Show Report: The 2020 AHR Expo

The 2020 AHR Expo, the world’s largest HVACR event, was held February 3-5, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. Supported by event co-sponsors, ASHRAE and AHRI, along with 31 other major industry organizations, and more than 1,900 exhibiting companies, AHR Expo is the industry’s largest global marketplace to network, share best practices and learn about innovative solutions from all over the world. With more than 200 free seminars, the education program featured new product and technology presentations, professional certifications, and education sessions focused on general industry-wide topics, engineering, industry trends, and topics tailored to attract the OEMs, engineers, contractors, facility operators, architects and other HVACR industry professionals from more than 160 countries. 

Chiller & Cooling Best Practices Magazine staff was present at the show reporting on refrigeration compressors, cooling towers, chillers and other applicable technologies to the commercial and industrial sector. 

The 2020 AHR Expo Hall covered more than 500,000 square feet. 


Johnson Controls invited the media to a panel discussion with top executives. Chairman and CEO George Oliver shared their view of three strategic directions of the commercial HVAC market (1) Decarbonization (2) Digitalization (3) Electrification.  He also said the merger with Tyco was going well and their new plant in Norman, Oklahoma is doing great!  With our auditing background, I found it very interesting when he said they are adding 1500 direct people to deploy solutions for customers.  

At the booth, JCI helped us learn what’s new with their York YZ magnetic bearing centrifugal chiller. The York YZ chiller is equipped with variable speed drive, a high-speed hermetic induction motor, a single stage compressor, OptiView Control Panel, the York-patented falling film evaporator and more. Cooling capacity on the YZ has very recently expanded up to, coincidentally, 2020 tons. The Johnson Controls booth also featured monitoring and IoT software they provide. Central Plant Optimization (CPO) offers predictive cost optimization and monitors system set points and KPIs for all facility utilities like chillers, cooling towers, heat pumps, etc. Users can then monitor and adapt with plant-unique inputs such as utility market rates, load predictions, weather and more. Johnson Controls Enterprise Management (JEM) software turns the sea of data from plants and buildings into insights and significant data points on an easy to read dashboard so users do not get lost in their data. 

Johnson Controls Chairman and CEO George Oliver speaking at AHR Expo.
Christine Detz, Drew Brzuchalski and Kaitlin Logan, at the Johnson Controls booth, with a model of the York YZ Series magnetic bearing centrifugal chiller (left to right). 

Two water-cooled chillers were on display at the Daikin booth. The Magnitude WMT Magnetic Bearing Centrifugal Chiller achieves 0.49 kW/ton running at full load, and uses R-1233zd. The Aptitude WLP Oiled Bearing Centrifugal Chiller, manufactured in Stanton, Virginia, achieves 0.49 kW/ton at full load, and as low as 0.29 kW/ton at part load. Also using R-1233zd, the Aptitude WLP chiller uses two-stage compression for optimal cooling efficiency. Daikin announced at the show that the new Rebel Applied Packaged Rooftop System will now feature the Copeland ZPKZ scroll compressor. The Rebel Applied combines high performance and a compact, configurable footprint. Equipped with an ultra-low air leakage casing design, and the ZPKZ scroll from Copeland, the Rebel Applied system exceeds minimum efficiency requirements through 2023.

Art Rizoli with the Magnitude WMT Magnetic Bearing Centrifugal Chiller at the Daikin booth.

On display at the Mikropor booth was their Water Process Chiller designed to meet the needs of many applications requiring stable working conditions, maximum quality and cleanliness of the process fluid. Water Process Chillers from Mikropor use R-410A, hermetic scroll compressors, a microchannel aluminum condenser, have EC fan speed control technology, and much more. With evaporator water inlet/outlet temperature at 54/45 °F respectively, at an external air temperature of 77 °F, normal cooling capacity ranges from 6.1 to 194 kW (20,643 to 663,320 BTU/hour) through the 17 models. Other features include stainless steel brazed plate heat exchangers, thermostatic expansion valves, as well as high pressure, low pressure and primary water pressure gauges on the front panel.

