Despite the threat of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic, the show must go on. That was the battle cry of the HVACR industry, as 30,678 attendees flocked to Las Vegas on Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 for the 2022 AHR Expo and ASHRAE Winter Conference.

More than 2,800 HVACR industry professionals, building systems engineers, architects, contractors, and students, gathered in Las Vegas (and virtually) for the ASHRAE Winter Conference, which featured 50-plus technical sessions, updates from society leaders, tours, social events, livestreamed sessions, and much more.

“While the numbers are expectedly lower than past conferences, in-person attendance still exceeded our expectations, and our virtual attendees added a welcomed dynamic to our sessions,” said 2021-2022 ASHRAE president Mick Schwedler, P.E., Fellow ASHRAE, LEED AP. “We are grateful to everyone involved in establishing a comprehensive health and safety plan for our attendees, which included guidance provided by the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force.”

After the pandemic-induced hiatus, AHR Expo visitors were met with an abundance of innovation, as 1,573 exhibitors filled 443,769 square feet of exhibit space with new equipment and technologies designed to efficiently and effectively deliver comfortable indoor environments.

“It was impossible to miss the energy in the halls this year,” said Mark Stevens, show manager. “There have been some heavy ups and downs across the industry in recent years, and we, as a community, needed to feel the inspiration that happens when we gather together under one roof. The 2022 AHR Expo surpassed any expectation — our exhibitors, attendees, associations, speakers, and everyone involved made this event one of the most special we’ve ever hosted. If you were there, the camaraderie was hard to miss. This industry is strong, and we are back on track to tackle the challenges before us.”

ASHRAE Winter Conference
FIGURE 1: More than 2,800 HVACR industry professionals, building systems engineers, architects, contractors, and students, gathered in Las Vegas (and virtually) for the 2022 ASHRAE Winter Conference. Image courtesy of ASHRAE

Decarbonization Task Force

During the co-sponsored event, two words continued to be repeated: decarbonization and electrification.
 ASHRAE addressed the concept of decarbonization in a session titled, “Introduction to Building Decarbonization.”

“Why is decarobonization necessary? Because climate change is the most formidable environmental challenge faced by society,” said Don Brandt, CEM, Life Member ASHRAE, during the session. “Some estimate the building stock may triple by 2060, and urgent action is needed to minimize carbon emissions. An aggressive and sustainable reduction in carbon emissions is necessary to meet our goals.”

While the design of decarbonized buildings is challenging, Brandt recognized a few approaches engineers should consider.

“Good decarbonization design work includes several things we’ve done for many, many years, including optimizing wall-to-window ratios by exposure, maximizing daylighting, picking high-performance HVAC systems that best work in a specific climate zone, implementing dedicated outside air systems with humidification and dehumidification capabilities, including LED lighting, paying attention to the orientation of the building, designing on-site renewable electricity generation, and building parking with EV charging stations, to name a few,” he said.

Proactively addressing the concern, ASHRAE created the Task Force for Building Decarbonization (TFBD) in spring 2021. As of today, the task force includes 15 members with global representation and includes working groups consisting of more than 100 volunteers. The group, created by Schwedler and past-president Chuck Gulledge, proclaims the society’s long-standing initiatives in energy efficiency should be expanded to building decarbonization.

“The world has decided to become better stewards of our environment, and one way we can do that is by reducing environmental emissions,” Schwedler said. “The focus right now is in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. This taskforce was put into place to look at what the world has available. Where are the gaps? And, then particularly, how can ASHRAE continue to serve humanity?”

Schwedler said the society is working diligently to nurture the blooming decarbonization movement around the globe and is focusing internally on including its best practices into as many ASHRAE, and other, standards as possible.

“We're working to collaborate with other groups, as ASHRAE isn't the only organization involved here,” he said. “The more we can collaborate with others throughout the world who have the right information, the sooner we can share it with the people who need it. The reality is, standards don't get the job done; they simply define what needs to be done. How do we actually improve our building operations? How do we improve the effectiveness of delivering energy? How do we work with the electric grid to move forward, and, as it becomes cleaner and uses less carbon, what are the next steps? All of that is integrated, and the task force is moving as fast as possible to achieve the greatest results.”

Electrified Solutions

As the built environment continues to embrace decarbonization, electricity is becoming a primary carbon-free choice for energy in the U.S. Solutions include, but are not limited to, fewer rooftop units and more heat pumps, replacing packaged air-handling units with electric heat, the adoption of more water-source heat pumps or electric reheat options, the conversion of gas hot water boilers to electric units, more steam systems, etc. Many of the manufacturers exhibiting equipment at the AHR Expo have taken notice.

