By Josette Keelor
FRONT ROYAL -- Spring is a time when homeowners air out, dust off and reinvigorate their homes. According to Ray Bramble, owner of the Front Royal franchise of Aire Serv Heating and Cooling, it's also the perfect time to think about air quality at home.
Start by signing up for a maintenance visit from a qualified company, he said, "If they're not mechanically inclined to go out and do [it] themselves."
Homeowners should clear away debris and leaves from outdoor units, cut back shrubbery and clean the unit. Inside the home, he said, "make sure drain lines are free and clear of any debris, if they know how."
Air conditioner filters should be replaced typically every three months, "but that period shortens if you have animals and a lot of infiltration from the inside to the outside," he said.
He explained that because homes are built now to keep windows and doors airtight, with higher ultraviolet ratings, "they don't breathe very well." Anything that enters the home, from pet hair and dust to fumes from household cleaners and paint cans can contribute to volatile organic compounds in the air and needs to be filtered out consistently, he said.
"There are two filters in the house, basically," he said. "There's your lungs and whatever type of filtration you have in your heating/air conditioning system."
He said there are indoor air quality products residents can install in their homes, and that opened paint cans should be stored in an unconditioned space, such as in a stairwell.
"Believe it or not, that's going into their ventilation system," Bramble said, "and you don't want to breathe that 'cause it can be toxic over time."
For thermostats, he said, "Usually the EPA setting is 75 or 76 for the summertime, or they have a summertime setting."
"One of the biggest advantages they can do on the thermostat side is make sure they have a programmable thermostat," Bramble said. Setting back your thermostat while at work will help save on utilities, he said.
Bramble and his wife Tina purchased their local franchise in 2009 after Bramble had been running his own Northern Virginia business since 2004. The Front Royal location at 223 N. Royal Ave. covers Warren, Fauquier and western Prince William counties.
Being part of Aire Serv's more than 170 franchisees nationwide has given them access to a broad range of educational materials and business coaching.
"What they taught me the most was how to operate a business," Bramble said. "Because most guys that want to run their own business and especially in the heating and air conditioning field, you know, they're technicians that become owners. But what do they really know about running a business and how to price, you know, and how to set up training for team members?"
He said being a franchisee also benefits him since he can to talk with other franchisees rather than being in competition with them. Aire Serv of the Shenandoah Valley, at 425 N. Cameron St., Winchester, covers Frederick, Clarke and Shenandoah counties.
The Brambles said their hard work paid off in 2012 when their franchise earned the Angie's List Super Service award, which the website www.angieslist.com says honors "excellence among service and health providers who maintain superior service ratings and reviews."
"Only 5 percent of companies that are on Angie's List actually receive that award," Bramble said. "To get that award from them is pretty special."
Bramble said he screens potential employees who will provide work in customers' homes, doing a background check, drug test and checking driving records. He also sends customers a photo of the technician assigned to their home, so they will know who to expect.
He recently remembered when he approached his wife in 2009 with the possibility of purchasing an Aire Serv franchise location.
"'Am I giving up on my dream of owning my own business?'" he asked her. "... and she says, 'No, everything that you're telling us sounds like you're just going to make it better.'"
For more information, call 540-631-9670 or visit www.Aireserv.com/bullrun.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or email@example.com