Loud, crowded and bright, this convention celebrates the latest in cabinets, siding, appliances and just about everything else that goes into or onto the home.
At this year's show, held Jan. 13-16 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., exhibitors competed for the attention of more than 100,000 attendees - mostly residential building contractors - by erecting massive displays and offering freebies such as bottled water and in some cases, freshly made food.
One appliance maker was handing out samples of a casserole made in the company's new oven, which was displayed in a high-end kitchen suitable for use on Emeril Lagasse's cable- TV cooking show.
Another exhibitor played a version of the game show "Jeopardy" with convention-goers as contestants, offering logo-emblazoned articles as prizes.
Such come-ons kept the convention center busy, as a record number of attendees and exhibitors crowded the facility, covering a total of five floors in two buildings and spreading outside. Another attraction was keynote speaker Terry Bradshaw, the Fox TV sports commentator and former Pittsburgh Steeler.
This was the first time the National Association of Home Builders, a 220,000-member construction group that sponsors the event, had held its convention in Orlando. In prior years, NAHB officials had often picked Las Vegas as their host city. While the family-oriented Orlando, home to Walt Disney World and the Universal Studios theme parks, is a world away from Sin City, association officials said members liked the new locale.
"Orlando is a great venue for our convention," association President Bobby Rayburn said in a statement. "It has everything you need to put on a spectacular show: the great winter climate, the huge convention center, the numerous recreational opportunities and fun entertainment options."
ProductsWhile a lot of the displays included items not relevant to sheet metal and HVAC contractors, there were plenty of tools, furnaces, air conditioners and other equipment that was. Here's a list of some of them.
Florida-based Fantech was touting its Model DM30009 whole-house, high-efficiency particulate air filter. The unit contains a pre-filter, a carbon filter and a certified HEPA filter, which helps it to collect 99.97 percent of airborne particles and allergens. The duct-mounted device cleans the air an average of once per hour, according to Fantech.
CertainTeed Corp. announced that it has added its Enhanced Surface to its ToughGard duct board. Enhanced Surface is designed to repel moisture, keeping duct systems dry. The breathable coating also preserves the insulation's sound-dampening characteristics.
Fedders Corp. of Liberty Corner N.J., was showing off its new ductless minisplit air-conditioner line. Fedders says its ductless units are often a good choice in older homes where a conventional central air-conditioning system may not work. The wall-mounted indoor device connects to a compressor positioned outside the home. The company also introduced its line of central air conditioners with a 13 seasonal energy-efficiency rating.
Ridge Tool Co. announced a new line of Ridgid-brand pneumatic fastening tools developed for the company by Techtronic Industries Co. Ltd. The professional-grade machines feature the patented FastenEdge Technology, which includes lightweight magnesium housings, tool-free depth-of-drive adjustment, a self-cleaning in-handle air filter and more.
Arzel Zoning Technology Inc., based in Cleveland, says its system, allowing different temperature settings throughout a home or business, will increase contractors' profits and reduce complaints. It also simplifies duct design and reduces the need for labor and materials.
Innovate Energy Inc. promoted its Astro-Safe duct liner and wrap. Made from polyester and backed with aluminum foil, the wrap is easy to clean, maintains duct temperature, minimizes air-friction loss and improves the effectiveness of in-duct ultraviolet sanitizers, according to Innovate officials.
Virtual Boss Inc. was demonstrating its VirtualBoss scheduling software, which it says was "designed by contractors for contractors." The Windows-based system allows contractors to track jobs, create "punch" lists, record service calls and distribute work schedules.
Crystal Lake, Ill.-based Knaack Manufacturing Co. announced its Weather Guard Vehicle Solutions software that allows contractors to design a van-storage system to meet their needs. Company officials say the Web-based software allows contractors to design vans with shelving, cabinets, racks and other accessories.
Selkirk Inc. was promoting its whole line of registers, grilles, diffusers, gas vent systems, chimneys, chimney liners and flex connectors.
Air King Ltd. of West Chester, Pa., was promoting its ventilation products, including industrial- and commercial-grade air circulators, humidifiers, range hoods, exhaust fans, heaters and other items.
Seal-Tite was showing its duct system, which includes Seal-Tite Rx, an anti-microbial coating designed to fight mold, mildew and other contaminates. Other benefits, according to Seal-Tite, include fewer surface blemishes and easy installation.
Midwest Tool and Cutlery Co. of Sturgis, Mich., used a Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle to attract attendees to its booth. The company was holding a drawing for the bike. It was also promoting its tools, including its Midwest Snips-brand Upright Snips, which were designed to be used in tight spaces, overhead or at waist level.
Another Michigan-based company, Adrian Steel, was showing its equipment for service vans, including adjustable shelving, storage modules and other van accessories.
Rheem Manufacturing Co.'s air-conditioning division was promoting its "Better Home Planning Guide," available online at www.rheembuildergroup.com. The Web site was made to foster collaboration between builders, homeowners and HVAC contractors. The free program allows home buyers to see the standard HVAC system offered and compare it to available upgrade options. It also includes bill and energy estimators for consumers.
Next year's International Builders Show is Jan. 11-14, 2006, again in Orlando.
(For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail email@example.com.)