New products and technologies at the 2012 AHR Expo emphasize added value for end users.

The 2012 AHR Expo at McCormick Place in Chicago drew a record 58,000 visitors over three days. Photo courtesy of AHR Expo

While attendance was certainly the talk of the 2012 AHR Expo held in late January at McCormick Place in Chicago, an equally great buzz was generated by the many new air-conditioning, heating, and refrigeration products and technologies on display.

One of the overarching themes to come out of AHR Expo, which drew a record 58,000 attendees (exhibitors and visitors combined), is how manufacturers are developing products and technologies aimed at giving the end user a better understanding and more control. With household, commercial and industrial budgets remaining tight and owners searching for any type of savings, this makes sense. Here’s a quick look at some of the new products and technologies at AHR that are sure to attract the attention of wholesalers.

Lochinvar’s Crest condensing boiler, a 2012 AHR Expo Innovation Award honorable mention recipient in the Heating category, comes in five models. Photo courtesy of Lochinvar

Lochinvarshowcased its Crest condensing boiler, which comes in five different models ranging from 1.5 to 3.5 million Btu/hr. All models feature the Smart Touch operating control and a fire-tube technology. Crest earned an 2012 AHR Expo Innovation honorable mention award.

The company also displayed its Strato-Therm+ solar thermal storage tank, which earned an Innovation Award in the Green Building Products category. Strato-Therm+ offers full functionality of a solar thermal storage tank, an indirect water heater and a hydronic buffer tank in a single unit, saving space for the end user.

Geofinityshowcased its Orb touchscreen system-control platform, which won an Innovation Award in the Building Automation category. The Orb features a commissioning agent providing text-based, multi-language-capable notifications on a LCD screen. End users configure their settings for individual components such as the compressor, fan and high/low pressure switches. Combined with the electric heat economizer, any system can control four stages off heating.

The Eternal GU100 Hybrid water heater, designed for the retrofit market, is Energy Star-listed at 0.94 EF. Photo courtesy of Eternal

Water heaters/boilers

Many companies displayed their latest in water-heating technology.WaterFurnaceadvanced upon its 3 and 5 Series water heaters with the new 7 Series geothermal heat pump. The 7 Series introduces the new InfiniSpeed technology, a variable-capacity compressor for higher performance and quiet operation.

The 7 Series fits right in with giving users a better knowledge of a product’s performance through the use of Aurora Controls. The control system provides advanced diagnostics, shows sensor faults, while lockout histories can be closely watched. The 7 Series also has a “Black Box” function that comes with a standard SD memory card slot to store performance data.

Tankless water heater manufacturerNavienhad its premium and standard condensing water heaters out for attendees to browse. Each water heater features two stainless-steel heating condensers and provides users 96 cents for every dollar towards heating.

Navien Marketing ManagerMarc Heffnerdiscussed the Navien Training Academy in New Jersey where contractors learn the ins-and-outs of the Navien product line and train on working units. There also are Navien training facilities in Irvine, Calif., and Vaughan, Ontario, Canada. Heffner noted 75 contractors went through training in January.

“(We’ve) trained over 5,000 contractors so far and hope to have 10,000 contractors trained over North America in 2012,” Heffner said.

The Laars Mighty Stack volume water heater features an 80-gallon storage tank and is designed for light commercial applications. Photo courtesy of Laars

Eternal Water Heatersshowcased its up-to 98% efficient GU100 Eternal Hybrid. The unit combines tank and tankless technologies, but weighs only 77 lb. Even if the unit’s capacity is limited, water pressure  is not affected by the number of running fixtures. The water heater has a ½-in. gas line and can use 2 in. or 3 in. PVC pipe. It comes with a 15-year residential no-leak warranty and is self-cleaning. The unit is designed specifically for people looking to upgrade or change their homes.

“We wanted to give people a retrofit water heater,” Eternal Vice President of Products and MarketingPaul Homesaid. “Houses built in the early 2000s need to be upgraded.”

Laars added the Mighty Stack volume water heater and the NeoTherm LC high-efficiency boiler to its product line. The NeoTherm saves space and is 94% thermal efficient, while operating at 1 million Btu. The direct-vent, sealed-combustion boiler features an ASME stainless-steel heat exchanger with low 10-ppm NOx emissions.

