"There is an increased awareness in energy waste," said Starke. "Since you folks are already there, you can do this. Why us? We are equipped with vacuums, sprayers, pressure washers, and experience. This is part of IAQ. This is one of the reasons we got into ducts to begin with."
In truth, each speaker at the 2006 National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) Meeting and Exposition, held recently at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dallas, made the similar, tempting plea. It's one of the reasons the association selected "Think Big!" as its convention motto. The presenters' overall message was this: You may be in duct cleaning, but you can do so much more.
In addition to Starke, fellow speaker Robert Hinderliter, of Delco Cleaning Systems, Fort Worth, Texas, encouraged members to add power washing to their list of services. Thomas Boecher, vice president of DeLisle Associates Ltd., Portage, Mich., talked about the remediation opportunities that exist with the destruction of portable methamphetamine clandestine labs across the United States.
To have an edge over the competition, Lance Rock, of United Test and Balance Inc., Glen Ellyn, Ill., encouraged members to look into thermography. Presenter Tom Yacobellis, of Ductbusters, Dunedin, Fla., not only gave a thorough report regarding the essentials of coil cleaning, but also spoke of the coil reconditioning process - again, a service, he suggested, that members could offer.
"If you just think outside the box, there are so many opportunities," is how Starke put it. "By adding services, you can only strengthen your customer relationship."
ADD POWER WASHINGHinderliter was adamant about adding power washing to a contractor's repertoire, terming it "a natural add-on" to each member's present customer base for both commercial and residential services.
"Normally this expansion included surface concrete cleaning, wood deck cleaning, exterior building restoration, kitchen exhaust cleaning, house washing, and vehicle fleet washing," said Hinderliter. "With this in mind, we would like to offer some things for consideration as you plan to expand your existing business or start a new one."
In his estimation, evaporator and condenser coils can be cleaned efficiently with a pressure washer, provided that extreme care is taken, along with attention to detail. There are several chemicals for cleaning coils, but he noted that for more soiled coils, pressure washing is required.
"Care must be taken so the spray is applied parallel to the fins with a wide spray angle nozzle. Depending upon the operator, pressures from 200 to 3,000 psi may be used," he said, adding that with the higher pressures, more care must be taken. "The operator needs to vary the distance appropriate to the strength of coil fins so that no damage results."
While in the power washing field, one could offer kitchen grease exhaust cleaning, too, noting that "there are more millionaires in the kitchen grease exhaust cleaning business than any other area of power washing."
"The main reason being that restaurants are required to have periodic cleaning by regulatory agencies and insurance companies," he said. "It is the only large market of the power washing business that is regulatory driven."
During his talk, Hinderliter provided guidance on choosing the correct pressure washer, warning attendees to stay away from consumer stores like Lowe's and Home Depot. He said typical consumer units are designed for a 100-hour life, with 20-hour annual usage. Typical commercial/industrial washers are designed for several thousand hours of usage.
Typical startup cost ranges from $200 for a consumer electric pressure washer to less than $10,000 for a commercial trailer-mounted, hot high-pressure washer with startup accessories. (For more concerning Delco Cleaning Systems, go to www.dcs1.com.)
REMEDIATION OPPORTUNITYBoecher gave a horrifying and thorough report concerning the proliferation of methamphetamine labs across the United States. The certified hazardous materials manager (CHMM) pointed out everything you always wanted, and did not want, to know regarding the dangerous drug and the destruction caused by meth labs.
His 90-minute talk, providing background on methamphetamine's use, included the basics of meth production, areas of impact in and on society, an explanation of the process in conducting a drug seizure raid by law enforcement, and outlined his area of concerns for exposure to hazardous or allergenic constituents that exist during and after law enforcement seizures.
Because some NADCA members are also involved in remediation, Boecher noted that this is another opportunity to explore, though he warned that one should tread carefully. He said the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) awards contracts to various clean up contractors across the country. To qualify, response time is crucial, he said, among the tasks, adding that a qualified contractor must also accomplish the segregation and categorization of materials.
Boecher noted his company, which has been providing asbestos and other industrial hygiene services for many years, stepped into this new frontier, mainly due to the spread of meth labs in and around the Kalamazoo, Mich., area. He said what started in California and the West is now moving and spreading across the Midwest.
"It will hit the East Coast sooner than we'd all like it to," he predicted.
The decontamination issues are what make the business most volatile. According to Boecher, there are currently just too many questions regarding regulatory requirements, and there is a lack of guidelines to assist a business or homeowner in conducting safe and effective gentrification methods.
Some states - Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Missouri, California, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, and Tennessee - have guidelines regarding the testing and remediation of clandestine drug labs, but that does not necessarily mean these guidelines are fool proof, he cautioned.
