The 2012 International Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigerating (AHR) Exposition was a huge event. It rivaled the Auto Show in size, and had well over 6,000 booths. There were common themes throughout the show that many companies were emphasizing and highlighting—including energy efficiency, environmental beneftis, indoor air quality, and smart technology. From solar panels to LED lighting, companies all seemed to have sustainability on their mind.
Energy efficiency, while it has always been a trend, really stood out this year. Several companies are putting an emphasis on energy efficiency and how their products or services can save energy costs for consumers.
Fantech, a manufacturer of residential and commercial ventilation products, displayed a number of products that focus on improving air quality, including their pure ventilation systems.
Triangle Tube, who manufactures stainless steel hot water heating products, showcased their Smart Series line. The Smart Series Stainless Steel Water Heater uses the heat created by your home’s boiler system to heat your water. While your home is being heated, your hot water is being heated at the same time, thus consuming less fuel and conserving energy. Their unique “tank-in-tank” design provides a large surface area for heat transfer which reduces the amount of time required to heat the water.
Rinnai displayed their tankless water heater at the show. It is an energy-efficient water heating system that heats water only when it’s needed. It produces more hot water using less energy than the most efficient storage tank style heater. Not only is it so efficient, but it also saves a lot of space and can be installed on practically any wall inside or outside your home.
As in years past, environmentally-friendly products are still a big trend. Honeywell had a large prototype of their IAQPoint2™, which helps cut energy costs and put fresh air comfort into your building. The indoor air quality monitor with its customizable touchscreen interface has the ability to control and monitor the carbon dioxide or volatile organic compounds, temperature, and humidity in your residential or commercial space.
In addition, intelligent monitoring has taken the show by storm. Multiple companies simply sell software to help monitor products that can hook into the system in a very detailed and intuitive way.
One of the coolest products we saw at the show was the Nest Learning Thermostat™. The thermostat learns what temperatures you like in about a week and creates a custom schedule for your home. It lets you know when you’re saving energy and tracks your energy usage. It can be controlled from your computer, smarphone, or tablet. We really liked its simplicity and intuitive design.Ecobee introduced the Smart Si thermostat which is designed for the residential market. It seems to have several of the same features and applications as the Trane ComfortLink™ II thermostat that our team helped design a few years ago, and which hit the market in spring of 2011. It has remote connectivity, live weather updates, automatic alerts and reminders that notify you when your HVAC equipment is due for service, temperature monitoring, etc. More and more companies are offering easy and smart energy solutions for the home environment.
Some software that we found interesting, which hasn’t yet been released, is vStat—an iPhone app for virtual zone control. It allows you to control different areas of a building through a mobile app. You can monitor and adjust temperature, lighting, locks, etc. Basically it allows for a person to monitor any system that is hooked online and can be monitored by this app. You can register systems by scanning QR codes which will automatically register and configure the system. It is very customizable and user friendly. It makes what would normally be intricate and disconnected monitoring all available through one easy interface.
It is quite clear that the HVAC industry is heading in the direction of green energy with the large number of companies marketing their products as energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly, as well as those that are introducing smart technology. We enjoyed walking the show, and, as strategic design specialists, we look forward to the opportunity to design products or services that make an impact on the HVAC industry in the year ahead.