A worldwide Coronavirus pandemic had already made 2020 frightening enough. Wildfires destroying hundreds of homes and shrouding the Western U.S. in smoke have added to the misery.
The last thing consumers need is a sales presentation on indoor air quality that scares them further.
That’s the message Resideo wants contractors to hear. The global home products producer and distributor provides guidance on when to broach Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) solutions with customers, and the tools contractors need to be successful in selling them in an ethical way.
“The last thing I want is to take advantage of someone’s fear and not having enough knowledge, and sell them a whole bunch of stuff,” says Ketan Mehta, Resideo’s Senior Director of Global Product Management. “We want to be in the game for the long term, and we want to be in the game with our pro partners and contractors.
“We don’t want to use fear as a strategy. That only goes so far.”
Instead, he says, making consumers more data driven in identifying problems, then giving them options for how to fix those issues, is more effective. And that job falls to contractors.
Fortunately, Resideo has a tool that doesn’t rely on terror.
In IAQ, opportunity meets challenge
The wildfires, on top of the pandemic and the resulting increase in time people spend at home, create both opportunity and challenge for contractors, the IAQ industry, and Resideo. Air quality is more top of mind for consumers, especially when it’s a problem you can see.
“With wildfires, obviously, outdoor air quality is visibly bad,” Mehta says. “But a lot of consumers may not know what is actually going on with their indoor air quality. Data becomes your friend in this scenario.”
Resideo contractors gather that data with AirCycle, a tabletop tool that measures six key IAQ variables: carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, particles, relative humidity, odors and smells, temperature, which when combined produces for the homeowner an overall air quality score. .
“To solve a problem, you need to know you have a problem,” Mehta says. “And depending on which variable is out of control, the contractor can suggest what you can potentially do to fix it.”
In wildfire areas, particulate matter is likely much higher than normal. So is the demand for ventilation and filtration products. “They are moving as fast as we can replenish them,” Mehta says.
That puts pressure on HVAC distributors to offer ethical, cost-appropriate answers.
“The pros are essentially our industry’s first responders,” says Sam Raymakers, Resideo’s Product Manager for Global Air/Comfort Solutions. “They are not only there to solve system failures, but they are also there to provide you with solutions.”
And to provide those solutions without scare tactics.
Finding the answer that works
In a wildfire zone, cleaning the dirty air from outside becomes the challenge. The ideal solution is a ventilator system that cleans the air further once it’s inside. But that can be pricey.
For those who don’t have an advanced ventilation and purification system and can’t afford one, a portable, in-room purifier could be the answer—and is worth considering, Mehta says, even though Resideo doesn’t sell them.
“In-room purifiers are not super expensive, and those are fine too,” Mehta says, “especially if you just want to make sure the baby’s room or your bedroom, at a particular time, has better air quality.”
There are other inexpensive solutions, too.
“Ventilation comes in a variety of ways,” Mehta says. “You can turn on your bathroom fan and get some air movement going.”
In the absence of smoke, you can open a window. Or increase the quality of filter in the existing HVAC system, from a standard one-inch to an upgraded four-inch filter that captures a higher percentage of airborne particulate, or an electronic air filtration system.
“You can bring some outside air in, and by recirculating that air and filtering it out, you can clean it,” Mehta says. “Having the right combination makes a difference.”
The question becomes, what’s right solution for the customer? Sometimes, the most inexpensive solution is not enough. That’s where data and a trusted professional come in.
“At Resideo, we take a lot of pride in offering different tiers of solutions.” Raymakers says. “With the wildfires, you may want something in addition to standard ventilation. Ideally, with Covid, you also want fresh air in your home.
“On one hand, we could suggest keeping the fresh air coming into your home; unless you have a very good filtration system. But similarly, you don’t want the air in your home to be too stagnant.
“That’s where other IAQ solutions come into play, such as humidity control and certain areas of filtration and Ultraviolet lights.”
The right answer, for the contractor and the customer, is the best solution at the price point the customer is willing to pay.
Interest in IAQ has risen, but value is constant
For HVAC contractors that offer IAQ solutions, that balance is both the opportunity and the challenge.
“We are spending a lot more time at home than we ever did,” Mehta notes. “Part and parcel of this is making sure the consumer feels they are in control of the whole environment, and not just a victim of what is happening outside.”
One thing is for certain: Between the Covid-19 pandemic and the Western wildfires, interest in indoor air quality among consumers might never have been higher.
“The value around the different solutions hasn't really changed,” Raymakers says. “But the acceptance of it, that is the trend that is really sticking now.”
Mehta advises contractors to be mindful of how they interact with consumers, and guide them in the decision-making process, whether their concerns are about wildfire smoke, virus spread or general air quality issues.
“A lot of what we do as a manufacturer is to educate and not overpromise, and to share industry expertise, from ASHRAE, with our professional contractors and our homeowners,” Mehta says. “Our intent is that education drives action; which is not, ‘Oh my, the sky is falling, get my product right now.’”
The same is true with smoke concerns.
“We already know, based on the 12-month report on our (AirCycle) beta, that 70 percent of those reports show high amounts of particulates like dust, dander, smoke, etc.,” Mehta says. “So you can only imagine what those levels are in the affected areas.”
In those cases, the data can tell the consumer a clear story. And that comes back to education without fear mongering.
With trust comes satisfaction
In the end, guiding the consumer through the process will build trust, and increase the odds of satisfaction with the outcome and the cost.
“Part of the fall season, from an IAQ marketing perspective, is humidification promotions,” Mehta says. “It’s getting drier. You want to make sure your wood floors stay healthy and your cabinets don’t warp, and maintaining the proper humidity levels is essential to that.
“It just so happens that optimal humidity can also help with general virus spread. It won’t go as far in that environment.”
Pressure to buy now isn’t necessary, Mehta says.
“Go back to the same fundamental principles,” Mehta says. “What is the data and can we educate people so they can make an informed decision? We want to stay on that train as much as possible.”
Resideo, data from the AirCycle, and an honest approach to wildfire and Coronavirus impact are at the heart of that approach.
“Covid and wildfires aside, we believe IAQ is one of the biggest investments a consumer makes,” Mehta says. “The solutions we have address a lot of scenarios. We just have to message it properly. When you are adding on the seasonal change with humidification, when you go out there as a contractor you have one more talking point.”
And one more chance to stick to facts that build consumer trust.
“There’s a lot of fear-mongering in the industry right now for consumers,” Mehta says. “My advice to consumers is, do your homework, work with your trusted partner, make sure you know what you are getting into and how that’s going to solve the problem.
“This is going to be an investment you are making in yourself, your home and your family.”
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