Extra Edition / Technical

Taking Care of Your Air: Have You Thought Lately About What's Really in Your Air?

December 7, 2009
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Dale Green

When I was a kid, we used to get on our bikes and ride all over the neighborhood when the weather was nice. We often went outside in the morning - maybe came home for lunch - and then went right back outside again, getting plenty of fresh outdoor air. We didn’t have video games or hundreds of television channels to entertain us inside. If you’re wondering why I’m getting nostalgic, it’s because I recently read an article from the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute that indicated children spend more than 85 percent of their time indoors, where the air they breathe, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is generally four to five times more polluted than the air outside.

Today, we worry about a myriad of health issues from whether our kids are wearing helmets and are safe on their bikes, to getting their flu shots on time, to making sure they are eating the right things; however, we don’t always think about the invisible harmful particles and allergens in the air. We should, because children breathe faster than adults and inhale 50 percent more air per pound of body weight than adults, and they are especially sensitive to indoor air quality problems, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

As an HVAC contractor, you have an opportunity to help educate your customers. With the amount of environmental pollutants we’re exposed to each and every day, it’s crucial for us to ensure we’re providing our customers with not only high-performing products in their homes, but also with healthier indoor environments.

While many home buyers are becoming increasingly concerned about the indoor air quality of their homes - especially when it comes to unsafe particles and allergens like mold, dust mites, smoke, pet dander, toxic chemicals, and even flu viruses - there are still plenty of opportunities for us to lead the way when it comes to educating and informing consumers. Believe it or not, according to the EPA, approximately 87 percent of homeowners are still unaware of indoor air pollution. Perhaps part of the problem is that there’s an extremely broad range of products or solutions when it comes to indoor air quality consideration in the mindset of the homeowner.

Customers who have condition-specific needs often consider anything and everything from vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters, to stand-alone in-room options, to whole-house air filtration options. At Trane, our goal is to help educate homeowners about how they can get the most effective air cleaner to help alleviate the issues they’re dealing with, such as asthma and allergy attacks. The need for clean air for homeowners can vary greatly, from those who have a specific need due to a respiratory issue, all the way to general clean air connoisseurs. The EPA, the American Lung Association, the World Health Organization, and other public health and environmental organizations view indoor air pollution as one of the greatest risks to human health. Poor indoor air quality can lead to allergies, asthma, cardiovascular issues such as stroke and heart attack, and respiratory problems, among other diseases.

The best thing we can do as trusted indoor comfort partners and advisors is to help people learn about the available options so they’re able to make informed decisions that best meet their lifestyles and needs. It’s important that we also suggest consumers look for claims that are supported by scientific research. At Trane, third-party research supporting our claims is what makes us a leader in this category. Research about the health benefits of Trane CleanEffects™ has been reviewed by a panel of third-party environmental health experts and published in third-party scientific journals including BioMed Central.

While there’s still a lot of room for us to advise and help educate our customers, the outlook for residential whole-house air purification is very promising. I read a market research report by Reportlinker.com titled “Consumer Water Purification & Air Cleaning Systems” that’s very good news for our industry and the health of our customers. According to the report:

• Demand for consumer water purification and air cleaning systems is projected to increase 5.6 percent per year to $1.5 billion in 2012. Gains will be driven by consumer concerns about the quality of the air and water in the home, and greater awareness of the healthful benefits of these systems.

• Additionally, existing owners of purification systems are continuing to upgrade to higher value versions with specialty features such as performance indicators and treatment technologies.

• Electrostatic whole-house air cleaners are projected to achieve slightly faster gains through 2012 because they offer improved efficiency, quieter functioning, and a low operational cost.

As I mentioned, each of us as an ambassador for our industry has a responsibility to help homeowners realize that indoor air pollution is one risk they can do something about. We have dedicated a section of the Trane residential Website to helping homeowners understand the importance of indoor air quality and helping them understand air cleaners and air filtration. Many products claim to effectively clean a home’s indoor air, but which ones really work? Encouraging consumers to look for the clean air delivery rate is a great place to start. This standard has been recognized by the Federal Trade Commission and the EPA as a fair and objective comparison of various air cleaning technologies. Educating homeowners that Trane CleanEffects removes up to 99.98 percent of particles and allergens from the filtered air down to 0.1 microns - the size that eludes most air cleaners and that your nose and mouth cannot filter - is key. Also, CleanEffects has been shown to remove the flu virus, which is top of mind this flu season.

When I was kid, we simply didn’t know any better about the importance of wearing a helmet when we rode our bikes, flu shots did not yet exist, and I can guarantee you we didn’t know much about the importance of indoor air quality. But thankfully today, we have the research, tools, resources, and solutions to provide every family with a healthier home environment.

Publication date: 12/07/2009

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