Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.
Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.

What is the future of Hydronics?

Options
I'm fascinated by the world of hydronic heating/cooling. Working for a supplier, I have started to carve my own path and learn the ins and outs of boilers and components alike. Being at the very early stages of this journey, and looking ahead at a prospective career in sales, what do you see as the future? What new technology is in the works or has begun to hit your respective areas that will become the norm 5, 10, 20 years from now? I don't presume any of you have a crystal ball, but I'm curious about the growth of the industry, whether electric/geothermal will replace fossil fueled systems sooner than we think, whether younger people are still going into the trade to replace those who are retiring, etc. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Mad Dog_2

Comments

  • HomerJSmith
    HomerJSmith Member Posts: 2,511
    edited February 2023
    Options
    What's the future of hydronics? Probably all wet. My Mom warned me if I didn't straighten up and get an education, I'd be spending my life working in hydronics. I should have listened.

    If there is a WW3, there won't be a future in hydronics. The future will be learning how to rub two sticks together for heat. Now aren't you sorry you asked?

    There's nothing wrong about being fascinated by the world of hydronic heating/cooling. Personally I'm fascinated by girls. I guess, I'm fascinated by something I really don't understand.
    Mad Dog_2MaxMercyEdTheHeaterMan
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,472
    Options
    define hydronics :)

    For me any fluid based system, boilers, solar, radiant, chilled water cooling, snowmelt, geo thermal, district systems, probably even put steam in that group. Domestic water recirculation is a hydronic loop, flow rate established by the heat loss of the loop.
    Power plants need hydronics for cooling.

    Commercial buildings will always have the need for hydronics to heat, cool, create DHW. VRV is not going to talk away all that market.

    A2WHP are breathing some new life into hydronics, being fluid based systems. I would certainly get up to speed on that technology, both the unit itself and the proper applications for them.

    Boiler sales have plunged around the world, but all the major boiler manufacturers are putting 10's of millions into HP development. Keep an eye on the players and opportunties in that technology.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    egberttaysonMad Dog_2EdTheHeaterMan
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,241
    Options
    The future is very bright 🌞.   Like the medical field, we will never be fully replaced...automated yes! I think all the State of the art stuff is here NOW...just needs to be perfected. MD
    MikeAmann
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,552
    Options
    Sadly, I think the future for any fossil fuel-fired heating equipment looks bleak. I believe it's based on the premise that electricity is less hurtful to the environment, which I believe to be wrong.
    Hydronics are the most comfortable heating method, safe to operate, and very efficient.
    Hot Rod is right, there is big money being invested into air to water heat pumps
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    MikeAmannMad Dog_2SuperTech
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,565
    Options
    I think the future of hot-water hydronics is commercial, district heating, and snowmelt. It's shrinking quickly for residential in favor of heat pumps and geothermal.
    Retired and loving it.
    Mad Dog_2SuperTech
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,408
    Options
    My crystal ball says changes in the distribution, sales, and installation/service models will affect your career more than traditional fuels vs electric and hydronic vs forced air.
    Disruptive change is coming to this industry.
    Mad Dog_2HomerJSmithSuperTech
  • Dave Carpentier
    Dave Carpentier Member Posts: 604
    Options
    There are probably some places that could use solar thermal, but I dont imagine they get much snow.
    A good way to make heat for a pool or dhw in the more southerly lats perhaps ?

