A slew of lawsuits over poor radiant tubing have spread into the mainstream media, leaving the industry with a black eye. Entran II tubing — supplied by Heatway and manufactured by The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. — continues to cause millions of dollars in damage to high-end homes with radiant heating systems.

The lawsuits, which have been filed by homeowners against both companies, allege breach of warranty and negligence against Heatway, and defective manufacturing and defective product design against Goodyear. Both companies deny the allegations, and countered with lawsuits against each other.

Heatway claims Goodyear knowingly manufactured a product that would not hold up in a radiant heating system. "That hose is crap, and if there’s any doubt, just get out there and look at it," said Dan Chiles, executive vice president of Heatway. "Put it in your two hands and break it."

Goodyear, on the other hand, blames Heatway for poor design, contractors for not correctly installing the system and homeowners for not properly maintaining the systems.

Fred Haymond, Goodyear’s manager of public relations, told the Vail Daily: "If homeowners improperly maintain the system or if Heatway or the general contractors improperly designed and installed the system and failed to tell homeowners to maintain them, the dispute is with Heatway and the installers, not Goodyear."

More than 25 million feet of Entran II were sold between 1989 and 1993. There are about 15,000 radiant heating systems in the Unites States that contain the Entran II tubes, with more than 650 complaints being logged by Heatway. The problem is restricted to Entran II, and is not related to Heatway’s Entran I, Entran 3 or Entran Onix. Most problems with Entran II begin to show symptoms within two to three years.

"For those of us in this industry who have worked so long and so hard to promote the comfort and efficiency of radiant floor heat, this is a terrible situation," Chiles said. "We have to support the contractors. Our contention is that Goodyear fraudulently misrepresented Entran II to our industry."

Several television stations and major newspapers in Colorado — including the Denver Post — have run stories on the lawsuits involving Entran II. Contractors in Colorado have reported numerous radiant heating jobs canceled because of the coverage.

Entran II tubes started out orange and flexible, like garden hoses. Over time, the tube released plasticizers that hardened the tube, effectively dissolving in hot water, according to expert testimony. The first phase of the problem begins with leaks where the hose connects to the manifold, and continues until the tube spontaneously cracks and leaks elsewhere.

Heatway and its insurance companies have spent more than $5 million dollars in claims and will continue to pay claims, but does not have the resources to continue paying out dollars if every system goes bad. Based in Springfield, Mo., Heatway has 50 employees and about $12 million in sales a year, and could potentially become bankrupt if held liable for the damages.

"We’re not running away from this problem," Chiles said. "We deal with Entran II problems every day, and will continue to pay settlements until we can bring Goodyear to federal court and force them to pay." Radiant heating systems are not typically covered by homeowner’s insurance.

Heatway set up a Web site for contractors at www.GME2.com to answer questions or register jobs that may contain Entran II radiant heating tubes. Contractors can also call Heatway toll-free at 800/255-1996 with questions regarding Entran II.

The lawsuit between Heatway and Goodyear is slated to be heard Oct. 6 in Ohio.