Oscar Einzig photo
The opening day of the show was packed

AHR Expo products are getting smarter

Jan. 24, 2014
Products are getting smarter, such as Taco's Self Sensing Series that can optimize its own performance. If you hang anything in the air, check out Erico's Caddy Rod Lock. Boilers with thermal efficiencies in the mid-90s were commonplace and turndown ratios on some are an astounding 15:1. Bradford White's latest product will make you comfortable installing heat pump water heaters. What's a Nest? White-Rodgers and ecobee introduced smart thermostats that you can control with your Android, iPhone or even a Blackberry. Geothermal manufacturers introduced some killer heat pumps with EERs in the 40s.  

NEW YORK — Like its 2008 predecessor, the 2014 AHR Expo here was a winner. Management announced before the show that more than 1,800 exhibiting companies had reserved 387,000-sq.ft. of booth space, exceeding the record-breaking exhibit space reserved for the 2008 New York show by nearly 6%. The 2008 show attracted nearly 58,000 visitors, but final attendance figures for this year’s show were not available at the time of this post. The snowstorm on the first day of the show was probably a double-edged sword; some people planning to travel to the show on its first day undoubtedly couldn’t make it but those who were there packed the show. Where else were you going to go during a snowstorm?

Many of the products at the show are getting considerably smarter and more connected. A case in point is the Taco Self Sensing Series of pumps with iWorx Pro View. A working demo showed how the pump would automatically slow down or speed up as valves open and close. The pump can reprogram its own flow and head automatically right out of the box. No programming required. That eliminates a bunch of time and expense for separate controls, sensors and wiring. Hook it up to iWorx and the pump creates a graphical user interface and integrates with the building automation system.

Before we go any further into the digital domain, let’s talk about a “dumb” mechanical product that can turn into a huge labor saver for contractors. Erico introduced the Caddy Rod Lock threaded rod hanger system that allows you to fabricate your racks of pipe or duct in the shop or on the ground at the job site. Their secret is the way the nut on the bracket works. You can lift the assembly into the air, push it onto the threaded rods and it locks in place. You can then tweak the leveling or slope of your assembly, and then tighten the nuts to lock it permanently.

To see a demonstration of how it works, check out Erico’s video.

High-efficiency boilers
Rinnai introduced several interesting new products, including the E50C gas combi boiler for the multi-family market. The boiler uses a single circulator for both the boiler and heat distribution loop. It can modulate anywhere from 13,600 to 50,000 Btuh, and handle a single zone of heat and 1½ baths while achieving a 95.6% AFUE.

Lochinvar introduced its large capacity extension of the Knight boiler line, the FTXL, a vertical, stainless, ASME-stamped boiler with advanced combustion and a 10:1 turndown ratio. It comes in five sizes of 400,000, 500,000, 600,000, 725,000 and 850,000 Btuh and thermal efficiencies of 97%-98%, depending on which model is selected. The boiler’s smart system control can be optimized to fine tune the boiler to the building, a handy feature for buildings that may be unoccupied for periods, such as schools or churches. The unit comes with both Ethernet and Wi-Fi connections so you can see, control or diagnose the boiler on the ‘net with your Android device, iPhone or iPad. It’s BACnet compatible and you can cascade up to eight units. The FTXL will go into full production in June.

Navien’s NCB Series ASME-certified combi boiler is 93.5% efficient and it can pump out 4.5-GPM at a 77°F rise. It has dual inputs of 199,000 Btuh for DHW and 120,000 Btuh for space heating and the space heating side can get up to 194°F. It can be pipe with ½-in. gas pipe. Navien teased attendees with its NHB Series prototype heating boiler that will be available in June. It comes in three sizes, 55,000, 80,000 and 110,000 Btuh, and the 110,000 Btuh model has a 15:1 turndown ratio. It takes ½-in. gas pipe and vents with 2-in. PVC.

