Shipments of hydronic and electric radiant were down in 2006, according to an annual survey conducted by the Radiant Panel Association.

On the hydronic side, tubing shipments were 329.9 million lineal feet last year, down 1 percent from 2005.

“It’s the first time we’ve had a decline in tubing shipments since we started compiling the data 16 years ago,” said Lawrence Drake, executive director of the RPA. “However, considering the downturn in residential new construction, the fact that shipments were relatively flat may indicate that radiant is holding its own and getting a bit more market share.”

Housing starts were down 13 percent for 2006 and are continuing to fall this year.

Tubing shipments have stayed relatively even, hovering near 330 million lineal feet for the past three years. Tubing shipments had enjoyed an average annual growth of 19 percent for each of the past 10 years prior to 2005. That year, the survey showed a jump in tubing shipments of 37 percent.

On the electric side, shipments amounted to 6.19 million square feet, down just under 2 percent from 2005.

The association has had a more difficult time judging the electric radiant market than the wet side, Drake said. The manufacturers tended to keep their numbers close to the vest. Poor participation, for example, meant no data was available in the 2001 survey.

Participation is increasing lately – the big reason for the 214 percent jump in the 2004 numbers. Since then, the numbers are more indicative of the market, although Drake added most electric manufacturers still contend that the electric radiant market is growing at a faster annual rate.

In other electric radiant news, Drake said the board of directors has approved forming a separate division for electric radiant members. Such members would have half of their annual dues put toward the division with the remaining half placed in the association general funds. Drake added that the division is “just in its formative stages,” but that it would be “an association within an association."

The move follows an attempt made last year by electric radiant manufacturers to form their own trade association, which failed to take hold.

Each year, RPA surveys major suppliers of hydronic and electric radiant heating systems in North America. The RPA sent its current survey to 19 tubing manufacturers. Seven companies reported their 2005 sales, which accounts for more than 66 percent of the total. The remaining companies’ sales were estimated. Half of the 10 electric manufacturers responded, accounting for 60 percent of the total. Estimations have been a part of the surveys and the RPA believes the trends shown by the data are reliable.