This year’s show took up an estimated 430,000 square feet - a record for the AHR Expo. Image courtesy of Oscar Einzig Photography.

CHICAGO - Show organizers were predicting a record, and the 2012 AHR Expo didn’t disappoint.

The Jan. 23-25 event at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center attracted an estimated 57,000 - 40,000 visitors and 17,000 exhibitors and staff - far surpassing the record of 38,534 visitors when the show came to New York City in 2008.

And the show set a new record for exhibit space, with about 430,000 square feet - 5 percent more than the previous record, set at the 2006 AHR Expo, which also took place in Chicago.

It had Clay Stevens, president of the International Exposition Co., which produces and manages the show, smiling frequently.

“We are delighted that we have established new all-time records for both the size of the event and the best visitor attendance,” Stevens said. “We hope this is an indication that the economy is on the upswing and will continue to improve.”

Exhibitor staff levels was down from previous Chicago-held AHR Expos, but organizers were quick to point out that where it really counts - the numbers of contractors, engineers, wholesalers and other buyers who attend - the expo is going strong.

There were 1,968 exhibiting companies, representing 35 countries, at this year’s expo, nearly matching the levels of the 2006 show.

Officials with many exhibiting companies said they were pleased with the turnout and traffic.

“The show has been outstanding for us this year,” said Mark Handzel, marketing director for Xylem RCW.  “The customers that come to this show are the people that are using our products every day, so really this is the best show that we have.”

Karl Schneider, FieldAware’s vice president of marketing, was impressed with the show.

“This is our first AHR Expo and we are amazed at the size and diversity of the attendee base,” he said. “We were overwhelmed by the response.”

An estimated 57,000 attended the Jan. 23-25 AHR Expo, which was held at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center. Image courtesy of Oscar Einzig Photography.

New on display

Here is a list of some of the many products for sheet metal and HVAC contractors displayed at the show.

Emerson’s White-Rodgersdivision unveiled its Blue Wireless Easy Install thermostat. The unit is designed to be used in situations where conventional wired installation would be too expensive or difficult.

“Most homes can benefit from additional temperature sensors to minimize hot and cold spots, but there are always installs where pulling wire is nearly impossible,” said Geoff Godwin, vice-president of marketing at White-Rodgers. “The Blue Wireless Easy Install solves that problem for homeowners and contractors.”

The Thermo Equipment Pad, a plastic pad designed as a mounting base for HVAC or pool equipment, was the newest product displayed byThermo Manufacturing. Company officials say it beautifies the area around air-conditioning condensers and heat pumps. Made from polyethylene, it is light, but not too lightweight, officials say.

The Gripple Spider fromGripple Inc. is designed to be a pre-insert anchor on cast-in-place applications. Installing directly on wood forms or shuttering before the concrete is poured, it provides a ceiling attachment point from underneath. It is ideal for HVAC, lighting, cable tray and other mechanical and electrical uses. 

Josh Crichton, national sales manager with Lewis & Lambert, works the company’s AHR Expo booth.

Software, acoustics

Sound Seal’sindustrial division showed Acoustical Pipe and Duct Lagging. The product is designed to reduce radiated noise with a loaded vinyl barrier and a scrim-reinforced aluminum foil facing. It is available with a 1- or 2-inch-thick quilted fiberglass decoupler. The facing has corrosion resistance and high strength, officials say.

Spiro International showed off two of its machines. The Fittingshaper 1250 is a flexible machine made for mounting rubber gaskets to fittings in small volumes but with different sizes. Diameter ranges are from 5 inches to 50 inches. It can be used with galvanized steel or stainless steel.

The Spiro Shaper, also from Spiro International, is used to produce a rolled edge on non-gasket product. The company also says the machine handles any type of fitting, including saddles, bends and T-pieces. Diameter ranges for the machine are from 4 inches to 20 inches.

Stamped Fittings Inc.says it wants to give sheet metal contractors “the Edge” with its new system of the same name. It eliminates the sealing of connections in spiral duct-using projects, saving labor costs and improving appearance, officials said.

