Canadian Contractor

Steve Payne   

We asked the Ontario College of Trades to clarify their jurisdiction over hydronics installations. Here is their response.

Canadian Contractor

OCOT agrees that some work described as "hydronics" falls outside of the scope of any regulated trade, but that plumbing, coolant or sheet metal work will require certification for each of these trades.

Recently, we ran a story about a Toronto-area hydronics firm (who asked to remain anonymous) which was fined $750 by the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) for installinhttp://hydronicsg a Space Pak air handler in an attic. 

The firm specializes in hydronics installations, and is not a conventional HVAC firm. They argued that much of their work, including the air handler installation, should not come under the jurisdiction of OCOT. 

We asked OCOT to clarify their rules around hydronics installations, and the related trades that hydronics can involve. 

Here is their reply. (Bold font text comes from questions asked by Canadian Contractor.)


1. The issue is the law requires plumbing be done by certified plumbers.

This is correct. While OCTAA specifies that only a certified journeyperson may engage in the scope of practice of a compulsory trade (which includes the trade of plumber), recent amendments to the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009 (OCTAA) have changed the College’s compliance and enforcement considerations when pursuing enforcement actions including; risk of harm, public interest and public confidence, culpability, previous record, and recognized past practice of the individual performing the work. We are moving to a system of compliance assistance for employers and away from the previous emphasis on enforcement. Our most recent data indicates we were able to achieve compliance by providing assistance to employers to register tradespeople and apprentices approximately fifty percent of the time and we utilized enforcement penalties in only two and a half percent of cases.

 2. The law requires HVAC work, generally, to be done by licensed HVAC technicians.

Heating, ventilation air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) work is a broad category of elements performed by several trades, including refrigeration and air conditioning systems mechanic, residential air conditioning mechanic, sheet metal worker, and gas technician regulated by the Technical Standards and Safety Authority, and may also include work elements that are not a part of any trade and therefore would be considered unregulated.

If you are doing gas work related to hydronics, you need certification from the TSSA. If you are doing plumbing, coolant or sheet metal work related to hydronics, then you legally require certification for each of these skilled trades from the College. Some work described as “hydronics” falls outside of the scope of any regulated trade.

3. Can the hydronics issue be clarified by the College on the above topics so that contractors know what they can and can’t do in regards to hydronics – or if decisions have yet to be made, can the College indicate when and who makes these decisions?

The College has recently been working with several stakeholders to better define the regulatory matters surrounding hydronics work. This includes considering what risk of harm is posed to the consumer, public, or workers; how tradespeople currently doing this work have been trained; and how best to ensure tradespeople have the skills needed to safely do the work in the future.

To answer these questions, the College convened several meetings of an ad hoc working group involving representatives from the hydronics industry, including the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI), the Canadian Hydronics Council, representatives from related trades, and experienced hydronics workers and business owners, in order to work towards common sense recommendations on this issue. The College will communicate any updates on hydronics on our website, as well as through outreach to outlets like this, when they are available.

Once the College concludes research and consultations with industry regarding the scope of hydronics work, it will move into the next phase which would involve discussions with the new government regarding the future of training tradespeople doing hydronics work. What role, if any, the College will have in policy or regulatory directions or training programs will require Ministerial approval.


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1 Comment » for We asked the Ontario College of Trades to clarify their jurisdiction over hydronics installations. Here is their response.
  1. Mark Mitchell says:

    So basically what they are saying is, they will continue to consult, have meetings, hire more people to conduct studies, write lengthy articles and statements, and so on until every last one of us paying tradesmen is broke, and has left the trades altogether. Instead of course of just leaving it alone, promoting a multi-skilled working environment for plumbers and gas fitters.

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