March 1, 2012
The 2012 International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo), held Jan. 23-25 at McCormick Place in Chicago, was my 10th AHR

The 2012 International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo), held Jan. 23-25 at McCormick Place in Chicago, was my 10th AHR Expo in 13 years and easily my busiest. Throwing prudence to the wind — and showing utter disregard for my feet — I packed as many booth appointments and press events into my schedule as I felt logistically possible, which ended up totaling 45. The result was two-and-a-half exhausting, but informative, days. Following are the highlights.

Monday, Jan. 23

8:30 a.m.: My day started in the pre-show hours with LG Electronics USA's media roundtable briefing. LG executives discussed, among other topics, the growth of the variable-refrigerant-flow (VRF) market.

According to LG, the VRF market has averaged 15-percent annual growth over the last five years, reaching $4.3 billion (U.S.) in 2011. Initially, much of this growth was seen in major markets; however, there has been a noticeable shift to emerging markets, leading a growing number of industry observers to predict considerable growth in the future. According to research conducted by LG Air Conditioning and Energy Solution Co., the VRF market will jump 40 percent — to $7.3 billion — by 2013.

LG attributes the growing popularity of VRF systems largely to their efficient use of energy, saying the use of VRF technology essentially eliminates the airflow losses — estimated to be 10 to 20 percent of total airflow — that occur within conventional duct ventilation systems.

For information on LG VRF technology, go to www.LG-VRF.com.

10 a.m.: The show now officially open, I headed to the booth of Jaga Climate Systems (www.jaga-usa.com) for an introduction to Briza, billed as the world's thinnest radiator.

Measuring 4.5 in. deep, Briza generates as much heat as traditional fan coils, yet is much smaller, quieter, and more energy-efficient, Jaga Director Bert Kriekels told me. It also is more flexible and sustainable, he added, as it can be used in conjunction with renewable-energy sources, such as geothermal and solar systems. During summer, it provides cooling, evenly and efficiently dispensing cold air.

Because Briza is as thin as it is, architects and engineers can use it to reduce slab-to-slab height and ceiling-plenum space, saving enough space to potentially add a floor to a building, Kriekels said.

11 a.m.: Emerson Climate Technologies Inc. introduced a refrigeration system it says can help reduce a supermarket's or grocery store's refrigeration-related energy expenses by up to 10 percent.

Powered by the Copeland Scroll K5 refrigeration compressor, the system incorporates variable-volume-ratio technology, which optimizes low-condensing performance, and enhanced vapor-injection capability for maximum capacity at low setpoints without the need to add more or larger compressors.

“Considering the fact that a typical 50,000-sq-ft supermarket incurs approximately $20,000 each month in refrigeration-related energy expenses, the annual cost savings per store can reach $20,000 to $24,000,” Mitch Knapke, market manager, food retail, explains. “Large national grocery chains can realize millions of dollars in refrigeration-related energy savings each year.”

For more information on the K5 compressor, go to http://bit.ly/Copeland_K5.

11:30 a.m.: Power Transmission Solutions, a business of Emerson Industrial Automation, announced the launch of Toolbox Technician, a free mobile application for HVACR technicians featuring a product selector, lubrication charts, a tension guide, conversion tables, and a standard calculator.

“Toolbox Technician helps an HVAC technician select a symptom, choose from a list of possible causes, and then decide on a potential remedy, all while in the field,” Don Sullivan, senior product manager, Browning brand V-belt drives, explains.

Available for Android, BlackBerry, and iPhone/iPad, Toolbox Technician can be downloaded at http://toolboxtechnician.com.

12 a.m.: At noon, I attended a media “lunch-and-learn” session for an overview of Delphi Corp.'s (http://delphi.com) family of MCHX heat exchangers with microchannel technology, which are said to be able to help green offices, commercial buildings, and schools without compromising comfort.

