Each year, the AHR Expo honors manufacturers that are looking forward and breaking new technological ground. Those manufacturers are presented with Innovation Awards covering 10 categories, including building automation, ventilation, heating, cooling, IAQ, and more.

Of the 10 honorees, only one was named the “best in show.” On Jan. 15, in Atlanta, enVerid Systems’ HVAC Load Reduction (HLR) module 1000E took home the top prize. The indoor air scrubber module, which is designed to lower energy waste from HVAC systems, was the winner in the green building category. According to AHR Expo officials, the system reduces the amount of outside air needed for ventilation by 60-80 percent. 

While this an impressive statistic, Udi Meirav president and founder of enVerid Systems, said the HLR module 1000E delivers several remarkable benefits by lowering the needed amount of outside air.

Since outside air brings in a lot of heat, energy can be saved. Meirav further explained that if you’re lowering the thermal load, you can also downsize your entire HVAC system, saving substantial up-front costs as well as significantly reducing energy use. 

“Outside air really isn’t that good,” he said. “It can be counterproductive bringing in other pollutants. But, with conventional HVAC designs there is no choice.”

The enVerid system has that covered. The air cleaner removes carbon dioxide and captures other contaminants that can be difficult to eliminate such as formaldehyde.

“People spend 90 percent of their time indoors,” said Meirav. “We are cleaning indoor air while reducing outside air.”

enVerid systems reps are now focusing on getting the HLR module 1000E as much industry exposure as they can.

“We have just scratched the surface of getting the product out there,” Meirav said. “The most important task is to get this technology in the designs of buildings.”

He also said that he can see this technology used in various other applications where air needs to be cleaned, from planes to industrial facilities.

While innovation in the HVAC industry can sometimes seem slow, Meirav said he is seeing an “increasing eagerness to innovate.” Currently, he sees smart buildings, data collection, and the Internet of Things (IoT) as some of the biggest trends. Going forward, enVerid Systems partners and reps have their sights set on improving indoor air quality, one building at a time.

“Air quality seems to be emerging as a more serious area of interest,” said Meirav.

He explained that interest in IAQ is not just coming from engineers and building designers but from customers who are paying attention to the impact air quality has on their facilities and businesses. Researchers and business owners are beginning to understand the link between employee productivity and improved IAQ, he said.

 

IAQ

Judging by other Innovation Award winners, Meirav is correct when it comes to greater awareness of indoor air quality. CPS Products, a manufacturer of tools for professional service technicians, won an Innovation Award in the IAQ category for its IAQ PRO SmartAir.

According to Scott Madden, vice president of smart tool development at CPS Products, the IAQ PRO SmartAir meter accurately identifies issues in the air and provides diagnostic actions to determine causes. It also recommends solutions designed to resolve IAQ issues. The system connects to the internet for remote monitoring and evaluation, allowing technicians to create on-site customer reports. The instrument uses sensors that measure a number of air quality parameters, including particulate matter, VOCs, temperature, humidity, pressure, CO2, and more.

“There used to be a limited number of contractors that were comfortable and very knowledgeable on IAQ diagnosis and providing the right solutions,” said Madden. “Products such as the IAQ PRO SmartAir help to educate contractors and assist them in providing appropriate and effective solutions to customers.”

As for the future, Madden says CPS Products will aim to offer IAQ solution kits to contractors for them to keep an inventory of the most common IAQ solutions on hand. He said this makes it easier for contractors when it comes to dealing with solutions in real time.

For future innovations, Madden believes more tools like the IAQ PRO SmartAir will begin to level the playing field when it comes to helping HVAC professionals expand their IAQ knowledge.

“Most of the solutions already available are effective,” he said. “In the future, we will see more significant validation and application for product solutions that provide homeowners and their families with healthier environments.”

Energy Wall was an Innovation Award winner for its Universal ERV (U-ERV) in the ventilation category. According to officials, this 90-pound energy recovery ventilation unit provides for an easier installation of a fully functional system. The U-ERV is compliant with UL 900 fire/smoke standards, and its smaller footprint also makes it possible to hand carry the system and assemble it on-site where it may be operated with a single duct connection and point-of-power control.

