SUDBURY -- Some Sudbury heating services are seeing a significant rise in their business as many people prepare for a winter of working from home.

Northern Air and Mechanical Systems, based in Sudbury’s South End, says business is up between 200 and 300 per cent.

“We’re booked out almost a month and it’s quite significant,” said owner Brian Eadie. “All of our staff are working long hours and some of them are on Saturdays just to keep up, but it’s very, very busy right now.”

Marina Freire-Gormaly is an assistant professor at York University in Toronto. She has been looking into how COVID-19 spreads inside and the significance an HVAC system can have.

“We are researching how the aerosol droplets move around the room and we also consider how the HVAC location matters, as well as the air flow rates that are going into the room and out of the room,” said Freire-Gormaly.

Pandemic impact

As Canadians are starting to prepare for a winter during a pandemic, one promising note of the research thus far is the impact temperature can have on mitigating the spread of the virus.

“COVID-19 is less stable at higher temperatures so our indoor air when it is warmer is actually better for minimizing transmission,” said Freire-Gormaly. “But one of the main concerns is that your indoor air can become quite stagnant and you might be concerned (about) having too much re-circulation of the existing air.”

Services focused on the quality of air is a top of mind issue for customers, said Eadie.

“Anything with indoor air quality, high efficiency filters, humidifiers, duct cleaning," he said. "Duct cleaning calls, we’re over a month out on being booked up. So this is quite an impact on us and of course this can contribute to the better air quality of time in your home.”

Eadie’s Northern Air and Mechanical Systems is far from the only local business seeing an increase in demand. Things have also been busier than normal at Campeau Heating, which owner Jacques Campeau said has caused some issues with supply.

Toilet paper syndrome

“I call it the toilet paper syndrome,” Campeau said with a chuckle. “Manufacturers are having trouble supplying products so we’re buying a lot more just to anticipate having a shortage. Where I used to order 10 furnaces, 20 furnaces per week, I end up taking larger booking orders and most contractors are doing the same thing.”

One common trend among local services is an increase in customers requesting preventative maintenance, something that they said was often overlooked by homeowners in the past. Not only is she not surprised, but York University’s Freire-Gormaly advocates for it.

“There are easy ways to minimize the risk within your home by making sure your filters are clean, that you don’t have the air bypassing around the filter in your HVAC system, and if someone is sick in your room, keep them in a room with the door closed but have a window or some exhaust going out of that room,” Freire-Gormaly said.

Another major player in Sudbury’s heating industry, Castle Heating and Plumbing, said it, too, has seen a rise in business in recent months. Owner Carrie Jean attributes part of it to redirected funds.

Can't travel

"We’re also seeing an influx of folks who are investing more into their homes because they can’t travel or because they shouldn’t be travelling anywhere outside of Canada, so there’s a little bit of extra money to invest into their homes to make it a comfortable and safe place for them to spend their time,” said Jean.

With many more people needing their services, she stressed they’ve been deemed an essential service since the onset of the pandemic, meaning they remain open during any potential lockdowns. She said the safety of clients, and her own staff, is top of mind.

“We’re wearing masks, we carry hand sanitizer, we’re asking clients to let us keep our social distance to respect both their environment and our personal space, as well,” said Jean. “We also screen our clients before we come in, just making sure that nobody’s travelled.”

For those instances where a member of the family may contract COVID-19, Freire-Gormaly said isolation and ventilation are both important.

“There’s an old adage that the solution to pollution is dilution,” she said. “So if you can bring more fresh air into your building, and dilute the contaminants in the air, the particulates or even COVID-19, you can help keep the air in your home safer.”