    Im still trying to figure out if they're going to try migrating bits of the existing natgas piping network to hydrogen at some point.
    30+ yrs in telecom outside plant.
    Currently in building maintenance.
    Mad Dog_2exqheat
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,241
    Options
    I am not THAT concerned because It is a "Pipe dream" (pun intended).  I attended a lecture last month at my energy efficiency group meeting and we had a brilliant PhD
    Speak. A reknowed industry expert.   A man who is an admitted 75 yr old liberal, tree hugger (his words).  He very confidently told us (no surprise to me) that as noble as this goal is, it is not AT ALL practical anytime soon...next 40-50 years.  Think of all the gas and oil boilers, furnaces, et cetera and the MILLIONS of miles of installed piping buried behind old plaster (lots of asbestos) walls JUST IN NYC alone!  You're going to rip all this out? Really?  Where's THAT $$ coming from?  Too costly, too disruptive. Where do you put the occupants in an overly crowded city with great housing deficits already?  Thats one huge issue.  #2) our existing  electric infrastructure (much underground) CANNOT handle the proposed loads of all the new electrical demand NOR can the buildings wires.  Its an interesting idea that can slowly be added in to the mix over the years,, but forced and fast implementation will cause catastrophic hardship and destruction.  Don't even get me started on Electric batteries. Too soon. Too fast. Too much. Mad 🐕 Dog 
    clammyexqheatSuperTech
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,113
    Options
    I think hydronics and steam will sooner or later sadly end up like the dodo bird gone like ancient Mayan history being the smarter and wiser one have all the fantasy worked out on paper or do they ? Does it works in practical application ,let’s look at that wagon w everybody in at its heavier then the cart or wheels can handle or the road for that fact . The major fact is that the lowest possible economical group will be the most effected not the wealthy they will still be on fossil fuel and they will work out there deal to get some one else to pay mainly us . I think as time goes hot water will and has been get edged out of the new home market . Everybody wants it all in one basket and builders and gc s what the highest profit in there pocket answer air based system sure they use more electric but the future say electric will be produced from one arse if you believe that I’m selling stock in dirt and air . I highly doubt the great thinkers of previous eras would believe such ,the division of the human condition and lack of unity and separation of complete groups by a pin on label is further manipulation to divide humans isolate them to more easier conquer and rule . Time goes on but the craving for some to force there will on the masses of humanity continues remember it’s easy to win when you divide the groups and feed them miss information to separate them further . Used by gangis khan to conquer the world ions ago . Peace and good luck always based on reality clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    Mad Dog_2EzzyTHomerJSmithSuperTech
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 2,331
    Options
    For houses worst issue with hydronics is dearth of young people to service them.
    Folks who know enough work on bigger projects.
    Mad Dog_2
  • pedmec
    pedmec Member Posts: 998
    Options
    It's not going anywhere. it might become a little more of a nitch market than what it is now in 50 years but electricity, without furthur advancements in materials technology, will never take over completely. there are just way too many obstacles to overcome. its going to take a huge leap forward to not ever need hydronics
    Mad Dog_2
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,472
    Options
    Does it matter if it is a furnace, boiler or 2028 Lexus? They are all going to need specialized mechanics.
    Or maybe robots will be doing the repairs by then🤩
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • exqheat
    exqheat Member Posts: 188
    Options
    It makes no sense to destroy your hydronic system. It will be needed as a back up when the power goes out. A small generator will heat your house. When you put in heat pumps, you will need a bigger generator. In multi family buildings that are hydronic, it makes little sense to go with heat pumps, in the first place. It will be a maintenance disaster and very expensive to install. Environmentally heat pumps make less sense as the electricity will be made from fossil fuels. Where is it cost effective to remove the existing hydronic back up?
    John Cockerill Exquisite Heat www.exqheat.com Precisions boiler control from indoor reset.
  • JakeCK
    JakeCK Member Posts: 1,416
    Options
    I have every intention of switching over to an a2whp at some point. Idk if I'll keep the boiler as backup. By the time I finally get one I might have already upgraded the insulation in the house and might not need a boiler. It is already to the point that at design temp the average swt is close to what a hp can deliver. 

    I have absolutely no intention installing mini splits or forced air. But I can't control what the next idiot who owns this house does. Maybe if I get the design and install right the next homeowner won't feel any need to mess with the system except to replace parts when they fail. 
    SuperTechMikeAmann
  • HomerJSmith
    HomerJSmith Member Posts: 2,511
    edited February 2023
    Options
    I predict that as the economy declines and people become more distressed the politicians will repeal licensing laws to increase competition to lower wages (prices) for the struggling consumer. I also see guild like organizations forming to guaranteeing knowledgeable quality workmanship. Kinda like "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval".

    Los Angeles had a snow storm, Northern California had cold snap lasting 4 months, one storm after another. That's the problem with solar. It's a pay as you go system. It works when you have the Sun and doesn't when you don't have it. There are parts of the country where the Polar Express is dominant and that puts a real strain on pay as you go energy sources. Gas and oil have intrinsic stored energy. It is not pay as you go. The idiotic "green solution" is a pipe dream that will not work and manufacturing based upon pay as you go energy sources will fail when it becomes apparent that it is not a 24/7 secure source of energy that one can depend upon. The cost of pay as you go systems to store energy is prohibitively expensive in terms of initial costs and environmental costs. The history of innovation is cheaper and less time consuming (conservation of time). Innovation comes from the private sector, not from government dictates. When the government dictates there is a hidden cost to the consumer and a benefit to some favored group. Think Solyndra.

