Chicago photo courtesy of Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau.

CHICAGO - Nine companies have been named as the winners of the seventh annual International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo) Innovation Awards. All nine companies will be recognized at the awards ceremony at McCormick Place on Jan. 27 at 1 p.m. in the New Product Technology Theater A (located in the South Hall). Winners will receive placards to display at their booths during the show, as well as an etched crystal award to be displayed at their company’s headquarters. In addition, one of the nine winners will be selected and announced at the show as the 2009 AHR Expo Product of the Year.

A panel of judges consisting of American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) members selected the Innovation Award winners based on their exceptional knowledge of the industry and its products. Product entries were judged for their innovative design, application, value to end users, and market impact.

“In addition to providing well-deserved recognition to companies that have introduced innovative technology, the AHR Expo Innovation Awards benefit the overall HVACR industry by showcasing valuable solutions to challenges faced by many of our attendees,” said Clay Stevens, president of International Exposition Company, which produces and manages the AHR Expo.

Building Automation Award

AEC Design Group

The ArtrA building information modeling (BIM) asset management system software provides the potential for a virtual information model to be handed from design team (architects, surveyors, consulting engineers, and others) to contractors and subcontractors and then to the owner, each adding their own additional discipline-specific knowledge and tracking of changes to the single model. The result is anticipated to greatly reduce the information loss that occurs when a new team takes “ownership” of the project and will result in delivering extensive information to owners of complex structures.

ArtrA reads all 3-D CAD formats including the new IFC (Industry Foundation Class) standard. ArtrA enables the user to view, interrogate, and link documents to a building model without the need for CAD software. It uses a NavisWorks engine and has the ability to extract graphics and the associated design data from all the leading 3-D CAD packages. Any electronic information such as a purchase order, maintenance records, installation manuals, plant history, user guides, etc., can be attached to any item for fast data retrieval.

“All attributes contained within a model are automatically extracted into a powerful database where they may be sorted, searched for, and found at the click of the button,” said Jeff Winans, U.S. sales manager.

“If, for example, you want to see a valve on a particular section of pipe, then you simply ask ArtrA to show the system and all of its information. The results can be isolated or the surrounding model turned transparent so the geometry of the system can be understood in context with its surroundings. When the mouse is passed over an item, its information will pop up so the operator knows exactly what is being reviewed.”

Cooling Award

Danfoss Inc.

The R-410A, high-capacity (12 to 40 tons of refrigeration) Apexx VSH variable-speed compressor is designed for use in commercial air conditioning and heat pump applications where high compression and significant energy efficiency are required and part-load performance and continual load matching are desirable.

The Apexx VSH compressor is a high-capacity R-410A variable-speed scroll compressor for air conditioning and heat pumps. The compressor produces significantly higher efficiency because it uses the entire evaporator, even at part-load conditions. In addition, high isentropic efficiency is maintained throughout the speed range. At lower speeds (below 50 Hz), oil injection to the scroll eliminates both leakage and high discharge temperatures. The compressor does not require periodic maintenance.

“Users will experience considerably reduced operating costs because capacity is not wasted, and realize energy savings of more than 20 percent when using a Danfoss VSH compressor,” said Jan Petersen, marketing manager. “In addition, comfort is enhanced - first, because Apexx capacity always matches the cooling demand, making tighter temperature control possible, and second, because the unit makes feasible new controlling strategies for dehumidification. Finally, the compressor is responsible for significant noise reduction, particularly at part-load conditions.”

With the introduction of the VSH, Petersen noted that Danfoss extends its commitment to variable-speed technology. A comprehensive I/O provides RS-485, analog, digital, and USB interfaces to support diagnostics, load monitoring, and communications. MCT10 software allows interrogation and programming from a Windows PC. In addition, an optional graphic display and keypad - with onboard memory - gives access to the menu structure and can be used to make parameter changes on other VSH drives, making commissioning and service easy.

Green Building Award

Ice Energy

The Ice Bear® 30 hybrid air conditioner uses cleaner, more efficient, and less expensive nighttime power to produce and store energy for use the next day in order to provide efficient cooling using only a fraction of the peak energy required by conventional systems. This dramatically improves efficiency, lowers electricity costs, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. With Ice Bear, a building’s electricity use during peak daytime hours can be reduced by as much as 95 percent.

