Since I attended my first ISH trade show in Germany 20 years ago, I’ve been fascinated by the innovations I’ve found in the heating exhibition halls. And such was the case again this year.
Aquatherm, for example, showed its black pipe system for radiant heating and cooling ceilings and walls as well as floors. Bosch displayed advanced condensing wall-hung boilers. Viessmann exhibited hybrid systems that use oil or gas plus a renewable energy source.
With just a few hours remaining in my third and final day at the ISH trade show in Frankfurt, I realized I had spent relatively little time viewing plumbing products. So, on the afternoon of March 13 I rushed through the plumbing halls before they closed.
Part of my preference for heating has had to do with the company I’ve kept. I've gone to past shows with employees, distributors, reps and contractor customers of Stadler Corp., Viessmann and Viega. In 2013 and this year, my travels to ISH included side trips to visit Aquatherm and Viega, both of whom produce heating and plumbing systems in Attendorn, Germany.
Fair or not, my perception has been that Europeans have introduced more innovations on the heating side of the industry while Americans lead the way in plumbing.
I received some painful reinforcement on this point during a shower on my last morning in Germany. I was enjoying the full flow of a comfortably warm shower when the water turned scalding hot without any assist from me. I avoided a serious burn when I quickly redirected the handheld shower, while yelling a few choice words.
Rather than an isolated incident, it followed by a day my experience in another hotel’s shower whose unaided temperature fluctuations were merely annoying rather than dangerous. Two mornings earlier, I was treated to a shower in a third hotel where the temperature never exceeded lukewarm. And, I won’t even go into the toilet brushes next to every fixture I used.
I’m sure you can punch holes in my thinking on European heating vs. American plumbing by pointing to European innovations such as wall-hung toilets and press-fit pipe joining. European water quality systems from Kemper, Viega and other manufacturers may join the list.
Both Kemper and Viega exhibited this year at ISH. I first became aware of Kemper’s drinking water hygiene system last year when I moderated IAPMO’s Emerging Technologies Symposium, and I introduced the Kemper presentation. Viega has been educating the industry by presenting water quality classes around the country, including one in January at the AHR Expo in Chicago.
Following ISH, Viega hosted a small group of U.S. plumbing industry media to discuss its water quality systems in more detail and to visit the jobsite of an apartment building where occupants will drink water from one of its systems.
Much is the case with energy efficiency breakthroughs from heating equipment manufacturers, German regulations are driving innovations on water quality through strict standards on drinking water.
“Drinking out of the tap in Germany is quite common because the water quality is very high,” Stefan Schulte, a Viega product manager in Attendorn, said. “Impeccable drinking water is a requirement to our health.”
In the U.S. market, the focus on healthy drinking water includes minimizing the risk of legionella bacteria, said Derek Bower, P.E., Viega’s U.S. director of product management for metals. Systems developed for the U.S. market need to address issues such as stagnation of water in plumbing pipes and water temperature.
Viega plans to adapt its water quality technology to the U.S. market as it continues to educate the U.S. plumbing industry on water quality issues, Marketing Manager Tim Allbritten said.