AHR sets attendance record, showcases innovative products

March 4, 2011
LAS VEGAS — It turns out that the AHR Expo set a new attendance record — more than 34,000 attendees saw all the latest HVAC products and innovations on display from 1,938 exhibiting companies, making this year’s event the largest show ever held outside of Chicago or New York.

LAS VEGAS — It turns out that the AHR Expo set a new attendance record — more than 34,000 attendees saw all the latest HVAC products and innovations on display from 1,938 exhibiting companies, making this year’s event the largest show ever held outside of Chicago or New York. Included in the record-breaking number of exhibitors were more than 200 first-time exhibitors and nearly 400 international companies from 31 different countries.

Rheem had not been at AHR the last couple years and it reentered with a bang. Rheem executives emphasized that it is leveraging its expertise in both HVAC and water products.Some of the featured products at this year’s show included the Rheem Hybrid Air & Water Package Unit; the Integrated Heating & Water Heating System Powered by Tankless Technology; the Hybrid Water Heater with Heat Pump Technology; and the Prestige Condensing Tankless Water Heater.

The Hybrid Air and Water Package Unit utilizes heat recovery water heating technology. Rheem has identified full service restaurants as the primary beneficiary of this new product; 46% of a full service restaurant’s operating cost is due to HVAC and water expenses. The Hybrid Air and Water Package Unit 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.

The Integrated Heating & Water Heating System Powered by Tankless Technology is a cross-platform product that offers home heating and hot water from a single manufacturer. Designed for smaller households with a lower hot-water demand, the 40-gal. HP-40 Hybrid Water Heater with Heat Pump Technology, is Energy Star-rated and qualifies for a variety of state and local incentives or rebates.

The Rheem Prestige Series Condensing Tankless Water Heater has a minimum flow rate of 0.26-GPM and a minimum activation flow rate of 0.40 GPM. Homeowners using low-flow fixtures receive hot water without having to increase the flow. Units can vent with PVC piping.

Taco kicked off its presence at the show by announcing that it will build a new Innovation & Development Center consisting of a two-story 24,037-sq.ft. addition in combination with 24,487-sq.ft. of interior renovation at its Rhode Island headquarters. This new training center will utilize, display and provide a hands-on learning environment.

Taco also announced that it and Schneider Electric have collaborated on the development of a new line of commercial variable speed drives now available at Taco's new Advantage drives combine the manufacturer's pumping technology with Schneider's variable frequency drives, now complete with Square D enclosures to provide advanced, user-friendly technology.

Taco showed its solar pumping station technology that combines all the components needed for a closed-loop water heating system into a single, pre-engineered package. There are five connections to make: two for the solar collectors, two for the storage tank’s heat exchanger, and one for the expansion tank. The solar pumping station includes isolation ball valves, air elimination, flow meter and a safety group.

Taco also showed iWorx from Taco Electronics Solutions, 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.

ITT’s Bell & Gossett unit introduced a pair of ECM-motor-powered pumps that consume minimal electricity. The ecocirc pump for recirculating hot water systems uses 68% less energy than most standard pumps and can save an average family of four more than 12,000-gal. of water a year by eliminating the need to wait for the water to get hot. Using only 10W of power, the ecocirc can save a homeowner hundreds of dollars in energy costs a year.

The ecocirc eliminates the need for a conventional shaft, seal and bearing assembly. The rotor/impeller is the only moving part in the circulator and it is magnetically balanced on a stationary ceramic bearing inside the pump housing. The pump has the only self-realigning bearing in the small pump market. It is self-lubricating and automatically cooled by pump media. A solar model is available. For heating applications, B&G’s ecocirc auto and vario pump with ECM motor incorporates control modes (auto for automatic proportional pressure control and “vario” for stepless speed control with a constant curve). It has a stepless speed switch with LED for pump status and troubleshooting.

Grundfos showed off its new Magna variable-speed wet rotor circulator. The Magna with its permanent magnet motor design reduces power consumption by 50% or more. The unique patented AutoAdapt feature controls pump performance automatically within defined performance range, ensuring lowest possible energy consumption without sacrificing comfort. The AutoAdapt function automatically modulates circulator performance to match ever-changing system demand, cutting power consumption by a minimum of 50%, as compared with other circulators in its class. The pump’s integrated frequency converter incorporates built-in intelligence that analyzes current conditions and adjusts performance accordingly to ensure maximum efficiency during operation. A 10-foot-long line cord connects the circulator to a wall outlet. When in operation, the noise level of the Magna is less than 35 db or equivalent to a whispered voice.