The trend of smaller systems with reduced footprints was quite visible during the AHR Expo and is expected to continue well into the future. The U-ERV also signals a continued trend of making job site installations easier and more efficient. 

 

Ease in the field

Easier work on the job site was definitely a theme during the AHR Expo. For example, Taco Comfort was the Innovation Award winner in the software category for its Taco Tags featuring eLink. The eLink uses near field communication (NFC) tags that are installed on Taco products.

When scanned with an Android or Apple device, the Taco Tag provides users with all relevant information on that product by linking it to a digital document library. This library contains the most up-to-date documentation and information for that specific piece of equipment, including technical specs, repair parts, tech support contact, rep information, and more. The technology eliminates the need for external batters or wires and provides valuable information quickly on-site.

In the plumbing category, Anvil International was honored for its AnvilPress Copper. According to the company, the press aims to confront the top two causes of leaks on a copper press system — a fitting that has not been properly pressed or a burr on the tube cuts the O-ring as its been installed.

“AnvilPress Copper solves both of these industry issues with its patented Visual Indicator and Burr-Stop membrane,” said Jeff Shaffer, Gruvlok product manager at Anvil International. “[The press] system provides installers with a positive visual indication that the fitting has been installed correctly before allowing water to leak from the piping system.”

He also explained that the Burr-Stop membrane eliminates the opportunity for the O-ring to be damaged while providing 200 percent more sealing surface.

“The future innovation in the industry will be products that are focused on ease of installation and quality connections that have longer life expectancies,” said Shaffer. “Anvil will continue to innovate by introducing products that provide solutions to our contractors’ job site issues.”

Dwyer Instruments was the award winner in the tools and instruments category. The Wireless Hydronic Balancing Kit, Series 490W, measures pressure drop across HVAC balancing valves using a wireless sensor and a handheld Bluetooth device. Technicians can select valves for measurements from a predetermined list or through manual input of CV values. The device monitors the flow of up to three valves at a time.

“Users no longer have a need to carry valve flow charts to complete their measurements, as these charts have been incorporated into the 490W Hydronic Application Software,” said Tim Bonardi, project  management office manager with Dwyer.

Bonardi explained that by measuring three valves simultaneously, technicians can observe the impact of adjusting one valve compared to the others. This allows a technician to balance a system in less time.

“The driving innovation will be new connectivity technology unlocking opportunities within the HVAC industry,” Bonardi said. “The entire world is becoming more connected, and the HVAC industry is no different. When data can be easily accessed and shared, it can be used to enhance the safety and efficiency of facility operations.”

 

Big Data and IoT

Automated Logic Corp. is doing its part to make sure that customers can easily access data — lots of data. Its OptiFlex virtual integrator platform monitors large volumes of data across building systems, sub-systems, and devices, regardless of the manufacturer. This won the company the Innovation Award in the building automation category.

According to Mead Rusert, president of Automated Logic, with the support for up to 50,000 IP-based data points, the virtual integrator runs on a single computer. This saves on installation space over typical hardware gateways. It also connects directly to the building LAN and supports BACnet IP and Modbus TCP/IP simultaneously. Rusert also says it includes an expandable licensing model that allows customers to add additional protocol drivers and data points at any time based on their project needs.

“Once building data is retrieved, it’s shared with the WebCTRL building automation system, where operators can monitor all of their systems through a single, web-based user interface,” said Rusert.

The WebCTRL provides operators with online tools, such as graphics, dashboards, reports, and trends with real-time visibility.

“The need for large-scale building integration solutions is increasing in the ever-evolving IoT building space,” said Rusert. “At this time, we are not aware of a competitive offering that can support a large amount of data points like the OptiFlex virtual integrator.”

He explained that building operators are looking for solid gateway solutions that are scalable for buildings with large amounts of data, such as data centers, hospitals, and universities.

As for future innovation, Rusert believes that automation and control systems will continue to evolve.

“We envision expanded penetration in HVAC optimization success, like with our ALC Chilled Water System Optimizer solution,” he said.