The Mighty Stack is a volume water heater with an 80-gallon storage tank with 199, 300 and 399 MBH sizes fueled by natural or propane gas. The light commercial unit has 83% thermal efficiency, meets low-lead requirements and has a removable upper boiler piece to make handling significantly easier.

Rheem’s H2AC rooftoop unit with eSync Integration Technology can unite an HVAC and water-heating system for better energy efficiencies. The unit is ideal for restaurants and will take heat from the HVAC system, normally sent into the atmosphere, and uses it to heat water. If the restaurant needs air conditioning and hot water, the unit switches from a refrigerant-to-air to a refrigerant-to-water system.

Taco’s SmartPlus circulator records every time hot water is called for during a seven-day period and then repeats that pattern the next week. Photo courtesy of Taco

Other AHR eye-catchers

Standex Electronicshas a new line of flood prevention switches to protect HVAC systems. The low-voltage switches come with a magnetic reed switch, and will function well in commercial and residential designs. The switches come in tee, elbow and bracket models with many different fittings.

General Toolsdisplayed its Wide Range Infrared Thermometer and USB Humidity/Temperature Data Logger. The data logger comes in three ranges (HT10/20/50) and makes long-term and unattended monitoring of HVACR installations easier and more cost effective. Each series can record up to 8,000 pairs of ambient temperature and humidity readings over a period of days, weeks or months. The point-and-shoot, gun-style infrared thermometer, designed for testing HVACR systems, accurately measures temperatures from a distance.

Taco’s new Viridian high-efficiency wet-rotor commercial pump can decrease energy usage by 80% compared to a standard commercial pump of the same size. The variable-speed operation is fully automated with Web-style controls with capacities up to 385 gpm.

When Taco’s SmartPlus hot water circulator is set to “Smart,” it will record when hot water is called for in a seven-day period and then follows the same pattern for the next week. With SmartPlus, an average home could save up to 12,000 gallons of water per year. The unit also has a “Pulse” mode where it will turn on every 150 seconds over a 10-minute period, maintaining hot water at all fixtures.

NextAireintroduced a multi-zone gas heat pump with a programmable thermostat that controls the indoor unit. Fan operation is set by the position on the “On-Auto” switch and the mode of occupancy.

General Tools’ new USB Humidity/Temperature Data Loggers give end users accurate readings in long-term, unattended facilities such as food storage and office buildings. Photo courtesy of General Tools

ClimateMaster’s Tranquility Rooftop Series (TRE) geothermal heat pump is available in 3- to 20-ton units and can introduce a fixed amount of outside air year-round. The TRE models surpass ASHRAE 90.1 efficiencies and are made for a wide range of source water temperatures. The units are usable for closed-loop or ground-source closed-loop systems.

Synex Controlsoffered the ModSync Boiler Sequencing System – a control platform that can be utilized with existing boilers. It allows end users to customize any type of boiler, such as condensing, non-condensing, and steam in many commercial buildings or apartment complexes. The system also features inSite remote monitoring – an annual subscription service that allows Synex engineers to look at the system offsite and make recommendations on how to optimize performance and efficiency. The ModSync system was put into place at a school in Minnesota with eight-year-old boilers. The school reported 35% savings after the installation.

NIBCO’s S-1810 (fixed orifice balancing valve solder) and T-1810 (fixed orifice balancing valve threaded) improve flow measurement accuracy with + or – 5% from 100% to 25% open. Both are made from dezincification-resistant brass body, bonnet and trim.

For more AHR coverage, including videos from the show floor, Jim Wheeler’s take on the air side of the show can be foundhere.

Supply House Times Voices

“I’m running into a lot of customers.”
– Dallas Strong, sales, Johnstone Supply
Grand Rapids, Mich.

“There are lots of people. We always like seeing the new products.”
– Scott Iselin, buyer, PDQ Supply
 Batavia, Ill.

“I went on Wednesday, and I went later, and I was amazed at how busy it was.”
–Wally Walters, sales manager
Ferguson Enterprises, Addison, Ill.

“I found it to be worthwhile. The booths showcased new products and you got your hands on them.”
–Don Devoe, sales rep, SG Supply Co.
Calumet Park, Ill.

“It was outstanding, especially on the international front. Latin America was very busy as well as the Middle East.”
– Matt Ryan, director of sales, Macroair
San Bernardino, Calif.