RIDGID showcased the micro CA-100 view-only inspection camera, which allows for more detailed visual digital inspections in hard-to-reach areas. The new larger 3.5-in. display atop its comfortable, pistol-grip ergonomic design with one-hand controls makes it easy to detect and diagnose problems. An image rotation function eliminates any awkward hand positions, and allows for the image to be positioned for the best readability in any tight situation. The micro CA-100 comes standard with four adjustable LEDs in a rugged, waterproof 3/4-in., 17-millimeter anodized aluminum camera head on a flexible, waterproof 3-ft. cable. The cable can be expanded to a maximum of 30 feet with available extensions. The camera comes with three separate attachments that twist and lock into place on the camera head: a J-shaped extension called the hook tip allows users to pick up, tug, or pull small objects within reach of the cable; the magnetic tip can pick up metal objects; and in probing the tight spaces, the mirror tip lets them look around corners, providing more versatility in the tightest spots.

Navien America Inc. showcased a variety of prototype technologies, including the Stirling Engine CHP, which produces heat and electrical power simultaneously using natural gas as an energy source for individual homes and small commercial properties. This system is driven by temperature differentials between supply (heated by the engine burner) and return (cooled by water) temperatures. The heat and power produced by the appliance are used directly in the home for space heating and running domestic appliances. The product offers 25% energy savings per year and a significant reduction of CO2 emissions.

Another prototype displayed the company’s Solar Energy System, featuring low specific heat capacity (Heat Pipe Type) and fast startup, as well as higher heat efficiency than commonly used vacuum tubes. The absence of water flows and scaling prevent tubes from freezing and cracking in extreme cold environments; and the high vacuum grade (8-10 bar) guarantees high efficiency even in cloudy environments and high temperature applications. In addition, the product’s controller features advanced functions such as a temperature differential control between the collector and tank; automated water supply to the collector; overheat protection; pressure check for collector line; and low water level check for the collector tank. The system provides domestic hot water and heating when used with the company’s Condensing 98% Tankless Gas Water Heater and Combi Gas Boiler/Water Heater. It can also be used in a geothermal system.

Uponor showed its Radiant Rollout Mat for faster, consistent installations for large commercial radiant heating and cooling applications — saving up to 85% in installation time. The mat consists of Wirsbo hePEX (oxygen barrier) or Uponor AquaPEX (non-barrier) PEX-a tubing connected with ProPEX engineered plastic fittings, which are safe for burial in the slab and offer onsite customization when necessary. The mat can install about eight times faster than conventional radiant tubing installation methods, potentially shaving weeks off an installation schedule. For example, a six-man crew can install 35,000-sq.ft. (16 to 19 mats) per day, versus 4,500-sq.ft. per day if the tubing had to be laid down by hand on-site.

Uponor also teased a product that will not be out until April, the Radiant Ready 30E panel and Fast Trak knobbed mats. The 30,000 Btuh electric boiler-based package system is a complete radiant mechanical room designed in a compact, preassembled, easy-to-install panel. The unit includes a boiler, manifold, pump, expansion tank, pressure-relief valve, isolation valves, thermostat and air vent. The installer hangs the panel on the wall, connects the tubing, thermostat and electrical power. PEX tubing snaps into the Fast Trak mats on the slab or subfloor.

Lochinvar introduced its new Knight wall-mounted boiler with a new fire tube design. Developed to provide contractors with all of the options they need to serve every application, the new Knight Wall Mount fire tube models are available in seven capacities with inputs from 55,000 to 399,000 Btuh. For higher demand applications, Lochinvar’s Smart System operating control features a built-in cascading sequencer that allows up to eight units to be installed, delivering up to 3.2 million Btu/hr. heating capacity. The new Knight boilers offer up to 99% thermal efficiency, low-NOx emissions and a fully modulating 5:1 turndown burner.

The Smart System operating control, coupled with the wall-mounted boiler’s space-saving design, aids installation and maintenance. The Smart System interface features a multi-color graphic LCD display and a navigation dial. In addition, the device controls up to three individual setpoint temperatures, allowing three different temperature loops — radiant, baseboard or DHW — to be serviced and enabling the appliance to run at the lowest required temperature to increase system efficiency.

Daikin showed AHR attendees its Altherma air-to-water heat pump unit that can be connected to low temperature radiators, fan coil units, radiant heating systems, and solar thermal technology for hot water production. The system is a high efficiency, year round solution for the new construction and retrofit residential markets and an option for net zero homes. The system features a two-stage compression system using multiple smaller compressors. The heat pump’s energy efficiency, with COPs between 3.0 and 5.0, is maintained even at low ambient temperatures. Daikin says that the Altherma is more efficient than any other HVAC unit, regardless of the fuel used, and achieves similar seasonal efficiency as ground source heat pumps but with lower installation costs.

