One of the leading indicators an economy or market is turning south is an industry filled with once-prosperous but now-struggling trade shows and expos. Exhibitor floor space shrivels up, attendance numbers slump; shows even consolidate or disappear altogether. 

On the other hand, organizers of the 2017 International Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo), held Jan. 30-Feb. 1 in Las Vegas, said on the first day of the show that the AHR Expo would be the largest ever with nearly 2,000 plumbing and HVACR companies displaying their newest and most advanced products to an international crowd of nearly 70,000 attendees who browsed more than half a million square feet of exhibits filling two of the facility’s mammoth exposition halls.

“[It’s] very, very large,” chuckled Ed Langlo from E.C. Langlo Co. in Santa Barbara, Calif., who said interest in new technologies brought him to the 69th edition of the show. “I’ve been contracting since 1971, so I’m old-school, and I’m just trying to catch up on the newer technologies. Zoning systems, controls — those types of things.”

Adam Benge, district manager at Arcat in Chaska, Minn., works with manufacturers to help them get specified for jobs across the country and attended the AHR Expo to network with architects and engineers.

“I didn’t realize how big this show was,” he said. “It’s been a very busy first couple days, a very big show, and I’m very impressed with the amount of traffic. [It’s] very busy. I spent a lot of time just meeting the different manufactures, and I would say that it has a lot of new technology.”

On the international front, Tim Kennedy said he’s been making the trek to the AHR Expo for the past seven or eight years. “The exposure we get from an international trade show brings us two opportunities that we don’t see a lot,” said the purchasing manager for Source Atlantic, an electrical, plumbing and construction supplier based in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada. “So, we’re at a stage where we have strategic meetings with suppliers while we’re here, and with the two of us here, we can develop those relationships.”

Wilma Haanappel, director of product management for the Netherlands-based Ubbink Centrotherm Group from, said they attended the event to meet some of their local affiliates.

“The American market is a little different from the European market — use of material, different dimensions,” she said. “It’s always good to be here and learn all the local habits and practices. It helps you sell products.”

The Expo seems to get bigger every year, she added.

“I’ve come here for several years now, and you see [many] more companies joining the Expo, showing more products, having a bigger booth, [and] putting a little more attention on technical things than in the past, [such as] integration of smart products.”

In addition to trade show floor fun and frolic, the event boasted an impressive array of both free and paid educational sessions and seminars. An attendee could easily have spent his or her entire show sitting in classrooms attending courses without ever seeing a twinkle of the exhibit halls learning. These courses offered information and training on everything from radiant heating and cooling to high-performance building design, including high-performance HVAC systems in health care facilities.

Another highlight of the Expo was the presentation of its annual Innovation Awards to companies that have come to market with new products that push the envelope. Not all winners were from the plumbing category, but there were some familiar names among the honorees, including Noritz America, whose Combination Boiler won the prize in the Heating category, and Taco Comfort Solutions, which not only took gold in the Plumbing category but also won AHR Product of the Year for its SmartPlug Hot Water Recirculation Control.

Also on tap during the AHR Expo was the Radiant Professionals Alliance Annual Membership meeting, during which the Canadian Institute of Plumbing & Heating chair David Hughes presented a CHC Award of Merit to longtime radiant hydronics expert Robert Bean. At an RPA social event later that evening, the group gave its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award to Taco Chairman and CEO John Hazen White Jr.

Next year’s event returns Jan. 22-24, 2018, to the friendly confines of Chicago’s McCormick Place. Monitor for the latest information about the show.


Check out 2017 AHR Expo, Las Vegas photo gallary