Connected Devices and Efficiency Goals Drive AHR Expo 2018

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CHICAGO — HVAC professionals from around the world gathered in Chicago this week for the annual AHR Expo, packing the McCormick Place convention hall.

Exhibitors showed the latest in residential, commercial and industrial heating, cooling and ventilation. Several themes emerged during the week, the most prominent being “make it smaller, and make it more efficient.”

Show organizers were expecting a record turnout for the event, according to Mike Smith, co-founder of Montner Tech PR, the firm representing the show. A final door count was not yet available.

Across nearly all industries represented on the floor, OEMs are watching Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency standards that are already affecting the design and efficiency of units and components.

Nidec Motor Corporation showcased its EC motors, offering higher efficiency than the older PSC (permanent split capacitor) motors. PSC motors are either on, or off, generally, and don’t allow for speed variances. EC (electronically commutated) motors, allow for variable speeds and therefor higher efficiency.

Commercial HVAC suppliers are also responding to the DOE’s new two-phase efficiency, the first phase of which begins this year and delivers a 13% efficiency improvement in products. Five years later, an additional 15% increase in efficiency is required for new commercial units.

Commercial air conditioners, also known as rooftop units—used in low-rise buildings such as schools, restaurants, big-box stores and small office buildings—cool about half of the total commercial floor space in the United States.

Manufacturers are also watching fan efficiency rating updates for residential furnaces that become effective in July 2019, and are expected to increase EC motor demand by 1.5 million or more units, according to information provided by Nidec.

The HVAC and appliance industries are also keeping an eye on changing requirements for refrigerants. Michel Moreira, Embraco’s senior sales manager for North America, said he sees R290 (propane) and R600 (isobutane) become the new refrigerants of choice. Both R290 and R600 are environmentally friendly (or, have low global warming potential), and are replacing the environmentally unfriendly refrigerants 134A and 404A. He said R290 is generally being used for large, commercial refrigeration applications and R600 for smaller units.

For makers of residential heating and cooling units, ductless systems are increasing their presence at the show, year-after-year.

“Ductless has been expanding by double digits the last five years,” said Rodrigo Teixeira, product marketing manager for Midea.

Regardless of industry or specialty, the Internet of Things, automation and connectivity also formed a strong presence at the show. Sensors, facial recognition software and other new tech make temperature customization from room-to-room easy, and modifiable.

For more information on natural refrigerants, listen to a podcast interview with Michel Moreira here.