How to Protect Your Pets from Ticks and Lyme Disease

Texans are no strangers to Lyme disease as the Texas Lyme Disease Association receives up to 900 requests for treatment. But your pets are at risk, too, and not just from local wildlife, but from pets imported into the area.

Here are several ways to help keep your pet safe.

  1. Keep your pet clean & healthy. Ticks are more likely to attach themselves to pets with low immune systems or dirty fur.
  2. Discuss vaccinating your pet with your veterinarian.
  3. Have your pet wear a tick collar, especially if you live in or near a wooded area and your pets are allowed to roam free.
  4. Limit the amount of time your pet spends outdoors. The more time spent outdoors, the greater the exposure to tick bites and Lyme disease.
  5. Once your pet comes back indoors, inspect them for ticks right away to help prevent the tick from attaching itself. If you should find a tick, remove it with tweezers, and clean the wound thoroughly.
  6. Bathe your pet with a medicated shampoo to help prevent tick bites. Ticks are deterred by these shampoos.
  7. Treat all cats and dogs in your house to a monthly flea and tick preventive medicine.  Once you start, however, it’s important not to miss a single application as consistency is the key to success.  al pest control or your veterinarian before using pesticides.
  8. Create a hostile environment for ticks around your home by keeping your lawn mowed, trees and shrubs pruned, and leaves picked up promptly.

How can you tell if your dog or cat has contracted Lyme disease?  Here are some of the more common symptoms:

  • Stiff walk with an arched back
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever, lack of appetite, and depression
  • Superficial lymph nodes close to the site of the infecting tick bite may be swollen

When in doubt or for more information on preventing tick and Lyme disease problems for your pets, consult with your veterinarian.

Average Life Expectancy of an Air Conditioning System

If you can barely remember purchasing your current central AC system, you know it’s getting up there in years. Or perhaps you purchased your home with the system already installed, and you just don’t recall how old it was at the time.

Since central AC systems don’t last forever, it’s always a good idea to find out exactly when your system was manufactured. Just jot down the serial number and look it up on the manufacturer’s website or call the company that installed it for you.

What makes that so important?  Because, on average, central air conditioning systems last between 12 and 15 years. Depending on how well and frequently yours has been maintained, and how often it’s used, it could last even longer.  But “lasting” and functioning up to par aren’t the same thing.  That’s because, even with annual maintenance, your system gradually loses energy efficiency over time.  Typically, for example, a system runs at no better than 60% of its original energy efficiency by the time it’s 8 years old.

As energy efficiency declines, energy costs go up.  You can see that for yourself on your home electricity bills.

Short of complete system failure, therefore, the average life expectancy of your AC system is up to you. Because even though it might still be running, is it really worth keeping if you could save $200 or more per month on your electricity bill with a replacement system?

If you’re system is getting up there in years and you want sound and dependable advice on whether to keep or replace it, contact Optimum Air today.  We have no agenda, just a sincere desire to help our customers enjoy the very best in indoor comfort at the lowest possible net cost.  Today and always, we can do the same for you.

Is Spring the Best Time for an AC Tune-up?

If you subscribe to the belief that there’s a season and reason for everything, then here’s another perfect example:  while there’s almost no bad time for air conditioning preventative maintenance, spring is the best time.  By far!

What makes that so?  Several good and practical reasons:

  • Heating and cooling companies have their busy and slow seasons, just like most other types of businesses. One of our slow times happens to be during the transition from winter to spring. Not a lot of calls for new furnaces, no much need for central air just yet, so we have some time on our hands.  Compare that to when the thermostat hits 90 and above every day when we’re busy as can be. What does that mean to you?  It means it will be much easier to schedule preventative maintenance during the early spring months and get the prompt attention we know you expect.
  • If you wait until it heats up before requesting service, and you’re home while we perform it, then you’re going to be without conditioned air a little while. Not a huge factor, but why put yourself out at all when no such disruption of service is likely in early spring.
  • The two key elements of AC preventative maintenance are system cleaning and inspection. When we clean or replace your filter and, if need be, remove any build-up of mold and mildew, we’re also cleaning your indoor air. Otherwise, once you start using your AC system, the mold, mildew, and pollutants clinging to your filter will be blown through your air ducts and into your lungs, and who needs that!
  • Preventative maintenance is, by definition, partly about preventing repair issues from turning into repair problems. But since mechanical systems don’t last forever, sooner or later your AC system will require repair work. If that time is now, isn’t it better to get it out of the way before you start depending on cool conditioned air, day and night?
  • Preventative maintenance also helps reduce your electricity costs. So, the earlier you get it done, the more you save.

