FRANKFURT, GERMANY — When you make the biennial March pilgrimage to the world’s largest plumbing-heating-cooling trade show here, you realize how similar and how different we are from the rest of the world. What was called International Sänitar Heizung Clima and now known simply as ISH attracts more than 200,000 people from all over the world on odd numbered years. Sadly, few of them are Americans. The show occupies 11 buildings with shuttle buses running in between.
“I was just blown away by the size and the scope,” said Matt Michel, President and CEO of the Service Roundtable, which hosted a tour group of American contractors in Frankfurt.
Consultant Ron Smith conducted morning seminars for the tour group in Frankfurt; members attended the show in the afternoons. Smith is a member of the Service Roundtable board of directors and consulting partner for Service Nation Alliance.
Wilo Pumps hired a firm to station people at the entrances to its booth and count the number of attendees entering. On Wednesday, March 16, 23,000 people walked into the 12,000-sq.ft. booth ISH is valuable not for the things that you can buy now, but to see what you will be buying in the near future.
Europe started the trend with 3.5 liter per flush toilets, which became 1.6-GPF toilets in the U.S. in the early ‘90s. Condensing boilers were developed in Europe before Viessmann and Buderus brought them to America.
OJ Electronics, Denmark, is already selling its electric radiant heating and snow and ice melting products in the U.S. In Frankfurt, OJ showed its ETO2 and ETR2 controllers for hydronic or electric snow and ice melting. The controls can handle two zones. The devices, explained Export Manager Peter Neilsen, use both temperature and moisture sensing.
Kohler Co. introduced the Toobi faucet line, which will make its U.S. debut at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas in at the end of April. Toobi is an original design that combines a modern form with a brightly colored spout liner than can be swapped out with other hues to suit the owner’s individual design aesthetic or mood. Toobi, a full line of bathroom fittings, was designed to meet consumer demand for personalization and desire for multiple color options. The interchangeable colored liners, currently available in ice white, phantom black and acid green, are made from an injection-molded polymer. Toobi pours water, rather than spraying it, through a slim, open spout.
Wilo displayed the Wilo-Geniax decentralized pump system. The system uses several miniature pumps placed in the heating circuits instead of thermostatic valves. The pump only runs when heat is required. Wilo tested the miniature pumps at the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics and found it saves 20% in heat energy and 50% in energy savings for a detached house. The Wilo-Geniax pump system can also be used for basic uncontrolled cooling in conjunction with a heat pump and underfloor heating.
Wilo showed new hardware and software solutions for Wilo-Geniax, such as a BACnet module to interface with a building automation system. Up to four Geniax servers can be connected to the building automation system simultaneously. The SysManager provides even greater flexible control and operation. This software allows users to access the decentralized pump system from a remotely located PC, which they can use to program time- and temperature profiles. The software also provides extended diagnostic functions for service techs including trend curves for analysis of temperature behavior, feed temperatures, pump speeds, and system states.
Viega showed the ProPress and SaniPress fitting systems and PEX systems with which American contractors are familiar. It also displayed it Manabloc manifold systems, stainless steel systems, and pressing tools. The company, however, has thousands of SKUs in Europe that it has not yet brought over, such as a full line of fixture carriers for urinals, wall-hung toilets, and handicapped accessible bath and shower units. It has an extensive line of drain and waste fittings for showers, tubs and lavs.
Italy’s Caleffi, with its U.S. headquarters in Milwaukee, showed a line of hydronic components for biomass boiler systems. The product line has been created specifically for wood-fueled systems operating at high temperatures, explained Vice President Rex Gillespie. The line includes temperature relief valves, anti-condensation valves, and anti-condensation recirculation and distribution packages.
Oventrop showed a commercial building control system that ties together thermostatic radiator valves, thermostats and window locks. The central controller, the DynaTemp 100/16, interfaces with the building automation system much like a wireless router. Radiator valves control the individual radiators while thermostats control night setback. If a window is open, a signal from the window handle puts the radiator in that room into setback mode. The router, which can be accessed via a laptop, can control 64 radiator valves. You can also control it with your iPad.
