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The energy was undeniable from day one of the International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo), held in Chicago, Jan. 22 – 24. The show featured the latest products and innovations from leading HVACR manufacturers and suppliers from around the world. More than 2,100 exhibiting companies wowed the crowd of more than 72,000 attendees and show exhibitors walking shoulder-to-shoulder down the aisles to view the latest industry trends. Showcasing the latest products, manufacturers featured educational seminars, product presentations, and demonstrations, making this year’s expo the largest in its 88-year history.
As they say, if it drives the industry, you’ll find it at the show.
What is an expo without awards? Each year, Innovation Awards are given to honor inventive and original products, systems and technologies showcased at the expo. Awards were given to 10 companies, including Danfoss for its Danfoss Turbocor TTH/TGH High Lift Compressor, which won Product of the Year.
Winners in all categories:
Danfoss, Danfoss Turbocor, TTH/TGH High Lift Compressor
Setra Systems Inc., Setra FLEX
Emerson, Copeland Scroll
Calefactio, The ONE, a 3-in-1 expansion tank, air separator and dirt separator
Spartan Bioscience for its Spartan Legionella Detection System
AquaMotion Inc., AquaMotion Aqua-Flash under-sink hot water recirculation system
Chemours, Opteon XP44 Refrigerant (R-452A)
Regal, Browning Toolbox Technician Motor Efficiency Calculator
Fluke Corp., Fluke T6 Electrical Tester
Triatek, Stable Vortex II Fume Hood
In addition to product awards, the AHR Expo donates the entry fees from the Innovation Awards competition to an organization within the regional area of the show. This year a donation in the amount of $20,700 was given to the Chicago Lighthouse, a local nonprofit organization that serves the blind, visually impaired, disabled and veteran communities with comprehensive vision care and support services.
One of our favorite parts of the AHR Expo is something no one outside the trade press gets to see: Taco Comfort Solutions always hosts a media briefing at 9 a.m. on the first day of the show – one hour before the show officially begins.
And while the company is more than ready to give editors a sneak-peak of new products on display, President and CEO John Hazen White Jr. can always be counted on to give a gracious speech on about everything but new products. It’s the type of talk that reminds everyone that, yes, we’re there for the next three days to walk up and down miles of aisles to see products; we’re also there to talk with plenty of real people.
“I absolutely love this company,” White told the crowd. “I love it not for the sales and money, but for what it represents. It represents good. It represents people. It represents opportunity, achievement, prosperity and families.”
White comfortably inhabits a distinct sartorial appearance that sets him apart from other business people at this show or any other.
“I never went to business school,” he said. “I’m not a business man; I just run a business.”
While his business was built on people and “serious fun, but fun,” it’s still a company he’s building for a long prosperous future like any other business leader.
“We’re a critical company in the advancement of this industry,” he added. “As a team, we’re working hard to do good things.”
He mentioned that his two sons are working at the company, “not with any sense of entitlement,” but that he hoped they would have the same level of success that he has enjoyed.
To underscore the people behind the products, White ended his presentation as he has for the past couple of years by presenting Bruce Marshall, the retired lead trainer from rep firm Emerson Swan with the Dan Holohan Lifetime Contribution to Comfort Award.
Marshall is the third recipient of the award and was recognized for his commitment to education and passion for training.
He joined Emerson Swan in 2005. By the time he retired at the end of 2017, Marshall had trained tens of thousands of contractors, wholesalers and sales representatives.
Taco started handing out the award at the AHR Expo in 2016. It’s given annually to an HVAC professional or company that has made a substantial contribution to comfort technology, advancement, or training while displaying the exceptional good humor and love of people exhibited by Dan Holohan throughout his long career. Past award winners include Holohan and Robert Bean.
The expo wasn’t just about products and awards. There were some great educational opportunities as well, and we had the privilege of attending a few of them. Here’s what we learned:
Trevor Flannigan’s “I NEED HELP!” provided hiring tips
Trevor Flannigan, COO of HomeServiceChats, has spent many a day in chat rooms getting to know home service providers and their business needs. Big surprise that those needs include recruitment.
In his educational session, “I NEED HELP! Proven Methods to Find and Keep Experienced Residential Technicians, Plumbers and Electricians,” Flannigan said that potential recruits are right under our noses. On Facebook, Craglist, LinkedIn. Yes, Facebook, where else? Perhaps it’s not well known in some circles that the social media giant allows users to target by geography. Another often overlooked opportunity is video. Have you thought about making a recruiting video? Flannigan made the argument that it’s not that job-searchers aren’t out there and looking, it’s that they need to be reached better. They can’t see you. Using specific and inexpensive targeting and getting your message via video on your company’s page can bring you closer to potential hires.
Supply houses provide other opportunities to attract people, especially with those with technical prowess. Business owners should put up professional posters that embody company culture and any recruitment bonuses.
Flannigan urges owners to be proactive and establish a hiring pipeline. Setting up informal meetings and chats is a good way to get — and keep — the ball rolling.
