From Jan. 22-24, attendees from around the world will gather in Chicago for one of the largest HVACR events: the annual AHR Expo — the International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition — taking place at McCormick Place Convention Center. The expo, which is co-sponsored by the American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), will be held in conjunction with ASHRAE’s Winter Conference.
During the expo, attendees will have the opportunity to view, experience and learn about the latest HVACR innovations, products and technologies from more than 1,800 exhibitors, and speak directly with manufacturers on the showroom floor to learn about their latest offerings. Manufacturers will showcase products in the following categories: heating, cooling, refrigeration, ventilation, plumbing, indoor air quality, building automation and control, sustainable solutions, software, and tools and instruments.
Attendees also have the opportunity to sit in on more than 150 20-minute presentations about the new products and technology from manufacturers, which will occur in four theaters on the showroom floor throughout the three-day event.
More than 370 speakers are slated to participate in an array of panel discussions and industry sessions, providing insight into the trends impacting the industry today. The AHR Expo Education Program helps provide participants an understanding of real-world application and practice areas in niche disciplines and includes broader discussions on current and anticipated trends. In addition to the new product and technology presentations, it includes more than 110 free industry seminars, a panel series, professional certifications and continuing educations courses.
This year’s panel series will once again include a 2024 state-of-the-industry update, and will delve into the current challenges, opportunities and forecasts that the HVACR industry should anticipate in the year ahead. Other topics in the series include “Heat Pumps, Electrification, and the Grid,” which will discuss how to best deploy heat pumps in retrofit projects while addressing barriers to electrification at the building and grid levels; “Addressing the Workforce Talent Gap through Educational Partnerships,” which will explore the impact collaboration can have on fostering a robust workforce; and “AI, Controls and the Future of Technology in HVAC,” which will provide an overview of the current and future roles of controls technology and AI as they relate to HVAC and buildings management.
Paid full-day and half-day professional development courses will be offered through ASHRAE’s Learning Institute, along with short courses and professional development seminars approved for Continuing Education Units, which engineers can use to maintain PE licensure. The continuing education sessions will cover industry topics such as laboratory design basics and beyond, the commissioning process and complying with ASHRAE standards requirements.
Visit https://bit.ly/3MZqMXu to view the full schedule of educational programs available.
AHR’s Workforce Development Initiatives
Continuing education and outreach are a central component of AHR. This includes educating future members of the HVACR community through its AHR Expo Workforce Development program. AHR is working with two schools within the Chicago Public Schools this year: Prosser Career Academy’s HVAC program and CPS’ Chicago Builds program, a citywide, two-year, off-campus construction training program for high school juniors and seniors.
Last October, AHR visited sophomores, juniors and seniors in the HVAC program at Prosser Career Academy, who met with Rhydon Atzenhoffer of Insight Partners and Dennis Wilkins with Keystone Sales, hosts of the industry podcast HVAC R&D (https://www.hvacrnd.com/), who are once again participating at the expo’s Podcast Pavilion.
Atzenhoffer and Wilkins spoke with the students about the work opportunities in the industry and understanding the flow of work throughout the chain and answered their questions. Both grew up in contracting families and went into the trades themselves, but branched out into different positions within the industry.
Ultimately, their goal when speaking with students is to open the discussion on all the job opportunities in the industry, to point out opportunities for those with technical backgrounds beyond the trades and to explain how to take that knowledge and better support other aspects of the industry — whether that be through sales or the movement of products across the supply chain.
For example, Atzenhoffer started as a heating contractor, but eventually worked his way up into sales and business management on the distribution side. “What these kids don’t realize is a couple of years in the field after school, if they don’t like being a service technician or an installer, they can move into wholesale, manufacturing or manufacturing reps,” he says. “A lot of these kids don’t understand just how broad the job base of our industry is, so we really wanted to hammer home all the different things these kids can go and do later in life if they learn the foundation of the trade now.”
The two also spent the day teaching on equipment, which was donated by Bosch. “The biggest problem right now is the school systems; I don’t care what level they are, they don’t have a good mix of equipment,” says Wilkins. “They either got really old or they got one thing that’s new and they won’t let a kid touch it because it’s the best thing they have in there.”
According to Atzenhoffer, after he and Wilkins assessed the equipment at Prosser, they noticed that the newest equipment was from 1998, adding that while it serves the maintenance side of the industry, the equipment does not provide insights into a heat pump board, a circuit board or a mini split or any of those types of equipment. “The opportunity just to be there and expose them to more modern equipment is already a huge check in the curriculum box,” he says.
“The next generation is not afraid of tech,” Wilkins adds. “That’s why it was so important to get some newer fresher technology into that classroom because it’s hard to teach these kids a foundation on nothing but five old furnaces.”
Students from both high school programs will attend the expo, be given tours around the showroom floor and attend panel discussions. Students also will speak to a panel about the growth and transition opportunities out there, and point out how transferable skills can benefit their career paths.
In addition, AHR works with ASHRAE annually to host college students interested in learning more about the HVAC industry. This year, 100 ASHRAE college students will have a panel of engineers from manufacturers such as Viega, Midea and Lochinvar speak with them about starting off in the industry and provide insight into building a lifelong career.
Students also will receive tool bags filled with donated tools from show vendors to help minimize the barriers of entry into the industry.
This program is made possible due to support from industry sponsors and funds collected from the entry fees of AHR’s Innovation Awards, which are donated to provide programming at the student level. Program sponsors include Viega and Midea, along with Bosch, which donated equipment to Prosser Career Academy.
2024 AHR Expo Innovation Awards
Each year the show features the 10 winners of its AHR Expo Innovation Awards, considered some of the most innovative products and technologies on the market. The winners were judged on overall innovative design, creativity of the product or service offered, product or technology real-world application, as well as overall potential market impact. Categories include building automation, cooling, heating, indoor air quality, plumbing, refrigeration, software, sustainable solutions, tools and instruments, and ventilation. See the table for a complete listing of this year’s winners.
Mark your calendar: The 2025 AHR Expo will take place in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 10-12.