on the face-to-face programs, with a few online courses available.

After having polled our contractor membership, it was painfully obvious that we would have to completely change our method of delivery to focus on online educational opportunities with minimal face-to-face contact, the latter of which could coincide with our annual membership meetings. These are coordinated with the efforts of AHR Expositions, which always happen in January of the year. John Siegenthaler, who sits on the Education Committee, recommended that we look into the offerings of HeatSpring and its web-based educational program. We had considered the possibility of doing quick-hit, one-hour live webinars, but again that required the focus of the students during a time of the day when they could be productive. We reviewed HeatSpring’s offerings, and determined that this would work best for our contractor base. It allowed the students to take the classes at their convenience. If they awoke at 4 a.m. and decided they wanted to do some of the classwork, they could do so without the need of the instructor or teaching assistants. If they wanted to meet with the instructor to ask questions about the week’s assignment materials, they would need to be in a certain spot at a certain time, but it would only take about an hour for that session.

This seemed to be the best possible answer to our educational dilemma. We struck a deal with HeatSpring and began offering the Fundamentals of Radiant Design, and had Dave Yates designated as our very first online educator. Feedback from the student population was very positive, with virtually no negative comments received. All of our instructors bring many years of hands-on experience to the training table. We have decided to expand that offering by allowing some very notable experts in solar thermal hydronics to generate some relevant courses on how to interface solar thermal into a hydronic radiant design, and hired Vaughan Woodruff to be the instructor/curator of that course.

In addition to these courses, in the near future we will begin offering a course on Advanced Radiant Design. This is a major extension of the Fundamentals of Radiant Design course and will take an interested party to the root of hydronic designs, going much deeper into the theories and hydraulic/thermal calculations necessary to achieve the ultimate goal of delivering excellent comfort while maintaining the highest system efficiency possible.

We poll our membership on a regular basis to make certain that the path we are taking is the correct one. We have been told that many of our students already have the skill sets for physically designing and installing hydronic radiant systems down pat, but that they are in need of business skills. We are listening, and have contacted industry subject matter experts in the areas of blueprint reading, estimation, and material takeoffs. H. Kent Craig is one such expert, and we look forward to the delivery of his educational offerings.

As a person who grew up in the trades looking at blueprints, I learned how to read floor plans early on. They keep people from putting toilets in kitchens and garbage disposals in bathrooms. I always saw all of those “extra” lines on the drawings and really never gave them much consideration, because I didn’t think they affected my operations. Then I took a course on blueprint reading, and it opened up a whole new world for me as a contractor. Now, I had the ability to look at a set of plans and see the “invisible” things, like impenetrable steel “I” beams, and things I would have to contend with in the field, except now I had the ability to anticipate these major field events and plan accordingly to compensate in the field. Many times, the mechanics in the field read the floor plans and have no idea what all of those extra lines are for until they run into them in the field. This costs them critical labor and materials that were not taken into consideration when viewing the floor plans during the design take off and estimation, instead of reviewing the building’s blueprinted structure as a whole. The blueprint reading course I took paid for itself on the very next job I was charged with designing and estimating, and I am positive that H. Kent Craig’s class will do just that. Kent is also developing a class on material takeoff and estimation, another area of concern to the well-trained business owner/contractor.

At the RPA, we are developing a nationally recognized ANSI certification program, and we intend to use the HeatSpring facilities to train our contractor base to prepare them for the eventual goal of offering them the certification exam. A person could sit for the exam without taking any of the recommended pre-requisite courses we offer, but by taking these courses, chances for receiving a passing grade are substantially enhanced. And with an estimated to cost between $300 and $500 per certification test (exam fees only), with no refunds or retests allowed due to low score, you don’t want to waste your time and money. Taking these classes prior to going for certification makes more sense than ever before.

We here at the RPA are listening to you, the students, and are prepared to provide the courses that you deem necessary in order to enhance your business skills, set you apart from your competition, and keep our industry thriving for years to come by delivering the highest quality educational experiences, from experienced instructors, that money can buy. Visit us at or go to and check out our course offerings. We want our students to work smarter, not harder.

The staff at HeatSpring has received excellent ratings from the instructors and the students alike for going above and beyond in providing high quality education. Join us, won’t you?