With the release of the 1997 Standard Guidelines for the Design and Installation of Residential Radiant Panel Heating Systems, the Radiant Panel Association (RPA) this month takes a big step in regulating a technology that is rapidly gaining acceptance by many in the trade. “There’s been a real need for something like this and I think we’ll see a real good reception of it,” said Larry Drake, RPA’s executive director.

Because radiant panel technology is unfamiliar or new to many in the trade, it is often difficult for an inspector to make a reasonable assessment of an installation. According to Drake, it is the hope of the RPA that the guidelines will assist in furthering the acceptance of radiant systems into the mainstream of the construction industry. “I’ve actually hoped to get things focused enough so the guidelines could be adopted as part of the code or as a step in that direction,” said Drake.

Two years in the making, the guidelines are the result of a series of discussions among radiant tubing, controls and boiler manufacturers, wholesalers, and contractors. “Every time we met we had 30 to 40 people and half of them were different from the time before,” said Drake. “Several times the guidelines were put out to the whole membership to comment. So when we say it was consensus it was really a consensus because everyone had the opportunity to give their input on it.”

Under fire recently for its invitation of membership to non-hydronic manufacturers and contractors, the RPA found that this document actually pulled the diverging sides together. “So many people within the industry have been kind of at odds with each other on how to do things but simply there are some basic rules of the road that everybody needs to follow whether you’re driving a Cadillac or a Volkswagen,” said Drake.

When everyone met and started discussing standards and what it takes to really make a system work, they found that there was definitely a lot of common ground. “It was a good exercise for the industry as well as providing a guideline for the whole trade.”

Design Features: Radiant design, insulation, heat sources, controls, equipment, temperatures, installation and more are addressed in the 48-page first edition, along with schematics showing recommended system plumbing for a wide range of installations. The guidelines do not purport to address all design, installation and safety considerations associated with their use, rather, the document is intended for reference use by code officials, radiant systems designers and installers to improve overall installation quality.

While this edition deals primarily with hydronic radiant floor heating, which is the largest and fastest growing segment of the radiant industry, wall and ceiling panels along with electric radiant sections are currently under development and will be addressed in future releases. Commercial installation considerations are also being formed.

Copies of Radiant Guidelines can be obtained from RPA, 801/245-0128 or fax 801/245-0130. The list price of $15 includes shipping. They are available free of charge to inspectors and code officials when requested on official letterhead.