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Heat Pumps
HVAC Design

Mastering Hydronic System Design

John Siegenthaler • Last updated 06/2023

4.6/5 (view ratings)
295 students
10 modules
27:27 hours
119 assignments

Course description

This is a rare opportunity to take an advanced hydronic design course with John Siegenthaler. The course provides a detailed discussion of the design elements underlying modern hydronic heating systems. It presents both design concepts and design tools for optimizing hydronic heating systems in a variety of contemporary applications. It is not meant as an introduction course. Rather, it is structured to combine a student’s existing knowledge, with new approaches and analytical methods that are specifically focused on the cutting-edge of hydronic heating. The goal is to equip students to design state-of-the-art systems for residential and light commercial buildings that deliver unsurpassed comfort, efficiency, and reliability.

Learn how to design state-of-the-art systems for residential and light commercial buildings that deliver unsurpassed comfort, efficiency and reliability.

Textbook - "Modern Hydronic Heating" (Not Included)

You'll need access to a copy of John's "Modern Hydronic Heating" textbook for this course, any version of this book is okay and there are many copies available on Amazon at low cost.

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Learning Objectives

Participants in this course will upon completion of this course, be able to:

  • Learn the design elements underlying modern hydronic heating systems.
  • Master design concepts and design tools for optimizing hydronic heating systems in a variety of contemporary applications.

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Check out a free preview of the course by clicking the button below. This is a live assignment from the course and will give you a good sense for what the course will be like.

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Full course outline

Welcome - Orientation Materials

This course is self-paced, so you don’t need to be logged in at any specific time. You can get started immediately after you enroll and the course materials will remain in your account with minimum guaranteed access for 12 months (1 year) after enrollment.

  • Download the Software: Hydronics Design Studio 2.0 (Trial Version)
  • Textbook Options (.pdf)
  • Set up email notifications and your student profile
  • Introduce yourself on the discussion board
Module 1 - Welcome & Fundamentals

This week we'll provide a course overview and review the benefits of hydronic heating, including: superior comfort, ability to zone, low distribution energy use, minimally invasive installation. I'll discuss why we might opt for water versus air, and where the most common mistakes are made by hydronic designers.

  • Welcome to Class & Introduction (25:08 minutes)
  • What you're going to learn + my philosophy of radiant design (26:01 minutes)
  • The benefits of hydronic systems (28:08 minutes)
  • Why I think this class is important (15:38 minutes) Preview
  • Read Chapter 1 in the textbook
  • OPTIONAL: Visit to view archives and related content
  • WEEK 1 HOMEWORK: Chapter 1 Exercises 1-10 (.DOC) (.doc)
  • Solutions for Week 1 Homework (.pdf)
Module 2 - Hydronic Heat Sources

In this module we'll lay a foundation and explore the characteristics of various heating sources. Topics include: Conventional boilers (efficiency and boiler protection), Mod/con boilers, Electric boilers (when are they applicable?), Hydronic heat pump characteristics, Capacity & COP versus operating temperatures, Solar thermal collectors (design considerations, practical combisystems), and General heat source design considerations (head loss, buffering, protection against temperature extremes, and safety).

  • Introduction to Hydronic Heat Sources (41:26 minutes)
  • Modulating / Condensing Boilers (27:58 minutes)
  • Heat Pumps (30:27 minutes)
  • Solar Thermal Collectors (36:38 minutes)
  • Wood-fired & Pellet-fired Boilers (32:19 minutes)
  • Read Chapter 3 in the textbook
  • RESOURCE: Download and read issues 9 & 10 of Caleffi's 'Idronics'
  • WEEK 2 HOMEWORK: Chapter 3 Exercises 5-15 (.DOC) (.doc)
  • Solutions for Week 2 Homework (don't cheat yourself by looking at this before you do the assignment) (.pdf)
  • Extra Homework
Module 3 - Pipes, Fittings, and Valves

Good designers need to know the resources available to them. In the context of hydronics, there are thousands of available options for piping, fittings, and valves. This module discusses specific types of pipe and fittings that are appropriate for hydronic systems. It also covers both standard and specialized valves use in hydronic systems. Design tips are provided that help you avoid selection and placement errors. The knowledge this module provides on the "building blocks" will be used to assemble complete systems in later modules.

  • Introduction to Pipes, Fittings, Valves (40:59 minutes)
  • Fittings (10:38 minutes)
  • Pipe Expansion (12:03 minutes)
  • Valves (14:57 minutes)
  • Specialty Valves used in Hydronic Systems (12:21 minutes) Preview
  • More Specialty Valves, including Zone Valves (39:49 minutes)
  • Valve and fitting information from Nibco
  • Valve and fitting information from RWV
  • Read Chapter 5 in the textbook
  • WEEK 3 HOMEWORK: Chapter 5 Exercises 1-10 (.DOC) (.doc)
  • Solutions for Week 3 Homework (don't cheat yourself by looking at this before you do the assignment) (.pdf)
Module 4 - Fluid Flow Through Piping

This week has a lot of content about the nature of fluid flow through piping. These are the building blocks of the calculations we'll be funning in subsequent modules.