“The Ice Bear is the industry’s first integrated energy storage and HVAC solution specifically designed for small- to medium-size commercial buildings,” said Therese Wells, director of marketing. “It is applicable to about 70 percent of the U.S. commercial market - in general, all buildings under three stories served by conventional, refrigerant-based, 4- to 20-ton packaged rooftops, split systems, or mini-split central air conditioners.”

The Ice Bear unit is a nonengineered plug-and-play product that can be added to most retail and commercial businesses, as well as data centers, telecom facilities, or cell towers. It can be applied in new construction, end-of-life cycle a/c unit replacement, or retrofit situations. Combining Ice Energy’s next-generation energy storage technology with conventional air conditioning and using each when it’s most efficient and cost-effective, hybrid cooling reduces the impact on the environment by permanently shifting air conditioning load from peak daytime hours to more efficient evening hours. This improves grid reliability and enables utilities to better manage peak summertime energy demand.

“Ice Energy’s hybrid cooling products enable contractors to expand their business by helping customers and prospects - both new and existing - go green, lower their energy bills, and take advantage of lucrative utility company financing and incentives,” added Wells.

Heating Award

York, Johnson Controls UPG

The York Affinity 98 percent AFUE modulating gas furnace is an energy-efficient residential heating system that is easy to install and service in tight spaces and contributes to green, sustainable home design. The Affinity fully modulates heat input in 0.65 percent increments between 35 and 100 percent firing rates, thus providing 100 points of modulation.

Designed for residential applications in either a new construction or retrofit setting, the Affinity’s reduced size (33 inches) makes the furnace the ideal solution where space is limited, including closets, attics, and basements with low ceilings. Multiple venting options and the multiposition design of the unit provide flexibility for all installations, including upflow, downflow, horizontal left, and horizontal right.

The unit’s unique condensate management system eliminates the need for external traps, which means the furnace does not need to be elevated in horizontal applications. The unit also features rugged, yet stylish, cabinets of folded sheet metal that are free of sharp edges so that servicing the unit is worry-free. Moreover, the unit’s doors are interchangeable between top and bottom, based on the desired venting option, and the toolless one-quarter-turn latches make door removal easy.

“With this fully modulating unit, homeowners can save from $70 to $300 during the heating season, compared to a 96.7 percent AFUE unit,” said Jeff Hurt, York brand manager, Unitary Products Division. “The 33-inch size makes the unit a good choice where space is limited. Operation is quiet – as low as 47 dB. In addition, the unit qualifies for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star® logo.”

IAQ Award


The HygroClip 2 utilizes state-of-the-art technology to measure humidity, temperature, and dew point. The product was introduced in September 2008 and is recommended for industrial, commercial, and high-end residential markets. The device is often used to measure humidity and temperature in industrial applications such as clean rooms and stability chambers, as well as to monitor indoor/outdoor humidity for HVAC optimization.

“The new HygroClip 2 line of instrumentation provides unmatched measurement accuracy of ±0.8 percent rh/±0.1°C, sensor self-diagnostics and correction, sensor alarms, and onboard data recording, as well as 30,000 sensor linearization and 101 humidity calibration points,” said David Love, VP-sales and marketing.

The AirChip 3000 forms the core of the HygroClip 2, and its capabilities include the compensation of humidity and temperature at 30,000 reference points, the recording of 2,000 data points, and the calculation of dew point. It is also self-diagnosing, so if the sensor accuracy declines significantly, the AirChip 3000 recognizes the problem and issues an alarm.

“HygroClip 2 technology lowers the cost of extremely accurate and repeatable humidity measurement,” noted Love. “As energy-use efficiency becomes more critical, the ability to accurately measure humidity over the long term, without frequent maintenance, will provide building owners a critical tool to manage their HVAC energy use.”

Refrigeration Award

Danfoss Inc.

The AKD 102 variable-capacity drive is designed for use in retail food refrigeration applications where significant energy savings are desired. The drive continually matches refrigeration capacity to load to maintain a food product environment that is food-code compliant and provides maximum product life before sale.

The AKD 102 is specifically designed for supermarket applications and is well-suited for new construction or retrofitting in existing stores. In response to continual load determination computed by its internal electronics, the AKD drive varies the speed of a compressor, condenser fan motor, or HVAC fan motor. In all three applications, operating efficiencies and significant energy savings result, as well as improved motor life and reduced maintenance cost.

Another significant feature of the AKD 102 is that it is the first variable-capacity drive that is programmed using terms familiar to refrigeration technicians rather than computer electronics specialists. A setup wizard and an online manual also simplify work for OEMs, installers, and commissioning and service technicians.