Majestic Steel USA, a distributor of prime, flat-rolled galvanized sheets and coils, unveiled the newest version of its mobile application for flat-rolled steel buyers: Unravel 2.0 Flat-Rolled Steel Calculator. The second generation of the program includes features that Majestic says makes it easier for buyers to verify coil and sheet specifications using mobile devices such as smartphones. Other features include the ability to weigh steel with a scale, convert gauge to decimals and figure out the number of sheets in a bundle.

“Expanding and improving our existing products and services offering is at the heart of our operating model. Our entire organization is focused on developing new ways to create added value for our customers,” said Steve Chiles, chief marketing officer for Majestic Steel. “By developing a second generation of our Unravel: Flat-Rolled Steel Calculator application with new features, we hope to help our customers become better, more informed buyers.”

The app is now in Apple’s iTunes store and will soon be available in Google’s Android Market, officials said.

Dubuque, Iowa-basedDuctSox was showing off SkeleCore, its in-duct cylindrical tensioning device that eliminates sagging and wrinkling in fabric duct. The company says it is the first fabric duct tensioning device that maintains an inflated appearance even when idle and eliminates startup-related “popping” sounds.

Dick Burton (left), western regional manager with Sumner Manufacturing, and Samuel Castrejon, who handles Central and South America, pose with the company’s model No. 2118 contractor lift.

Lifts, machines

The Series 2416 contractor lift was one of the new products displayed bySumner Manufacturing Co. Inc. With a 16-foot height and 450-pound capacity, the company calls it a “super compact, versatile lift at a great price.” It offers one-piece construction and fits in most sport-utility vehicles and vans, the company says.

MultiCam of Texas was promoting its V-Series plasma machine. Officials say it is ideal for those looking for maximum value in sheet metal machinery. The unit can cut mild and stainless steel, as well as aluminum and brass. Hypertherm torch technology is included with all table formats.

Dave Ashton with Gripnail shows the company’s new SnapStik spindle anchors. The anchors come in strips of five and can be snapped off for use.

Gripnail introduced its new Snap Stik spindle anchors. The anchors are manufactured and shipped in strips of five. Contractors can safely take them from the box and snap them apart for use. The company says the products take up a third less storage than loose-packed anchors. The spindles are available in 1 5/8-, 2-, 2 ½- and 3½-inch lengths. They are all 12 gauge and can be stuck to a clean surface. The blanket is impaled on the spindle and a self-locking washer can be secured to the top.

Tin Knockerdisplayed its TK CNC plasma table. The company said the table is an affordable CNC plasma table that eliminates time-consuming layouts. Tables are available in 5-foot by 5-foot and 5-foot by 10-foot tables. A full HVAC fitting library with nesting is included and allows contractors to use 3-D graphics that change with data input. A full standard library of shapes is available from squares, rectangles, rounds, ovals, triangles and more. It also has a 40-amp power pack that can cut quarter-inch mild steel. An automatic torch height control is included. 

Scott Witherow with Design Polymerics uses the company’s new DP 1010 sealant, which can be used to obtain LEED credits.


Design Polymericsprovided information on its DP1010 spray for sealing ducts. The water-based spray is now portable. It can be used to seal commercial and residential supply and return air ducts. The company says the spray has 75 percent labor savings, can be used in the shop or field, and qualifies for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design credits. The low-volatile organic compound solvent-based duct sealant can be used for sealing joints, seams and duct wall penetrations. It can also seal supply and return rectangular, round, oval and metal flexible ducts.

The Self-Sealing Pro was on display at theSPIRAmirbooth. The self-sealing spiral duct system converts spiral fittings, including elbows into SPIRAmir self-sealing fittings. The company says the spiral machine is energy efficient and is capable of forming galvanized and paintable steel, stainless steel, polyvinylchloride-coated steel from 24 to 18 gauge, and aluminum. The machine also uses an ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) “O” ring, which the company says is resistant to ozone, sunlight and aging.

Dave Krupnick of Duro Dyne demonstrates how the company’s new screws are able to more easily penetrate through sheet metal.

