AHR 2015: In my shoes

This year’s AHR Expo was round two for me. And, it was a knock out. I was able to step away from working social media at our exhibitor booth, and immerse myself in the show experience.

I took full advantage of the three days, participating in more than 40 booth tours, press conferences, and hospitality events. Though my feet are worn, my hands are not. Here is my show recap of updates to keep in mind for air-conditioning, heating and refrigeration in 2015.

Show exclusives

It’s no surprise that some show exhibitors schedule product releases and announcements around AHR to grab attention while they have a captivated audience. There were some impressive unveilings and tactics that I saw at this year’s show.

"Many exhibitors wait till the show to unveil their latest offerings," noted Steve Levine, Marketing Manager at International Exposition Company. "This is the main show for the HVACR industry, so many senior executives are in attendance as well as staff engineers in the booths. Many companies bring their entire lines, including large pieces of equipment. So, if you’re seeking more information, this is the place to get it."

Lochinvar called attention to its Crest Boiler at the press breakfast they hosted on January 27. The boilers will be a focus for the company throughout 2015. Emphasis was also place on their ConXus mobile application, which allows users to check operating conditions, receive status alerts, and modify boiler parameters on a smart device.

Intellihot also spotlighted mobile technology at the show with the release of their sizing application. Proprietary technology is a key to the company’s offerings. Its commercial and domestic wall hung units on display at the show were equipped with multiple heat exchangers in one cabinet and stainless steel material for longevity.

AHR allows Laars to look at its releases within a timeline of sorts. Since the 2014 show, the company has released new Magna sizes based on contractor feedback. Technology for the contractor, and, as a result, the customer, was a theme at Laars’ 2015 booth. The VariPrime offering showed how its connection of the boiler to the pump saves money. The combi hybrid water heater showcased the ability to get hot water immediately and achieve high efficiency. Laars’ AHR releases will start being delivered in April.

“In comparison to the 2014 show, the 2015 AHR Expo simply offered more of what visitors came to see and do: first-hand demonstrations of the world’s best, most efficient equipment and face-to-face discussions with manufacturers from around the world,” Levine said.

Victaulic’s booth included show product exclusives, but also looked at service opportunities. The company’s AHR release was a compact balancing control valve. The valve is field-settable and eliminates the need to cater to each flow rate or adjust with space changes. Regarding service, Victaulic had screens set up in their booth that educated attendees on their CPS division that does software and content development with focuses on MEP and BIM coordination for customization needs. The division can do drawings or train teams with Victualic’s own “Revit Ralph.” The division also offers prefabrication analysis for shop optimization. Victaulic is looking to implement a WEBX subscription model in 2015.

ECR International highlighted their Utica SSV where vertical orientation creates self-cleaning due to gravity. The refractory design helps prevent noise and better disperses heat. Their booth also showcased a combi unit that is an economical choice for the contractor, and ideal for smaller homes.

Field Aware approached the show with news that they are taking on the HVAC industry with full force. The made-for-mobile, cloud-based field service automation solutions company detailed its offerings for field personnel with mobile tools that increase productivity and revenue, and web-based back office functions built on a flexible, cloud-based architecture with unlimited configurable fields. Features promoted included mapping jobs with color coding, real-time pre- and post-work updates, automatic invoicing, photo and diagram uploads, talk-to-type functionality, and more.

The AHR focus for Modine was efficiency. Their Effinity 93 is now at 13 units and is 93 percent efficient. The gas fired unit is also compatible with a mobile application that features a payback calculator. With the company approaching its 100-year celebration, customers can look out for special edition, customizable heaters. There’s a push for a camouflage and/or hunting-inspired option!

To wrap up the show releases, I want to discuss hilmor’s 24 new pliers that were introduced at AHR. The line includes features such as a long cutting edge for consistency, cross cut jaws to help hold wire, and a softer grip. The company’s new line of snips features a durable spring that outlasts the blade, and is color coded according to the cutting direction. hilmor also highlighted its sheet metal tools and a line of screw drivers. But, one of my favorite features at their booth was the “Fastest Hands Challenge,” where attendees could put their skills to the test for the opportunity to with $1,000 in hilmor tools.

Customizable technology

REHAU is known as a PEX company that meets radiant and commercial needs. But at the show, they also made it known that they are aware of the trend toward smart technology in the industry. A special emphasis was placed on REHAU’s smart controls. The controls help to manage the company’s existing heating and cooling offerings.

Tekmar also focused on educating show attendees about the importance of monitoring and integrating components of heating systems. They spotlighted their Internet Gateway 485, which allows Wi-Fi control for systems.

WaterFurnace is rethinking some of the smart technology options that are already on the market. Their universal protocol converter technology allows for wider breadth communication across controls and systems. With the technology, snapshots of activity in the systems are taken every 10 seconds. And, the snapshots are coming from multiple places not just one device in the system, such as a thermostat. The technology also allows for alerts to be sent to multiple administrators that could range from the contractor to the home owner. Look for a new monitoring platform from WaterFurnace in the spring.

"If you come to the show with specific needs, you’ll probably find the solutions you’re looking for. If you’re here to just see what’s new on the market, you’re sure to get your creative juices going as well as walk away with new ideas to bring back home," Levine stated.

Getting educated

AHR is always educational. There are sessions, workshops, and more. But, Bradford White did its schooling right on the show floor. As an early adopter of National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA) informational opportunities it was not surprise that the company carved out a sizable part of its booth to update attendees about the act. With the act set to go into effect April 16, Bradford White announced at the show that they will be distributing NAECA brochures that will allow contractors to better explain to their customers why the government made the changes. The company will continue to host webinars on the act, as well.

I was educated at the Shurtape booth, as I must admit that I was unaware that tape could be LEED certified. But, Shurtape is not just helping trade show attendees like me, they are also helping students. The company hosts an education program for full system closures at a college in Athens, Ga. Students in the program are required to blog about what they learn. It goes without saying that in journalism school I would have liked blogging over final exams, any day.

At the show, Danfoss spotlighted its e-learning platform. The online tool allows users to choose from an extensive catalogue of virtual and face-to-face courses where they receive scores upon completion. The courses are intended to help industry professionals gain confidence, improve sales potential, and sharpen skills.

Efficiency focus

Efficiency is the future, and slowly but surely that future of tomorrow that we speak of is becoming today. So, why not close with a look at some “green” updates?

HTP’s Energy Star-rated Phoenix Multi-fit Boiler was a booth highlight. The 80 and 100 gallon commercial and residential tankless boilers are available in stainless steel. The line has up to 96 percent thermal efficiency and up to 5:1 Turndown Ratio.

Armstong Fluid Technology is no stranger to optimization. At AHR, Armstrong took its pitch to another level with a preview of its Savings Guarantee Program for Chiller Plant Optimization Systems (IPC 11550 and Opti-VisorTM). The company will guarantee savings on its programs for one year following commissioning. If there is shortfall in savings, Armstrong will reimburse the customer for three times the difference.

US Boiler also teased new updates to come in 2015, and asserted that those updates will center on efficiency. However, as you stay tuned, they encourage you to look into their K2 Boiler with up to 94 percent efficiency.

“We hope that attendees left the show knowing, for certain, that the time they spent there was a very good investment. We hope that they discovered new products that they didn’t know existed, and found specific solutions to the challenges they face with their own projects by networking with industry experts,” said Clay Stevens, president of International Exposition Company. “We hope that the new methods and new ideas they learned will benefit them and their companies going forward in 2015.” 

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