"Due to the uniqueness of the contaminants found in clandestine labs and the variables involved in the extent of remediation, this is a hot topic among industry professionals," said Boecher. "Industry guidelines and state standards indicate if a clean-up criterion cannot be achieved for either air or surface contamination, then the building component should be removed from the area."
In most cases, the HVAC system was the vehicle for dispersing chemical contaminants from the "cooking" area or even from the general use of the product throughout the home. Most national state guidance programs start with the airing out of a structure that contained a meth lab. After that, it's getting rid of the visibly contaminated (etched or stained) sinks, bathtubs, and toilets that are too difficult to clean. It also means disposing of the absorbent materials in the structure, such as carpeting.
"Studies are inconclusive regarding permeation rates of chemicals into different building components," said Boecher. "That's why there are liability issues. A toxicological review is the only true gauge to determine if occupants can be susceptible to levels remaining."
His bottom line: Opportunities are there, but one needs to demonstrate adequate cleanup protocols and the successes achieved for entire houses, based on contamination present, type of cook, and duration of cook. "That's the best you can do," he said.
COIL CLEANING POSSIBILITIESYacobellis provided a thorough review of the association's coil cleaning guideline, considered a compliance guide for the association's "Assessment, Cleaning, and Restoration of HVAC Systems - 2006," simply referred to as ACR 2006.
"As we learn more about indoor air quality problems, their prevention and solutions, we have identified several common problem areas," said Yacobellis. "One of these is cooling coils."
According to Yacobellis, it is generally accepted that some form of mechanical scrubbing is effective in removing an established biofilm from a surface. He maintained, however, that no matter how creative coil cleaner manufacturers are in formulating foam-producing techniques, which expands and helps push soil from between fins, "we fall short of aggressive direct mechanical action."
"Thus," he concluded, "much of any established biofilm remains undisturbed after cleaning."
Some of the techniques that are designed to help resolve this issue include applying heat, as it is designed to enhance the chemical action. "As a rule, the hotter your cleaning mixture is, the more effective it will be," he said.
Other options to correct the problem include applying water pressure, providing a thorough rinsing, or removing the coil to a cleanup area. Yacobellis also noted there are a number of coil cleaner choices available for a technician, but this might not be a good thing. He thought some understanding of cleaning technology would lead a tech to a more informed choice.
"The more we learn about indoor air quality, the more we become convinced that a proper coil hygiene strategy is vital to any maintenance program," he said.
In addition to coil cleaning, Yacobellis discussed the proposed standard language for coil reconditioning, which has been placed in ACR 2006.
"Evaporative coil reconditioning involves both coil inspections and coil cleaning," he said. "An inspection always begins the coil reconditioning process. The substances on the evaporative coil help determine the initial selection of the cleaning protocol."
According to Yacobellis, evaporative coil reconditioning will utilize two types of cleaning methods. Both types require usage of HEPA filtered negative air machines when exhausting within a facility. HEPA filters are recommended, but not required, when machines are externally exhausted, he said.
"The evaporative coil must be physically isolated from the duct system during the cleaning process to ensure disrupted particulate does not migrate to or redeposit on unintended areas," he said.
Type 1 methods of coil reconditioning are appropriate for removing loose dust, dirt, or particulate collected on evaporator coil surfaces. Removal can be accomplished through various methods, including HEPA filtered contact vacuuming, crevice tools, bristle-type brushes, and compressed air guns and wands.
Type 2 reconditioning methods are appropriate for removing adhered particulate on all evaporator coils, drain pan, and drain line surface. One can follow the same Type 1 cleaning procedures, with several additions, including removing internal mechanical system components and using water washing at normal water line pressure.
REPAIR LEAKY DUCTSBefore Rock came on stage to discuss thermography technology, Ken Summers pushed for repairing leaking ducts. The vice president of Comfort Institute Inc., Bellingham, Wash., said HVAC contractors across the country are getting paid to do air balancing and blower door testing, both on replacement calls and for problem solving. He thought NADCA members could provide such a service, noting that mold and humidity problems "make duct leakage and envelope infiltration diagnosis and control more important than ever."
"It's all in how it's presented," he said.
According to Summers, a general misconception is that an infiltrometer is strictly used for utility programs or just for finding leaks in order "to sell caulking and weather-stripping." In truth, he said the piece of equipment can be used to measure air infiltration rates for Manual J, demonstrate duct leakage, measure duct leakage, and estimate duct leakage SEER and/or AFUE degradation.
"You have to figure out what you are selling," he told his audience. "Do you sell boxes? Or, do you sell comfort?"
