DALLAS — Ranging from an innovative geothermal heat pump to a copper theft deterrent system, the winners of this year’s AHR Expo Innovation Awards represent a broad cross-section of the HVACR industry. The winning entries were selected in 10 categories and represent the most innovative new products among the thousands that will be displayed at the AHR Expo.

A panel of judges made up of ASHRAE members evaluated the products submitted based on innovation, application, value to the user, and market impact. Winners of the 2013 Innovation awards will be recognized at an awards ceremony at the AHR Expo on Jan. 29.

Building Automation Award

CopperWatcher LLC

CopperWatcher™ is a monitoring device that is designed to protect HVAC units from copper theft. The third-generation Model CW-3 links any air conditioning system to the existing burglar alarm system and automatically adjusts to monitor systems of all types, from 230- to 480-V, single- or three-phase. Because it is supported by the existing burglar alarm system, it will still protect the units even during a building power failure. The device monitors voltage in two separate locations, as well as the refrigerant pressure. It does not result in false alarms, and it cannot be bypassed.

“Near-record prices for copper continue to spur copper theft from outdoor HVAC units, which are typically not protected by burglar alarm systems. By installing the CopperWatcher, residential and commercial HVAC equipment is totally protected and monitored for copper theft,” said Robert Frederick, CEO. “Stopping a theft will save the end user thousands of dollars in replacement costs, as well as reduce the venting of the refrigerant once a system is stolen. Contractors will increase sales by offering the CopperWatcher because it gives end users peace of mind, knowing that their air conditioning equipment is protected.”

CopperWatcher attaches to an air conditioner’s safety disconnect switch and the liquid-or hot-gas-refrigerant service port. It comes complete, can be installed in less than one hour, and does not impede any service work. A separate device is needed for each air conditioner. CopperWatcher will alert the owner in the event of tampering, saving downtime and loss of business, product, or productivity.

Cooling Award

Rheem Mfg. Co.

The H2AC rooftop unit unites a restaurant’s HVAC and water heating systems to achieve significant efficiencies. It works by utilizing the exclusive eSync Integration technology, which takes the heat removed from the restaurant by the HVAC system and uses it as an efficient source for heating water. The H2AC rooftop unit is able to pre-heat a restaurant’s cold water supply to as much as 125°F, which substantially reduces water heating costs.

The H2AC system can have a positive impact on a restaurant owner’s bottom line, said Sal Brunetto, corporate national accounts manager. “If even a fraction of the United States’ more than 970,000 restaurants began implementing the H2AC system, the cumulative impact of decreased energy consumption and lower utility bills would be tremendous. Plus, today’s restaurant industry has never had the opportunity to benefit from integrated air and water technologies, so the H2AC system is a real game-changer.”

The H2AC rooftop unit is a commercial product that is designed specifically for full-service restaurants, but it can also be used in similar applications, such as hotels. The system is appropriate for both new construction and retrofit scenarios, although retrofit customers have the most to gain from installing the system, said Brunetto. “Most commercial HVAC equipment lasts about 15 years, and systems that were installed at that time are 30 percent less efficient than today’s standard units. Customers adopting the H2AC system not only benefit from more efficient HVAC equipment, but they also benefit from a system that can essentially pre-heat a restaurant’s hot water for free.”

Green Building Award

Titus HVAC

The Solar Plexicon is a displacement diffuser that has the ability to heat and cool from one diffuser by employing a smart logic board with temperature-sensing capabilities, using light energy as its power source. The Solar Plexicon uses a wireless energy harvesting process to power the auto-changeover action when changing to the cooling or heating mode. The energy harvesting process is achieved using solar light energy, including sun and ambient room light.

“With both heating and cooling from the same diffuser assembly, the Solar Plexicon reduces cost and eases design and installation challenges, which benefit both contractors and engineers,” said Rob Copeland, director of marketing and product development.

“Contractors can reduce the cost and time required to install a secondary air delivery system that includes additional ductwork, diffusers, and controls. Time and energy are saved during the building process because the need to design and integrate a secondary system for the heating requirement is eliminated.”

The Solar Plexicon, which was introduced in January 2012, is designed for use in commercial applications and can operate with all types of HVAC systems, including single-duct, dual-duct, fan-powered, DX, etc. End users will appreciate the new diffuser, said Copeland, as it provides a high level of thermal comfort and IAQ, which is achieved by combining displacement cooling and mixed airflow heating into one system. “It also helps the building owner reduce costs by eliminating the secondary system,” he said.

Heating Award

ClimateMaster Inc.

