Post Flood Cleanup Tips

florida hurricane water damage Living in a flood-prone area like South Florida or even a city like New Orleans that is below sea level means that people should understand how to approach clean up after such a disaster.

It is important to move quickly so that the home’s structure is not damaged and that personal belongings are saved. Waiting too long could not only damage one’s property but also prove harmful thanks to mold growth, bacteria and debris, and mud that have come into the home. Even a couple of inches of water can prove disastrous.

Get Rid of the Mud

It is important to get rid of the mud and any debris that has come into the home. This could mean shoveling out the dirt or using a hose to spray away mud from the home’s surfaces. Dirt should be brushed off or wiped off of furniture, paperwork, and all possessions too. After the mud is removed, water can be tackled.

Work on Water Removal

Getting rid of water is easier said than done. The liquid can sink into furniture and the home’s walls. All furniture should be placed outside to dry out and it will help to have a dehumidifier and air conditioner to remove moisture. A home owner should open all windows and doors to air the house out. Vacuums can be used to remove dirt and mildew from everything from the floor to the ceiling. Items like mattresses and blankets should be thrown away. Professionals can handle getting water out of floorboards and furniture since they have the equipment and know-how for this.

Safeguard Documents

Photographs and important paperwork can be saved and cleaned. It’s important that all mud is taken off of the documents, they are placed in plastic bags, and that they are then put into a freezer. The paperwork will then be safe from mildew, can be thawed, and then cleaned. Professionals understand how to work with even the most damaged of documents to clean and restore them.

Disinfect Everything

It is important to really disinfect all surfaces to prevent mildew and mold from growing. This means wiping down all surfaces, ceilings, walls, counter tops, and shelves with heavy-duty cleaning materials. Home owners should take the time to inspect hard-to-reach sections of the home as well as places like under sinks and carpets.

Report Everything to Your Insurance Company

It is important to always communicate with one’s insurance company. This of course can only happen if a home owner has property, possession, or home insurance. This is a chance to find out what will be covered and what will not. Home owners should take the time to list all damage and to take photographs and videos. Complete record keeping is important so that home owners can be rewarded money for damages and cleaning. This can also help if a person applies for government or disaster assistance programs.

Inspect Appliances and All Electrical and Central A/C Systems

All electrical items need to be turned off and looked out. Professional cleaning is suggested because the common home owner could be hurt when working with these appliances or could end up breaking them. Similarly, the electrical system in a home need to dry out to protect the home from harm, and the heating and cooling systems should be inspected. It is important to be smart about this because damaged wiring and heating and cooling systems can be incredibly costly to repair.

How to Prevent Water Damage During Hurricane Season

Preparing ahead of time for the inevitable flood damage that often occurs during the hurricane season helps provide you with peace of mind knowing that you have done all that you possibly can to minimize the devastating effects caused by flooding. No one can completely flood-proof their home, but there are very effective steps that can be taken to help prevent the water damage flooding can cause. Being prepared before a flood occurs ensures that you have protection and access to items that can be used to prevent damage.

To help keep water from entering through doors and windows, there are specially designed flood boards that can easily be installed on most doors and windows when the threat of flood becomes eminent. Raising door thresholds is another method mainly used when water levels are expected to be low. Specially designed fitted covers that go over air bricks and ventilation blocks are also helpful.

Other possible points of entry for flood waters are through drains and pipes. Non-return valves are good solutions to help prevent waste water from flowing through pipes into the home during flooding. Floors are another common water entry point, and anyone living in areas prone to flooding would be wise to have cement, tile or granite flooring installed instead of traditional flooring such as wood floors, carpeting or laminate flooring.

Some other excellent preventative measures include installing electrical sockets, fuse boxes and wiring at a higher level in the home. This limits the possibility of them being damaged in the event of flooding. Mounting all televisions and stereo systems high on walls when possible is another good idea, keeping them from coming in contact with destructive standing water. Whenever possible, homeowners should avoid owning particle board furniture. In a flood prone area this type of furniture often receives heavy damage and most likely will be destroyed.

Items that are irreplaceable, such as treasured family photos are best displayed on shelves that are mounted high above the ground. It is also a good idea to keep CD’s, thumb drives or other storage mediums of treasured photos somewhere away from the property like in a bank safe deposit box so copies can be made.

Important documents should also be protected and there are excellent options available in waterproof storage containers to protect them. Some documents that are crucial to the functioning of a home or business must be kept safe from flood waters. Yet papers and documents are often overlooked when homeowners are preparing their home for possible flooding.

