TRY IT OUT: Keefer Rader, owner of Outlaw Mechnical in Sandia Park, New Mexico, and Gabriel Curry, a service tech at the company, checked out Milwuakee Tools’ battery-powered pipe threader.

This year, my wife, Dorian, and I wanted to re-energize our AHR experience by taking one of our technicians to the show with us — Gabriel Curry. We’re sure glad that we did, and so is he. Naturally, the other guys were miffed that they didn’t get chosen. But hey, they’ll get their chance in years to come.

The show is pure inspiration for me, and I look forward to starting my year with it. I was a bit curious to see what Gabe’s reaction would be. Sure enough, it was magic — like a kid’s first experience with fireworks.

Gabe and I were able to compare notes and impressions on all of the new technology, tools, mechanical components, and equipment that we saw.

HANDS ON: “In some cases, we actually had the opportunity to gain some hands-on experience,” Keefer Rader said. His participation in hilmor’s Fastest Hands competition is just one example.

At the Taco booth, we were able to use Taco ECM circulators and zone valves. And walking through the Milwaukee Electric Tools booth was like walking through a Texas Roadhouse, only it wasn’t peanuts on the ground; it was wood chips left behind from the power tool extravaganza.

As Gabe, Dorian, and I made the rounds — with our eyes like saucers and our heads spinning in wonder — we made our way to manufacturer booths. Before the show, I’d already chosen several that were important to me, which is always a good idea because, otherwise, it’s easy just to bump along aimlessly.

Here’s a quick look at the products and technology that grabbed our attention. By choice, we invested substantial time at these booths. We were there to learn!

AnvilPress copper press fittings and coupling systems, which won the AHR Expo Innovation Award in the Plumbing category, have a patented “visual indicator” that performs very important functions. When the press fitting is perfectly squeezed into position, a bright green elastomeric membrane squeezes out, maybe 1/8 of an inch beyond each side of the fitting — the signal that a perfect, leak-free press fit was made.

Anvil’s system is built with a double-fold seal and a replaceable O-ring seal that supports tremendous pressure and also has great tensile strength. The visual indicator and “burr-stop” membrane solve the top two causes of leaks: improperly pressed fittings and burrs on the tube that damage the O-rings during installation.

Gabe and I were duly impressed with the company’s technology and the many folks we had a chance to speak with while in the booth.

Milwaukee Tools’ new battery-powered pipe threader is exactly the sort of thing I wake up at night to think about. Why didn’t I come up with this idea?

We don’t do a lot of black pipe work, but when we do, having a good threader on hand is a necessity. This one, from Milwaukee Tools, is a stroke of genius. It’s lightweight, and its performance is fantastic. The tool used big, rigid dies. It’s also easy to assemble and is available to use out of the truck quickly.

For us, Taco’s star of the show was the new 0018e high-efficiency, Bluetooth-enabled circulator. It brings a whole new level of control to residential and light commercial hydronic systems. The electronically commutated motor (ECM)-powered 0018e is a solution for contractors who want reliable, durable, and efficient circulators.

GET INSPIRED: Curry (left), Keefer Rader (center), and Dorian Rader (right) discovered Taco’s 0018e circulators at the company’s booth.

By using Bluetooth to connect to a mobile app, users have real-time control capabilities. Diagnostics and reporting, such as installation history, power consumption, performance, and runtime, are also available. Installers can select between constant-speed, proportional-pressure, constant-pressure, and self-adjusting proportional-pressure modes.

I made a decision on the show floor to install several 0018e circs for a job we’re doing later this year in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It’s for a showcase custom home with a large, new addition that will have six low- and high-temp hydronic zones. It also has about 1,000 square feet of driveway and walkway snowmelt. I didn’t even know the circ existed, so discovering it definitely makes the list of AHR accomplishments.

Also in the Taco booth, the team was eager to show us the Taco Tags featuring eLink cloud-based product support (another AHR Expo Innovation Award winner, for the Software category).

Taco Tags provide customers with important product information on mobile devices via near-field communication (NFC) technology. Just one tap on the Taco Tag links customers to eLink, Taco’s cloud-based service, which provides product-specific information, including product specs, model numbers, replacement parts, instruction sheets, and more.

Webstone’s Purge-Tee is a forged assembly that puts a ball valve between closely-spaced tees — spaced exactly as they should be to achieve hydraulic separation — to permit power-purging of individual hydronic system loops.

The Purge and Fill feature allows for simultaneous draining, flushing, and refilling of any hydronic, solar, or closed-loop fluid system. The T-pattern flow path prevents flow between both hose connections. As fluid is introduced into the system, the existing fluid or air is diverted out of the system through the remaining hose connection.

Needless to say, there was a lot of innovative stuff at the show, and we left fully inspired by the quality of the equipment and tools we had a chance to see.

Take my word for it, if you haven’t yet been to AHR Expo, then go! Take your significant other, and if you can, make arrangements to reward a good technician with the experience. It sure has been a rewarding experience for us.

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Keefer Rader, Owner of Outlaw Mechanical in Sandia Park, New Mexico. Contact him at or 505-926-3811.

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