Vermette Machine Co. Inc.has a new Adjust-A-Lift. The lift works like a forklift, and can be used in servicing counter top and wall-mounted ice and water dispensers. The lift can be raised to get under the device and to move it. It can hold up to 400 pounds, and has a lifting height of over 67 inches. The lifting platform arms can also be adjusted from 11 ¼ inches wide to 22 ½ inches wide, with a length of 17 inches to 24 ½ inches wide.

Duro Dyne Corp.displayed several products at its booth, including its FlipStix. The FlipStix are self-adhesive insulation hangers with a self-stick base. One fastener can be used for insulation up to 2 inches thick. An optional extension can allow for the use of insulation or wrap that is 6 inches thick. The fasters are available in galvanized, aluminum and stainless steel. Duro Dyne says its new FlipStix can be shipped in a compact package of 10 boxes of 100 sticks.

New insulation adhesives were also on display. The company has water-based insulation adhesives for bonding insulation material to metal. The company says its WIT and WSA adhesives have good wet tack and are non-flammable when wet.

The Self-Stick Access Door from Duro Dyne is designed to help contractors have access to ducts for duct cleaning, examining equipment or troubleshooting equipment. Duro Dyne also introduced new screws, including Saber Screws for light- to medium-gauge metal. The screw has a sharper point to pierce the metal. Once the metal is pierced, the thread propels the screw through the metal without effort, according to the company.

Malcodisplayed its PEX stapler. The stapler allows the user to secure PEX tubing from a standing position. The staples can be fastened to either a wooden subfloor base or a base of foam board used with in-floor radiant heating installations. Strips of 25 staples are loaded into the stapler, and can be unloaded in one stroke. Staples are available in different designs and sizes.  

Mike Resetar, technical manager with Armacell, talks to an attendee about the company’s duct liner.

Liner, wraps

Armacell showed attendees a variety of duct liners and wraps. The company’s ArmaTuff is designed for exterior applications, and is a combination of multi-laminate cladding material manufactured by Venture and laminated to Armaflex insulation. The ArmaTuff sheets and rolls have an embossed white surface that does not need to be painted, which the company says makes it ideal for exterior installation on ducts, tanks and pipes. The insulation is available in 36-inch by 48-inch sheets or in 48-inch-wide rolls.

Armacell’s AP Coilflex was also on display. The Coilflex is a duct liner that is fiber free and mold resistant. It is made of soft elastomeric foam that conforms to the fabricated corners of a duct for placement. Armacell says the product is engineered for sheet metal shops, and is a cost-effective alternative that reduces the amount of time for cutting duct liner. The product is also touted as noise reducing and water-based adhesive compatible.

The QuickDraw is one of the newest products fromSpinfinity. The QuickDraw is a self-sealing closure band for the company’s AccuFlange. The product is available for oval and round duct, and can be purchased in aluminum, plastic coated, and galvanized and stainless steel.  Spinfinity’s Hanger System can also be used with the QuickDraw. The welded brackets work with both strap and bolt attachment systems.

Leon Richlak (left) and Joe Kucera of the Pate Co. with the company’s new Pate Pipe Curb assembly. The curb is designed to seal multiple pipes that penetrate any roof.

Pate Co. showcased its Pate Pipe Curb assembly. The curb is designed to seal multiple pipes that penetrate any roof. It is an all-in-one unit that needs only one roof opening. The company says it is leakproof, durable and works under all weather conditions. It comes ready to install and includes a roof curb, cap and boots for pipes. Multiple units are available with a variety of cap packages.

Mestek Machinerydemonstrated its TDC/FAM film application machine. The machine seals the ends of ductwork with a film helping to stop contamination while it is on the way to a jobsite. Mestek companyLockformer also showed its Vulcan 1000 Plus cutting machine, as well as its new Tie-Rod Crimper. 

Dave Krivanek demonstrates the new TDC/FAM film application machine from Mestek. The machine applies a film to the end of ductwork before it is sent out to a jobsite.