ISH Frankfurt gets bigger, more innovative
A New Age In North American Hydronics
Uponor showed a method for attaching PEX tubing for a radiant floor that’s brilliant in its simplicity. First, the installer puts down a layer of insulation to which he glues a special fabric sporting both the Uponor logo and handy gridlines for keeping the installation neat. The PEX is wrap in a spiral of Velcro. The installer simply walks the tubing down onto the floor. The Velcro is strong enough to hold the tubing to the floor even in tight bends. Uponor showed another labor-saving system, wall and ceiling radiant heating and cooling panels made of fiber-reinforced, fire-resistant gypsum with the tubing already installed. The firm also displayed its Dynamic Energy Management system with individual wireless room controllers. The C-46 controller also works for snow and ice melting applications.
Duravit showed off its Philippe Starch-designed SensoWash Darling line of bidet seats that are integrated into Duravit water closets, i.e., they are made specifically to fit Durvit models. Duravit’s U.S. President Tim Schroeder told CONTRACTOR that the bidet seas are becoming a common amenity in high-end to mid-range hotels.
German-Russian architect Sergei Tchoban designed the Esplanade line of fixtures for Duravit, which the firm describes as “opulent.” They are, especially the dark brown wood bathroom furniture with leather handles. Tchoban also designed a bathroom mirror that has LED lighting around its entire perimeter. Designer Matteo Thun created the Onto line wherein the fixture supports the furniture. The lav, for example, is hung on the wall with a J.R. Smith fixture carrier and then the furniture is hung onto the sink. The bathroom furniture is made of sealed plywood to make it more easily recyclable.
For tiny bathrooms, Duravit showed OpenSpace, a shower enclosure that measures about 36-in- x 36-in. The shower enclosure would be installed in a corner and, when not in use, the panels fold flat against the walls, concealing the shower fittings and personal care products.
Hansgrohe expanded its line of PuraVida and Focus faucets to expand what it calls the “comfort zone.” The faucets are available in a variety of heights to fit different types of fixtures or if the user just prefers a higher faucet to mount to, for example, wash her hair in the sink. Hansgrohe also showed a two-hole wall-mount version that can be installed at any height.
Europeans may use less water than Americans, noted Hansgrohe’s U.S. President Russ Wheeler, but the shower is not the place where they do it. The company displayed its Raindance showers that not only supply plenty of water with the conventional part of the showerhead, but also include a waterfall-like “gush jet.”
Hansgrohe had a huge wall display of bathroom lavs and they needed a whole wall to show all of the ways that its Axor Bouroullec lavs could be plumbed. The sinks have what look like shelves on the side and rear. The faucet spout and handles can be mounted anywhere on the back or side. If the designer doesn’t want to do that, then the faucet handles can be mounted on the bathroom furniture and the shelves can be used as, well, shelves. Hansgrohe also showed a Bouroullec bathtub with the same features and accessories like matching wall-mount shelves.
Steibel Eltron showed a lot of heat pumps for both residential and commercial applications, such as groundwater to water units in capacities up to 1.3 million Btuh supplying water up to 140°F. One unit, the WPL5 N-Plus 153,000 Btuh air-to-water heat pump contains an integral DHW cylinder. The unit is inverter-driven so its capacity is infinitely variable and it uses CO2 for refrigerant.
Steibel Eltron has a limited product line in the U.S. At ISH, an engineer, Dr. Johannes Brugmann, showed CONTRACTOR a comprehensive line that includes heat pumps, heat recovery ventilators, solar thermal panels, domestic hot water and buffer tanks, and accessories such as mixing panels and thermostats.
The heat pumps — air to water, geothermal to water and ground water to water — typically work at temperatures well below zero and capacities of more than 225,000 Btuh. Because everything is packaged, including DHW tanks, pumps and valving, the heat pumps look like appliances. Water tanks are designed for multiple inputs from heating equipment and solar and some can act simultaneously as buffer tanks and domestic hot water tanks.
There are villages smaller than the Buderus booth at Messe Frankfurt. Buderus, like its competitor Viessmann on the other side of the hall, showed packages that combined boilers with solar and a buffer tank in between. For example, Buderus has packaged its Logasol collector, Logalux PNR buffer tank, wall-hung or floor-mount boilers and a mixing station for large residential or apartment building applications. The combination cuts energy costs and CO2 emissions by 37%, according to the company. Buderus showed the packaged with variety of boilers — the Logano plus SB315 floor-mount; Logano plus SB615; Logamax plus SB315; Logamax plus GB162 wall-mount; and a variety of solar collectors and buffer tanks. Boilers are condensing or non-condensing. The firm also showed the combination with solar and a wood pellet boiler backed up by an oil/gas boiler.