Rinnai showcased its new hydronic furnace, which works in conjunction with Rinnai’s tankless water heating system to efficiently heat an entire home. Featuring Electronically Commutated Motor (ECM) technology, the furnace’s brushless direct current motor operates up to 48% more efficiently than traditional PSC (permanent spilt capacitor) models, translating into lower operating costs and reduced energy usage. The hydronic furnace produces heat that is less dry than heat from a typical gas furnace. The unit uses hot water generated by Rinnai’s tankless water heating system to heat the air, which is then distributed throughout the home via the unit’s blower and the home’s existing ductwork. During periods of heavy demand, the hydronic furnace gives priority to domestic hot water needs, shutting down the blower to prevent cold air from spreading through the home. The compact unit requires no venting or gas connections.

Rinnai also showcased its ENERGYSAVER direct vent wall furnaces that are capable of heating up to 1,200-sq.ft. from a single, central room. When sized correctly, the ENERGYSAVER furnace can be used as a home’s primary heat source, or for supplemental heating in areas such as a basement or guest room. Providing consistent heat, the unit’s Intelligent Modulating Gas Valve and blower control alternate to ensure heat reaches the remainder of a home without overheating the main area. The furnace continuously adjusts its heat output based on current demand, so it replaces only the heat escaping from a structure, which leads to lower gas usage and more comfortable, consistent heating with no large fluctuations in room temperature. Operating at up to 83%t AFUE, the furnace has an economy setting to maximize energy savings and uses less than 1 watt of power in standby mode.

Watts showed hydronic packages, featuring its new boiler header module. Watts is assembling packages to take the guesswork out of boiler manufacturers’ recommended near-boiler piping. The header module comes out of the box with an air separator, system purge valve, fill valve assembly, service fitting and an expansion tank. As boilers get smaller, Watts has piped these packages to provide high functionality in an economical space.

Heat Transfer Products showed its Versa-Flame combination heat and hot water unit. The boiler/water heater has a first hour rating of 288-GPH and can supply 5-GPM at a 77°F rise via a built-in brazed plate heat exchanger. For space heating, it is 95% efficient and can modulate with a 5:1 turndown ratio. Its tank is stainless steel. The combustion and control system can be accessed by removing on light molded cover. There’s easy access to the control board, display and field connection board without the need for tools.

Peerless displayed the Purefire high efficiency condensing commercial gas boiler. With a combustion efficiency of 95.5%, the burner can be modulated with a 10:1 turndown ratio. Up to 16 boilers can be cascaded. The direct vent/sealed combustion units are ASME and ETL certified and are low NOx. The burner and heat exchanger are stainless and the boilers come with outdoor reset and DHW priority. The units, in three available sizes, can fire as low as 80,000 Btuh and as high as 1 million.

Triangle Tube announced the availability of its Challenger Combination boiler. With three models from 84,000 to 124,000 Btu/hr, the Challenger combines a high efficiency modulating, condensing boiler with on-demand domestic hot water production in a single compact unit for small to mid-sized residences. The instant hot water feature eliminates the need for a separate hot water tank while still providing up to 3 GPM of hot water. The unique dual function heat exchanger features dual copper waterways that provide both space heat and domestic hot water directly in the primary heat exchanger. This eliminates the need for a separate heat exchanger, pump, and three-way valve and provides superior condensing efficiency and increased reliability. The copper waterways are glycol compatible for specific space heating applications and are cast into an aluminum block providing even heating, and eliminating hot spots where localized steam may occur. The aluminum block is engineered for maximum heat transfer and minimum maintenance. The Challenger has the latest energy saving technology with an AFUE of 96%. It is a modulating, condensing boiler that will accept either natural gas or propane, and has a turndown ratio of nearly 4 to 1. The integrated controls feature standard outdoor reset and DHW priority.

Apricus introduced The Wombat combination solar thermal system. The residential/commercial thermal storage unit is comprised of an atmospheric polypropylene tank that acts as a solar drain-back tank. It heats from the top down for fast recovery. Plug and play kits that go with the wombat include a domestic hot water kit, commercial hot water kit and space heating kit, all of which come with the requisite pumps, heat exchangers and controls.

Trimble introduced its new field layout software suite, including Trimble Field Link for MEP and Trimble Field Link for Structures. The latest additions to Trimble’s field layout portfolio incorporate a version for MEP trades and a version for steel and concrete contractors distinguished by trade-specific feature sets. Using the ruggedized 7-in. touch-screen Trimble Tablet Rugged PC, Trimble Field Link can dramatically improve the productivity of field personnel performing layout by providing more information readily at their fingertips. Featuring task-based workflows, customizable views and a new user-interface designed to optimize the information presented, Trimble Field Link extends field layout capabilities. Trimble Field link adds reporting routines to detail layout productivity as well as the ability to document existing site conditions for RFIs. Contractors working with BIM can now view 3D DWG and DXF design models in the field with Trimble Field Link. Trimble Field Link was designed for the Trimble Tablet to take advantage of a larger touch screen, additional processing power, increased storage, Internet connectivity options and a full version of Windows 7. As a fully-functioning PC, the Trimble Tablet provides contractors the flexibility to run additional business applications. Trimble Field Link for MEP includes a Visual Layout module for automated layout and identification of indoor points associated with MEP systems.

