This is what we know from last month’s AHR Show: according to the numbers, attendance was shattered — more than 61,000 total attendees, including 42,400 visitors, participated in the Expo. What was trending at this year’s show?
Themes from the show included continued product efficiency and systems that now have intuitive communications—which were once considered disparate components in the mechanical room—are now becoming more integrated, holistic platforms with intuitive communications which can interact from one unit to another, and communicate with a tech or homeowner.
It’s interesting to note: I covered the corporate security world about 12 years ago and the integration of security systems with building automation, the ability to notify the building owner of a problem and the ability to access a building’s security remotely via a secure web connection was the talk at every trade show.
What we’re hearing
The plumbing/HVAC industry, while some say is a very mature industry, has adopted similar practices when it comes to integration and communication among components through the Internet and Wi-Fi-enabled devices.
It’s a matter of getting used to. We hear it more and more and we’ll be hearing more of it in the years to come. Leveraging the advancements and growth in machine-to-machine communications, for instance, Daikin Applied is launching Intelligent Equipment. This new technology platform harnesses the Internet of Things (IoT) for the first time in commercial HVAC equipment, making it possible for HVAC systems to talk to operators and proactively take action, in order to improve efficiencies and exponentially increase cost savings.
“The Internet of Things is impacting all levels of how we interact with, control and maintain HVAC equipment,” said Paul Rauker, vice president of systems and controls at Daikin Applied. “We’re able to unlock data and use that information in ways never possible before now. We’re able to receive actionable, real-time data and see proactive shifts in behavior instantly, without expending additional effort.”
With the technology, HVAC systems can be monitored and controlled remotely using any mobile device. It moves users from a reactive to a proactive model, in order to quickly adjust ineffective systems and help facility managers maintain equipment before it loses efficiency or impacts occupant comfort.
Selling & Profitability
There are two schools of thought on this when it comes to the residential contractor level, however. One is that any technology is a positive, especially when it comes to servicing a boiler, water heater or AC unit. The other, however, is how this affects the bottom line with the consumer. When the heat or AC goes, the first call that goes out is, “how quickly can you be here to replace it and how much is going to cost me.” Difficulty in finding the right price points for consumers and serviceability is just as important as the equipment itself. Yet, information is paramount, and can’t be undervalued.
“The ability to troubleshoot remotely and to be armed with the information and parts in hand before I show up increases my profitability and efficiency on the job,” says the Hub’s Eric Aune, who works on the job everyday with his business, Aune Plumbing, LLC.
I suppose these new systems need to be sold and marketed to customers, as contractors and media alike need to get up to speed on these new systems.
During the AHR Show, Lochinvar, LLC announced that it has expanded its line of CREST® Condensing Boilers to include three new models with 750,000, 1.0 million and 1.25 million Btu/hr inputs. Featuring Lochinvar’s patented Wave™ fire-tube design and advanced combustion technology, the new CREST Boiler models deliver 96.2 percent thermal efficiency and up to 20:1 modulation turndown. With the addition of the new models, the CREST line now includes 10 condensing commercial boilers with inputs ranging from 750,000 Btu/hr up to 5.0 million Btu/Hr.
In addition, Lochinvar’s FTXL™ Fire Tube Boiler is among the products recognized in the 2015 AHR Expo Innovation Awards Competition. The new FTXL Fire Tube Boiler represents a new generation of fire-tube technology, delivering up to 10:1 turndown and models ranging from 97 to 98 percent Thermal Efficiency – higher than any other boiler in its class. With five models ranging from 399,999 to 850,000 Btu/hr, the FTXL Boiler is well suited for light commercial applications.
Enabled for CON-X-US™ remote connect capability as part of the advanced SMART SYSTEM™ operating system, the FTXL Boiler offers complete control from across town or across the country. This remote connectivity option redefines monitoring by simplifying data acquisition and providing remote diagnostics.
Rheem continues to delve into this side of the market with its EcoNet system—as seen at the KBIS/IBS Show last month—which is a smart technology that will efficiently manage 65% of a home’s energy consumption. EcoNet is the first system to connect a home’s heating, cooling, and water heating systems through a central hub, making it easy for homeowners to conveniently manage energy usage and monitor diagnostics and maintenance schedules.
The system uses a home’s existing WiFi connection to locate and link all compatible Rheem air and water products. Homeowners can then securely control these products through the free EcoNet mobile app on smartphones or tablets (both iOS and Android platforms), or a control center mounted in their home.