What impressed me most from the shows

March 1, 2011
There were plenty of good things to see at the International Builders Show and the AHR Expo, some of them high-tech and a lot of them just plain practical.

There were plenty of good things to see at the International Builders Show and the AHR Expo, some of them high-tech and a lot of them just plain practical.

On the practical side, there was Zoeller with its scale removal system for tankless water heaters. It's an excellent reason for you to get back into your customers' homes once a year. Hook the hoses up to the service ports on the water heater, put some food grade vinegar in the machine, plug it in, turn on the pump and let it work for 45 minutes. In the meantime you can go looking for old or malfunctioning or water-wasting plumbing products that you can replace.

Have a customer with inadequate water pressure? Franklin Electric's Little Giant brand introduced the Inline CP (for constant pressure) a pressure booster that can handle a whole house. It's a variable speed pump that reacts to changing pressure and ramps up and down as needed.

Who doesn't love clearing a sewage ejector pump? Just kidding. Pentair Water rolled out a grinder pump from Germany featuring the "Multicut high torque cutting system." The blades are designed to chop up elastic, meaning you won't have to fish women’s panties out of the sump pit.

There were some product introductions that are going to turn into very big deals down the road.

Taco went off in a new direction, hiring controls guru Roger Michaud as sales manager – electronics and forming Taco Electronic Solutions. The result is Taco's iWorx system, a web-based building management, monitoring, and control system designed specifically for high-end residential and light commercial markets. Written with a completely open protocol so that it can talk to a variety of equipment and building control systems, iWorx is a solution that provides a full suite of control product applications that range from boiler controls, heating and air conditioning applications, and even include products for emerging new technologies like BTU metering.

Products like iWorx and the work being done by members of the ClimateTalk Alliance will eventually turn out to be a very big deal. It’s all about the killer app, right? Eventually all of the products in a home will talk to each other and to you and the homeowner. Controls like these will enable you to monitor your customers' energy and water use from anywhere. Your customers will be able to control their houses from their iPhones or Droids.

It doesn't make sense to run energy using products full speed all the time. Bell & Gossett and Grundfos both showed off variable speed circulators that will become the accepted way of doing things. Last year I was standing in a basement on Martha's Vineyard with our Contractor of the Year Brian Nelson when he pointed to an ECM circulator on the wall and said, "That's the future." And in our January issue, our Dave Yates explained in his Biggest Loser feature story that he discovered that the ghost loads in his house consumed 28W but his circulators sucked up almost 1,200W. When he switched to ECM circulators, he cut his electric use by 93%.

We think Rheem has a good idea integrating HVAC and water heating since it has operating units that do both of those well. The company jumped back into the AHR Expo after being absent for several years showing a product line such as its Integrated Heating & Water Heating System Powered by Tankless Technology, a long name for a product that provides both space heating and domestic hot water in a cross-platform product that is, Rheem points out, designed, built and warranted by a single manufacturer. Every restaurant needs HVAC and plenty of hot water, so Rheem devised the Hybrid Air and Water Package Unit, a rooftop unit that switches over from a refrigerant-to-air system to a refrigerant-to-water system when there is a demand for air conditioning and hot water.

And take note of the aging-in-place accessible bathing products that are coming out of manufacturers like Delta, Kohler and American Standard. Kohler showed its Elevance Rising Wall Bath, Delta displayed its Transfer Tub and zero-threshold shower bases, and American Standard presented its line from newly acquired Safety Tubs LLC. None of us are getting any younger.

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