Remember: if you want your system to last as long as possible and run at maximum efficiency for as long as you own it, annual preventative maintenance is a must. So, get a head start on summer and contact Optimum Air now to schedule service.

House Plants Help Clean Your Indoor Air

In one small way, you actually might be better off in an older, draft house vs. one that’s tightly sealed, just like a modern office building.

That’s because air tight buildings typically have little if any fresh air circulation which, in turns, gives indoor air pollutants no means of escaping outdoors.  Hence, the now all-too-familiar condition known as “Sick Building Syndrome,” where time spent in a home or building can literally make you sick.

How do you know if you have an indoor air quality problem at home?  These are the usual symptoms:

  • Frequent headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Chronic achiness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness in your chest
  • Eye and throat irritation
  • Blocked or runny nose
  • Onset or worsening of allergy and asthma symptoms

Luckily, there are numerous DIY means to improve your home’s indoor air quality. These include allowing no one to smoke indoors, purchasing only formaldehyde-free carpeting, and opening windows or using a fan to vent steam after showering to help prevent mold and mildew from forming.  Even taking off your shoes and leaving them at the door can stop the spread of indoor air pollution as we unknowingly bring all kinds of contaminants into our homes on the soles of our footwear.

Certain kinds of house plants can also help clear the air as they thrive on some of the various pollutants that make people sick.  As bacteria floats through the air, for example, plants trap them and force them into the soil where they feed on them, thus preventing you from breathing them into your lungs.

House plants particularly effective at providing cleaner indoor air include Boston Firm, Chinese Evergreen Peace Lily Philodendron, and Spider Plant.

If you’re looking for a more far-reaching solution, Optimum Air is ready to respond with a whole-house air filtration system, one installed directly into your ductwork and able to trap more than 99% of all airborne pollutants.  To learn more or request a free in-home air quality analysis, contact the home comfort pros at Optimum Air today.

The Advantages of a Ductless Air System

If you still think a central AC system is your only option for whole-house comfort during the summer months, we have some terrific news for you, especially if you’re in the market for a new or replacement home cooling system.

Central air, for all its advantages, isn’t for everyone. Perhaps your house can’t support air ducts, or the cost to add them is currently beyond your budget comfort level.  Or, maybe you don’t need a whole-house system but, instead, are looking for an efficient way to heat and cool your basement or new addition.  In each such instance, ductless air is the answer.

As the name suggests, you don’t need air ducts to install a ductless air system. Instead, air is distributed within the heated and cooled spaces by wall blowers connected to one or more outside condensing units. Each outside unit can support up to five wall blowers, in fact.

Here’s just some of what you’ll appreciate about a new ductless air system:

  • Ease of maintenance.
  • Quiet, remote-control operation.
  • Greater energy efficiency vs. central air since there are no air ducts that conditioned air can escape from.
  • Can work with your current heating and cooling systems or take the place of both.

Many of our customers have purchased ductless air systems to replace their window air conditioners for greater home security.  That’s because a house with window units can be more easily breached than one without.

Is a ductless air system right for you?  Well, there’s only one way to find out, and that’s by contacting Optimum Air to schedule a free in-home comfort consultation and new system proposal. You can count on us to recommend what’s best for your home and budget, now and always.

The Benefits of Whole – House Zone Control

Creating zoned heating and cooling within your home is a relatively simple process, which can create added indoor comfort and reduced energy costs.

A zoned HVAC system supplies only the amount of warm or cool air you select for each zoned area.

There’s one damper and one thermostat for each zone.  Most homes with zoned heating control have two zones, one upstairs and the other downstairs.  But there are plenty of other options depending on the style of your home and how much control you want for its different rooms, areas, or floors.

Zoned home comfort systems are designed to reduce your monthly energy bills and, when you conserve energy, you help to conserve natural resources.

Having multiple zones also results in total comfort where you need it, which can change from hour to hour, day to day and, yes, season to season.

Other Ways to Gain More Heating & Cooling Control.

Since zone systems can reduce your heating and cooling costs by up to 30%, it’s definitely worth considering, especially if you’re already paying too much or just looking for ways to reduce your monthly overhead.

Here are a few additional ways you can reduce your monthly energy costs:

  • Install an electric heater.  These are great options in areas like your sun porch and finished downstairs basement – here, they’re especially efficient as heat rises and then will bounce back again.
  • Install a wood pellet stove. Among the many wood-burning stoves available, pellet stoves are the easiest to operate. What’s more, pellet stoves are smoke-free which means you won’t have to air out a room or worry about subsequent dry air or unpleasant odors.
  • Install one or more ceiling fans. Ceiling fans with a two-way switch for clockwise and counter-clockwise operation are effective at reducing utility costs all year long.

