Ont. hydronics trade back on track

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New legislation governing the Ontario College of Trades is expected to speed up the long-awaited approval for a hydronic heating trade.

On Dec. 8 the government passed Bill 70, the Building Ontario Up for Everyone Act. The omnibus bill includes significant changes to the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act and has put the hydronics trade on the fast-track, reported Martin Luymes, director of programs and relations for the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Industry of Canada (HRAI).

“The College wants to see a win so that they will be able to say to the government and to the people of Ontario: ‘Look, we did a good thing. The industry came to us, had this need, and we helped them out.’”

Bill 70 implements many of the recommendations of the Tony Dean review of the College of Trades and “for the most part, it seems to include elements that will be good for the industry,” remarked Luymes.

Unions are not happy with Bill 70. Thousands of union workers protested at the Ontario Legislature Nov. 30. They believe that it will allow unqualified people to do skilled trades work.

Hydronics trade overdue

HRAI and the Canadian Hydronics Council (CHC) have been working on a national training and certification program for residential hydronic heating system installers for several years, based on a 160-hour Northern Alberta Institute of Technology course.

However, HRAI is concerned that reliance on this program alone might put the industry in conflict with regulators where hydronic heating is part of the plumbing and/or steam-fitting trade.

The other problem, particularly in Ontario, noted Luymes, is that “as many as two thirds of the people doing infloor radiant heating are not plumbers. There was a disconnect between standard practice and the regulations, which were poorly enforced and not well known.” Hot water heating has long been part of the Ontario HVAC trade because many older homes have radiator systems.

Working with industry

On Oct. 20 the College of Trades hosted a full-day workshop to explore how to define a hydronics trade. With most stakeholders represented, including union reps for the plumbing, steam-fitting and refrigeration trades, something close to consensus was reached, reported Luymes. However, questions remain as to whether it should be grafted onto an existing trade or developed as a stand-alone program.

The next step is for OCOT to host a practical scoping exercise with a group of hydronic system installers and designers to define a typical residential hydronic heating installation and the required skills to install it.

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