The Trilogy™ 40 Q-Mode Series is an eco-friendly, ultra-high-efficiency, water-to-air, packaged geothermal heat pump for residential and light commercial applications. Exceeding 40 EER at ground-loop (GLHP) conditions, the Trilogy 40 utilizes variable-speed technology to provide an extremely wide range of heating and cooling capacities, with the ability to match loads to as low as 30 percent of the maximum. In addition, patent-pending Q-Mode technology produces year-round domestic hot water on demand, even when space conditioning is not required.

“The efficiency of the Trilogy 40 is one of the highest on the market today in the geothermal industry,” said Raj Hiremath, director of marketing, residential products. “Not only will end users save money on heating, cooling, and hot water generation, they will save money on costs due to the ease of installation.”

The unit is easy to install, said Hiremath, because it has no external pump module to install, which cuts down on time and labor costs. There are also no dip switches to set in the unit, and there are only four wires between the unit and the thermostat. “The intelligent controls will also help service technicians and installers monitor and diagnose a problem if one should arise. Technicians have the ability to read the conditions at the time of the fault across all aspects of the unit, including water, refrigerant, and air circuits, to determine the cause. They also have the ability to manually operate the unit from the thermostat in order to isolate the issue.”

IAQ Award

Energy Wall LLC

Energy Wall combines three products — enthalpy exchanger, dehumidifier, and air purifier — into one, delivering pre-conditioned fresh air to a building by recovering heat and moisture from exhaust air. At lower airflow rates, Energy Wall recovers up to 95 percent of heat and 85 percent of moisture from a building exhaust. The counterflow plate exchanger kills airborne bacteria spores equivalent to MERV 12 with little-to-no cross-contamination.

Energy Wall is available in a wide range of sizes suitable for both residential and commercial applications and can be used to meet ventilation codes, improve air quality, or dehumidify a building using low-grade thermal energy.

“Unlike existing technologies, Energy Wall is naturally frost-proof and unaffected by extremely cold climates,” said Dustin Eplee, president. “Paybacks of less than one year are possible in new commercial building designs that take advantage of Energy Wall’s ability to downsize chiller and boiler capacity by 30 to 40 percent.”

Energy Wall is compact, modular, and can be easily retrofitted into existing commercial buildings, said Eplee. “The product has no electrical requirements and thus can be easily outfitted into ductwork, whereas energy wheels are generally constrained to within air-handling units. Energy Wall has no required maintenance, dramatically reduces electric demand and energy usage, and improves air quality by killing bacterial spores.”

Plumbing Award

Navien America Inc.

The NPE-240A premium condensing tankless water heater is specifically designed for tank replacement. ComfortFlow technology incorporates an insulated buffer tank and recirculation pump, allowing for comfortable delivery of hot water. The technology also eliminates the minimum flow rate requirement, as well as the “cold water sandwich.”

“The NPE can cut installation time in half compared to other tankless installations, as the whole installation time will run from three to four hours, including the draining and removal of the traditional tank water heater,” said Eric Moffroid, vice president of sales and marketing. “We are able to accomplish this with unique features, such as the ½-inch gas pipe and 2-inch PVC, which means there is no need to run a dedicated ¾-inch gas line and make extra wall penetrations. Since the NPE reduces the installation time, it makes it possible to install two units on separate jobsites in one day.”

When replacing a traditional tank with the NPE tankless gas water heater, simply remove the tank, hang the tankless unit, run the 2-inch PVC (up to 60 feet) all the way through the existing chase, use the existing ½-inch gas line (up to 24 feet), and it is done, said Moffroid.

“The NPE Series also offers high efficiency with an energy factor of up to 0.97. This is important because it means that for every dollar spent to heat water, 97 cents are actually going towards heating the water with only 3 cents being wasted, compared to a traditional tank that wastes 33 cents per dollar used.”

Refrigeration Award


The new AK-PC 781 multifunctional rack controller makes it easy to set up energy-efficient capacity control of refrigeration compressors and condensers with modular hardware and flexible software that extends as system requirements grow or change.

“Optimizing refrigeration capacity all the time requires a controller that can handle multiple-suction and condensing-pressure inputs for standard as well as cascade configurations,” explained Jason Paquette, marketing manager, Danfoss Refrigeration & Air Conditioning. “The AK-PC 781 makes it easy to configure inputs and outputs for sensors, switches, and relays with a modular controller that can change as needs change — plus provide oil management, heat recovery, and CO2 gas pressure control.”

The AK-PC 781 capacity controller ensures precise and stable suction and condensing pressure regulation for a variety of applications and refrigerants, noted Paquette. “Modules snap onto a common platform to accommodate digital and analog inputs and outputs for compressors, condensers, gas coolers, fans, expansion valves, sensors, switches, and alarms. Capacity control is available for up to eight compressors, with three unloaders for each compressor.”