With an MCHX heat exchanger, a flat microchannel tube, fins, and two refrigerant manifolds are brazed together, forming a single coil. This design provides a high rate of heat transfer while maintaining low air-side pressure drop.

1 p.m.: At its booth, Cleaver-Brooks established a help desk staffed with personnel who can answer questions about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) new regulations for boilers and explain compliance requirements and required actions for specific facilities.

For more information on the regulations, as well as necessary tools and forms, visit http://cleaverbrooks.com/epa.

2 p.m.: Next, I met with Robert A. Panora, president and chief operating officer (COO) of Tecogen Inc., and Martin J. McDonough, president and COO of Tecogen subsidiary Ilios Dynamics Inc.

Tecogen announced the extension of its ultralow-emissions technology across its entire line of natural-gas-engine-driven systems for heating, chilling, and power needs in commercial and industrial facilities. The emissions are said to be on par with those of fuel cells, far surpassing best-available-control-technology limits for stationary natural-gas engines. For more information, visit www.tecogen.com.

Ilios Dynamics was exhibiting the Ilios High Efficiency Water Heater. Powered by a highly efficient natural-gas engine, it extracts energy from the atmosphere and pumps it to useful temperatures. Free waste heat from the engine is captured and repurposed. Applications include mid-sized hotels, swimming pools, nursing homes, hospitals, health clubs, student dormitories, universities, residential buildings, recreation centers, commercial buildings, and waterparks. For more information, visit www.iliosdynamics.com.

2:30 p.m.: For the second consecutive year, HPAC Engineering shot demonstration videos at exhibitors' booths. At Armacell's (www.armacell.com) booth, Application Specialist Mark Hayes explained four keys to working with the company's Armaflex elastomeric-foam insulation and demonstrated the proper use of Armaflex 520 Adhesive and the fabrication of various fittings. To view the video, go to http://bit.ly/Armacell_video.

3 p.m.: Titus HVAC introduced:

  • EcoShield, billed as the industry's first natural-fiber insulation. Made of recycled denim, it is said to be thermally and acoustically comparable to fiberglass, but easier to handle. It features an EPA-registered microbial mold and fungal inhibitor and contains no harmful irritants or chemicals.

  • The Alpha family of variable-air-volume controllers, designed and manufactured in collaboration with KMC Controls, which integrate with all BACnet building-management systems, regardless of manufacturer.

  • Displacement-ventilation-system diffuser-selection software.

Additionally, Titus HVAC announced the expansion of its Plexicon line of displacement-ventilation systems to include solar capabilities. Powered by a wireless energy-harvesting process, Plexicon is said to be the only displacement unit in the industry to heat as well as cool and use solar energy as its power source.

For more information, visit www.titus-hvac.com.

4 p.m.: The second of HPAC Engineering's two planned video shoots took place at the booth of Goodway Technologies Corp. (www.goodway.com), where President Timothy J. Kane demonstrated the CoilPro Jr. compact coil-cleaning system and showcased the RAM-PRO portable chiller-tube cleaner. To view the video, go to http://bit.ly/Goodway_video.

4:30 p.m.: Lochinvar LLC announced the addition of a 5-million-Btuh model to the CREST condensing-boiler family. Also, it introduced the ARMOR X2 commercial condensing water heater.

Available in 1.0-, 1.3-, and 1.5-million-Btuh-input models, ARMOR X2 is equipped with two independent combustion systems designed to work in unison, for a turndown ratio of 10:1. The combustion system can fire as low as 10 percent of the maximum water-heater input and modulate up to 100 percent, as demand increases. Thermal efficiencies are as high as 96 percent.

For more information, go to www.lochinvar.com.

5:15 p.m.: At the booth of Enerconcept Technologies Inc. (www.enerconcept.com), I met company President Christian Vachon, who told me about Sanborn Regional School District, which signed what is said to be the world's first power-purchase agreement for solar hot air.