Good items to have readily available in the home are sand-less bags to be used in the event of emergency. They store flat, and when exposed to water for a few minutes they become 30 pound sandbag-equivalent bags that are utilized in the same way as regular sandbags to create protective dikes and to build flood barricades. Water damage is some of the most destructive damage that can occur in homes, but preventative steps can give homeowners peace of mind.

What is a SEER Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating?

A “seasonal energy efficiency rating,” also called a “SEER,” is a measure of an air conditioning system’s efficiency. By stating the average electricity consumption of an air conditioner during a typical “air conditioning season,” the SEER system allows consumers to more accurately estimate their energy usage than older rating systems allowed. A higher SEER indicates that an air conditioner uses less energy than those with a lower SEER.

For its calculation, a SEER assumes an air conditioner will be in use 1,000 hours per year, which represents eight hours of usage per day for 125 days during the course of a year. Those living in more southerly locations will significantly exceed this, so a higher efficiency rating is even more beneficial. Additionally, larger houses require more energy to remain at a comfortably temperature and benefit more from high efficiency.

The United States mandated that all new air conditioning units manufactured after 2005 be rated SEER 13 or higher. For an air conditioner to receive an ENERGY STAR certification, it must have a SEER of at least fourteen. Small window units have no such requirement and often have a SEER of around ten.

Upgrading an existing air conditioning system to one with a higher efficiency rating yields significant savings; upgrading from a SEER 9 system, which was previously a common rating, to a SEER 13 system will reduce electricity consumption by a bit over 30 percent. Upgrading from SEER 9 to SEER 16 will reduce energy consumption by nearly 45 percent. While exact savings depends on several variables, most homeowners will see an electricity bill reduction measured in hundreds of dollars per year.

To achieve a higher efficiency, manufacturers use thicker, more efficient metals in their air conditioners. Further, higher rated units generally have multiple compressors and larger coils. This raises the cost of the air conditioning system, so consumers must balance the cost of the unit with their expected energy savings. Most consumer guides recommend purchasing a system with a SEER of at least sixteen.

Additionally, air conditioning units degrade over time. An old unit which had a SEER of nine when it was first installed may currently be operating at a lower SEER. Air conditioning units today tend to retain their rating longer, but it is worth noting that the more expensive materials used in more efficient systems can be expected to help maintain the unit’s rating longer than less efficient systems.

And for those who seek to reduce their impact on the environment, a system with a higher efficiency rating helps reduce energy-related pollution. Systems with a higher SEER will also last longer and reduce the amount of material that ends up in a landfill.

At one time, those looking to purchase a new air conditioner had no means to calculate the energy cost of their purchase; manufacturers had no incentive to focus on efficiency over cost. The SEER system has provided consumers with a valuable tool to calculate the true cost of their new air conditioner.

Air Conditioning as an Investment in Your Health

Triple digit heat is plaguing the heartland of the nation this summer. Residents as far north as South Dakota are struggling to stay cool in an area where air conditioning rarely exists because it is rarely needed. Heat related deaths are a concern. Those in southern states like Texas are familiar with such heat waves and its affects and there are still heat related deaths every summer. Most of those deaths occur among the poor, the elderly and the very young. Among the poor and the elderly, their homes may not have air conditioning, or if they do, the air conditioning is broken and they cannot afford to get it fixed. In triple digit heat, air conditioning saves lives.

One Canadian joked that the coldest places in the world are Saskatchewan and inside a Dallas building in the summer. While the joke is slightly exaggerated, there is some truth to the drastic temperature difference between inside and outside during a Texas summer. With heat indices above 110 degrees Fahrenheit and indoor thermostats set around 72 in public buildings, individuals expect their bodies to adjust to the almost 40 degree difference each time they transition from inside to outside and vice versa. This can cause sinus problems or fatigue even among the healthiest of people.

So how can air conditioning service in Austin, TX contribute to your wellness?

In addition to preventing heat related deaths, it can also help to filter out pollens, dust and dander within the home. Central air conditioners have an intake vent inside the home. That is where air is pulled into the unit to be cooled. If the filter in that vent becomes dirty or clogged, the air conditioner does not function as efficiently as it should. Changing that filter every three to six months keeps the air conditioner running well. Using HEPA filters or other hypo-allergenic filters helps to clean the air as the air conditioning runs. This is most beneficial for those with allergies, asthma or other respiratory illnesses.

When buying a home or after a few years in a new home, get the air ducts cleaned. This eliminates dust, fur and dander that has accumulated over time in the duct work and keeps the air in your home cleaner. Additionally, be sure to keep the coils on the air conditioning unit clean. Most hardware stores supply an aerosol spray to help you clean them.

