The Yellow Jacket solar-powered digital gage from Ritchie Engineering.

I wouldn’t miss attending the annual HVACR Expos (I’ve attended them all since 1984), because I really want to know what is going on and what the new trends and technologies are. However, despite earlier claims that it might be the largest ever, this year’s event (January 26-28) at the McCormick Convention Center in Chicago seemed to be heavily affected by a down economy, since it appeared as though many companies had paid for booths, but didn’t see the need to attend. In addition, almost none of the U.S. major equipment manufacturers was there, so it was difficult to find out who is getting ready to do what.

The one U.S. group that I was happy to see in attendance was York International, which was there along with their parent company, Johnson Controls. And the big news with them is that they have expanded their line of the new micro-channel condenser coils into their middle-of-the-line air-conditioner and heat pump products, including those that use the R410A refrigerant.

The CondenserNeedle from SpeedClean can be used to clean condenser coils from the inside out.

Since I like the design of these zinc-coated all-aluminum coils, because they should maintain their higher efficiencies longer and they take up less room than conventional coils, I asked when we might see them being applied as evaporator (indoor) coils. And I found out that the holdup there is not condensate removal problems (which I had expected), but finding a good way to properly circuit them for heat pump applications.

And speaking of refrigerants, at the DuPont press conference they discussed the ways that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is trying to speed up the phaseout of HCFC refrigerants, such as R22. And as they pointed out, R22 shipments will start falling short of industry requirements by next year! And they (the EPA) are trying to eliminate all sales of R22 equipment within the next year or so. Therefore, it might be a good idea to try to move out any remaining stock of R22 equipment that you have on hand ASAP.

At these industry trade shows, I normally find many new product ideas, but I really didn’t see much that was new and interesting this year. There were several companies offering digital refrigerant gages that provide saturated refrigerant temperatures over a broad range of refrigerant types, but the one I found the most innovative was the Yellow Jacket solar-powered digital gage from Ritchie Engineering ( It was so new that they didn’t have literature on it, but they told me that the gages, when mounted on a standard manifold, would retail at about $170.

Cut-away view of a micro-channel condenser coil.

Another interesting and very practical tool that I found is the CondenserNeedle from SpeedClean ( It is a metal wand that connects to a standard garden hose and to a bottle of coil cleaner, which can be used to clean condenser coils from the inside out. This is a great (and much needed) idea that I’m sure will become very popular with service technicians, but I don’t suggest their using the company’s sodium hydroxide (lye)-based foaming coil cleaner - a good degreaser would be far less hazardous to coils and to personnel.

And lastly, MCC USA Inc., manufacturer of a line of threaded rod cutters and sockets/wrenches, will surely provide the answer to the prayers of HVAC installers who must install a lot of 3/8-inch and 1/2-inch threaded rods, since their tools will make the job simpler, faster, and they don’t damage the rod threads. For more information and photos, see their Web site at