AHR Expo

AHR 2018: More attendees, more connectivity, more opportunities than ever before

March 14, 2018
The 2018 AHR Exposition was the largest ever. According to the final numbers from International Exposition Co., total attendance was 72,075, up from 68,615 in 2017 at the Las Vegas show.

CHICAGO – The 2018 AHR Exposition was the largest ever. According to the final numbers from International Exposition Co., total attendance was 72,075, up from 68,615 in 2017 at the Las Vegas show. Total visitor attendance was 49,995, up from 48,568 in 2017. 2,155 companies exhibited, and 169 countries were represented. Even the space broke records with the 2018 show occupying 534,080 sq. ft. of Chicago’s McCormick Place.

Why so many people exhibiting and attending? Maybe because the entire marketplace seems enthusiastic about the business environment. A pre-show survey found 62 percent of exhibitors were optimistic about prospects in 2018. Another 27 percent said they think 2018 will be an “excellent” business year.

With such a huge event there were plenty of competing messages, but three themes seemed to dominate. First, make everything simpler, from setting up a boiler to connecting two pieces of pipe. Second, make everything more efficient, whether that be using less water or using less energy. Third, make everything smarter; everything is connected now. Everything has an app, or a Wi-Fi connection or Bluetooth, and if you can’t program it from your smartphone that means it’s probably smart enough to program itself.

Out on the show floor

Parallel Sensorless Controllers from Bell & Gossett have the ability to manage multiple pump output without a wired differential pressure transducer (DPT). Eliminating the need for an external sensor reduces installation costs and related maintenance costs, such as inspections, replacement and recalibration. The pump management technology is located directly within the drive’s software and coordinates a variety of functions to maximize the best efficiency point. A large 5.7” touch screen that displays real-time feedback and enables energy modeling.

Bosch Thermotechnology is making a big play in the smart home market with upgrades to its Connected Control BCC100 Thermostat. The full-color, 5”, touch-screen thermostat offers Wi-Fi connectivity and allows for remote monitoring and control of home heating and cooling systems. Is there an app? Of course there is! It allows users not only to control their home’s heating and cooling from their smartphone, users can connect and unlimited number of thermostats and manage up to four programmed schedules per thermostat.

Another Bosch offering was the Buderus SSB Stainless Steel Condensing Boiler, offered in eight models in four separate cabinet sizes with inputs ranging from 85 MBH up to 1,024 MBH. The boilers, which can be cascaded, feature a proprietary ASME SA-240 stainless steel type 316L heat exchanger and an integrated premix burner for optimized combustion. 

Cross debuted their new hydronic manifolds. With bodies manufactured from 304 Stainless Steel, the manifolds are an integrated solution that includes flow meter, balancing valves, an end-cap purge assembly, high-quality industrial stepper motors and cross knobs that make it easy to install and service.

REHAU showcased their EVERLOC+ compression-sleeve fitting system in a wider range of sizes – now going up to 2” diameter – to address plumbing and hydronic piping requirements in the commercial and multi-family sectors. The plumbing system includes RAUPEX  pipe and EVERLOC+ polymer and lead-free brass fittings featuring four sealing edges and a textured PEXa compression sleeve for a tight, secure grip. Connections are easily made using a consistent, two-step expansion/compression process, after which they are immediately ready for pressure testing. The flexibility of the materials and fewer number of connections can really boost an installer’s bottom line by saving man-hours.

The big message for Rheem at this year's show is one of unity; all of the company's brands including Rheem, Eemax, HGBG and RayPak were exhibiting in one booth. "All of those brands are showing new commercial products, so it's a really exciting renaissance for Rheem," Ford said.

There was some LARGE diameter pipe beveling going on at the RIDGID booth. The new B-500 put a clean accurate bevel on the entire pipe in about a minute. Don’t have the time or manpower to pull the pipe and bring it back to the shop? Not a problem; take the B-500 out into the field. It will actually rotate around the stationary pipe. It is spark-free, with speed indicators to ensure optimal performance.

Rinnai’s big announcement was their Sensei tankless water heater. The heater allows for easier and more flexible installation in more locations. 14 total vent configurations are possible, with a 65' vent run with 2" PVC and quick and easy gas conversion. It is designed to self-compensate in areas with low or fluctuating gas pressures to optimize performance.

The Eliminator Vortex filter from Sentinel s designed to eliminate corrosion in hydronic heating systems. It removes harmful magnetic and non-magnetic debris from circulating water. It is robust, easy to install, and simple to service. It features a compact size and 360-degree rotating T-piece making it easy to fit into an installation, saving time on the job.

Rob McManamy, Executive Director for HPAC Engineering in an interview with Johnny Hazen White, Owner and Executive Chairman of Taco Comfort Solutions discovered that this year the company’s big theme is connectivity. In speaking of the last few years’ worth of product development White noted, "Hardware is changing insignificantly, but electronics and controls are changing rapidly."

