While the most exciting trends and technological changes are found in the equipment market, the fact is, most of your business profits probably come from the little parts and pieces that make all of those fancy systems work. So, when I saw some new ideas in thermostats at this year's AHR Exhibition in Chicago, my interest was immediately piqued.

The first was a voice interactive programmable thermostat (www.ActionTalkingProducts.com) that both speaks to you and can be changed and programmed using voice commands. The market? According to the spokesperson, it was designed primarily for those who are blind or who have trouble seeing.

The second new thermostat comes from White Rogers. It is programmable and has a digital readout on a screen that you touch to change the settings (no more push buttons).

Drain-Plus HVAC Condensate Drain

There were many manufacturers at the show with innovative condensate-drain ideas, but most weren't anything new to me. But when I saw this device (www.drainplus.com), I stopped for a minute to ask what they were doing. However, before I go into what their product does, perhaps I should explain the problem that their device solves.

Most air-conditioner evaporators have a condensate drain to carry away the water that the system condenses out of the air in the dehumidifying process. This drain must be trapped so that chilled air isn't lost down the drainpipe. Then, in case the first drain becomes clogged, there is a second backup drain that must also be trapped. But, since it usually isn't in an overflow condition, there is seldom any water in the trap to prevent cooling losses. That's where this device comes in.

The Drain-Plus is a trapped backup condensate drain that is held closed by a ball resting on a rubber gasket. This keeps any water in the trap from evaporating, chilled air from being lost, and it quickly opens to allow any standing water to drain.

The Paramount H and InsuGuard

I also noted two other simple new products at the Exposition that seemed to solve some common problems. The Paramount H™ is an adjustable plastic device that mounts between 2-by-4s in new construction to provide mounting space for air diffuser boots. They come in 4-inch and 6-inch wide frames, and are adjustable from 8 inches to 16 inches, so the carpenters no longer have to provide special framing.

InsuGuard (www.insuguard.com) is also a plastic device that is designed to support insulated rigid copper tubing in long runs without damaging the foam insulation.

APR Control

The next device that caught my eye is a service technician's dream. It's a single-assembly device that must be mounted between an air conditioner's hot-gas line, suction line and liquid line to provide better temperature and humidity control of over-capacity systems. It performs a hot-gas bypass function using a built-in pressure regulator and a sensing valve to cut a system's capacity whenever the suction pressures drop too low. It is available through Rawal Devices Inc. (www.rawal.com).