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Editor's Note: Inventing a New Golden Age

Sept. 4, 2018
From the September issue... A brief celebration of the daily wonders we often take for granted. Innovation in the HVACR industry, in particular, is absolutely thriving.

Some of us may believe that history’s best inventions are all behind us. After all, in the 20th Century, alone, humans created the automobile, airplane, computer, and cell phones. We cured myriad diseases, and even mastered interior climate control.

But one need not look far to see that this century is already gaining creative momentum, even if we don’t always appreciate how ubiquitous the constant advances are. A year ago, for instance, I remember noticing on my morning commute that 22 out of the 25 passengers on my train car were using iPhones. Now, a sizable portion each day are using those same devices to show the conductors their mobile ticket apps.

In my office, a motion detector turns on the light when I enter in the morning, and my work laptop calls my cell phone to make sure that it is me when I log on to start the day. Pretty incredible, when you think about it. But most of us don’t, most of the time.

Which is why we really should take a moment to thank our industry’s true movers and shakers, the innovators who for whatever reason have seen opportunity in changing the status quo.

One such pioneer is the late Bill Vallett Sr., who responded to the Middle East oil crises of the 1970s by leading Lochinvar Corp. to develop our industry’s first energy-efficient commercial water heater. Having passed away earlier this year, Vallett is remembered fondly in this issue for both inspiring and mentoring his employees to separate themselves from the competition.

Toward that end, this issue also features another family driving change, the Goswamis of San Francisco. Derived simply from a father’s desire to help his asthmatic son breathe more easily, their patented ‘Molekule’ PECO air purifier uses filter media with a nanoparticle coating that acts to destroy airborne pollutants when light-activated. Traditional indoor air filters strain and collect the pollutants, so the Molekule aims to improve on that status quo. 

So far, the residential market has responded eagerly. According to our sustainability columnist Larry Clark, the Goswamis cannot keep their product in stock. Even so, the family still has plans to develop a commercial version of its filter as soon as they can catch their breath.

Last month, Clark also showcased more of that entrepreneurial spirit when he told us about the EcoSnap-AC Heat Pump System, developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Aiming to eliminate the familiar “window-rattler” air conditioning units, its concept is simple: to be able to easily and economically install a high-efficiency mini-split heat pump without cutting a large opening in a wall. It, too, will likely spawn commercial applications, so stay tuned. (To read the article, visit Clark’s Remarks.)

In 2016, Eco-Snap made R&D Magazine’s list of the 100 best research and development innovations of the year, a list that publication has been compiling for more than 50 years.

Think about that.

That means that this century alone has seen nearly 2,000 inventions, culled from who knows how many candidates, gathered by just one media source. So, the golden age of creativity never really ended. We just have to lift our heads from our phones long enough to appreciate the changes all around.

To visit the Editor's Notes archives, click here.

About the Author

Rob McManamy | Editor in Chief

An industry reporter and editor since 1987, McManamy joined HPAC Engineering in September 2017, after three years with, a Chicago-based media startup focused on tech innovation in the built environment. He has been covering design and construction issues for more than 30 years, having started at Engineering News-Record (ENR) in New York, before becoming its Midwest Bureau Chief in 1990. In 1998, McManamy was named Editor-in-Chief of Design-Build magazine, where he served for four years. He subsequently worked as an editor and freelance writer for Building Design + Construction and Public Works magazines.

A native of Bronx, NY, he is a graduate of both the University of Virginia, and The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

Contact him at [email protected].