“Buildings represent almost 40% of global greenhouse emissions and that lands them front and center in terms of climate action,” said Katie McGinty, vice president and chief sustainability, government relations, and regulatory affairs officer, Johnson Controls Inc. “Buildings are front and center in terms of climate action. This leads to an incredible amount of innovation. To decarbonize the climate, we’ve got to decarbonize buildings. To do that, it's really about electrification and digitizing buildings. Electrification is really is about heat pumps, first and foremost. At Johnson Controls, we're just proud to be able to bring forward among the most extensive set of offerings in heat pumps from temperature ranges, tonnage, and use cases.”

At the event, Johnson Controls exhibited its HMH7 18 SEER Horizontal Discharge Heat Pump, and, new for 2022, the 15-17.5 Ton Choice Heat Pump Rooftop Unit.

“As we face the twin crises of the pandemic and climate change, technology is more critical than ever,” said Jeff Williams, president of global products at Johnson Controls. “We must rethink how buildings operate, and Johnson Controls has the technology today to help its customers navigate this global effort.”

Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US (METUS) introduced its Heat2O™️ all-electric domestic hot water heating system at the event. The unit is designed to improve sustainability and reduce energy consumption in multifamily buildings and large-scale commercial facilities. Domestic hot water (DHW) accounts for roughly 25% of annual energy usage in typical multifamily buildings and is the largest single energy use of energy for new multifamily construction in the Northwest. The Heat2O heat pump water heater reduces the environmental impact of DHW through energy-efficient operation while using CO2, a natural and environmentally friendly refrigerant with a global warming potential (GWP) of 1 and an ozone depletion potential (ODP) of 0. Able to produce high-volume DHW without fossil fuels, Heat2O can help multifamily buildings, offices, hotels, gyms, educational institutions, and other large-scale and commercial facilities qualify for sustainability certifications or achieve zero-energy and passive house status.

“By applying our variable-speed, INVERTER-driven technology to water heating with Heat2O, we’re giving building owners far greater control over energy consumption and sustainability than is possible with fixed-capacity hot water heat pumps,” said Cain White, director, commercial product management, METUS.

Bosch Thermotechnology introduced its QV Series heat pumps for commercial spaces in multiple sizes and both horizontal and vertical configurations.

The QV Series includes a constant airflow ECM DEC Star® blower that produces the same cfm as the Bosch LV model but at a lower rpm, resulting in decreased power consumption and sound. The QV heat pump also features Bosch’s patented compressor encapsulation, which includes high-density, mass-loaded, vinyl insulation material wrapped around the blower and also installed in the lower compartment, dampening the sound it emits. Additionally, encapsulation parts are installed around the compressor and assembled with heavy-gage sheet metal and a double layer of vinyl material on both sides. The access panels and the unit’s divider use the same type of sound attenuation material, making the panels substantially heavier, thus highly reducing the sound radiating from the unit. As a final measure, the compressor is installed on an isolated and elevated base plate that dampens vibrations during operating cycles.

“This new whisper-quiet system is going to be a game-changer for light commercial spaces, such as offices, schools, and hotels, where heat pumps can be close to working or living quarters, so the quieter sound output makes a big difference in comfort,” said Katelyn Woodling, manager of product management at Bosch Thermotechnology. “In addition to the benefit of the extreme quiet operation of these units, this system also provides the ability to efficiently transfer heat through the water-source heat pump, and control the temperature in different zoning loops.”

Lync, by Watt, debuted its Aegis A and Aegis W Electric, CO2-powered heat pump water heaters. These efficient, commercial heat pump solutions use electricity and natural refrigerant-grade CO2 to produce domestic hot water up to 185°F all year round.

Using electricity and the superior qualities of R744, a natural refrigerant-grade CO2, the Aegis heat pump water heaters are one of the cleanest, most efficient, and environmentally friendly ways to heat domestic water.

“Our goal is to provide owners, engineers, and contractors with peace of mind knowing that with a Lync solution in place, they have a complete, integrated system of the highest quality that has been carefully designed and assembled by the heating and hot water experts,” said Vincent D’Amore, director of product solutions, Lync.

Aegis comes in two versions: Aegis A and Aegis W. Aegis A absorbs and moves heat from the surrounding air at temperatures as low as minus 4°F to produce hot water. Aegis W produces hot water by absorbing and moving heat from a connected water source at temperatures as low as 14°F.

See more products exhibited at the 2022 AHR Expo in our product section.