How Contractors Can Educate Homeowners On IAQ

July 17, 2002
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Abatement Technologies introduced the HEPA-AIRE® portable power vacuum for duct cleaning, enabling thousands of contractors to establish profitable duct cleaning businesses. (Photos courtesy of Abatement Technologies.)
What would set one contractor apart from his or her competition? Besides top-notch services and products, the next thing might be top-notch knowledge.

There is an old saying that “an educated customer is the best customer.” By giving your customers as much product and service information as possible, you are likely to avoid price objections, retain future business, and create great word-of-mouth advertising.

“By discussing the latest indoor quality issues with your customer (mold, dust, pollen, etc.) you can gain their confidence and trust when they make their IAQ product buying decisions,” said Rick Stoltz, director of Integrated Marketing, Skuttle Indoor Air Quality Products, Marietta, OH.

“HVAC contractors do homeowners a favor by informing them of the multiple benefits of good indoor air quality, because they offer a healthier, more comfortable lifestyle, usually at an affordable price,” Stoltz said. “They also do themselves and their companies a favor by increasing business and building goodwill among customers and prospects.”

“Ensuring IAQ in a given home requires someone to evaluate all the elements that contribute to air quality, including, among others, the HVAC system, indoor contaminant sources, airflow patterns, air change rates, and the overall structure of systems,” said Duke Wiser of Environmental Dynamics Group, Princeton, NJ.

“No one is in a better position to do this than a trained and knowledgeable HVAC contractor,” he said. “And educating the homeowner about their issues will help them to maintain their systems better and spot potential problems sooner.”

According to one industry expert, the IAQ problem-solving capabilities of contractors is a necessity, simply because HVAC systems play such an integral role in the indoor environment. “Studies have shown that a high percentage of indoor air quality problems are related to the HVAC system in some way,” said Dave Shagott, president, Abatement Technologies Inc., Duluth, GA. “Some estimates go as high as 75% to 80%.”

Abatement's Central Air Purification systems feature 99.97% efficient HEPA filters, and are available with Germicidal UV and UV Plus. The two sizes shown are intended for residential and light commercial applications.

IAQ, THEN AND NOW

The alarming rise in allergy and asthma cases, as well as high-profile mold lawsuits, has made IAQ an important subject for most homeowners. “Consumer awareness of IAQ issues has grown significantly over the past decade,” said Shagott.

“For example, 10 years ago very few people knew about the benefits of HEPA filtration,” he said. “Today, I would bet that the majority of them are familiar with the potential benefits of these products.

“A decade ago, very few HVAC companies focused on IAQ as an important component of their business,” he continued. “Today, an increasing number of forward-thinking HVAC professionals have developed very strong and profitable IAQ-related businesses, including products and services such as air duct cleaning, air purification equipment, humidity-control products, and duct sealing.

“Over recent years, hot-button issues such as allergies and asthma, mold problems, the tragic events of September 11, and the subsequent anthrax scares have only served to bring these issues even more to the forefront,” Shagott said. “However, there is still a long way to go, and I expect the level of customer interest and awareness to continue to grow rapidly.”

The relatively recent growth of the Internet as an information and training source not only helps consumers but contractors, too. One company, General Filters Inc., Novi, MI, hosts a website (www.generalfilters.com) where HVAC contractors can go online and take the GeneralAire interactive Home Indoor Air Quality Training Program. Contractors can review the following modules:

  • “What is comfort”;

  • “Comfort, satisfaction, and IAQ”;

  • “Particulate contamination”;

  • “Gases, vapors, and odors”; and

  • “Heating-cooling.”

    After passing a quiz on the above modules, contractors are awarded a color certificate which they can customize with their name. “And, at generalfilters.com, contractors can review humidifier and air cleaner competitive comparison charts online,” stated Lou Laroche, General Filters’ national sales manager.

    “Contractors may also inform homeowners that they can go online to generalfilters.com and learn why humidifiers, air cleaners, and air purifiers are necessary and what the benefits are; learn about the wide selection of home IAQ products [the company] has to offer; see and print product literature; and review service procedures.”

    Abatement's FlexEye™ video inspection systems are designed to find mold. They are available in color and black and white models.
    One HVACR contractor, Comprehensive Energy Services (CES) Inc., Altamont Springs, FL, has taken the bull by the horns and spent considerable resources developing an IAQ niche market. CES president and News’ contractor consultant Todd Morgan explained his company’s leap into the IAQ market.

    “Five years ago, we relied heavily on outside IAQ environmental firms to work with us on testing and analysis; today we handle most of this work in-house, with the exception of lab testing,” Morgan said. “We have developed our in-house capabilities by investing heavily in continuing education in IAQ through seminars, conferences, trade associations, and networking with industry experts.

    “We have also invested significantly in testing equipment,” Morgan said, “such as ‘Air-O-Cell’ cassette samplers, ‘Anderson’ samplers, CO2 monitors, robotic video cameras, etc.”

    Abatement Technologies' HEPA-CARE® units are used in healthcare facilities to create TB isolation rooms. These systems feature 99.99% efficient HEPA filtration and easy installation. Shown is the HC800F portable model.

    ADVISING HOMEOWNERS

    It is likely that many homeowners will turn their noses up to IAQ work, in some cases because they feel they already live in a clean environment. But that is not always the case.

    “After 23 years in the IAQ business, I have found that mold is not a respecter of income,” said Jerry Wolf of Air Purification Systems, Houston, TX. “It doesn’t matter if you have a big house or little house, old or new. You can still have IAQ problems.

    “We have always stressed to our customers the need for good filtration, because mold needs moisture, food, and a place to live. By keeping the air in your home clean with better filters and HEPA air cleaners, you can make it harder for mold to survive and cause you health problems.”

    Shagott summed up why home and building owners need advice from contractors.

    “In many instances, HVAC professionals provide the primary (sometimes the only) direct link to indoor air quality solutions, since very few homeowners and a surprisingly small percentage of building owners and managers have ready access to other indoor air quality professionals.”

    Publication date: 07/22/2002

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