A marketing campaign that would raise the awareness of consumers and building professionals across North America about the benefits of hydronic heating and cooling is getting closer to becoming a reality. The program is a good idea that we support because of its potential for success.

Equipment manufacturers who belong to the Hydronics Industry Alliance are in the final stages of creating a partnering agreement with the Radiant Panel Association. We first reported on these talks in a June 11 blog by PM Publisher George Zebrowski at www.radiantandhydronics.com. Also involved in the discussions is the Canadian Hydronics Council, which has created its own Beautiful Heat marketing campaign.

When HIA launched four years ago as the marketing arm of the Hydronics Institute, its mission was to educate consumers, contractors, builders and architects on the comfort and benefit of installing hydronic systems, says Lochinvar President Bill Vallett Jr., an early supporter of HIA. The group developed www.myhomeheating.com, as well as the Consumer Guide to Hydronic Home Heating.

At the time it was created, I questioned whether HIA would overlap the efforts of RPA, which itself was started by Hydronics Institute members in 1994. RPA leaders saw HIA, however, as a complementary organization rather than a competitor.

Today, Executive Director Ted Lowe says RPA may not have spent as much time as needed on its own mission to create consumer awareness of radiant hydronic systems’ benefits, such as comfort and energy efficiency. He’s excited about the possibility of what he describes as partnered marketing with HIA and the Canadian group.

Lowe sees a number of reasons why consumer acceptance of hydronics will accelerate. For starters, people’s perception of comfort has changed over the years.

“People’s idea of comfort is an ever-moving target,” he says. “Most comfort systems in the United States are anything but. People have accepted systems that are not all that comfortable.”

He also points to hydronics’ enabling characteristic. As building owners’ interest in alternative technologies such as solar and geothermal grows, they’ll discover that hydronics provides the distribution system that enables them to perform.

As for the two traditional knocks against hydronic radiant systems - high cost and lack of a cooling component - Lowe sees changes in these areas too.

While he doesn’t see the price of these systems dropping substantially, Lowe believes consumers will pay less attention to first cost and focus more on operating costs over the entire life of a system. This difference in emphasis is much more common in Europe, where hydronic systems are much more popular and aided by government-mandated energy-efficiency standards.

Technology is addressing the issue of hydronics’ cooling capabilities, Lowe says. More hydronic cooling systems are being installed in North America, including the chilled ceiling in RPA’s new headquarters in Baldwinsville, N.Y.

“As technology evolves, we’ll see more examples of cooling and remove another stumbling block,” Lowe says.

When looking at all the benefits that hydronic systems offer, you can’t help but get excited. You and I, however, are not the only ones who need to know about them. That’s why an awareness campaign for other building professionals and consumers is essential for hydronics to grow.

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