By Robert P. Mader
Of Contractor's Staff
ISH Frankfurt is where you go to see the absolute latest in heating and plumbing technology. It's the trade show that introduced Americans to products such as condensing boilers and press-fit PEX systems.
With that in mind, CONTRACTOR in March went to ISH in Germany to look for products on the leading edge, products so far out that we might see them here in a couple years, or maybe not at all. Perhaps the most far-out product was a residential fuel cell.
U.K.-based Baxi Group made its first appearance last fall at the ISH North America Show in Chicago with a line of products, distributed from Canada by Marathon International, that includes a residential combined heat and power unit. In Frankfurt, Baxi showed a prototype of a fuel cell residential heat and power device, the refrigerator-sized Innotech Beta 1.5 Plus. Anode and cathode plates made of a graphite material produce electricity, while the cooling water that runs through the unit can be used for space heat and production of domestic hot water.
Baxi also showed its Micro CHP residential combined heat and power unit that works on a Stirling Cycle engine. The Stirling Cycle works by heating and cooling a gas, in this case helium, causing it to expand and contract, thereby moving a piston up and down 50 times per second. The Micro CHP produces 30 kW of thermal energy and 1 kW of electricity at a 44 dBA sound level.
Viega introduced externally galvanized steel pipe and fittings for heating-only applications from 15 to 54 MM. The firm has an extensive plumbing line in Germany, such as the Rotaplex and Multiplex tub and shower fillers and drains. Viega tub and shower drains are designed so that they serve as their own trap, a nifty innovation although one that would meet code resistance in the United States. The company has a stainless steel pipe and fitting line dubbed Sanpress for domestic water and the Sanpress Inox G, from 15 to 108 MM, for natural gas service. The press-fit fitting system can go underground with a products called Geopress that can be used to join polyethylene or PEX natural gas or water service lines. Viega has an erector set for fabricating any kind of fixture carrier or pipe chase called the Steptec that snaps together and then screws tight.
ITT Fluid Technology used the show to announce a new global Building Services Market Initiative that wraps up all the ITT pump businesses, including heating and cooling, fire protection, water and wastewater and domestic water. Operating under the name ITT Residential & Commercial Water Co., the business offers ITT brands such as Flygt, Lowara, Vogel, Goulds and others. For example, the firm introduced a new generation Hydrovar variable-speed pump drive from Lowara, a big brand name for ITT in Italy. Hydrovar is a pump or wall-mounted variable-speed, microprocessor-based system controller, said to be the world's first of its type to manage motor speed and match pump performance to a range of hot and cold water applications.
Efficient heating products
Efficiency and the environment are big in Germany for both boiler manufacturer Viessmann and its competition, company spokesman Markus Stratmann explained. Consequently, condensing technology holds a 70% market share in Germany, and Viessmann has integrated controls onto its gas and oil boilers that will automatically handle multiple fuels. The firm's gas controls can manage either natural or LP gas without the use of a conversion kit on the burner. The oil controls can handle bio-diesel, measuring the differing viscosities that the fuel can present, adjusting the boiler accordingly.
Viessmann showed the Vitoladens 300C oil-fired condensing boiler that will be introduced into the Canadian and New England markets some time in the future, perhaps in 2008. The boiler, with a stainless steel heat exchanger and firing between 66,200 and 99,600 Btuh, has a flue gas temperature of 158°F.
Viessmann is making a major investment in bio-diesel-fired equipment. The Vitoladens 310C is designed to burn 100% bio-diesel.
All Viessmann gas boilers have a sensor called the Lambda Pro Control that provides constant output and efficiency with different quality gas, either natural or LP. The control uses an ionization electrode that measures the flame quality. The ionization current goes back to the Vitotronic Control that adjusts the air/gas mixture.
The firm displayed brine/water and air/water heat pumps, such as the Vitocal 300G brine/water model that uses a screw compressor. Electricity is very expensive in Germany, Stratmann noted, so most heat pump installations are geothermal.
Viessmann presented a Micro CHP combined heat and power unit that's based on a Stirling Cycle engine. The Micro CHP is paired with a condensing boiler and can produce 1.1 kW of electricity and 13,000 to 81,900 Btuh of thermal energy.