Bosch/Buderus was another big hydronic tease with its SSB Series boilers that will be available from 85,000 to 1 million Btuh, efficiencies north of 96% and turndowns between 5:1 and 10:1, depending on the model. The boilers won’t be out until the 4th quarter of this year. The boilers, BACnet and Modbus compatible, will have variable speed circulators to max out the ∆T, built-in energy monitoring and built-in solar thermal interface, which makes sense since Bosch makes solar collectors. We tried to take a picture and they said no. It looks like a tall, thin, gray appliance.

Weil-McLain displayed its Slim Fit boiler for schools, apartment complexes, firehouses and office buildings. The boilers come in 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0 million Btuh capacities. They are Modbus and BACnet compatible and boast thermal efficiencies of 95%. Weil-McLain made the Slim Fit easy to install. All of the cover panels the same size so the installer can move the panel that contains the controls anywhere. Need to rotate the boilers 90°? Just move the control panel to the side that faces out. Weil-McLain also makes the boilers in left-hand and right-hand piped models. Put a left-hand and right-hand piped boiler side-by-side and your near-boiler piping is all in the middle in a single, compact location.

Water heater innovations

Navien showed its NPE Series A Model water heater than includes a circulator and a ¾-gal. buffer tank. That little bit of storage eliminates cold-water sandwich and allows the hot water to be run at a trickle instead of at a minimum flow rate to fire the burner. The tankless heater, with an EF of 0.98, comes in three models between 150,000-189,900 Btuh. It can be vented with 2-in. PVC.

With 2015 federal water heater efficiency rules looming, Bradford White introduced the 50-gal. AeroTherm heat pump water heater that will be available mid-year. An 80-gal. model will follow later. The water heater can operate in one of four modes — heat pump, hybrid with heat pump and electric elements, straight electric elements, and vacation mode. It boasts an EF of 2.4. Here are the good parts — the water connections on top are exactly like a conventional water heater and there will be instructions printed on the outside of the carton explaining how you can transport it lying down in your van without damaging the unit.

Rinnai’s RH180 Hybrid Tank-Tankless is a way to move customers into the tankless realm on an emergency replacement. If a customer has an existing tank-type water heater, the RH180 installs just like a replacement tank, using a ½-in. gas line and standard 4-in. B-vent. The tankless portion can dump 3-GPM of hot water into the attached storage tank, giving a first hour delivery rate of 180-gal. Finally, Rinnai showed its Water Heating Ultra Series that ordinarily takes concentric venting with an adapter that allows PVC venting. Some contractors prefer PVC. The adapter, which will be available in March, will accommodate 3-in. or 4-in. PVC and can vent up to 65-ft. To get a better look at it, see our video on contractormag.com.

Killer water-source units

Both WaterFurnace and ClimateMaster released a couple of killer water-source heat pumps.

ClimateMaster showed the Trilogy 40 Q Mode 40-EER heat pump that features variable speed compressor, fan motor and circulator. The Q Mode allows the heat pump to provide heating, cooling, domestic hot water in cooling mode and DHW year-round even when it’s not in cooling mode. The Trilogy 40 Q-Mode series is the outcome of a five-year collaboration between ClimateMaster and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Building Technologies Program. The heat pump comes in models that produce from 9,000-30,000 Btuh and 18,000-60,000 Btuh. ClimateMaster also showed its Tranquility Vertical Stack Series that’s designed for identical dwelling units such as hotels, apartments or condos, or dormitories. The Vertical Stack units come in ¾-3-ton capacities and work with either geothermal or boiler/tower systems.

WaterFurnace showed its 7 Series heat pump with variable speed loop pump, blower and compressor. The heat pump boast an EER of 41.0 a 5.3 COP. The unit, in 3-, 4- and 5-ton capacities, can ramp down to 20% of normal operation for ultra-efficient conditioning or up to 130% output using WaterFurnace’s “SuperBoost,” for periods when extra cooling is needed. The 7 Series also uses the firm’s Aurora logic boards to monitor and optimize operation. Aurora provides a platform of two-way communication between components, troubleshooting capabilities and communication protocols. This includes instantaneous or 13-month history energy monitoring when used with a communicating thermostat. The heat pump has an Ethernet port so service techs can connect the Aurora Interface Diagnostic Tool. A smartphone app for the heat pump is coming in April.