Alan Manufacturingprovided information on its Air Duct Muffler/Silencer. The duct silencer helps to reduce noise traveling through ductwork. It is available in 5-, 6-, 8-, 10- and 12-inch diameters. The company says there are no airflow restrictions, it is maintenance free and is easy to install in new or existing ductwork.

The company also showed off its Zone Control Dampers with a wireless thermostat. The dampers come complete with a transformer of 120 to 24 volts. It is available in a 6-inch Zone Control Round damper with a power-open/spring-close motor or a 6-inch Zone Control Round Retrofit damper with a power-open/spring-close motor. The Wireless Zone Control Dampers include the wireless thermostat, available as programmable or non-programmable units.

Ecco Manufacturing showed off its fabrication capabilities. The company offers a variety of ductwork, including round spiral duct, flat oval duct and rectangular duct. All the ducts are available in a variety of sizes, gauges and lengths. Custom fittings, connectors and other accessories are available for each duct. Ecco Manufacturing is also offering spiral elbows. The elbows feature airtight four-ply lock seam construction. The company says the elbows offer labor savings and do not require sealants when attached to spiral duct.

The Big Willy Hollow Shank was one of the new products fromMetu-Streimer. The hollow shank power nut driver has a 9/16-inch socket to drive 3/8-inch nuts, bolts and the company’s Redi Rod. It has a collet drive shank, which allows it to be used with collet drive chuck. The company says it is the only 9/16-inch power socket for cordless drills, and is the only power driven socket with a hollow shank.  

Clean air

DuraVent said its new CleanAir Cap for B-Vent reduces poisonous greenhouse gases. The cap reduces the output of carbon monoxide by 50 percent from gas-burning appliances. It can also contribute to LEED points. The company also displayed its new FasNSeal single and double wall wye, and its motorized flu dampers.

The FasNSeal wye can be used in place of any M&G DuraVent tees. The difference is that the branch is at a 45-degree angle instead of 90 degrees. The wye can be used as a manifold connection to gang multiple boilers into a common vent.

The motorized flue dampers have a regulator element that improves combustion quality. The company says that it also conserves energy, reduces losses when a combustion heating appliance is switched off, and it protects the environment by decreased emissions. It can be operated with a simple electrical connection.

K-Flex USAtouted the advantages of its K-Flex Duct Liner Gray. The company claims its duct liner reduces noise, conserves energy and controls indoor air quality. The liner has a closed-cell structure, is fiber free and nonporous. K-Flex claims that the thermal performance of its duct liner stops heat loss in duct work. It also says that the liner provides mold resistance and has low VOC levels.

Hamlin Sheet Metal Co. offering sheet metal fabrication services and products. The company said it is manufacturing spiral round and flat oval pipe and fittings; welded round and flat oval pipe and fittings; and rectangular and welded-rectangular duct and fittings. Rectangular duct is shipped assembled from Hamlin’s factory. Also, pipe is cut to length at the factory. Building information modeling-compatible computer-aided drafting drawings are available for approval or coordination.

Software makerTechnical Sales International Inc. and itsBuilding Data LLCsubsidiary announced they have joined with Uponor North America and Nibco Inc. to give mechanical, electrical and plumbing contractors manufacturing content for building information modeling projects ready for fabrication. The companies are collaborating with TSI and Building Data on a content library that will make manufacturers’ products more accessible to MEP contractors with support data for TSI’s MAP software.

Steve Gibson of Sheet Metal Connectors shows off one of the company’s connectors with the Complete Seal.


Pennsylvania-basedDuctmate Industries’ new PolyArmor duct liner is manufactured from a durable polyester material which is fiberglass free and won’t irritate the skin, officials said. It has R-5 insulation value at a thickness of 1 inch. Easily applied with standard water-based adhesives and weld or mechanical pins, PolyArmor reduces shop labor and material costs, the company added.

Sheet Metal Connectors Inc.said that its new Complete Seal self-sealing spiral duct system eliminates the need for caulked joints. The company said the pressure-fit connections with double-legged EPDM rubber gaskets helps to ensure an airtight fit when slipped into spiral pipe. It is available in diameters from 6 inches to 24 inches.