    Hydronics is here to stay. The path that hydronics takes will be either a failed one or more advantageous one for society as a whole. The future is yet to be determined.

    Yes, there will be a niche market for alternate energy sources (green energy), just like for Tesla EVs.
    exqheatSuperTech
  • D107
    D107 Member Posts: 1,860
    edited February 2023
    Options
    HO here. Involved with local sustainability committee in town. Preliminary reports--not fully verified-- are that in order to receive a heat pump grant Con Ed etc is requiring hydronic boilers to be ripped out along with possibly radiators and baseboard. All that to ensure that the heat pump installation is 'irreversible'.

    Firstly, we know that Air Source Heat Pumps can work with hydronic systems. Why should homeowners incur the expense of a radiator rip-out (or at least a disconnect and capping if that will be allowed) and then have to put in new forced air systems or adapt their existing AC duct systems?

    I know on paper it seems far more efficient to standardize ductwork for both AC and heating, but along with the smart thermostats and these grants, perhaps we're ceding too much control to utilities and the brave new world. Especially when in certain areas, the electric costs are so high that residents are likely to see their HVAC costs go higher rather than lower with the heat pump technology.
    exqheatSuperTech
  • HomerJSmith
    HomerJSmith Member Posts: 2,511
    Options
    Low Temp, low temp, low temp.
    Dave H_2 I can agree with partly what you say. Why not lower the sys water temp to 35 deg? Because you can't get blood out of a turnip or you can't get more BTUs out unless they are there to begin with.

    D107, who has the money to do that kind of renovation in a Depression, err, I mean just a transitory imaginary Recession. Gulp!
    exqheatSuperTechD107
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 1,917
    Options
    The hydronic vs heat pump debate isn’t the debate. It’s hydronic vs. forced air, and forced air has hydronics on the ropes in America. For hydronic to survive it seems to me it must overcome the lack of cooling, which has enormous market share, and build much more value. Builders are in the game to make money, so they need to offer homes with features that Americans are willing to pay for and higher interest rates make that even harder. Right now, the % of Americans willing to pay for ductwork is much higher than the % willing to pay for ductwork + some kind of hydronic system. Superior products don’t always reach the mainstream. 
    HomerJSmithSuperTechD107
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,956
    Options
    Funny commercial buildings have HW and Chilled Water Hydronic's!
    also water source heat pumps where a minimum water temp needs to be maintained. 
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 1,917
    Options
    @pecmsg they’re great for large commercial buildings! They scale up beautifully. 
  • exqheat
    exqheat Member Posts: 188
    Options
    Hydro air will serve the market well. Indoor reset will minimize fuel use to precise btu replacement. If electricity is used it will be for extended circulation of water and air at desired temperatures.
    John Cockerill Exquisite Heat www.exqheat.com Precisions boiler control from indoor reset.
  • HomerJSmith
    HomerJSmith Member Posts: 2,511
    Options
    Hot_water_fan that's a good point you're making. There are parts of the country where cooling is in demand. In those areas furnaces with A/C perform very well. There are other part of the country where heating is the only concern and hydronics perform very well. I think it all boils down to one's needs and the cost of each sys.

    I haven't thought about it, until your post, but I think that I would like to know how many buildings in the nation have hydrionic sys and how many are forced air and a graphical map showing the density of each. I suspect warmer climes would have more furnace and furnaces with A/C. Interesting.
    Hot_water_fan
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 1,917
    edited February 2023
    Options
    @HomerJSmith I saw it recently - I believe ~95% of US homes do not have hydronics. ~5% have hydronics, but some portion of those have ductwork too. I don’t know how many, just many neighbors began with just radiators then added ductwork to our old houses. AC has market share of 90+% if I recall correctly. It’s not all centrally ducted. Agreed it’s definitely not evenly geographically distributed. 

  • JakeCK
    JakeCK Member Posts: 1,416
    edited February 2023
    Options
    If I were to build a house today It would have hydronics with an a2whp and fan coils for each room for true zoning for both cooling and heating. I would love to have heated floors but on a new build I would have the house so well insulated that the swt would probably be too low to make it worth while.

