Experiences Add Meaning to IAQ Work

April 23, 2007
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Contractor Bryce Johnson, owner of Air Conditioning by Jay, knows that increasing his company’s IAQ work is good business. Getting involved with the Arizona chapter of the American Lung Association (ALA) has been more of a personal cause.

“Asthma runs in my wife’s side of the family,” he explained. In general this has been childhood asthma, but adult asthma also has occurred in the family. “Our son had asthma when he was real young.” That’s the main reason Johnson became involved with ALA’s Asthma Walk this spring, and will continue his support of Camp Not-A-Wheeze in June.

Contractor Bryce Johnson has been involved with Camp Not-A-Wheeze, a program of the Arizona Chapter of the American Lung Association, where kids with asthma can experience a safe, traditional summer camp experience. Activities at Friendly Pines Camp in Prescott, Ariz., include horseback riding, hiking, canoeing, fishing, and more, while learning how to properly manage asthma. Johnson will continue his support this June.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT

On March 24, Johnson co-sponsored ALA’s annual Asthma Walk for the first time. “For people with asthma, dirty air is more than just unhealthy,” Johnson said. “It can potentially be life threatening. The American Lung Association runs numerous events across the country throughout the year, including asthma walks, to help provide education, advocacy, and research, improving the lives of the 600,000 people with asthma throughout Arizona and the rest of the country.”

The contractor’s sponsorship of Camp Not-a-Wheeze and the Asthma Walk have been given some publicity, but that’s not why Johnson got involved. “Customers look to us as the experts,” he said. “We’ve dealt with a lot of customers in the past 25 years. The combination of personal experiences with asthma at home and with customers who are looking towards us for advice got us interested in the ALA of Arizona events.”

The publicity is a happy side effect, but it wasn’t the contractor’s goal. “Trust me, I do a lot of analysis when it comes to marketing,” said Johnson. “The publicity truly isn’t the intent of getting involved. Typically, though, when you try to do the right things for the right reasons, it comes back around anyway.”

The contractor’s involvement in the Walk-a-Thon this year included the use of a laser particulate counter, the Met One Instruments’ Particle Concentration Meter, to demonstrate air quality. “It’s a sophisticated tool for verifying environments to clean room-type environments, such as surgical rooms or silicone wafer manufacturing environments,” he said. “The laser product measures particles of 0.3 microns and above.” All of the company’s consultants carry one. The contractor chose that range because of its relation to High-Efficiency Particle Arrestance (HEPA) filtration requirements.

The particle concentration meter used by employees of Air Conditioning by Jay is actually quite a sophisticated tool, capable of verifying environments to clean room levels, said company owner Bryce Johnson. The contractor uses the meter to show homeowners how well (or how poorly) their current filtration methods are working.

HEPA ABUSE

Johnson calls the use of the term “HEPA filtration” in product marketing, “one of the most abused references I’ve ever seen. I’m talking about room air treatment systems.” One of the reasons his company invested in its particle counters was to demonstrate, and test, the effectiveness of certain products. The results can be eye opening for customers and the contractor.

“These particulate counters aren’t in everybody’s toolbox and they are not typically used in residential applications. What we have found is that very few manufacturers’ claims come close to actual HEPA standards.”

The company used its particle counters on Ionic Breeze room air cleaners. “There was no measurable impact with that counter,” Johnson said. “Room air treatment systems in general are not living up to the claims being made about their performance. There are some quality room air filters, but their typical starting price is $800 per unit and they go up from there.

“When we do see products that perform around or at HEPA levels, we get very excited,” Johnson continued. “Historically, HEPA filters do not get used residentially because they take up a lot of space. Between the costs and the real estate requirements, we seldomly see true HEPA filters being used.”

His company has seen good results within the installed IAQ product market. “There have been a couple of filters over the last five years that were really encouraging,” Johnson said. One such is Trane’s CleanEffects™, which he said had “really impressive particulate counts.”

“The average home in Phoenix might have 600,000 to 800,000 particles per cubic foot of air,” he said. “With CleanEffects, after 24 hours we see particulate levels of 15,000 to 25,000 range.”

The contractor offers its IAQ products and services during typical a/c calls. “We’re typically there for maintenance of the existing system, or to give an estimate to replace the existing system,” Johnson said. “While we are there, we ask if there are any respiratory problems in the home.”

The Met One Instruments’ Particle Concentration Meter is being used here to demonstrate air quality. HVAC contractor Bryce Johnson said all of the company’s consultants carry one.

ASTHMA ON THE RISE

For both personal and professional reasons, Johnson has been learning a lot about the increasing incidences of asthma and upper respiratory diseases. “About 50 percent of the population in Arizona has some sort of respiratory issue. The trend is spooky.

“We in the HVAC industry have got something to offer to a lot of people.”

The trend of increasing asthma has been similar across the United States, according to the ALA. Causes behind the increase include more time spent indoors, tighter homes with insufficient air changes, increased allergens that become asthma triggers, and decreased lung capacity due to decreased physical activity.

“We really are excited about Camp Not-A-Wheeze,” Johnson said. “We’re really getting behind this seriously this year. It’s designed to really help kids with severe asthma, to educate and help them and their families understand that there are things they can do to help improve their lifestyle. They don’t have to be so limited.”

In addition to camp counselors and dietary staff, the ALA camp will be staffed with leading pulmonary experts who will work with the kids, Johnson reported. “They will experience a truly active lifestyle.” Activities include horseback riding, hiking, fishing, archery, golf, swimming, tennis, arts and crafts, and even water-skiing.

“Thanks to a daily dose of asthma education, the campers learn how to keep their asthma under control, despite the nonstop pace,” Johnson reported in his blog. “Medical volunteers teach the campers how to better manage their disease - and the typically low number of visits to the camp infirmary shows that the campers pay attention to the lessons. The result is knowledge that stays with the children long after camp is over.”

For more information, visit www.azasthma.org, www.dialcomfort.com, www.lungarizona.org, and www.metone.com.

Publication date: 04/23/2007

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