Moisture, Mites and Mold: What Factors Influence Indoor Air Quality?

Factors affecting home air quality and comfort

•    Temperature is a huge factor in home comfort. Drafts can result in creepy hot or cold spots that seem to come from nowhere. Temperature fluctuations can affect your sleep quality and cause headaches, sweating, shivering and bad moods. A poorly functioning air conditioner may not be able to keep up with the demands of hot Texas summers, so Austin residents are at significant risk of heat-related misery and higher-than-average energy bills.

•    Humidity is the amount of moisture in the air. Most people are comfortable with a relative humidity level of about 45%. When humidity is high, the air seems hotter and heavier. If it drops too low, symptoms like dry eyes and itchy skin appear. Extremely dry air results in high static electricity levels while excessive humidity encourages mold growth, which can lead to bad smells, structural damage and health problems.

•    Ventilation is … Read Full Post »

When Should You Replace Your Air Conditioner?

Count the cost, both present and future

An air conditioner is a sizable investment, and every home and business owner wants to get as much use out of that investment as possible. Still, if your air conditioner wastes energy or needs frequent repairs, you might end up spending more money to keep it running than you would to start fresh with a new unit. You’ll need to carefully consider several factors to make an informed decision about replacing your air conditioner.

First of all, remember that air conditioners are generally designed to last eight to 10 years. If you’ve had yours for the better part of a decade, it’s probably getting old enough that it needs to be replaced anyway. Certain other circumstances, though, might make it necessary to replace your unit even before you’ve had it that long.

If your air conditioner is more than a few years old when it suffers … Read Full Post »

Can Your Home Have Fleas Without Fido?

How to find the source of a mysterious infestation

Everyone knows that most flea invasions happen in homes with dogs or cats. However, it’s not entirely unusual to discover these thirsty pests in pet-free buildings. In reality, these insects may come from wild animals, secondhand goods or previous residents, and they can trigger a variety of health problems.

Flea Sources

If fleas invade your pet-free home, it’s possible that wild animals have taken up residence in the walls or attic. Common flea hosts include rats, squirrels and bats, according to Texas A&M University. Many buildings have holes or cracks that these creatures can easily infiltrate. Feral animals may also carry diseases and mites, so it’s vital to remove them quickly.

Did you recently move to a different home? If the previous resident had a pet with fleas, the insects might have laid eggs in your carpet. A seemingly pest-free house can become infested when … Read Full Post »

Help! Why Is My Air Conditioner Making Clicking Noises?

Spoiler alert: That’s not supposed to happen

Even the quietest modern air conditioners make some noise as they cool your home, but there are some sounds your AC just shouldn’t be making. Clicking, banging, clanking and hissing sounds are signs of trouble, and if you hear them, you’ll need to take action to identify and resolve the problem. Here are some common indicators of AC maintenance issues.

First, listen for vibration noises. A humming sound generally isn’t an indicator of a serious issue, but it probably means that something inside your air conditioner is slightly out of order. Loose parts and too-tight refrigerant piping can cause vibration, and if left unchecked, lead to a more serious maintenance issue.

Buzzing or humming could also be a sign of an electrical problem with your air conditioner. Shut off the power and check around the wires for any signs of corrosion, rust or other damage. If … Read Full Post »

Pests: The Real Kitchen Nightmare

Thanks to Austin’s subtropical climate, fighting household pests here can sometimes feel like a full-time job. Even if you try your hardest to fortify your home against infestations, it’s not uncommon to see ants, roaches, rodents and other tiny invaders parading across your kitchen floors and counters. Since pests typically travel in large colonies and often carry dangerous bacteria, being proactive about pest control is important. To help you get your battle plan on track this season, we’re identifying three of the most common pests in the Austin area and sharing tips on how to keep them out of your kitchen for good.

Roaches

Because they settle wherever food is easily available, roaches are the quintessential kitchen pests. If you see one occasionally, a lot more can be hiding somewhere in your kitchen and even throughout your home. To find out whether you’re dealing with a few strays or a full-blown infestation, … Read Full Post »

Are AC Units the Newest Target for Neighborhood Thieves?