Advance Cutting Systems displayed its Jet Liner II during the AHR Expo. The machine can be used in conjunction with CAD software and estimating software from Technical Sales International.

Advance Cutting Systems gave attendees a look at its DuctCutter-II plasma cutting machine, its JetLiner high-pressure water-jet insulation cutting system, and its i-Fold Full Wrap Coil Line. The company’s CAMduct Manufacturing Software can be used in conjunction with the duct fabrication machines. Officials with Advance Cutting Systems said the three machines are 100 percent compatible with CADmep Plus and ESTmep Plus software from Technical Sales International.

American HVAC Manufacturing Inc., which produces dies for the HVAC industry, showed off what it can offer to contractors. The company showed its die-stamped short radius elbows, flanged elbows, and its RiteFlange for connecting round or oval duct. The RiteFlange is assembled on each end of a pipe or fitting with just a few sheet metal screws. A 5/16-inch thick by 3/4-inch wide closed-cell neoprene gasket with one side adhesive is installed on the outer flange. The company also showed its end caps, start collars and bell mouths.

The D-Max 2.0 from ISM Machinery is the company’s latest automatic spiral tube former. According to company officials, it can produce spiral duct up to 14 gauge with a maximum strip speed of 276 feet per minute.

The D-Max 2.0E is the newest machine fromISM Machinery. The automatic spiral tube former produces spiral pipe up to 14 gauge with a maximum strip speed of 276 feet per minute. It has a frequency drive electric motor, which the company says provides quiet production of spiral duct. The machine also has an On-The-Fly Slitting Device, which can eliminate burrs, sparks and excessive noise. The company’s Spiral Smart Technology uses a length-cutting system with self-diagnostics and operator setup requirements. 

Bev Hughes of CertainTeed Corp. explains the sound reduction qualities of the company’s duct liner.

CertainTeed Corp. unveiled its WideWrap, a new fiberglass duct wrap product with a 5-foot width. The company said that for years, sheet metal contractors have been forced to fabricate an extra 1-foot-wide strip of duct wrap to complete the job when insulating the exterior of a 5-foot duct section, since the standard width of duct wrap rolls is 4 feet. WideWrap duct wrap, however, is designed to work with 5-foot duct sections, eliminating the need for additional fabrications.

Rich McLean of Empire Machinery & Tools uses the company’s EMT-7R power swaging machine.


Z-Flexprovided a look at its NovaVent line and its Z-Vent commercial systems. The NovaVent line is a single-wall venting system for use with natural gas or propane gas burning equipment. NovaVent is factory built and designed and engineered for special gas vent systems. NovaVent is made of stainless steel and comes with self-sealing Double Fail Safe gaskets.

The Z-Vent commercial system from Z-Flex is a self-sealing gas vent system with gasket connections and fused welded pipe seams. No sealant is required and single- and double-wall vents are manufactured with diameters of 3 inches to 24 inches.

One of the newest products fromEmpire Machinery & Toolsis the EM-Pro Edge Notcher. The notcher is designed to notch the edges of either flat or round sheet metal fittings. Empire also demonstrated its new EMT-7R power swaging machine. The machine has three top shaft control options, including air cylinder, air over oil hydraulic cylinder and digital programmable top shaft control. The front face plate measures 20 inches by 20 inches and can form large diameters with bearing supports for added stability. A pipe support stand spring can be loaded to apply contact pressure for loading and removal of pipe.

For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail 

Allison Fee, SMACNA’s manager of technical services, talked about what is included in the Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors’ National Association duct standard during “SMACNA’s HVAC Duct Construction Standard” Jan. 23.

AHR Expo offers diverse educational lineup

The AHR Expo is more than just products.

While most attendees line up waiting for the trade show doors to open to see the latest technologies, others are taking advantage of free educational sessions.

The Jan. 23-25 AHR Expo at Chicago’s McCormick Place offered several different educational courses, all free of charge. Most of the sessions were presented by trade associations, and the topics of the sessions were as diverse as the expo attendees.

