If you ask anyone in the HVAC construction or sheet metal works industry where the next AHR Expo is taking place, there’s a good chance they’ll answer “Chicago.” It’s a sound guess.

The annual trade show is held in the heart of the Midwest every three years. It’s the only city with a guaranteed stop on the tour schedule set by show organizers the International Exposition Co.

Many New Items to be Seen at Show

The AHR Expo is expected to have more than 2,000 exhibitors, and the number of new products on display will likely be a number several times larger.

While production deadlines do not allow us to offer a comprehensive list of products — many companies are working on prototypes right up until the show — we have been notified about a number of items that companies will be displaying. Here are a few.

Titus HVAC will promote the TLFR Laminar flow diffuser and Active chilled beam line. The diffuser is designed to comply with ASHRAE standards and is ideal for operating rooms, the company says. It ensures clean air is over the bodies of patients as the lie on the operating table.

The company’s chilled beam line is ideal for waiting rooms, patient rooms and other less-critical scenarios.

Ductless HVAC market manufacturer Mitsubishi Electric U.S. Cooling and Heating Division will use the show to debut the Hyper-Heating Inverter multizone outdoor residential unit. Called the H2i MXZ by the company, it has a seasonal energy-efficiency rating of 19 and can run up to eight indoor units, for whole-house heating and cooling.

“Our patented H2i technology makes the MXZ the first and only multi-zone system to provide powerful heating to multiple zones in extreme cold climates,” said Mike Smith, a senior marketing manager for residential products. “With the addition of the H2i MXZ, we’re able to offer multi-zone comfort with all the benefits of hyper-heat technology – meaning improved efficiency, quiet operation and decreased installation time.”

Daikin Applied will be explaining how the company’s products fit into the “Internet of Things” and its Intelligent Equipment control. Created with the help of Intel and Wind River, it enables building owners to analyze large amounts of data to determine the needs of building occupants.

Connecticut-based air movement products company EBM-Papst Inc. will show two product lines it says demonstrate its commitment to green HVAC and adaptability.

The W1G200 axial fan with bus communication is part of the company’s bus-controlled line of axial fans. It can circulate air in evaporator or condenser uses. The fans eliminate the need for discrete RPM settings, officials say, allowing for variable-speed refrigeration systems. A master control provides feedback on fan conditions.

For condensing boilers, the NRV series of pneumatic gas air radio-control systems help reduce the costs of sourcing, assembling and support individual components from multiple suppliers. The NRV 77 assembly includes a modulating premix-ready gas combustion blower and zero-pressure gas valve coupled to deliver a measured air-fuel ratio to the boiler’s premix burner. 

For attendees and exhibitors, the Windy City offers easy accessibility from almost anywhere in the country, plenty of hotel rooms and a convention facility — the mammoth McCormick Place — large enough to hold the thousands of exhibitors and attendees for the world’s biggest HVAC market trade show.

And this year looks like it could be another record, according to Clay Stevens, president of the expo company that manages the Jan. 26-28 event.

“To accommodate the demand for exhibit space in Chicago, we’ve already had to expand the space layout,” Stevens said. “Chicago is historically the site of our largest events and it is very encouraging that so many HVACR manufacturers and suppliers have already reserved space. And coming off the record-breaking attendance at the 2014 New York show this past January, all signs — including economic indicators — are pointing to another great show.”

A record 61,000 attended the Jan. 21-23 show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.

Signs of growth

With signs that the overall economy and HVAC construction in general is rebounding from the depths of the 2008-2009 recession, Stevens said he is optimistic about this year’s event.

“Perhaps the 2015 Chicago show will reclaim the title for the best-attended AHR Expo,” he said.

Potentially boosting attendance this year was the announcement that the Radiant Professionals Alliance — formerly known as the Radiant Panel Association — would hold its annual meeting in conjunction with the AHR Expo.

The RPA works to promote the use of radiant HVAC technology.

“The Radiant Professionals Alliance has been an exhibitor at AHR Expo for many years and it has been very beneficial,” said Mark Eatherton, the RPA’s executive director. “Now we are thrilled to be working with AHR Expo to enhance education and training for the radiant-hydronic industry.”

The association, besides endorsing the AHR Expo, said it plans to hold a number of meetings and educational sessions for radiant HVAC professionals during the event.

“Participating in AHR Expo enhances RPA’s status as one of the leading organizations in the industry — all of which are there,” said association Chairman Mark Chaffee.

In 2012, the RPA became part of the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials. Association Chief Executive Officer Russ Chaney said his group was glad RPA would play a bigger role at this year’s expo.

