How to Avoid Costly AC Mistakes

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, air conditioners use about 6 percent of all the electricity produced in the U.S. Today, in fact, more than 90 percent of US households rely on some sort of air conditioning to help them beat the heat.

Can that level of energy consumption be reduced without depriving anyone of the indoor comfort they depend on? Absolutely. By avoiding some all-too frequent mistakes, you also can look forward to fewer repairs and a longer system lifespan. Just follow this common-sense advice:

  1. Buying the wrong size. Before installing an air conditioning system or unit, calculate the size of the room or area to be cooled and make note of its layout, function, and typical occupancy. A unit that is too large will cycle on and off too quickly, while a unit that is too small for a space will run constantly trying to keep up with demand.
  2. Cooling an empty space. Just like you wouldn’t leave your faucet running once you’re done brushing your teeth, you shouldn’t cool your home when you’re not in it. Instead, swap out your conventional thermostat for a programmable model while also considering the addition of more zones, each with its own thermostat. That way, you can keep cool while saving money in rooms are areas that are temporarily unoccupied.
  3. Placing the air conditioning unit in direct sunlight. We know that outdoor AC units aren’t exactly eye candy. But placing one where it receives lots of sunlight will trick it into “thinking” it needs to work harder than it really does. Thinking about replacing your system? This time, find a nice shady spot, even it means planting some new shrubs or perhaps even a retractable awning.
  4. Installing thermostats or vents in the wrong locations. Thermostats should not be placed in direct sunlight or near heat producing appliances or lighting. Too much heat provides inaccurate temperature readings, causing your system to work harder and thus increasing wear and tear while driving up energy costs. Additionally, keep draperies and furniture away from vents to allow proper air circulation.

Equally important to the long-term health and performance of your AC system is annual preventative maintenance. Here at Optimum Air, that’s a specialty of the house. So if it’s been a year or longer since your system was last professionally cleaned and inspected, contact us today for service. You’ll profit from the results.

“Must” Home Maintenance Chores

You know the old expression:  “If these walls could talk!” Quaint and wistful, don’t you think? But its core message is that walls really CAN’T talk Not to mention lights, furnaces, AC condensing units, windows, doors and other inanimate objects.

Here at Optimum Air, we respectfully disagree. Oh, sure, they can’t actually speak any more than Mr. Ed could. But walls, doors, and all the rest have other ways of communicating with us and, from time to time, telling “I’m broken” or “Take care of me.” You just have to know what to look and listen for.

Consider the following maintenance chores that might just require some attention around your house:

  1. Check thermostat settings 

Don’t judge the effectiveness of your heating for cooling system solely by how you feel. Once a day, check your thermostats to ensure that the temperature setting and actual setting are as close to the same as possible. Once they start to separate, consider it a warning sign that either the furnace, AC system, or thermostat requires professional attention.

  1. Inspect kitchen and bathroom caulk

The caulking in kitchens and bathrooms keeps water from seeping into the nooks and crannies around sinks and tubs. Once the water gets in, mold has found a new home in which to grow and multiply. Worse, infiltrating water could lead to wood rot in the structural framing beneath the surface. Re-caulking old or mildewed caulking is a basic home repair, requiring only a few tools and inexpensive materials. Replacing rotten flooring, joists and wall studs is a much, much bigger job. 

  1. Fix plumbing leaks.

If every plumbing leak were fixed as quickly as you discover it, you would save about 10% each year on your water bill. But that’s not the only reason to act with haste, especially if you stumble across a previously hidden water leak. The kind, for example, you might find behind your refrigerator indicating a leak from the water line that supplies your ice maker. It’s not the water or water stain you spot that can hurt you. It’s the water that has managed to seep through the floor or molding to sub-flooring, ceilings, and electrical wiring below.

  1. Clean and seal outdoor decking

The weather will take its toll on outdoor decking. A few gallons of sealant will set you back $50 or less and a weekend afternoon of effort. Allowing your decking to go untreated for a season or three is likely to result in damaged decking – and damaged ties and joists underneath. Those repairs are a much bigger job, requiring more time and effort, and a lot more money in materials. 

  1. Check for faulty wiring

Anytime you encounter a light switch or socket that’s hot or warm to the touch, don’t wait to call a licensed and professional electrician. Excess heat is an indicator of faulty wiring or an overloaded circuit. Either way, the door is now open for an electrical fire.