According to Summers, researchers have determined that a 10 percent return leak from a 120 degree attic causes a 30 percent drop in the air conditioner's capacity and efficiency. Therefore, sealing the returns is essential, he said, but one needs to be careful.
"Although sealing is most important, there are usually other problems as well," he said. "Static pressure always goes up after sealing. Sometimes, just a little; sometimes, a lot."
For instance, airflow may already be low, he said, pointing out that an air conditioning system may have only worked because of hot attic return leaks. Enlarging returns may be needed. In the end, duct replacement may make more sense than a renovation, he said.
In regard to controlling humidity, Summers said an air conditioner does take moisture out of the indoor air, but dehumidification is still a byproduct of a sensible cooling load. He said high levels of summer air infiltration causes return duct leakage, supply duct leakage, and leaky building envelopes. If there is an air contaminant or excess moisture, the first step in resolving the problem is eliminating or reducing the source, which is a service he thought his audience could supply.
"Remember, the house is a system," he said. "The whole house approach is becoming the unique competitive advantage. This is something you can do."
Fellow speaker Starke gave the same sentiment when he came to the podium, noting that if a contractor can clean coils and clean ducts, a contractor can also offer energy management as a service. In his talk, he supplied various examples of his work with Air-Vent Duct Cleaning. By providing maintenance, one is also saving the company money, which is what energy management is all about, said Starke.
"There is no conflict," said Starke. "We don't sell or install replacement equipment. So, we do not have any vested interest in telling them they need to replace the coil. We are there to help the customer. We are concerned with the whole system."
Sidebar: More With Online SitesDALLAS - The Internet: it's so 1996. By now, everybody - or at least every business - has a Website, right?
Not exactly, according to Ray Bert, communications director for MarketOne Communications, the company that recently overhauled the National Air Duct Cleaners Association's (NADCA's) Website, www.nadca.com. At the association's recent annual meeting and exposition, Bert gave attendees a presentation on "Online Marketing: Landing More Business With a Website."
According to his estimates, a little less than half of NADCA's 900 member companies currently have Websites. Those that don't are missing out on a great and relatively inexpensive marketing opportunity, he said. They give a company exposure and add credibility and professionalism. "Marketing via a Website gives you a way to reach a lot of people," said Bert.
It's the only way some customers look for products and services, he said.
"Kids coming out of college don't know what it's like to not quickly log on, type in a few keywords, and find what they're looking for."
For duct-cleaning companies that have yet to venture onto the Internet, Bert said they should start by choosing a Web address - often called a domain name.
"It's not always as easy as you think," he said. "A lot of the domain names are already gone." Some were bought by companies years ago; others are being hoarded by speculators who hope to sell the names to the highest bidder.
Bert suggested keeping the Web address relatively short. Shorter, uncomplicated addresses are easier to remember. Make sure it makes sense for your company, too. After you have secured a domain name, the next step is to create the site. This will determine what visitors see when they find it on the Internet. Unless you have a creative person on staff, well versed in Web design, he suggested hiring an outside firm.
"Design is a very subjective thing," said Bert, noting that companies should audition different agencies.
If you're not sure what to put on your site, look at other duct cleaners' Websites, as well as your office, he said. "In your office, even if you don't know where to start, you probably have all the info [you need] already there."
At a minimum, the site should tell visitors about the company, what it does and how it stands out from the competition. This essential information should be on the first page, or home page of the site, he said.
And while the proliferation of high-speed, low-cost Internet services has meant that more people today can enjoy flashy, highly visual content than they could when most Web connections were over phone lines, Bert cautions not to overdo it.
"In many cases, less really is more," he said. "Some people never get past the home page."
Make sure the essential contact information is there, he encouraged.
"Try to ask yourself, â€˜What do [Website visitors] need the most?' It's not an easy thing at all - to be concise, to give the right information."
Also know that many of the major Internet search engines, such as Google.com and Yahoo, rely on words to find Websites, Bert added. So a Web address that has duct cleaning featured on many of its pages might elicit better results, meaning more people will find and visit your site, instead of the billions of other Web pages.
"Google notices and cares if you have duct cleaning in a bigger font on your Website," he said. Another tip: Linking your Website to other sites, such as www.nadca.com, also improves search engine results.
After you have a Web address and the site designed, you'll likely need a company to host the Website, which means to keep it online. Some sites go down due to hackers - people who vandalize sites - as well as other technical problems.
There's a big difference, however, in the quality of such Web hosting firms, said Bert. Some will offer to maintain the site for as little as $10 a month. But such low-cost service may mean that your site gets less traffic than one that's kept up to date. Bert advised against skimping on Web hosting services.
