A Perfect 10


This past spring, CSE convened a panel of judges to finalize entrants to our inaugural Products of the Year competition. These finalists, in the categories of Power Generation, HVAC, Plumbing, Fire Protection, Communications/Security, Electrical/Motors & Drives, Lighting and Controls, were then published in our annual Specifier's Guide for the readership to vote. Votes were tabulated, with gold, silver and bronze winners determined for each category. The overall vote-getter is also to be winner of our Product of the Year. Following are the winners with a brief summary of the gold medalists. Congratulations to all who entered.

CSE presents 2005's Perfect 10 Products of the Year.

Power Generation and Overall Product of the Year

Bi-Fuel Standby Generator by Generac Power Systems

Bi-fuel diesel engines—and their benefits—aren't new. But, bi-fuel capability in a standby generator is.

Because of its innovative and sustainable properties, the Bi-Fuel Standby Generator by Generac Power Systems takes the title for overall Product of the Year and wins the Gold in the Power Generation category.

The unit works like this: A six-cylinder diesel engine starts up on 100% diesel fuel, then transitions to increasing amounts of natural gas within the combustion airstream, achieving an optimal ratio of 10% diesel and 90% natural gas for normal operation.

The system controller monitors key engine and generator parameters, including intake air temperature, engine coolant temperature, intake manifold temperature and pressure, kilowatt load, engine speed and engine vibration at each cylinder. The generator's microprocessor instantaneously adjusts the diesel and natural gas ratio as well for optimum performance.

"The standby generator provides the advantage of natural gas at the lower cost of a diesel unit. That means reduced emissions and a much longer run time per tank of diesel fuel," said Mike Carr, manager of marketing communications for Generac. "Not only is natural gas very reliably delivered underground, but during a power outage consumption drops dramatically, assuring plenty of gas and gas pressure to fuel the genset."

CSE judges and readers alike were attracted to this bi-fuel genset's potential for extended operating time and its reliability. "Storing large amounts of diesel fuel on-site has always been a challenge from both a safety and environmental perspective, while burning diesel fuel can also hinder the ability to use the generator for extended non-emergency conditions like peak-shaving on/off loading," said judge Brian Rener, vice president of electrical engineering at Chicago-based A. Epstein and Sons International, Inc. "However, the reliability and ability to quickly start using stored diesel fuel has been necessary in many critical code applications. With this product, engineers now have the ability to specify a generator that brings the best of both worlds."

Generac's bi-fuel generators can also be configured as part of a modular system, allowing the creation of multiple-unit systems up to 6,000 kW, with the gensets backing each other up to provide added redundancy.

Other power generation category winners:

Silver: Toshiba's 1600EP Series UPS

Bronze: Liebert's STS2/PDU static transfer switch


Fan Coil UVC Kit by Steril-Aire

Fan coils have always presented an IAQ challenge, because their low-efficiency filters aren't proficient at catching infectious disease contaminants and mold.

Steril-Aire, however, solved the problem with ultra-violet "C" band technology. Its Fan Coil UVC Kit contains "emitters" that put out high UVC energy, thereby eliminating airborne microbial contaminants and creating clean, virtually contaminant-free fan coils.

Robert Benevides, P.E., a consulting engineer with Somerset, Mass.-based Benevides Assocs., like many other CSE readers, voted for the product for this reason.

"I think its sterile feature is innovative and environmentally sound," said Benevides. "I think about Legionnaires' Disease all the time, and this product could help prevent it in nursing homes and the like. It has the most appeal out of all the new HVAC products this year."

Steril-Aire Vice President of Sales and Marketing Roger Stamper says the UVC light also requires no maintenance. "One reason the Fan Coil Kit is so unique is that [fan coil is] a piece of equipment that is very difficult to clean," Stamper said. "What I mean by that is that you can't use a high-efficiency filter with it. Instead, the UVC light kills any 'dirt' that comes onto the coil, eliminating the need for maintenance, while removing mold and its byproducts, therefore improving the indoor IAQ and keeping the unit energy-efficient."