  1. Inspect foundation and concrete slabs for cracks and fissures.

When concrete cures it shrinks slightly and, over time, can develop slight hairline cracks and fissures. Such cracks are unsightly, of course, and can allow water and insects to infiltrate. Over time, more significant damage can occur.

For the good you feel owning a home, it also requires constant looking after. Well, when it comes to heating, cooling, and indoor air quality, you’re not alone. Not with Optimum Air on hand to tackle any maintenance, repair, or new installation task for you. Call us any time for the service you need – plus, we provide free estimates.

How Your AC Evaporator Coils Can Freeze, and What Happens When They Do

Time for a little AC 101 – at least until we get to the meat of this blog.

Your home air conditioning system consists of three main parts: the outside condensing unit, indoor air handler, and the air ducts that deliver cool, fresh air through your vents or registers.

While companies like ours perform countless AC cleanings and inspections each year, our customers have maintenance duties of their own. One of the most important is cleaning or replacing the AC filter about every two weeks.

Why is that so important? The more dust, dirt and other particles trapped by the filter – which it’s designed to do – the harder your AC system works to deliver cool air. If a filter is ignored long enough, along with professional annual maintenance, sooner or later your filter will form a considerable obstacle to the cool it’s trying to deliver. And that’s where the frozen coils come into play.

Evaporator coils, located inside the systems’ air handler which, in turn, is typically located in the attic, are designed to absorb heat from indoor air with the help of the refrigerant flowing through them. To perform that task to maximum potential, they count on smooth and abundant airflow. But, as we’ve just seen, there can be proper airflow with a mostly or completely clogged airflow.

When evaporator coils can no longer absorb heat, they’re prone to freeze and, if the problem isn’t detected and fixed early enough, it may force you to replace the air handler, and possibly your condensing unit, too.

So, even if you find your attic a little creepy and an otherwise unpleasant environment, you’ll be doing yourself and your family a big favor by faithfully cleaning or replacing (as needed) your AC filter. While you’re up there, also keep an eye out for any signs of water leakage which would indicate either a refrigerant leak or melting ice you’re your coils.

And, of course, once you see signs of trouble, one quick call to Optimum Air is all it takes to get the problem fixed.  Optimum Air in Arlington: for all your home heating and cooling needs.

 

How Improved Air Circulation Can Reduce Your Energy Costs

The older your AC system, the more it costs to run it – just a simple fact of life in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

But that doesn’t mean you should be content with those ever-climbing utility bills. In fact, go ahead and get mad at them if it helps. Even better, resolve to do something about them. Come to think of it, maybe you already are, but are convinced you could still be saving even more money without sacrificing that much-needed cool air.

Well, here’s one such idea on how to lower your cooling costs, one we think you’ll warm up to in a hurry (pardon the expression!)

Open Your Interior Doors, Save Money

The SEER rating of your AC system is only one factor that determines energy efficiency. The system also has to be installed correctly. Gaps or leaks in your air ducts have to be closed or sealed. Your filter needs to be cleaned or replaced about every two weeks. And more.

Ongoing energy-efficient operation also depends on proper internal airflow, and one way to achieve that is to keep inside doors open to rooms that don’t have an AC register or vent.

You see, closing those doors does not prevent the air inside them from escaping. That air, by definition, is warmer than the air in the rest of the house, so your AC system goes into over-drive to cool it off. That leads to added wear and tear, the increased likelihood of repairs, and higher (not lower) energy costs. At the same time, the air escaping those closed-off rooms is often replaced by from air from your water heater and other areas  where contaminants like mold, mildew, and carbon monoxide might exist.

If you’re doing everything you can to keep your house cool and your energy costs down, but it’s not producing the desired end result, contact Optimum Air to schedule a system cleaning and inspection. Regular preventative maintenance is the best way we know of to keep your AC system in peak operating condition while potentially adding years to its lifespan.

Does My Home Need More Attic Ventilation?

Roofing experts claim the majority of U.S. homes do not have proper attic (or roof) ventilation. That can lead to severe roof damage plus big spikes in your energy bills.

Without proper ventilation, attic temperatures can climb to 140 degrees and higher during the summer months. What does it feel like? Just like the inside of your car when it’s been sitting in the sun with all the windows up on a hot, humid day. And yet, the excessive heat in your attic isn’t just about being uncomfortable. It can scorch roof shingles and material, leading to premature replacement. Poor ventilation also can contribute to condensation, mold and mildew in the attic.

