Most, but not all, residential indoor air quality problems can be solved by HVAC contractors.

Whether you know it or not, your company is already in the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) business - but are you doing all that you can with it?

Realize that most (but not all) residential IAQ problems can be found and solved by your HVAC contractors. Also, people are far more aware of the need for solutions than ever before, because statistics show that (for some strange reason) more people are suffering from asthma and allergies than ever before, and even medical doctors are suggesting IAQ solutions.

In fact, over the past several years there has been a growing number of companies that not only specifically specialize in air-quality problems, but companies from all sorts of fields (such as carpet cleaners and chimney sweeps) have entered the duct-cleaning business - and I certainly don’t have to say anything more about the growing interest in electronic air filters. But, is your company benefiting from this burgeoning market?

So, while I recognize that your company is likely not planning to enter the IAQ remediation business, I would like to devote some coming articles on this subject to explain the ins and outs of this field to give you some ideas on how to better market your products and increase profits for both you and your customers.

Don't Over-Promise

The first thing that anyone who wants to enter the business must understand is that no one can solve all IAQ problems - some are psychological, and others come from sources that just can’t be fixed. So, just as a doctor wouldn’t tell you, “I can fix your problem,” because he or she is worried about lawsuits, nobody should ever say they can fix an IAQ problem. All they can do (like a doctor) is to present possible causes of the problem and then offer possible solutions. And no one should advertise themselves as “The Indoor Air Quality Experts,” unless they can truly prove that they are.

Diagnostic Testing

Companies that specialize in IAQ remediation will be quick to point out that they are trained and know how to use the proper equipment to do diagnostic testing. Such testing is generally necessary when doing work on commercial, institutional and industrial buildings, in order to provide legal proof that action was taken and the remediation was successful. However, recognize that testing does not solve the problem at all and often costs thousands of dollars to perform.

What will testing show? Well, the most common irritants in the air are:

  • Dust (from roach and dust mite dropping and animal dander) and smoke, which is collected through micro vacuums and then checked under a microscope.
  • Pollen, which is collected and checked the same way.
  • Molds, the spores of which are collected and put into a jell-filled dish and allowed to grow, and thereafter identified from textbooks.
  • Bacteria, the spores of which are collected and put into a dish that is often filled with a blood-jell mixture and allowed to grow, and thereafter identified from text books.
  • Chemicals, the vapors of which must be collected and analyzed on a spectrometer.

    However (although you might consider carrying the tools and testing materials), such elaborate and expensive testing is usually not required or feasible in residential applications.

  • What Good Sense Can Tell Us

    Whenever anyone is looking for IAQ remediation, the first consideration is a HEPA-quality air filter, because no matter what else may be there to cause a problem, a good filter will remove the dust, smoke solids, pollen, mold spores and bacteria spores. And where there are chemical or smoke odors, this can be solved by the introduction of activated charcoal filters (or the like) and by introducing more outdoor air.

    Musty odors are a sign of mold, which is all bad, since most can cause allergic reactions, and they simply shouldn’t be there.

    Of course, mold can come from many sources in a building where HVAC IAQ remediation can do no good at all, but it frequently comes from HVAC air handlers and ductwork, which is our problem.

    Odors that smell of cheese, body odor or something dead, probably come from a bacterial source. That can also come from sources either inside or outside an HVAC system.

    I will discuss more on this in future articles, but I want to point out that there are now some fine organizations for IAQ remediation contractors that provide training and certification. You might wish to consider having someone come speak on this subject at a future dealer meeting.