Attendees of the 2015 AHR Expo in Chicago will get a double-dose of good news.

For starters, the show’s organizers said they would not be shocked if the number of visitors to Chicago Jan. 26-28 at McCormick Place for what is billed as the world’s largest HVAC marketplace sets an all-time attendance record. About 2,100 exhibitors are expected to fill more than 470,000 net sq. ft. of space.

International Exposition Co. President Clay Stevens, whose company produces and manages the show, told Supply House Times the number of 2015 exhibitors is up about 8% from last year’s show in New York and exhibitor space is expected to jump 10% from the last time the show was in Chicago in 2012.

“Chicago traditionally is one of our biggest shows,” he said. “Chicago is very easy to get in and out of and when the show is there it always seems to be bigger in terms of square footage and exhibitors. The slowly improving economy probably helps as well.”

That’s where part two of the good news comes into play. ASHRAE and AHR Expo sent a survey to more than 1,000 HVACR manufacturers worldwide to gauge their feelings on the current business climate. The results show 87% of respondents feel their prospects for business either are excellent (26%) or good (61%) for the coming year, compared to 13% who feel prospects will be fair.

Those results reflect an 8% jump over the 2013 survey that found 79% of respondents expected the economy would be better in 2014 than 2013. It also represents a sizable 17% uptick from when 70% felt 2013 would be better than 2012.

On the sales side, 96% of survey respondents believe 2015 sales will continue to increase with 47% expecting sales increases between 5% and 10%. Additionally, 29% forecast sales increases of more than 10%. Only 3% expect sales to remain the same. This represents a 6% jump over 2014’s forecast and a 16% increase over 2013 survey results.

“The industry is abuzz with new activity as the U.S. starts to pull out of the recession and companies are reinvesting in infrastructure which is allowing more bidding opportunities,” Lochinvar Vice President of Sales and Marketing Mike Lahti said.

Rheem Corporate Director of Marketing Bill Alderson also is seeing signs that the economy is headed in the right direction. “From Rheem’s standpoint, we’re cautiously optimistic with the economy,” he said. “Some indicators look very good as far as home building. Consumers and homeowners are looking at a more stable economy.”


Getting down to business

Manufacturers that exhibit at AHR Expo have seen plenty of foot traffic in recent years and 2015 is shaping up to be more of the same. “It’s a great place for us to meet customers, learn about their needs and how we can support them,” Watts Water Technologies Direct Marketing Manager Judy D’Amico said. “We’re there in force to accomplish that as well as learn about the latest trends and technologies. We also enjoy the ability to reconnect with folks we may not have seen for months. It’s the one time of year when all the project work is set aside so we can join a huge group of people — all with similar interests — to look at the bigger picture.”

Viega Vice President of Market Innovation Christian Geistoff noted the show benefits his company from a commercial standpoint. “AHR Expo is becoming the new lead show in the U.S. for commercial heating, cooling and mechanical applications,” he said. “It’s not just for heating and cooling systems anymore. There is a big mechanical focus.”

Taco Director of Marketing-Residential Products Mark Chaffee said another key benefit is the broad spectrum of attendees the show attracts each year. “We especially enjoy AHR Expo for its ability to provide exposure across our broad product offering,” he said. “The show is good for its ability to bring in a high volume of trade professionals — contractors, engineers, building owners and wholesalers — who come looking for new products and technology. This offers us the opportunity to have a much broader discussion with them about design improvements and innovations at Taco that can help improve their business.”


Current trends

Manufacturers are noticing several distinct trends in the industry that have influenced what attendees will see on the show floor in Chicago. Bosch Thermotechnology Marketing Program Manager Craig Lazinsky noted energy efficiency and affordable technology continue to be two key trends he’s seeing in the marketplace.

“Every manufacturer is chasing efficiency improvements,” Modine’s Marketing & Sales Support Manager Ray Schaffart added. “System designers, installers and building owners all are demanding it in some way.”

Fujitsu General America Director of Marketing Erin Mezle feels utility and government rebate programs will continue to raise the bar for HVAC product efficiency requirements. “This is creating an opportunity for emerging high-efficiency technology like never before,” she said. “It’s exciting to see how innovative technology enables us to achieve higher and higher efficiency goals.”

Legend Valve Vice President of Business Development Thomas Huck is noticing an uptick in green building, particularly in radiant product demand. “As more and more of the spotlight turns to ‘green building,’ hydronic systems and component demand will be greatly affected because of the large contribution they can make to any such project,” he said.

Taco’s Chaffee said integration of systems is an important focus of the company right now, while Noritz Marketing Manager Jason Fleming noted the use of “combi” products in the water-heating component of HVAC rather than traditional condensing technology, and the upcoming National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (requiring higher Energy Factor ratings starting April 16) are two more important current-event topics. Lochinvar’s Lahti noted light commercial high-efficiency condensing boilers are gaining traction in the marketplace.

Watts’ D’Amico is one of several executives on the manufacturing side that feel smart systems will continue to evolve in the HVACR space. “People want to be able to access their HVAC systems through a central control unit such as a smartphone, iPad or remote access through smart devices,” she said.

AHR Expo attendees also will have ample educational opportunities with more than 120 sessions covering a wide variety of topics. The educational offerings range from more than three-dozen free sessions, nearly two-dozen paid courses and more than 60 exhibitor new product presentations in the New Product & Technology theaters.

Supply House Times sister publication Plumbing & Mechanical again will host its PM Live workshops on Tuesday, Jan. 27. The two half-day technical workshops feature industry gurus and BNP Media Plumbing Group columnists Dan Holohan and John Siegenthaler.  For more, visit

Stevens noted 70% of exhibitors will be showcasing new products in Chicago, while 52% of survey respondents said they will be introducing products that increase efficiency. For a preview of some of the new products that will be on display at AHR Expo, turn to Page 22.

 “AHR Expo is a great opportunity for a manufacturer to see the entire HVAC food chain in one place,” Alderson said.