Mark Eatherton 2013-07-03 06:31:55
The new RPA and the Uniform Solar Energy Hydronics Code. Having been involved with this industry for roughly 30 years, I have had the opportunity to perform my craft under numerous different applicable building codes. I can tell you that without a doubt, they all have at least one thing in common: protection of the final end user.The end user could be a residential owner or the owner of a large commercial property. And though all codes have the intention of providing protection for the end user, they only address the minimum safety standards. They don’t really get into the technical “meat and potatoes” details of system design, applicability and physical placement in the field. However, this is all going to change. First, a little background. Our friends and neighbors to the north came precariously close to shutting down all hydronic heating installations.This was due in part to the overall dissatisfaction of consumers with the product they were receiving. Many inconsistencies were found in the final product being delivered and consumers were not comfortable under all conditions when they were initially promised that they would be. In the field, it was like the Wild West.If you called five different contractors, you would get five different ideas of what should be done with no guarantees of performance in the end. In many cases, the systems did not perform to consumers’ expectations and they were saddled with high utility bills and poor conditions of comfort. Lawsuits were initiated by homeowners and included everybody in the chain of control of the final product, including manufacturers, distributors, Wholesalers, general contractors and the installation contractors. In an effort to circumvent the complete collapse of the Canadian hydronics industry, various industry partners came together and established an installation standard, or “hydronic code,” if you will. All the affected players provided input into the development, implementation and enforcement of this very significant code, which was known as the BC Hydronic Code. Prior to the development of this code, the actual plumbing and mechanical codes only addressed the minimum safety standards to include things such as required pressure-relief valves, temperature- and pressure-relief valves, backflow prevention devices and fuel line installation standards. This initial code eventually was adopted by the national authorities having jurisdiction, now known as the Canadian Hydronics Council, a group within the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating. The BC Hydronic Code is now known as the CSA B214 standard. It spells out the minimum installation standards required to Guarantee that the consumer is going to get what he expects as it pertains to operating efficiencies and the delivery of human comfort, along with safe operating conditions. As with all codes, it is a living document that is subject to change based on history and experience. It goes way beyond quoting the minimum safety standards and has become the gold standard as it pertains to hydronic heating installations in Canada. Many parts of this code will be incorporated into the IAPMO final code product, along with many other recognized standards. The new RPA I have always envied our neighbors to the north for the production of this substantive code and have said that the U. S. hydronics industry needs more guidance and control over the delivery of these excellent comfort systems. In fact, Dave Yates, president of York, Pa.- based F.W. Behler, and I attempted to institute some critical safety standards into a national plumbing and mechanical code many years ago as it pertains to the use of single-source, single-fluid, combination space-heating/DHW heating systems. However, our attempts to change this critical code ultimately proved futile. Enter the new Radiant Professionals Alliance. The parent organization for the new RPA is the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials. This group, which has been around since 1926 and is well respected in jurisdictions that have adopted its codes and standards, developed the Uniform Plumbing Code, Uniform Mechanical Code, Uniform Solar Energy Code, and The Uniform Swimming Pool, Spa and Hot Tub Code. These codes are required to be reviewed and changed as necessary every three years, and we are nearing the midway point of this process. The fine folks at IAPMO also realize the need for a comprehensive hydronic code and have decided to incorporate hydronic heating into the USEC, which will be known as the Uniform Solar Energy Hydronics Code. The development of the substantial code is being performed under American National Standards Institute guidelines.Strict rules must be followed in the ANSI Open Consensus Process to ensure fair and open participation by all parties concerned. In addition to the development of this code, the RPA is charged with the responsibility of training and certifying its installation and designer base. Although the certification of designers and installers is not a national requirement, it can and will be required by authorities having jurisdiction in many cases. This means that in order to obtain a permit to construct a hydronic heating system, designers and installers must take a test and show competency. The RPA certification process requires a regular updating of education by these participants. The RPA has always been about education — not just the education of the consumer, but the education of contractors and system designers. Under the new RPA, this education process also is being extended to the authority having jurisdiction. Having the greatest hydronics code in the world is virtually useless if enforcement in the field is nonexistent.If you put yourself in the shoes of the local inspector, you can understand why he might be intimidated when he walks into one of these extremely complicated mechanical rooms. It is our intent to train these authorities having jurisdiction so that when they go into the field for an inspection, they are not intimidated by complicated systems, but Rather have a very good working knowledge of them and have the consumer’s best interest in mind. In those jurisdictions where IAPMO has not yet been adopted as the primary code, the USEHC may be referenced in their current mechanical codes. In the end, it is our goal to increase consumers’ confidence levels in our members who are certified in the design and installation of these systems, which will lead to decreased installation costs and should lead to an increase in the percentage of new construction installations that incorporate this excellent technology. Our goal is to “Grow Radiant.” Won’t you please join us in our efforts?Go to www.radiantprofessionalsalliance. org and become an active member today.We have your best interests in mind. Mark Eatherton Executive Director Radiant Professionals Alliance
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