These basic maintenance tips are good for your air conditioner and for your health. An air conditioner cannot protect you from triple digit heat if it doesn’t work. Maintenance keeps it running longer and more efficiently. Adjusting the thermostat to 80 degrees while you are out of the house reduces the amount of work the unit has to do as well. And truth be told, when it’s over 100 degrees outside, walking into 80 degrees feels great.

Tiffany Marshall spent two summers in Colorado without real air conditioning before moving back to her home state of Texas. She prefers triple digits with AC to double digits without. Tiffany is a freelancer writing on behalf of BlueAir Heating and Air Conditioning, your source for any Austin heating and air conditioning need.

How to Improve Air Conditioner Efficiency During the Summer

Summer Energy Efficiency Tips: Air Conditioning Usage

Running an air conditioner in the summer is a luxury in some places and a necessity in others. Whether you need it, or just want it, running an air conditioning system can be the biggest consumer of electricity in your home in summer. Using your air conditioning system correctly, keeping it well maintained and taking some other actions toward saving electricity can help keep this cost to a minimum.

There are several kinds of air conditioning systems that are installed in modern homes. Window units, split and packaged systems are the most common. All types of air conditioners should be inspected at least once a year, preferably before they are put into use for the season. Any problems that could reduce efficiency should be fixed before the system is used. A few basic maintenance tasks can go a long way toward safe, efficient operation.

If you do it yourself, be sure to turn off the power to the A/C at the breaker box before opening or working on the machine. Cleaning the coils with a soft brush and removing dust and debris will make the air conditioner cool more efficiently. Filters should also be checked for dirt build up. Some kinds are washable and others must be replaced. Refer to the owner’s manual, or ask a service technician, if you are unsure about the filter in your unit. Having spare filters on hand can save time and frustration.

If the unit is a model that goes through a window or other opening in the wall, check that it is properly sealed all around and tilting outward slightly. If air is leaking around the unit, it will be working harder and costing more. If it is sloping the wrong way, it will not run well and could leak into the room.

Check the grooves that lead water out of a window unit , or the condenser pan if you have a split or packaged unit. Water should be draining properly and no leaks should be detected, except where water exits at the drain.

If all systems are go, and the air conditioner is well maintained and operating at good efficiency, you can still lower your electric bill in other ways. Keeping the thermostat set at 78º Fahrenheit when you are home and turning the unit off when you are ways are other measures that will cut the power costs.

Saving electricity in other ways around the house will also compensate for the increased electricity you need for the air conditioner. By turning off lights and appliances that are not in use and doing laundry at non-peak hours, money can be saved toward cooling costs. Most computers and TVs use power even when they are turned off. To save money on them, plug them in on a power strip and then flip the switch when they are not being used.

Having your house insulated and using double glazed windows cuts costs for both heating and cooling. Weather stripping around doors and windows is a smaller job, but can also significantly reduce the need for air conditioning.

By maintaining your air conditioner properly, keeping the thermostat turned up a bit and reducing other electrical uses, you can increase summer energy efficiency and keep your house pleasantly cool at the same time.

Putting Your Indoor Air Quality to the Test

The EPA claims that people spend about 90 percent or more of their time indoors which, while it may seem like a safe place to be, may end up doing you and your family more harm than good. The quality of the air inside your home can actually be up to five times more polluted than what blows in from outside.

improve air qualityUp to 15,000 children are hospitalized annually due to respiratory infections, many of which are caused or aggravated by poor indoor air quality.

Several factors go into making indoor air quality, IAQ for short, potentially harmful, ranging from simple things like pet dander, mildew and even dry cleaning chemicals to what is known as the Deadly Three: carbon monoxide, secondhand smoke and radon gas.

To help fight these elements, you need to first examine your own home’s indoor air quality. This can be done in many ways, the most common being do-it-yourself kits that can cost from $50 to $1,600 depending on the amount of pollutants to be checked for and the overall breadth of the test.

Many are widely available on the Internet and these at-home kits involve relatively simple instructions on how to collect samples of air quality throughout your home. For these tests, you’ll want to keep all windows closed for up to 24 hours prior as well as maintaining indoor air circulation via ceiling fans during the testing period.

After the samples are collected they are mailed off to a specified testing facility that will analyze the results and send their report back to you. Of course, if DIY home maintenance seems too difficult or time-consuming, and some of these kits can be, there are plenty of professionals in your local area who can test your IAQ for you.

