Both of the major January trade shows, the International Builders Show in Las Vegas and the AHR Expo in Orlando were smaller than a few years ago, although the AHR Expo, with 28,582 registered visitors, a nearly 8% increase from the 2005 AHR Expo in Orlando, set a new record for Southeast HVACR shows.
They both contained some really cool products. Here are a few that really piqued our interest.
In the little company category, we ran into G.T. Water Products at the Builders Show (www.gtwaterproducts.com). The firm has invented a Test Tee Mechanical Plug that can hold pressure in a DWV up to 15 stories. Even better, it's designed to allow the pipe to drain with leaking or getting the plumber wet.
In the big company category, a global company we met at AHR called Trimble (www.trimble.com), which has purchased QuickPen, has a laser scanner called the Total Station that a contractor can put into, say, the middle of an existing commercial/industrial building that will scan everything in the interior. It creates a set of data points that are converted by a computer into actual objects, like walls, pipe and ductwork, and voilà, you have a 3-D as-built drawing.
Another AHR exhibitor, Eagle Mountain's Intelligent Climate Control System, the Ecô Energy Management System, impressed Associate Editor Candace Roulo (www.eagle-mt.com). Ecô is a browser-based management system that can be monitored and controlled remotely, from any Internet connection, including a handheld device. The system has the ability to interface with National Weather Service data to adjust set points in anticipation of weather changes, and provides system health updates and reports errors to users via e-mail or text messaging. Eagle Mountain also provides solutions for geothermal, radiant heating, and solar applications. Geothermal, radiant, and solar systems are available as turnkey installation kits ready for installation.
Our friend super rep and Radiant Panel Association board member Joe Kennard put us on to a Belgian low temperature radiator company called Jaga (http://www.jaga-usa.com/). Jaga makes eye-catching copper-tube/aluminum fin low-water-content radiators designed to work at temperatures from 110°F-130°F. According to the company, the low water content heats rapidly, it doesn’t take as much energy to heat it since there's less of it, and the radiators work at the ideal temperature for a condensing boiler.
In case you haven't seen them yet, both Viega (www.viega.net) and Uponor (www.uponor-usa.com) have come out with radiant tubing already attached to huge rolled mats. Doing a warehouse or big box store? You can roll out swaths of tubing at once, drastically cutting down your labor cost.
While the product is outrageously expensive, Solar Panels Plus (www.solarpanelsplus.com) has invented a combination photovoltaic solar array and D.C.-driven ductless mini-split air conditioner that it showed at AHR. Expensive is all relative, though — if your air conditioning is run by a diesel generator that gets its fuel trucked over a mountain, then a PV/Direct Current mini-split is reasonable. On a more everyday basis, Solar Panels Plus also makes some pretty nice evacuated tube collectors.
Ridge Tool Co. has long had a line of video inspection equipment so you can see what's clogging your customer's sewer line. Now they've come up with a way to manage and share that video. RIDGIDConnect provides the ability to share and store digital assets such as diagnostic job site photos and videos, job reports and histories, maintenance records, customer lists and other business files, which in turn simplifies external and internal communication, as well as the recordkeeping process. You can call a customer up at his office, for example, have him log on, show him the video of the problem and get the ok to do the work.