Thanks to the COVID-19 Pandemic, a huge public spotlight has been shining on our industry. Our reputation is that we can make buildings safer by keeping the virus from spreading through their HVAC systems.

This has been a good thing for the industry. It’s given professional contractors the opportunity to offer true improvements to both commercial and residential systems. These solutions can improve Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), and greatly reduce the spread of airborne pathogens.

Unfortunately, our industry unwittingly sells a large percentage of IAQ snake oil solutions. These types of quick-fix band-aids have plagued the HVAC industry for decades.

Most contractors offering band-aid solutions are likely not doing it with malice, they just haven’t been taught differently. That’s not an excuse, but it is the reality our industry lives with every day.

There are many products that help with preventing and mitigating airborne pollutants. But when contractors apply them as band-aid solutions, they most likely do the building or the homeowner a huge disservice.

“If you are truly serious about OFFERING THE RIGHT SOLUTIONS, you must become a student of IAQ.”

Unfortunately, when applied without full understanding and a real diagnosis of the underlying issues, these quick fixes usually miss the mark. In fact, some misapplied solutions actually make things worse.

As John Ellis mentioned in his article in this issue, “prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.” One of the most important diagnostics you can perform is towards identifying the root causes of the problem.

For example, performing duct cleaning without reducing or eliminating the source of the dust and dirt is a band-aid approach. While it does improve air quality for a short period of time, it’s just a temporary fix. Without eliminating the source, the ducts will just get dirty again and we’re back to square one.

Some might suggest that sealing the ducts and installing better filtration is a good solution. While that could be a good way to reduce pollutant infiltration into ducts, it may still miss addressing root causes.

Maybe the real culprit is a pressure imbalance drawing air from a dirty attic or crawl space, or from a dusty drop ceiling in a commercial application. Unless we test, we’re just guessing. Where have I heard that before?

The same goes for humidity control. Unless you identify the true source of the humidity problem, whether it’s too high or too low, installing dehumidification or humidification devices maybe just putting band-aids on the building.

So how do you get educated and learn to diagnose and address the real causes of poor IAQ? One way is to read the IAQ article by John Ellis, and David Richardson’s CO Safety in this issue.

There are also great articles on the subject in back issues of this magazine available at The bottom line is if you are truly serious about offering the right solutions, you must become a student of IAQ.

There are many good books on the subject, and great articles published in other industry publications, but beware of advice that touts a one-size-fits-all single-solution fix.

Silver bullets rarely work, and even worse, they can backfire and possibly create an unhealthy or even dangerous indoor environment.