The radiant panel association train rolled through suburban Seattle shattering previous attendance and exhibitor records for the fourth consecutive year at its annual trade show. The RPA, which met in Bellevue, WA, April 2–4, had more than 1,500 people and 90 exhibitors at the show.

This year’s show was highlighted by John Siegenthaler’s “Radiant Basics” course, the addition of architecturally-based radiant seminars and the presentation of a “Discover Radiant” marketing program.

Larry Drake, executive director of the RPA, attributes this year’s record attendance to location.

“It seems like the West Coast has people more active in progressive things,” he said. “We gave away a lot of guest passes this year; we ran out of name badges.”

Since its 1994 creation, the organization has seen attendance at the trade show jump in leaps and bounds (see chart below).

“We probably aren’t going to have a big enough space next year [in Chicago],” Drake admitted. “It will be similar to Denver, where we were shoulder to shoulder — but it will create a real cozy feeling.”

That Cozy Feeling: Participants were feeling more than cozy in a booked-to-capacity room for the Radiant Basics course offered by PM columnist John Siegenthaler. About 240 people paid at least an additional $75 to attend a one-day condensed version of the two-day program.

“I was delighted with the attendance,” said Siegenthaler, who launched the program at RPA. “It’s always nice to see your ideas come to fruition. I feel at this point we’re over that first hump — we actually have the first training seminar behind us.” Siegenthaler’s course will be the first in a series of training programs. RPA is working on an advance follow-up to this class, according to Drake.

“The education committee talked about a three-level plan to make the book available to everyone,” said Drake. “We’re looking at making the book, the overheads and the entire class with an RPA certified instructor available. I think people are going to buy the book, and then come back to take the course.”

“I think it makes sense for the RPA to establish a number of certified trainers,” Siegenthaler added. “One of the things we need to do with the RPA is go out and teach.”

Siegenthaler said unofficially the Hydronics Institute and RPA will combine resources to offer a joint training program, beginning tentatively in late July in Utica, NY.

“The program looks like it will happen,” said Siegenthaler. “It’s a co-event. The Hydronics Institute will do its program, then immediately following will be RPA’s two-day program.”

Other seminars at the 1998 show addressed a wide range of issues for all levels, including selling comfort, a roundtable on using water heaters vs. boilers as heat sources for radiant systems and advanced concepts in radiant design.

RPA also added five seminars on architectural issues this year, covering warming wood floors, radiating with carpet and heating the joist spaces.

“Radiant heating is an overlap of architectural issues,” Siegenthaler said. “A contractor who is going to work in radiant heating needs to understand the basics of architectural issues. I think this conference addressed that.”

“Discover Radiant:” Drake told members at the convention that radiant is only tapping into a small portion of the heating industry. “There is a real need out there for a collective marketing of radiant,” Drake said. “There is a real large industry to tap. We can’t do it independently, but we can do it as a group, pooling our resources.”

Drake said he wants the public to recognize the Discover Radiant logo as easily as the blue flame for natural gas.

To meet its goal, RPA will launch a campaign to place the logo on multiple items. Contractors will be able to place their names and business information on some of the marketing material. Items include:

  • Countertop displays with brochures;
  • Truck decals;
  • Yard signs;
  • Advertisement slicks for local newspapers;
  • Yellow Pages advertisement slicks;
  • Non-technical information in consumer newspapers and magazines;
  • Slide presentation for contractors; and
  • Clothing apparel, including patches for uniforms.

“When communities start to see the logo more regularly, they will recognize radiant more easily,” said Drake, who will have initial marketing material ready by the end of June.

“Like anything, this program takes constantly putting it in front of contractors before they try it,” Drake added. “It may take a couple of years before it works.”

Radiant King: PM awarded our annual “Publisher’s Choice Award” to Buzz Burgett and Seattle-based Northwest Mechanical for best promoting radiant heating. Northwest Mechanical will be featured in next month’s supplement, Radiant Heating Report.