Almost 96 percent of all homes tested suffered an IAQ alert in at least one of six areas:
1. Particulate matter.
2. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
5. Carbon dioxide (CO2).
6. Carbon monoxide (CO).
IAQ levels exceeded recommended ranges in two or more categories in approximately four out of five homes.
The three areas where measurements most often fell outside recommended ranges were particulates (86 percent of homes tested), VOCs (71 percent), and CO2 (47 percent). Abnormal humidity (43 percent), abnormal temperature (17 percent), and elevated levels of CO (2 percent) also occurred.
Both particulate matter and VOCs are known to trigger asthma (a disease that kills 14 people a day) and allergies, the sixth leading cause of chronic disease in America.
CO2 is rarely a safety problem, but elevated levels can indicate poor ventilation and the potential buildup of other harmful gases. Humidity and temperature likewise contribute to poor health when they are outside recommended ranges, as well as affecting general personal comfort and home deterioration rates.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental risks to public health. With most people now spending up to 90 percent of their time indoors, and with someone suffering from either asthma or allergies in one of every three American homes, clean, comfortable indoor air is becoming increasingly crucial to both comfort and health.
Taking on IAQ can be a challenge for any HVAC contractor, of any size. More than 1,000 AirAdvice HVAC contractors across North America conducted more than 10,000 IAQ surveys in homes and businesses in 2004. Joe Wadas, owner of Wadas Inc. in Ord, Neb., generated the 10,000th report.
Wadas runs a thriving HVAC business in the heart of America's breadbasket. He has one tech, four installers, and 10 AirAdvice monitors. "I've got all 10 of them going at once at least 80 percent of the time," he said.
Wadas describes himself as someone who likes to stay on top of today's technology. His customers know him as someone who is always doing his best for them. But it's not just attention to technology that makes his business stand out. He takes a personal interest in his customers' needs. It's not uncommon for Wadas to get up in the middle of the night to check on a particular customer's IAQ report.
Placing the monitors in his customers' homes is standard operating procedure for Wadas. From the start, he found it made a difference. "I run a test on almost every bid," said Wadas. "I tell my customers, â€˜Just let me show you what's going on here.' Once I show them what's going on, it's likely they'll want to do something about it. It's seeing it that makes the difference. The monitor puts it in black and white."
The 10,000th report situation was typical for Wadas. He was working with a longtime customer who had made significant improvements to his home. He used the monitor to test IAQ in various areas of the home.
With the reports generated by those tests, Wadas was able to verify for the customer that variations were actually occurring. He sold a zone system and variable-speed equipment to help this customer meet his indoor comfort goals. "Now his master bedroom will be the same temperature as the rest of the house," said Wadas. "He'll save on his utilities, too."
This contractor frequently uses the monitor to give customers a before-and-after comparison. The after report gives homeowners proof that the recommended equipment works the way it's supposed to work.
Customer confidence is evidenced by the increased word-of-mouth referrals. Wadas' HVAC business is growing, the IAQ segment in particular. In September 2004, Wadas received Lennox's Kansas City district award for "largest percentage of IAQ increase in sales."
"It gets smoother and smoother all the time," said Wadas.
"As a contractor, we can offer help and assistance with their everyday breathing issues. We're not physicians, and we can't promise we're going to help them breathe better, but many times we can get at the source of what's actually causing their problems."
As Peaden's business leader, Wilkos works with a dedicated IAQ staff. "I've been involved in IAQ for almost 20 years now," he said. "I think the AirAdvice monitor is one of the neatest things since sliced bread. We've learned you can't always know if there's an issue from an inspection alone.
"The monitors are like our eyes. They're counting invisible facts and giving us concrete information we can do something with. They tell us if there's a problem and a clue as to what the problem is. Then we can go and use our skills to better identify the source and what the solution might be."
Other contractors share similar stories. Jim Stanula of The A/C and Heating Company in Carol Stream, Ill., found that he could easily and objectively discuss air quality problems that were contributing to both a mother's and daughter's asthma. Using the monitors' reports, he was able to recommend solutions that improved his customers' quality of life.
As Marshall Jennings of Jennings Heating and Cooling in Akron, Ohio, said, "Now I can prove what I do. I can explain everything that's going on in the home. I can show the results to the homeowner, and he can see where he's at. In addition, the recommendations are from a third party, and that's huge."
"The [AirAdvice] test reaffirmed what we suspected was the problem," confirmed homeowner Scott Morris, a customer of William Zeibell of Metal Masters, Inc. Both are located in Medford, Ore.
"Our daughter has allergies and frequently has coughing spells at night," Morris explained. "The tests showed how bad the particle levels were in our home. It was remarkable to see and understand what was really going on. Afterwards, we were able to cut the particle levels by 75 percent.
"I would totally recommend the test to anyone who is concerned about their family's health. We were really on the fence about investing into better air quality. Once we saw the difference, we knew we did the right thing."
Tamela Viglione is communications manager for AirAdvice Inc., Portland, Ore., which provides the HVAC industry with measurement systems and programs to diagnose consumer and commercial IAQ and comfort issues. The company was founded in 1999. The patented AirAdvice system identifies IAQ problems and provides independent reports to assist contractors in recommending the right filtration, ventilation, and humidification solutions, as well as traditional heating-cooling solutions. For more information, visit www.airadvice.com.
Publication date: 02/07/2005