Organizers are trading the January snow and wind of Chicago for the sunny, temperate climate of central Florida for this year’s AHR Expo.
What’s billed as the world’s largest HVAC construction trade show will take place Jan. 25-27 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.
This the first time the show has taken place in Orlando since 2010. An estimated 44,000 attended that event, and organizers are hoping for similar or larger crowds this year. The expo, which is held in conjunction with the annual winter meeting of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, attracts a mix of HVAC market company representatives, sheet metal works contractors and engineers from around the world and especially the region where the show takes place.

Thousands of new products and plenty of education programs make it a must-see event when it’s in Florida, said Winfield Clamens of Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Solutions in Boca Raton, Florida.

“I’ve been attending AHR Expo for about 20 years and try to make it every year,” he said. “It’s where I went to see the new products before I started my business, and now it’s an important venue for attending seminars and for learning and training on new technologies and products, and seeing the manufacturers that provide them.”

With so many products for the HVAC market on display, attending requires some preparation, Clamens added.

“I like to plan ahead on what I’m going to see and do — time is valuable when you own a company and it’s important to get everything out of it that I can,” he said. “AHR Expo is really great — especially compared to other shows — about providing access to seminar and exhibition information, before the event on their website, and during the show with the mobile app and signage.”


For Kevin Waskielewski, owner of Apollo Unlimited in Easton, Pennsylvania, it’s the networking opportunities that attract him to the show.
“It’s great to be able to get together with people I know in the industry from around the country every year,” Waskielewski said. “No matter how technologically advanced we get, direct contact with people remains an important part of this business. Events are an important part of the networking and relationship-building process — they make contractors feel important and acknowledged for the work they do from a distance most of the year.”

He also likes the chance to tell manufacturers of HVAC construction products how their items perform.

“It is crucial for manufacturers to understand how their products really work in the field, and AHR Expo is undoubtedly the place where contractors have the opportunity to give that kind of feedback,” Wakielewski said.

For its winter member conference, which starts Jan. 23 and runs through the end of the expo, ASHRAE is highlighting its educational sessions on design-build issues and Legionnaires’ disease out of the 100 sessions the society has scheduled. And they hope it all ties in to the HVAC market products on the trade show floor.

“Since ASHRAE is the leader in HVAC and R standards and guidelines, these sessions are a hot topic for attendees,” said conference chairwoman Jennifer Leach. “This year, we will focus on some international standards like EU (European Union) ‘Qualicheck’ and the International Institute of Refrigeration as well as ASHRAE standards related to environmental quality, energy and legionella. Attendees can use the information shared through the technical program while walking the expo floor to see how it directly impacts the development of technology.”

Germ-fighting standards

With a Legionnaires’ outbreak in New York City last summer making 127 people ill and killing 12, interest in the most recent version of ASHRAE’s standards for dealing with the disease are high. Society officials will explain the latest information on how to reduce the risk of an outbreak in a Jan. 25 course, “Successfully Managing the Risk of Legionellosis.”

“We’ve already seen the real-life application of this standard when sections of it where adopted by the New York City Council following a deadly outbreak there,” said Bill Pearson, a course instructor who serves on the committee that wrote the new standard. “This course is designed to help prevent future outbreaks by showing the industry how to navigate the standard.”

Tom Watson, chairman of the Legionnaires’ disease committee, said public officials and the HVAC construction industry are requesting this information.
“The industry interest and input into developing this standard has been tremendous,” Watson said. “With 8,000 to 10,000 cases of Legionnaires ’ disease reported each year in the United States, and with more than 10 percent of those cases fatal, it is vital that we set requirements to manage risk of this bacteria.”

ASHRAE is sponsoring four technical sessions at the expo that are free to attendees:
 “Don’t Call it a Comeback! The New and Improved Design-Build Survival Guide,” 11 a.m. Jan. 26. ASHRAE published its design-build “survival guide” in 2004. This session will cover the growth that has occurred in the sector in the past decade.

 “Avoiding Pesky Pitfalls Integrating Seismic and Sound Control,” 1 p.m. Jan. 26. This session covers integrated seismic compliance and sound control in the design-build process — an often-overlooked subject, according to ASHRAE.

 “Design-Build for DDC: Yes, it Works! No, it Doesn’t! A Healthy Debate by Two Experts,” 2:30 p.m. Jan. 26. With direct digital controls, design-build may not be the best way to handle a project, according to a speaker scheduled to appear at this session.

 “How Does the Criterion Engineer’s Role Affect the Design-Build Contractor’s and Design Build Engineer’s Roles During All Phases of a Design Build Project?,” 3:45 p.m. Jan. 26. The varying role of engineers in design-build projects will be covered in this session, which will stress the importance of communication.

“ASHRAE is always looking for opportunities to improve the technical program, and at the same time, to include the theme of the society president,” Leach said.

“ASHRAE President David Underwood spent much of his career as a design-build contractor and suggested the design-build track. Offering these programs at the expo is a win-win given its close proximity to ASHRAE conference at the hotel next door. ASHRAE gets an opportunity to reach out to its contractor members and engineers now have another reason to attend the expo.”

Education opportunities

And it’s the society’s commitment to offering such educational opportunities that makes attendance a must for mechanical HVAC construction engineers such as Jeff Bernagozzi, director of engineering at GMK Engineering in Columbia, South Carolina.

Even with a busy workload, Bernagozzi said he makes time to attend.

“I think we can all understand that losing three consecutive days of billable hours and general work progress in the office can be tough,” Bernagozzi said. “We’re a smaller firm, but AHR Expo is still something we’ve managed to actively attend over the years. I’ve got a pretty specific agenda for the show in Orlando, including seeing what’s out there for health care applications with water-cooled chillers. It’ll be interesting to kick the tires and see what’s new.”

The same goes for Warren “Trey” Austin III, the owner of Littleton, Colorado-based Geo-Energy Services LLC.

“I’ve attended every show since 2010 and, despite ebbs and flows in my business, have made a point of attending because of the benefit in seeing people and their products in person,” he said. “I’ve written new business from attending AHR Expo in the past, and it’s one of the most important events I participate in all year.
“It’s great to also be able to wrap Southeast region client meetings into next year’s event, as it’s a cross-country trip for me but my business is international in scope,” Austin added. “Making the most out of travel is important when you own a growing company.”

Visiting the expo has always paid business dividends, he said.

“A majority of my business comes from networking connections, so I know that the exchanges I have at AHR Expo are going to directly affect the company’s bottom line,” he said. “Nothing has helped my business grow like referrals have, and the majority of leads have come from attending this show. I also take the opportunity every year to look for new products in areas I don’t know as much about and there’s just no other opportunity for me to do this at a similar scope and size.”