Amateurs & Professionals

Talk about a song to cheer you right up..

“Banapple Gas” comes from Cat Stevens‘ 1975 album Numbers (A Pythagorean Theory Tale).  The very first concert I ever attended was Cat’s Numbers Tour the following summer – his last tour before becoming Yusaf Islam. Say what you will about that, but there’s no denying Cat Stevens was one of the major talents of the 70′s.

And speaking of numbers, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time chances are you’ve read a favorite quote from my ol’ pappy –

“It’s good to know how, but it’s better to know why, because those who know how will always work for those who know why.”

The old man was a tradesman of considerable skill, but he was an even better businessman.  His business made money.

And one of the biggest reasons why his business made money was the he did the math.

“Doing the math” takes many forms in our trade – from heat loss to proper boiler selection to accurate pipe sizing and circulator selection.  Knowing “how” to do the math is great, but knowing “why” the numbers are what they are, and what the numbers mean and why they’re important is even better.

Take heat loss, for instance.  We’ve said it before many times in this blog, but it’s a message that doesn’t wear out – you gotta do a heat loss to really know what the heck the house really needs.

We have a heat loss class that we put on at the factory.  The program starts with students looking over the blueprints of a 2,700 square foot home being built in an area with an outdoor design temperature of 7 degrees.  We ask the class to make their best estimation – based on their years of experience in the field – of what the heat loss of the structure might be. Those estimates have ranged from 60,000 BTUH all the way to 125,000 BTUH.

The class then uses the IBR H-22 Heat Loss Calculation guide to manually perform a heat loss analysis.

What’s the load of the house?

An even 30,000 BTUH.


Bottom line – there’s a fundamental difference between professionals and amateurs:

Professionals do the math.  Amateurs guess.

Once heard a guy in Massachusetts say if a house was built north of the Mass Pike (that’s Interstate 90 for your outliers), then he presumes a heat load of 30 BTUH per square foot.  If the house is south of the Mass Pike he presumes a load of 20 BTUH per square foot.

“That’s a fool-proof rule of thumb right there,” he told me.

A friend of mine built a house about 2 miles north of the Mass Pike a few years ago.  With this logic, if he had simply found a lot 3 miles to the south he could have cut his heating bills by one-third.

Taco has just posted a brand-new eLearning class on the FloPro Team website.  It’s called Hydronic Design – It All Starts With Heat Loss.  It’s a 14-part program that dives headlong into the art and science of doing the math.  You’ll learn all the steps of heat loss using the tried and true (and conservative) IBR heat loss method, and can download all the necessary charts and forms needed to perform a heat loss analysis the right way.  Click here to check it out. It’ll help you understand what the numbers mean, where they come from and why they are what they are.  And it’ll make the math easy.

Doing the math is way better than relying on the so-called “rule-of-thumb.”

A “rule-of-thumb,” friends, is nothing more than a fancy guess.

And professionals don’t guess.  Amateurs guess.

Professionals do the math.

And the math – much like the truth – will set you free!

Just like “Jzero.”

Get either one of those tunes out of your head today.

If you can…

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