Hydronics, or heating with water as a heat transfer medium, is a natural fit for plumbing contractors interested in larger jobs, higher margins and reduced competition.
You can differentiate yourself — hydronics requires a knowledge of gas/electric heating and plumbing and pumps. Hydronics contractors are considered the cream of the crop. Offering hydronics sets you apart. Moreover, if no one has claimed the position in your market, you can become the radiant specialist. It will set you apart from the rest of the crowd.
You can reduce the competition! There are lots of plumbing contractors. There are lots of HVAC contractors who focus on forced air. But, there are not nearly as many hydronics contractors. Some might argue that this is because there are not nearly as many hydronics projects. Not to go economist on you, but Say’s Law says supply creates its own demand. In other words, more radiant contractors will result in more radiant projects. Flipped on its head, this is like saying there are not enough qualified radiant contractors today, which means you will face less competition when you become one.
You can make more money — radiant offers a superior level of winter comfort, but it does cost more. Think along the lines of the price for a full kitchen remodel. Of course, radiant is better for your bottom line than a remodel. Lots of material is required and all of that material carries margin. This means that you will amass a lot more gross profit dollars for each radiant job even if you stick with your standard margins.
In addition, radiant gives you the ability to sell unique products and solutions. It’s not just heated towel racks. You can offer snow melt driveways and sidewalks. You can even offer radiant cooling today. And forget about the radiators in grandma’s house. The radiant industry has developed a host of sleek, aesthetically pleasing designs that offer artistry as well as functionality.
You already know water
While radiant scares many forced air contractors, it should not scare plumbers. It involves heating water, which you already know and it involves moving water around the structure, which you know as well. Granted, there’s more to it, but you can learn the rest.
You can also take advantage of a multitude of resources. For starters, membership in the Radiant Professionals Alliance (RPA) is only $300 per year. The RPA gives you access to all sorts of resources, including the ability to tap into Mark Eatherton, who may be the most knowledgeable individual in the field, technically. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I sit on the RPA Board, which mostly means I get exposed to the progress the RPA is making.
Because domestic radiant manufacturers are working to develop the market, they all offer training. They offer lots and lots of training. If you want to learn about the field, the resources are in place to help.
The time to start is now
Radiant is complex. That’s a benefit. It keeps out the part timers, handymen and DIYers. And, there’s new building codes, an ANSI standard, and certification coming. However, because it is complex, you will face a learning curve. As mentioned, there are educational and support resources available, but you will still need to take the time to learn the field. Hydronics is not something you should just jump into.
Block an hour a day to learn about radiant. Read Mark Eatherton’s and Dave Yates’ back columns in CONTRACTOR. Join the RPA and attend the webinars. Read their online handbook. Attend Comfortech in September and sit in on the hydronics classes. In January attend the RPA meeting at the AHR Show. It’s imperative you get to know other radiant professionals and study their work.
If you find it harder to turn a profit than to turn a wrench, you need the Service Roundtable. For help with the business of plumbing and other contracting, there is no better or more affordable resource than the Service Roundtable. Call 877.262.3341 or click ServiceRoundtable.com. Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable, contracting’s largest business alliance.