Sell the New Normal

BY Brian Loftus
7/22/2020 - HVAC Market Intelligence

Is indoor air recirculation contributing to the spread of COVID-19? Is the anticipated virus surge when people move indoors during heating season being duplicated now as people moved indoors for cooling season? That is the claim by respectable resources and supported by anecdotal stories from China and India. Renewed interest in ventilation systems is a byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am not a fan of proclamations about “the new normal.” However, this one has a good chance to take root because it seems logical, and is easy for those who are not infection transmission experts to understand. There is also a promotional benefit or ROI from correcting the problem, and this will not be the last pandemic. Recognition of our vulnerability is a selling opportunity for existing products and opens the door to new products for HARDI members to sell such as germicidal lamps that will also protect us from COVID-20 or whatever we call the next pandemic.

The MIT Technology Review reports that “a group of 239 scientists from 32 countries have written an open letter to the World Health Organization arguing that COVID-19 can be transmitted through the air.” Dr. Edward Nardell, a professor in Harvard’s Departments of Environmental Health and Immunology and Infectious Diseases, said that hot summer temperatures can create situations similar to those in winter when respiratory ailments tend to surge. People are avoiding the heat by remaining indoors where air circulation systems are transporting infectious particles beyond the recommended six feet of social distancing.

Earlier this month McKinsey published an article titled “Can HVAC Systems Help Prevent Transmission of COVID-19.” It includes a summary of air purification methods, a wonderful graphic describing filters and their MERV (minimum efficiency rating value) ratings, and air flow management. The article is a list of market opportunities and associated talking points. General industry demand may be under pressure over the next 12 to 18 months, but demand for these products will be surging.

Our risk of infection increases with the volume of people in a confined area with recirculated air like offices, restaurants, hotels, schools, your favorite shopping mall or other place of worship. Google Chinese restaurant airborne infection for a famous example of this risk. “Air disinfection” may not be a new market, but innovative ways to achieve this objective are now a growth market. If gatherings will require new restrictions, then the ability to provide a safe environment will be a competitive advantage at those locations. Buildings that can provide LEED or WELL certifications will be more appealing to customers and the employees who work there. There are larger expensive fixes like at enclosed malls, or smaller and high volume fixes like germicidal lamps. Would you choose the hotel with the germicidal lamp in every room or the one with the same lighting and individual coffee maker that has been used for the past ten years? A PTAC with softly glowing germicidal lamp might help guests sleep well and allow the establishment to charge a premium rate.

Once unimaginable risks are now associated with things as simple as a doorknob or light switch. We have a confidence deficiency due to the deadly virus risk. Anything that can reduce that risk will be in high demand. Products that reduce this risk will have the ability to open the doors to decision makers. Defense against the virus and the spread of the virus are must-have products for consumers, business owners, and HARDI distributors.

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