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LCS Kleen-Aire puts focus on indoor air quality

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by Steven Nix-Ennen

Michael McGauley founded LCS Kleen-Aire in 1978 as Lucky Chimney Sweeps. Fresh out of Gainesville High School, McGauley tried his hand at factory work and farming. He found his ability to work hard for long hours suited him to more than just punching a clock and, with the inspiration of his father, he started out on his own as a chimney sweep.

"My father had seen this article in a magazine," said the 39-year-old McGauley. "So we moved to Springfield and invested in some equipment. I started sweeping chimneys and offering repairs and service. I wasn't really a businessman when we started, but I could work hard for long hours."

Although McGauley found moderate success with his home-run business, his work was seasonal, and that hardly satisfied a man accustomed to long hours.

"I had a three- to five-month service in the fall and winter, and had spring and summer open," he said. "I started looking for something to fill the gaps."

About 10 years ago, the nation recognized a need for air-duct cleaning. With the advancement of central air and heating in homes and office buildings, there was a growing need to keep these pathways free of pollutant build-ups, dust and various bacteria.

With gas furnaces, new-chemical fumes and carbon-monoxide dangers becoming better known, a whole new marketplace was awaiting McGauley he just needed to convince his customers of that.

"People don't realize how dirty air-handling systems are," McGauley said.

The move meant big changes, including overhead, for the young entrepreneur.

"It meant hiring a couple of people immediately, finding warehouse space and, for the first time, a debt load," he said.

Today, LCS has nine full-time employees and another eight- to 10-person rotation crew.

McGauley said the combination of bacteria and the energy efficiency of buildings constructed in the last quarter-century have restricted clean airflow and brought new, potential hazards to the workplace.

"Air-handling systems are perfect breeding grounds for all kinds of things," McGauley said. "They are dark, moist it is a fantastic area for mold and bacteria, and other harmful airborne materials to grow."

Because of the health risks involved in the airborne materials, McGauley said, a growing segment of his commercial business is in air-quality protection and maintenance for the food industry and in corporate complexes where several people share the recycled air of energy-efficient buildings.

"Indoor air quality is going to be a big word for the next millennium," McGauley said. "So will SBS, Sick Building Syndrome."

Each concept refers to the quality of air shared in the workplace. Consequently, his crew of technicians is undergoing constant training to pinpoint and handle newly identified pollutants and techniques to remedy these situations.

His technicians "are all now trained in CPR and first aid," McGauley said. "Because there is so much out there and there are even times when we go into environments that could kill us."

High-tech vacuums, filters and containing walls now replace the comparatively simple tools of a one-man chimney sweep operation. LCS travels to several states to ensure air is flowing cleanly.

But the LCS operation never strays too far from its initial direction of service to the homeowner. It continues to offer air-duct and chimney cleaning for residences.

LCS offers several sizes of air filters, allergen relief products and close attention to the needs of its customers. McGauley credits the efforts of his staff for strong customer dedication.

"The No. 1 priority is helping people," said LCS administrative assistant Tammy Childers. "We still believe a person's home is their castle, and being comfortable in that home is most important. I think our company has a lot to do with education. When we go to inspect a home, the homeowner is right there with us. We want you to see what is going on."[[In-content Ad]]

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