Buderus, with the latest Logamatic controls on all its boilers, showed a wall-mounted oil condensing boiler for one-and two-family houses with capacities from 65,000 to 92,000 Btuh, rated under the European system at 104% efficiency. Buderus presented floor-mounted oil condensing boilers with capacities ranging from 61,000 to 116,000 Btuh, rated at 102% efficiency. Both models have two heat exchangers, with condensing taking place in the second.
The firm showed three versions of gas condensing boilers, with one iteration paired with solar collectors. The wall-hung Logamax Plus GB152T Solar has an integrated 83-liter water tank that can be heated with either gas or the solar collectors. The unit has a rated capacity of 55,000-82,000 Btuh.
Roth, which sells PEX tubing and heating equipment in the United States, offers much more in Germany. Roth presented floor-, wall-or ceiling-mounted brine-to-water heat pumps from 17,000 to 78,500 Btuh, air-to-water heat pumps from 27,300 to 64,800 Btuh and geothermal heat pumps. Roth also sells a line of heated shower stalls with electric water heaters built-in with either small storage tanks or instantaneous heaters that can produce 6.5 liters per minute. The company has a line of shower doors and flat-plate solar collectors. And, more familiar to American customers, the firm showed a PEX fitting system with PressCheck that leaks under pressure unless the joint has been properly pressed.
Spirovent by Spirotech Air showed the Superior Vacuum Degasser for heating and cooling applications "up to 10 cubic meters." The device contains combined 2-in. vertical air and dirt separators. An automatic system pressure monitor keeps track of when the hydronic system needs to be refilled with de-gassed water. Water enters an intake tank where it is compressed to 1 bar (401.46 in. of water) to force air bubbles out of it.
Wolf, better known in the United States for its upscale kitchen equipment, has a large line of heating equipment, including a condensing oil boiler that claims (under the European standard) efficiency of 104%. Wolf also showed microprocessor-controlled wood pellet boilers from 2.4-35 kW, a host of wall-hung boilers, brine-to-water heat pumps in seven sizes and photovoltaic solar collectors from 6-14 kW.
Multitherm Fussboden-Heizung GesmbH & Co. from Austria showed a plastic hydronic manifold with built-in flow meters. Sections of the manifold snap together with a bayonet connection.
DMS Wasser-Warmetechnik GmbH displayed a two-tank commercial/ institutional system to kill Legionella bacteria. One tank heats domestic hot water up to 158°F to kill bacteria, then cools it back down to more usable temperatures by running it through a flat-plate heat exchanger and storing it in the second tank.
Akatherm FIP GmbH displayed its Akafusion electronic fusion system for large-diameter polyethylene pipe up to 315 MM. The 220V device melts the pipe and coupling and fuses it in about three minutes for roof drainage systems or high-pressure geothermal systems. Akatherm also has a heated drain system for commercial kitchens. The firm showed a high-rise building DWV system and Sovent-style vent in polyethylene.
Solar and wood
Solar is huge in Germany, Viessmann's Stratmann explained, with 1.5 million square meters shipped last year, most of it for domestic hot water, although more installations are going in now for space heating. About 85% of shipments are flat-plate collectors and 15% evacuated tube, because the evacuated tube collectors cost three times as much and provide 30% more efficiency.
Viessmann showed a collection of wood-fired boilers, some of them paired with solar, such as the Vitoligno pellet boiler. The Vitolig 200 log-burning boiler can put out between 44,400 and 136,500 Btuh and it only needs to be stoked every two days.
Rehau displayed its Solect solar panels, a thermo-siphon style solar panel with the water storage tank on top of the panels with a mixing valve to temper domestic hot water water going into the house. Rehau also has solar thermal systems with the water storage tank inside-the house. The firm showed three levels of collectors with "best" having thicker Plexiglas and the best seals.
