A number of programs help out installers, specifiers and end users of hydronic heat.

The Hydronics Institute (HI) Division of the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association is composed of more than 60 manufacturers of hydronic heating equipment, including boilers, various types of radiation and their accessories and controls. The division is engaged in a number of programs that benefit its manufacturer members, but also provides substantial benefits to the installers, specifiers and end users of hydronic equipment by promoting and advancing hydronic heating.

The Organization

HI is a nonprofit organization of manufacturers that produce the following:

  • Cast-iron, steel, aluminum and copper boilers for domestic and commercial water and space heating.

  • Heating distribution equipment, including radiators, baseboard finned tube radiation, convectors, radiant tubing and similar products.

  • Accessories, components and controls for steam and hot water heating systems.

A membership vote determines policies and programs. An Executive Committee directs the planning and execution of activities. The functions of HI include organized programs in the education, marketing and technical fields, with responsibility vested in the following standing committees:

    Education Committee.. Training is a key function of HI, and of primary importance to contractors.

Since 1950, there have been more than 1,500 I=B=R training schools presented to more than 60,000 students in many areas of the United States and Canada.

The I=B=R schools assure there will continue to be a reliable flow of young designers, estimators and installers who are properly trained in the design, installation and operation of comfort systems. The books and training materials provided to the students attending these schools have achieved a much wider use as training materials for hundreds of training public and private schools.

Currently, the committee is revamping the schools and the hope is to have them back by the fall of next year, says committee chairman Joe Coppola, Slant/Fin.

The work actually began around the time HI was amalganated with GAMA in 1995. "The I=B=R schools were the cream of the crop for basic hydronic information," says Tom Reed, Dunkirk Boilers, who served as Education Committee chairman from 1994-1997. But the education market got increasingly competitive as more and more hydronic manufacturers entered the training business.

"While the I=B=R training was still strong from an educational standpoint, it was not being presented in the way participants were used to experiencing from manufacturers," Reed explains.

The I=B=R schools were put on hold in 1995 and a commitment was made by HI to make improvements needed to bring the training up to par. Consultants Jim Goins, Heating Illustrated, and Bill Benson, Benson Hydronics, are currently developing "modules," covering various aspects of residential hydronic installation. The goal is to be able to customize a program to a particular area of the country. Attendees in Chicago, for example, wouldn't want to know about oil heat - or at least certainly not to the extent that Long Island contractors would.

The emphasis will remain on contractors just starting out in hydronics. "HI can be the best at teaching the basics to the trade," Reed adds. "That will leave product specifics to manufacturers. Manufacturers don't want to explain how a boiler works. But they do want to tell why their boiler is better than their competition's equipment."

Goins believes the new I=B=R school curriculum will produce a well-rounded contractor, ready to ddress the full extent of any repair job.

"Not only will the boiler be fixed, but the system problems will be, too," Goins explains. A new, high-efficiency boiler will more than likely not operate at its promised levels, if the system isn't cared for. "A hydronic system is an organic whole, whereas the boiler is a part of it, and it can only do so much."

Marketing Committee

Promoting hydronics is another HI action that benefitsPMandPMEreaders."Hydronic heating offers more opportunity for contractors," says Coppola, who also served as marketing committee chairman. "We're trying to partner with the contractor to make everyone more comfortable with hydronic heat."

To that end, HI's marketing efforts have included supplements, such as this one, in other construction trade magazines. Whereas we're talking up the activities of HI, the other supplements tend to educate heating contractors about the comforts that can only be provided by hydronic heat. For example, a recent supplement appearing in Engineered Systems, a fellow BNP publication, highlighted the advantages of hydronics for commercial applications.

The committee also produced a four-page, full-color brochure aimed at increasing hydronic awareness among homebuilders. "Finally, Other Builders Are Finding Out What Builders In The Northeast Have Known All Along," reads the cover page. The brochure includes testimonials from architects, builders and homeowners extolling the virtues of wet heat. Hot water heat vs. HVAC systems are debated as is why air conditioning is better as a separate system.

Other marketing activities have included running advertising and developing ready-made hydronic-related stories for publication in print media across the country.

