Albuquerque Cleaning Company Can Now Retrofit A/C Units with Air Filters

Michael Madrid, owner of A-1 Service Co., a residential and commercial cleaning company in Albuquerque, N.M., was looking for a way to offer his customers more services and generate additional revenue for his small business.

Customers turn to A-1 Services Co. for a variety of services including air duct cleaning. In the southwestern United States, most homeowners use evaporative cooler air conditioning systems. It was obvious to Madrid that these systems take in outside air and act like an open window to the house, allowing airborne contaminants such as dust and allergens to flow freely into the home. He wondered if there was a way to retrofit the evaporative cooling system with an air filter, thereby offering a healthier A/C system, especially beneficial for those customers with respiratory and allergy issues.

“Many people want their air ducts cleaned because they already suffer from respiratory conditions,” said Madrid. “It stands to reason that installing an air filter on the evaporative cooler would also improve their condition since any pollutants that are in the air would be trapped in the filter.”

There were several variables to consider during the filter selection process including the type and amount of outdoor dust, the capacity of the existing air-cooler blowers, the appropriate filter tech-specification, washability and UV-resistance. Madrid needed help identifying an air filter that would fit the evaporative coolers his customers use and be effective at eliminating pollutants. He decided to pursue help from the NASA-funded Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP).

SATOP provides free assistance to small businesses with technical challenges through the expertise of the program’s Alliance Partners, which consist of more than 30 aerospace companies, universities and national laboratories involved in the U.S. Space Program. Madrid contacted Naomi Engelman, SATOP New Mexico Director, who paired him with Subra Sankaran, a Senior Thermal Specialist with MEI Technologies, a SATOP Alliance Partner headquartered in Houston, Texas.

After researching the problem, Sankaran recommended that Madrid use a filter that had a MERV rating of at least eight. Developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioner Engineers, MERV means Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, which varies from 1 to 16. The higher the MERV value, the more efficient the filter will be in trapping airborne particles. A suitable high-quality, eight-rated air filtering system was identified by Sankaran, which Madrid was able to retrofit to the evaporative cooler.

Madrid has installed the filter on his and his daughter’s A/C units and can attest that it is working. “Now I can improve the air quality in most of my customers’ homes by not only cleaning the air duct system, but also by adding an air filter to the A/C system,” he said.

Madrid found working with SATOP easy and beneficial. “I wasn’t sure what air filter to use since there are several brands. The engineer pin-pointed just the one I needed for optimum efficiency and it appears to be working,” he said. “Now, I just need to get the word out to homeowners that this new option is available.”

Pointing small businesses in the right direction regarding technical challenges is SATOP’s mission, Engelman notes. “Small businesses usually don’t have the ability to expend research dollars on issues like the one Michael was facing,” she said. “By helping these companies solve their technical challenges, SATOP is helping them continue to succeed and grow.”