The ice cream trucks are coming down the street, but the kids going out to them are wearing sweaters. How about running through some sprinklers? Not in a good portion of the country, thank you. Some homeowners may even wind up with a nice crop of mushrooms in their Kentucky bluegrass.

What about turning on the air conditioner? Eventually some homeowners will; and those in traditionally hot climates, such as the southwestern United States, use their air conditioning most of the year. Up here in Michigan, at least, the covers have yet to be taken off of many condensing units.

It’s not a good year for A/C service — emergency service, that is.

(Please note that I am intentionally tempting fate by writing about how cold it is. I would be quite happy to be proved wrong by the perverse editorial luck that makes temperatures become hot as soon as some foolhardy editor in a weekly publication writes about how cold it is, or vice versa. It’s an editorial version of a rain dance: the “come on and prove me wrong” editorial.)

Meanwhile, the mushroom spores are sprouting.

The Fungus Among Us

Cool summers bring out the creativity in many contractors. It offers them the opportunity to catch up on a lot of projects, if not service work. It makes many contractors wish they had invested more time into cultivating service maintenance agreements.

This is the type of weather that gives service technicians the chance to look carefully at the performance of the systems they are maintaining, commercial as well as residential. If they are measuring superheat and subcooling as they should, the numbers could tip them off to other service possibilities that can help their customers’ systems run better, longer.

Maybe some problems were already detected last year, but no one had the time to go back to the customer. Check your customer database! Maybe this is the year that coil cleaning should be offered. Maybe this is the year the C-store owner will be convinced that you should be allowed to clean his ice machine, so you don’t wince when your kid buys a soda there.

Maybe this is the year when you start asking customers questions about their air quality, or related questions about allergies and asthma.

All of this chilly, damp weather may not be the best for air conditioner sales, but they open up a host of opportunities for IAQ product installations. Before you back away because it sounds opportunistic, consider these facts:

  • Allergic asthma is increasing. Mold and pollen are known triggers, along with dust and cockroach feces.

  • Many certified allergists now publish mold and pollen counts for the benefit of their patients. This can support the manufacturer literature you have.

  • Many IAQ products, applied responsibly, can offer relief by cleaning the air and preventing further microbial growth.

  • These IAQ products are installed in and around the air-handling system by HVAC contractors.

    A Few Tip-Offs

    HVAC contractors and technicians sometimes feel awkward when it comes time to tell their customers about products that may improve their quality of life. When you look at it that way, it’s just silly isn’t it — but I understand. I am not a salesperson by nature; many years ago I quit a scouting organization after a dog bit me when I was trying to sell cookies.

    You need to convince yourself that the product is something your customer needs. Once you do that, you won’t have so much trouble asking customers if they would like more information about coil cleaning, air cleaners or other types of higher efficiency filtration, air exchangers, humidifiers/dehumidifiers, UV products, etc.

    Here are some things that might give you an idea that it’s a good time to offer IAQ products:

  • When you call the customer to confirm the appointment, you hear a bird mimicking the customer.

  • When you pull up to the house, you see that the customer’s car has a bumper sticker that says “Caution, show cats on board!”

  • Your customer is blowing her nose a lot.

  • You smell cigarette smoke, and it’s not coming from your clothes.

  • You smell a musty odor in general.

  • You smell the show cats.

  • The house has a very nice piano, such as a baby grand.

    (Of course, baby grands don’t cause IAQ problems; those 88 keys don’t offgas anything, hopefully, other than a little “Classical Gas.” But like the woodwork, pianos and other musical instruments are very sensitive to temperature and humidity changes. They like stability.)

    Unfortunately, this mild weather also brings out the cost-cutters in our trade. Likewise, it brings out people who try to sell systems and products that they are not qualified to install.

    Don’t try to analyze a home’s IAQ problems too far. Don’t tell a customer that their system is growing mold unless you are a certified industrial hygienist and you have analyzed samples. Clean the coils, protecting yourself, naturally. Address moisture produced by the operation of the HVAC system, if that’s appropriate.

    Like the doctors say, “First, do no harm.” But don’t forget that the potential is there to do a lot of real good, both for your customers and for your bottom line.

    Barb Checket-Hanks is service/maintenance and troubleshooting editor. She can be reached at 248-244-6467; 248-362-0317 (fax);

    Publication date: 06/16/2003