The 10-year contract, incentivized with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funds, will reduce the fuel-oil heating bills of Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, N.H., by at least $17,000 annually, with no capital investment required by the school district.

Sanborn will receive 1,400 MMBtu of thermal energy, the equivalent of paying $2.50 per gallon of fuel oil. The 220,000-sq-ft, 5-year-old school's site energy savings will fluctuate parallel to fuel-oil prices, which have averaged between $3 and $4 per gallon over the last 10 years. The agreement will result in the displacement of 13,500 gal. of fuel oil and a reduction in carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions of 48 tons annually.

The project features four Lubi wall-mounted solar hot-air collectors from Enerconcept. The collectors, which appear as walls of windows, will cover 8,000 sq ft of the school's southern walls and use a black metal absorber. The collectors will provide a majority of the school's heated makeup air and partially heat the school's 12,000-sq-ft gymnasium. The Lubi uses 1-by-3-ft translucent glazing panels with a patented perforation design, resulting in the world's most efficient solar device, according to Canadian Standards Association certification tests.

Per the agreement, Enerconcept provides the equipment and engineering design, manufacturer's representative Shift Energy manages the installation, and financier Revolution Energy arranges the conventional bank loan, owns and maintains the equipment, and receives a 30-percent tax grant and first-year 100-percent equipment depreciation from the ARRA.

When the contract expires, the school district will have the option of purchasing the system. With fuel-oil prices expected to climb, Sanborn could save more than $1.5 million in energy, displace 400,000 gal. of fuel oil, and avoid 1,440 tons of CO2 emissions over the 30-year life of the solar collectors.

5:45 p.m.: As the show wound down for the day, I made my way to Eaton's booth, where I learned about new H-Max Series adjustable-frequency drives, which improve system energy savings by minimizing losses in motor windings.

Combining advanced direct-current capacitors and latest-generation insulated-gate bipolar transistors with such functions as a real-time clock and calendar and Eaton's Active Energy Control, the drives can be tuned to actual energy needs.

According to Eaton, commercial-building managers not using adjustable-frequency drives for HVAC-system motor control can realize energy and cost savings of up to 45 percent, while those using a standard solution can realize additional savings of up to 10 percent.

For more information, visit www.eaton.com/drives.

Tuesday, Jan. 24

8 a.m.: During Danfoss' annual press breakfast, held at the Marriott Downtown Chicago Magnificent Mile Hotel, members of the company's senior leadership team discussed trends and issues affecting the HVACR industry in 2012 and beyond.

Danfoss North America President John Galyen commented on three challenges facing the industry: energy efficiency, the smart grid, and refrigerants.

Galyen said the smart grid is becoming increasingly critical to HVAC, with buildings accounting for 40 percent of the energy consumed in the United States and demand estimated to increase by 21 percent by 2030.

“The way supply and demand are synced, the management of electrical power and improving the efficiency of existing infrastructure will continue to be critical issues moving forward,” Galyen said. “We'll need to be aware of three main elements: demand response, energy efficiency, and load management. Technologies like variable speed enable end users and utilities better load-control and demand-response benefits.”

Robert Wilkins, vice president, public and industry affairs, said that while little change in policy is expected at the national level in 2012, two interesting House bills are emerging, including one increasing energy efficiency in government buildings and promoting expansion of combined heat and power and other technologies. Meanwhile, manufacturers are developing equipment for hydrocarbons, using CO2 for supermarket and industrial refrigeration, and considering HFC-32 for air conditioning.

10:30 a.m.: At its booth, EnOcean Alliance (www.enocean-alliance.org), a consortium of companies working to standardize and internationalize wireless energy-harvesting technology for buildings, hosted a variety of member-developed solutions, including:

  • A new Website (www.enoceanparts.com) from Alpscontrols.com where EnOcean-embedded products from multiple manufacturers can be purchased.