    And honestly I can't imagine it being much more expensive, if more expensive at all than a burnt air system.

    Honestly running a set of 1/2" pex to fan coils in each room would probably be cheaper/easier then stuffing duct work into the walls. Separate heat recovery unit with dedicated ducts for fresh air. 


  • Sal Santamaura
    Sal Santamaura Member Posts: 532
    Options
    A number of the comments in this thread use the words "always" and "never." Both are perilous predictions. :)
    Larry Weingarten
  • D107
    D107 Member Posts: 1,860
    edited February 2023
    Options
    So @hot_rod with my aging central AC system, is there a viable replacement cooling system where I can use my existing cast iron rad system OR existing ductwork, avoid the standard 3-ton central AC system?
  • FStephenMasek
    FStephenMasek Member Posts: 88
    Options

    That's the problem with solar. It's a pay as you go system. It works when you have the Sun and doesn't when you don't have it.

    My company inspected a large solar electric plant (curved mirrors, high temperature oil) which in reality used the natural gas boilers often. It has been or is being demolished, to be replaced with photovoltaic panels and giant lithium batteries. What could go wrong.....?
    Author of Illustrated Practical Asbestos: For Consultants, Contractors, Property Managers & Regulators
  • HomerJSmith
    HomerJSmith Member Posts: 2,511
    edited February 2023
    Options
    Wait till those lithium batteries need replacing, big, big $$$. And...Photovoltaic has a limited life span, furthermore, where's all that silver coming from? I understand it's not recoverable. Batteries perform best at moderate temperatures. Performance goes down as the temperature goes down.
    Ya. What could go wrong? The engineers of the Titanic, "We'll deal with that when we have a problem."
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 1,917
    Options
    Guys, solar PV is an established, bankable technology which is why utilities are spending money installing them at the GW scale. Unless we work for power merchants, it’s not our concern. It’s cheap power, pure and simple. 
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,472
    Options
    D107 said:
    So @hot_rod with my aging central AC system, is there a viable replacement cooling system where I can use my existing cast iron rad system OR existing ductwork, avoid the standard 3-ton central AC system?
    Sure, why not? What condition is the duct work in. A qualified duck inspection and calculation might be a good first step

    A load calc, blower door, and overall inspection and calculation of the loads ASSE the home stands today

    There is no way around a dual system if you want to keep radiators and also want cooling. Central air or ductless options 
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    D107
  • D107
    D107 Member Posts: 1,860
    edited February 2023
    Options
    @hot_rod Forgive my ignorance, what type of system are you suggesting? Don't want to sidetrack this thread but assuming we can't use cast iron rads, the only ducted systems I know would be

    1-standard central air, (directly replacing existing 3-ton attic unit)
    2-air-source heat pump using existing ductwork (not sure I can get funding for just cooling)
    3-mini split system?? (non-ducted)
  • HomerJSmith
    HomerJSmith Member Posts: 2,511
    Options
    Hot_water_fan, if it is bankable it's because of monopolistic capture. Monopoly + a captured needy buyer.
  • JakeCK
    JakeCK Member Posts: 1,416
    Options
    hot_rod said:

    A qualified duck inspection and calculation might be a good first step

    🦆 Qualified Duck Inspector? Is that a career option? Lol
  • JakeCK
    JakeCK Member Posts: 1,416
    Options
    @D107 There are hydronic fan coils that that can either be used in a centralized duct system but also individual fan coils that can do heating and cooling. 
    D107
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 1,917
    Options
    @HomerJSmith not in Texas! They build to serve demand, it’s not even utility owned. It’s a huge market. This is an established industry that lowers our rates.  
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,472
    Options
    JakeCK said:

    If I were to build a house today It would have hydronics with an a2whp and fan coils for each room for true zoning for both cooling and heating. I would love to have heated floors but on a new build I would have the house so well insulated that the swt would probably be too low to make it worth while.

    And honestly I can't imagine it being much more expensive, if more expensive at all than a burnt air system.

    Honestly running a set of 1/2" pex to fan coils in each room would probably be cheaper/easier then stuffing duct work into the walls. Separate heat recovery unit with dedicated ducts for fresh air. 


    That would be a good thing if you could heat your home with radiant panels running 80SWT. But you will not get that warm toe effect :)
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream