RadFest East features technology, networking

ABOUT 450 radiant heating enthusiasts attended RadFest East, which was held Oct. 11-12 in Chantilly, Va. The Rad-Fest combined Radiant Panel Association member meetings, social gatherings, roundtable discussions, seminars and a trade show. A highlight of RadFest East was the back-to-back presentations given by industry experts John Siegenthaler and Robert Bean. The meeting room was full as Siegenthaler

ABOUT 450 radiant heating enthusiasts attended RadFest East, which was held Oct. 11-12 in Chantilly, Va. The Rad-Fest combined Radiant Panel Association member meetings, social gatherings, roundtable discussions, seminars and a trade show.

A highlight of RadFest East was the back-to-back presentations given by industry experts John Siegenthaler and Robert Bean. The meeting room was full as Siegenthaler kept the audience guessing with a series of "what's wrong with this system?" schematics. The RPA instructor used actual system designs that he has encountered.

On one system, hot water moves from a conventional boiler through an air vent and expansion tank and then into a three-way mixing valve. The mixed water outlet of the valve goes to the radiant floor, but the cold return line goes back into the boiler return line, to which the return from the radiant manifold is also connected. The circulator is on the boiler inlet.

Siegenthaler pointed out that water, being the lazy fluid that it is, will tend to short circuit-through the mixing valve and the radiant floor will only get a trickle of flow.

Failure to protect conventional boilers from sustained flue gas condensation is common. On one of his examples, Siegenthaler showed the only circulator feeding the radiant floor, which meant the cold radiant floor return would have a tendency to go right back to the boiler rather than circulating in a boiler loop. His solution was to make sure the boiler loop and floor loop are clearly separate, with a circulator and three-way thermostatic valve keeping the boiler return temperature hot and a second circulator and three-way valve feeding the floor loop.

On a large residential job, Siegenthaler found five boilers — one for a single hot water tank, two for space heating, a pool heater and a hot tub heater. The biggest problem was inadequate Btu for domestic hot water production. Siegenthaler's solution was to use three boilers for all the jobs. They would feed a spaceheating circuit, a DHW circuit for two high-capacity indirect water heaters in a recirculating system, and a flat-plate heat exchanger for pool and hot tub heating.

Bean followed the technical session with a presentation that might be characterized as "visionary." Bean put the radiant industry in perspective with the economic, demographic, social and historic changes in our world. While the industry has been growing over the years, Bean's research shows that radiant heat has not gained market share. He pointed out a window of 10 to 12 more years of opportunity tied to the aging of Baby Boomers.

Bean also told the audience members that they are designing and selling HVAC systems all wrong. Instead of designing systems for buildings, Bean told the crowd it should be designing them for people. He redefined comfort in a new way and painted a picture of a future for radiant that appealed to the senses of the occupants rather than the mechanics of a building.

Prior to Siegenthaler and Bean, a RadNet Round Table breakfast, sponsored by REHAU, was packed as people joined discussions at tables with topics such as system documentation, alternative fuels, and high-mass vs. low-mass.

The RadFest trade show opened at noon Oct. 12 and ran until 7 p. m. Visitors walked the aisles among 68 booths with 59 exhibiting companies of radiant-related products and services. Three tented areas on the show floor housed a series of "Pit Stop" programs provided by the exhibitors on topics ranging from controls to water treatment.

A reception for attendees and exhibitors sponsored by IPEX and Uponor Wirsbo was held Oct. 11 after a day of meetings and before the System Showcase Awards Dinner.

Ellen and Bob " Hot Rod" Rohr, former RPA president, hosted a silent auction table for the Lowe Fund. The money goes to assist Ted Lowe of IPEX, a staunch supporter of the RPA over the years in many capacities, as he battles cancer. The Rohrs kept adding tables for the donated items, which included jackets, manifolds, controls, pumps, tools and even boilers.

Among the most unusual items were a chandelier made from IPEX tubing and a " Lowe-rider" motorcycle model made from copper pipe, valves and fittings with two Taco pumps fashioned to look like a V-twin engine. As the day neared its end, a crowd formed around the auction tables as the final bids added up to $ 5,000 for the fund.

At the System Showcase Awards Dinner, outstanding installations were honored in nine categories. The big winner of the evening was JR's Plumbing & Heating in Norwalk, Conn., for the Grove Street Plaza shopping center project. This project not only took first place in the Commercial category, it also won the Judge's Choice Award for receiving the highest overall score of the competition. This was an extra special presentation because the project also had the highest score ever awarded any project in the history of the competition.

The next regional RadFest West is planned for April 25-26, 2006, in Seattle. RPA is a nonprofit organization serving the radiant heating industry in the areas of education, certification and communication.