The attendance at this year’s AHR Expo was truly staggering. Usually, Chicago draws the biggest crowds, which makes sense, based on its central location and considering the number of HVAC professionals who work in and around that area.

However, this year’s expo in Las Vegas absolutely crushed it and officially broke three of the show’s all-time records. With 68,615 attending the 2017 show, the AHR Expo superseded its former all-time attendance record of 61,674 (set at the 2015 Show in Chicago) by 11.2 percent. This number was also 28.7 percent greater than the overall attendance (totaling 53,324) at the last AHR Expo held in Las Vegas in 2011.

Additionally, the 2017 show’s overall exhibition size totaled 500,159 net square feet, breaking the AHR Expo all-time record set in 2015 in Chicago at 486,600 net square feet.

At 48,568, the total number of 2017 AHR Expo visitors also surpassed the show’s all-time visitor attendance of 42,887, set in 2014 in New York, by 13.2 percent. This number additionally surpassed visitor attendance (33,612) at the last AHR Expo held in Las Vegas in 2011 by 44.5 percent. The 2017 show’s nearly 11.5 acres of exhibition space was occupied by 1,968 exhibitors, 259 of which participated in the AHR Expo for the first time.

The AHR Expo is the biggest event of the year for the HVACR industry. It’s a time when a large group of the industry gets under one roof and learns about new products and trends. It does not matter where the industry is at — be it the Great Recession of a couple years ago or much more profitable times in the early 2000s — the movers and shakers of HVACR descend upon a convention center to assess where the industry is at and where it is going.

This is also a great place for an editor of an HVAC trade magazine to get the pulse of the industry. Here are some observations on what people were talking about at the expo this year.

• The majority of people I talked with were bullish on 2017. The record number of attendees is probably a good indication that 2017 should be a good year for the industry. It was good to hear so much positive talk in and around the industry.

• Ductless seems to be on everyone’s mind. In the U.S., the technology has seen double-digit sales increases every year for the last five years. While in the past it was sometimes only considered in certain applications, ductless manufacturers (of which there are many) are making efforts to make contractors aware that their products are options in most every climate and application. Obviously the ducted technology has a lion’s share of the market, but ductless has continued its momentum.

• These major shows tend to be filled with Republican-leaning individuals. And that makes sense, as, historically, that party has been seen to be the most sympathetic to the business world — both to small business owners and major manufacturers. However, the uneasiness about an incoming Republican administration permeated the aisles.

I suppose that’s practical since President Donald Trump was a different type of candidate and is already proving to be a different kind of president — only time will tell if that is good or bad.

• Consistently, I heard attendees hope the new administration would provide the HVACR industry relief from regulations. This industry has been beat up a bit by governmental regulations in the last eight years and there was genuine excitement that relief seems to be on the way.

• The smart home is here to stay. In 2016, 80 million smart home devices were shipped worldwide. This was a 64 percent increase from 2015. The connected home and Internet of Things (IoT) was showcased at many booths. And, to no surprise, smart thermostats are sitting smack dab in the middle of this trend. The competition in this space is fierce. This is a great way for contractors to connect with homeowners by saying the products they sell can connect to the Amazon Echos or Apple Homekits that are already in their homes.

If you’re interested in learning more about what occurred in Las Vegas, please take the time to read through this week’s issue, which highlights many of the new products and trends showcased on the show floor.

Publication date: 2/27/2017

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