Most residential HVAC contractors would like to make a little more money selling and installing IAQ products such as air cleaners, UV lights, humidifiers, and dehumidifiers. They will confidently create modifications to the ductwork to install the equipment, but they are sometimes a little shy about asking customers if they want the product in the first place; they don’t want to overstep their knowledge or be perceived as scare mongers in order to make a sale.
It’s a different story, however, when an allergist or general practitioner recommends that a patient take combined action to help clean the air in their home.
“In the last year, we have been developing and executing a health/medical initiative that involves Aprilaire teaming up with respected medical professionals in order to communicate the benefits of not only whole-home air cleaners, but all whole-home indoor air quality products,” said Nikki Krueger, media relations manager, Aprilaire. “The initiative is primarily focusing on air cleaners at this time, but from extensive research we have learned that medical professionals also feel that proper humidity levels and ventilation are very important.”
The company conducted in-person interviews with several allergists; all of them said more than 50 percent of their patients ask about air cleaners during their visits, and that the allergists themselves wanted to become better educated on the types and benefits of IAQ products. The patients first tend to bring up portable air cleaners, said Mike Rimrodt, marketing manager, Aprilaire, and the doctors are concerned about the capabilities of those products.
The Breathe Easier campaign is designed to educate the medical community about the capability of whole-home air-cleaning solutions as part of an integrated approach to treating patients with respiratory ailments.
INTEGRATED APPROACH APPEALS TO DOCSThe manufacturer attended the annual American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & (AAAA) Immunology Convention last February in San Diego, “to learn how allergists feel about whole-home indoor air quality products and to gauge their interest,” Krueger said.
“What we learned is that their interest level is extremely high and they want to learn more - so much so that we now have a list of physicians that we are providing educational materials to for their patients.”
The company aligned itself with two reputable physicians “who believe whole-home indoor air quality products are part of a solution in treating their patients,” said Krueger. One of the physicians, Dr. Doron Schneider, wrote a white paper titled “Indoor Air Matters - An In-Depth Look at the Connection Between Indoor Air Quality and Respiratory Health.”
It spells out the correlation between air particle removal and how those particles can, at varying sizes, affect the respiratory system. Aprilaire products are mentioned by name within the paper. It also compares the efficacy of installed, whole-home systems to portable, single-room products.
“As we move ahead with this initiative,” said Krueger, “the ultimate goal is to have the allergist, patient, and contractor working together to provide safe and effective solutions.” It’s an integrated approach within an integrated patient treatment plan that may include medication and remediation activities such as removing problematic materials and thorough cleaning.
The paper includes a description of the size of particles and how deeply they can enter the body. “Clearly, if you remove those particles before they reach your body, you’re in a much better position,” said Rimrodt.
“I think that doctors believe in this integrated approach, and will be interested in this whole-home solution,” he said. “One of the things that we know is that there are a lot of people who buy whole-home solutions because of respiratory concerns. Consumer studies show it’s a primary driver in the purchase.”
He continued, “Doctors are very open to learning about air cleaning. They didn’t know much.”
GO TO THE DOCTORWould they be willing to have their patients talk with an HVAC contractor who could install IAQ equipment? “They were very much open to that once they connect the dots,” realizing how IAQ products installed by a contractor can be a part of a patient’s total treatment, said Rimrodt. “They believe in an integrated approach - whole home - and that they [patients] talk to a contractor.”
The role of the contractor is to provide information that can help doctors and allergy/asthma specialists make that connection.
“We’re providing materials that contractors can provide for the waiting room,” Rimrodt said. This involves contractors making contact directly with the doctors “You need to contact them,” he said. “You’re really not going to find a more qualified lead.” Moreover, “the doctors are really, very much looking for education.
“We know that patients are asking about air cleaners. Educate a doctor. Take him to lunch. Forming that relationship would be a way to receive very qualified air cleaner leads.”
There’s no need to feel shy about it. “These doctors are continually called on by sales reps,” said Rimrodt. “Many times they are open to that.” Another good idea is to touch base with them in community organizations, such as the local Chamber of Commerce.
FROM â€˜INDOOR AIR MATTERS'“I am a practicing internist who has treated patients for a wide variety of medical ailments for over 10 years,” wrote Dr. Schneider. “Examples of some of the conditions that I treat that are impacted by the environment include asthma, chronic bronchitis, allergic rhinitis, sinusitis, and seasonal allergies.”
According to the independent testing of the air of 10,000 American homes from across the country, 96 percent of the homes had at least one type of IAQ problem, said Dr. Schneider. Pollutants that were found included volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide, radon, environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), and biological agents such as pollen, dander, bacteria, and fungus. Particulate matter was found in 85 percent of the homes in the study.
Dr. Schneider advocated three main approaches to improve IAQ: source control, improved ventilation, and air cleaning.
The paper goes on to state, “Poor indoor air quality can cause or contribute to a variety of symptoms and medical issues. While individuals with pre-existing medical problems such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and allergies are at most risk from poor indoor air quality, the medical literature demonstrates that even those in a good state of health are negatively affected, and can thus benefit from cleaner air.”
Asthma, for example, affects more than 22 million Americans. “Asthma is the most common serious chronic disease of childhood, affecting over 7 million children and accounting for hundreds of thousands of hospital admissions and millions of physician visits.”
“A key element of asthma management is control of the home environment with the intent of reducing exposure to triggers,” he said. “After environmental control is achieved, the focus should shift towards improving ventilation and enhancing air purification. Studies have demonstrated that these environmental efforts may decrease the need for certain asthma medications and decrease the risk of an attack.”
“The medical literature supports the strategy of source control, improved ventilation, and air purification,” wrote Dr. Schneider. However, “Because air cleaners do not work for all pollutants, they can be part of the solution, but should never be considered as the only necessary intervention in improving air quality.”
He continued: “… air cleaners are emerging as an important tool in the fight against many types of indoor pollutants. The health benefits have been demonstrated in the medical literature. However, in order for the consumer to realize the maximum potential gains when utilizing an air cleaner, understanding the capabilities and limitations of the various available types becomes of paramount importance.”
“Enhanced and superior air quality is only one of the many benefits that whole-home air cleaners have over the portable units. The additional benefits of efficiency, decreased maintenance requirements, and improved longevity of other expensive heating and cooling elements make the whole-home air cleaner the most attractive option for the educated consumer.”
The white paper is available through Aprilaire. Visit www.aprilairepartners.com.