Early February is a bit of a marathon for the BNP Media Plumbing Group Team. Our team has the exciting task of covering both KBIS and the AHR Expo (along with a few other key events such as IMARK Plumbing and the WWETT Show), which most years are scheduled back-to-back. Although these shows cover very different parts of the industry, I couldn’t help but notice similarities when it comes to product trends and conversations around the booths.

At the AHR Expo, decarbonization and sustainability were at the forefront of many booths’ displays. Nearly every new product we saw included some innovation that makes it more energy efficient than products in the past. Heat pump technology was more prominent than ever, reflecting the U.S.’s drive toward decarbonization. Commercial heating equipment is being designed more compact, ensuring a smaller footprint during manufacturing as well as easier installation and transportation between jobsites. See our video compilation of manufacturers talking HVACR trends in the video below.

KBIS drew one of its largest crowds in the show’s 60-year history. Trends from the show floor include mixed metal finishes, pops of color in fixtures and faucets, steam showers, soaking tubs, ease-of-installation and of course, smart technology enabled products. I also noticed that manufacturers are bringing elevated design elements to even the more economic product lines and commercial bathrooms lines. Consumers are after an enhanced experienced in all types of restrooms and kitchens, not just the high-end, luxury residential homes.

While KBIS is a fun show that focuses heavily on the beautiful exterior design of products, manufacturers continue to innovate to save water and energy in the bathroom and kitchen. With roughly 2.2 million people in the U.S. living without running water or basic indoor plumbing, and 44 million living with inadequate water systems, the bath and kitchen industry is taking sustainability and water scarcity seriously. See manufacturers discussing bath and kitchen industry trends in the video below.

One stand-out example of water saving technology is RainStick Shower, a Canadian-based product that is bringing North America’s first recirculating shower to market, saving up to 80% water and energy in the home. Check out our deep dive on that product here.

On both the bath and kitchen side and the HVACR side, products are being designed to be more efficient when it comes to installation. No corner of the trades are immune to the ongoing labor shortages, so faucets, showerheads and PVF and heating equipment alike will continue to prioritize quick, seamless installation with smart technology that offers proactivity when it comes to repairs.

After a bust trade show season, it's evident that the plumbing and HVACR industries are both at the forefront of innovation when it comes to product technology and addressing contractor and end-user needs. It will be an exciting year covering these innovations as they help address our nation's water scarcity concerns and decarbonization efforts.