FLIR Systems unveiled three new product lines: FLIR i3, a point-and-shoot infrared camera; FLIR E-Series, compact thermal imagers; and FLIR T620 & T640, professional-grade thermal imaging cameras. The FLIR i3 is a sub-$1,200 point-and-shoot infrared camera. The fully-automatic FLIR i3 is easy to use out of the box and offers 60 x 60 pixel resolution suitable for everyday, general diagnostic work. FLIR’s new E-series is a four-model range of compact thermal imagers (E30, E40, E50, E60) that transforms infrared diagnostics by introducing a mix of powerful thermal imaging capabilities such as 76,800 pixels (320 × 240) IR resolution, <0.05˚C thermal sensitivity, 4x digital zoom, and 60Hz refresh rate as well as industry-first innovations such as Wi-Fi connectivity to personal devices such as iPads or iPhones, 3MP digital camera, and a wide, 3.5-in. full-view touchscreen with intuitive interface.

Also showcased were the all-new FLIR T620 and T640 professional-grade thermal imaging cameras with 307,200 pixel (640 x 480) infrared resolution, a 5 MP visible light digital camera, and a flexible, ergonomic design with rotating optical block for effective infrared diagnostics from any angle. These two cameras feature segment-leading thermal imaging capabilities, 5MP digital camera, large 4.3-in. full-view touchscreen and viewfinder, Wi-Fi connectivity, and class-leading ergonomic design.

American Hometec Inc. showcased its new ThermolockÔ line of ultra-compact electric tankless water heaters — thermostatically controlled hot or tempered water units designed for easy compliance to codes like UPC 413.1-2006. The Thermolock line includes a family of three electric units — the AHQ-TC10, ACQ-TC10Y and ACQ-TB03X — designed for hand washing, eye washing, booster heat or kitchen sinks in commercial settings as well as sinks, dishwashers or a single shower (tropical zone only) in residential settings. The units feature a lockable interface that can be set to a precise, desired temperature and then locked to prevent unauthorized changes in temperature setting. The units also offer control of the outlet temperatures, even when the supply temperatures or pressures vary over time. The units also feature American Hometec’s patented Coilless Technology, which heats water indirectly through unique heat transfer. Because there are no coils with American Hometec’s pioneering technology, the electric components are never in direct contact with the water being heated, preventing accumulation of lime scale inside the unit and increasing longevity of the unit. The units also feature Multi-In-One TechnologyÔ, meaning the units can handle multiple needs by acting as two or three units in one.

Viessmann showed its Solar-Divicon Pumping and Heat Transfer Stations for closed loop solar systems. The Divicon provides the link between the solar collectors and the storage tanks. The devices come with ball valves equipped with check valves, and air scoop, flow meter, an 87-psig pressure relief valve and expansion tank connection. Two models are available, the Divicon and the Divicon-HX. Both are preassembled and prewired and come with a three-speed pump. The HX adds a large double wall stainless steel heat exchanger with visible leak detection.

In addition to its full line of PEX tubing and related products, Rehau showed EcoAir ground-to-air heat exchange system that provides improved indoor air ventilation, enhanced energy efficiency and increased comfort in alignment with the fresh air requirements of today’s tighter building envelopes. It capitalizes on the relatively consistent 45°F to 54°F ground temperatures found 5- to 7-ft. below the earth’s surface where fresh air is pre-warmed with ground heat in winter, and pre-cooled with cooler ground temperatures in summer. The EcoAir lowers relative humidity during periods of cooling, and hinders condensation from freezing in heat recovery ventilators during the heating season by raising the outside air temperature before it enters the HRV.

Fluke showed a variety of tools and instruments, including the TiS thermal imager. An affordably priced imager, the TiS includes manual focus, an essential feature for getting a usable reading. The imager withstands a 6.5-ft. drop test, has a large display screen, and is consistently easy to use. Contractors can use the imager to detect energy-wasting air leaks, check radiant floor heat and pinpoint moisture intrusion.

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About the Author

Candace Roulo

Candace Roulo, senior editor of CONTRACTOR and graduate of Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts & Sciences, has 15 years of industry experience in the media and construction industries. She covers a variety of mechanical contracting topics, from sustainable construction practices and policy issues affecting contractors to continuing education for industry professionals and the best business practices that contractors can implement to run successful businesses.      

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