I read somewhere that the most prevalent machine in the world is the electric motor. I thought about that for a while and it made sense. Just look around. But then I began to wonder what the second-most prevalent machine in the world is. Turns out it’s the pump! And most pumps are connected to electric motors of one kind or another, so there you go. Throw a rock and you’ll hit a motor. Or a pump. They’re everywhere.
I worked for a manufacturers’ rep when I was first learning about hydronics. A guy I worked with was 15 years older than me. He knew that I had absolutely no training as an engineer so he took a different tack with my education. He made me close my eyes and imagine myself as a marble rolling through the pipes.
The steam seminar was to be in North Carolina, which was strange enough, that being the state where most folks only know how to say, “Heat pump, please.” It was also going to be sparsely attended. Oh, and the location was a nasty, windowless, brick-walled basement room in what used to be a hospital, but was now an office building. I immediately looked around for Jack Nicholson and Nurse Ratched. Welcome to the cuckoo’s nest.
Steam-and hot-water heating joined hands a long time ago to make up what we today call “hydronics.” Both systems run on water, and they’ve been around for hundreds of years. The Institute of Boiler and Radiation Manufacturers coined the term hydronics in 1946 to make the science of heating a building with water sound sexy — like “electronics.”
So this fella comes up to me after a hot-water seminar and tells me about a problem he's having with this copper-fintube baseboard loop he installed in this big hall with a bunch of offices. "I can't get the end hot," he said.
Gil Carlson, who was the first person to come up with many of the hydronic concepts we take
for granted today, was also my teacher. He would often say, “For a difference to be a difference, it has to make a difference.”
It’s that time of the year when we’re supposed to get ready to make a resolution or two that will last a few weeks until we slouch back into our usual routines. You know how it goes. The stationary bike sure makes for a great clothes hanger, doesn’t it?