FRANKFURT, GERMANY — ISH is about water. Water to bathe in, water with which to heat or cool. Hydronics aficionados make the point that water transports more Btus more efficiently than any other medium, and the Europeans and other international visitors at International Sänitar Heizung Klima take that to heart.
ISH, which bills itself as the world’s leading trade fair for water and energy, showcased nearly 2,500 exhibitors from 61 countries, occupying an area of almost 2.8 million square feet in Frankfurt in mid-March. Altogether, 200,114 visitors made their way through the show’s eight buildings. One needs to know the building number and floor number of an exhibitor, as well as the booth number.
Sixty-four percent of exhibitors and 40 percent of visitors came from outside Germany, although far too few of them came from the United States. If they had, they would have seen innovation that will come to the States eventually or, at the very least, new concepts that would get them thinking.
Multi-family central plants
A lot of housing units in Europe are multi-family and it’s not unusual for a central plant to supply heat and domestic hot water or for a district heat system to supply the energy. Oventrop focused on complete control packages under the Regumat brand name that include pumps, manifolds, mixing and bypass valves, actuators and insulation, assembled as a wall-mountable box. They extended the concept to show the Regumat central station packages using waste heat from generators and from solar thermal collectors. Oventrop also had a whole wall of domestic water controls that it’s selling under the name Aquanova System that comes complete with pumps and temperature sensors.
Along the same lines as Oventrop, Mitsubishi showed its high capacity Ecodan air-to-water heat pump that stores energy in a central buffer tank from which the hot water, for space heat and DHW, is sent to individual dwelling units with residential transfer stations.
Similar concepts were show by both Watts and Uponor. Watts displayed its Modular Heat Interface Unit, composed of manifolds, valving, and heat exchangers, for both domestic hot water and heat distribution. Uponor showed products from its KaMo line (the Finnish company bought German KaMo Group in 2015) that feed heat and hot water to individual apartments from a central plant.
Caleffi North America Vice President of Marketing Rex Gillespie showed CONTRACTOR the firm’s Thermosetter recirculation thermal balancing valve for commercial domestic water recirculation systems. The Thermosetter helps balance loops via an internal thermostatic balancing cartridge that automatically modulates flow to ensure a constant temperature in the system. The 116 Series has an adjustment knob with 95°F-140°F temperature scale. The valve is available with a “disinfection” bypass cartridge, for use in systems that are designed to superheat the water to prevent Legionella. When the disinfection cartridge senses 160°F water, indicating disinfection control mode, it automatically opens a bypass flow path to allow sufficient flow for disinfection to occur. When the temperature drops back to normal range, the disinfection by-pass cartridge closes to return flow control to the balancing cartridge.
Connectivity was a major theme throughout the Grundfos exhibit, such as intuitive pump control via the Grundfos GoRemote smartphone app, or real time calculations for hydronic balancing of the Alpha3 circulator with the GoBalance smartphone app. Grundfos also displayed a domestic water system package that included a booster with intelligent pump control and instant hot water with multi-speed ComfortPM Auto Adapt recirc pumps.
Wilo Pumps focused on two market segments — HVAC and utility-scale water and wastewater treatment systems. The firm showcased glandless premium smart pumps under the Stratos and Yonos brand names with advanced sensors, analytics and control through building automation systems.
It was a pleasure seeing Taco CEO John Hazen White Jr. and his president, Wil VandeWiel, at ISH. Senior Vice President Steve Thompson showed CONTRACTOR the one pump familiar to American contractors, the 007e. White noted that Taco Italia, the operating unit that services Europe, conducts most of its business at the OEM level. “It’s the chicken and the egg,” White said, because most replacement business is like-for-like, Taco has to penetrate the Big 5 boiler manufacturers to get a foothold in Europe.
The signage at the Panasonic booth was curiously all in German, except for a large battery backup device that promises full power, A/C interconnection, with a 10-year guarantee, which can be used to handle part of the load during demand response power reductions for smart grid applications. This kind of whole-house size battery storage isn’t just an Elon Musk concept, either.
Holistic energy solutions
Viessmann showed a concept that it called “holistic energy solutions,” a single-source integration of power-generating heating systems, including fuel cells and photovoltaics, electric power storage, thermal storage, high-efficiency heat pumps, and high-efficiency appliances. Components include the Vitocharge modular power storage, Vitocal 222-S compact split system air-to-water heat pump, Vitovolt 300 photovoltaic panels, and an energy management control.