Evren Yazici and Ryan Loeffler at the Mikropor booth (left to right).


Refrigeration Compressor Technology 

On display at the Danfoss booth was the Green Building Innovation Award Winner, the Turbocor TG490 Compressor. The TG490 Compressor is an oil-free, variable speed, magnetic bearing centrifugal compressor compatible with R-515B (AR5 GWP of 299 and A1 ASHRAE safety classification for lower toxicity and no flame propagation). As an addition to the existing Danfoss Turbocor TG Series, the TG490 can also use R-1234ze (HFO) refrigerant with a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of less than one. This new compressor is designed to perform efficiently with no performance degradation using environmentally friendly, non-flammable refrigerants that are regulation and safety code compliant. 

Danfoss also used the 2020 AHR Expo as the venue for their 25th Annual Press Conference. Topics and speakers are listed below.  Of particular note was their strategic belief that “electrification” will move the commercial building market away from natural gas use. Global Marketing Manager Drew Turner outlined Danfoss’ major move into heat pump technology and solutions. We are very pleased he will also be making this presentation at the 2020 Best Practices Expo & Conference.

  • Danfoss Business & Perspective, John Gaylen, President – North America
  • Regulatory Update, John Sheff, Director of Public Affairs
  • Electrification & Oil-Free Heat Pumps, Drew Turner, Global Marketing Manager, Oil-Free Solutions
  • Case Study, Tim Blanch, S.C. Herman & Associates
  • Campus Efficiency Solutions, Richard Hatcher, Head of Sales – Americas
  • Case Study: District Energy at Sheridan College, Herbert Sinnock, Director of Sustainability
Kyle Fields using the Danfoss Reality application to show the inter-workings of the Danfoss Turbocor TG490 Oil-Free Compressor.

At the Emerson booth was Copeland’s new line of fixed speed scroll compressors optimized for low-GWP refrigerants and a flexible product platform to address upcoming regulations from the Department of Energy. The ZPKZ, YPKA and YAK1 scroll compressors have a redesigned hermetic motor and a completely new scroll design to maximize efficiency. An intermediate discharge valve has been added to the design to boost efficiency and enable optimal performance over a range of cooling loads. Cooling capacity across the full ZPKZ line ranges from 6 to 40 hp. Emerson also invited the media to the Daikin booth on Tuesday morning for a briefing on how Copeland compressors are working with the Daikin Rebel Applied Rooftop System.

Mark Bills at the Emerson booth with the Copeland Scroll ZPKZ compressor.

Embraco, part of Nidec Global Appliance, unveiled their second generation of condensing units and showed innovative refrigeration solutions at AHR. The improved condensing units are designed for low and medium temperature applications, particularly food service, food retail, merchandiser and aftermarket applications, and use R-404A and R-134a. Features on the condensing units include painted coils, coil U-bend protection, robust packaging, and more. The units will be available in North America in April 2020.

John Prall at the Nidec Embraco booth.

On display at the TORAD Engineering booth was their patented Spool Compressor. This unique design is a rotary vane machine using tip seals placed in slots at the ends of the vane to provide a seal between the suction and compression chamber, and housing seals between the rotating spool assembly and compressor housing. The spool compressor uses R-134a and R-410A.  

A cut-away of the TORAD Spool Compressor. 

Motors and Drives

Coming the second half of 2020, Yaskawa is “making the complicated simple, with the new HV600 Variable Frequency Drive, designed specifically for HVAC applications,” said Technical Communication Manager, Michael Hall. After extensive surveying and feedback from existing customers, the HV600 is designed to be OEM friendly, and provide simple operation for all users. In addition, with the Drive Wizard Mobile Application, equipped with Bluetooth (coming 2021) and USB connectivity, user experience and simplicity is enhanced. The Drive Wizard Mobile Application provides free cloud service, and embedded start-up wizards that will survey the user upon installation to highlight and detail the features and settings most relevant to the application. 