  • Properties of water (43:29 minutes)
  • Read Chapter 4 in the textbook
  • Introduction to fluid flow through piping (16:54 minutes)
  • Static pressure in hydronic systems (15:50 minutes)
  • Calculating head loss (33:04 minutes)
  • Hydraulic resistance (21:24 minutes)
  • Operating cost of a hydronic circuit (11:23 minutes)
  • Read Chapter 6 in the textbook
  • Software demo - so you can start getting comfortable using it (24:41 minutes)
  • WEEK 4 HOMEWORK: Chapter 6 Exercises 1-5, 15, 16 (.doc)
  • Solutions for Week 4 Homework (don't cheat yourself by looking at this before you do the assignment) (.pdf)
Module 5 - Circulators

In this module you'll learn: Common types of circulators (PSC, ECM), Review of circulation performance (pump curve), Design techniques to avoid circulation cavitation, Hydraulic separation, Applying variable speed circulators (constant and proportional delta P control), and Circulator selection.

  • Wet rotor circulators (23:46 minutes)
  • 'Head' within the context of circulators (28:21 minutes)
  • ECM Circulators (14:32 minutes)
  • How programming of ECM circulators allows for valve-based zoning (24:11 minutes)
  • Circulator efficiency (12:05 minutes)
  • Cavitation (18:22 minutes)
  • Hydraulic Separation (56:23 minutes)
  • Note
  • WATCH: Caleffi animated video
  • Read
  • WEEK 5 HOMEWORK: Chapter 7 Exercises 1-9 (.doc)
  • WEEK 5 HOMEWORK: Chapter 7 Exercises 1-9 (PDF) (.pdf)
  • Solutions for Week 5 Homework (don't cheat yourself by looking at this before you do the assignment) (.pdf)
Module 6 - Expansion Tanks & Air Elimination

Heat emitters and the distribution systems that feed them are at the heart of hydronic design. In this module you'll learn to master low temperature heat emitter options: Panel radiators, Radiant floors, Radiant ceilings and walls, Homerun distribution systems, 2-pipe distribution systems.

  • Expansion of Water (17:48 minutes)
  • Sizing diaphragm type expansion tanks (25:16 minutes)
  • Placement of expansion tanks within the system (12:45 minutes)
  • Air removal devices (28:44 minutes)
  • Dirt separating devices (28:07 minutes)
  • Read
  • WEEK 6 HOMEWORK: Chapter 12 Exercises 3-10 (.doc)
  • Solutions for Week 6 homework (don't cheat yourself my looking at this before you do the assignment) (.pdf)
Module 7 - Heat Emitters

Heat emitters and the distribution systems that feed them are at the heart of hydronic design. In this module you'll learn to master low temperature heat emitter options: Panel radiators, Radiant floors, Radiant ceilings and walls, Homerun distribution systems, 2-pipe distribution systems.

  • Baseboard (52:32 minutes)
  • Panel Radiators (19:12 minutes)
  • Fan-coils (23:58 minutes)
  • Slab-on-grade floor heating (51:21 minutes)
  • Thin-slab floor heating (18:25 minutes)
  • Above floor tube & plate system (22:23 minutes)
  • Is radiant floor heating always the answer? (13:40 minutes)
  • Site built radiant ceilings (27:32 minutes)
  • Thermal equilibrium (18:02 minutes)
  • Read Chapter 8 in the textbook
  • WEEK 7 HOMEWORK: Chapter 8 Exercises 1-5 (.doc)
  • Solutions for Week 7 homework (.pdf)
Module 8 - Control Concepts and Hardware

Controls are critical to overall system efficiency. This week we'll discuss: Control terminology, Temperature setpoint control, Differential temperature control, Outdoor reset control, Mixing strategies (3-way and 4-way motorized valves, and injection mixing), and Using relays and switches to create logic.

  • Closed loop control systems and control concepts (56:44 minutes)
  • Controller output signals (22:12 minutes)
  • Regulating output of heat emitters (34:22 minutes)
  • Controlling heat output using flow rate (09:53 minutes)
  • Switches and relays (37:53 minutes)
  • Hydronic zoning controls (32:58 minutes)
  • Other common controllers (23:29 minutes)
  • A survey of mixing methods (44:09 minutes)
  • Read Chapter 9 in the textbook
  • WEEK 8 HOMEWORK: Chapter 9 Exercises
  • WEEK 8 HOMEWORK: Chapter 9 Exercises (.doc file) (.doc)
  • Solutions for Week 8 Homework (.pdf)
Module 9 - Distribution Systems

This week we will go through a complete system design for a basic residential system using panel radiators, indirect water heater, mod/con boiler, buffer tank. Schematics, calculations, layout, controls.