“Installers and service technicians will welcome the ease of setup of the AKD 102,” said Jan Petersen, marketing manager. “Refrigeration terminology is used rather than electronic and computer terms that would likely be unfamiliar to technicians. As a result, installation, commissioning, and service are comfortable, efficient, and straightforward procedures.”

The value of the AKD 102 lies in its outstanding load-matching capability, added Petersen. “Operating efficiencies and significant energy savings result, as well as reduced maintenance costs. The drive also offers easy, familiar, and comfortable communication for both users and service technicians.”

Software Award

Mc4 Software

Mc4 Suite is an integrated suite of software components for HVAC and fire protection projects. The software is an AutoCAD-compatible, fully integrated, stand-alone platform for heat loss and cooling load calculations, radiant heating and snow and ice melting, fire protection, ductwork and plumbing systems design, and solar BIM. The software can be used for both residential and commercial applications, including new construction or retrofit.

“Mc4 Suite offers a stand-alone platform and represents a true revolution in project design, which brings productivity to a higher level,” said Giuseppe Cozzupoli, president. “Strong integration and thermal data sharing among the modules allows rapid generation of all calculations with precision and accuracy.”

Features of the software include drag-and-drop technology, automatic 2-D-3-D changes, and immediate retention of changed component dimensions. This results in advanced data communication and economic efficiency, which promotes interdepartmental communication on the same level with the same software. This significantly reduces design time and enhances the final project presentation and client comprehension. The final project is presented in a single .dwg file. Automatic technical reports and a detailed bill of materials are also generated with each project.

For a quick start, existing building plans can be imported into the Mc4 Suite software and system design can begin immediately (the engineer or contractor also has the option of drawing the building within Mc4 Suite if no pre-existing plans are available to import). Once the plans are completed or imported, Mc4 Suite software calculates and sizes all dimensions and system components automatically.

Tools and Instruments Award


The Smart Bell Combustion Meter™ measures CO2 and flue temperature and can be used to adjust combustion appliances such as small boilers, furnaces, water heaters, etc. It also calculates combustion efficiency, net temperature, and excess air.

The Smart Bell uses electro-optical sensor (EOS) technology, which is new to portable flue gas instruments. This technology eliminates the need to replace oxygen sensors periodically, which lowers the cost of ownership for the user, while providing a far more precise method of testing when compared to traditional wet-chemical kits.

“We wanted to make the user interface and operation as simple as possible,” said David Wheaton, new product manager. “More complex analyzers are available, but with the complexity comes a more difficult user interface. The Smart Bell is simple: Turn the meter on to the fuel used, rotate the selector to the appropriate test, and place the flue probe in the stack. Results are real-time, giving the technicians instantaneous readings while adjustments are made on a system. No more snapshots showing only a moment in time.”

Low cost of ownership and simplicity are the two main benefits of the Smart Bell, noted Wheaton. “The Smart Bell is extremely easy to use and gives live data on the performance of equipment that is being installed and serviced. In addition, it provides a more dependable solution at a lower cost.”

Ventilation Award

Twin City Fan Companies Ltd.

The Aero Acoustic Diffuser™ is designed to increase plenum fan performance while attenuating acoustic emissions. The increase in performance results in lower power consumption for a given application and reduces requirements for sound attenuation in air-handling units. Designed primarily for commercial applications, the product can be utilized on new applications or when retrofitting an existing installation of a Twin City Fan and Blower E-series plenum fan.

“The Aero Acoustic Diffuser increases fan static efficiency while reducing sound levels,” said Rad Ganesh, Ph.D., PE, director of research and development. “This innovation allows for reduced energy consumption. Contractors and/or engineers can design an HVACR system with higher pressure drops without sacrificing energy consumption and increased noise.”

The Aero Acoustic Diffuser is a bolt-on device available for the E-Series plenum fans. It is mounted directly to the E-series plenum fan framework without increasing the overall dimensions of the fan. Higher air-handling unit system pressure drops (more coil rows/high-efficiency filters) can be handled with the same size fan operating at the same speed. Alternatively, a smaller size fan with lower power consumption and noise levels may be selected for a specific application.

Available this month, the diffuser decreases sound power levels by up to 3 dBa and increases fan static efficiency by up to 4 percent.

All winners will be recognized at the Innovation Awards ceremony at the AHR Expo at 1 p.m. Jan. 27 in the New Product Technology Theater A (located in the South Hall) at McCormick Place.

Publication date:01/12/2009