Modine, which bought the Geofinity line of geothermal heat pumps a couple years ago, showed The Orb, a contractor-friendly multi-zone geothermal controller that displays EER, COP, temperatures going in an out, and system fault diagnostics. Modine also showed redesigned Airedale ClassMate single packaged vertical DX and heat pump system. ClassMate offers efficiency, noise reduction and a smaller footprint, providing great flexibility for school installations. The ClassMate is offered in four capacities, from 24,000-60,000 Btuh in two cabinet sizes. Also, EER is boosted up to 12% over the existing ClassMate HE for integrated part-load values up to 16.1.

Bosch also showed two products in its heat pump line. The I/O Flex 6126 controller, which is mounted on Bosch’s Florida Heat Pump products, has 12 total universal inputs, six digital and six analog outputs, and integrates easily with a BAS. Bosch’s LV Model single-stage heat pump is available with either PSC or ECM motors. The LM Model two-stage water-source heat pump has a 19 EER or part load efficiencies between 28-32 EER.

Smart thermostats

Nest? What’s a Nest? ecobee showed its EB-SmartSi-01 thermostat that uses an advanced algorithm to incorporate a live weather feed with its analysis of a home’s energy performance. The ecobee mobile app allows a user to control the thermostat from anywhere; it’s available on Android, the iTunes store, and (get this) Blackberry App World. Notifications and alerts can be sent directly to the thermostat and to a user’s email. Its open programming interface allows the thermostat to easily sync up with other products in a connected home. The EB-SmartSi-01 is ZigBee compatible. (ZigBee is the communications protocol at the device level that allows, for example, the humidifier to talk to the furnace.)

Emerson introduced the Sensi thermostat, which features remote access from a smart phone, tablet or PC. The thermostat will be made and sold by Emerson’s White Rodgers division. With no C-wire, the Sensi thermostat installs quickly. Connecting the thermostat to a home Wi-Fi system is also easy with the step-by-step guide provided in the Sensi thermostat mobile app. Contractor branding is available directly in the Sensi app. Registered contractors enter their phone number during the installation process so the homeowner can call them with one touch on her phone. The mobile app helps the homeowner store up to nine different schedules and manages multiple thermostats on the same app — even at a second home. The display shows info such as local weather, system status, or current room temperature. The same thermostat can be controlled by more than one phone or pad, which can lead to interesting thermostat battles between spouses.

Pump innovations

Bell & Gossett featured the e-1510 pump for HVAC system pumping duties with the Technologic variable frequency drive. The e-1510 is available up to 125-HP and it comes with sensorless, built-in flow and pressure measurement. The e-1510 is available in 26 sizes and a variety of configuration options that enables customization and flexibility to fit a broad range of operating conditions. Stainless steel impellers reduce corrosion or degradation potential from varying water quality, and provide improved surface characteristics for enhanced sustainable hydraulic performance. Optimized hydraulics contributes to further efficiency for both fixed and variable speed operation. True back pullout capability supports low maintenance and service costs.

Victaulic focused on its Tour & Andersson Series TCP Pressure Independent Balancing and Control Valve, which enables mechanical contractors to be able to take direct flow measurements, allowing for on-the-spot diagnostics and problem solving. In the TA Series TCP PIBCV the balancing and control valve functions are separate with full stroke EQM modulation, providing superior control valve authority regardless of preset position. Victaulic also showed its TBB terminal balancing valve that comes in three models: on/off, modulating, and pressure independent balancing control valve.

Wilo featured its Helix Excel multi-stage, high efficiency, ECM pressure booster pump for either domestic water supply or cooling tower applications. The Helix Excel is available in capacities to 7½-HP.

Toolmaker Rothenberger showed its Rocam 3000 drain line camera system that comes with 100-ft. of cable. The camera can save either stills or video to a USB drive and the camera is self-leveling.

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