  • The Garibaldi field commissioning tool, temperature/humidity sensor, low-voltage relay interface, switch, hallway sensor, and slim-line intelligent controllers from Echoflex Solutions Inc. (www.echoflexsolutions.com).

  • EnOcean-enabled devices from electrical- and electronic-products provider Leviton Manufacturing Company Inc. (www.leviton.com).

  • A software platform paired with EnOcean-enabled end devices offering a turnkey solution for buildings of all sizes from Magnum Energy Solutions (www.magnumenergysolutions.com) and partner BSC Software.

  • The EverGen series of thermoelectric-based energy-harvesting devices for wireless-sensor applications from Marlow Industries (www.marlow.com).

Throughout the exhibit hall, 30 EnOcean Alliance members were showcasing solutions for HVAC applications, including three “world's firsts”:

  • The ME8400 Series self-powered actuator, part of the ThermoPyla range of products from Spartan Peripheral Devices (www.spartan-pd.com), said to be the world's first thermodynamic valve actuator.

  • The world's first completely self-powered CO2, temperature, and humidity sensor from Ecologix Wireless Controls (http://ecologixcontrols.com).

  • EOS, said to be the world's first self-powered air-distribution vent, from Titus. In-room light powers the vent and enables airflow direction to be optimized, helping to save up to 30 percent of heating or cooling energy.

EnOcean Alliance grew by 50 percent — to 250 member companies offering 800 interoperable building-automation products — in 2011.

“EnOcean technology can now be found in over 200,000 buildings worldwide,” EnOcean Alliance Chairman Graham Martin says. “In addition to our traditional strong installation base in Europe, we are beginning to see a high level of activity in North America and huge interest from Japan and China.”

11 a.m.: Taco Inc. exhibited numerous products at its booth, including the new:

  • Viridian line of Web-enabled wet-rotor, variable-speed pumps for commercial chilled- and hot-water applications. Viridian's electronically commutated motor (ECM) saves up to 80 percent of the electrical energy needed by a conventional pump, while its operating modes — constant pressure control, variable differential-pressure control, proportional pressure control, constant curve duty, revolutions-per-minute regulation, and power limitation — fit most applications.

  • Advantage VFD Controller Card for the Advantage 61, E-Flex, and M-Flex variable-speed-drive lines. Providing proportional-integral-derivative control, the card is capable of supporting both HVAC and domestic-water-boosting applications. For parallel or standby pumping applications, the card modulates, stages, and alternates up to four pumps. One controller card delivers all functionality. Additional VFDs are connected via standard Ethernet and automatically “discovered” by the card. Precision control is achieved by monitoring pressure, differential pressure, or central-plant differential temperature.

For more information, see Taco's 2012 AHR Expo page at http://www.taco-hvac.com/ashrae.html.

12 a.m.: At noon, I met with Aeroseal LLC (www.aeroseal.com), the sole licensee of an aerosol-based technology developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and proven to be up to 95-percent effective at sealing leaks in ventilation shafts and air-duct systems of commercial buildings.

Mark Modera, inventor of the technology, explains: “In most cases, leaks in a building's ventilation shafts are inaccessible and, therefore, impossible to repair using traditional methods of taping or applying mastic to the outside of the duct or shaft. Since the Aeroseal technology is applied as an aerosol mist pumped throughout the interior of the shaft, it can seek out and reach virtually all leaks. … Once the mist of sealant locates a leak, it accumulates and bonds around the gap, forming a permanent seal.”

According to Aeroseal, Northgate II, a 23-story apartment building in Camden, N.J., reduced its annual utility bill by $37,000 by replacing dampers and sealing leaks in its exhaust-duct system with Aeroseal. Sealing the leaks helped to reduce by more than 217,000 kwh the amount of energy required by the building's two exhaust fans. This resulted in an annual cost savings of about $34,000. An additional annual cost savings of approximately $3,000 was achieved through increased heating efficiencies resulting from the duct-sealing process.

