Survey Says: Don’t Underestimate Customers’ Needs

When it comes to indoor air quality (IAQ), homeowners are becoming more knowledgeable, according to Research Products Corp. and its Aprilaire® product division.

Last fall, Aprilaire conducted a national survey of homeowners ranging in age from 18 to over 65; 636 men and 638 women were questioned about numerous hvac-related issues, including IAQ.

The study’s findings are valuable. According to the manufacturer, consumers and homeowners are quite concerned about indoor air comfort. More importantly, homeowners said they are willing to do something about it when approached by a contractor or technician.

The Results

The homeowners who participated in the Aprilaire survey were asked a number of questions, but IAQ and air purification emerged as two of the most revealing issues.

According to the survey, close to two-thirds of the consumers said that they were “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about indoor air pollution.

Deborah Fritsch, who is involved with advertising and marketing for Research Products Corp., Madison, WI, says that this is not a surprising find. She explains that over the years, government studies have proven the prevalence of poor IAQ and its dangers.

“The EPA has done a number of reports that cite that indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air, which would be contrary to what people think,” said Fritsch.

One reason why this is the case is because of the way homes have been built. Fritsch says that many houses have been built very tightly to be more energy efficient. The drawback is that the home cannot breathe properly, and it traps allergens, molds, dust, and much more.

So if homeowners find IAQ to be a concern, what specific indoor air problems are the most important to them?

The survey says:

  • 26% want to reduce pollen and allergens.
  • 17.2% would reduce the amount of dust and indoor air.
  • 13.4% would add humidity in the winter.
  • 9.5% want to remove odors and stale air.
  • 6.2% want to reduce indoor air pollution.
  • The rest of the homeowners did not know what specific problems they were most concerned about, or said none.

    If consumers are concerned about IAQ, what are they currently doing about it? The following are the various methods that consumers who participated in the survey said they used:

  • 48% use an exhaust fan.
  • 33% change or clean the furnace or a/c filter.
  • 30.8% use some type of air cleaner.
  • 16.9% use an energy recovery ventilator.
  • 10% open a door or window.

  • Figure 1. The results from a survey conducted by the Aprilaire Center for Indoor Air Comfort. (Courtesy of Aprilaire.)

    How Contractors Can Respond

    With IAQ being a concern to many homeowners, selling air purification seems as if it would be easy. But for some contractors this isn’t so.

    “I think that in general, what we hear from contactors is that they know it [IAQ] is a concern, but they don’t know how to make a recommendation,” said Fritsch.

    She adds that for customers, IAQ is important but they may not always perceive it. “IAQ is the type of thing that is an unseen comfort,” she said. “It impacts people, but they don’t always see it.”

    To alleviate this problem for both the contractor and the homeowner, Fritsch recommends that contractors build air purification products into their quotes. If a contractor does a project for a homeowner, Fritsch says air purification should be automatically included in the quote. That way, the contractor can explain to the customer why and how it will help them.

    If the customer does not want it, it can be taken out of the quote. This gives the contractor and the customer the opportunity to discuss the benefits of air purification and the number of options available.

    Tim Heiar of Harker Heating has been doing what Fritsch recommends. Heiar offers air purification in every one of his proposals and has been quite successful. He says that on the repair market and in new home construction, about 75% to 80% of his customers purchase a high-efficiency filter.

    Heiar’s business is based in Madison, WI, and he feels that consumers in the area are quite knowledgeable when it comes to indoor air. He also says that consumers are more comfortable with a contractor or technician who offers them options.

    “It blows my mind the way people don’t offer it,” Heiar said about air purification products.

    Ron Fisher of House of Heating in Marshfield, WI, has seen some of the same things Heiar has. He says that the Aprilaire filters are very recognizable among homeowners. He also says that many consumers are concerned and aware of IAQ, but they are limited in what they do about it.

    Fisher says that his consumers buy filters, but when it comes to purification products that go beyond filtering out particles, many homeowners are not too concerned.

    “Most people aren’t concerned about it because it’s not something they can see,” said Fisher about IAQ. “People are not aware of air purification, but they are aware of filters.”

    This does not stop Fisher from trying to sell air purification equipment or any kind of unit, for that matter. Fisher says that he wants to give consumers every option available.

    “Anything that is in our industry, we try to offer,” said Fisher.

    Publication date: 07/23/2001

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