Michael Hall at the Yaskawa Booth.

Among other technologies, on display at the Nidec Motor Corporation booth was the Blade Runner Series 105LC Motor for HVLS (high volume, low speed) fans. Designed for industrial and commercial applications, the Blade Runner 105LC (185 Nm) is equipped with a direct drive system. The Blade Runner series provides high efficiency and high torque for extended life and maximum performance. 

Tim Albers and George Rizza at the Nidec Booth with the Nidec Blade Runner HVLS (left to right).

On display at the WEG booth, were their specially designed motors for cooling tower fans. The W22 motor is designed for minimized maintenance and a seven-year useful life. The W22 has vertical and horizontal lifts for either horizontal or vertical shaft up/down positions. Bearings also have special sealants on units up to 100 hp. Another benefit is the series of drains in several positions on the motor, so moisture can be drained effectively no matter the mount position of the motor. In addition, there are space heaters in the motor, and the motor is epoxy coated inside and out. Also available is the WEG Motor Scan Application, a performance monitoring solution with Bluetooth connectivity for vibration data collection, predictive analysis, temperature readings, operation hours and more.

Valone Gomes and Dale Basso at the WEG Booth (left to right).

Cooling Towers

Featured at the Baltimore Aircoil booth was the Nexus Modular Hybrid Cooler, designed for easy maintenance, efficiency and low environmental impact with wet or dry cooling capabilities. The iPilot Control System feature with patented intelligence, will operate the unit based on operating conditions to optimize energy and water savings. Also, the EC Fan Systems located inside the units exceed efficiency class IE4 requirements with variable speed control, while preventing condensation and corrosion issues, and premature failures. In addition, the external cold-water collection basin with DiamondClear Design has a low water volume, allows for easy maintenance and inspection while the unit is operating. The Nexus cooling towers are also designed for modular installation when cooling demands increase, are forklift accessible, and all parts can be easily accessed allowing for simple maintenance. 

Neal Walsh and Ben Cohen with the Nexus Modular Hybrid Cooler at the Baltimore Aircoil booth (left to right). 

On display at the EVAPCO booth was the Water Saver pre-treatment system for evaporative cooling equipment. The Water Saver improves water efficiency by increasing operating cycles of concentration and, reduces blowdown and treatment chemicals sent to the drain. It uses capacitive deionization technology to reduce dissolved ion concentration, lowering the makeup water conductivity prior to use in an evaporative cooling system. After entering the Water Saver, makeup water passes through individual cylinders containing oppositely charged supercapacitors that absorb the dissolved ions from the water. 

Dustin Cohick with the EVAPCO Water Saver.

The NIMBUS Advanced Process Cooling booth featured the VIRGA Hybrid Adiabatic Cooling System with both wet and dry cooling capabilities. The VIRGA X3 product line has cooling capacities up to 450 tons. Manufactured in Anniston, Alabama, the VIRGA Systems are engineered with fans (EC and AC fans available) that cycle on and off to maintain exiting water temperatures, a smart spray system for water conservation, copper tubing, poly-coated aluminum fins for mineral deposit resistance and more. 

Corey Jenkins alongside the VIRGA X3 at the NIMBUS Advanced Process Cooling booth.

The SPX Cooling Technologies booth featured new and existing products along with educational sessions in the booth focused on cooling tower fundamentals, selecting the right cooling tower, air-cooled versus water-cooled systems and cooling tower variable flow for energy savings. Monday morning, Product Manager Marshal Zabel introduced the Marley MH Element Fluid Cooler. The fluid cooler’s hybrid design uses a combination of fill media and prime surface coils. The high-performance copper coils offer great thermal conductivity, are corrosion resistant and have bacteriostatic properties. Also on display were models of the MD Everest Modular Counterflow Cooling Tower, the NC Everest Crossflow Cooling Tower, and the new Marley BasinGard Filter that captures debris, improving crossflow cooling tower maintenance.  