Final points to take away: don’t get discouraged and keep it consistent. And also, empathize with job-seekers.
“Radiant Cooling in the Windy City”
RPA hosted the session “Radiant Cooling the Windy City,” which focused on radiant cooling, or ways to absorb heat from a space by reducing the average temperature of a room. We learned that radiant cooling systems must operate above dew point, but that there aren’t regions that are too humid for radiant cooling if they are properly controlled. Engineer and radiant cooling expert Ryan Wesley discussed various ways and equations to prevent surfaces from going below dew point and how to maintain high levels of system performance.
Sachin Anand, P.E., presented on a case study of a radiant cooling project at University of Chicago’s North Residential Commons. The student living quarters use REHAU in-slab hydronic radiant heating and cooling, which was chosen to improve energy efficiency and enhance comfort for the students. The design focuses on natural ventilation. Each floor is divided into four zones, each with two sensors that adjust the radiant ceiling slab temperature dynamically depending on the outside temperature, the solar radiation and the orientation of
the zone. Benefits include: system controls linked to meters that record energy use and system performance; window sensors that detect when windows are open, turning off the room’s flow of water to save energy and react to varying humidity; and sensors embedded in the slab that signal the manifold to provide hot or cold water to each room, providing continuous comfort while saving energy and more.
Greg Cunniff, P.E., Taco, broke down the Building Energy Efficiency Ratio (BEER), which allows users to compare efficiencies of building systems. Cunniff pointed out that published EERs and IEERS are not created equally, and that this building efficiency tool takes published stats into account, plus real-world comparisons that account for missing information. This tool can assess up to four different systems.
Presentation shout out
We want to give a quick shout out to Gregg Holladay who we met over at the Bradford White booth. Holladay first began his career at GE and is widely known as a national expert on the elusive heat pump water heater. We say “elusive” because the application has been around for a while now, but is still not entirely recognized in ways that it can be. It’s Holladay’s goal to educate the plumber on a product that pays for itself in extreme energy savings, not to mention that it saves a homeowner $300-400 a year and provides plumbers with an installation of $2,000 or less. Overall, from an educational standpoint, we were impressed with Holladay’s knowledge and approach, and his presentation stands out as a show highlight.
Rheem held an early-morning training on its new Triton product, which is what the company came up with, with the help of 300 professional plumbers who were interviewed. We sat in the trailer and learned about some of the product’s biggest perks and offerings, including a built-in leak sensor, 360-degree protection, screen alerts, an integrated system and auto shutoff. The company joins the IoT ranks with its EcoNet smart monitoring system to remotely check in on tank health, allowing plumbers to establish ongoing contracts and provide consistent maintenance. Another big benefit that came recommended by plumber feedback was a patented built-in condensate neutralizer.
Armstrong Fluid Technology Reception
In addition to all the great products and educational opportunities, there were events throughout the expo that allowed for some solid networking. In particular, we had the opportunity to attend a few of the women-centered events and the overarching theme was: diversity and inclusion makes for a better world.
Women of ASHRAE
Women of ASHRAE hosted a breakfast where guest speaker Erin McConahey, PE, LEED AP at Arup, discussed Building Energy, Building Power: Diversity Represents the Real World.
McConahey said to a packed room at 7 a.m., “One of the things I brought to my firm was the importance of inclusion as a concept, and that it’s very different than diversity.” She quoted Verna Myers, in her words, a diversity and inclusion expert, and said, “‘Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.’”
She continued, “It’s the difference between representation and engagement. It’s the difference between existence and participation.” McConahey encouraged the women in the room to participate in their firms and to take on more active roles. It was well received.
Coolest Women in HVAC
On Tuesday evening, Johnson Controls (JCI) hosted a special reception for the Coolest Women in HVAC. More than 120 attendees, which included JCI leaders from across functions and businesses, college and grad students, and non-industry and industry professionals, came together to network.
“We will continue to work to connect women in the industry, while driving our reach and building diversity,” said Anita Welhouse, chair of Coolest Women in HVAC, and director, Global Channel Sales Excellence Programs, Building Technologies & Solutions at JCI. “We believe this event had an impact that will strengthen and benefit the women involved.”
Women in HVACR
Immediately after the Coolest Women in HVAC, more than 100 members, supporters and sponsors attended the Women in HVACR Meet & Greet at Margaretville on Navy Pier in Chicago. The WHVACR Meet & Greet is one of the largest social events hosted by the organization annually during the AHR Expo. Board member, Colleen Keyworth of Online Access said, “This event is really where we get the best opportunity to visit with a lot of our members and appreciate our partners and sponsors. It ends up being a great networking event for all involved.” Attendees enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres as they mingled with other guests.
Women in HVACR exists to improve the lives of its members by providing professional avenues to connect with other women growing their careers in the HVACR industry. WHVACR prides itself on being one of the only organizations in the industry that reaches the technician all the way to the manufacturer in order to provide unique networking and idea sharing opportunities for all involved.
This record-breaking year for the AHR Expo was a huge success, and many walked away with new information, products and support that will allow them to advance in their careers and businesses.