By David H. Martin

Although Americans’ worries about environmental issues have declined significantly since the Great Recession of 2009, according to a 2010 Gallup consumer survey, people’s concerns about drinking water and air quality still rank number one and number two, respectively. Last month, The Battelle Institute identified Ten Top Healthy Home Trends for 2010. Indoor air quality products was the first trend, in order of importance. Whole-house water quality was number five. “People today are concerned about maintaining their health and want to make sure they take every step in their homes to do so,” said Steven Millett, a Battelle futurist. A late 2008 study from The Freedonia Group predicts the market for water and air purification systems will grow from $1.2 billion (USD) in 2007 to $1.5 billion in 2012. The replacement filter and RO membrane market will grow from $2.1 billion to $2.7 billion over the same period, the study predicts.

Will this mix work for you?
As a water treatment dealer, have you considered offering both water and air quality solutions that together can help protect people’s home environment (that is, the water they drink and the air they breathe)? Water treatment dealers with an environmental bent might want to broaden their marketing approach to include air quality products. There are many products to consider, but some air quality products offer superior performance. Following are two indoor air quality (IAQ) supplier resources that offer dealers training and marketing support, as well as high-quality air treatment products with attractive margins.

HealthWay
Since 1981, HealthWay of Pulaski, NY, has become a global leader in home, commercial and industrial air cleaners. Its products are sold under the Cleanstation brand. Eighty percent of the company’s sales are geared toward the residential market, with the remaining 20 percent as C/I sales. An exhibitor at WQA Aquatech in Orlando, FL last March, the IAQ product manufacturer provides more than 120 water treatment dealers access to air cleaners, training and marketing tools, according to VP of Sales, Vincent ‘Vinny‘ Lobdell, Jr. “What we’ve found is people who are generally concerned with their water are also concerned with air quality, and vice versa,” said Lobdell. “By adding air quality products to their product mix, water treatment dealers can focus on the same customer, expand their sales potential through diversified offerings and generate cross-sell opportunities and referrals.”

Healthway portable air cleaners are based on a disinfecting filtration system (DFS). It’s a patented technology, said to provide better-than-HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) efficiencies, while also eliminating bacteria, mold and fungi. It uses high- efficiency media, charged from the top to the bottom. It achieves 100-percent efficiency by capturing all particles without the burdensome restriction of limited HEPA airflow. This machine is rated the best medical-grade air cleaner. The company’s broad dealer base includes indoor air quality experts, vacuum cleaner dealers and mold mediation specialists, as well as water quality dealers. “In the water quality industry,” claims Lobdell, “we have corporate contracts with RainSoft, LeverEdge and many Culligan dealers. We estimate that we control 60 percent of the market.”

HealthWay recently received a contract with Hyatt Hotels to provide room air systems for 10 percent of all hotel rooms in their system worldwide, in a new program they call Pure Rooms. This means millions of Hyatt customers will be exposed to the company’s brand and experience the equipment, which should provide many additional quality sales leads for dealers. In addition to Hyatt properties, the firm’s products are also used in other leading hotels, including Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Windom and Marriott, according to Lobdell. Adding to its medical-grade, portable systems, the company will be introducing a new, in-line, whole-house air purification system in August, said Lobdell. The company provides on-site sales and service training and a wide variety of sales support materials for dealers. “For example,” said Lobdell, “we train dealers to do a simple indoor air quality test that complements their in-home water tests. The IAQ test results provide the basis for doing an immediate demo of the portable system to show how the unit performs in the customer’s home.”

HealthWay conducts regional sales and training meetings for dealers that emphasize the synergy between selling water and air products. In addition, company representatives regularly speak at the national conventions of leading water treatment companies including Culligan, RainSoft and Hellenbrand. For dealers looking to add air treatment to their product mix, Lobdell offers a couple of caveats. “People need to choose their equipment carefully. And they need to invest the necessary time and effort in education and training to assure success. These products don’t sell themselves.”

United Hydro Sales and Service, a division of United Distributors Inc.
A long-time dealer of United Standard Hydro Quad water treatment products, the Jacksonville, FL-based company began selling Cleanstation room air purifiers less than a year ago. It serves Florida, Alabama and Georgia. “We sell and service United Standard Hydro Quad whole-house water systems and their POU RO systems,” said Richard Knapik, the dealer’s Service Manager. “Since last year, our service department has been averaging 20 sales of Cleanstation air units per month through 10 field service technicians who also handle water treatment. We are having great success selling the purifiers to our existing water equipment customers. United Hydro’s service-to-sales program rewards the field techs with sales commissions, and their customer gets a healthier home.”

