Smoke. Smog. Ragweed and pollen. Car exhaust. When it comes to air quality, most people are quick to point fingers at the pollutants they come across outdoors.
But that’s not where people are spending most of their time. From homes and apartments to office buildings, hospitals, and schools, the average American spends 87 percent of their life indoors — and another 6 percent in enclosed vehicles. That means for the overwhelming majority of Americans, the air entering their bodies every day is directly impacted by the buildings that make up the environment.
Here are seven tips from contractors on how to improve IAQ for customers — and boost customer health, job satisfaction, and the company’s own bottom line in the process.
1. SQUEAKY CLEAN
Change your filter regularly. It’s a simple step that is different for every house as far as frequency of change and type of filter, but it’s easily and often forgotten by a lot of folks. A house with a single person with no pets may need a filter change once a year, while a house with multiple people and pets may require a change once a month.
I do not usually recommend HEPA filters to customers unless it’s a must because often, they can be too restrictive for the equipment and cause other issues. I never recommend … the fiberglass filter, which is the cheapest you can buy. These let too much dirt and dust into equipment and ductwork, which can lead to expensive repairs and cleaning. A cheap, good-fitting pleated filter — changed often — is the best protection.
- Scott Gist, service pipe fitter, Skanska
2. TALK THE TALK
Offer it! Not a lot of people talk about IAQ. We do, and it helps a ton.
IAQ gets overlooked because you can’t see it. Everyone knows if they are hot or cold, but they never factor in how the relative humidity keeps them comfortable and healthy. A lot of unhealthy bacteria and viruses grow when it’s either too humid or too dry. Most people understand what smog is and unhealthy air outside, yet … indoor air is two to five times unhealthier than fresh outdoor air. We think that we are protected from those things by being indoors, but in reality, our air indoors is contributing to a lot of the respiratory health issues we have.
We talk about it on most, if not all, service calls and estimates, as we don’t just want to move boxes: We want to solve problems in the customer’s home and improve their air.
- Joshua Crouch, branch manager, Misurelli Sorensen Heating and Air Conditioning
3. GO DUCTLESS
Ductless systems are the best thing that has happened to IAQ. Having a head in every room removes a lot of problems. No chances of leaky duct work. It increases efficiency and provides constant air movement and filtration.
- Navid Namazi, general manager, Energy Technologies LLC
4. THE PERFECT FIT
Improper recommendations will never provide the desired benefits. Choosing the correct products for the task is key to successful IAQ and happy customers. There is no one-size-fits-all upgrade. It takes a combination of services and enhancements for the ultimate in indoor comfort.
- Robert Stonestreet, owner, Beacon Mechanical Contracting Inc.
Cape Coral, Florida
5. HANDLE HUMIDITY
In North Carolina and the rest of the southeastern U.S., where humidity is like a thorn on the rose bush your customer planted beside the outside unit, it’s a battle not easily fought. Humidity plays a big factor in how comfortable you can be in your home or workplace: 72°F feels completely different with 45 percent rh versus 65 percent rh.
The most effective way we’ve found to fight it is through installation of equipment with variable-speed air handlers and sealing up the building envelope better. Encapsulating the crawl space can be a big help in your battle with humidity and dust in your home also, which both make for better IAQ. Most everything I recommend for our customers in North Carolina will have a variable-speed blower because the comfort level that is obtained with these machines is superb.
- Jason Williams, owner, Automated Comfort Systems
Lexington, North Carolina
6. RUN THE FAN
I always recommend running the equipment fan 100 percent of the time to keep air moving, which leads to more comfort and also air that is filtered 24 hours a day. This way, the motor doesn’t have the hard starting and stopping, which reduces wear and tear.
The air moving through the home or facility stays at a more constant temperature due to mixing, which can help with trouble areas (too hot or too cold) due to incorrect duct size or design. And of course, the air is getting cleaned 24/7, versus only when heating or cooling is in demand.
- Brent Jordan, owner, Jordan Mechanical Group, LLC
7. SEAL THE ATTIC
A lot of it is air sealing. One example I use is the attic hatch. In the attic in the summertime, it’s about 130°, 140°. Hot air runs to cold. So if your house is 75°, it’s 140° in the attic, and it’s 90° outside. While [the hot air] is supposed to exit through the ridge fan, it ‘wants’ to go inside. And the attic hatch is actually an exterior door, but is it built like one? — no. That’s why so many people with the attic hatch above their room complain. If you put a gasket around the attic hatch and insulate it with foam board, now it’s going to come down on the gasket and seal, and the air can’t get through.
That’s just one piece in the puzzle. If you remove the insulation from the attic floor and look down, it looks like Swiss cheese. All that hot air is finding any gap it can, running down, and getting into the house. And think about the air getting into the house: That’s attic air that went through the insulation to get into the house, and you’re breathing it. It’s unhealthy. If you just take some caulk, spray that floor, plug up all the holes, it feels like you put a new system in.
- Rob Minnick, president/CEO, Minnick’s HVAC, Plumbing & Insulation
Publication date: 11/12/2018