In January I attended my 32nd consecutive AHR Expo. I enjoy seeing where our industry is headed and then letting you know about the new technology and trends I notice at the show.

While I’m at the show I walk the entire floor (my aching legs) and look at each booth, searching for whatever may be new and different. Though in many cases the products I am writing about may not have reached the market yet, but I still want you to know they are coming.

This year there may have been 100 or more booths representing Chinese manufacturers. The one thing I noticed is there was very little in the way of new or innovative. In other words, the Chinese manufacturers seemed to express the view, “We can do whatever you’re doing, but we can do it cheaper.”

However, one Chinese HVAC manufacturer I’ve been watching at AHR Expo for several years is Haier, a company interested in expanding its base in the United States. Haier really caught my eye at its booth with some striking new standalone air handlers that were originally designed for the European market but will soon be available here.

These are modern pieces of furniture that don’t try to hide in a closet because they are beautiful. A small >1-ton model hangs on a wall, and two >2-ton models stand vertically on the floor. No, they aren’t for every house or business, but there obviously is a huge potential market for them. And since they also are just components that connect to a superefficient and super-quiet multi-zone condensing unit, they are part of a whole-building system.

What is so striking about these air handlers is they don’t have louvered air diffusers, just a large see-through open hole from which the conditioned air gently flows — mixed with the ambient air.

There also was a product made in Korea that I was very impressed with, something called the Qtube from Lordo. I think we will see a lot more of these types of products in the future since this is absolutely new technology.

Lordo’s offering is a type of very flexible aluminum refrigerant piping that comes with several layers of tough corrosion-resistant insulation bonded to it so no other external insulation is required (I suspect the flexibility of the pipe is aided by the insulation). The pipe is rated for pressures exceeding 2,000 psi, and being aluminum, it is much lighter than traditional copper tube.

So, how do you connect the aluminum piping to the equipment? You use traditional brass fittings because the brass never makes contact with the tube. Yes, the insulation layer is so tough that you don’t have to remove it to make a high-pressure connection.

I also want to mention a little device I saw at the show, which I thought you’d be interested in because it is new, innovative and there is a definite need for it. Meet the SureStart from Hyper Engineering that greatly reduces the starting amperage of the psc motors that typically are used on compressors.

Why is such a device needed? Have you ever noticed the lights flicker in your home when the air-conditioning kicks on? Many people have and they don’t like it.

This little gem solves that problem by reducing the compressor starting current by more than half. Also, where emergency backup generators must occasionally operate single-phase compressors or motors, the size of the generator can be reduced because the locked-rotor current is much lower.

The innovation keeps coming!

This article was originally titled “The new and the interesting” in the April 2016 print edition of Supply House Times.