Innovation not missing at off-year AHR Expo

BY ROBERT P. MADER Of CONTRACTORs staff ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. The turnout for the 2002 International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition Jan. 14-16 exceeded most expectations, attracting 28,513 visitors here from around the world. With 15,636 exhibitor personnel, overall attendance was 44,149 for the three-day event. The visitor total exceeded the numbers from the successful 2001 Show

BY ROBERT P. MADER

Of CONTRACTOR’s staff

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – The turnout for the 2002 International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition Jan. 14-16 exceeded most expectations, attracting 28,513 visitors here from around the world. With 15,636 exhibitor personnel, overall attendance was 44,149 for the three-day event.

The visitor total exceeded the numbers from the successful 2001 Show in Atlanta by more than 1,500. According to show management, this is because the Northeast is one of the largest HVACR markets in the United States.

“We knew we were going to have a good turnout for this show, but because of the challenging economy we did not anticipate these numbers,” said Clay Stevens, president of International Exposition Co., which produces and manages the AHR Expo. “The vast majority of the exhibitors we’ve talked to are very happy with the turnout, and more than 900 of them have already signed up for 2003 when we return to Chicago.”

Attendees had plenty to see, but as is the case in most off-year shows, the products seen were evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

Ridge Tool, for example, continued to draw large crowds with its ProPress copper fitting system that it introduced in 2000. The ProPress joins copper pipe with a pa-tented fitting and an electro-hydraulic tool. New for this year are fittings up to 4-in., up from 2-in. previously.

Clearwater Systems unveiled a new version of its Dolphin water-treatment system. The Dolphin System is a pulsed-power engineered product designed to prevent mineral scale formation and remove existing scale in steam boilers and cooling towers, as well as control microbial populations. Among the firm’s customers is Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Clearwater was showing its Digital Dolphin model that monitors and records functionality and temperature data and reports these parameters to a remote computer terminal.

Grundfos Pumps Corp. introduced a hot water recirculation system that can be retrofitted without the need for a return line. The system includes a “thermal bypass valve” that’s installed between the hot and cold water lines of a distant fixture and a timer-controlled circulator that’s installed in the hot water line near the water heater. The timer is set to circulate hot water during morning and evening peak usage times. The bypass valve uses the cold water supply line to recirculate hot water, but because the pump comes on just twice a day, the user doesn’t get hot water out of the cold water line.

Like most hydronic manufacturers, Weil-McLain has entered the radiant heating and PEX plumbing business. The company has partnered with a fittings company, Schluep Fittings, to sell a line of cast-brass patented “cone grip union” fittings. The fittings are assembled onto PEX pipe with a companion assembly tool and torque wrench. The fittings solve a problem that has vexed plumbers installing PEX water supply systems – most PEX fittings compress the tubing, creating pressure drop through the fitting. In the Schluep system, the i.d. of the assembled fitting is exactly the same as the i.d. of the PEX, so there’s minimal pressure drop.

Viessmann showed its Vitodens condensing wall-mounted gas boiler that it introduced at the ISH Show in Frankfurt, Germany, last year. The boiler, in capacities from 23,000 to 222,000 Btuh, uses the firm’s modulating MatriX compact radiant gas burner and a stainless steel heat exchanger.

Triangle Tube introduced its Delta Performance combination domestic hot water/space heating system. The device, with inputs from 100,000 to 199,000 Btuh, is not rated as a boiler. The unit featured a low NOx radiant burner at its base and a central flue. Space heating water is heated in an outer steel tank and domestic water is heated in an inner stainless steel tank. It is factory wired to give priority to domestic hot water.

Watts Industries was showing three new products for plumbing contractors. The first is actually a service, a pre-assembled valve station for commercial buildings. The contractor sends Watts the engineer’s specifications for the valve station and the company will put it together and ship it to the jobsite.

The second is aimed at the ongoing debate over scalding vs. low hot water temperatures and Legionella. The Under Sink Guardian connects to the hot and cold water piping underneath a sink and controls the mixed water temperature at the tap to +/-3°F. If the cold water supply fails or is shut off, the product will halt hot water flow. It connects with compression fittings and incorporates check valves to keep the hot and cold water from migrating back and forth. The mixed water temperature has to be set by the plumber, who needs to verify it with a handheld thermometer. The Guardian comes with a locking safety cap to prevent tampering.

The third is a thermal expansion tank for water heaters where there is no room for an expansion tank. The ILT Series of cylindrical expansion tanks install in-line on the incoming cold-water service line. The tanks, just 4-in. wide and up to 46-in. long, accept up to 1.85-gal. of expansion. They are rated at 150 PSI and temperatures to 160°F.

Brass Craft trotted out its new Safety+Plus gas shut-off fittings. The fitting looks and works like an ordinary gas connector, but in case of a major gas leak, it will shut off the gas supply to the appliance similar to a circuit breaker. The fitting incorporates a metal plate that’s held open by magnets, allowing gas to flow through during normal flow. If the gas line ruptures, the pressure of the sudden on-rush of gas forces the plate against the outlet, shutting off the supply of gas. The fitting can be used with water heaters, gas fireplaces, ranges and dryers.

Slant/Fin Corp. introduced its Victory VSP direct-vent, sealed-combustion gas boiler. The boiler, with input capacities from 60,000-180,000 Btuh, vents horizontally through a 3-in. air intake and flue connector. A condensate drain is built into the flue discharge assembly.

More plumbing and heating products from the AHR Expo will be covered in the March issue.