Did you know that most homes generate about 40 pounds of dust per year for every 1,500 square feet of space? While some neat-freaks may argue that point, it’s a safe bet that unless they have the proper filters in place to eliminate the dust, they also are living with 40 pounds of pet dander, human skin flakes and various other microscopic particles that invade the home.
The thought of living with such filth has consumers running for their dust rags and in many cases indoor air quality (IAQ) solutions.
In fact, the U.S. market for air quality product manufacturing will grow to $221 million by 2012, according to Rockville, Md.-based SBI (Specialists in Business Information), whose parent company is MarketResearch.com.
According to the EPA, all of us face a variety of risks to our health as we go about our daily lives. Driving, flying and being exposed to environmental pollutants all pose some risk.
We accept these risks because we want to lead our lives the way we want. However, some risks can be avoided with the proper information. Indoor air pollution is one risk consumers can do something about.
And IAQ problems aren’t limited to dust. Combustion sources (oil, gas, wood and tobacco products), building materials, cleaning products, cooking smells and outdoor sources such as pesticides and pollution all commingle together to create poor indoor air quality and exacerbate symptoms for allergy and asthma sufferers.
Imagine what the recent Southern California wildfires, which displaced more than 900,000 people from their homes and filled the air with smoke, did to those with allergies. Homeowners were tasked with making sure their families were safe from the noxious fumes.
For one Southern California homeowner and hvac contractor, an IAQ solution made a significant difference.
John Hurn, CEO of Hurn Mechanical Inc., which services the San Diego area, installed Trane CleanEffects air cleaner technology in his home.
“As soon as the fires started, I put the fan in the ‘on’ position so it would run continuously,” explains Hurn. “It worked so well that even when the smoke was so [thick] outside that you couldn’t see or breathe, you couldn’t smell it in the house.”
The Hurns also noticed that their home had less dust even with two cats. Knowing how pleased they were with the results of CleanEffects, they decided to send out a questionnaire to their customers to see if others were experiencing the same results.
One customer had the system installed just a few days before the wildfires. The wildfires caused the family to evacuate their home. Before they left they made sure the CleanEffects system was on. When they returned a few days later, they came home to a house covered in ash and soot. Inside, the air was pristine.
According to Trane, the CleanEffects air cleaning technology removes up to 99.98% of airborne particles and allergens from the air. To prove its effectiveness, Trane had the performance results tested by third-party vendors LMS Technologies and Environmental Health & Engineering Inc. To further validate the findings, Harvard School of Public Health professors signed off on the results.
Regardless of tests results, the real challenge for contractors is convincing consumers that they are the go-to person for IAQ solutions. And with throw-away products like the Ionic Breeze and various other portable air purifiers that all tout cleaner air for a fraction of what it costs to have a contractor install an IAQ product, it’s a tough sell.
To help contractors get their arms around IAQ technology and ultimately become more comfortable selling IAQ, Bryant launched its Healthy Home Solutions kit, which is a training, sales and marketing kit aimed at educating contractors and consumers on the need for healthy indoor air quality.
“Homeowners are beginning to become aware of IAQ,” says Jeff Goss, marketing manager for IAQ products at Bryant. “We took a look at the marketplace and saw where the sales were going — things like portable air cleaners and high-efficiency vacuums. Sales for those have shot up dramatically in the last couple of years. We take that as a sign that people are interested in these kinds of products, but maybe don’t realize that their hvac professional can offer them a solution.”
The Bryant kit gears sales literature around concepts the homeowner can understand and that resonate with them on a day-to-day basis. It also tries to position the contractor as the specialist in IAQ.
In addition to the sales literature, the Healthy Home Solutions kit leans heavy on the technical literature so contractors can better understand IAQ products.
“They see IAQ as a sales opportunity and a growth opportunity, but they don’t feel comfortable talking with customers— they don’t want the homeowner to stump them on a question and look like they don’t have all of the answers,” says Goss.
Bryant understands that a contractor’s comfort level with products will equate to more sales. To further their comfort level, additional training will earn a factory authorized Bryant dealer the designation of Healthy Air Specialist.
Agreeing with the need for education is Lance Fernandez, general manager of Yes! Air Conditioning, Las Vegas.
Yes! Air Conditioning recently had an IAQ marketing professional train its staff on how to improve sales of the company’s air scrubber/UV light combo that fetches between $1,500 and $2,500 installed.
“I hate to have the entire staff out for three consecutive mornings and not on service calls, but indoor air quality products represent such a potential growth market today and for the foreseeable future,” says Fernandez. “[Currently], we’re not specifically focused on direct marketing indoor air quality, but it’s going to represent 10% of our total revenue in the next few years.”
The first key to IAQ sales, Fernandez points out, is that the staff must educate every consumer about indoor air quality.
Yes! offers “leave-behind” marketing materials to help raise awareness among its customer base that explain the problems of a “tight” home that lacks air circulation, and the degree to which ultraviolet light plays in controlling airborne germs/contaminants. Another tool Yes! has used in marketing the issue more proactively is in-home air quality tests in which the company sends collected data to be analyzed for health assessment. Fernandez said this has helped demonstrate to consumers that their system is more than something that just heats and cools your home — it creates an indoor environment.
According to Goss, IAQ solutions show strong growth in a declining core-equipment market. The products offer a great opportunity for contractors to differentiate themselves in a time when a lot of people are competing on price.
Bryant has a full range of products that address various issues. This is where product knowledge comes into play.
“A lot of times we hear of dealers out on a service call and there is a dog in the home or there is a child with allergies,” says Goss. “The technician will take that opportunity to bring up the topic of IAQ as an upgrade to their current system.”
Depending how the dealer wants to address IAQ, the opportunity is always there — the hurdle is opening that conversation. Many times customers aren’t coming to the contractor for better air filtration in their homes.
“It’s tough to put metrics on the quality of life, from a dollars perspective it’s difficult to make that sale,” explains Goss. “What we try to do is encourage contractors to offer customer testimonials because a lot of times word-of-mouth marketing is much more powerful than anything we can put on a sheet of paper.”
Traci Purdum is a former editor of HVACR Business.
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