In addition, Rehau showed its radiant cooling system, comprised of 10-MM pipe integrated with drywall panels, backed by insulating foam. The system also includes a whole-house dehumidifier that can remove 24 liters of moisture a day. Rehau showed a U-tube vertical geothermal pipe that comes to the jobsite fully assembled and coiled so no joints will leak underground. The firm showed Raupiano, a three-layer polypropylene DWV pipe that's said to stifle water noise, which been a problem with plastic DWV pipes.
AMK Solac Systems AG showed evacuated tube solar collectors with the water storage tank on top and some with just the header on top. The firm showed diffuse-reflection collectors and parabolic collectors.
Buderus displayed a large collection of wood stoves and fireplaces for room heating, two pellet boilers for central heating and 11 log-burning boilers for central heating and domestic hot water. One log-burning model, the Logano S151, is designed for use in combination with and oil or gas boiler and claims efficiency of 86%. It can produce between 51,000 and 136,000 Btuh.
Hoval showed the BioLyt 10-26 kW, 50kW and 70kW modulating, high-efficiency wood pellet boilers supplied with fully automatic pellet feed, heat exchange cleaner and ash removal to an integrated ash box. The firm displayed a heat pump line, plus solar thermal collectors for domestic hot water, swimming pool heating and space-heating "support," as the firm put it.
KWB showed a wood pellet boiler that it claims to be 95%-96% efficient, with combustion gases making three passes through the boiler, the firm's Peter Breitfelder said. Combustion is so complete that the ash reportedly only has to be removed once a year after burning six metric tons of pellets.
Plumbing, European style
All European toilet manufacturers supply handicapped grab bars that fasten into the wall on either side of the toilet and swing up or down next to the toilet as needed. Although it doesn't make toilets, Viega, which makes fixture carriers, has a line of these grab bars and other handicapped access products.
Ideal Standard Bath & Kitchen introduced a number of product lines, including the Imagine suite and its Daylight collection, a modern line with flexible storage solutions. The product launches expanded Bath & Kitchen's line of total bathroom suites for consumers. At ISH, Bath & Kitchen also previewed the SoftBath line by designer Marc Sadler. This wellness line uses a resilient new material that's softer than acrylic and maintains water temperature longer than normal bathtubs. In addition, the company received the Design Plus Award at the fair for its new Active faucet line. Bath & Kitchen continued the rollout of the Imagine suite in Asia and expanded the successful Cadet 3 toilet line in the United States under the American Standard brand.
Hansgrohe had an extensive display under its Pharo trade name, including a shower tower with two heads, upper and lower, that fold out of the shower tower panel, plus a handy fold-down footrest at the bottom that would make it easier for women to shave their legs. Hansgrohe showed a residential electronic faucet line under the Philippe Starck Axor name.
Villeroy & Boch displayed its Steam Cube steam shower that features chromatherapy, aromatherapy, and LCD touchscreen display, radio speakers, mist jets and a built-in seat. V&B also showed its Quayle air bath with jets that pop out when they're working, but they're invisible in the bottom of the tub when they're retracted.
VitrA exhibited a tunnel-shaped urinal that mounts onto a 2-by-3-ft. ceramic porcelain plate that includes an electronic flush sensor.
Duravit is sticking with its familiar rectangular shape for its fixtures, but it has rounded the corners on some lines. Still, one can find a line of sinks, water closets and bidets as sharp-edged as ever. The Duravit booth dominated the plumbing hall in terms of size and selection of products.
SFA Sanibroy, the European cousin to Saniflo, showed a water closet with a pump built into the back of the bowl, along with the more traditional models that have separate pumping tanks.
Artweger showed a combo tub/ shower unit called the Twinline where the curved glass shower door becomes part of the tub wall. The handheld shower, hose and slidebar attach to the shower door on the hinge side. The door appears to have a secure locking mechanism so water in the tub won't leak out the door.
Decotec Paris showed brightly colored vanity style lavatories in colors such as hot pink, bright orange and bright red. For more traditional tastes, the firm displayed vanities in black and beige.
Artceram exhibited triangular wallhung lavs, water closets and bidets with the traps and drains hidden beneath the triangular shape of the ceramics. No one in the booth spoke English, however, to explain how a plumber could gain access to the hidden traps and drains for either installation or service.