At Atlas Butler Heating & Cooling, we believe a key component of good residential IAQ is education. So, on all of our service calls, our technicians ask the homeowners a number of questions to see if indoor air quality products would be right for them. We educate ourselves about our customers' needs, then we educate them about how our products and services can help them.

Typically we'll ask, “Who in the home suffers from allergies or breathing difficulties?” We find it important to ask the question in this manner because it will elicit feedback; whereas the question, “Does anyone in the home suffer from allergies?” can more easily be answered with a simple, “No.”

If it turns out that someone in the home has allergies, we ask to determine if the allergies may be being caused by airborne contaminants. We follow up with asking what the client thinks the dust levels are in the home. We ask the date of their last source removal, rather than asking, “Have you ever had your ducts cleaned?” We ask whether we can inspect their ducts with our cameras, and whether they would like to join us with this inspection. We find out what their thoughts are about what they're seeing, and we ask what they would like us to do about their concerns.

We then explain our source removal process. Our process is very thorough. In a typical 1,500 sq. ft. home with 14 registers it takes us six to eight hours to perform this job correctly. We use a nine-step process that includes a high-efficiency particulate arrester (HEPA) filter, power vacuum and high-velocity air sweeper. Our process also includes cleaning the evaporator coil and air-cleaning all moving parts through the furnace.

We ask the homeowner whether there are rooms in the home that don't seem to heat or cool properly. We try to determine whether this is due to a lack of airflow, caused by a filter that has too much material. If this is the case, we recommend a better quality filter that removes particulates without restricting airflow.

If we find that allergies are an issue, we also recommend that ultraviolet light systems be installed. When you point out to the client all the areas in the home that get no light, such as inside ducts and in crawl spaces, it is easy to show how much this equipment can benefit the homeowner. We notice whether the homeowner has any candles burning. If so, we point out that the candles are introducing volatile organic compounds into the home, which can actually inflame allergies.

A bypass filter is perfectly suited for a house where severe allergies are prevalent. Our system actually uses a combination of three filters to clean the air. Bypass filters are used in hospitals. Our service technicians also make sure the homeowner knows that significant maintenance is required for the filter to perform efficiently.

Humidification systems can certainly benefit the homeowner. Many homeowners don't realize the difficulties that can be caused by low humidification in the winter. We explain how static electricity illustrates the need for more humidification.

If the homeowner wants top of the line equipment, we recommend an energy recovery ventilation system. This equipment brings fresh air into the home and exhausts stale air, while preserving the energy that went into conditioning the air that's being exhausted. One of the benefits of this equipment is that it keeps a positive air pressure in the house. This reduces the risk of unconditioned, outside air from entering the house.

Our varied offerings allow us to provide whatever is necessary for our clients to be comfortable, which is certainly our goal. We want to be of service to them. What better time for that than when one of our service technicians is in a client's home on a service call?

Bill Esch is the chief operating officer at Atlas Butler Heating & Cooling, Columbus, OH. The company was ContractingBusiness.com's 2007 Residential Contractor of the Year. Esch can be reached at 614/578-2296, or by e-mail at besch@atlasbutler.com