  • Technical Committee. Other HI activities are of particular benefit to PME readers. The Technical Committee strives to standardize procedures and gain consensus on matters that affect different participants of the Hydronics industry, says outgoing committee chairman Karl Mayer, formerly of Dunkirk Boilers. Over the past year, for example, the committee has met to discuss the following issues:

  • Discussed the meeting agendas for the ANSI Accredited Z21/ Canadian Standards Association Joint Subcommittee on Standards for Gas-Fired Low-Pressure Steam and Hot Water Boilers, which maintains the harmonized ANSI Z21.13 - CSA 4.9 Standard.

  • Reviewed efforts to resolve conflicts between ANSI Z21.13 and ANSI/ASME CSD-1 Standards criteria related to combustion-side controls for boilers with inputs of 400,000 Btu/hr. and greater.

  • Developed recommendations for improving the HI's testing and rating program for heating boilers.

  • Developed a GAMA response to the U.S. Department of Energy's request for further comments related to the DOE's development of proposed federal test procedures and certification requirements for commercial boilers covered under the Energy Policy Act of 1992.

  • Reviewed ASHRAE Standards activities related to proposed minimum efficiency requirements for commercial boilers, in addition to efficiency test method standards for residential and commercial boilers.

  • Manufacturer Committee. "We're really a unique group," says committee chairman Tim Reed, Utica Boilers, "since we get to tour other manufacturers' facilities." Competitors bring up common interests - such as health and safety, best practices, ergonomics - in an attempt to raise the bar for everyone.

    "What results is that our factories run more effectively, and we produce better products for the contractor to install," Reed says.

  • Burner And Burner Components Committee. At last year's meeting, the committee invited oil heat specialist Alan Levi, Comfort Specialists, Oceanside, N.Y., to discuss oil heat quality and "what we could do to make installing and servicing our products easier for contractors," says committee chairman Bob Stephan, Honeywell. The committee also keeps informed on the latest in oil burner research from the Brookhaven National Laboratories.

  • Indirect Water Heater Committee. Chairman Don Metrish, Weil-McLain, reports the committee has developed a proposed HI testing and rating standard for indirect-fired water heaters, which could be used to determine a continuous draw rating, first draw rating, and standby loss for such equipment. The draft standard is intended to apply to indirect-fired storage and instantaneous water heaters designed for installation with a hot water boiler or some other external source of heated water.

Financial support for HI's activities is derived from members' dues, fees for product testing, sales of publications and tuition and fees from education.

Day-to-day activities, designed to fulfill the programs and goals of the industry, are carried out by a professional staff at both the HI office and radiation testing laboratory in Berkeley Heights, N.J., and at GAMA's headquarters in Arlington, Va.

Members of HI are invited to attend spring and fall meetings each year to conduct association business, to exchange ideas on industry-wide issues and to keep informed on the latest developments in this and related industries.


The re-birth of the I=B=R School will be a major highlight for contractors. However, HI keeps busy with other activities:

  • Standards for efficiency testing on the various categories of equipment have been established and published by HI, and are continually reviewed for refinement and improvement. The ratings of equipment are published annually in the HI's I=B=R Ratings Book, and semi-annually in the GAMA Efficiency Certification Directory. These publications are recognized internationally for their reliability and impartiality.

  • Testing of commercial and residential boilers is performed at manufacturers' premises by staff engineers from HI, using its own scientific instruments and standards. Commercial boilers are tested every five years in addition to the initial testing of new or revised models. Residential boilers are tested to the requirements of the U.S. Department of Energy. HI's testing program is available to all heating equipment manufacturers, whether or not they are members of the organization, and fees are charged according to established schedules. (For more on standards and testing procedures, see story on page 8).

  • Technical programs have traditionally been the major focus of activity. HI has been instrumental in establishing performance standards for heating equipment, and the I=B=R logo on equipment and literature is accepted as authoritative by engineering organizations and the government.

  • Relationships with engineering societies and government agencies have been maintained for several years for the purpose of contributing the hydronic industry's expertise to other organizations. HI maintains relationships with government agencies at federal and local levels. Information is furnished to the members of the division concerning government plans and programs of interest. HI provides government agencies and officials with data needed to develop and refine laws and regulations.

  • Statistics of major production and shipments are reported monthly by the members and other producers directly to GAMA under complete confidentiality. The compiled data, which conceals the origin of the individual reports, are provided promptly to all contributing firms, which are then able to develop marketing and production plans based on accurate industry-wide figures.