For more information on HVAC zone control, contact the home comfort specialists at Optimum Air today.  Helping you live more comfortably and affordably is what we do best.

8 Handy Uses for Chalk

When you think of chalk, you probably think of math problems on elementary school black boards and sidewalk drawings on a warm summer day. Well, in addition to being a teacher’s helper and childhood favorite, chalk has a host of surprising uses all over the home. From helping out with home improvement tasks to stopping ants in their tracks, this humble, porous, and inexpensive little rock is sure to become a household staple in your home.

Here are 8 unexpected yet very practical uses for chalk.

Prevent Tarnish – Wrap some chalk in cheesecloth and place it in your jewelry box or silverware drawer to prevent sterling silver jewelry and real silverware from tarnishing. It’ll absorb naturally occurring sulfur compounds and moisture, keeping your fine silver shiny and ready for use.

Polish Pewter and Marble – Grind up some chalk, add enough vodka to make a paste, and rub onto your marble or pewter surface. Let sit for about 5 to 10 minutes, rinse, and polish with a soft cloth to remove residue.

Remove Stains – Remove ring around the color and underarm sweat stains by rubbing the stain with white chalk, letting stand for about 10 minutes, and laundering as usual. Tackle a tougher stain like grease by sprinkling the stain with crushed white chalk and letting it sit overnight. Shake off the chalk dust and wash on the warmest water setting safe for the fabric.

Prevent Rust – Place a few sticks of chalk in your toolbox or tool storage container to absorb moisture and prevent your tools from rusting.

Banish Odors – Because chalk is so great at absorbing moisture, it can stop mildew and musty odors in their tracks. Simply place some chalk pieces in an open plastic bag and hang it in the closet, inside the hamper, or throughout a musty basement. Replace the chalk pieces about once a month.

Touch Up Paint – Hide small dings and scratches on walls by smoothing the area with matching chalk.

Stop Ant Infestation – Keep the ants from marching into your home by drawing chalk lines along windowsills, on the insides of door frames, along baseboards, inside cabinets, or any other access points.

Unstick Sticky Locks – Rub some chalk on the teeth of your key and slide it in and out of the lock a few times to remove moisture and dirt that might have accumulated inside the lock.

You know what else is handy around the house?  A heating and air conditioning system that won’t quit on you.  Optimum Air can make that happen with annual preventative maintenance.  Contact us today to schedule service, especially if it’s been a year or longer since your systems were last professionally serviced.

How to Ensure Furnace Safety

If your furnace has a pilot light, that’s kind of like having a pet – something else other than your kids that requires regular, if not constant, monitoring.  Not just for the fun of it, mind you, but for the safety of your home and family.

Pilot lights – which have been replaced by electronic ignitions in newer furnaces – serves two useful functions only.  First, it lights the burners when heat is called for.  After that, your pilot light stays lit to burn off any lingering gas.

What happens if a pilot light suddenly burns out?  That leftover gas has to go somewhere, and no doubt it’s headed for your home’s interior.  For that reason alone, it behooves to check your furnace at the frequency recommended by your system manufacturer and your home heating service company.

Pilot Light Safety

Here’s one more thing to look out for.  The only “healthy” color for a pilot light is blue. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only color it’s capable of producing.  So, should you notice the pilot light burning red, yellow, or orange, that means it’s burning to hot and that should prompt an immediate call to Optimum Air.

Let’s say, however, that you check your pilot light at the prescribed intervals, and yet in between, you smell gas.  If it’s just a trace, open your windows and doors to let the gas escape and then call us or your gas company.  If, on the other hand, the rotten egg odor from gas is overpowering, evacuate your home at once and call 911 from a safe location.

Here’s one more way to ensure the safe operation of your furnace:  contact Optimum Air for preventative maintenance if your furnace has not been professionally serviced in a year or more.  We’re here to provide for all your home heating and cooling needs while doing everything we can to ensure your ongoing safety.

Sometimes, the Lowest Price Isn’t Your Best Option

The dog-eat-dog world of commerce can work for or against you, and often at the same time.

Let’s say, for example, you’re planning to replace your heating or air conditioning system, and you’re determined to purchase the lowest price option, because “Nobody’s going to rip me off!”  And yet, so many times when price is our only filter, the only ones who end up ripping us off is, well, ourselves!

