Conservation + Comfort: Consumers Turn to IAQ Experts to Solve Problems

September 29, 2008
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By now, just about everyone has heard the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) statistic that, on average, Americans spend 90 percent or more of their time indoors. The EPA also reports that indoor levels of pollutants may be two to five times higher, and occasionally more than 100 times higher, than outdoor levels, which could lead building occupants to suffer from respiratory ailments. Riding to the rescue are HVAC professionals who are specially trained in the latest IAQ technology and can readily suggest solutions that will solve their customers’ problems.

PROFESSIONAL PRESENTATION

Schwickert’s Inc., Mankato, Minn., employs approximately 250 employees and has a hand in all kinds of new and existing commercial and residential applications. The company also offers a range of HVAC equipment, from geothermal systems to radiant heating systems to IAQ products.

Joe Samuelson, manager of residential services, Schwickert’s, stated the company has been on the forefront of IAQ, offering products for more than 25 years. “When I first started, we basically offered electronic air cleaners and humidifiers. Then as the industry evolved, we started offering other products, such as filtration systems, heat recovery ventilators, PerfectAir Solutions from Bryant, and quite a few different things. We also recently started doing radon mitigation.”

Schwickert’s, Inc., has a hand in all kinds of new and existing commercial and residential applications and offers a range of HVAC equipment, from geothermal systems to radiant heating systems to IAQ products.

Radon mitigation is a big issue in southern Minnesota, as there are a large number of homes built there that have elevated levels of radon in the indoor air. Many homes also have basements that are used as living spaces, which increases the amount of time occupants may be exposed to the radioactive gas. The Minnesota Department of Health estimates that one-third of Minnesota homes have enough radon to pose a significant risk to the occupants’ health over many years of exposure.

Samuelson said the company utilizes IAQ monitoring to detect radon problems in homes. The monitor is placed in a home for a few days, where it can test for radon, as well as temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and airborne particulates. This information can help determine the source of any problems, while suggesting other ways to solve IAQ problems.

“The monitoring breaks down every single IAQ concern that may come up to the homeowner, so they can see what their home is doing. It lends a lot of credibility to what we do. Right now we usually place a monitor in a home to detect potential radon issues, but it also shows us other possible problems, so we can talk to home- owners about volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide, humidity, and particulates.”

Schwickert’s HVAC professionals take the time to go over all aspects of the report with homeowners, discussing the various IAQ products that are available that could help alleviate problems they may be having. They also discuss the maintenance required for IAQ products, and homeowners are given information sheets that further discuss the benefits of products such as humidifiers and air cleaners.

In Minnesota, mechanical ventilation is mandatory, so homeowners often have issues with humidity. Schwickert’s comfort consultants discuss how a heat recovery ventilator will provide fresh air, while controlling humidity problems and mold issues. Or a humidifier might be necessary when cold, dry air is being brought into the house in the winter.

Martin Edwards of Air Comfort uses software to help him determine the correct load calculations that will result in a properly sized system.

RIGHT TOOLS IMPROVE IAQ

Air Comfort Inc., Beaumont, Texas, is also a successful residential, commercial, and industrial HVAC company with a solid reputation for high quality and excellent service. “Our thought process is to work with our customers, not just sell them heating and air conditioning equipment,” stated Martin Edwards, residential and light commercial sales manager. “We want to sell them total indoor comfort.”

Air Comfort learned that achieving total indoor comfort for their customers begins with accurate load calculations to properly size equipment for better results, including proper temperature and humidity levels. Edwards uses Wrightsoft’s Right-Suite®, which allows him to quickly produce the correct load calculation for each application.

In the past, Edwards would manually create a load calculation and duct design for only select homes, not every project, because the process was so time consuming. “For an average 2,000-square-foot house, by the time you take all the measurements and write it all down, you’re looking at one hour for the measuring and three hours for the actual load calculation,” he said. Adding a duct design took about three more hours.

With the proper software program, Edwards can produce a Manual J load calculation for the same 2,000-square-foot house in about 30 minutes. A Manual D duct design takes about another 30 minutes. Right-Suite has reduced the company’s calculation and design time by 85 percent and also boosts their credibility with customers.

Publication date: 09/29/2008

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