Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.
The opening words to the classic Christmas carol “Let it Snow” can put a smile on just about anyone’s face, and they ring especially true as winter begins in earnest and much of the country braces for its snow-filled impact.
As the weather gets colder and we crank up the heat inside our homes to compensate, humidity levels tend to drop significantly, especially in the coldest regions of the country. Homeowners often turn to humidifiers to moisten the air, which, in turn, helps keep their skin from cracking and eyes from itching.
THE DANGER ZONES
Humidity levels in the home can be a tough concept for homeowners to grasp on their own, so contractors have found a variety of ways to address the issue with customers.
“We talk about the 35 percent to 50 percent [humidity] zone and what to expect at the lower and higher ends of that spectrum,” said Lisa Whitson, service manager at Al-Don Indoor Air Quality Specialists LLC in St. Louis. “Your defense system against illness is depleted at the lower end, and you could be causing another situation with too much humidity. Fungal growth and dust mites thrive on humidity.”
“I’m a huge proponent of humidifiers,” said Steve Moon, president of Moon Air Inc. in Elkton, Maryland. “One example I use when talking to customers is, ‘Have you ever been outside on a 100°F day and it’s all humidity?’ Then, I say, ‘Have you ever been out there on a 100°F day with no humidity and it doesn’t bother you? That’s what this humidifier does. It tricks your body into thinking it’s more humid while conserving energy.’”
If you just tell the customer they need a humidifier because it will save them money, they usually won’t understand the idea, said Moon. But, bringing them a tangible example helps them to really grasp the concept.
Still, it’s not just the extremely cold areas of the U.S. that have to deal with humidity issues.
“Proper humidity levels in a home or office can be difficult to maintain,” said Paul Burns, IAQ manager at TDIndustries in Dallas. “Northern climates tend to get too dry, and Southern climates tend to be too wet. The real danger zone is in the transition temperature ranges where neither heating nor cooling is called for. This ‘danger zone’ often results in rising humidity levels, which ultimately translate into many organic issues and a space that is uncomfortable.”
In the Texas marketplace, Michael Rosenberg, president of Rosenberg Indoor Comfort in San Antonio, said while he doesn’t have to worry about the air becoming too dry, humidity brings other challenges.
“When an air conditioner does not run during mild days, there is no humidity removal from the air,” said Rosenberg. “A whole-house dehumidifier is the answer, as it will remove humidity from the air when the air conditioner is not running.”
THE BIG-BOX STORES
Contractors invested in humidity products must also deal with the ever-expanding scope of do-it-yourselfers who purchase products at local big-box stores and install everything themselves. The increasing affordability of such products and availability of how-to videos online has made this a popular option for ambitious homeowners.
Some contractors see these stores as direct competition to their businesses while others see the stores as a way to bring increased attention to the industry.
“[We counter the big-box stores] with expertise and confidence,” said Whitson. “There are always going to be the do-it-yourselfers out there, but, for the most part, when people have a problem, they don’t have time for trial and error, and they don’t want to do it themselves. They’re looking for someone they can be confident in to solve their problems the first time and move on.”
Expertise is an important point for Rosenberg’s company, and his employees emphasize their knowledge when designing and installing products and services.
“We want to make it easy for [customers] to hire us to solve their problems,” said Rosenberg. “They gain peace of mind knowing we install these products correctly. We also give them a stronger warranty than a big-box store would.”
Often, homeowners who install their own humidifiers don’t fully understand how systems actually work together, said Luke Shafer, IAQ specialist at Service Champions Heating & Air Conditioning in Yorba Linda, California. Installing an air filter you buy online doesn’t necessarily reduce contaminants brought into the home,” he said.
Shafer said customers who are on the fence about hiring a contractor to address humidity issues can be swayed by showcasing expert knowledge about the issue and how to fix it.
“Home Depot is doing great things for us,” said Moon. “They introduce the idea of better filtration and UV light. They dedicate square footage on their shelves detailing IAQ products. This is a great way to educate customers that these products exist. Many go to Home Depot and buy these products, but I don’t see them as competition because they don’t offer the quality service that we do.”
Big-box stores are responding to ever-increasing consumer demand, said Jay Ayers, geothermal and IAQ product manager at Ingersoll Rand. “Our industry needs to do a better job explaining and differentiating whole-home solutions rather than portable solutions. Consumers are driving portable sales because they don’t know whole-home solutions exist.”
Consumers are going to continue driving the market for humidity products in the winter months, and contractors are going to need to repeatedly educate them on the benefits of maintaining safe humidity levels in their homes.
Publication date: 12/28/2015