Energy, economy are hot topics at AHR

The annual AHR conference in Orlando, set for Jan. 25 -27 at the Orange County Convention Center, is the year's first major industrial trade show. It's also going to be the first chance in 2010 to see how ready manufacturers are to rebound from the challenges of 2009 and how suppliers in this energy-intensive industry are going to respond with new products and ideas.

By Bob Vavra January 4, 2010

The annual AHR conference in Orlando, set for Jan. 25 -27 at the Orange County Convention Center, is the year’s first major industrial trade show. It’s also going to be the first chance in 2010 to see how ready manufacturers are to rebound from the challenges of 2009 and how suppliers in this energy-intensive industry are going to respond with new products and ideas.
Plant Engineering talked with Clay Stevens, general manager of this year’s AHR Expo for a first look at what’s coming new at this year’s expo and what’s on the minds of show attendees and exhibitors.

PE: What’s the top issue(s) in the HVAC market you’re hearing from vendors and attendees?
Stevens: It’s really two-fold, Energy (sustainability) and the economy. The discussion of energy is broken down into five categories which exhibitors and attendees are focusing on in preparation for the 2010 AHR Expo and they are:
o Energy Efficiency
o Energy Savings
o Reclaiming Energy
o Alternative Energy
o Energy Conservation (reducing energy loss)
Of course, all of this is related to the "green" movement.
Another key issue is the economy. In an August 2009 survey conducted by our company, International Exposition Company, we surveyed more than 1,000 manufacturers and 70% of the respondents said that they expect the economy to be stronger in the first quarter of 2010. In keeping with the optimistic outlook, additional findings concluded:
• 69% of the AHR Expo exhibitors believe their customers have been delaying purchases of new products and that this pent-up demand will result in more sales during the first quarter of 2010
• 24% of exhibitors expect sales to increase over 10%
• Nearly 30% expect sales increases of 5-10% in the first quarter of 2010
• Close to 25% of respondents expect a smaller first quarter increase of between 1-4%
• Less than 5% see a decline in sales

PE: What’s the biggest issue in the market right now?
Stevens: Regardless of the complexities, energy and economy are the issues we are hearing about from the buyer’s side. Surprisingly, reliability is a bigger concern, followed by first-cost and then efficiency. Perhaps there’s a misconception that energy efficiency has to come at the expense of reliability but in fact the two can go hand in hand.

PE: How will this year’s AHR Expo help address some of those issues?

The AHR Expo meet the needs of the buyers, specifiers and other industry professional by providing information – not last year’s information or yesterday’s information but cutting edge information about the newest and most innovative products and technology available anywhere. In one visit, attendees can see, touch and compare the best our industry has to offer presented by hundreds and hundreds of manufacturers from around the world. Many will be introducing new products at the Show that many have never seen before.
Manufacturers of HVAC&R equipment and systems are addressing energy issues, and the 2010 AHR Expo will be offering the most advanced solutions available anywhere.
After the show, those who attend will be well equipped to implement sustainability, making all kinds of builds greener and more sustainable.
Off the exhibit floor and into the classroom this year’s AHR Expo offers over 100 educational sessions, workshops and product presentations, many of them free to all attendees, where everyone is sure to find a seminar, or two, that will help meet their challenges:
• Educational sessions, dozens of seminars and workshops presented by endorsing industry associations and other groups addressing current industry initiatives and topics of practical interest, most of which are absolutely free.
• Certification Reviews and Exams held by ASHRAE, AABC, AFE, LonMark, and NATE
• The ASHRAE Winter Meeting that is held concurrently with the Show, ASHRAE holds its annual meeting onsite and at their headquarters.
• New Product Technology Theaters will provide an area to see dozens of presentations of the latest products and solutions from participating exhibitors conducted in a special theater setting on the exhibit floor.
• The AHR Expo Innovation Awards will let attendees discover the latest technologies and see how these products can help them run their operations more efficiently.
To see all the opportunities available at the Show, go to

PE: Summarize the highlights from this year’s event and some of the major
events at AHR.

Stevens: Reviewing the numerous opportunities from the AHR Expo website a couple of key events that we feel are very unique are:
• Introduction to Cloud Services for Buildings, given by Ken Sinclair that discusses the new focus of building cloud connections. The cloud contains Software as a Service and the new mission is to expose how the dot com & dot org are using the cloud to provide their products and services. The identification and use of these valuable industrial cloud connectors will be essential in propelling our industry forward so it can radically change and survive.
• Cost/Benefit Analysis Methodology and Tools Needed by Owners, presented by ASHRAE. This presentation will provide an understanding of high performance green building cost benefit analysis with a focus on the LEED rating system. Several topics will be addressed, including cost/benefit project setup, fiscal metrics, constraints and length of analysis.
• Solar Thermal Combisystems, John Siegenthaler will discuss the fundamentals of solar thermal systems and how solar energy can be used for domestic water heating and space heating. This seminar will pick up where last year’s session left off. It will discuss the essentials of successful combisystem design, and present several system templates using both antifreeze and drainback freeze protection methods. It also will show how these systems are controlled and interfaced with modern boilers and heat delivery methods. This session is for heating pros looking for the crucial details of solar combisystem design.

These are just three unique educational opportunities. This year we have many other events that will provide exhibitors and attendees a plethora of ideas to meet challenges.

PE: What’s the one issue in the market that often gets overlooked?

One issue that needs continued discussion is the life cycle costing method. Life cycle costs are cradle to grave costs summarized as an economics model of evaluating alternatives for equipment and projects. The economics of proposals drives the scenario selection process and it’s the process that requires an economic model that provides better assessment of long-term cost effectiveness of projects than can be obtained with only first costs decisions.
Understanding these decisions based on the type of HVAC system or decisions related to making HVAC system modifications will continue to assist in strengthening the financial prospects of an organization.

PE: Coming off a challenging year, people are looking at ROI when attending trade events?
Stevens: We’ve always felt the AHR Expo’s greatest ROI benefit is what attendees and exhibitors gain from maximizing their time and financial investment.
For exhibitors it is the only place in North America where plant engineers can see all the latest products and technologies on display from close to 2,000 suppliers around the world. They can compare features and benefits side-by-side in a two-day period, which allows them to make the most intelligent decisions.
"In rough economic times, companies pull out of shows, but not exhibiting at the AHR Expo would be economic suicide," said Richard Muller, Director of Sales
EASCO Boiler Corporation during the 2009 Show in Chicago.
Many companies realize that AHR Expo is their only opportunity during the year to see so many of their customers and prospects in one location, a time and dollar saver. It’s a very smart economic decision, as it would cost exhibitors much more to try and meet with even a fraction of these customers and prospects on an individual basis.
We definitely believe that the steadily improving economy is a key factor in the surge of companies signing up to exhibit. The fact that 75 new companies have signed on the last quarter of 2009 also reinforces the importance of AHR Expo to their economic recovery plans.

Author Bio: Bob is the Content Manager for Plant Engineering.