This year, the annual AHR Expo — the International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition — is headed to the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. From Feb. 6-8, attendees will gather for one of the world’s largest HVACR events, which is held in conjunction with ASHRAE’s Winter Conference.
During the event, attendees will have the opportunity to view, experience and learn about the latest HVACR innovations, products and technologies from 1,736 exhibitors, attend panel discussions and industry sessions. All these activities can provide great insight into the trends impacting the industry today. Think: decarbonization, electrification, indoor air quality, workforce development and retention, and refrigerant mandates, just to name a few. Attendees can also learn how manufacturers are contending with continued supply chain issues and inflation on the horizon.
“The HVACR industry is changing and growing quickly and in ways that are new to us all,” said Mark Stevens, AHR’s show manager, in a statement. “We’re talking about training a new workforce to replenish a wave of retirement while simultaneously taking on initiatives relating to environmental efficiency, indoor air quality, automation, cybersecurity, supply chain disruptions, new business practices, etc. — there is no shortage of necessary discussions.”
On the expo floor, attendees can preview new products and speak directly to manufacturers to learn about their latest offerings. They also can view exhibitor presentations in the New Product & Technology Theater, where more than 145 presentations are scheduled to take place throughout the three-day trade show. The 20-minute presentations will provide brief overviews of new products and technologies that are being touted by exhibitors on the show floor.
In response to the demand for more training programs, this year’s AHR Expo Education Program will include one more day of sessions for three full days of educational opportunities. The program includes more than 200 free seminars, including new product and technology presentations, professional certifications, continuing education courses and a panel series, along with 85 free industry sessions. The sessions will include discussions on current trends and what’s on the horizon for the industry, as well as provide attendees an understanding of real-world applications and practices in the HVACR discipline.
A schedule of the full program is available on AHR’s website (http://bit.ly/3gXijr3).
Professional development courses will be offered through ASHRAE’s Learning Institute and short courses/professional development seminars, which can earn attendees continuing education units. The continuing education sessions will cover a wide range of industry topics, including, but not limited to, the fundamentals of the commissioning process, laboratory design basics and beyond, and complying with the requirements of ASHRAE standards.
This year’s panel series also returns with a larger lineup of topics to address issues impacting the industry, including the “HVACR State of the Industry Leadership Panel Discussion: Today’s Market, Challenges, Opportunities and What’s Ahead,” where industry leaders will discuss the current challenges, opportunities and forecasts for the year ahead in HVACR; the “Decarbonization and the Future of HVAC” panel discussion, where experts will discuss regulation, practices and the future of decarbonization as it relates to HVACR; and the “Communication Across the Supply Chain: Mapping the Channel and Flow of Information” panel discussion, which will examine the current gaps in communication flow, starting with standards writing to manufacturer implementation and following the chain through equipment installation and maintenance.
Supporting Workforce Development
One of the ways that the AHR Expo serves the industry is by supporting a local workforce development program. This year, students from the Atlanta College and Career Academy (ACCA), a program provided by Atlanta Public Schools, will be traveling the trade show floor to learn more about the HVAC industry and available workforce opportunities.
In addition to providing a monetary donation from their AHR Innovation Award program to ACCA, AHR partnered with Miracle Mechanical to come into the school to install HVAC equipment that was donated by Rheem for students to use for training, and to mentor and work one-on-one with the students with the goal of furthering their interest in HVAC.
AHR also worked with ASHRAE to host a group of about 50 college-aged engineering students to introduce them to the HVAC industry. In addition to touring the show, the two organizations brought together a panel of working engineers, including but not limited to those from Trane, Viega, SPX, Lochinvar and RW Becket, to talk to the engineering students about the industry and its career opportunities, and provide a general overview of day-to-day expectations for someone working in that field.
2023 AHR Expo Innovation Awards
Big-impact innovations will be found throughout the expo floor during AHR, but each year the show also features the winners of its AHR Expo Innovation Awards. Winners from 10 industry categories — building automation, cooling, heating, indoor air quality, plumbing, refrigeration, software, sustainable solutions, tools and instruments, and ventilation — are selected by a panel of third-party judges comprised of ASHRAE members. The entries are evaluated on overall innovative design, creativity of the product or service offered, product or technology real-world application, and overall potential market impact.