Ideal for hotel rooms, dormitories, offices, patient rooms and classrooms, the Fan Coil UVC Kit comes in six lengths and attachment accessories.

Other HVAC category winners:

Silver: McQuay's frictionless compressor chiller

Bronze: Mitsubishi Electric's "City Multi" R2 heating/cooling system


Waterless Urinal by Sierra

Waterless urinals are gaining popularity in light of today's emphasis on sustainable design. The Sierra Waterless Urinal is no exception.

Without the need for O-rings, housings for trap cartridges and no water for flushing, facility managers are able to keep their restrooms cleaner while saving an estimated 45,000 gallons of water per year.

"This product provides a complete and dramatic change in the way we operate our restrooms," said reader Stephen B. Billings, with the State of Maryland Dept. of General Services. "There are a few products that give you a return on your investment, not only for your agency but for the entire environment. This is one of them."

For its contribution to environmental sustainability, the Sierra Urinal is a clear choice for CSE's Plumbing Product of the Year.

"No other product has created such a difference," said Billings. "The Sierra Waterless Urinal gives you valuable results day in and day out. Should the urinal be used in all public and private facilities, it has the potential to reduce the water treatment for an entire town, city, county and state. That is a huge impact."

Other plumbing category winners:

Silver: Metraflex's CRV flex vane

Bronze: A.O. Smith for their Equinox rooftop tank water heater

Fire Protection

Exit Point by System Sensor

The Children's Museum of Denver's fun-filled mazes made it difficult for visitors young and old to exit in the event of a fire.

With transient occupancy as high as 90% of the allowable maximum, the facility needed to provide occupants with easy-to-understand exit cues. Enhancing egress was also a necessity for visually-impaired visitors.

The Museum chose Exit Point by System Sensor—winner of CSE's Fire Protection Product award—because of its use of directional sound, a technology that communicates exit locations using broadband noise with varying tones and intensities.

This is why contest judge Jim Bychowski, director of marketing for Deerfield, Ill.-based Schirmer Engineering, liked the device as well.

"Directional sound technology will provide a great means for directing building occupants to the exits, especially when they are unfamiliar with the building configuration, like in hotels or in large, congested industrial buildings when exiting is obstructed," said Bychowski.

The Exit Point audible exit sign can reduce evacuation times by as much as 75%, System Sensor officials claim.

"It's a dynamite product," said reader Edward Bondarewicz, owner of Bonre & Associates, Centennial, Colo. "People who have problems with vision can respond to the audio part of this signaling. Not only is the product outstanding, but it's inexpensive for these types of safety features. You get a lot of safety value for your dollar."

Other fire protection category winners:

Silver: LittelFuse's PowerSwitch fire-alarm/sprinkler disconnect switch

Bronze: Viking for its ESFR Cold Storage sprinkler system


VideoJet 1000 by Bosch Security Systems

Most IP-based CCTV cameras record all their video onto a single network. When this network quickly fills up, a company is left searching for other places to store its recorded video.

Enter the VideoJet 1000 by Bosch Security Systems.

As the only encoder that records video without using network space, the VJ1000 stores live feed right at the recorder, enabling cameras to "record on the edge."

But that isn't the only reason it took the Gold for Communications/Security Product of the Year. The VJ1000 can also stream video to more than one place at a time.

"With the VideoJet 1000, you can combine both recording at the edge with massive centralized storage; you can record on site and onto the network simultaneously," said Bob Banerjee, software product manager for Bosch Security Systems. "If the network dies the unit carries on buffering video locally, and when the network returns, it resumes sending live video as well as filling in the gap in the central storage system."

According to one reader, the VJ1000 can only improve the security on his projects.

