Les Nelson: This too shall pass
It is a difficult time to be discussing the status of the radiant and hydronics industry (and for that matter the entire construction industry). This is, in essence, trying to predict an uncertain future.
I have heard a number of things from RPA members, including:
- While construction activities have been generally determined to be “essential services,” fewer system owners have been agreeable to routine service calls due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. This has resulted in a downturn in contractors’ service department activity;
- To help alleviate building owners’ concerns, some repair services are being conducted with employee PPE in use, including gloves, face masks and shoe covers;
- Some light at the end of the tunnel may exist due to existing building owners, both residential and commercial, considering radiant upgrades to their properties to make their buildings more “resilient,” from both energy efficiency and air quality perspectives. Marketers may be able to take advantage of people’s time availability to advocate for “livability” upgrades to existing properties;
- The “build it tight, ventilate it right” maxim for new construction could well come into play, along with “black light” (ultraviolet) germicidal treatment systems and highly effective air filtration systems. Radiant and hydronics systems are well-suited to these upgrades, in that all treatment chemicals in the system are in suspension in the hydronic fluid — and none of the air is moved mechanically;
- At the same time, general contractors on larger projects have been adhering to the construction schedules set forth in their agreements with subcontractors, and some contractors report ongoing robust activity in their new project construction businesses;
- One reported solution to achieving safe distances between workers is to have one worker drive the main truck to the jobsite, while other workers that would normally all ride together use their personal vehicles to get to jobs; and
- In-home residential sales while practicing social distancing is another challenge, as are new system investment proposals presented by salespeople to small- and medium-size business owners who are likely already overwhelmed with concerns about how to adjust business operations to deal with new operational difficulties. However, some contractors report progress in converting their sales operations to online formats.
The RPA remains committed to enlarging the market for radiant-based technologies through education and outreach to existing and potential end users. It remains gratifying to me that the most ardent supporters of new radiant heating projects remain those who have owned and lived with one before.