Off-year show in Dallas brings raft of tools and toys.

The 52nd AHR Expo welcomed 19,000 attendees perusing more than 1,000 booths. However, many large U.S. equipment vendors declined to participate in the show.
The first ASHRAE/ARI Show in the new millennium -- although it was an "off-year" show -- was described by its Dallas promoters as the fifth largest in its long history. The 52nd Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigerating Exposition welcomed 19,000 attendees perusing more than 1,000 booths.

It's our industry's main new technology showcase although, unfortunately, many of the largest U.S. equipment manufacturers have recently declined to participate due to the high costs involved. Regardless of the fact that a lot of domestic-equipment new technology wasn't on display this year, there were enough product improvements and new ideas to give this writer something to talk about. Here's what I found.

Sometimes the products are so new that few details are available. This was true of a residential condensing unit that I found at the York/Luxaire booth. As I walked up and asked what's new, a group of excited supply house people shouted, "Look at this!" It's a new line of very compact air-conditioning condensing units. Are they also available in heat pumps? What are the sizes and the efficiencies? Sorry, they had no published technical data at the show.

The same was true of the new residential condensing unit that I found at the Nordyne booth. Sporting new but well-recognized trade names such as Frigidaire, Philco and Tappan, the main change in their condensing-unit line involves the addition of an attractive, protective wraparound cover. This feature is one that has been discussed by the company and anticipated by its dealers for a long time. It looks good.

Mitsubishi Electric displayed a residential condensing unit for its mini-split line that raised quite a few eyebrows. What's so interesting here is that it is no longer manufactured in Japan, which means a 25% lower price.

Flexible B-vent furnace pipe from Z-flex comes in a range of sizes to fit both furnaces and water heaters.

Wall-mounted units

Bard Manufacturing, the company that started the modular wall-mounted air conditioner/heat pump system popular in mobile offices and school classrooms, had a couple of new variations on the wall-mount theme at the show. The one I was interested in is a water-source heat pump, a dramatic and higher-efficiency departure from standard gas and electric heating models.

Also at the show and sporting a new wall-mount modular air conditioner was Eubank Manufacturing. Its W-12 Series for ducted or nonducted applications comes in just one size right now (11,100 Btuh), but it is available in 115V or 208/240V configurations at efficiencies of about 10 SEER.

While it isn't exactly what you'd call new equipment, a particularly attractive new line of bathroom vent fans from Nuvent caught my eye. Artistic product designers have done an excellent job of taking a rather common product and adding an extra dash of flare.

Something new from American Aldes Ventilation is an active sound-cancellation device to quiet noise in commercial-application ductwork. Electronics and loud speakers are used inside mechanical duct silencers to attenuate the sound pressure by a typical 10 dB to 20 dB active on/off performance at low frequencies. The silencers are available in round and square configurations.

A great new product from Ductmate Industries is a round (or rectangular) damper blade that can be folded and inserted into existing ductwork through a 1 1/2-in. hole. No disassembly of the ductwork is required. This is a good idea for use wherever a hand-adjusted or automatically adjusted damper has to be installed to control air flow. The vinyl-covered damper blade is said to create a tight seal while reducing air noise. It is available in a variety of sizes and configurations as well as with a choice of lever or actuator-driven operation

Another metal item that caught my eye is a flexible B-vent furnace pipe from Z-flex. This corrugated piping, which comes in a range of sizes to fit both furnaces and water heaters, uses a flex pipe within a flex pipe separated by a fiberglass liner. The pipe can be purchased in rolls cut to length, and matching fittings are available.

While water-based adhesives for connecting fiberglass liners to ductwork are nothing new, the packaging of Great White Adhesive's product got my attention. Its product comes in pressurized refrigerant-type drums that are connected to a spray hose for easy application.

Venturing into the commercial refrigeration field, I liked the look of the new Traxoil Electronic oil-level control system from Alco Controls. It provides automatic oil-level control, as well as monitoring and alarms for parallel-compressor systems.

Nu-Calgon showed its chemical equivalent to an R-11 flush.

Tools and gadgets

Being a tool and gadget guy, one of my favorite new things at the show was the Kwik-I-E from Amprobe. This noncontact, wiggins-type probe gives you a general idea of the voltage in, and amperage flowing through a wire without having to make electrical contact. It has two ranges, high (for up to 600V or 60A) and low, which allows you to trace 24V circuits. While it isn't terribly accurate and only provides a bar-graph readout, this is a wonderful troubleshooting tool that should reduce diagnostic time while minimizing shock hazards.