For the sake of illustration, let’s further assume you’re looking for the lowest price option on a new home heating or cooling system.  And while there’s no harm in that, certain other selection should not be overlooked:

  • Just because some moonlighter tells you he knows all there is to know about HVAC installation doesn’t make it so. Ask for details regarding other installation work he’s done along with a list of references for you to check out.
  • What about product and service warranties? Even the deal of the century does you no good if a lemon of a system is installed and you nothing in writing guaranteeing you specific remedies.
  • Ask for proof of licensing and insurance. Unless your system is installed by a licensed contractor, your warranty won’t hold up should any problems turn up during the warranty period.  And if someone gets hurt on the, guess who’s responsible if the installer has no insurance?  Not the installer!
  • What about service after the installation? A heating or cooling system can’t perform up to its full potential without annual preventative maintenance performed by an established and reputable service company.

Sure you want your best deal, but not at the expense of being left high and dry after the installation is completed.  So how about this as alternative: contact Optimum Air and ask for a free in-home quote.  During our visit, we’re going to ask you about your home comfort priorities.  And if you tell us that “low price” is at or near the top of your list, we’re going to do our best to meet or exceed your expectations.  In the process, you’ll still be afforded our full measure of professionalism, benefit from the fact we’re both licensed and insured, and enjoy added peace of mind knowing we’re rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau. Plus, we can assist you in financing your purchase to help make it even more affordable.

Optimum Air:  doing our best to deliver the best in affordable and reliable indoor comfort.

The History of Air Conditioning and How It Changed America

We admit it – we’ve already got a touch of spring fever and it’s not even February yet.  Oh well, what’s the harm, right?

Well, in our line of work, once thoughts of spring come to mind, so do thoughts of air conditioning.  And then it hit us:  wouldn’t it be a refreshing change of pace to write a blog about how air conditioning came to be?!  We thought so, and had fun researching the topic and being reminded of material included long ago in our state licensing classes.

The Early Years

The first known attempt at building an air conditioner was made by Dr. John Gorrie (1803-1855), an American physician, in Apalachicola, Florida. During his practice there in the 1830’s, Dr. Gorrie created an ice-making machine that basically blew air over a bucket of ice for cooling hospital rooms of patients suffering from malaria and yellow fever.

President James Garfield

President James Garfield

President James Garfield

In 1881, when President James Garfield was dying, naval engineers constructed a box-like structure containing cloths saturated with melted ice water, where a fan blew hot air overhead. This contraption could lower a room’s temperature by 20 degrees, but consumed half a million pounds of ice in just two months.

An American engineer, Willis Carrier, first made a close approximation to the modern air conditioner in 1902. The machine at that time was called “Apparatus for Treating Air” and was built for the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Co. in Brooklyn, New York. Chilled coils were used in the machine to cool air and lower humidity to fifty-five percent.

Air Conditioning for the Masses

The general public’s first encounter with mechanical cooling took place in American movie theaters.  The Follies Bergere Theater in New York City installed the first air-conditioning system in a theater in 1911, followed shortly thereafter by the New Empire Theater in Montgomery, Alabama and the Central Park Theater in Chicago.

In the 1920’s and 30’s, ground-breaking experiments with mechanical cooling turned public attendance at movies, plays, and concerts into a summertime ritual.  Air conditioning itself became an attraction, as people flocked to movie theaters to experience the new way to stay cool on those hot summer days.

Air Conditioning in the Home

Not until after World War II did air conditioning enter the homes of average American families.  Engineered air was marketed to the public as an essential component of modern living.  Manufacturers claimed that it promoted better sleeping and eating, healthier air quality, cleaner interiors free from pollen and dust, and the enjoyment of nature through glass window walls without the discomforts of summer heat and humidity. With its steadily decreasing costs, air conditioning was advertised as a technology “for the millions, not just for millionaires.”

Air Conditioning in the Home

The refrigerator provided the model for early residential air conditioners. As consumer interest grew in the late 1920’s, refrigerator manufacturers were among the first to develop air conditioners due to their technical expertise with small-scale refrigeration units, automatic controls as well as mass-production.

The widespread adoption of air conditioner’s in the mid-20th century predicted the demise of front porches, wide eaves, and high ceilings. It also fueled the explosive postwar growth of Sunbelt cities like Houston, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Miami, where it was once not practical to live because of the long hot summers.  Air conditioning launched new forms of architecture and altered the ways Americans live, work, and play.

Domestic air conditioning meant that traditional architectural features–wide eaves, deep porches, thick walls, high ceilings, attics, and cross ventilation–were no longer needed to promote natural cooling.  All of us who have experienced the cooling benefits of central air conditioning in times of searing heat waves know just how difficult life would be without it.

Today, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, “three-quarters of all homes in the United States have air conditioners. Air conditioners use about 6% of all the electricity produced in the United States, at an annual cost of about $29 billion to homeowners.”

That’s it for now from Optimum Air, your DFW area home heating and cooling resource for all seasons.