Answering Customer IAQ Concerns with Proven Methods
The conversation around indoor air quality and interest in cleaner air continues to grow as consumers become savvier about how what they breathe impacts health and daily living. Our industry is positioned to provide solutions to their growing concerns as we begin to understand the airborne threats homes face, the precise needs of our customers, and the proven methods we can employ for improving indoor air quality.
Knowing the threats
Insights into today’s quality of indoor air reinforce reasons for consumer concern. Human-emitted airborne particles like COVID-19 have changed how our world operates and thinks about IAQ. And that raised awareness has us thinking about the fast-approaching seasonal flu.
As all-consuming as these health hazards might currently seem, a pre-COVID-19 report from the EPA highlighted other IAQ threats also lurking indoors. It found that, “Americans, on average, spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors, where the concentrations of some pollutants are often 2 to 5 times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.” The majority of the offending indoor pollutants, the EPA said, originate from these key areas
- Combustion sources such as someone smoking in the house, or use of wood or coal heating/cooking appliances and fireplaces;
- Cleaning supplies, paints, insecticides, and other commonly used products;
- Building materials both old and new, for example undiscovered asbestos fibers or chemical releases from today’s common construction elements.
- Naturally occurring substances including mold and pet dander.
Understanding the customer
As HVAC providers, we have the opportunity to advise homeowners on ways they can improve their indoor air quality and assist them in developing personalized solutions to meet their unique needs. This starts with inquiring into the homeowner’s challenges and determining if they fit into one of these key categories that would benefit from an added IAQ solution:
- Are they among the 60 million Americans who suffer from allergies or asthma?
- Do they have pets who share not only love but their dander, dirt and hair?
- Is there someone who smokes within the home?
- Does a household member have a compromised health condition that could benefit from the healthier environment?
- Are they a family who’s heavily focused on health and wellness, and therefore would appreciate the cleaner air?
Employing the solutions
After establishing a homeowner’s reasons to consider IAQ improvements, we can share recommendations built upon ASHRAE research and findings that were recently published in response to COVID-19 but serve well to address common IAQ concerns
Here are examples of how to turn those recommendations into beneficial solutions for customers:
- Suggest adding a whole home air cleaner or a disposable filter with a higher MERV
By adding a whole-home air cleaner, like the Trane CleanEffects, it is possible to remove as much as 99.98 percent of airborne pollutants of .1 microns or greater from a home. In fact, CleanEffects is proven to limit viruses like Influenza A*, bacteria and allergens. When a whole home air cleaner is not possible, high-efficiency filters (such as MERV 14) or higher to help take away some of the pollutants.
- Explain the value of continuously operating the HVAC fan
ASHRAE found that, “Continuous operation at low speed should provide substantial filtration without undue draft.” This can be simplified through programming the smart thermostat to that ensure the system is set to run. Should you be upgrading the entire system, propose a variable speed one to provide the most efficient continuous operation and highest level of comfort.
- Suggest using Ultra Violet Germicidal Irradiation
These UV-C lamps installed in duct or near coils use output levels of the light and duration of output to kill or inactivate microorganisms. ASHRAE advises any UVGI system that is installed “should be maximally operated according to manufacturer instructions.”
- Survey what additional pieces might help the customer maintain normal temperatures and humidity levels within the home.
This recommendation comes closest to what we might once have consider the daily work for our industry, as normal temperatures and humidity levels drive home. Indoor air quality adds yet another reason why it’s so important to install the right-sized HVAC system with humidifiers or dehumidifiers, as needed, while monitoring the entire system with a smart thermostat and sensors.
Armed with these recommendations, an understanding of our homeowners’ needs and a knowledge of what airborne pollutants they face, we can provide our customers with proven methods for improving their indoor air quality.
*Removes up to 99.9% Influenza A virus from filtered air, as reported 12/4/2015 by armid health group.
- Answering Customer IAQ Concerns with Proven Methods - September 15, 2020
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