The big news from the Uponor booth was of course the big launch of their Phyn Plus Smart Water Shut-off. The device measures tiny changes in water pressure to alert homeowners the moment a leak is detected. It even conducts “health checks” to diagnose potential problems before they become an issue. It uses patented, high-definition pressure wave sensing to catch plumbing issues ranging from faucet drips to pinhole leaks to frozen pipe bursts. Water is turned offed automatically in the event of a catastrophic leak. 1” male-threaded ends are designed to adapt to different fittings and plumbing materials, such as PEX, copper and PVC. Free mobile app for real-time notifications.

Installing the Phyn will be the company’s ProSquad, a nationwide network of specially trained plumbers. Those interested in signing up can do so at https://www.uponorpro.com/uponorprosquad.

Vesta was touting the success of their new hybrid unit, as well as introducing their new combination boiler. Offered in four sizes, the boiler features a 10:1 turndown ratio, a self-calibration mode, and utilizes existing 1/2” gas pipe up to 24’. In an interview with Contracting Business’ Terry McIver, Jack Ernst, VP of Vesta said, “For 2018, the company focus is going to be on distribution," with an emphasis on exclusive, long-term partnerships.

Victaulic is making a big move into the carbon steel fitting market, with fittings down to ½” sizes. The company says the new fittings are less expensive and install faster than competing technologies.

And while we’re on the subject of new technologies, one of the impressive pieces Victaulic brought to the show floor was the CG1100 Cut Grooving Tool, made for the company under license with Porter Cable. The tool produces the PSG-300 cut groove into 2"-12"/DN50-DN300 Schedules 40 and 80 CPVC/PVC pipe. It is portable, lightweight for use in the field or shop, and had easily identifiable grooving bits and arm sets for 2"-4"/DN50 - DN100 and 6"-12"/DN150-DN200 pipe.

Geothermal systems continued to gain in popularity, even under the shadow of an expiring federal tax credit (which, as it turned out, did not happen even though the news broke after the show had ended). The 506A11 Outdoor Packaged Geothermal System from WaterFurnace is part of the company's 5 Series. All its components are housed outdoors, making it ideal for homes with limited space for equipment. It can deliver efficiencies as high as 27.6 EER for cooling and 4.6 COP for heating. It features Aurora Base Controls standard with the option of upgrading to AXB controls or Symphony and IntelliZone2 integration. It is EPA Energy Star rated.

Joining the every-growing number of intelligent pumps and circulators is the new Wilo-Stratos Maxo Smart Pukp from Wilo USA. The pump is an intuitive, glandless circulator with EC motor that features the latest in control modes such as No-Flow Stop. It has a Bluetooth interface and system bus. It features an optimized connector for all sizes. Pre-set application fields make for easy set-up.

Trucks and service vans of all sizes, shapes and descriptions were out on the floor at the Expo. Ford, Chevrolet, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Ram were just some of the big names on display.  Due to space constraints, we’ll be discussing their latest and greatest offerings in our exclusive coverage from the 2018 Work Truck Show in Indianapolis.

Click here for a gallery of the AHR Expo 2018 Innovation Award Winners.

Click here for a gallery showcasing the latest products from the 2018 Work Truck Show.

Sessions and seminars

There seemed to be three parallel threads running through the educational sessions and seminars taking place off the show floor. First were a small number of sessions that were all about running a better business. Women in HVACR, for example, presented “The Future of the Billable Hour” (another argument for flat-rate pricing). But these were few and far between.

Next were the straight-up technical sessions. The Radiant Professionals Alliance gave one session on radiant cooling and another on circulation in hydronic systems. Manufacturers gave sessions on topics such as simplifying boiler controls, advances in magnetic filtration technology, and how their latest product can solve this or that problem. 

But of special note were a series of well-attended sessions concerning that new generation of intelligent, connected devices out on the show floor, and how those devices can be used to deliver not just energy and water savings, but improved comfort for the people who live and work in smart buildings.

Scott Cochrane, president and CEO of Cochrane Supply & Engineering, presented "The Future of Building Automation - Data at the Open Intelligent Edge." He talked about how new ways of operating within the controls & automation business were emerging as the PC client/server era, transformed into the Cloud era, which is now giving way to the era of smart devices and edge computing.

Cochrane pointed to the Amazon Dot and said “Internet of Things (IoT) devices for the home are bringing new function and unlocking more capabilities and business for us in the commercial space. We’ve got to embrace the new technology and update how we deliver the information, the safety, and the building services that end-users demand.”

“Improving Organizational Productivity with Building Automation Systems” was presented by Trevor Nightingale, PhD, in association with the Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA). Nightingale opened his seminar with information from Canada’s National Research Council. The Council just released the first of a three-phase study that shows the connection between organizational productivity and Building Automation Systems.

“Traditional productivity thinking doesn’t apply here,” Nightingale said. “There’s no single metric you can pull out that is the quantifiable definition of productivity.”

All in all, it made for a fascinating time in Chicago. We’ll see you all in Atlanta for AHR Expo 2019.

About the Author

Steve Spaulding | Editor-inChief - CONTRACTOR

Steve Spaulding is Editor-in-Chief for CONTRACTOR Magazine. He has been with the magazine since 1996, and has contributed to Radiant Living, NATE Magazine, and other Endeavor Media properties.

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