Protect your HVAC system from unscrupulous folks

Some news items just make you want to shake your head. Something we heard the other day certainly fits this bill: Apparently, homeowners across Texas are waking up to find that thieves have stolen their HVAC systems in the night! It appears that a few homeowners have even caught these unscrupulous bandits in the act. Since cool air is a basic necessity during the long, hot Texas summer, you need to know how to protect your home from AC thieves.

They Steal WHAT?!

According to a recent news report, a family in the Houston suburb of Katy recently got an unpleasant surprise: They awoke to find that their entire air conditioning unit was missing. Although they were fortunate not to catch the potentially dangerous thieves in the act, they lamented the loss of an essential piece of residential equipment. Since AC units are heavy and have … Read Full Post »

The Best Thermostat Settings for Summertime Energy Savings

Dial up the temperature to dial down your costs

Everyone wants to keep cool all summer long, but there’s no need to pay extra for that privilege. There’s plenty you can do to cut the energy usage of your air conditioning system without compromising comfort, and probably the simplest way is to just adjust your thermostat.

The rule of thumb for summer thermostat settings is to set it as high as you can without becoming uncomfortable. For most people, that’s somewhere in the 76-79 degrees Fahrenheit range. Turning your thermostat up by one degree cuts your energy usage by about 8%, so it pays to make that adjustment even if it’s just from 72 to 73. Experiment with different settings and find your family’s sweet spot.

One way to make it easier to set your thermostat higher is to invest in ceiling fans. Fans make the air feel cooler by producing a breeze … Read Full Post »

Warm Fridges and Wet Clothes: Common Appliance Issues

Avoiding major problems with timely appliance repair

Everyone has the occasional issue with a load of dishes that doesn’t wash properly, but there are definitely several warning signs that you should keep an eye out for in order to ensure that a small problem doesn’t end up developing into a catastrophe. After all, the cost of a serious repair or a necessary replacement will be unpleasant enough to deal with, and this issue can easily be exacerbated by additional problems such as spoiled groceries.

What Are Some of the Most Common Appliance Issues?

1. Water leaking inside of a refrigerator

If you’ve recently discovered water underneath the crisper drawers, it’s imperative to get your freezer’s defrost drain unclogged. This can easily be accomplished by one of our service specialists, and it will help protect you from ending up with ruined food and the possibility of water leaking onto the floor.

2. Flakes in your ice

Having … Read Full Post »

Toilet Types? There’s More Than Meets the Eye

An introduction to the wonderful world of modern toilets

If you’re not a plumbing expert, you can be forgiven for imagining that there’s just one type of toilet in the world. The experts, though, should know better. In recent years, the plumbing industry has seen a rash of new types of toilets that provide a better flushing experience, conserve water and comply with new safety and environmental regulations. Before you buy your next fixture, learn about the most common toilets in the U.S.

Water-Efficient Toilets

Although there are varying definitions of “efficient toilets,” these items generally use at least 20% less water than standard toilets. Many use less than two gallons of water to flush, marking a major improvement over systems from a generation ago. Although they’re gravity-flushing devices that use the same basic mechanism as standard toilets, improvements like wider flushing valves and trapways ensure that flushes complete quickly and cleanly without … Read Full Post »

Are There More Where That Came From?

How to know when one pest is actually many

Finding a single pest might be just a fluke, but it might also be a sign of a serious infestation that needs professional attention. Once settled in a new home, roaches, ants, termites and other small pests get to work on expanding their colonies. Multiplying at a fast rate in a constrained space means that a few occupants will be accidentally squeezed out and left to wander your floors and walls in plain sight. Below, we’ve put together a handy pest-by-pest guide to help you learn how to tell the difference between an evicted resident and a random passerby.

Roaches

Roaches love hiding in dark and moist crevices, so you’ll need to do a little investigating to make sure that one roach isn’t a displaced member of a larger colony. Faucets, electrical appliances, hollow wall cavities, door frames, drains and cracks in furniture are … Read Full Post »