ABB on AHR Show: What happened and what it signifies

Over 35,000 HVAC professionals crowd in to see all that's new at the world's largest HVAC and refrigeration tradeshow event. ABB exhibits latest drive technology and BACnet serial communications...

CHICAGO, IL, Feb. 8, 2006 -- A record 37,000 visitors walked the more than 411,000 square feet of exhibits occupying the North and South Halls of McCormick Place in Chicago January 23 - 25, as part of the 76th Annual AHR Expo -- the world's largest HVAC&R trade show event. Those numbers, along with the 1,981 exhibitor companies on the floor, shattered all previous records for attendance at the show.

"The resurgence of interest in the particulars of this industry was apparent everywhere ? and it's exciting," said Jeff Miller, HVAC sales manager for ABB Inc., Low Voltage Drives. "A key indicator was the number of building owners and engineers on the floor -- taking an active role in what vendors like ABB can help them achieve."

Cost of Energy Creating Unprecedented Demand for Drives
With prices of all energies -- oil, gas and electricity -- rising, "the whole market, including HVAC, is predisposed to consider energy-saving products like drives," said Miller. "There are a lot of growth opportunities for companies that know how to put every kilowatt of energy to wise use in commercial buildings. And utilities are supporting exactly this kind of approach, because it is cheaper to reward building owners for better energy management than it is to create the infrastructure required to generate additional energy."

Energy-saving and Harmonic-prevention Products Showcased
In addition to showcasing ABB drives for HVAC, the ACH550 Series, at the show, new ultra-low harmonic drives from ABB's ACS800 product family, were on display. Offered in wall-mount units (7.5 to 125 horsepower range, and cabinet-built configurations (125 to 2,800 Hp), the ultra-low harmonic drives are compact in size and do not require any multi-pulse transformer, external filters or other additional equipment for harmonics reduction. Control products displayed at the Show included soft starters, combination starters, and disconnect switches.

"Booths were packed for much of the show," said Miller. "Channel partners and end users of ABB products reported that their dance cards are packed for the coming eight months, indicating that demand from both the greenfield and retrofit projects are keeping designers, consultants, mechanical and electrical engineers in high demand." Both the education (university) and healthcare (hospitals) markets continue to be "white hot" he said, as many aging structures are replaced, and as demand for healthcare from an aging population place demands on the market.

"Geographically, the northeast area of the U.S., in particular, is showing rapid growth and sustained demand," he said.

New Applications Also Driving Demand
Motor drives, which enable HVAC systems to operate motors based on actual building demand, "are now so accepted in this industry, that owners and engineers are looking for new, novel ways to apply them, in the interest of optimizing energy usage," Miller said. The industry also enjoys a high degree of engineering expertise, customer acceptance/use of drives; and drives are value priced, "so they make so much practical sense," he noted.

This couples with a revived interest from building owners and key engineers, "who now are investigating what additional energy-savings opportunities exist, what technologies are available to get them -- and then are asking their third-party vendors, such as system integrators, to put these devices and technologies to work in their facilities."

Examples of new applications Miller cited include putting drives to work in:
1. Constant-volume Systems ? using drives to compensate for dirty filters, and to fine-tune the system;
2. Constant-volume-to-a-Semi-variable System;
3. Condenser and Chilled Water Pumps -- for chillers;
4. Domestic Water Pumps -- for potable and how water inside buildings;
5. Green (LEED-certified) Buildings -- especially for meeting the energy-savings requirements that help these buildings increase in property value when they are developed on a speculation basis for owner occupancy.

BACnet Continues to Advance
The response and interest in ABB's demonstration of serial communications as part of BACnet International's exhibit was very strong, too. Presently, the ABB ACH550 is the only BACnet Testing Labs (BTL)-listed drive. The BACnet protocol is FLASH-loaded into ABB's drive, making it BACnet native, without the need for a gateway.

"It's a watershed -- and end users around the globe are going there fast," said Mike Olson, HVAC applications manager, LV Drives. ABB continues to offer the first VFD to offer BACnet without hardware additions." In addition to BACnet being non-proprietary, the protocol also meets ASHRAE standard, "which makes it appealing to both suppliers and users," Olson said.

ABB's 1,000 square-foot display was located on the south wall of the south, creating high traffic, as show visitors began their review from the aisle on that side of the hall.

ABB Inc., Automation Products, Low Voltage Drives (, is a leading supplier to the U.S. HVAC market, and has connected tens of thousands of drives to building automation systems via serial communications. In the United States, the New Berlin, WI, operation supplies a complete line of energy-efficient electric drives and motors to HVAC and commercial customers through an integrated channel of sales representatives. Products manufactured include AC and DC variable speed drives from fractional to 500 horsepower. HVAC single-motor drive applications include exhaust fans, fume hoods, re-circulation pumps, condenser fans; multiple-motor applications include multi-cell cooling towers, paralleled chilled water, and booster pump systems.

ABB ( is a leader in power and automation technologies that enable utility and industry customers to improve performance while lowering environmental impact. The ABB Group of companies operates in around 100 countries and employs about 102,000 people. The company's U.S. operations employ about 9,000 in manufacturing and other facilities in 40 states.


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