NASHVILLE - If duct cleaners want to grow their business, it’s all about alliances. That was the bottom line from two separate sessions at the 2007 National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) meeting and exposition.

Stan Richardson, of ServPro of Birmingham, and Cary Vermeulen, president of the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification (IICRC), encouraged the nearly 450 NADCA members to build their business by linking up with water, mold, and/or smoke damage restoration contractors. Another option was offered by Steve Tratt, of Canham Building Envelope Specialists, who asked members to look into working with a building envelope contractor.

“You can work with a building envelope specialist to deliver greater benefit for building owners, property managers, and homeowners,” said Tratt. “You can help solve previously insoluble problems, increase revenues, and retain customers. It’s a perfect opportunity for you to upsell.”


Tratt said it was important that duct cleaners know and understand the interaction between an HVAC system and the building envelope, “as this directly affects the health, safety, durability, comfort, and energy efficiency of the building.”

At NADCA’s annual exposition, Edward Wilson (left) of W & W Manufacturing demonstrates some of the new Dyna Probe offerings to an interested member. Exhibitors on hand featured everything from new vacuum equipment to lab and analytical services to duct cleaning products.

“Understanding their relationship helps us improve building performance,” he said. “And improving building performance is a proven business opportunity.”

Tratt went into great detail as to why many buildings “suck” today. “Believe it or not, your building probably does indeed suck,” he said. “High-rise, low-rise, office or residential, it makes no difference,” he said. “The truth is that just about every building does it.”

It matters because buildings that suffer from uncontrolled airflow, or sucking, cost more money to heat and air condition, are drafty and uncomfortable, have poor IAQ, and “generate more occupant complaints than buildings where air leakage is properly controlled,” he said.

“Yes, it actually sucks in air at the bottom and lets it out the top and sides,” said Tratt. “This phenomenon is called stack, or chimney, effect and is the cause of many of the everyday problems which occupants complain about to building owners and managers.”

Stack effect is usually accompanied by two other effects, wind and ventilation, that change pressure in the building and can cause uncontrolled airflow.

“None of this could take place without leaks, cracks, gaps, and holes in the shell or envelope of your building,” said Tratt. “If you don’t believe it, try sucking through a straw with your finger over the end.”

David Steeves of Carolina Filters raises a question at one of NADCA’s training sessions. Members had the opportunity to earn continuing education credits at several sessions offered at the association’s 2007 convention in Nashville.

Tight envelopes are the best solutions to stack effect and wind pressure, said Tratt. If air cannot leave the top of a building, it will not enter the bottom, he said.

“The mechanical system should not be used to try to overcome problems caused by poor envelope design and construction,” he said. “Pressurizing buildings in the attempt to counterattack stack effect wastes energy.”

According to Tratt, building envelope specialist contractors control air leakage by sealing gaps, cracks, and holes with appropriate materials and systems. Their aim is to repair or create a continuous plane of air tightness, known as the air barrier system. According to Tratt, the priorities for sealing to prevent stack effect are: top and bottom of the building first, then the shafts, and finally the outer shell.

“The common solution is to use ventilation to improve comfort conditions,” he said. “Such strategies do not improve energy efficiency and do not prevent moisture damage. Upgrading the air tightness of a building, however, can always improve comfort, increase energy savings, and extend building durability at the same time.”

Tratt walked through several examples of how fixing air leakage in buildings saved the respective building owners money in energy bills, plus improved the indoor environment for tenants.

“Remember that all buildings are systems,” he said. “Working with building envelope specialists could be your next big business opportunity.”

NADCA held its annual awards banquet at the famous Wildhorse Saloon in downtown Nashville. Enjoying a night of fun are (from left) Goran Andersson of Collom Enterprises (New York), Jason Princenthal of AirCare Environmental Services (Hawaii), and NADCA regional coordinator (Region 10) Kelvin Bruce of EPSCO (United Arab Emirates).


In the eyes of Vermeulen and Richardson, there are opportunities in aligning with water, mold, and smoke damage restoration contractors, too. Richardson explained that a restoration contractor is one who specializes in property restoration, who is equipped with the necessary equipment, personnel, “and, more importantly, the necessary expertise to provide those services in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner.”

Since the majority of restoration contractors are independent, Richardson said each could use the services of a professional, qualified duct cleaner.

“In some cases, these companies are equipped to address air system issues themselves,” he said. “Of those that do their own IAQ work, more often than not, they are not NADCA-certified, though some are. Your NADCA certification makes you a viable candidate to become a trusted business partner.”

Richardson went into great detail as to what these respective companies do. When it comes to smoke damage, he said source removal - or, duct cleaning - is the most cost-effective process to restore a soot-affected air system to pre-loss condition. He noted that in mold damage, producing clean ducts is one needed task, unless the air ducts are insulated.

“If you have insulated air ducts and the insulation gets wet or moldy, it cannot be effectively cleaned and should be removed and replaced,” said Richardson.

In addition to professionalism and certification, NADCA members can bring their pricing to these restoration companies, he added.

“Can you offer a 20 percent discount to a restoration contractor and still make a profit? I think you can,” said Richardson. “Restoration contractors will likely show your air system cleaning as a subcontracted service, with an overhead and profit markup [of 20 percent]. In exchange for all of their air system services, would you be willing and able to provide a 20 percent discount? Again, I think it makes sense.”

To produce even more opportunities, Vermeulen encouraged members to join the IICRC and become certified in other aspects of restoration, including carpet cleaning. IICRC currently is approaching 50,000 certified registrants.

Publication date:03/26/2007