“IAPMO endeavors to always be a positive contributor to the plumbing and mechanical industry and we are very pleased that RPA will be expanding its presence at 2015 AHR Expo to better meet the needs of the industry,” he said.

Stevens had similar comments.

“We are delighted RPA is relocating its annual meeting and conference to AHR Expo,” he said. “AHR Expo attendees who are interested in radiant heating and cooling will be able to stay at the cutting edge of the technology, while RPA members will be able to discover new products and solutions from nearly 2,000 exhibitors and choose from more than 100 AHR Expo and ASHRAE educational sessions.”

Radiant in focus

Stevens said radiant technology has been a steadily growing segment of the expo for several years, and many exhibiting HVAC sales companies display radiant products.

“AHR Expo represents all segments of the HVACR industry, so we are glad any time we can strengthen and grow a key sector of the show,” he said.

Also endorsing and presenting at this year’s AHR Expo will be HVACR Workforce Development Foundation, a group with the goal of boosting the industry as a career choice and help alleviate the HVAC construction industry worker shortage expected in the future.

“We are excited about partnering with AHR Expo to make thousands of HVACR professionals more aware of the many opportunities available in the HVACR industry,” said foundation Executive Director Kari M. Arfstrom. “AHR Expo allows us to reach all of our target audiences in one place — from the manufacturers and suppliers to the people that spec and install HVAC systems.”

Stevens welcomed the foundation’s involvement in this year’s expo.

“Ensuring that the HVACR industry has a skilled workforce is critically important to everyone involved with AHR Expo,” he said. “We always reach out to career and technical schools and colleges in the marketplaces where the show is being held, and invite the students and faculty to attend AHR Expo because they represent the future of the industry.”

New sheet metal products, from green HVAC to sheet metal forming machines and those used in zero energy building, have long been a mainstay at the expo. But this year, the number of new products on display could be even greater, show officials said. According to a survey completed just after the 2014 expo in New York, more than 66 percent of exhibitors said they introduced new products at that show.

New and improved

But according to documents submitted to the International Exposition Co. in preparation for this year’s show, 85 percent of exhibitors who asked to be part of “product preview” announcements said they would be showing new or upgraded products.

As of September 2014, 112 companies that had never exhibited at the show have signed on, which means all of their products will be seen at the AHR Expo for the first time. Half of these companies are from outside the U.S.

Officials pointed out that more than 60 companies plan to present at the show’s new product/new technology theater.

“As the world’s largest HVACR exposition, there are always thousands of new-product introductions and innovative solutions debuting at AHR Expo,” Stevens said. “However, it appears that the upcoming Chicago show may set a new standard for product introductions.”

It shouldn’t be forgotten that the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers will hold its annual meeting in conjunction with the expo.

ASHRAE’s winter meeting will take place Jan. 24-28, with many of the sessions taking place at Chicago’s historic Palmer House Hilton hotel. This year, more than a hundred sessions are scheduled, including ones covering issues such as energy efficiency, applications, industrial facilities and life safety. An estimated 400 speakers are scheduled to make presentations.

Doug Cochrane, the society’s conference chairman, said with this year’s meeting taking place in a big city, organizers wanted to focus on big projects and what they mean for HVAC construction engineers, contractors, HVAC market manufacturers and others in the industry.

A cool treat

One new session during this year’s ASHRAE technical program will highlight the role of refrigeration in the making of ice cream.

“I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Refrigeration Basics of Ice Cream,” will take place at 8 a.m. Jan. 25. Presented by Doug Reindl and Dan Dettmers, it will explain the process of making ice cream, take attendees through the load-calculation process, and allow them to make some of the sweet treat themselves.

According to the society, Americans are the world’s top consumers of the frozen dessert. Almost 9 percent of U.S. cows’ milk is used in its manufacture.

However, attendees won’t be able to taste any ice cream until they figure out the correct cooling load. The ice cream will be made using cryogenics.

“We want to reach a younger audience to interest them in the ‘R’ in ASHRAE: refrigeration,” Reindl said. “We thought this would be an out-of-the-box way to show them about processes, the science, taste and texture of food, home refrigeration.”

Session chairman Dan Dettmers said that ice cream is a lot more complex than many people may realize.

“Unlike ice, which freezes in a crystalline structure, ice cream is an amorphous solid, similar to glass,” he said. “Its structure is primarily air held in a complex lattice of sugars and fats. Likewise, the process of producing ice cream is far more complex than most frozen foods with variations from traditional ice cream to frozen novelty bars and cakes.”

 For full details on the AHR Expo visit www.ahrexpo.com. Information on ASHRAE’s winter meeting is at www.ashrae.org.