In the winter, allowing cool air into the attic through intake vents will help prevent ice dam formation, according to Energy Star. Ice dams are made up of snow that melts and freezes again on a home’s gutters. The main cause of ice damming is an overly warm attic.

Then there’s the impact of attic insulation on ventilation and your energy costs. The fact is, poor ventilation can ruin your insulation. When that happens, it can no longer effectively help keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and that’s precisely what sends energy costs spiraling upward.

So, for the sake of your home and family, perhaps it’s time for a quick trip to your attic to see just how hot it is. If it’s scorching hot in the summer or nice and cozy in the winter, it’s too hot. And that means it’s time to contact a roofing contractor to improve your ventilation, insulation, or both.

To help keep your heating and cooling systems in top working order, Optimum Air is the only call you need to make. Contact us for whatever the service or installation need might be.

Clean Floors Lead to Cleaner Indoor Air

For many home owners in the DFW area, indoor air quality is a daily concern as they seek to copy with symptoms from allergies, asthma, and other upper respiratory ailments.

Still, there’s plenty you can do to help your own cause, and that includes keeping your floors as clean as possible.  Here are a few helpful tips on how to achieve that goal:

  • Chemicals and allergens can get trapped and remain in household dust literally for decades. Regular vacuuming can help, especially when your machine is equipped with a HEPA filter, you can reduce concentrations of lead in your home. For even better results, outfit yourself with a vacuum cleaner that also includes strong suction and rotating brushes. In high traffic areas, vacuum the same spot several times. Don’t forget walls, carpet edges, and upholstered furniture, where dust also accumulates.
  • Mopping picks up the dust left behind by your vacuum cleaner. You can skip the soaps and cleaners and just use plain water on your floors in your efforts to rid your home of allergens and other pollutants. Microfiber mops (and dust cloths) typically capture more dust and dirt than traditional fibers and don’t require cleaning solutions to perform at maximum effectiveness.
  • Keep it out. Put a large floor mat inside and right in front of every door leading into your home. People track in all sorts of chemicals via the dirt on their shoes. A door mat reduces the amount of dirt, pesticides, and other pollutants that inevitably work their way indoors. If the mat is big enough, even those who don’t wipe their shoes will leave most pollutants on the mat rather than tracking them further into your home. It’s also a good idea to take your shoes off upon entering – and don’t be shy about asking guests to do the same.

Here at Optimum Air, we’re seasoned warriors in the battle to stop allergens and pollutants from making your home life miserable. In fact, we offer several whole-house solutions to clean the air you breathe and keep it clean year-round. Call today for more information or to schedule a free in-home consultation.

What You Need to Know About Automatic Zoning

If this is not your first Optimum Air blog, you may recall us talking about signs that your air conditioning system might need some professional attention – one of those being hot and cold spots throughout your house.

Well, that same phenomenon can be caused by having only one thermostat, especially if yours is a multi-leveled house. Take, for example, your summertime experience when it’s nice and cool on the ground floor where the thermostat is located, but hotter than blazes upstairs. That can make it awfully difficult to get a good night’s sleep.

Sound familiar? Then there’s a very good chance you don’t need a second or replacement AC system to fix the problem. In fact, the solution could be as simple as installing electronic dampers in your ductwork along with one new thermostat for each zone added. Then, to cure your sleepless night blues, you can raise the thermostat downstairs once you go to bed while lowering the thermostat upstairs for the cool, comfortable sleeping conditions you desire.

For even greater flexibility and energy savings, we can install new programmable thermostats with their own Wi-Fi apps. That would enable you to change settings wherever you might be – provided you have a Wi-Fi connection – to make your home perfectly comfortable upon your arrival, no matter what time of year it might be.

To learn more about automatic zoning and how that can benefit you, contact Optimum Air today.

How to Remove Allergens from Your Home

Even if you see your house as small, it really isn’t – at least not when it comes to ridding your home of allergens. Allergens can gather and multiply just about anywhere and, room by room, there are different ways to keep the problem under control.

Since taking on your entire house is just too much for a single blog, today we’re going to focus on your living room and bedrooms.  We think you’ll find this information highly useful, especially if you suffer from allergies.

