Where Do We Go from Here?
Around this time in 2019, no one would have ever dreamed that a pandemic was in our midst that would not only change our lives tremendously but would turn everyday conversation about indoor air quality (IAQ) on its head. Sure, before the pandemic, there were discussions about IAQ to a certain degree, and the effect of poor IAQ on health was always part of the conversation. But the pandemic made indoor air quality top-of-mind around the world.
As companies attempt to bring staff back to the office and students have slowly returned to the classroom, it seems everyone is talking about filters, ventilation, UV lighting, and even all sorts of new (often unproven) technologies. While these are important pieces of healthy IAQ, there’s certainly not enough mention of air duct cleaning.
How does air duct cleaning become part of the overall indoor air quality conversation? Why isn’t it already part of the conversation?
NADCA has been working hard to put air duct cleaning front and center in the indoor air quality conversation, and currently, we’ve got the pedal all the way to the floor! We’re on a quest for science-based evidence to legitimize our industry and support the need for duct cleaning. Our newly formed Scientific Committee, chaired by NADCA board member, Michael McDavid, will lead the effort.
Just a few years ago, an energy study and ‘science’ were topics often discussed in NADCA’s boardroom. NADCA’s Board approved a modest budget for a committee to be formed to explore scientific evidence of the benefits of duct cleaning. The vision of that collective group of volunteers has led to our current energy study. At this point in the study, the data we have now seems to support what we’ve all assumed unscientifically and anecdotally – air duct cleaning may be beneficial to our customers, not only from an indoor air quality standpoint, but from an energy consumption angle as well.
Fast-forward a bit, and NADCA is now in the 4th stage of the energy study, and we’ve just announced a partnership with the University of Pavia in Italy. As the association continues on with our search for science-based evidence to support the need for duct cleaning, our team in Italy will begin work on a multifaceted effort to not only quantify energy savings, but measure bioaerosols and the impact of duct cleaning on the particulate in the ducts. Additionally, the team will study the re-soiling of the ductwork over time, which we expect will help inform things like maintenance schedules and more.
Dr. Mark Hernandez, BS, MS, from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Dr. Tullio Facchinetti, from the University of Pavia, will work together with their teams to collect, analyze, and publish the data from this effort.
We’ve also forged a new strategic partnership with the Indoor Air Hygiene Institute (IAHI) to further validate and promote HVAC system cleaning. The IAHI is dedicated to helping make indoor spaces safer, healthier, and more productive for occupants by actively managing and reaching the highest standards of indoor air hygiene. Through this partnership, NADCA will be recognized as an Affiliation Member of the IAHI, and both entities will recognize the others’ mission and purpose and promote the partnership. IAHI will recommend their customers follow NADCA guidelines and also choose NADCA-certified professionals. IAHI will link to NADCA on its website – specifically NADCA’s ‘Find a Professional’ search tool – ultimately driving business directly to NADCA members! NADCA will be able to reference IAHI as an independent third-party supporting duct cleaning as legitimate, necessary, and proven effective when following NADCA standards. In turn, IAHI will promote NADCA’s General Specification document and ACR, The NADCA Standard, to facility managers and other customers. This new partnership will help position air duct cleaning as the respected, legitimate service we all know it can be.
We’re also continuing our work on an air guidance document with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), and of course, we’ll nurture and build upon our shared efforts with the members of the Allied Industry Partners, including: The American Bio Recovery Association (ABRA); the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH); the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA); the Basement Health Association (BHA); the Environmental Information Association (EIA); and the Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA).
As NADCA continues through its lifecycle of growth and reinvention we are invigorated by the relationships built with vendors, allied industry partners, and those in the scientific community who see the air duct cleaner as an important piece of the puzzle in the ever-changing indoor environment landscape.
Without a doubt, the pandemic has changed our lives tremendously, and who knows when things might begin to resemble anything close to ‘normal.’ Six weeks? Six months? Six years? It’s anyone’s guess. In reality, the pandemic will affect our lives for years to come.
But as we move closer to a post-pandemic world, and we look toward the future, we can’t forget what we’ve learned from down deep in the trenches. There is so much to reflect on – like where the industry has been, where it's going, and what it means for NADCA members’ businesses. How will the increased focus on indoor air quality affect your operations? What about your bottom line?
It’s an exciting time for NADCA as we work to forge new, innovative partnerships and strategies to validate the HVAC system cleaning industry and drive business to our members. Looking ahead to 2022, it will be a year of innovation and validation for our industry. NADCA will keep pushing duct cleaning into the larger indoor air quality and HVAC arenas.
No matter what the future looks like, air duct cleaning will be part of the indoor air quality conversation. You can count on it!