Events from the ISH North America show.

With more than 550 exhibitors - about 180 first-timers - ISH North America got underway in Chicago today. The show floor is broken up into heating, commercial/industrial PVF, and bath & kitchen/plumbing.

One of the highlights of the show is the PHCC Plumbing Apprenticeship Contest, where apprentices get to show off their skills. Contestants must complete a drain-waste and vent installation for a three-piece bathroom group (water closet, lavatory and shower-liner pan), and the hot- and cold-water distribution system for the installation. We'll let you know the winner in tomorrow's report.

The New Product Showcase had 124 new products for show attendees to examine. Companies competed in seven categories, including Best Over-All Product, which was awarded to the Schuco Solar USA for its solar domestic hot water system. The company also won the HVAC category. The best Plumbing & Piping product was a domestic solar water heater from Sun Hydronics, and the best Hydronic Product came from Pommerening Armaturenwerk GmbH & Co.

Mill Rose Co. took first place in the Tools & Equipment category, and Gerber Plumbing Fixtures won the Bath & Kitchen category. Estimation took first place in the Software & Business Efficiency Technology area.

Another highlight is the Radiant House from the Radiant Panel Association. Installation demonstrations of various radiant heating technologies will occur throughout the show. Thursday demos included PEX tubing into grooved subfloor, a parabolic reflector, a solar water heater, boilers, mixing valves, and a high-velocity cooling system.

Press Conference: 2007 ISH Frankfurt

ISH North America show organizers Messe Frankfurt held a press conference to talk about the upcoming ISH Frankfurt, which will open in Germany March 6-10 of next year. Iris Jeglitza-Moshage, Messe Frankfurt vice president of technical fairs, spoke about the show, which is held at the world's third-largest fairgrounds. ISH Frankfurt will encompass most of the grounds, with 2, 350 exhibitors from 57 counties and nearly 200,000 visitors from 114 countries (about 80,000 from the trades) at the 2005 show.

Thirteen exhibitors from the United States were on hand in 2005 (three Canadian companies), down from the 18 in 2003. Almost 2,000 visitors from North America were at the 2005 show; about 1,500 in 2003.

ISH Frankfurt has three areas of interest: energy and building technology; air-conditioning and ventilation under the Aircontec brand (expanded to include fire protection (Fireprotec) and industrial cooling (IKK)); and The Bathroom Experience, which is more consumer- and designer-oriented. New in 2007 will be renewable energies, which will show that renewables combined with modern technology can result in increased energy efficiency and lower energy costs. Messe Frankfurt has found that manufacturers of these technologies are “highly interested” in reaching plumbing installers and incorporating these technologies in today's world.

Jeglitza-Moshage explained that in Germany and most of Europe, there is very little new construction going on - Europe is already “built up.” The primary need is to modernize and retrofit housing and commercial buildings, and this is what ISH Frankfurt focuses on.

She also unveiled a new program for European manufacturers - Messe Frankfurt Against Copying - to inform them about their rights regarding counterfeit products. European countries do not have copyright laws, so product copying is a big problem.

Also speaking was Andreas Lücke, managing director of BDH, the Federal Industrial Association of Germany for House, Energy and Environmental Technology. He discussed some of the reasons behind the renewable energies section of ISH Frankfurt, and some of the technologies being used in Europe.

He said that for the last 50 years, Europe has had a very high cost of heating oil and gas, about four times as high as in the United States. And domestic heating accounts for most of the energy usage. So better, more efficient technologies had to be designed.

One product that we are starting to see in North America is condensing boilers. These boilers are dominating the market in some parts of Europe, Lücke said. When you add renewable energies, such as solar power, geothermal systems, and biofuels, the efficiencies go even higher.

We'll bring you more from the show tomorrow: highlights from the RPA convention, more from the Radiant House, and exhibitors.