"This product deserves a place at the top because there's nothing else like it out there," said one security expert. "When working for the City of Chicago's 911 and 311 facilities, we had cameras and swipe cards, but you had to wait a long time to print out the information you needed. With the VJ1000, the information is available almost instantaneously. This type of equipment would be good not only at emergency call centers but at many others as well."

Other communications category winners:

Silver: Wiremold's 4000 series prewired raceway

Bronze: Cablofil's SS 316L cable tray

Electrical & Motors and Drives

Snake Bus by Snake Tray

With today's churn rates on the rise, versatility in office spaces is a crucial element for any specifying engineer to consider.

Snake Bus by Snake Tray, CSE's Electrical Product of the Year, gives engineers the plasticity of a snake for designs with greater flexibility.

"The advantage of Snake Bus is its ability to be modified in the field such that it can be redirected around obstructions," said reader Mike DiMascio, associate with Westborough, Mass.-based Arup. "This saves considerably on installation time, coordination with other trades and involvement of the engineers and other design team members. This is a major issue as most products of this type do not have such flexibility. The cable trays are normally one of the trade items that must be considered fixed as designed."

Each Snake Bus track comes with snake whips or plug-in connectors that easily move to accommodate changes, a feed module that delivers power to the snap-together Snake Bus tracks to instantly configure the electrical plans and interlinks that allow for changes in direction and can easily "snake" around obstacles under raised floors. The recyclable product can be moved and reused over and over again.

"This is a paradigm change over the old methodologies of conventional pipe and wire system," said Roger Jette, president of Snake Tray, Bay Shore, N.Y. "The Snake Bus allows us to take a building, grid in its electrical feeds and take it, from those tracks, anywhere its needed, at any time and do it all within very reduced amounts of time. We call it a product, but it's really a value."

Other electrical category winners:

Silver: ABB'S ACH550 adjustable-frequency drive

Bronze: Danaher Power Systems' CurrentGuard Plus TVSS


RT5 Volumetric Recessed Lighting by Lithonia Lighting

The RT5 Volumetric Recessed Light delivers volumetric light from a lay-in fixture in a variety of office, school, hospital and retail applications.

Its linear-faceted reflector softens and distributes light into the space and minimizes the luminance ratio between the fixture and the ceiling, providing energy savings of up to 33% over standard 18-cell, three-lamp T8 parabolics.

This is one of the reasons contest judge Rener chose the RT5 Volumetric Lighting for CSE's Lighting Product of the Year.

"Low glare, improved uniformity, energy-code compliance and a pleasing appearance make this new fixture a contender to take over as the office standard from the old parabolic style troffers," said Rener.

The regressed, two-piece refractive system obscures and softens the lamp and smoothly washes the reflector with light.

Other lighting category winners:

Silver: Universal Lighting's Address Pro digital dimmable ballast

Bronze: Hunt Dimming's Simplicity lighting control system


iCOM Control System by Liebert

The iCOM Control System coordinates operation among multiple Liebert units, allowing them to function as a single, coordinated system.

Including an internal service log, tracking of component wellness with maintenance reminders and spare parts identification, this mission-critical cooling system is an industry first. "One of the key benefits of the Liebert iCOM system is increased communication and coordination among multiple precision cooling units operating in the same environment," said Theresa Krystofik, iCOM product manager for Liebert. "This allows those units to function as a system, improving overall efficiency."

Designed to enable more precise temperature and humidity control, it's obvious why CSE readers chose it for the Controls Product of the Year. "The free-field area in the unit memory is a major plus," said contest judge Jeff Newcomb, associate with KJWW Engineering Consultants. "It allows maintenance personnel to communicate issues and solutions in their own words."

Reader—and voter—Curt Beck, owner of Beck Engineering, Pampa, Texas, likes the iCOM for even more reasons.

"The iCOM can be easily serviced and has good control of multiple temperatures," said Beck. "I will definitely use it when I have a project that needs it."

Other controls category winners:

Silver: Automated Logic's CrtlSpecBuilder

Bronze: Tour Andover Controls' Continuum bCX1 Router

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