The annual AHR Expo is really the Super Bowl for the HVACR industry. It’s great to get everyone under one roof to learn what is new and interesting in the industry. I’m always impressed with the number of manufacturers, distributors, and contractors that come out. The show in Chicago this year was no exception as more than 61,000 industry folks convened in the Windy City.

More than anything, the Expo is a great learning opportunity — be it at the show’s sessions or in the manufacturer’s booths. Here are a few observations I picked up while traveling to Chicago, walking the aisles, and talking with industry folks at the McCormick Place:

• The phrase Internet of Things is more than just a few buzzwords. Within the next 10 years, there will be three times as many Internet-connected devices on Earth as there are people. I know… kind of creepy.

Daikin Applied reps showed me their Intelligent Equipment platform for commercial products that incorporates the Internet of Things technology, and it was impressive. It makes it possible for HVAC systems to talk to operators and proactively take action in order to improve efficiencies and increase cost savings.

It’s amazing how far the industry has come from a technological perspective in just the last few years.

• While consumers can’t get enough of the Wi-Fi thermostat market, they do have concerns. I was told that 40 percent of the thermostats purchased in 2014 offered wireless capabilities. That makes sense, since everyone likes controlling everything from their phones. Why should HVAC be any different?

However, I heard from more than a few contractors that privacy and data are primary concerns for consumers. While gathering data is important to make sure the systems run as efficiently as possible, consumers want to make sure they own the data and that their personal information is only given to the people who have to have it. It is up to manufacturers to make that happen, and it is up to the contractors to make sure consumers understand this and feel safe.

• According to Mark Menzer, director of public affairs, Danfoss, the path to achieving the next level of efficiency will come from a whole-building system approach because the industry is reaching a point of diminishing returns on the energy efficiency of discrete components.

• When Delta overbooks a flight, they do not take responsibility but rather call it a weight-critical situation. I felt all eyes were on me at the gate, although it did not prevent me from polishing off my Sausage McMuffin. A lesson for contractors: when it is your fault, take responsibility. Consumers will respect that.

• I had a good talk with the CMD Group folks — formerly Reed Construction Data — who shed some light on the economic indicators for the HVAC industry. They see big growth in high-rise residential structures as aging baby boomers are discovering the joys of living in the city and young adults are getting their first jobs downtown. CMD believes the HVAC industry should be optimistic about potential sales over the next two years. They see the largest region of opportunity being the Deep South. According to the company, the South is responsible for 37 percent of all available opportunities in the North American HVAC market.

• There are a lot of new products contractors should be aware of in this industry. Take the time to read through our Expo coverage to identify which products could help you make money in your business.

• Having an enjoyable dinner at Harry Caray’s Steakhouse makes this editor do his bad Harry Carey impression for the rest of the evening… to the delight of nobody. And, being that they just celebrated Saturday Night Live’s 40th anniversary, I should point out my impression is an impression of Will Ferrell doing an impression of Harry Caray. Either way, it is not good.

Publication date: 2/23/2015

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