hydronic heating

There are a variety of forces changing the dynamics of the hydronic heating and renewable thermal industries that were not happening five years ago. While hydronic distribution is still attractive for similar technical reasons that it was five years ago—comfort, air quality, etc.— there are a host of new trends that can have the ability to increase the adoption of hydronics if we can utilize them correctly.

Here’s a quick list of some new trends

  1. We’re lobbying for production based renewable thermal incentives in Massachusetts. Similar actions are being looked at in New York, Maine, and Connecticut. Read about the Massachusetts Clean Heat Bill here. Note, we got this bill out of committee two weeks ago. If you’re in Massachusetts and would like to help with this, email me at cwilliams@heatspring.com. If we pass it, this will increase the demand for renewable thermal heat sources and hydronics can be an amazing way to distribute these low temperature heat sources.
  2. Biomass pellets are increasing in adoption because the MMBTU cost is half that of oil. Read more on the BTEC report here. 
  3. Heat pump technology continues to advance with impressive gains on the air source side (both air to air and air to water). Read more about ASHPs + Zero Net Energy Homes here. While hydronic professionals don’t care much about air to air heat pumps, the ability of air to water heat pumps to provide cool water opens up radiant cooling possibilities in the residential market.
  4. GSHPs have not seen a substantial increase in adoption due in large part to the fact that there’s no way of actually verifying in-field performance over a long period of time. This substantially increases perceived risk to property owners that might want to invest in the technology. Real time monitoring for GSHPs is now very cheap and effective, reducing the risk for homeowners to invest in the technology by making it possible to verify that the system is operating as promised, all the time. Read more about Lessons Learned from 100,000+ Hours of Real Time Geo Monitoring Data here. 
  5. ASTM is in the process of finalizing a standard on BTU metering that will help with policy (see bullet 1) of production-based incentives for renewable thermal technologies and much more that we’ll get into during the interview.

When you look at these trends, it’s clear that the hydronic industry has a lot to look forward to. All of these major industry shifts have the ability to increase demand for hydronic distribution systems in residential and commercial applications, for both new construction and retrofits.

In this 30-minute discussion, I talk with John Siegenthaler to see what he sees driving growth in the hydronics industry over the next 3 years. John is a hydronic expert. He teaches Mastering Hydronic System Design and wrote the industry textbook on the subject as well.

If you’re looking to grow the hydronic side of your business or enter the market in the next year or two, you need to listen to this interview. It will provide a special understanding of the industry developments that are on the horizon. Understanding these trends will allow you to take advantage of them. And by take advantage, I mean increase sales.

Here are the key points that we talked about. See below for a full list of items that you’ll learn when listening to the whole interview.

  1. Low temperature heat sources and renewable sources
  2. Single thermal mass systems
  3. Radiant cooling
  4. BTU metering
  5. How technology is changing design best practices

Listen to the Entire Interview 

In this interview, you will learn: 

  • Why John sees low temperature heat sources and renewables driving the adoption of hydronics as the distribution system.
  • Why worldwide low temperature hydronics has moved to 120 degree water temperature as a maximum water temperature under full load.
  • Why low temperature keeps the distribution system compatible with renewable sources.
  • Why you need to learn about hydronic technology if you’re interested in renewable heat sources like solar thermal, heat pumps, and biomass. Ductless heat pump systems are gaining popularity in cold climates like Maine.
  • The difference between the design advice that John is providing today versus 8 years ago and why technology is driving that change.
  • How advances in technology are tangibly impacting the day-to-day operations of professionals in the field.
  • How radiant walls and ceiling can be used with low-temperature applications and  still get great performance.
  • How to use fin-tube baseboards in low water temperature design.
  • Why a large majority of contractors aren’t even aware of what an air to water heat pump is.
  • The key things that John thinks every engineer and contractor needs to understand about heat pumps, including why they’re a renewable source of heat.
  • How heat pumps open up the hydronic industry to cooling, which has been an issue for industry growth for a long time.
  • Why the decreasing costs of solar PV and zero net energy design is driving the adoption of heat pump technology in the hydronic industry.
  • Why smaller duct size, small fans, shorter builders, and lower installation and operating costs is driving the adoption of commercial radiant cooling.
  • Why not being able to easily and cheaply monitor dew point is slowing the adoption of radiant cooling in the residential market.
  • John’s advice for hydronic contractors who want to start doing radiant cooling, working with heat pumps and low mass radiant ceilings.
  •  Why radiant ceilings might start growing FASTER than radiant floors in the coming years.
  • Why John sees single thermal mass system growing in the residential market by reducing installation costs and simplifying system design.
  • The impact of technology on hydronic best practice design and installation.
  • How ECM pumps are substantially reducing operating cost at least 50%.
  • The impact that the new ASTM ANSI BTU metering standard will have on the design and installation of systems in the hydronics market by removing risk for engineering teams.
  • How BTU metering will encourage conservation.
  • Why BTU metering will make district heating more common.
  • How John sees Zero Net Energy and passive house impacting the hydronic industry and the potential role for hydronics
  • The best applications for hydronics within highly efficient buildings.

Questions? What did I get right or miss?

  • If you have any questions or comment about the interview, please leave them in the comment section
  • What trends did I get right?
  • For the contractors, engineers, and architects working with clients every day, what are you seeing in the market?
  • What trend did we miss that you’re seeing?

Want to Learn More?