  • Series distribution systems (11:22 minutes)
  • Single circuit / mult-zone systems (27:59 minutes)
  • Parallel / direct return piping (11:07 minutes)
  • Homerun distribution systems (16:01 minutes)
  • Primary / secondary piping (17:20 minutes)
  • Hydraulic separation (12:13 minutes)
  • Read Chapter 11 in the textbook
  • WEEK 9 HOMEWORK: Chapter 11 Exercises 1-10
  • Week 9 HOMEWORK: Chapter 11 Exercises 1-10 (.doc file) (.doc)
  • Solutions for Week 9 Homework (.pdf)
Module 10 - System Examples

This week we will look at a more advanced system from start to finish for a residential system with radiant ceilings supplied from a geothermal heat pump, inputs for solar thermal collectors, auxiliary boiler. Schematics, calculations, layout, controls. You will see how all the previous materials covered in the course come together to produce an efficient design.

  • Single thermal mass-combi systems (20:54 minutes)
  • Hydronic-based on-demand domestic water heating (51:01 minutes)
  • BTU metering (32:12 minutes)
  • Example System #1 (21:53 minutes)
  • Example System #2 (26:34 minutes)
  • Example System #3 (08:30 minutes)
  • Example System #4 (30:13 minutes)
  • PDF: Example System #4 (.pdf)
  • Read Chapter 14 in the textbook
  • WEEK 10 HOMEWORK: Chapter 14 Exercises 1-7
  • WEEK 10 HOMEWORK: Chapter 14 Exercises 1-7 (.doc file) (.doc)
  • Solutions for Week 10 Homework (.pdf)
  • PDF: Details of Example Systems (.pdf)
  • Take the final quiz and earn a passing score
  • Answer Key, Formulas and Solutions - final quiz (don't cheat yourself) (.pdf)
Conclusion - Feedback and Additional Resources

This is our last module but you still have access to the all of course materials for 12 months (1 year), so keep working and you'll be able to complete the course at your own pace. After your year of access expires you can optionally extend access with a HeatSpring Membership. Enjoy the course and keep in touch!

  • LinkedIn: Mastering Hydronic System Design Alumni Group
  • 1 Year of Access to Course Materials
  • Feedback: 2-minute Exit Survey
  • Consider Joining as a HeatSpring Member
  • Certificate of Completion: Request a Certificate


John Siegenthaler

P.E., Appropriate Designs

John Siegenthaler, P.E., is a mechanical engineering graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a licensed professional engineer, and Professor Emeritus of Engineering Technology at Mohawk Valley Community College. “Siggy” has over 40 years of experience in designing modern hydronic systems. He is a hall-of-fame member of the Radiant Panel Association, and a... Learn more


46 reviews

295 students have taken this course

by Matthew Brewington, Hydronic Specialist, Behler-Young 04/07/2022

This course has given me so many resources to use and build my knowledge upon. I would recommend anyone that has anything to do with designing or working on hydronic systems to consider this course.

by Scott Phillips, President, Strategic Project Solutions 02/15/2020

My takeaways from this course were monumental. I am a retired Chemical Engineer who has been away from the "tools" for some time. John resurrected skills and knowledge from my past and made the entire course understandable from beginning to end. In particular, the companionship of John's lectures and his text, along with many specific design procedures, tips and tricks, and design tools will be indispensable as I continue designing my systems. Thanks John for a great experience.

by Chris Brooks, Owner/Operator, C. Brooks Plumbing 10/24/2019

Very good course, a lot of reading and content. Definitely will make you feel better about hydronics than you would previous to the course.

by michael aubertine, owner, michael aubertine architect 04/01/2019

I would highly recommend this course for everyone in the architectural, engineering and construction related fields especially in northern New York and similar climates. The information provided could potentially save our clients thousands of dollars in construction costs and operating costs, not to mention the comfort level of the home or business. The course was money well spent!

by Carlos Rossi, owner, crctec 01/24/2019

This course is well worth its cost if you are honestly interested in designing and building custom hydronic heating systems that will meet or exceed your Customer's expectations, and at the end you'll have clear paths towards continuous professional improvement and education.

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Frequently asked questions

How does this course work?

You can begin this online course instantly upon enrollment. This 10 module course is delivered entirely online. This course is self-paced and you can set your own schedule to complete the materials. You can begin the lecture videos and other course materials as soon as you enroll. During your year of access the instructor will be in the course answering questions on the discussion board. After successfully completing the course, you will be able to generate a certificate of completion.

How long do I have access to the materials?

Students get unlimited access to the course materials as soon as they enroll and for one year (365 days) after enrollment. Rewatch videos and review assignments as many times as you want. View updates the instructor makes to the course as the industry advances. Return to your course anytime with online access from anywhere in the world. After the one year of access expires, access can be extended by joining as a HeatSpring member. A single membership extends access to course materials for all past enrollments.

Is there a certificate of completion?

Yes, when you complete this course you are eligible for a certificate of completion from HeatSpring. You can download your certificate as soon as you have completed all of the course requirements. Students can easily share their verified certificates on their LinkedIn profiles using our LinkedIn integration.

Can I register multiple people?

Yes please visit our HeatSpring for Teams page to get a group discount.

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