Dallas, Texas (August 13, 2020) — Berkeys, Milestone Electric and Air Pros USA Residential and Commercial Air Conditioning Services (Air Pros USA) see a surge in demand for air filters and UV lights.
Strong air flow was thought to be a good thing until it led to an asymptomatic patient transmitting the virus to 10 people in three different families at a restaurant in Guangzhou, China.
Research by Chinese scientists showed the restaurant's air conditioning carried the viral particles to tables across the room. Since then, experts have been vocal about improving indoor air quality, which is known to be more contaminated than outside air — even in the most polluted cities.
Three heating and air conditioning companies say they've seen a huge uptick in business during the pandemic, suggesting homeowners heard the advice loud and clear and want to optimize ventilation and air flow to attack the invisible enemy.
Southlake, Texas-based Berkeys said it has seen an increase in online searches and installation requests for filters and ultraviolet lights, which attach to indoor units and use high-powered lights to kill bacteria, viruses, mold and fungus. UV lights cost about $1,300 installed, while HEPA filters are about $3,500.
"People see the reports about hospitals using HEPA filters and UV lights and want to see if they can do something similar in their home," said Berkeys spokesman Mike Myers.
Berkeys, Milestone Electric and Air Pros USA all report having trouble keeping UV lights in stock.
"Every customer who calls now has an interest in UV lights, even if they don't install them," Myers said.
Dallas-based Milestone Electric's sales for one of its in-home UV light units have already doubled compared to 2019, spokeswoman Britton Swanson said.
"Some people ordered them before the pandemic but they weren't aware of the full benefits until recently," she said.
Davie, Fla.-based Air Pros USA, which started in 2017 with $25,000 and is up to $50 million in annual sales, says it's looking to hire 25 new workers in Dallas to handle the increase in demand.
It's willing to train inexperienced hires and is offering up to a $5,000 signing bonus. New inexperienced hires can start at $15 to $18 an hour and work their way up to $30 to $40 an hour, said Air Pros founder Anthony Perera, 33, who previously sold a media company in 2011 and a restaurant business in 2016.
The business has grown to 600,000 customers in Florida, Texas, Georgia, Colorado and Washington.
"There's been an uptick across the country," Perera said. "Especially with most people staying home and especially in Dallas because it's been a hot one."
Even before the pandemic, people spent 90% of their time indoors — a figure that's expected to have increased in the past few months.
Air Pros, which has grown from two employees to 250 in three years, recommends scheduling a tune-up, including cleaning your system's coils and ducts, and installing a UV light. AC systems can get clogged with bacteria, viruses and mold, Perera said.
"Installing UV lights is the single best thing a homeowner can do to take a proactive measure to enhance indoor air quality," said the company in its guideline.
While research is still being done on UV lights' effectiveness against COVID-19, the decades-old technology successfully controlled outbreaks of other airborne pathogens, such as tuberculosis, according to Dr. Edward Nardell, a Harvard University professor. Nardell has been vocal about the virus spreading through airborne particles, not just close contact.
An informal Facebook survey on Air Pro USA showed that 67% of those who responded were most concerned about air quality in their home.
Milestone Electric said most people aren't changing their air filter every six months like they should or cleaning their ducts every three to five years as recommended. Professionals go into the duct and remove dust and particles.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that offices check their ventilation systems before workers return and increase outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors and using fans to help dilute indoor air recirculation. The CDC also recommends increasing air filtration and using UV lights.
The best combination to cut down the chances of spreading the virus is a HEPA filter and a UV light, Myers said. HEPA filters, used in hospitals and on Delta Air Lines' fleet, can remove 99.7% of particles as small as 0.01 micron. That's efficient enough to capture the COVID-19 virus, which is said to have particles approximately 0.125 micron in size.
"I wouldn't say you can do surgery in your home with them, but the equipment is really, really good," he said.
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