Large, stoker-fed wood pellet boilers are popular for schools in Canada, said Ian Lindsay, Viessmann’s manager, strategic planning and market analysis, North America. Viessmann’s booth was the equal of Buderus’ in size and scope.
Wood pellet boilers are gaining popularity because of high oil prices, Lindsay said. Viessmann has models up to 2 million Btuh now and up to 6 million Btuh coming in 2012. Users need only fill the silo up with wood pellets once a month; operation is fully automated. The ash is sold to farmers as fertilizer. Because of two-stage gasification, emissions are as clean as oil boilers. On a smaller scale, the Vitligno 300 is a residential pellet boiler that comes with a smaller residential-sized silo and an augur feed. The Vitligno 300H will burn either pellets or larger wood chips.
Viessmann showed geothermal/water-to-water heat pumps that are not in the U.S. The units are inverter driven with hermetic compressors and capacities from 20,500 Btuh up to 512,000 Btuh, a COP of 4.7, and they run on R-744, which is CO2. The firm showed big combined heat and power units that use biogas from either dry fermentation or wet fermentation like manure or fish guts. Lindsay described the units as good for big plants, such as food processing plants that would normally pay to have the feedstock hauled away. Viessmann also showed a CHP that runs off a gas condensing boiler that will produce 50kW of electricity and 276,000 Btuh of heat. Viessmann displayed a variety of combinations of boilers, solar and buffer tanks. All of them use one controller, the Vitotronic control for space heating and DHW, oil or gas boilers and solar control. A residential system, for example, combines Vitosol collectors, a Vitocell storage tank and a Vitorondens 200-T oil condensing boiler. A system that uses Vitodens 100-F wall-mount boilers can feed into a central hot water line to heat apartments. Another variant uses Vitsolar 300-F collectors and a Vitodens 300-W condensing boiler.
Venturing into killer app land, the firm displayed the Vitotrol that allows you to control your heating system from an iPad.
Navien is known for its line of high efficiency tankless water heaters and wall-hung boilers. At ISH the firm showed wall-hung oil condensing boilers, and large steel gas and oil boilers with capacities of more than 700,000 Btuh. It also teased us with a fuel cell combined heat and power system that’s still in beta testing in Korea. The fuel cell would take natural gas and split off the hydrogen atoms. The hydrogen atoms would be converted into DC electricity, run through an inverter and come out as AC. The excess heat from the fuel cell stack would be used for space heat and DHW. Navien also showed a solar thermal hybrid that combines heat pipe type vacuum tube solar collectors, a storage tank and a condensing boiler.
Roth is mostly known in the U.S. for its PEX tubing. In Germany, Roth showed its Heliostar flat plate solar collectors, R1 vacuum tube collectors, and an HDPE swimming pool solar heater. The company also had a complementary line of solar mounting hardware, storage tanks, and control stations. For rainwater harvesting, Roth Twinbloc polyethylene tanks come in sizes up to 5,000 liters or about 1,320-gal.
Schuco comes to U.S. shows with commercial windows or solar collectors. At ISH, however, it showed a solar powered regenerative heating system that combines a split air-to-water heat pump, system controls, solar thermal collectors, a 750-liter domestic hot water tank and a condensing boiler. The heat pump is inverter driven with seven steps of modulation and runs on R-410A.
Europeans often want their radiators to look nicer than utilitarian slabs of sheet steel. Runtal, for example, showed large, vertical panel radiators that were pieces of art. Runtal’s display went way beyond the panels that it typically shows in the U. S. British firm, AEON Sculptural Heating, showed some artsy radiators too, along with radiators that look like something else — one looked like the surface of the moon and another like drifting sands.
A German firm called MISCEA showed a hands-free electronic faucet where, like ordinary hands free faucets, the water comes on when you place your hands underneath it. But that’s just the start. Wave your hand to the left and the temperature goes up. To the right of the faucet and the water temperature goes down. Wave at the top left (the 10 o’clock position) and soap is dispensed. Top right and hand sanitizer comes out. The problem with MISCEA and other firms, such as electric radiant companies or Oventrop with its drinking water disinfection system, is that to bring those products here they would have to alter their products to meet U.S. electrical standards and get UL approvals, something they weren’t real keen on doing.