AHR innovations not all hot air

BY ROBERT P. MADER OF CONTRACTOR'S STAFF CHICAGO More than 57,000 HVACR professionals filled the aisles and exhibit booths Jan. 23-25 at the 76th AHR Expo in Chicago as the world's largest HVACR event broke several records. Driven by unprecedented support from numerous industry associations, new show features and a healthier economy, the 2006 AHR Expo set records for exhibitors (1,981), square footage

BY ROBERT P. MADER
OF CONTRACTOR'S STAFF

CHICAGO — More than 57,000 HVACR professionals filled the aisles and exhibit booths Jan. 23-25 at the 76th AHR Expo in Chicago as the world's largest HVACR event broke several records.

Driven by unprecedented support from numerous industry associations, new show features and a healthier economy, the 2006 AHR Expo set records for exhibitors (1,981), square footage (411,175) and number of international exhibitors (400). According to show management, a total of 57,673 HVACR professionals — 36,891 visitors and 20,782 exhibitor personnel — regis-tered for the show.

Amidst all the air-tempering HVACR products were some golden nuggets for contractors interested in plumbing, piping and hydronics.

Starting with the heat sources, the Pinnacle gas-fired boiler from Peerless Boilers is available for either natural or LP gas and is offered in six sizes. Two new residential models — the PI-T50 and PI-T80 are offered as wall-mounted or floor-standing units. All residential models offer a 92% AFUE. The PI-399 commercial boiler offers 95% combustion efficiency.

Boilers are equipped with a new P125 control board that monitors supply and return temperatures, flame signal and firing rate, which can all be viewed from the LED digital display module. A switch to "service mode" enables contractors to manually control the firing rate. An optional interface module allows for external control of outdoor reset, multiple temperature setpoints and modulating sequencing of multiple boilers.

Burnham Corp. showed its 85%+ AFUE PVG gas boiler and the 87% efficient MPO oil boiler. The company's big news, however, wasn't on the show floor. Burnham will introduce a 94% efficient condensing boiler called the CHE by April, the company said. The aluminum heat exchanger unit will come in capacities from 30,000 to 225,000 Btuh. Burnham will introduce a wall-hung condensing boiler producing 90,000-120,000 Btuh this summer.

The Mascot gas-fired, wall-hung, 96% AFUE condensing boiler from Laars made its debut at the show. The boiler comes in four models handling from 126,000 to 241,000 Btuh. Controls are designed by Seimens. So the installer has as little to do as possible, the boiler comes with an expansion tank, air eliminator, circulator, vent elbow and vent terminal already built in. Laars will also supply preassembled manifolds for multiple boiler installations.

New York Thermal, known as NTI, showed the Matrix, a combination appliance that can supply hydronic heating, forced-air heating, domestic hot water and heat recovery ventilation all in one box. It will also support up to 2 tons of air conditioning.

The Matrix can provide 92,000 Btuh of forced-air heating at 92% AFUE, 138,000 Btuh of hydronic heat at 92% AFUE, 4 GPM of 110°F domestic hot water from 45°F supply water, and it will move a minimum of 250 CFM through the heat recovery ventilator.

Lochinvar showed its new Knight fully modulating condensing boiler with a turndown ration of 5:1. The firm presented new commercial sizes up to 500,000 Btuh. Lochinvar is also selling new pocket PC software that ties in with the Knight controls that can help set up and program units, show trends, run times, faults, shutoffs and energy consumption.

Lochinvar emphasized that it is hitting the road with training sessions. It is running a 27-ft. van with two Knight boilers, starting in Georgia and working its way up the East Coast and into Canada. In addition, the company is holding several Lochinvar University sessions, including those covering its three Fins — the Intelli-, Power-and Copper-Fin. Information on the training opportunities is at www.lochinvar.com.

ECR International's Dunkirk and Utica Boiler divisions announced that they would be selling 95% efficient, direct-vent condensing boilers by this summer with "infinitely modulating" capacities from 80,000 to 200,000 Btuh. The aluminum heat exchanger boilers will come with outdoor reset and a summer/winter switch for vacation homes or second homes. The boilers will have multiple piping connection options for easier installation.

Weil-McLain celebrated its 125th anniversary, hosting a party for 200 contractors and vendors at Harry Caray's, a well-known Chicago restaurant. At the show, the firm highlighted its Ultra Gas Boilers in five sizes, the brand new Ultra Oil Boiler in three sizes, companion Ultra Indirect-fired Water Heaters, and the commercial LGB boiler, 80 boiler and a cutaway of the 88 boiler.

