ACHRNEWS

CIA contractors are into clean ductwork

June 1, 2000
Clean Indoor Air, Inc. (CIA), founded by IAQ industry leaders Jim Abrams and John Young, is counting on consumers’ need for clean and healthy indoor environments to motivate residential contractors to join their group.

“John and Jim felt that they had a lot to offer to residential contractors,” said Rebecca West, president of Clean Indoor Air. “We’ve heard a lot about poor air quality in commercial buildings, but there hasn’t been a lot done on the residential side.

“IAQ in the home is one of the greatest growth opportunities for hvac contractors.”

Dawn of a market?

Abrams and Young have funded four years of research into the IAQ market, and believe that IAQ is as important to homeowners today as central air was 40 years ago.

“In the next five years, we think that IAQ will become more of a necessity than a luxury,” said West. “In the next 10 years, we strongly feel that hvac contractors will become IAQ contractors offering hvac services.”

West, who owns a contracting firm in Winston-Salem, NC, said the need for clean indoor air provides a great opportunity for contractors.

“I had a lady come into my office and practically knock me over with a hug,” she recounted. “She said she’d been able to sleep in her house for the first time in five years.

“She was ready to move out of her house. But now she was able to breathe, thanks to our attention to improving the air quality. That’s what got me excited about this business.

“We try to take care of three things in the customer’s home,” she explained: “dirty, sick, and smelly air. We do that through source removal [duct cleaning], filtration, humidification, irradiation, and oxidization.”

Membership details

The group is offering “exclusive” territories to new members, organized by zip code.

After one contractor pays an initial territory fee (which ranges from $4,000 to $7,000), no other hvac contractor can set up a Clean Indoor Air dealership in the immediate territory.

Membership also includes $400 monthly dues. However, “The membership fees can be cancelled by product purchases,” explained West. “These include filtration, UV light, and oxidization products.

“These are branded products that are sold only to members, and there are also exclusive brands that are made just for Comfort Indoor Air.”

Specialized training

One of the big advantages of membership is the access to the training facility in Toledo. All types of installation scenarios are part of the interactive “house” within the facility.

For example, the furnace and ductwork are installed in attic spaces, closets, and below the floor, enabling students to experience everyday situations encountered in customers’ homes.

Students are also required to wear booties, protective eyewear, and respirator masks while installing components in the model rooms.

“There is a one-week training course that contractors and employees must attend,” said West. “We are very serious about the training. We evaluate all of the students for the owners.

“After the first week, we encourage students to implement their training and then return later to brush up. They can come back every week if they want.”

After training, attendees receive a certificate of completion. The company sells uniforms and hats bearing a sponsor’s logo. They stress strong presentation skills with well-groomed, well-dressed field technicians.

“We want our techs to show up wearing white pants,” West said. “I know they’ll get dirty in a hurry, but the look leaves a good impression.”

Word's getting out

West said her company is getting increasing numbers of phone calls from contractors, thanks to some marketing efforts and word-of-mouth advertising.

Comfort Indoor Air is also receiving a lot of testimonials from member contractors, like this one.

Wade Windham is a sales and marketing director for AirTec Heating & Cooling, Tupelo, MS. He said the week-long training that he and coworkers received fundamentally improved his business.

“We came back and immediately started making a reputation as the only company around that knows how to do indoor air quality right,” he said. “Now we’re getting letters of referral, and business is literally pouring in.”

Contractors who are interested in learning more are encouraged to attend an “Opportunity Assessment Day,” a four-hour seminar held at the training facility.

West commented, “We try to make the assessment days accessible to new contractors. We schedule them on Fridays, so owners will not have to take time off in the middle of the week.”

New members are given the opportunity to back out of the agreement within 30 days if they are not satisfied with the training and results, and receive a full refund.

“Jim [Abrams] and John [Young] have always focused in on making greater profits for contractors,” West said. “We believe we are starting to capture the IAQ market.”

Want more information about Clean Indoor Air? See related story on page 28 or call 800-467-0366.

How the group was formed

Jim Abrams and John Young created Clean Indoor Air, Inc., by bringing together the following elements:
  • An eight-member expert medical advisory panel, including researchers from Harvard and Purdue universities and other national leaders in the study of indoor air pollution;
  • Exclusive rights to products available to clean, disinfect, and freshen indoor air (see accompanying article);
  • The industry’s first IAQ training center in Toledo, OH, a $250,000 “home in a warehouse” with six training stations to give hvac contractors the knowledge and tools they need to get started in the IAQ industry; and
  •  A “wealth-creation” system, including a turnkey marketing program for generating IAQ business from an existing customer base. By the way, Abrams and Young are no strangers to the hvac industry, having founded Contractors Success Group in 1990. This became the breeding ground for future Service Experts’ contractors.