The company is also envisioning cloud-based data analytics platforms that will complement traditional building automation systems so that insights can be drawn from large and diverse amounts of data across buildings or across entire enterprises.

“Enabling service models that improve and maintain enterprise-level energy efficiency, comfort compliance, uptime, and maintenance costs reduction are examples of optimizations of strategies that can be accomplished,” said Rusert.

Regal Beloit was honored with an Innovation Award in the heating category for its Genteq Ensite motor. The motor, which is designed specifically for furnace applications, has NFC, which allows for motor programming without physically connecting to the motor.

According to the company, the motor also offers premium features like advanced Blak Box® motor diagnostics technology and Electrand™ wand compatibility. The Electrand wand is a rechargeable, wireless device designed to work with compatible Genteq® motors. This wand enables customers to communicate with compatible motors via NFC for programming or extracting motor data for verification and/or diagnostic purposes. This data can be uploaded by means of Bluetooth or USB to personal computers, mobile phones, and tablets.

One of the biggest innovations of the motor is that it will help customers comply with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fan Energy Rating regulator requirement set to take effect in July 2019.

 

Regulations and Low-GWP

Innovation can go a long way in confronting industry regulations. For example, the Copeland Scroll compressor from Emerson is a fractional-horsepower compressor line that helps address the compatibility of new refrigerants and energy standards. The product was an Innovation Award winner in the refrigeration category.

In addition to being compliant with the low-temperature operational requirements established by the DOE and the EPA, Emerson officials said the ZF*KA fractional horsepower compressors are rated for use with new refrigerant alternatives R-488A/449A and existing lower-GWP HFCs like R-407A.

“We’ve found that customers want both interoperability and the ability to interchange IoT components,” said Phil Moeller, vice president of product management for Emerson. “As a result, they are seeking more intelligent (local analysis) devices that are easy-to-install, provision, and aggregate. They also want these devices to be capable of securely forwarding data via the Ethernet and to integrate easily with enterprise software platforms for analysis and reporting and enterprise software that is more persona-centric that has embedded IP so that users do not have to be domain experts and power users.”

Emerson reps said they are working to maintain product compliance with EPA and DOE regulations and will continue engineering Copeland Scroll fractional-horsepower compressors to ensure compatibility with more refrigerants and to help facility managers meet energy and sustainability goals.

Johnson Controls is also aiming to help customers achieve their sustainability and energy goals. The company’s York YZ Magnetic Bearing Chiller won the Innovation Award in the cooling category.

According to Brian Smith, director of global marketing, global chiller products, building technologies and solutions at Johnson Controls, the chiller is fully optimized for ultimate performance with low-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants. This allows the chiller to deliver an energy savings up to 35 percent annually, he said.

The company also said the chiller uses advances controls, a variable-speed drive, and advanced magnetic bearing technology that allows for a wide operating map that takes advantage of 99 percent of building operating hours at “off-design” conditions.

“Growing environmental concerns and a renewed emphasis on energy conservation has led to innovative chiller design,” said Smith. “Johnson Controls is helping customers to achieve sustainability through energy-efficient products like the YZ Chiller, the YORK YVFA Free cooling Air-Cooled Chiller, and a diverse portfolio of York YHAU absorption chillers and heat pumps.”

Johnson Controls reps said their goal is to continue making energy efficiency and sustainability a core element of their values.

“A focus on sustainability will continue to drive innovations in HVAC system efficiency, application, and reliability,” said Smith. “Advances in, and the expansion of, variable-speed technology, system integration, and optimization will continue to be a focus of technology allowing the equipment to adapt to changing conditions.”

He also said the HVAC industry will experience a growing use of IT services through remote monitoring and cloud-based services. This will help owners and facility managers keep systems running at peak performance.

Also, while European and Asia-Pacific countries have been using environmentally friendly technologies, like absorption chillers, such technologies are gaining more popularity in North America due to ozone and global warming issues.

“The industry will continue to evolve and adopt policies to meet customers’ growing needs for energy efficiency products,” said Smith.

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