“What you breathe, whether it’s particles or viruses, matters a lot. One of the biggest things you can do is clean that up.”
- Scott Merritt
Owner, Fire & Ice Heating and Air Conditioning

Interest in indoor air quality (IAQ) products and services has soared in the last three years, and although it’s waned somewhat since the height of the coronavirus pandemic, contractors who aren’t consistently marketing IAQ may be missing sales opportunities.

Experts say that wellness concerns in general — and the recognition that tighter building envelopes increase the need for fresh, cleaner indoor air that often has to be delivered by mechanical systems — will continue to motivate consumers to think about IAQ even in post-pandemic times.

“What you breathe, whether it’s particles or viruses, matters a lot. One of the biggest things you can do is clean that up,” said Scott Merritt, the owner of Fire & Ice Heating and Air Conditioning Inc. “There’re a lot of good products out there.”

Fire & Ice, a residential contractor serving the Columbus, Ohio, area, offers IAQ products such as advanced filtration, whole-home humidifiers, and germicidal UV lighting systems, as well as a duct-cleaning service.

“We try to include IAQ as much as possible in every single call,” Merritt said.

That conversation, Merritt said, typically starts with talk about whether anyone in the home has allergies or other breathing issues, or whether household dust is a concern.

“That’s kind of where you start,” he said. “You’ve got to take the crap out of the air. Then the UV light comes later to take the live organisms out of the air.”

At Thermal Concepts, a contracting company in Davie, Florida, with a largely commercial clientele, Phil London, a vice president, said COVID-19 remains a big motivator. All you have to do, he said, is look at news reports.

“People are talking about people ending up in hospitals again and possibly going to back to wearing masks,” London said. “This is something that is going to be with us for a while.”

Thermal Concepts does a lot of work in hospitals, where people tend to have more awareness of the importance of IAQ, and also in schools, which have benefitted from federal pandemic relief dollars that are earmarked for improving IAQ systems.

Butch Welsch, the owner and president of Welsch Heating & Cooling, a St. Louis company that does most of its business in the residential market, said that, unfortunately, some companies will exaggerate the effectiveness of IAQ products, saying they can “eliminate” the coronavirus. His company won’t deal in products that are oversold, he said, but those kinds of exaggerated claims make it more difficult to sell regular filtration systems.

Another hindrance may be the economy, which is starting to make people jittery, though unemployment remains relatively low. Merritt said Fire & Ice’s recommended UV light system costs about $1,000 installed and a replacement lightbulb is $450.

“That’s not cheap,” he said.

The ACHR NEWS recently asked Welsch, Merritt, and London about how they market IAQ products in the current climate, and the ensuing conversations resulted in these tips for contractors:

  • Talk about IAQ at the shop.
    “Your team will do what you talk about,” Merritt said. “If you talk about IAQ all the time ... then they will talk about it with their customers.”
  • Ask customers whether they have concerns about dust, or whether anyone in the building has allergies or breathing issues.
    “The ones that are interested, the ones that are concerned, definitely pipe up,” Merritt said.
    “Higher-efficiency filters are often very saleable if the homeowners have any type of allergies,” said Welsch.
  • Speak from experience: Install IAQ products in your own home and in those of at least some employees.
    Merritt said his company installed whole-home humidifiers, and even some UV systems, in the homes of a number of employees, a move that helped convince them that the products work. It was worth the investment, he said.
    “I have one (a UV light) in my house. Most of the sales team and management team have one. We’ve seen a noticeable difference in the amount of sicknesses in general,” Merritt said.
    “I have a UV light device in my home and I recommend it,” said London.
  • Encourage customers to research IAQ products and services on their own. Customers “should do their due diligence, get as much documentation as they can as far as the products, and ask for recommendations,” said London.
    “Inform, educate, offer. That’s what we do,” said Merritt.
  • Take a softer approach and avoid the hard sell.
    “We continue to tell people that anything they can do to humidify and clean the air in their homes will make their home better,” said Welsch. “But we make it clear that we can’t guarantee we are going to eliminate the COVID, the regular flu, or colds.”
    “We don’t push any products. We let the customers choose,” Merritt said.