Some sessions were strictly technical in nature, discussing very specific concepts such as air leakage, boiler operation and heat recovery systems.

For the Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors’ National Association, the AHR Expo was an opportunity to present “SMACNA’s HVAC Duct Construction Standard.” The Jan. 23 session was moderated by Allison Fee, SMACNA’s manager of technical services.

Fee explained that SMACNA’s HVAC duct construction standard was first published in 1985. The third edition was published in 2005, and the association is working on making changes and updates to the standard, which will be published in 2015. She also went into detail on what is contained in SMACNA’s standard.

Round, rectangular

The SMACNA HVAC duct construction standard covers the construction of round and rectangular duct work for metal and flexible duct. It also covers hanger design for those ducts. Fee said the standard covers “comprehensive duct layout” and what that entails, including designing for airflow and pressure class.

SMACNA’s standard also provides direction on the use of turning vanes, and where access doors and fire protection equipment should be located in the ducts.

Duct fabricators can also find information on the placement of seams and joints in the ductwork, as well as external and internal reinforcements. If the duct needs to be reinforced, SMACNA’s standard has information on the best way to do this. For example, if ductwork needs tie rods, the standard can explain what kind of tie rod should be used and where it should be placed.

Fee reminded those in the session that “the standard is available to attendees if they need to reference it in their office.” The standard can be purchased from SMACNA by visiting the association’s website,

AMCA talk

Design, although of a different kind, was also a topic covered by the Air Movement and Control Association Jan. 24. AMCA recruited four speakers for “How to Design High-Performance Air Systems for the Life of the Building.”

Each of the speakers during this two-hour session discussed a different part of the air-system efficiency puzzle. Michael Brendel of Lau Fan talked about AMCA’s fan standard and the role fans play in system design. Steve Wiggins of Newcomb & Boyd Engineering talked about the commissioning side of the design process. He explained to attendees the problems commissioning experts find in the field when it comes to the system’s construction and design. Gene Smithart with Trane and John Reints, an independent consultant, spoke about how the air systems can be more sustainable when high-velocity static-regain duct systems are used.

Brendel opened the AMCA session by explaining why air systems needed to be more efficient. He pointed out that in 2010, the United State’s energy consumption totaled 98 quads, or what he said equaled “29 ‘million-million’ kilowatts per hour.”

In air-distribution systems, he said the fans and pumps are responsible for 435 billion kwh on a yearly basis. With these figures in mind, making the air-distribution system work better can save on energy usage and costs.

Waste not

A session that was more unusual looked at energy usage, or more specifically, how to show people how much energy a building is not using.

Ken Sinclair of led “The Visible Campus - Bringing Sustainable and Energy-Wise Designs to Focus.”

According to Sinclair, the Jan. 24 session was all about “making the invisible visible.” He explained how building designers and HVAC engineers can use creative ways to show occupants on educational campuses how a building is green and saving on energy. Occupants don’t want to just know they are in a green building, he said they want to know why and how.

The University of Toronto was one of Sinclair’s main examples. The university’s website has an interactive campus map that not only shows students where to find student services and parking spaces, but where all the green initiatives are happening. By going to the campus map and clicking on “Green U of T,” students can see which buildings are using solar energy and where recycling services are located.

Sinclair also said that some Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified buildings are installing interactive touch screens in lobbies. Visitors to the buildings can use these screens to navigate through all of the building’s green initiatives. They can find out what kind of HVAC system is in the building, what the temperature is, and how much electricity is being used. Animated graphics can also be added to these touch-screen modules to help the occupants better understand what is happening in the building, especially when it comes to more unconventional types of systems such as geothermal heating.

In the era of smartphones and tablet computers, Sinclair said that this is a great way to keep building owners and occupants informed. It’s not enough to just take a contractors word that a building is “green.” People want instant information.

“We (the HVAC engineers) use to be in the boiler room,” Sinclair said.

But now, the “green movement” has brought the work of contractors out of the basement and to the laptops of building occupants everywhere, he added.