SAN FRANCISCO - This year’s National Air Filtration Association meeting wasn’t just about air filters.

Paula Levasseur gives a presentation on molecular filtration.

SAN FRANCISCO - This year’s National Air Filtration Association meeting wasn’t just about air filters. The group covered everything from climate change to changing your business strategy during the Sept. 17-19 event at the Holiday Inn Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.

When attendees weren’t enjoying the attractions of the City by the Bay, which included a golf tournament at the Presidio golf course, they were strictly down to business. NAFA held executive meetings, certification testing, and numerous training sessions in an effort to keep members informed and on top of their game.

Here is a rundown of just some of the educational sessions NAFA had to offer.

Jeffrey May of May Indoor Air Investigations showed NAFA members what can happen when filters are installed incorrectly during his presentation “Expand Your Business Offerings.”

Filtering information

The topic of air filtration was tackled from a variety of different angles. Bud Offerman, the president of Indoor Environmental Engineering, gave a presentation called “Update on LEED and Air Filtration,” while Paula Levasseur capped off the four-day meeting with a session on molecular filtration.

But it was Jeffrey May of May Indoor Air Investigations in Tyngsborough, Mass., that really grabbed the attention of attendees. During his presentation called “Expand Your Business Offerings,” May showed dozens of slides that gave attendees a firsthand look at what happens when air filters are not installed correctly.

“What I’m going to show you is kind of depressing,” May said before starting his slide show of mold and bacteria growing out of control on HVAC systems.

May’s company investigates “sick buildings” by taking dust and air samples from a building and analyzing them to find out exactly what is making people sick. In most cases, May said that the air filter is not doing its job.

He said that the most important function of a high-efficiency air filter is to improve indoor air quality and clean the air by removing particles that can soil the coils.

May also explained that when it comes to mold, there are two types: macro-fungi and micro-fungi. Macro-fungi is dangerous because it actually destroys wood. But microfungi does not digest wood.

According to May, it is important to make a distinction because once a building owner sees any kind of mold or fungi, they are “ready to tear the building down.”

Although the micro-fungi won’t destroy a building, it can still have implications on health.

“Spores from micro-fungi cause allergy and asthma symptoms,” he said.

The best way to prevent this is to stop dust from getting on the air-conditioning coils. With all of the slides that May showed, all of the HVAC systems had filters, but they were not good enough.

While the slides were not appealing to look at, May said that the slides show a business opportunity. It is an opportunity to provide customers with not only better filters, but filters that are installed correctly. This means making sure that the system’s blower is strong enough to support the media filter that is installed.

He said that customers can keep their regular filters, but they should also have a media filter to keep their ductwork clean.

To sum up, May said the key is educating the individuals who install the air conditioners and filters. All they have to remember is: “Don’t soil your coil.”

Another view

In order to educate the members of NAFA on business strategies, the group brought in Tom East, executive vice president of Refrigeration Sales Corp. in Cleveland. East said he wanted to show the NAFA members how they can compete as times keep changing.

He started by giving a quick profile on RSC, which got its start as a service company in 1945. In 1949, Carrier Corp. approached the company about becoming a full HVACR wholesaler. According to East, the transition was a success, and the company expanded its reach into 23 Ohio counties.

Over 60 years later, RSC is still successful with further regional growth and over 100 employees.

But East said that business success was not always something he was accustom to. He told NAFA members that he inherited the family construction business in the 1970s. At that time, he said there were no new construction projects and the economy was “horrible.” So he sold the family business, which didn’t go over well with some family members.

“You’re not invited to too many Thanksgiving dinners (after that),” he said.

From there, East became a sales representative for Trane, and later went to school for a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in business. He finally ended up at RSC, which he says has created an environment for business and economic survival.

To do this, May said it is all about the mission statement and having a leader who will constantly remind the employees of what their mission is.

“Differentiate your business through a mission statement,” he said. “Something people can believe in.”

The mission statement at RSC is about the customer. This means providing expertise, a relationship based on loyalty and trust, and service speed.

“We recognize the most valuable minute belongs to the customer,” said East.

And those customers are not just the ones that buy products, but the people in your company selling those products.

“Business is about people,” said May. “The most important resource is our people.”

That is why RSC has created criteria for employees where they are reminded that they are part of the success of the company and its financial growth.

In order to keep growing financially, East said “a business must adapt. A business must be changing continuously.”

He said that the cost of everything is going up. In the last year, food prices have gone up 4 percent, while gas prices have gone up 33 percent.  With prices continuing to rise on everything, companies must compete in other ways.

For example, East said it is important to train employees. When it comes to qualified individuals in the refrigeration business, May believes “there is a serious shortage in our industry.”

That is why RSC continually offers technical training and safety training on a regular basis to employees. Employees are also offered ongoing training when new products and technologies hit the market.

RSC has also taken advantage of technology by offering more online business services to customers. Customers can get more products by ordering over the Internet.

East also said that companies will succeed when they move forward with the green building movement. He said that green legislation is “something you must prepare for.”

As more states and cities create mandates on green building, companies that have knowledge on sustainability issues will push ahead of the pact.

David Beedlow, Ph.D., from the U.S. EPA provided NAFA members with a background on global warming and climate change.

Climate change

The subject of green was further discussed during a presentation called “Global Climate Change Research at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”

David Beedlow, Ph.D., from the Western Ecology Division of the U.S. EPA in Corvallis, Ore., took time to show NAFA members how the EPA has been studying climate change.

He explained that the EPA started looking at the impact of climate change in 1988 and that the issue garnered a great deal of attention by 1991. The issue seemed to simmer down a bit, but in the last two years it has jumped back in the forefront.

“It’s a hot topic –– pun intended,” he said.

The reason for the topic surge in relevance has much to do with the EPA’s findings. For one, Beedlow said that the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing more warming, which has resulted in bridges and homes collapsing in northern Alaska.

The warming has also been shown to benefit some wildlife, while harming others. While the warmer temperatures have been good for the grizzly bears, the polar bears are losing out.

In 2007, an intergovernmental panel on climate change determined that the changes were due to “unequivocal human influence.”

The EPA predicts that continued emissions from human behavior will lead to further warming and a rise of three degrees over the 21st Century.

“It doesn’t sound like much,” said Beedlow, “But a change of five degrees took us out of the ice age.”

What does all of this have to do with NAFA members? Beedlow said that most of the carbon dioxide that is vented into the atmosphere is from energy. As the U.S. moves forward with finding ways to cap these emissions, more “zero-emission” power plants will be proposed or the building of nuclear power plants.

As consumers become more and more concerned about climate change, air filtration and HVAC companies will have more business opportunities when it comes to energy efficiency and clean-air technology, he said.

For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail