Sheet metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association

Indoor Air Quality: A Consultative Approach

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency includes poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) among the top five environmental health risks. Molds, allergens, smoke, fumes, and contaminants can cause respiratory problems and lead to illness.

Indoor Air QualitySMACNA residential contactors are offering tailored solutions for their customers by freshening, purifying, and dehumidifying indoor air with products such as dehumidifiers, air purifiers, and high-efficiency air filters, which can reduce customers’ medical expenses and build company referrals along the way.

“As SMACNA contractors, we can set ourselves apart from the competition by doing everything possible to help homeowners with their indoor air quality concerns,” said Paul Heimann of Welsch Heating and Cooling Company of St. Louis, Missouri, and a member of SMACNA’s National Residential Contractors Council Steering Committee. “We aren’t out to make a quick buck—we want to be the best HVAC company they have ever encountered.”

“Our salesmen run IAQ tests and ask clients if they’ve noticed any odors or health problems,” said Kevin Shekell of J. E. Shekell Inc. in Evansville, Indiana, and chair of the Residential Council.

If their indoor air quality is poor, homeowners might report symptoms such as eye irritation, sore throats, headaches, or fatigue. “We do not sell products our customers do not need,” Shekell explained. We learn what’s important to them and offer solutions tailored to their requirements.”

Bill Goad of GP Systems in Chillicothe, Illinois, agreed. “If you’re sincere and open about what you can and can’t do, and you do whatever it takes to solve problems, you will make customers’ lives better,” said Goad, a member of the Residential Council. “When you solve a health issue, some customers will recoup their costs in less than a year through reduced medical expenses. Referrals will go up because you will offer results people can’t find in the phone book.”

Knowledge: Key to Success

“Our salesman has done his research,” Heimann noted. “He knows how mold grows at different temperatures and humidity levels. He understands building science, so he can look at the whole building envelope, not just the HVAC system. To become the best, you have to study.”

“You can’t just read a brochure. You have to understand what you are installing, and why you are installing it,” Goad explained. “Many air quality products are sold to make money, not to help people. It can feel like a gamble to tell customers to pay a carpenter $200 to simply plug a hole instead of selling them a $600 product. But customers will gain confidence in your ability to diagnose and fix problems. In the future, they will be more willing to buy a product because they won’t be afraid of making a mistake.”

Specific products help with different situations. Many homes benefit from a fresh air intake, but that increases humidity. Welsch Heating and Cooling recommends adding whole house dehumidifiers to control humidity, which reduces mold growth. GP Systems mounts Second Wind air purifiers in the return air to mediate airborne biological components before they reach the air filter. J. E Shekell Inc. installs GPS and O2 Prime plasma systems to freshen the air. And high-efficiency air filters can help any homeowner by removing particles and allergens.

Regarding hazardous substances like asbestos, mold, or radon, Shekell encourages members to comply with federal, state, and local laws. “For example, Shekell Inc. is not licensed to do asbestos abatement or mold remediation,” he noted. “If we were to spread black mold and a customer became ill, we would be liable.”

“When we find hazardous materials, we refer customers to certified specialists who have the licensing and insurance for the situation,” he said. “We come back after they are done.” He advised contractors to “keep up your city and state licenses and your insurance to stay current and professional.”

Related Links

EPA Indoor Air Quality Website »    

Learn About Indoor Air Quality »

Guide to Air Cleaning Devices »

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety »

Is Your Air Unhealthy? »