Not to be outdone, however, Fieldpiece Instruments was also at the show with a new clamp-type meter (the SC-68) that reads amps, volts, capacitance, resistance and more, with an LCD digital display. It has a noncontact probe tip that detects EMF as low as 24V providing both an LED and audible output.

A digital probe thermometer from Delta Track caught my eye. This less-than-$40 item, which reads from -40° F to 302° F in tenths of a degree, has a laser light in the probe cover that can be used as a pointer. I also like the line of pocket meters called The Sticks from Testo. This is a relatively inexpensive and compact (but accurate) line of measuring instruments. My favorites are the hygrometer, which reads relative humidity to 0.1%, and the anemometer, which has a 13-in. probe when unfolded, that reads from 0 to 2,000 FPM.

My favorite parts idea at the show was the Power Twist Plus V-belt system from Fenner Drives. No longer just an emergency replacement for standard belts, the company advertises that its version, bought in rolls and site assembled, can outlast others by more than 15 times and reduces motor-vibration transmission. The snap-together belts come in five widths from 3/8 in. to 1 1/4 in. and are chemical resistant.

A new line of programmable thermostats, the Comfort-Set III from White-Rodgers, adds an affordable yet good-looking battery-free choice to its line. This control also comes with an optional remote temperature sensor that makes it a good choice for commercial as well as residential applications.

A simple and inexpensive device, a plastic fitting that can be installed in evaporator condensate drain lines of new (or retrofit) equipment is the Easy Klear from Rector Seal. It has an adjustable valve and a hose connection that allows a technician to shut off the evaporator outlet and purge the drain with nitrogen or CO2 whenever the main drain line becomes clogged.

Another product that accomplishes the same results is the EZ Trap from a company of the same name. The company provides a whole, clear drain trap assembly that comes with a cleaning brush and easy-access ports.

Something about which I've been leery is the use of alternative chemicals for refrigerant purges to remove compressor-burn contamination from copper tubing. I worry about using them because new chemicals can create their own HVACR system contamination. As I passed a booth, however, I recognized someone I used to deal with at DuPont. He was at the Nu-Calgon booth, touting a chemical he says is equivalent to an R-11 flush. It is a pressurized liquid that is an aggressive solvent, the traces of which can be easily removed by pulling a vacuum with a vacuum pump. We need something, and this may be worth a try.

I hope by next year some of the big equipment manufacturers will think twice about hiding their new technology and be there in Atlanta. Maybe you will be too, and we can meet and talk about what we've both seen and liked.

The Intelli-Fin from Lochinvar is a LonWorks-compatible water heater or boiler.

SIDEBAR: Radiant heat boosts ASHRAE presence

by Robert P. Mader

More radiant heating products were exhibited at ASHRAE than ever before. Once radiant heat gets into ASHRAE, it's due to become a major commercial/industrial trend.

Many of the familiar radiant heat players were there: Lochinvar, Burnham, Veissmann, Wirsbo, Heatway, Taco, Weil-McLain and Stadler-Viega, among others.

Roth Industries, a Forest Park, Ill., subsidiary of a German radiant manufacturer, showed its line of PEX tubing, manifolds and tools for both radiant heat and plumbing applications. It connects the tubing to the manifolds with a compression fitting.

Stadler-Viega was showing its radiant retrofit floor system and its new PEX plumbing system. All the joints for the plumbing system are made with a crimping tool that won't release until the joint is properly crimped.

Grundfos Pump showed its design for a radiant injection system. The assembly consists of a circulator for the boiler side, another for the low-temperature side and an injection pump that meters hot water into the low-temperature loop. Temperature sensors on the boiler loop, the radiant loop and an outdoor reset control regulate the injector pump.

Viessmann showed boilers and a VertiCell hot water tank, but it made the most waves with its solar collector array, which previously was only available in Europe.

A joint venture between Burnham Boilers and Kewanee produced a new copper-tube boiler line, called Evolution, that is now available in sizes from 250,000 Btuh to 2 million Btuh and 88% efficiency. What's different about it? The manufacturers claim it's built more substantially than competing lines, and they say theirs is easier to troubleshoot and service.

Lochinvar Corp. showed its Intelli-Fin, the first LonWorks-compatible water heater or boiler. The digital control system monitors more than 21 data points and communicates to a building automation system. The 97% efficient water heating units come in three sizes from 1.5 million Btuh to 2 million Btuh.