When someone is bubbling over with enthusiasm and says, "You have to go see XYZ company's booth!" at the International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo), it's usually because there is some unique giveaway or a free shoeshine.

A few years ago, neon-colored yardsticks were all the rage. This year in Orlando, Fla., there was the usual assortment of improved, enhanced products that weren't really new, along with a couple of in-your-face peddlers who insisted that your life would become wonderful if only you would listen a few minutes longer.

However, this time around, anyone who attended the expo might have noticed more new product offerings than perhaps in the last couple of years. Please help yourself to a virtual walk down the aisles, as the editors of The News found more than a few new products, as evidenced by the pages of this post-show issue.

The Art Of Innovation

So, what was perhaps the most compelling new product offering? LG Electronics had a steady flow of contractors, distributors, and top executives from major manufacturing companies coming by to take a peek at Cool Art, an innovative use of ductless air conditioning.

The unit looks like a painting in your home, hung from the wall and protruding only a few inches. An attractive piece of art adorns the front panel, an unobtrusive LCD readout is meshed in the artwork to provide a thermostat reading that can easily be seen from a distance of a few feet, but fades pleasantly into the painting as you step further away. (For a photo of the product, see page 8.)

At first glance, it reminds one of a concentric diffuser - pulling return air around the sides of the front panel painting and distributing supply air from side louvers. Interestingly, the painting didn't vibrate, and the air movement was barely audible.

A good thing, I would guess; after all, paintings should be seen and not heard, right?

According to the vice president of operations of the HVAC division of LG Electronics, Samer (Sam) Estanbouli, the products are now available in North America after a successful introduction in Korea. Estanbouli suggests that we'll be seeing more innovative HVAC products from this company. His vision of this industry is one that sees technology becoming more practically applied in ways that end users can really understand.

LG is a well-known and respected brand in plastics, electronics, and communications. As you look around, you'll be surprised at how many places you'll spot the tiny LG brand that is stamped on products you commonly use.

The company has displayed HVAC products in the United States for a few years, but this year, it may have put its stamp firmly in the minds of many who walked the aisles of the expo in Orlando.

LG is not only going to be a player in the North American HVAC industry, it appears to have the ability to become an influential mover and shaker.

The decades have proven that true advancements in HVAC technology are few and far between. More efficient cooling towers or new refrigerants, though good products, aren't necessarily the result of any truly new technologies.

Imaginative ideas are the fertile waters from which new technologies are spawned. Welcome, LG Electronics - come on in, the water is just right.

Mike Murphy is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-244-2905 (fax), or mikemurphy@achrnews.com.

Publication date: 02/28/2005