This year I was fortunate enough to be invited to join Taco Comfort Solutions alongside a group of 20 contractors, engineers, and reps on a fantastic trip to ISH Frankfurt. To try and describe ISH to someone who hasn’t gone is difficult because we don’t experience anything like it in North America. With 153,734 visitors from 154 different countries, it is a mega industry event.
“ISH more than fulfilled the expectations of our customers and came at just the right time to meet the challenges of our time such as climate protection and security of supply,” said Wolfgang Marzin, chairman of the board of management of Messe Frankfurt. “The industry presented tangible solutions for the current political requirements, so that the installing trade, as the strongest visitor group, also benefited.” The event ran March 13-17 at the Frankfurt Fair & Exhibition Centre in Frankfurt, Germany.
The group spent two full days taking in all 12 halls at the show and wasted no time in discovering how different our industry is in Europe. When I asked the group what stood out to them, a number of common themes emerged. Chris Conley, principal engineer at Daniels Wingerak Engineering Ltd., was impressed with how products have a real focus on their finish and appearance in a way we don’t see in North America, “Clean lines, smooth corners, colour selection were all considered on most products.”
Blake Erb from HVAC Sales/Service noticed the quality build of products, “Cost is not the most important factor in the European market, but rather energy efficiency and lifecycle costs were given priority.”
It was interesting to see the prevalence of air-to-water heat pumps at the show. What used to be a huge hall filled with boilers has turned into an incredibly diverse display of air-to-water heat pumps. Hardeep Chahal from Next Supply remarked, “The number and diversity of heat pump manufacturers currently in the European market predicts what will be available in North America in the coming years. We need to be well prepared and adapt quickly to arising changes in the market.”
Jean-Francois Bergevin of Enviroair Industries commented on the common use of propane as the refrigerant, “Propane R290 seems very common in Europe and that is something we have never seen here in North America… The big hurdle will be convincing people that this flammable refrigerant is not dangerous.”
Sarmad Gorial, principal of MCW Consultants Ltd, was really impressed with the Nano Panel from Taconova, which utilizes the hydronic system to provide in-suite domestic hot water through a double wall heat exchanger, eliminating the need for a central domestic hot water plant, distribution pipes, and a recirculation system. “It is a simple concept but powerful and thoughtful. Imagine that you don’t have a centralized DHW system in the building and rely on the heating boilers and system to provide heating and DHW at the same time!”
Wood pellet heating
Additionally, Erb was impressed with the amount of ultra-high efficient packages including “boiler/heat pump packages, co-generation technology, dual fuel utilizing wood waste, and even simpler items like integrating balancing and three-way valves together for a simpler fan coil piping application.” Conley agreed noting the presence of “wood pellet heating, hydrogen (and hydrogen/natural gas mixes) combining with air-source heat pumps to provide a balanced method to control carbon emissions.”
Bergevin discovered in discussions with air-source heat pump manufacturers that they use water even in freezing temperatures, “Their design temperatures are not as cold, but still, I feel that in North America, glycol is put everywhere as soon as there is a freezing risk.”
Barry Cunningham of Bartle & Gibson commented as well on the lack of glycol in European systems, “Some concern should be given to making sure the equipment we use in North America has considered the use of glycol and in concentrations as high as 50 per cent and that they address that in their manuals.”
Plastic piping galore
On the plumbing side, the amount of plastic pipe stood out to Phillippe Poitras of Le Groupe Jenaco, “Lots of drainage piping in North America are glued for plastic or connected with clips for metal, but I have seen only plastic piping at the ISH, and it is a clipping system with a gasket.” Poitras also was surprised at the amount of wall mounted toilets with plastic in-wall reservoirs.
The rest of the trip included sightseeing and plenty of other excursions. Highlights included visiting Heidelberg Castle, driving mini hot rods through the streets of Munich, joining thousands of beer enthusiasts at a local strong beer Octoberfest-like festival, and an unforgettable experience at a football match between Augsburg and Schalke.
Since I joined this industry almost 20 years ago, I knew this industry had great people. It was amazing how fast this group gelled and this experience has created lifelong memories and friendships. I am sure I speak for the group when I say thank you to Taco for an unforgettable experience.
The next ISH trade show will be held from March 17-21, 2025, at the Messe Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany.