The Radiant Panel Association has announced that it's joining Air Conditioning Contractors of America and the Indoor Air Quality Association in San Antonio in February where all three associations will hold their annual conventions and share the Indoor Air Expo.
RPA is seeking to deepen the radiant pool.
"RPA is enthusiastic about the new business and networking opportunities presented by our co-location with ACCA and IAQA," said Ted Lowe, RPA executive director. "We anticipate that the synergies created by this unique conference will be felt throughout the HVAC industry for years to come."
"RPA just made sense, because we are creating the biggest source of education, networking, and learning opportunities available for all of our members," said Paul Stalknecht, ACCA president and CEO. "We are thrilled about expanding the expo and having so many contractors, suppliers, and manufacturers in one place at one time."
We think that this is a good idea, and so do many others. I posed the question to members of the Radiant Heating Trade Forum on the professional social networking site, LinkedIn. (If you're not on LinkedIn, get on.)
"I think this is an outstanding great idea," said well-known Virginia hydronic heating contractor Dan Foley. "It is a great opportunity for both RPA and ACCA to expose their membership to each other. I have the dates marked on my calendar. Congrats to Ted Lowe and Paul Stalknecht for making this happen."
"I like it ... I'd be preaching radiant cooling in a crowd of cool people ... people who get latent heat and controls — wouldn't that be fun!" said engineer, author and seminar leader Robert Bean, R.E.T., P.L. (Eng).
The one negative to the arrangement is the San Antonio, Texas, location.
"Co-locating conferences has always been attractive, but it does have its challenges," noted Larry Drake, president of Teal International Corp. and past executive director of the RPA. "RPA and ACCA could be a good fit because there is very little membership crossover while, at the same time, each offers a technology the other can benefit by.
"Unfortunately, San Antonio, Texas, is probably a very poor venue choice for the primarily hydronic heating membership of the RPA," Drake said. "Past heating conferences, including the RPA conferences, have proven that southern locations, far from the bulk of the membership and heating markets, draw very poorly. It is also why the hydronic heating industry representation shrinks substantially when [American Society of Heating, Refrigerating & Air-conditioning Engineers] moves its conference south. Sharing expenses can be advantageous, but not at the expense of poor attendance.
"Conference locations are selected one to three years ahead of time," Drake pointed out. "Most likely ACCA had already selected the location long before the co-location agreement was made. If a long-term cooperation is planned, I would hope that future locations more suitable for both parties would be selected. This was always a point of vigorous discussion when [Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association], [American Supply Association], and RPA teamed up with ISH-[North America]."
"Cooperation can't be a bad idea, can it?" said Barry LaDuke, owner of LaDuke Radiant Sales, Portland, Ore. "But whether it will produce the results each group is hoping for is what gives me hesitation. However, like Mr. Drake, I think it's a good opportunity for each trade group to see how much benefit each group brings the other.
"I also think it might be a new opportunity to 'grow the pie' by infecting the ACCA membership with an enthusiasm about radiant, LaDuke continued. The growing popularity of water-based heat distribution, i.e., geothermal or air-to-water heat pumps, might be one catalyst to cooperation since both groups have a relevant application of that technology. Along with the common interests that Mr. Bean suggests, I believe the two groups have much to talk about."
The 2011 Indoor Air Expo will be held Feb. 15-17, 2011, in San Antonio. At the same time, ACCA will conduct its 43rd Annual Conference, IAQA will hold its 14th Annual Meeting, and RPA will hold its Annual Conference.
When I covered my first RPA conference lo these many years ago, I referred to RPA contractors as the few, the proud, the elite of the heating industry. The problem is that you can't talk to the same 500 guys all the time. It hamstrings the market. RPA is moving in the right direction with this announcement.