12:30 p.m.: Standex Electronics (www.standexelectronics.com) was exhibiting fluid-sensing and power products for commercial HVACR applications, including current sensors and power transformers.

A new family of flood-prevention switches safeguards against condensate-overflow buildup. Available in tee, elbow, and bracket-mounted designs, the switches are said to be easy to install on a main or an auxiliary drain pipe. Rising water caused by a clogged air-conditioning condensate drain triggers the switches to shut off a system, preventing water from overflowing. Manufactured of materials that do not rust or stick, each switch is said to operate smoothly and provide years of trouble-free service. Applications include apartments, condominiums, and other multifamily housing; schools; universities; and government facilities.

1 p.m.: Victaulic displayed its expanded Advanced Groove System (AGS) line of large-diameter pipe couplings and fittings, now available for pipe up to 60 in. in diameter.

AGS couplings are said to be the only large-diameter couplings with two-piece housing segments, offering speedier assembly than couplings with multisegment housings.

Featuring a wedge-shaped groove, AGS couplings can handle higher-end loads and pressure ratings of up to 350 psi per 2,400 kPa, depending on pipe size and wall thickness.

With AGS couplings, a union is provided at every joint for easy access to a piping system. Additionally, no flame is required for joint assembly, and visual confirmation of proper installation — assembly is complete when housings meet metal to metal and torque requirements are met — is provided.

For more information, visit Victaulic's redesigned Website at www.victaulic.com.

1:30 p.m.: With its new Sequence Draft Control (SDC) design service, Schebler Chimney Systems (www.scheblerchimney.com) provides a complete engineered venting-system solution.

Schebler provides engineering and all system components from appliance outlet through the roof, including breeching and stacks, draft-induction fans, control dampers, pressure sensors, and master controls. The integrated system monitors and adjusts stack and exhaust-outlet pressure for each appliance to ensure proper operation and optimal performance.

SDC works with any combination of hot-water appliances, utilizing off-the-shelf components.

2 p.m.: A press conference was held in part to discuss Xylem Inc.'s (www.xyleminc.com) spinoff from ITT Corp. last fall and its operation as a standalone global water-technology company.

Xylem helps customers in more than 150 countries address critical water issues, such as water scarcity, aging infrastructure, and increasingly stringent environmental regulations. It does so through a distribution network consisting of a direct sales force and independent channel partners. Product brands such as Bell & Gossett and Goulds Water Technology continue as part of the Xylem portfolio.

For a diagram of Xylem's 2012 AHR Expo booth with links to product information and videos, go to http://bit.ly/Xylem_AHR.

2:30 p.m.: The new 700-ton Daikin McQuay Magnitude WME oil-free, magnetic-bearing centrifugal chiller was on display at McQuay International's booth.

By eliminating the high friction losses of conventional centrifugal compressors, Magnitude is said to achieve exceptional full- and part-load performance. As a result, it is 40 percent more efficient than a traditional centrifugal chiller, saving $2 million over its life.

Using R-134a refrigerant, Magnitude has no ozone-depletion potential and is not subject to a phaseout schedule. The 400- to 700-ton models earn two points under Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Energy and Atmosphere Credit 4, Enhanced Refrigerant Management.

Magnitude chillers are International Building Code-certified to remain online and functional after a seismic event. For critical health facilities in California, Magnitude chillers have received the more rigorous Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development special seismic certification preapproval.

For more information, visit www.mcquay.com/Magnitude.

McQuay also exhibited:

  • The new Daikin McQuay SmartSource water-source-heat-pump line, which includes what is said to be the industry's first variable-speed-inverter model. To learn more, go to www.mcquay.com/smartsource.

  • The new Daikin McQuay Vision Plus air-handler system, which attains a maximum of Class 6 leakage at up to ±8 in. of internal static pressure per ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 111, Measurement, Testing, Adjusting and Balancing of Building Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning Systems, well below the industry's high-performance leakage standard of 1 percent. To learn more, go to http://bit.ly/Vision_Plus.

