Commercial air duct cleaning is different than residential air duct cleaning. The work hours are different; the HVAC systems are larger and more complex. You’ll need more types of cleaning tools, more financial resources, more knowledge and more connections! The challenges are many but the rewards are great - if you’re successful! What do you need to do to be successful? You need a winning strategy (plan of action) too help guide you. This article will examine three topics that hopefully will help you grow your business.
What Services Should I Offer?
Here is list of services to think about:
- Inspection/documentation services: Many commercial projects require before and after visual documentation so you’ll need to this at minimum. If you go above and beyond that and offer professional Visual Inspections Services to the Indoor Air Quality community you not only create a new revenue stream but you will put yourself at the head of line if these inspection project turn into air duct cleaning projects. Your reputation within the Indoor Air Quality community will also grow, which will be good for your business.
- Duct cleaning (supply, return, exhaust, etc): Ductwork comes in all shapes and sizes. Some are large enough to crawl through and clean while others must be cleaned with various cleaning tools (power brushes, air whips, air washing, and contact vacuuming). You typically put the ductwork under negative pressure from you vacuum collection system, cut access holes and zone off as needed, and then do your source removal.
- Air handler cleaning and restoration: Air handles always have a fan but they also can include heating/cooling coils, filter banks, various dampers/mixing boxes, fresh air intakes etc. This will require a lot of surface cleaning, coil cleaning and some drain pan cleaning and refurbishment.
- Coating HVAC systems: Some ductwork and air handlers have internal insulation. Over time this insulation can be degraded due to air erosion or fire and mold contamination. Sometimes it has to be removed and other times it can be cleaned and coated or replaced with close cell liner. This extends the life of the HVAC system and saves the building owner a significant amount. Applying coatings after the system has been cleaned requires some additional equipment.
- Sealing HVAC systems: All HVAC systems have some leakage through the cracks, seams, and holes. Sealing these leaks is the best single thing you can do reduce energy cost of an HVAC system. Sealing like coating does require some additional equipment to do before and after leakage testing and equipment to apply the sealer. Sealing has a great return on investment for the building owner.
Offering these core services will allow you to satisfy most HVAC system inspection, cleaning and restoration needs.
Maximize Your Productivity:
Maximizing your productivity as you perform your services help you to:
- Maximize your profits on each project.
- Gives you more time to do additional projects.
- Makes you more competitive when you are bidding on projects because you can use a faster production rate and hopefully win more projects.
How do you improve your productivity? You examine your cleaning and other procedures and try to identify areas where you think improvement is possible. This may require doing things differently or getting new or different tools/equipment.
Here are some ideas:
- If there is a cleaning specification on the project, make sure all your questions are answered and that there are no gray areas. It’s these gray areas that can cause disagreements and delays. You want a clean straight forward cleaning specification to follow.
- Do an inspection of the HVAC system to eliminate surprises that require extra time and resources to deal with. The most productive way to do an inspection is with a robotic inspection system.
- Develop an estimating process that is flexible enough to account for a wide range of projects (simple to complex) yet gives you consistent results so you can compare results over time and make adjustments in production rates and labor rates to keep you competitive.
- Isolate longer duct runs with each vacuum collection hook-up and eliminate the time required
- To cut additional access openings, move and set up equipment. To do this you need a vacuum collection systemthat provides the longest lasting suction possible with good collection capacity.
- Have cleaning tools that have a longer reach so you can clean longer duct runs from each access opening eliminating the need to cut additional access openings, move and set up equipment. This can be critical when ductwork is above a hard ceiling or underground or just with very limited access. Long reach cleaning systems and robotic systems typically have this longer reach.
- Don’t waste time waiting for your compressor to charge up when you are air washing, air whipping or using pneumatic tools? At minimum you should use a compressor that can deliver 175 psi and 18 cfm of air with at least a 20 gallon receiver tank to minimize waiting. More air is more productivity!
- If you are applying a coating or sealer in ductwork, don’t cut access opening every 5-10 ft and reach in with your hand help sprayer with extension wand. Maximize your coating productivity by using a cart or robotic spray system. With a cart you can spray up to 35’ in each direction from one access opening and up to 90’ in each direction with robotic spray systems.
- There is not a huge difference in coatings. Most have EPA registered antimicrobials to protect the coating, meet NFPA requirements, are LEED certified, have good adhesion, etc. To help maximize your coating productivity however, pick a coating that you don’t need to stir or strain prior to spraying (stirring and straining is done to minimize the chance of getting a clogged spray tip which can cause a lot of wasted time). All coatings give off some voc’s. You and your customer will be happier if you use a coating with the lowest possible voc’s.
- If you drill 1” access holes in ductwork to use your cleaning tools minimize your metal shaving clean up time by using tools that capture these sometimes hot metal shavings before they fall.
Target Your Marketing:
Where do you get the biggest bang for marketing effort? Here are some suggestions:
- The best marketing in the world is to do a great job every time. Happy customers are happy to refer you to others. This could be a direct word of mouth referral or a testimonial or a job story that you can share with others.
- If you offer a variety of services (air duct cleaning, restoration, carpet cleaning, etc) your non air duct cleaning customers are the first group you should market your air duct cleaning services to. You already have a relationship with them and you have already earned their trust. Let these people know you are now offering air duct cleaning services.
- Get to know the commercial Mechanical Contractors in your market. This group can have the biggest impact on your success because they can hire you as a subcontractor. Create a data base of the commercial Mechanical Contractors in your area. Reach out to them and talk to them face to face so you can explain who you are, what you do and why you should be on their “approved bidders list.” Once on this list, you will be notified of upcoming projects they want you to bid on. Doing a good job will keep you on their “approved bidders list.”
Winning strategies will give you a road map to help you grow your business. We have just touched on winning strategies in three areas here, but there are many more.