'Connectivity' — not 'grease' — was the word at many booths during the 2016 AHR Expo. Photo: Terry McIver
I spent nearly two weeks in January at the combined International Builders Show/Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (now dubbed Design & Construction Week) in Las Vegas, and then at the AHR Expo in Orlando. There were plenty of connected, communicating and smart devices at both. One thing that struck me, though, was that Nest exhibited at the Consumer Electronics Show but not at D&CW or at AHR.
At D&CW, Lennox was showing homebuilders its iComfortS30 Smart Thermostat, calling it “the most intelligent smart thermostat on the market today.” The thermostat is geo-fenced, creating a schedule based on when the homeowner leaves and returns home. The thermostat incorporates a “Feels Like Temperature,” similar to the AccuWeather “RealFeel Temperature,” that takes into account temperature and humidity.
Also at the homebuilders show as well as at AHR, Rinnai announced wireless connectivity for all of its water heaters and boilers. “Home automation is a major theme for AHR this year,” said Susan Mittelbrun, vice president of marketing at Rinnai America. “Our WiFi module and app is the first of its kind to bring gas tankless water heaters into this exciting arena.”
In talking to Dick Foster, president of Zone First, at D&CW, he said he believes that WiFi will become the dominant means of controlling connected and smart devices because everybody has it and everybody understands it. But how many apps do you want on your phone?
It’s not often that you see a residential refrigerator at an AHR Expo, but Samsung is a global powerhouse with a broad range of products. It wants all of its products to talk to each other, whether it’s a VRF system or a dishwasher.
In his observations about smart products at D&CW, Zimmerman, Minnesota, contractor Eric Aune blogged, “Proprietary control logic, at least right now in 2016, is the name of the plumbing and heating industry game. … [I]t’s a product of an industry (IoT technology) that cannot decide on a single platform or operational protocol.” I’ve complained about this before and I’m sure I’ll complain about it in the future.
Before AHR, Rheem announced that its EcoNet control now works with Nest. “The Works With Nest program is one of the most comprehensive platforms in the connected home space, so we are pleased to add a smart water heating solution to their list of compatible products,” said Bill Alderson, director of marketing for Rheem Manufacturing.
Honeywell has been adding WiFi thermostats to its VisionPro and FocusPro lines, the latest one being the VisionPro 8000 that was launched last summer. Honeywell’s thermostats work with Apple’s HomeKit.
Trane has put together a really nice ensemble of home products revolving around its Nexia thermostat that runs on the Z-Wave platform (as does Honeywell’s). With these competing platforms, sooner or later somebody is going to get stuck with the Betamax of home controls.
I was fascinated by the Samsung display at AHR. It’s not often that you see a residential refrigerator at an AHR Expo, but Samsung is a global powerhouse with a broad range of products. It wants all of its products to talk to each other, whether it’s a VRF system or a dishwasher. And, of course, they can all be controlled through a Samsung smartphone.
Connectivity is a bit clearer on the commercial side, thanks to LonWorks and BACnet.
Daikin Applied Americas announced prior to and during AHR that it is acquiring a minority ownership stake in Riptide IO, a California-based software company that focuses on helping building owners connect, manage and automate building equipment by bringing the benefit of the Internet of Things to commercial buildings.
LG introduced its AC Smart BACnet Gateway that works with LG’s AC Smart IV controller. The LG Smart BACnet Gateway can be accessed from the web, a user-friendly 10.2-inch LCD touch screen or through the BAS.
There were also good products at AHR that don’t plug into anything. Metraflex reduced the angle of its Y-Strainer for hot and chilled water systems. The firm did away with the bridge wall in the casting and enlarged the screen. The result is a lower pressure drop, resulting in less pump horsepower and lower energy use. Nice job.