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Marion Power Vac business helps clear the air

Entrepreneur started Power Vac business to complement barbershop

Power Vac employee Devin Dickey uses compressed air to clean a dryer vent at an apartment complex Sept. 17 in Iowa City. The Marion-based business cleans residential and commercial HVAC ducts and dryer vents. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Power Vac employee Devin Dickey uses compressed air to clean a dryer vent at an apartment complex Sept. 17 in Iowa City. The Marion-based business cleans residential and commercial HVAC ducts and dryer vents. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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MARION — Andy Karasek stands back as he removes a panel from the base of a sheet-metal hopper mounted at the rear of a large van. A cloud of fine dust rises.

“This is the stuff people breathe,” Karasek said one morning this past week.

Karasek admits he didn’t think much about the fine particles in his heating ducts before buying the truck about two years ago.

“I sometimes get allergies, and that was a part of it,” he said. “You’d be surprised how many people have allergies. When I first started, I did my family’s houses and they’d never had it done.”

When Karasek started Power Vac about two years ago, he was trying to find a good complement to the Seventh Avenue Barbershop, which he’s operated for about 15 years.

“I was looking for something and I ran across the truck,” he said. “I bought it out of state and basically jumped in. I drove the truck after work and weekends and did the barbershop on weekdays for about a year.”

With training from the truck’s previous owner and its manufacturer, Karasek began building the new business.

“It took a little while, a lot of hard work,” he said. “I was just out there, trying to push it.”

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As business grew, Karasek hired longtime friend Devon Dickey as a full-time employee. Dickey has handled most jobs for about the past year.

“We grew up together,” Karasek said. “He grew up on the same street as me, Second Street in Marion. I’ve kind of stepped out of the truck and hired a receptionist to take calls and do the scheduling.”

The small staff covers jobs in an approximate 40-mile radius of Marion, from Anamosa and Palo south to Coralville.

“I really enjoy doing it,” Karasek said. “I can take it only so far on my own, though. I’m trying to see where things go and just take it from there.”

Karasek and Dickey have refined the basic routine for residential jobs.

“Start your way furthest from the furnace, working your way in,” is how Karasek describes the process. “Do the returns (ducts) first, then hook the hose up to your supplies and do the same scenario. The average house is usually about a half-day. The bigger they are, it takes longer, of course.”

Some newer HVAC systems require a bit of strategy.

“On some houses, these new systems nowadays are so complex, they use PVC pipe and tight corners in there,” Karasek said. “For those we use a portable hand-held vacuum.”

Karasek can show customers the work that’s done.

“Some people are skeptical because unfortunately in that line of work there can be something shady,” he said. “But we provide before-and-after pictures. We’ve got cameras.”

Furnace ducts should be cleaned every two to three years to maintain those results. The busy season runs spring through fall, Karasek said.

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“In the winter it’s just too cold and you have to turn the furnace off,” he noted. “Running that giant vacuum, it wants to draw in the air from the outside.”

The rest of the year, Dickey’s cleaning up.

“It’s surprising how much stuff goes into that hopper,” Karasek said. “Once a week we get 50 pounds out of it, pretty easily.”

Know a business that might make an intriguing “My Biz” feature? Let us know about it by emailing michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com.

About the business

• Owner: Andy Karasek

• Business: Power Vac

• Address: 640 14th St., Marion

• Phone: (319) 360-9066, (319) 229-2824

• Website: powervacllc.com

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