Gasmaster showed its GMI Series boiler/water heaters from 3 million to 8 million Btuh that are 98% efficient with an incoming water temperature of 60°F. The efficiency of the two-stage heaters drops to 91.2% when the incoming water temperature is 120°F.

Miura Boiler was showing its large-capacity steam boilers with outputs from more than 1 million to more than 10 million Btuh. Miura's low water content water-tube boilers take up 50% less floor space than a firetube boiler, Miura says, and they can produce full steam in five minutes from a cold start. The boilers produce dry 99%+ saturated steam with a fuel-to-steam efficiency of 85%.

Noritz showed its full line of wall-mounted tankless water heaters, with small residential sizes firing from 25,000 to 190,000 Btuh and producing a maximum of 7.9 GPM. The firm proudly noted its ASME Certification on its larger capacity models suitable for direct venting and multiple heater applications. Its largest capacity unit, the power-vented N-132M, fires up to 380,000 Btuh, produces a maximum of 13.2 GPM and may be mounted indoors or outdoors. A Noritz system controller allows up to 24 units to be manifolded together.

Takagi showed its TH1 94% efficient tankless water heater that was recently approved as an EPA Energy Star product. Mountable indoors or out, the unit fires from 15,000 to 199,000 Btuh on natural gas and 18,000 to 199,000 on LP. It can produce more than 4 GPM of 120° F water with 40° F incoming water temperature.

In a departure from the typical fare at an AHR Expo, Takagi also showed the Fresh Seat bidet-like toilet seat with pulsating water massage, adjustable water pressure adjustable temperature settings, remote control, his and her settings and a blow-drying feature.

Because of the engineering slant of the show, water heater manufacturers typically show large-capacity, high-efficiency products.

Rheem showed its powered direct-vent VentMaster that's aimed at the restaurant, hotel and laundromat markets. The non-condensing, 100-gal. water heater vents through PVC pipe and features a multi-flue tank design. The tank has a hand-hole cleanout to remove lime and sediment. The gas valve will fire the unit up to 180°F.

A.O. Smith presented the Equinox, an 80-gal., 120,000 Btuh rooftop water heater that's aimed at the fast food restaurant market. The 1,300-lb. water heater can mount on a standard roof curb on or a slab on the ground. The water heater is freeze-protected and can be controlled with the EMC-5000 electronic control, which A.O. Smith also is putting on its Genesis boilers. The control works with the Genesis product with inputs from 300,000 to 750,000 Btuh, and the company plans to expand it to the biggest Genesis units of 2.5 million Btuh. The EMC-5000 will integrate with any energy management or building automation system.

A.O. Smith's partner State Industries exhibited the Ultra Force 240,000 Btuh, 94% efficient gas water heater that's well suited to manifolded high-volume applications. The Ultra Force requires zero clearance from combustibles and has its gas and electrical connections and controls on top.

Amtrol showed its well-known Boil-erMate and BoilerMate Premier indirect water heaters, but it also had a couple of new twists. The BoilerMate Top Down has all its electrical connections at the top. Pre-piped connections to the tank exterior at the top are horizontal for easy cleaning. The T& P valve is included and pre-piped. The Boiler-Mate Dual Coil has secondary topmounted coil that can be used for either additional heat input or for hydronic heat output.

The Electric Heating Division of Danfoss introduced the Danfoss LX floor heating system. The Danfoss LX product is supplied as a mat, which can be rolled out on the subfloor or, in a renovation, on top of an existing floor. The mat is made of a fiberglass material that can withstand the rigors of the jobsite, but is easily cut to allow working it around obstacles such as toilets, sinks and cabinets, the company said. The mat is self-adhesive, eliminating a step from the installation process.

The Danfoss LX thermostat has dual voltage 120V or 240V capabilities, four-event, seven-day programming and built-in GFCI functionality.

Pumps, piping
All the hot water generated by the products on display has to go somewhere, and the pump and pipe manufacturers offered plenty of ideas.

Taco introduced the 1400 medium to high/flow head circulators for hydronic heating, radiant, snow melt, high pressure drop boilers, outdoor wood boilers, chilled water cooling, geothermal heat pumps and other applications. Taco's X-Pump Block combines a variable-speed mixing control, heat-source circulator, constant-speed system circulator and heat exchanger in a single unit. The company presented its Plus Two Multi-Purpose Valve that can work as a shutoff valve, non-slam check valve, balancing valve or flow metering valve, and it can be installed vertically or horizontally.