Functions include speed control of one or two compressors, handling up to six safety inputs per compressor, optional capacity limitation to minimize peak energy consumption, capacity control for up to eight fans, and coordinating cascade controllers for medium- and low-temperature operation.

Controller programming is accomplished with a PC using AK-Service Tool software. The controller networks with other Danfoss ADAP-KOOL® refrigeration control systems.

Software Award


The NexTraq® fleet tracking platform and its applications — Fleet Dispatch, Fleet Metrics, and Fleet Mobile — give contractors the tools necessary to work smarter, not harder. From optimized routes to simplified job scheduling, the NexTraq fleet tracking platform makes managing and improving fleet operations simple, allowing contractors to get more jobs done and increase revenue while reducing overhead costs such as fuel, maintenance, insurance, and labor costs.

“By monitoring and managing fleet operations, contractors can find ways to cut costs and improve productivity. For example, by running an Idle Report, a manager or owner can tell which drivers are excessively idling, correct the behavior, and reduce fuel costs by up to 20 percent,” said Ashley Jones, director of marketing. “With our Fleet Dispatch application, clients can easily communicate with their employees in the field with a personal navigation device (PND). The PND also provides voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions.”

The NexTraq fleet tracking platform and its hardware are easy to install, said Jones, as the plug-and-play device can be installed by customers themselves. “For the cost of a cup of coffee a day, contractors can manage and improve their fleet operations. By automating time-consuming manual processes, they save time and money. Our customers experience up to a 50 percent increase in productivity, which means more jobs completed. Additionally, overhead expenses can be reduced while providing superior customer service. All of these benefits are important in an increasingly competitive and crowded market.”

Tools and Test Instruments Award

Fluke Corp.

The Fluke 805 vibration meter is a portable, multifunction, vibration screening tool that provides quantifiable information on the bearing and overall health of motors and other rotating equipment. Designed for commercial use, technicians can use the tool to check the overall vibration of HVAC systems and quickly assess equipment operating conditions and trends. If part of a predictive maintenance program, the technician can save the readings for upload to a central trending tool. If the tool indicates a problem, a more advanced analyst can be called in to locate the specific fault.

“The Fluke 805 is ideal for frontline mechanical troubleshooting teams that need reliable and repeatable measurements of rotating equipment to make imperative go/no-go maintenance decisions,” said Leah Friberg, public relations manager. “It is very easy to use — just press the tip against the equipment. The unique sensor tip minimizes measurement variations caused by device angle or contact pressure, reducing user error. The meter also provides a severity scale for both overall vibration and bearing condition readings.”

The Fluke 805 was introduced in June 2012 and is designed to answer the questions: Is the equipment operating correctly? Is it starting to show signs of a problem? Does it need to be investigated immediately. “As part of a predictive maintenance program, it helps HVACR technicians avoid unscheduled downtime by identifying potential problems before they become failures,” said Friberg.

Ventilation Award

American ALDES Ventilation Corp.

The Zone Register Terminal-2 (ZRT-2) regulates central ventilation systems without the need for individual fans. It can be used for combination low-flow IAQ ventilation and on-demand high-flow spot ventilation using the same central fan system.

John Harrell, president, explained that the innovative Constant Airflow Regulator (CAR-II), which is an automatic modulating orifice that regulates airflows to constant levels in response to changing duct pressure, is integrated directly into the damper subassembly.

“With the damper completely closed, the factory-calibrated CAR-II will still allow steady, low-continuous ventilation during fan operation. When other ZRT terminals are opened for on-demand spot ventilation, the closed ZRT-2s will maintain their specified low continuous rate through the minimum flow control CAR-II. By opening the ZRT-2’s control damper, the low-flow regulator is removed from the airstream, allowing either full-maximum-boost ventilation, or controlled ventilation (using a second CAR-II).”

The ZRT-2 can be used in both commercial and residential applications and is suitable for new construction and retrofit projects. Typical applications include high-rise central exhaust systems and residential bathroom configurations with multi-port fans.

“The ZRT-2 introduces flexibility and dynamic control to central ventilation systems,” said Harrell. “With its grille, register box, control damper, and flow regulator(s), the ZRT-2 is a turnkey solution. It is available with 4- or 6-inch collars; it provides continuous low-flow ventilation of 10 to 30 cfm; and is capable of providing boost ventilation ranging from 40 to 175 cfm. The product installs easily, requires little-to-no maintenance, and is a lasting, cost-effective solution.”

Publication date: 1/14/2013