By Leah Den Hartogh and Simon Blake
“If you’re part of an industry you should give back,” remarked Roy Collver, site inspector and construction administrator at SMcN Consulting and a contributing writer for Plumbing & HVAC magazine since around 1997. “It’s the thing that attracted me a lot to this industry. It was the fact that there are so many people that are willing to pitch in and just make things better.”
And we believe that Roy has done just that, which is why we have chosen to highlight him for our Industry Champions segment. He has written for this magazine since 1997 and has recently made the decision to retire from writing. We wanted to give him the proper send-off and recognition for the hard work he has put into his articles.
It was back in the 1990s that, alongside people like Barry Cunningham and Robert Bean, people tried to figure out a way to educate the industry on hydronics, “How do you get that information into a form that makes it more digestible to the tradesperson?” asked Roy.
During this time, it was known as “the new hydronics” or “modern hydronics” and it was coming to the forefront in the residential and small commercial hot water heating market. In-slab floor heating with PEX piping, modern boilers and controls and better pumps were replacing the “old hydronics” — gravity systems with cast iron radiators, which were and still are quite common in older communities, albeit with updated boilers.
A number of contractors and building owners embraced these new systems. But there was a problem, “Things were getting screwed up. People were doing things wrong, installing things incorrectly. They needed training and that’s what we did,” explained Roy. Those involved in hydronics — manufacturers, wholesalers and contractors — quickly realized that education was going to be critical if the industry was to be successful.
Rising like a phoenix
In the West, this resulted in the creation of the Foothills Hydronics Conference. People paid to attend and hear the best hot water heating experts from across North America. It was run on a bi-annual schedule, initially developed in Calgary, it soon began to rotate between Calgary and Edmonton. Manufacturers were invited to display products, but it was a small part of the event. One of the organizers and speakers in the early days was our friend Roy Collver.
The editor prior to Simon Blake, founding and long-time editor, Ron Shuker, invited Roy to write a regular column on hydronic heating advice for the magazine, then called Mechanical Buyer & Specifier. It is doubtful that either Ron or Roy realized at the time what a long and successful partnership this would be.
Roy started by explaining the basics to contractors adding hydronic heating to their offerings, many for the first time. He covered things like loop sizing and spacing, boiler sizing, controls and all the things that made up the new hydronic systems. He talked a lot about the new materials and technologies. And he talked about design because it was critical that the installing contractor understood how the system was supposed to work.
As time went on, Roy got into increasingly more complex designs and also went beyond residential to institutional, commercial and industrial systems. One project report that always stands out was the sawmill way up North in which Roy introduced readers to injection mixing systems.
For every issue, about a month before the due date, Roy and Simon would chat on the phone about his upcoming article, with the conversation often straying to a bunch of other things. Around 2015 or so, after Roy had been writing his column for almost 20 years, they realized that there was a whole new generation of contractors and technicians involved in hydronic heating and that Roy really needed to go back and revisit some of the basic topics from the early days. For a writer, this is a difficult thing to do because, typically, the day an article is published it becomes “old news.” But Roy managed to fit that in every now and again between articles on new and future hydronic technology.
As an editor of the magazine, Roy was a godsend because in all those years he seldom, if ever, missed a deadline. And as he always said to Simon, “when you retire, I retire.” He is a few years behind, but we are so very glad that he stayed for those extra few years.
When asked if there was anything else he’d like to say to his readers that might have kept up with his work for more than two decades, he said, “I would say to keep reading. There’s lots of really good writers out there doing technical stuff… Just keep reading, keep looking at all the different articles, ask questions, and write in.”