While planning my first trip to the AHR Expo, I would have to admit that my expectations were not very high. Being new to the industry and having never been to the Expo, my initial thoughts were that this might be as exciting as watching curling in the Olympics – mildly interesting, but confusing by the hoopla surrounding it. However, I was impressed by the highly engineered, creative products that have been developed to meet the ever-increasing efficiency and comfort demands from the market. The number of people attending was impressively high as well. I met suppliers, contractors, vocational students, and industry representatives who were all excited about the new technology at the show.
The breadth of electronics and other controls being displayed was astounding. I expected the majority of the show to be the traditional duct work, compressor, and system level components. What I found was that even the traditional component level technologies were far more advanced than I would have imagined. There were new insulated, flexible ducting products to improve airflow and ease of installation. Compressors were equipped with electronics for diagnostics and protection. There were numerous system level controls used to improve efficiency and reliability for end-users. One item I found particularly interesting was a Wi-Fi dampener, which used an energy harvesting technology to provide power to the actuator for the dampeners. This allowed zoning to be accomplished without running any wires.
I was blown away by the application of Enterprise Resourcing Planning (ERP) software and other tools that were available to improve the efficiency of contractor’s operations. I thought ERP software was reserved for large, heavy manufacturing companies, but contractors are using this software to run complex businesses that rely on customer satisfaction and efficient operations to be successful. Beyond ERP software, service technicians are using mobile apps to improve productivity. With access to information from mobile apps as well as system and compressor diagnostics and controls, service technicians can more accurately solve the problem on the first call. I was impressed with the industry’s tools to deliver better customer satisfaction and improve operations. Some contractors are obviously running some pretty savvy business models in this complex, technical industry.
I assumed the AHR show was going to be a mildly interesting experience, but my mindset was changed as soon as I stepped up to my first booth. The industry’s drive to develop and apply new technologies was remarkable. I look forward to next year’s show as the industry continues to develop new ways to apply electronics, controls, and other developments to further enhance efficiency, reliability, and provide energy savings and comfort to end-users.