Maybe I just worry too much. First it was that we as contractors were going to tarnish our hard-earned image by not being truthful regarding the need to upgrade coils to achieve the widely advertised change to 13 SEER. Hopefully, with all the information inThe NEWSand other publications, contractors are at least explaining the implications of changing an air conditioning unit.

Now that equipment upgrades are not as practical as they previously were, along comes the new buzzwords in our industry: "indoor air quality" and "air cleaning." Yes, I know that air cleaners have been around for decades and many contractors have sold large quantities throughout the years. But usually those sales were the result of an asthma or allergy problem, often recommended by a physician.

Today, air cleaning has gone mainstream. Just turn on a cable channel at almost any time day or night and you are likely to see an infomercial about some type of air cleaning apparatus. These are usually single-room units with claims of tremendous cleaning capabilities. And from what I understand these are being sold by the hundreds of thousands.

There has also been some substantial new developments in air cleaners sold through our normal trade sources. Manufacturers have introduced units, both media and electronic or a combination of those, which are advertised to provide significantly increased cleaning efficiencies compared to those units our industry has utilized for years. So now the public is being bombarded with information about air-cleaning units and we know that at least a portion, if not a large portion, of the information they receive is going to be less than truthful.


This is an excellent opportunity for us contractors to show our professional expertise. We need to do the research and develop a detailed resource of information regarding all of those air-cleaning options that are available. We need to be able to explain in depth to our customers what they are really receiving, whether they purchase a single-room unit or have us install an ultraefficient unit or units in their HVAC system.

The manufacturers of the air-cleaning units have claims as to what their system will provide, but the standards they use to provide this information are not always the same. The size and type of particulate matter being collected varies with the types of cleaning units. It is our job as the HVAC professional to be able to clearly and honestly explain to the customer what they are really buying.

The benefits of cleaner indoor air have been documented. And there is no one better to provide it than HVAC contractors. So why did I start this out with a statement that I worry too much? I am concerned and want to make sure that we as HVAC contractors get the reputation of providing truthful, professional information regarding air-cleaning systems. I don't want contractors to be encouraged by the potential opportunity for a fast buck by selling air-cleaning units that don't really do the job that is right for the customer.

When we are competing with mass marketers there is a temptation to use the same types of tactics that they use. We need to maintain our professional stature and give the customer the true and honest information. If they decide to purchase an "over-the-counter" unit with overinflated claims, then let them be disappointed with that seller. We should offer them units that will provide efficiencies we can substantiate and provide the level of cleaning they desire. This will allow us to maintain our professional image and not tarnish that image by selling inferior quality units at inflated prices.

Butch Welsch, Guest Columnist, Owner of Welsch Heating & Cooling, St. Louis,

Publication date: 06/26/2006