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.

How to Organize Your Home in 30 Days

 

A new year is upon us and it’s time to start acting on your resolutions. And now for the good news:  if organizing your home is on the list, we can help make this seemingly daunting and time-consuming task a bit more manageable.

Just tackle two of these simple to-dos a week and see how much cleaner, better organized, and more spacious your home becomes in just one month. Even better, each of the recommended tasks below can be accomplished in an hour or less.

Organize your home

Start with what annoys you.

Whether you’re tired of staring at that pile of things you meant to donate or sick of not being able to find anything in your home office, spend an hour on that one task to get your organizing juices flowing.

Set aside a box.

As you come across items that you no longer need or use, toss them in the designated box. At the end of the month, donate, give away, recycle, or throw the contents away.  And who knows, you might get so into the swing of things that one box turns into several.

Set up a command center – or two.

Add hooks and bins near your entryway to keep winter gear from piling up by the door. Also, designate a place for mail, keys, and important notices to prevent them from piling up on your kitchen counters.

Organize your utensil drawer.

Remove everything from the drawer and weed out all the gadgets and utensils you no longer use.  Then add some drawer dividers to keep what’s left neatly compartmentalized.

Downsize the contents of your cabinets.

When was the last time you checked the expiration date on those canned goods, or matched lids to your food storage containers? And do you really need five pie plates?

Pare down the knick-knacks.

It may be hard to part with all those books and collectables that have taken over your shelves, mantle, and display cases. But doing so will make your home appear lighter and brighter. Keep your favorites and perhaps donate the rest; or, at least box them so you can swap them out from time to time.

Clean up your paperwork.

Shred documents containing personal information you no longer need, scan those you want or need, and neatly file the rest.

Speaking of paperwork, do you have a record of the last time your furnace was serviced or repaired?  Even without a paper trail, can you answer that question?  If not, it’s probably time to have your furnace professionally cleaned and inspected to ensure its reliable and energy-efficient operation.  For the best in home heating preventive maintenance, contact Optimum Air today.

 

How to Plan for a Winter Power Outage

When strong winds, slippery roads, and high snow accumulations combine, the results can be treacherous. But by staying safe and warm, most people can ride out a winter storm with a minimum of distress.

But what happens when a winter storm results in a temporary power outage? Whether it’s expected to last 2 hours or 2 days, the best way to survive a blackout is to prepare well in advance.  Here’s how:

Prepare Ahead of Time

  • Have an “essentials” kit ready and easily accessible. Yours should include warm blankets, flashlights, batteries, candles, a battery powered radio and corded telephone. A first aid kid isn’t a bad idea, either, so you won’t have to hunt for bandages and pain relievers in the dark should you need them.
  • Make sure you have enough non-perishable food items and clean drinking water on hand to last for a few to several days.
  • Have plenty of dry wood on hand for your wood burning stove and gasoline (or kerosene) for your generator.

Stay Warm

  • If you lose heat during a winter storm, dress in warm layers including gloves, thick socks, and a hat. Better yet, if you have a place to go until the power comes back on and can get there safely, do so.
  • Huddle with your family in one room for the night. A smaller sized room that is closed off from the house will help trap everyone’s body heat for added comfort.

Protect Your Home

  • Turn on at least one faucet and let it drip slowly to prevent your water pipes from freezing and bursting. Also, know in advance where your main water valve is located so you can shut it off should a pipe freeze and burst.
  • Unplug electrical appliances, especially valuable computers, televisions, and game systems. The power could surge back on several times during the repair process and damage items that are left plugged in.
  • To keep perishable foods from spoiling, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed. A full freezer can keep food frozen for up to 48 hours; a refrigerator can keep food below 40 degrees for up to 4 hours.

Keep our phone number handy, too, this winter so you can reach us on the double should anything go wrong with your heating system.  At Optimum Air, we provide 24/7 emergency repairs for any heating problem that can’t wait until the next morning.  Optimum Air: count on us to be there when you need us.

 

6 Creative Uses for Your Crock Pot

It’s a staple in pretty much every kitchen, and great for whipping up some hot and spicy chili or a warm pot of stew. But what you may not realize is that the slow, even heating of your crock pot makes it ideal for several out-of-the-ordinary uses. So, pull out that slow cooker and have fun with some of these easy yet beneficial activities.