Entek Environmental Technologies
Bob Ruhstorfer, Founder and President of Entek, based in Glen Ellyn, IL, began his career in the water treatment industry in 1969 at the age of 14, working for his father in the family business. After starting his own water treatment dealership in 1976, Ruhstorfer next joined RainSoft International in 1989, where he rose to National Sales Manager and eventually, President. There he grew the company and presided over its successful sale to a private equity firm in 2005. A former President of the Water Quality Association, Ruhstorfer was awarded WQA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. Even before he left RainSoft, Ruhstorfer raised his sights beyond water to the broader home- environment industry, when the water treatment manufacturer added a furnace-mount UV air cleaner to its product mix.

Entek Environmental Technologies was founded a year ago around a line of Entek brand water treatment including high-efficiency softeners, RO drinking water and problem-water filters for every application. When a dealer looks to add air treatment, explains Ruhstorfer, he’s looking at basically three types of equipment. “First, there are portable room units. Next, there are installed HEPA filter systems. Finally there are installed UV-ozone systems.”

Entek markets a room air-cleaner unit and a central unit that uses its own ductwork or the home’s existing ductwork. Both have true HEPA filters that can remove particles as small as two-tenths of a micron. The firm designs and assembles its water and air treatment at plants in six locations across the US. To round out its environmental products lineup, it also offers a solar-water heating system (made by Fafco) that qualifies for a 30-percent federal tax credit. There’s no franchise agreement to prevent selling other brands alongside Entek products. Literature and other marketing tools are readily available. In his company’s first year, Ruhstorfer has signed up “around two dozen” Entek dealers who are interested in adding their water and air products to their existing product offerings. “All are progressive dealers who understand the opportunity to serve today’s better-educated consumers having health concerns about their homes’ air and water.”

Entek of Indianapolis is a year-old dealer/customer of Entek Environmental Technologies. Jeff Coates, its Oregon-born owner, has more than 20 years of water treatment industry experience, beginning as a RainSoft rep in 1990. Coates ran a dealership for four years in Kentucky; in 2002, he went to Indianapolis, IN as General Manager of a start-up RainSoft dealership. It quickly grew to the largest RainSoft dealership in the region and a top dealership worldwide. In 2010, Coates started the Entek dealership and now has seven employees. “We’re growing steadily and feel Entek offers our customers the widest variety of products from water treatment, to bottled water to air cleaners, all backed by strong warranties. Our water-efficient Entek water softeners and environmentally friendly soap products help reinforce our ‘green’ image.

“Since the beginning, we have been very successful at selling air filtration. Fully 70-75 percent of our water treatment sales include air treatment as part of the package. We have also sold air-only equipment to a few customers who weren’t interested in water treatment. The HEPA-1000 system is a great performer. We hope to have sold a thousand air-quality units two years from now. This will generate recurring filter sales. There’s no installation with the room air filters, and we service our own units. Replacement filters are available from us. And Entek has an excellent rental program for dealers that we are looking at. We focus on canvassing, home shows and will work all ten days of the county fair with a drawing for a free air filter to generate leads. We also get testimonials and focus on referrals.”

Summary
Mixing air filtration products along with water treatment isn’t for everyone. On the other hand, it can be a ’natural‘ for dealers willing to research available products and programs. Above all, it takes hard work and commitment, along with building a new environmental dealer image.

About the author
David Martin is President of Lenzi Martin Marketing, Oak Park, IL, a firm specializing in water improvement and environmental marketing that integrates old and new media. He can be reached at (708) 848-8404 or by email, dmartin@lenzimartin.com

 

Resources

Essentially, air purification systems ’suck in‘ contaminated air, run it through a complex network of filtration equipment, then release purified air into the home. The end result is air that’s cleaner, healthier and easier for people to breathe.


Types of air purifiers
There are five major types of air purifiers on the market: filters, HEPA purifiers, ionizing purifiers, ozone generators and adsorbents. Each uses different technologies to remove impurities from the air. Sometimes called air cleaners, filters are the simplest and least expensive option. They simply cycle air through a network of filters that remove pollutants before releasing it back into the room.

HEPA filters operate much the same way as filters, but they are subject to US Department of Energy standards for air purification. They are particularly good for removing dust and allergens from indoor air.

Ionizing purifiers use more complex technologies. They attach opposing charges (positive and negative) to air contaminants, causing them to attract one another. The fused-together contaminants are then trapped by specialized filters to prevent them from returning to the air. Ozone generators use this same principle to turn oxygen particles into ozone, which is believed to disinfect the air around it.

Finally, adsorbents are primarily used to remove chemicals and odors from the air. Most air purifiers include a built-in adsorbent, but they can be purchased individually as well.

Some air-cleaning devices are designed to be installed in the ductwork of HVAC systems or to be used in portable, stand-alone units.

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