In Your Bedrooms

  • Flooring. If possible, rid your home of wall-to-wall carpeting and replace it with wood, vinyl, laminate, or other types of flowing that’s easy to clean. Area rugs are okay, too, but once again, they need be kept clean. If replacing carpeting is not an option, then clean it at least once a week with a vacuum cleaner that has either a small-particle or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. You should consider shampooing the carpet, too. 
  • Bed and Bedding. Encase pillows, mattresses and box springs in allergen-impermeable covers. Wash sheets, pillowcases and blankets once a week in hot water; remove, wash or cover your comforters, too. For even better results, replace wool or feather pillows or bedding with those made from synthetics.    
  • Shut Windows. Close windows and rely on air conditioning during pollen season. While you’re at it, remove mold and condensation from window frames by keeping them clean. and sills. Use double-paned windows if you live in a cold climate. 
  • Eliminate Clutter. Remove items that collect dust, such as knickknacks, tabletop ornaments, clothing, books and magazines. Additionally, consider storing children’s toys, games, and stuffed animals in plastic bins. 

In Your Living Room 

  • Furniture. Upholstered furniture is a haven from dust, pollen, and other airborne allergens looking for a home to reside in an on. You would do well to replace at least some of it with leather. 
  • Curtains and Blinds. Washable curtains made of cotton or synthetic fibers are best for controlling the spread and growth of your household allergy population. 
  • Fireplaces. Avoid use of wood-burning fireplaces or stoves because smoke and gases can worsen respiratory allergies. Most natural gas fireplaces won’t cause this problem.

If you or other family members suffer from allergy-induced problems, we hope it’s not so severe that you’re resorting to extreme measures to protect your health. But if you need some assistance in that department, contact Optimum Air today to request a free quote on a whole-house air filtration system, one that can remove more than 99% of airborne pollutants as they attempt to pass through the system’s filter. We have multiple air quality solutions, including the right one for your family’s needs and budget.

What to Ask About a Home’s HVAC Systems

If you’re looking to buy someone else’s home (vs. building your own), there’s a lot to consider. That, of course, includes the home’s heating and cooling systems. And unless you bring in your own HVAC contractor to inspect them, you’re going to have to take the word of the seller and the person selected for the official home inspection required by the lender.

At Optimum Air, we believe most people will give you straight answers to your questions, just as they hope and expect others would do for them.  So go ahead and ask these questions so you know what to inspect once you move in:

 

  • How old is each system?
  • When was the last time each was professionally serviced?
  • Do you have records and receipts of system repairs?
  • How much does it cost you to heat and cool your home, and have you been noticing an uptick in costs lately?
  • Is your house unusually dusty?
  • Is your home exceptionally dry in the winter, or overly humid during the summer months?
  • How old is your attic insulation and what kind of condition is it in?
  • Have you ever had your air ducts cleaned and, if so, do you recall the last time that service was performed?

Sure, there are other questions you could ask, but there’s a lot more to a purchasing decision than the condition of the heating and cooling systems, and you certainly don’t want to get lost in the details.

What you do want to know, however, is what to expect indoor-comfort-wise after you move in and what you can expect to pay in utility costs. You’re also looking for information about indoor air quality, and whether you might do well to install a whole-house air filter or humidity control system for your family’s added comfort and greater energy savings.

If you want an opinion you can take to the bank on the condition of a home’s heating and cooling systems, contact us and we’ll be happy to inspect them for you. Optimum Air: your local heating and cooling friends in the business.

Is Your AC System Making You Sick?

Every AC season, people from all over the country rush to their primary care physician or nearest walk-in medical clinic complaining that their AC system is making them sick.  Even if they’re right, they’re wrong.

Say what? By itself, your AC system literally does nothing more than remove hot air from your home, thus providing the cooling relief we all crave.  But unless it’s well taken care of, your system can and will attract all kinds of pollutants that do make you sick. These include bacteria, dust, dirt, pesticides, mold, mildew, and a host of other common indoor air pollutants.

Your AC system is simply the delivery vehicle, not the bad guy some of us make it out to be.

If routine AC maintenance alone still has you sneezing and coughing up a storm, it might be time to add a whole-house air filtration system into the mix. The right one can remove more than 99% of all airborne pollutants during heating and cooling system operation.

Here’s another suggestion.  If your air ducts haven’t been cleaned within the past four years, it’s time. Your ducts harbor all sorts of air pollutants that blow into your living spaces every time your AC or forced air heating system fan turns on.

How can we help? If it’s been a year or longer since your AC system was last professionally cleaned and inspected, it’s time to contact Optimum Air for service. Not only will you breathe better day and night, but your system will run better, last longer, and consume less energy. We look forward to your call!