My most wonderful day at ASHRAE

The AHR show, held every spring, is the big show for our industry. It covers the gambit. The HVAC, hydronics, refrigeration, and air handling industries are fully represented. And, you’ll find the latest and greatest in tools, equipment, software — you name it. The location moves around yearly, also. This year, Orlando hosted the event and did a fine job. People moving went smoothly, transportation flowed nicely and many hotels and dining options were a short walk from the Expo center. There are many seminars to choose from in all the disciplines. The RPA traditionally ties their yearly meeting and numerous training sessions to the event, too.

On the show floor you will see most of the latest product offerings. Innovation is not limited to North American manufacturers. Products from other countries give us a glimpse into how their systems are designed and installed. Manufacturers from abroad are always on the lookout for ways to have their products introduced to the U.S. and Canadian markets. The show oozes with new business opportunities.  

AHR provides an opportunity to have face-to-face contact with the factory engineers and tech support people that you may have communicated with via email or phone conversations. Nothing beats a smile and a handshake for building relationships. I enjoy meeting and hob-knobbing with all the folks I have communicated with over the years. Some of us are a bit older, and perhaps wiser. All of us benefit from the young people in our trades. The show had a very upbeat feel this year. Every booth I visited had happy, polite and enthused staff.  

The Milwaukee Tool booth was teaming with young staff running around gushing about their new tool offerings. That kind of energy is contagious. I noticed a lot of products geared toward hydronic and solar thermal energy metering with a new standard ANSI being developed. The 4D strut system from Cooper Industries was another favorite.  

The show is a great opportunity to network. There are hospitality events in progress every night. Unfortunately with only three days, it is impossible to host or attend functions from every manufacturer. In the hydronics industry, Taco has the “E Ticket” event and many “wetheads” look forward to their party to meet and greet. Thanks to Taco and all the party throwers.

You can find training seminars geared towards whatever interests you. I tend to focus on the hydronic tracks. The RPA and magazine-sponsored programs kept the bar high with their offerings. As always, you are welcomed to request a topic or offer to present training. Be sure to start early, like right  now, if you would like to be part of next year’s training sessions. The show will move to Las Vegas for 2017. In the past, the warm southern locations delivered smaller attendee draws. However, I felt the Orlando location proved that if you build it, they will come. The aisles filled quickly on opening day and remained consistently busy up until the final hours.

The show is reporting attendance numbers around 60,000. I think everyone was pleased. As an exhibitor in the hydronics segment, we were pleased with the traffic and diversity of attendees. Plenty of business opportunities beyond our borders.

The show food was a bit limited. In years past, some show locations provided mom and pop food trucks in the parking areas around the centers. This provided more local food choices,  and encouraged you to get outside for some fresh air and possibly sunshine. Perhaps we will see that again in Las Vegas.  

I also wonder about hosting the show in January. Again this year, folks were snowed out, or unable to return, and some just canceled altogether, including exhibitors. Would the attendance number be 65,000 or 70,000 if travel hassles were eliminated or minimized by a March date, for example? I can recall at least four years of shows that were affected by snow and travel restrictions related to snow conditions.

It was a great show all around, and particularly meaningful for me. I was delighted to see my son, Max, receive a “Rising Radiant Professionals” honor, along with Aaron Stotko, Daniel Vastyan, Grant Schutte and Tyler Arndt for their contributions to the industry. Nice job, boys! 

I was completely surprised and honored to have John Siegenthaler dedicate his latest book to me! Like many plumber/installers, I have a good handle on the parts and pieces side of our business. Most hands-on types have the Homo faber  gene (Latin for “Man the Maker”) is the concept of humans being able to control their fate and the environment through tools, and we like to build and create. What seems to be missing is the actual understanding of the physics and thermodynamics that are at work in the hydronic systems, or not!

Luckily for me, and for thousands of others in the trades, John Siegenthaler entered the scene and started on a multi-decade mission to shed some light on the “behind the scenes” of fluid and heat. With carefully and cleverly written articles and presentations, Siggy has transitioned much of our industry to a better understanding of the workings of engineered systems. Unique to Siggy’s style is the ability to put complicated, often math-intensive, concepts into everyday language. For this, many others and I owe him a debt of gratitude.  

A book-signing event had been planned at this year's AHR, and I was delighted to attend and support John’s latest tome. Part way into the introduction, I realized what was going down. This dedication is the finest honor I could receive in my 40-year career in the plumbing and heating industry.  

“This text is dedicated to Bob ‘Hot Rod’ Rohr, a longtime friend and professional associate. Bob and I are of the same vintage and have shared similar paths in the hydronic and renewable energy industry over the last three decades. We have frequently huddled, often by email, to discuss new ideas and potential solutions to design and installation issues. I have valued his insight, ingenuity and artistic craftsmanship over many years. My hope is that this text inspires others to become passionate about hydronics and renewable energy as ‘Hot Rod’  has been, and continues to be.”
Brings a tear to my eye to read it again. Thanks, Siggy. 

Bob “Hot Rod” Rohr has been a plumbing, radiant heat and solar contractor and installer for 30 years. Rohr is a longtime RPA member and Plumbing Engineer and PHC News columnist. Bob joined Caleffi North America as manager of training and education. He can be reached at

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