Marshal Zabel speaking at the introduction of the Marley MH Element Fluid Cooler.


More Technology!

A chance encounter led to a fascinating discussion with Ziehl-Abegg CEO Peter Fenkl. A leader in ventilation, control and drive technology, Mr. Fenkl explained their tremendous research & development efforts focused on “biomimicry.” This is researching nature and biology to see what can be learned for engineered technologies. We don’t have space here to elaborate but the serrated edges on their super-silent ventilation products comes from studying the wings of owls! Further, their efficient centrifugal products come from studying the “bumps” on the humpback whale. The strength and stiffness of their products comes from studying trees. This is a feature story down the road!

Ziehl-Abegg CEO Peter Fenkl

Vaisala was on the show floor displaying their products for HVAC and indoor air applications. Vaisala offers a wide array of intelligent probe and transmitter instrumentation for carbon dioxide, humidity, temperature and more. This type of monitoring instrumentation is essential for buildings and plants to understand when, and how much ventilation is needed. 

Steve Santoro, Yani Bettencourt and Lars Stormbom at the Vaisala booth (left to right).

Superior Signal was at the show displaying their refrigerant and compressed air leak detectors. The AccuTrak VPE from Superior Signal is a non-invasive leak detector that can detect both pressure and vacuum leaks of any gas. The latest third generation design is 20 percent more sensitive, has a Peak Hold function that allows users to find leaks faster, improved battery life and a rugged design. The AccuTrak VPZ-WR has a sensor that combines high sensitivity and hermeticity. Its resistance to water, steam, oils, fumes and dust allows for reliability in harsh environments. 

Helen Kovacs doing a product demonstration at the Superior Signal booth.

The Bacharach booth featured a wide display of refrigerant leak detection technology. The VRF Refrigerant Leak Detection System isolates refrigerant leaks room by room with low profile detectors with refrigerant specific sensors, for enhanced safety, alarm options, simple calibration and more. The Multi-Zone Refrigerant Gas Monitor can accurately detect more than 60 different refrigerants whether they are CFCs, HFCs, HCFCs HFOs or natural refrigerants, and can monitor up to 16 zones at one time. Bacharach’s Portable Refrigerant Monitor also has the capability to detect more than 60 refrigerants with a 1 ppm minimum detectable level. 

Shelli Cosmides at the Bacharach booth. 

Present at the show was the Hydraulics Institute, the largest association of pump OEMs and suppliers in North America. The Hydraulics Institute offers a Pump Systems Assessment Professional (PSAP) Certification, the Pump Test Lab Approval Program to demonstrate compliance with industry standards, and the Energy Rating Label designed to indicate power savings obtained from pump systems. The Hydraulics Institute writes standards and has a library of guidebooks with multitude of topics. They also have several e-learning courses and educational resources with an emphasis on energy efficiency, reliability, productivity and profitability. 

Michael Michaud and Matthew Derner at the Hydraulic Institute booth (left to right).

Victaulic, a leading manufacturer of mechanical pipe joining systems was on the show floor displaying the QuickVic SD Installation-Ready System, a plain end pipe joining technology designed for use on carbon steel HVAC systems. The system is available in ½” to 2” sizes, designed for pressures up to 300 psi, temperatures up to 250 °F and includes patented “Leak-If-Not-Tightened” technology. 

Dylan Sullivan, Melissa Gannon and Gary Thompson at the Victaulic booth (left to right).

In conclusion, the 2020 AHR Expo brought together thousands of HVACR professionals from every segment of the industry. Thousands of products on display from major manufacturers and innovative new start-ups, as well as an expansive education program bring the industry together under one roof to the world largest HVACR marketplace. 

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