Hot Holiday Cocktails

Greet your guests with a hot and delicious cocktail this season. Simply pour apple cider into the crockpot, add some of your favorite seasonal spices, cover, and keep warm. When you’re ready, add your spirit(s) of choice into a glass and ladle in some of the heated mixture (if you add the alcohol into the pot, it will cook off). Or you can serve the non-alcoholic version, too.

Toasty Treats

Free up some oven space and roast your seeds and nuts in the slow cooker for a perfect treat. Grease the bottom of the crockpot and add a cup or so of raw nuts or seeds. Sprinkle with seasonings of your choice, toss to coat well, and cook for about three hours on high.  Then let the mixture cool and enjoy!

Paint Stripper

Remove stubborn paint from small metal objects like cabinet hardware and door hinges by placing them in your slow cooker, covering with water, and letting them soak overnight. For extra tough jobs, add a few drops of dish washing liquid. Remove the items from the pot, let cool, and scrub off the excess with an old tooth brush.

Easy Humidifier

Dry winter air got you down? Fill the crockpot about ¾ full with water, cover, and “cook” on high for about 15 minutes. Carefully remove the cover and let that steamy air fill your kitchen and beyond.

A Delight for the Senses

Fill your home with the scents of the season by placing fruit and spices in the crockpot, adding enough water just to cover, and run it on low with the lid off. Try apples and cinnamon, or oranges, vanilla, and cloves, or make your own delightful blend.

Natural Air Freshener

You can banish pet, cooking, and other unpleasant odors with just a few pantry staples and your slow cooker. Fill the pot halfway with water, add a cup of baking soda, a few tablespoons of lemon juice, and mix. Heat uncovered on high for a few hours – or overnight if the odors are especially offensive.

What do half of these crock pot uses have in common?  Improving the quality of your indoor!  At Optimum Air, that happens to be one of our specialties though we have far more sophisticated and far-reaching solutions to offer you.  So, if indoor pollutants are getting the better of you and other family members, contact Optimum Air today for a free in-home consultation and proposal.

The Multiple Benefits of House Plants

It’s a lucky thing most of us don’t suffer from claustrophobia given the amount of time we spend indoors during a typical DFW winter.

When the first signs of spring occur, we practically sprint our way to the backyard or front porch to fully embrace the warmer, balmy air and sunshine.

In the meantime, there’s still plenty of winter to wade through.  So, why not bring a little bit of spring indoors – namely, houseplants – to help keep you company and give you a new hobby, to boot.  If you have even a hint of a green thumb, here’s what you could accomplish all at once:

  • Fresh new touches of décor
  • Added indoor humidity to help offset the extra dry air your heating system delivers
  • Cleaner indoor air as many types of house plants are highly adept at filtering out bacteria and other airborne pollutants

And now for a few specifics:

Liven up a corner.

Living and family room corners can be difficult places to decorate.  But it’s nothing that a potted tree or a decorative plant stand can’t accomplish, or maybe even a wall-mounted plant rack right in tune with your decor.

An orchid in every bathroom.

Orchids love humidity, and what better place to absorb it than inside your bathroom.

Grow fresh herbs in your kitchen.

Plants help make your house smell better, like when you grow fresh herbs in your kitchen or sun room.

No dirt up your sleeves!

How about a plant that requires neither soil nor water to grow?  It’s called Tillandsia and will flourish quite nicely on a piece of bark or in a conch shell with just an occasional misting.

Plants for the non-industrious and forgetful 

Concerned about your ability or willingness to take proper care of your plants?  Well, don’t let that stop you from enjoying the experience of having them.  Just be careful which varieties you choose.  Plants like ferns, pothos, jade and cacti do very well with minimum care, but they do need some.

And then there’s the primary benefit of indoor plants:  their ability to attract and destroy airborne pollutants.  Ask your neighborhood florist or nursery for help in selecting just the right varieties, and then look forward to considerable relief from allergies, asthma, and other upper respiratory ailments.

If your indoor air quality issues are more serious, contact Optimum Air for more information about our several whole-house air quality solutions. We don’t offer you a cure for what ails you, but we can remove the cause of your problems for good.