Grundfos displayed its SuperBrute three-speed circulator that features a removable, integrated check valve that does not diminish pump performance, thereby eliminating the expense of an inline check valve. The circulator prevents thermo-siphoning and it is easy to match pump performance to system requirements. The circulators move 0-17 GPM at a head from 0-19 ft. The maximum fluid temperature in a closed system is 230°F.

Bell & Gossett debuted its VSX Series vertical split case pumps available in multiple flange configurations — top suction, top discharge, side suction, top discharge or side discharge. The pump is designed so its hydraulics are the same no matter the flange configuration. The VSX line moves from 500 to 15,000 GPM, heads from 30 to 425 ft., working pressures to 300 PSIG and temperatures to 300°F. To top it off, the Watchman wireless monitoring system can tell you what a VSX pump is doing 24/7 from anywhere in the world.

Uponor was at the show, partly to sell its PEX pipe, but also to let everyone know that the Wirsbo name has been retired as a corporate brand, and Uponor is now Uponor on a worldwide basis.

Viega North America introduced the Snap Panel for wet mass radiant installation. The high-density polystyrene fastener system is designed to handle every tubing configuration. A secure-grip hold 1 /2-in. tubing reliably during the concrete pour. The interlocking 3-ft.by-5-ft. Snap Panels act as a vapor barrier and can be installed over any insulation. The company showed its new Viega Press Pro-Press Adapters that have a PEX connection one end and a ProPress press connection on the other. The fitting eliminates the need for soldering when attaching a PEX system to copper lines. The ProPress Adapters come in sizes from 1 /2 in. to 1 in. REHAU exhibited its RAUPANEL, consisting of REHAU's 3 /8-in. RAUPEX PEXa pipe, aluminum panels and wood return bends. The aluminum-intensive design provides good heat transfer, the company said. The system's low 5 /8-in. profile has minimal impact on overall floor height.

Ridge Tool showed the improved NaviTrack II pipe and cable locator. The tool has more processing power, a better signal strength indicator and a better LCD display so even the most inexperienced tech can use it, the company said. The DVD training video helps too. The NaviTrack II is 15% lighter than its predecessor and is well balanced so it may be used with one hand.

Titan Piping Co. introduced the Co-Pro push-to-connect copper pipe fitting that it's importing from Europe from Groupe Legris Industries. The product has been in use in Europe for five years, according to Titan. The company is selling 1 /2-in. and 3 /4-in. straight fittings, elbows, tees, reducing tees and stop ends.

Manifolds and accessories
Watts Regulator presented its 35 Series Sea Tech plastic manifolds for PEX plumbing and heating systems. The manifold components snap together in any configuration and any size and each connection has its own shutoff valve.

The firm's brethren at Watts Radiant were showing their Hydronex modular control panels. Watts Radiant has always built control panels, but the Hydronex will be available as either in-stock or quick delivery. Watts will inventory primary panels, distribution panels to send water to the point of use and zone panels with stainless steel manifolds. Contractors have a choice of Taco, Grundfos or B&G circulators.

Zurn's plumbing and radiant heating division showed off its QickZone bayonet-style brass supply and return manifolds that can be assembled from two to 12 outlets. The manifolds can connect to 3 /8-in., 1 /2-in., 5 /8-in. and 3 /4-in. Zurn PEX tubing. Isolation ball valves, flow gauges, balancing valves, shut-off and zoning valves complete the offering.

Calefi unveiled its Hydrolink hydronic separator/manifold, known as a low-loss header, that creates a zone of low or no pressure loss so a system's various circulators don't affect flow in other circuits.

Victaulic brought out the big iron, the Advanced Groove System, which it says is its strongest mechanical coupling for 14-in. to 24-in. pipe. The AGS, which will replace the company's other large diameter couplings, has a V-groove that allows it to hold fast up to 350 PSI. The two-piece housing connects with two bolts that tighten to bolt pad to bolt pad contact for visual confirmation that the joint is properly completed.

Anvil presented an insulation saddle system to make it easier to insulate pipe. The high-impact glass-reinforced polypropylene blocks fit on clevis hangers from 2 in. through 16 in.

Tyco's Grinnell operation showed a grooved copper connection system for roll grooved pipe from 2 in. to 8 in. A groove can be rolled in the field, Grin-nell says, either on the ground with a power drive or up in the air with a hand crank. The connectors are rated up to 180°F and 300 PSIG.