It wasn’t only about boilers. Viessmann’s display talked extensively about online engagement with customers and its value-added digital services that aimed to connect contractors with customers. To make its point, Viessmann noted that 80 percent of those buying a heating system look online first, 75 percent of customers would like contractors to remotely supervise their systems, and that 90 percent of customers don’t know what steps to take to modernize their heating systems.
Fluidmaster President Todd Talbot told CONTRACTOR that his firm has become a dominant player in the in-wall tank market in Europe thanks to a series of acquisitions. Talbot says it’s run as a purely European operation out of its headquarters in Arnhem, Netherlands, without Americans throwing in their two cents worth. The operation uses plants that Fluidmaster obtained through the acquisitions in places such as the Netherlands, Slovenia or Istanbul.
Looking for a U.S. foothold
Talbot is bullish on the in-wall tank market and said that he had U.S. code approvals for two models and meetings with U.S. manufacturers to bring them here. He expects to bring the flush tanks to market in the U.S. in 2017. Talbot believes that in-wall flush tanks can be successful in the U.S. because they work; anyone who has ever had to clean a bathroom will be won over by how easy it is to clean under a wall-mounted toilet; and the country, especially coastal cities, have a lot of immigrants who are accustomed to flushing a toilet with a wall plate.
When in Frankfurt, do as the Germans do. Even Daikin, the global leader in VRF/VRV equipment succumbed to the pressure of the hydronics heating market. Daikin featured its Rotex product lines, such as oil and gas condensing boilers, storage tanks, geothermal heat pumps, air-to-water heat pumps, and a hybrid air-to-water/gas combo package that includes an Altherma heat pump, gas condensing boiler, storage tank, online controller and options to connect with both solar thermal and PV.
Unlike its refrigeration focus in the U.S., the Danfoss booth showed hydronic products not offered here, such as packages supplying spaced heat and domestic hot water in multi-family dwellings.
Viega was displaying a new press connection system called Raxofix, “the new pressing class,” that doesn’t use O-rings. The technology is made for PEXc/Aluminum/PEXc pipe and is suitable for both heating and potable water applications. Viega says that the new line of fittings and pipe go together faster and have lower pressure loss through the fittings.
Hansgrohe showed a kitchen sink and faucet combo that features a large button on the countertop that one could use with the jab of an elbow to turn the faucet on and off. Hansgrohe and its offspring Grohe both showed gigantic rain showers, like 3-foot across gigantic rain showers, all with multiple spray patterns and chromatherapy. Europeans may be saving water but it’s obviously not in the shower. Grohe also showed some exceptionally nice faucet finishes, including “warm sunset” that’s similar to rose gold, and “hard graphite,” a cool, dark, shiny grey. Grohe also rolled out Aquatunes, a co-branded Philips Bluetooth speaker that attaches to a vertical shower bar.
Want to know what’s in your pee? Duravit introduced the BioTracer, an app-controlled toilet that performs urinalysis. The BioTracer may come with the optional Senso Wash bidet seat. The BioTracer electronics are composed of an optical sensor, urine-sampling device, exchangeable cartridge containing 100 test strips, controller, and a water tank just for washing out the analyzer.
Rothenberger had teased the RoDrum drain line snake at the WWETT Show in Indianapolis in February, but formally rolled it out at ISH. The RoDrum comes with two interchangeable coil drums capable of deploying 13mm, 16mm or 20mm cable to a maximum distance of 65 feet. A foot pedal starts the cutting head spinning and powered feeding and retracting of the cable is controlled with a hand switch.
Reliance Worldwide, the maker of SharkBite push-connect pipe and fittings, showed a wide range of compatible valves, such as ball valves, balancing valves and pressure reducing valves. The firm also introduced EvoPEX, a connection system for new construction rough-in. The difference between EvoPEX and traditional SharkBite fittings is that EvoPEX won’t comes apart once it’s connected — do it wrong and you’ll have to cut it out and start over.
Stiebel Eltron is best known in the U.S. for its line of electric water heating equipment, but the firm showed a much broader range in Frankfurt. The PSH80 WE-R is a wall-hung cylinder water tank that contains both a hydronic coil heat exchanger and an electric heating element. The WPW 12trend is a water-to-water geothermal heat pump and the WPF 20-66 is a brine-to-water heat pump; both are suitable for residential or commercial applications. Some of the equipment was quite large, for good reason. The LWZ 304flex is the size of a large household refrigerator, but the cabinet for the air-to-water heat pump also contains a 62-gallon storage tank.