By Ray Hicks, President, CO2Meter, Inc.
The AHR show this year had a different vibe. It was far more energetic, with many more controls and component manufactures I had not seen before, as well as expanded offering from the veterans. It was nice to hear so many customer speaking of a positive economic future, that business is back, things are happening, and projects are going forward.
The traffic we saw gave the impression that the world of HVAC is expanding beyond its traditional boundaries into niche applications around health and energy issues. In addition, HVAC control for agriculture is getting traction for indoor greenhouses, organic and hydroponics.
In the controls market, we continue to see a multitude of competing protocols for system management. The EnOcean Alliance booth was very busy with people discussing connectivity via KNX, LON, DALI, BACnet, and TCP/IP. In addition, every controller continues to support RS-485, 4-20mA and the old 0-10V analog standards. Throw in Modbus, Zigbee, WiFi and Bluetooth, and it all gets very confusing.
Would we use credit cards today if Visa and Mastercard were like the HVAC industry and still arguing about the data storage format on a card’s magnetic stripe?
However, I did learn a lot about the benefits and pitfalls of simplification. Anders of EZ Systems took the time to explain the trap of “the Internet of things” as it relates to industrial control. He argued that if everything is networked, it will be tempting for HVAC installers to put controllers on pre-existing building networks and use shortcuts like default gateway passwords to simplify installation. This can leave critical systems open to hackers, as is already documented in the press.
It reinforced to me that while the final network methodology will be TCP/IP (cost of implementation, predictable maintenance, and technically stability) it will need to become more robust. The specialized knowledge to build and maintain application-specific networks with proprietary protocols and hardware is not sustainable.
CO2 storage safety conversations came up frequently, as more states require carbon dioxide storage monitoring, and more large scale refrigeration changes to CO2 as the “green” refrigerant.
In the world of gas detection, particularly CO2 and combustibles, our supplier SenseAir introduced the LP8 sensor. It is a small, NDIR CO2 sensor module designed to be used in low-power applications. It uses only 3.6mC (millicoulombs) charge and 11.9mJ @3.3V energy per measurement. This makes the sensor useful in autonomous battery or solar-powered applications, as it can operate for several years with simple power management. CO2meter will offer these sensors once the user documentation and configuration software is ready.
Our supplier Gas Sensing Solutions (GSS) showcased their current line of COZIR, MinIR, MisIR and SprintIR CO2 sensors. In addition, Tongdy showed their full line of value indoor air quality monitors and controllers, as well as a new line of wi-fi capable CO2 and VOC transmitters.
Although we spent much of the time near our booth in the Building Automation & Control Showcase, it was interesting to walk the rest of the show. With little new on the floor in terms of mechanicals, I saw an emphasis on “innovation.” In other words, it seems like everything can now talk to an iPad. I saw banners on booths that read “Welcome to the future,” and “For today and a brighter future.” Others were “Solving big problems” or “Doing it together.” But my favorite was “Streamlined design processes with accelerated project cycles and proven performance.” I still don’t know what they were selling, but it looked impressive next to our signs that simply read “CO2 Measurement Specialists.”
I was encouraged to hear our name used and referenced in the market. Dozens (hundreds?) of people stopped by our booth over the 3 days and took the time to introduce themselves. I heard “I love your newsletter” and “I hoped you guys would be here” and “Your website is my first stop for answers to CO2 questions and products.” Each of these words of encouragement told us we’re on the right track. It also convinced me once again that the AHR show is a must for anyone in the HVACR industry.
Look for us in Las Vegas in 2017.