RPA and the Uniform Solar Energy Code
Building competence and opportunities for installers
What are codes for? Depending on individual points of view, the answers can vary, but most everyone gets around to indicating that they exist in order to ensure the health and safety of building occupants. Construction codes often do much more than this, though. At times, they provide regulation to an industry, provide a level playing field, or provide a much needed starting point for projects and the individuals who make them happen. In some cases, the codes help establish a baseline and foundation for an entire industry.
The Radiant Professionals Alliance is an organization dedicated to the advancement in the use and proper installation of hydronic heating and cooling systems. In an effort to serve this mission, the RPA was intimately involved in the development/redevelopment of the IAPMO Uniform Solar Energy Code by providing their expertise and guidance to the development of comprehensive hydronics provision. In the development of these provisions, it was the RPA’s intent to include anything that utilizes water for the transportation of energy, be it for heating or cooling in all settings, including residential as well as commercial.
The resulting Uniform Solar Energy Hydronics Code has made its way through the code development process and is now available. It should be noted that the Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC) also has provisions in it pertaining to the application of hydronics. This code is nearing publication, and when completed, a Technical Correlating Committee will make certain that the USEHC and the UMC match in all of their related code requirements as it pertains to the application of hydronic heating and cooling systems. However, the USEHC will delve into hydronics in a much more detailed and rigorous level.
One of the advantages of codifying radiant and hydronics is that consumer confidence will be significantly increased. In a field that has seen little in the way of formal regulation, the USEHC provides a framework of minimum standards that the industry needs in order to further validate the use of hydronic systems and ensure their proper installation.
The intent of the RPA and this code is to increase the number of installations that incorporate radiant and hydronics, create a high degree of confidence in these systems, and put more people to work installing one of the world’s most highly regarded comfort systems — radiant heating and cooling. This benefits not only the consumers, but also the contractors who install the systems and the manufacturers of the various system components and piping.
To further meet the need of building confidence in hydronic systems and putting people to work installing them, the RPA teamed up with ASSE to develop the ASSE 19000 Professional Qualification Standard. This series of standards is intended to do just that by providing an ANSI standard that defines what competent individuals involved in the design and installation of hydronic heating and cooling systems are expected to be able to do on the job. Specifically, the ASSE 19210 Professional Qualification standard for Hydronic Heating and Cooling System Installers is intended to train and certify individuals in the proper installation and operation of these systems.
Developing an ANSI-accredited professional qualification standard that comprehensively covers the job functions on a particular line of work is a challenge. To do so, a committee of experts must be assembled that have an understanding of the systems and components that are being covered, but must also have a great understanding of what installers need to do and understand in order to install them correctly. As stated previously, there is a lack of truly qualified installers in the field installing hydronic systems and, as a result, many systems are poorly installed and do not operate efficiently. The task of the committee is to draft a professional qualification standard aimed at rectifying that fact.
Once the standard was drafted and accredited, the work continued. ASSE had to develop program guidelines that would set the rules for the program. These guidelines include qualifications for schools and instructors, requirements for curriculum, and provisions that govern the program’s certification process. Essentially, the guidelines are the rules everyone involved in the program agrees to and abides by and they provide a black and white backbone for the program.
As the guidelines were being developed, test development activities were also underway. This part of the process can be the most painstaking due to the level of detail and importance that is placed upon it. After all, the exam is the tool that will be used to verify is someone has achieved the level of competence needed to adequately perform the job. Another group was assembled to develop and review exam items. The items were then vetted and tested before they were used in the initial exams.
Now that the program is up and running, the RPA is offering classes to installers for the 19210 program and helping the first wave of hydronic professionals get certified. In addition to classes for installers, RPA is offering train-the-trainer classes for experts interested in teaching this program. The RPA is excited to help take radiant and hydronics businesses to the next level.
To help increase skills, expertise, and marketability of hydronics professionals by getting them certified to the ASSE 19210 Hydronic Heating and Cooling Installer Professional Qualification Standard. During their 24-hour training and certification program, participants learn about hydronic and radiant heating and cooling systems and installation in a systematic way that mirrors how systems are installed in the real world. Planning projects, understanding and selecting critical system components, proper installation techniques, code requirements, system commissioning, project documentation and more will be covered, ending with a 100-question examination.
In the last curriculum revision in January 2017, the format of the course was extensively modified to better reflect how hydronic systems are designed and installed. The new format helps reinforce where the various components of the system should be located and continually reinforces what has already been covered. The course focuses and builds upon the three primary pieces of any hydronic system – the energy source, distribution piping, and delivery of heating and cooling. The concepts and components for these three pieces, as well as all of the system components in between, are covered in great detail. After establishing a basic understanding of hydronic systems and their proper installation, related topics such as fluid characteristics, combustion, and code requirements are discussed. Finally, the course moves to an exhaustive discussion on radiant applications that builds upon what has been already learned.
Becoming certified to ASSE 19210 is a major step towards distinguishing the true hydronic pros from those that really don’t know what they are doing. It is a great way for an installer or contractor to set themselves apart from their competition. However, there are other benefits besides just marketing. One of the primary reason this certification even exists is because all stakeholders agreed that, although radiant and hydronic installations are great, it hurts the industry as a whole if those installations are done poorly and do not work properly. Becoming certified or getting your staff certified helps ensure that the work you do is top notch and your customers will be happy. As these installations go well and the owners who paid to have them installed notice the level of comfort and efficiency that comes with properly installed systems, nothing but good things come from it – word of mouth is positive, your reputation grows, the number of systems that get installed go up, complaints go down, and business improves.
For individual installers, certification allows you to separate yourself from others in the job market. If you are looking for a job or looking to switch jobs, it is beneficial to have additional, verified skills to present a potential employer. By showing that you are certified, you not only give yourself a competitive advantage because you are more highly skilled, but you show an additional level of initiative and foresight that employers like to see.
When you enroll, all of your class materials are included in the registration fee. This includes the Modern Hydronics Handbook, Third Edition, as well as the Radiant I and II Heating and Cooling Manual eBooks. RPA also provides a study guide for its students as well.
As you can see, the RPA has been very busy the last few years trying to dramatically improve the hydronics industry from top to bottom. They are taking the steps necessary to do for the hydronics industry what professional qualification standards and training and certification programs have done for the backflow industry. For more information, please visit www.radiantprofessionalsalliance.org.