Record-breaking 2012 AHR Expo provides reason for optimism.

Hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the trade-show floor at the recent 2012 AHR Expo in Chicago was a large ceiling fan.

I heard more than one person walk by the company’s booth and say, “Look at that big fan,” as they pointed upward. It probably makes sense that a company called Big Ass Fans would display a gigantic ceiling fan at a trade show. It almost looked like an amusement park ride.

The name of that fan company fit right into the vibe going around the three-day show that featured nearly 10 acres worth of exhibits (an AHR record, according to ASHRAE’s Show Daily newspaper distributed at the event). A near-record 1,976 exhibitors showcased a plethora of new air-conditioning, heating, and refrigeration-related products and technologies. Show organizers were expecting a crowd of 50,000 for the event (attendees and exhibitors combined).

Traffic was impressive the first day of the show. Just after lunch, it took me nearly 10 minutes to get from the beginning of an aisle to the end of it. That type of gridlock was commonplace throughout much of the first day and during parts of the following morning and afternoon.

The hustle and bustle generated a positive buzz regarding what that kind of traffic could mean in terms of industry forecasting for the coming year. The Show Daily printed results of a survey it conducted with 162 of the 2012 AHR exhibitors. The survey reveals 70% of exhibitors believe 2012 will be an excellent or good year for business, while 60% say it will be much better or better than 2011.

Not surprisingly, energy efficiency was a major theme in Chicago. ASHRAE’s survey reveals 76% of exhibitors planned to introduce a new product at the show, while 87% of the new products intend to improve energy efficiency. I don’t think I visited one booth where green wasn’t in the conversation or dominating it.

We all know green isn’t exiting stage left anytime soon. However, I noticed a green movement at the show with a different twist. Manufacturers are no longer rolling out a product and simply calling it energy efficient. I was introduced to many different new products and technologies aimed at providing end users with tools to increase energy efficiency and ramp up returns on investment even further. These include energy management systems allowing the end user to set a zone temperature from a laptop computer or iPhone.

Several companies displayed computer-based technology that relays product trouble signals directly to service contractors. How cool would it be to punch specs into your smartphone, and the screen from the manufacturer’s website tells you exactly how much pipe you need for a particular project? It’s out there now. New products with touch-screen components also were abundant.

 “We’re providing another level of service to the customer” was a familiar refrain I heard from manufacturers. That may be the answer to the “Where does green go next?” question – providing the end user with capabilities to make a product even more energy efficient and cost effective.

We’ll have complete AHR Expo coverage in our March issue, while AHR videos can be found at www.supplyht.com. If you were a wholesaler at the show, drop me a line at miazgam@bnpmedia.com. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you saw.

If the enthusiasm at AHR Expo is any indication, 2012’s outlook may be even brighter than originally anticipated.

Food for thought

Supply House Times sister publication PM Engineer has a story in its February issue about a health consortium solving water-quality and sanitation issues in remote Alaska villages. With these villages being in extremely rural areas, the prices of goods and services are substantially higher than those in the lower 48 states. How much higher?

A gallon of gas in Nome: $6.75; a 1-lb. can of coffee: $22.50; a 6-oz. steak at a local village store: $72; a single load of laundry: $7; and two cases of bottled water: $100 each. Talk about some jaw-dropping numbers.

The consortium is doing yeoman’s work to provide villagers with clean water through the building of water infrastructure and public washaterias. Some of the products it uses on the projects are likely sitting in your supply house today. These products are contributing to a better and much healthier way of life for the residents of these villages. If you have a second, check out the story at www.pmengineer.com.

Links