The heating and cooling industry is experiencing a monumental shift toward a higher level of importance around indoor air quality, or IAQ. HVAC products that improve IAQ have been around for many years but were not perceived as a necessity by consumers until recently. The COVID-19 pandemic changed this perception like it changed many other things. The residential and commercial demand for IAQ is becoming pervasive, and the inclusion of IAQ solutions as a standard HVAC service is growing into an expectation. From single-family homes to multi-family properties, hotels, office buildings, schools and any other structure that could be named, consumers want better indoor air, and that demand is here to stay.
In 2021, YORK® conducted a survey about homeowners’ beliefs around IAQ. YORK® found that 62% of homeowners believed their indoor air quality needs improving, and 81% will make improving IAQ a priority in 2021.
The elevation of IAQ from being a nice-to-have to a must-have uniquely positions HVAC contractors with new opportunities for business growth. Here’s what HVAC contractors need to know about IAQ as it relates to the heating and cooling industry and why it's important to proactively offer IAQ as a service. Not sure how to talk to your customers about IAQ? Get answers to common IAQ questions to be prepared for air quality conversations.
What is IAQ in HVAC?
IAQ products work in conjunction with the HVAC ecosystem. It’s important to understand the types of products available that improve air quality in order to recognize how IAQ is connected to the HVAC industry. The IAQ products on the market today can be divided into four main categories:
- Air purification and sanitation products clean the air by eliminating biological contaminants and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Air purification and sanitation solutions include:
- Air scrubbers
- UV lights
- Bipolar ionization
- Filtration products act as a barrier and minimize the spread of dust, pollen and bacteria in the air.
- Ventilation products force fresh air into spaces to dilute stagnant air within a structure.
- Humidity control products maintain moisture levels between the ideal range of 30% to 60%. This makes it harder for germs and pathogens to live in the air and on surfaces.
Improving air quality in any structure comes down to finding the right combination of IAQ products based on the factors causing poor air quality. This need for customized IAQ solutions presents a growth opportunity for HVAC businesses.
How IAQ can help you grow your HVAC business
There’s a number of advantages for HVAC contractors to get ahead of the demand for better indoor air and proactively expand their service offering to include IAQ solutions.
IAQ solutions are a value-added service. Because IAQ products are part of the HVAC ecosystem, IAQ solutions can be easily incorporated into everyday service and maintenance calls. Joe, and HVAC contractor in Raleigh, North Carolina, routinely discusses IAQ with his customers.
“We are offering it on every service call, maintenance contract and installation. We use sales literature, the air scrubber video eBooks, and the packaging itself to help with the sales process.”
Another Raleigh-based HVAC contractor, Tyler, takes a promotional approach to adding on IAQ to maintenance calls.
“We are offering specials on service calls, maintenance contracts, equipment change outs, and new construction orientations. We typically offer a 50% off deal on IAQ products when doing a residential equipment change out and have a pretty high success rate on those.”
IAQ as a service is a solution to the cycle of seasonal work. It’s common in the heating and cooling industry for contractors to experience seasonal peaks and dips in service requests. Having safe air to breathe indoors is a year-round need, especially for commercial customers. HVAC Contractor CB acknowledges IAQ as a requirement on commercial new construction jobs.
“It is either being specified by the engineer or, most of the time, by a local spec rep on new plans being sent to us. We are initially discussing it with them and trying to find the best solutions to meet their specific needs.”
As businesses and commercial facilities operate in the pandemic and even post-pandemic, having IAQ solutions in place are and will continue to be essential.
Being an IAQ solution-provider is a competitive advantage. By educating customers about IAQ solutions, HVAC contractors can establish trust from a customer perspective. Tyler sees customers being interested in better indoor air, but not understanding how IAQ solutions work.
“About 40% to 50% of our customers seem to know a little about IAQ but it seems to be limited to portable options versus the complete whole house solutions we can provide...The typical homeowner assumes these smaller portable products that they are buying online or from ordinary retailers will treat their whole home. Most of the time these inexpensive options don’t fully address all of their needs.”
Findings from the YORK® survey also point to limited consumer understanding of IAQ solutions. Seventy three percent reported facing at least one barrier to improving their home's air quality, such as a lack of resources and know-how, and 30% of those who had difficulty taking steps to improve the air quality of their home said they weren't sure where to begin. Twenty two percent were not aware indoor air quality could be improved.
Joe works to educate his customers about what to expect after a new IAQ system is installed.
“Since most of our proactive treatment solutions will actually at first cause the existing dust in the home to fall from the air in the home, we may also need to add better filtration to capture it along with increased airflow cycling to help with the dust...But we tell them up front to expect more dust in the beginning, which then can be captured or cleaned and removed from the homes.”
By being a source of IAQ expertise, HVAC contractors can set themselves apart from their competition. HVAC contractors should embrace IAQ technology for a successful future. It's time for HVAC contractors to expand their service offering to include IAQ and proactively talk to customers about solutions for better air. Contact us to learn more about IAQ support for heating and cooling professionals.