IAQ concerns alter marketing, products for Florida HVAC contractor

Tom Haas and Ginger Fannin inspect air-conditioning units in the Pro Air showroom.
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - Living in a frequently warm and humid climate, indoor air quality is a topic of concern to many Floridians, according to some contractors who work in the Sunshine State.

"Almost every day, you see something in the papers or on the TV news about mold and other concerns about IAQ," says Tom Haas of Pro Air Conditioning in Port Charlotte, Fla. "With our hot and humid climate, Florida has become one of the states where IAQ is on everyone's mind."

Haas, a residential and light-commercial HVAC contractor serving Charlotte, DeSoto and Sarasota counties, has found that educating consumers about the many new options that are now available has become his company's most important service.

"When you think about it, most folks don't change their air-conditioning system more than every 10 to 15 years. Think of all the new products and solutions that come to the market in that span of time," he says.

Such as duct board. The lightweight fiberglass material is sometimes inserted into ductwork to save energy and make HVAC systems quieter, but many homeowners have never heard of it. Duct board is also starting to become part of the movement for better IAQ, with some types including mold-fighting chemicals.

"You don't see it advertised in newspapers," Haas says of duct board. "That's why we make sure (homeowners) know their options when they are replacing an existing system or installing one in new construction."

Haas says many homeowners are becoming interested in HVAC systems that improve their IAQ.

A technician for Port Charlotte, Fla.-based Pro Air Conditioning loads a section of fiberglass duct board for transportation to a jobsite.

Education

"Once they see what is available to them, they want to replace not only the AC equipment but also the entire duct system," he says.

About two years ago, Pro Air Conditioning started offering ToughGard Duct Board with Enhanced Surface from CertainTeed Corp. for the supply and return-air ductwork they install. Composed of resin-bonded fiberglass with a foil-laminate air barrier and vapor retarder, along with black-mat facing on the airstream surface, it not only insulates, but also absorbs unwanted cross talk and equipment noise.

"The user also appreciates knowing that the board contains an EPA-registered anti-microbial agent in order to reduce the potential of microbial growth that may affect the product," Haas says.

He adds such customer education is part of "all the bells and whistles," such as high-efficiency air-conditioning equipment and IAQ-improving ultraviolet lighting systems, which the company prides itself on providing.

He credits such service for the 17-year-old company's success.

"We moved from being a one-man band back in 1986 to being one of the biggest players in our tri-county area," Haas says.

Haas should know: He was formerly the company's owner. He continues to function as sales manager, working with St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Victor Distributing Co. for the company's stock.

Another secret to their success, according to Haas - a clean work environment.

"We have employees with us for more than 10 years already and we want them to work in a safe and healthy environment," Haas says. "After all, these people are like family, and we want them to be around with us 25 or 30 years."

(This article was supplied by CertainTeed Corp.)