3 p.m.: ICONICS Inc. (www.iconics.com) held a press conference to announce what is said to be the first 64-bit advanced workstation designed for BACnet Advanced Workstation Softwares (B-AWS) certification.

ICONICS' advanced workstation is a vendor-independent open platform for integrating any BACnet-, Simple Network Management Protocol-, Modbus-, Web Services-, Object Linking and Embedding for Process Control- (OPC-), or OPC Unified Architecture-based building-automation system used for HVAC, data centers, electrical metering, cogeneration, and more.

ICONICS also announced the release of Energy AnalytiX Version 10.61, a set of applications for building automation that monitor energy cost, consumption, and the discharge of carbon into the environment.

4:30 p.m.: WaterFurnace International Inc.'s new Versatec Base water-source heat pump exceeds ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, efficiencies while utilizing environmentally friendly R410A refrigerant. Available in a wide range of capacities, it offers application flexibility for both retrofit and new-construction projects.

The compact Versatec Base pairs a reciprocating single-capacity compressor with a permanent-split-capacitor blower motor to provide high efficiency while ensuring quiet operation and a wide range of airflow selections. X13 and variable-speed ECMs are available for improved efficiency and comfort.

An optional two-position water valve and an automatic water-flow control valve ensure proper water-flow rate regardless of pressure drop, while an optional factory-installed low-pressure-drop water solenoid valve is available for variable-speed pumping applications.

To learn more, visit www.waterfurnace.com.

Wednesday, Jan. 25

10 a.m.: One of the benefits of attending an industry event is the opportunity to put faces with names. I had such an opportunity when I visited the booth of Air Solution Co. (www.airsolutioncompany.com). Randy Simmons, who handles sales and marketing for the company, and I had worked together on several articles over the years, but never had the chance to meet in person. He was kind enough to take a few minutes to show me the externally mounted filter screens his company makes to prevent airborne debris from entering HVAC air-intake systems. Look for a case study on how an Internet company improved data-center maintenance and energy efficiency using cooling-tower air-inlet filter screens in the April issue of HPAC Engineering.

10:30 a.m.: According to Vice President of Marketing Karl Schneider, FieldAware was founded on the belief that small and medium-sized field-service companies deserve the same automation capabilities as their larger-scale counterparts at a price they can afford. His company's cloud-based field-service-management solution leverages native applications on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, eliminating the need for costly servers, proprietary software, and special handheld devices. It digitizes customer, product, task, and work-order data for sharing over the Internet around the clock. For a monthly fee per user and no upfront cost, FieldAware handles the entire service-delivery process.

For more information, visit www.fieldaware.com.

11:30 a.m.: With an early afternoon flight home scheduled, it was time for me to call it a show and head to the airport. I had seen a lot over the previous two-plus days — more than I have space to write about in this article — and made a number of good contacts, contacts that already are bearing fruit editorially.

I would like to thank the public-relations and marketing people who reached out to me, coordinated many of my booth visits, and provided supporting information for this article. To those whose booths I did not have time to visit, I hope to have the opportunity to meet with you next year in Dallas.

Did you find this article useful? Send comments and suggestions to Executive Editor Scott Arnold at [email protected].

Additional coverage

For more products exhibited at the 2012 AHR Expo, see New Products on Page 17.

About the Author

Scott Arnold | Executive Editor

Described by a colleague as "a cyborg ... requir(ing) virtually no sleep, no time off, and bland nourishment that can be consumed while at his desk" who was sent "back from the future not to terminate anyone, but with the prime directive 'to edit dry technical copy' in order to save the world at a later date," Scott Arnold joined the editorial staff of HPAC Engineering in 1999. Prior to that, he worked as an editor for daily newspapers and a specialty-publications company. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Kent State University.