See Table 1 for a listing of all this year’s winners. Here are highlights of the plumbing, heating, cooling and sustainable solutions winners:
• This year’s winner in the plumbing category is the 536 Series PresCal HP piston-type pressure-reducing valve by Caleffi Hydronic Solutions. The valve is the only direct-acting, pressure-regulating valve (PRV) in North America with true piston operation. The PresCal HP family ensures stable, high-precision water pressure control while withstanding severe inlet pressure or punishing downstream water hammer. It’s perfect for staged pressure control or demanding applications that are fraught with extreme pressure fluctuations.
Being the bridge between a building’s water main and its distribution piping, a PRV experiences pressure fluctuations on both downstream and upstream sides. These fluctuations can be of sufficient magnitude to cause premature fatiguing and failure of a rubber diaphragm design, the industry standard (including Caleffi). The higher the incoming pressure, the more severe the fluctuations and their effects frequently are. This is because higher-pressure applications often involve commercial buildings containing quick-acting devices. They are also interconnected with other similar buildings.
Controlling pressure reliably in such applications requires either a robustly designed PRV, a two-stage PRV arrangement, or both. These are the demanding conditions the Caleffi PresCal HP family of PRVs is designed for.
Instead of using a flexible, rubber diaphragm separating the high-pressure and low-pressure chambers inside the PRV, the PresCal HP uses a durable piston design. The high-range model serves as a first-stage PRV in a two-stage application. The low-range model serves as a second-stage or stand-alone PRV for punishing pressure spikes.
• The winner in the heating category is the ZPSK7 scroll compressor by Copeland HVAC Compressors/Emerson. Built on the award-winning ZPSK6 platform, Emerson’s ZPSK7 scroll compressor is the most efficient two-stage compressor developed by the Copeland brand. It is a product line of 1.5 to 5-ton two-stage compressors ideally suited for residential and light commercial HVAC applications.
These compressors can operate at full capacity or as low as 65% capacity based on heating/cooling demand. When a partial load is needed, bypass ports inside the compression chamber open, which partially unload the compressor. This allows the compressor to achieve 65% capacity, thereby consuming less energy at light loads and avoiding costly stops and starts that use more energy. When demand increases, the modulation control valve is activated, sealing the bypass and shifting to full capacity.
The compressor can run at lower capacity without stopping, ensuring air continues flowing over the coil and the filter. This yields important benefits in humidity reduction and air quality. In addition, this two-stage modulating compressor also gives systems the ability to adjust capacity to match the load, resulting in longer run times at higher efficiency to maximize comfort.
• The winner in the cooling category is Opteon XL41 refrigerant by Chemours. Opteon XL41 is a non-ozone-depleting, low global-warming potential (GWP) refrigerant replacement for R-410A in residential and light commercial air conditioning, and scroll chiller applications. It maximizes the benefits of the transition to hydrofluoroolefin refrigerants while minimizing the impact of the transition.
The refrigerant provides a 78% reduction in GWP from R-410A, while remaining compatible with all R-410A residential and commercial applications and lubricants. This greatly reduces the redesign effort for original equipment manufacturers, and reduces the learning curve for the technicians in the field.
• The winner in the sustainable solutions category is the System M by Taco Comfort Solutions. The ultra-efficient System M consists of a sleek, whisper-quiet, inverter-driven outdoor heat pump that can be up to four times more efficient than a gas furnace. The outdoor heat pump seamlessly integrates with Taco’s exclusive indoor HydroBox to provide a complete system.
The air-to-water heat pump system provides comfortable, efficient heating and cooling, and plenty of domestic hot water. Its packaged design makes installation less intrusive; no refrigerant or gas lines are needed.
The heat pump integrates with almost any high-efficiency heating and cooling system and is perfect for both new construction and existing HVAC systems. The installation time is half of a typical air-to-water heat pump by eliminating the work to design, procure and install all the required hydronic components. Only six connections are needed; two connections to the heat pump, two connections to the domestic hot water tank and two connections to the heat and cooling system.
The next AHR Expo will take place in Chicago from Jan. 22-24, 2024. l