"The Internet is going to be the dominant media for some time to come," he said.
Sidebar: Business BlueprintsDALLAS - No one can accuse George Hedley of being soft-spoken. The keynote speaker at the 2006 National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) Meeting and Exposition certainly did not need a microphone to address his audience. Let's just say his voice can carry.
"It comes naturally," is how the founder of Hardhat Presentations, Costa Mesa, Calif., put it.
In truth, Hedley wanted to make sure that everyone heard his every word, as the manager of a $75 million construction and development company gave two separate talks centered around his favorite topic: How to make a business successful.
"Are you too busy to make any money?" he asked. "Then you have it all wrong. You can work a little and make a lot. It all depends upon your processes."
Businesses that work, he explained, are in control, systemized, and organized. In his eyes, systems make, or break, a business. In his estimation, managers should manage the systems, and each system procedure should produce the same results.
"You should build an on-purpose, on-target business," is how Hedley put it. "Results are the No. 1 indicator of your service and quality, your financial systems, your operational systems, your marketing and sales systems, your people systems, and your leadership. They all need to be in place in order to be successful. You can't have one without the other. They go hand in hand."
SYSTEMS ARE KEY
In regard to goals and targets, Hedley said employees must know what an owner wants. He must express clear expectations, provide written systems, and demand results. "Leaders who get results have one huge target," said Hedley. "Remember: A goal is a dream with a deadline. It must be specific, attainable, time dependent, clear and challenging, on-purpose, on-target, and measurable."
To reach goals, systems must be in place to get your business to work, he said. He recommended that contractor owners replace themselves with consistent, working systems.
"Let them do the work," he said, referring to systems, "not you."
Systems that work, he said, are the ones that produce the same results every time. With or without an owner's attention, each system should meet customer expectations, provide consistent performance, and be organized, he said. The steps necessary to create systems that work include: identifying an area to be systemized; assigning a system team; drafting standards and guidelines for this system; formalizing the system; trying the system out. If it works, implement it and train employees accordingly, and always do a follow-up and evaluate the final written system. "You can't get rich with your head in a ditch," said Hedley, advising owners to let go, trust in employees, delegate accordingly, and "replace yourself with systems."
In his estimation, every business should install operational systems for every department, including finance, operations, marketing and sales, leadership and people, and even systems for personal growth. "Building a great business is not easy," he said. "It takes a burning desire to continually improve by trying new ideas, systems, and processes."
MAKE A PROFIT
According to Hedley, the top 10 reasons business owners fail are:
10. Company wins business by selling low price.
9. Owner doesn't understand how to run a business.
8. No passion for customers.
7. Not maximizing the use of technology.
6. Not offering anything different than the competition.
5. Trying to grow in a slow market place.
4. No leadership or strong management team.
3. Not enough money and too much debt.
2. Owner controls everything.
1. Owner doesn't change.
"Which of these 10 factors are holding your company back from becoming a better business?" he asked. "Most businesses never get to the next level because the owner is not willing to make the necessary changes to make it happen."
In addition to having systems in place for every department, one of the first necessities of any business is to make a profit, he said.
"The goal in business is not to stay in business or keep your crews busy," he said. "The goal of business is to always make a profit. ... It's not how much you make that matters; it's how much you keep," after overhead, job costs, staff, and a fair salary for the owner.
As he put it, a business has a business plan, sales goals, job cost goals, an overhead budget, and profit goals. It pays its president or owner a fixed and reasonable salary every month, and prepares monthly financial statements, profit-and-loss statements, income statements, and balance sheets.
"A business without all of the above is not a business," he said. "It is a place to go to work; a place to try to make some money; a place to try and cover expenses; and a place to try to have some leftovers to pay for the owner's lifestyle."
To always have a profit, one must cover direct costs, as well as recover overhead costs, he said. It's why businesses have to know what their sales are, the cost of doing sales, and all overhead costs. If you do not nail down costs, "you are working blind," he said.
Sidebar: Award WinnersDALLAS - The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) recently presented its 2005 Safety Awards at its annual meeting and exposition. Forty-nine companies were recognized for "superior safety results," including 16 companies that were awarded for having at least three consecutive years of superior safety performance.
Offered every year, the NADCA Safety Award Program recognizes those companies that have sustained superior employee safety results. Award applicants submit a copy of their Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 300A logs, which must be maintained in strict accordance with record-keeping requirements under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Safety logs are analyzed using formulas developed by the National Safety & Health Council. To receive an award from NADCA, a company must demonstrate low incidence of nonfatal occupational injury and illness.
For more information, visit www.nadca.com.
Publication date: 04/17/2006