Other Ways to Monitor and Improve Your Air Quality

  • Install a CO detector – Carbon monoxide kills 400 people and sickens thousands each year. If you have a garage, make sure never to idle the car or use other fuel-burning machines with the garage door closed.
  • Test for Radon – DIY kits are available through the mail and in many hardware stores. They are easy to use and relatively inexpensive, but make sure to get ones that are either state-certified or approved by the National Radon Proficiency Program.
  • Check any asbestos-laden materials for damage, water and wear, but be careful not to touch or disturb them: asbestos is at its most dangerous when airborne. If anything looks suspicious, get a professional’s help to remove them.
  • Always maintain a high level of ventilation throughout your home.
  • Ban all smoking indoors.
  • Get rid of dust mites – clean carpets and upholstery regularly with a HEPA-filtered vacuum, and launder bed linen in super-hot water every two weeks.

Important Air Quality Facts

pet allergiesThere’s no such thing as a “hypoallergenic pet.” With dander, hair shedding, urine, saliva and feces as breeding grounds for allergies, no animal is ever completely allergen free. Make sure to brush your pets outside if possible, and allow them ample time outdoors. This goes especially for birds, and their cages, if you want to avoid respiratory issues.

Countless households contain some form of air filter or purifier nowadays, but it’s important to know their limits. Many dangerous particles are too heavy or fine to be trapped by these purifiers, so don’t rely on them alone to cleanse the air in your home.

To find out more ways to monitor, test and improve the air quality in your home, visit the Environmental Protection Agency online at, and see how you can best safeguard your home and family.

Home Buying Advice: Signs of a Faulty Air Conditioning System

New Homeowners: Never Purchase a Home without an Inspection!

new homeowners

New home buyers need to exercise caution about the condition of the appliances in any home that they are considering purchasing. Unless the buyer is exceptionally knowledgeable, arranging an inspection by a certified home inspector is advisable. It is a rude awakening when the buyers move into their new home and are faced with high appliance repair or replacement costs. Your realtor will be happy to assist in finding a qualified inspector.

Existing Maintenance & Repair Issues

The condition of the central air conditioning system is especially important. There are a few things that the buyer can do, but it takes an expert to accurately determine the condition. Air conditioner replacement can be as high as $5000; the cost could be $10,000 if duct replacement is needed.

The buyer should check for noisy operation. An air conditioner evaporator cooling coil is usually installed inside the furnace plenum. The furnace fan is then used to direct the cooled air through the duct work to all the rooms. The fan can be noisy, but that is fairly inexpensive to repair. If the coils are dirty, a simple coil cleaning may be all the A/C system needs to start cooling properly again.

A water leak around the furnace, while the air conditioner is operating, can be misleading. The air conditioner removes humidity from the home. The apparent leak may be caused by a plugged drain line and not be a sign of a larger problem. However, if the system continues to leak even while the air conditioner is off, than chances are the system needs to be seen and repaired by an A/C technician.

Because of improper installation of the duct work, a high percentage of homes do not receive the benefit of the ability of an air conditioner to provide high-efficiency cooling. Many contractors install sub-standard duct work to increase profits. This may result in uneven heating and cooling of rooms. Uninsulated duct work that passes though the attic or garage can cause condensation and loss of cooling efficiency.

A home inspection is needed to determine the condition of the duct work and issues that are beyond the skill range of the average home buyer. The following two videos show some example problems that can come up during a home inspection:

Energy Efficiency

Much efficiency can be lost by air leakage in the joints due to improper sealing. Ordinary duct tape can dry out and lose the seal. Resealing the joints can be extremely time-consuming. Ducts can be concealed under insulation and above false ceilings.

The seller should provide copies of electric bills for the months that the air conditioner was used. A transferable manufacturer’s air conditioner warranty is a tremendous asset.

energy star air conditionersAll air conditioners have a SEER rating, which means Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. A higher SEER rating means lower electric bills. Before 2006, the government required a minimum SEER rating of 10. Now the minimum requirement for a “high-efficiency” air conditioner is 16. Some high-efficiency units are rated as high as 20+.

Experts say that in warm climates that require a lot of air conditioning, the more expensive high-efficiency unit would probably be worth the extra cost. In cooler climates with minimal requirement for air conditioning, the savings on the electric statement may not justify the price difference. Sometimes there are power company rebates and federal tax credits that can reduce the price difference and change the benefit equation.

The proper size air conditioner unit is essential. A too-small unit will cause continuous operation on unusually hot days. A too-large unit will cycle on and off very often and not reach the point of maximum efficiency. Short periods of operation will not allow the home to reach a uniform temperature in all rooms. A reputable contractor will not try to sell a unit that is too large for the home.

Environmental Concerns

green eco-friendly air conditionerOlder units may contain refrigerants that cause degradation of the ozone layer of the atmosphere. Leakage of this gas is harmful. Newer units contain refrigerants that produce less ozone damage. The Carrier company is producing a unit containing the R134a refrigerant that does not damage the ozone. Other manufacturers are following suit.

The two most common reasons for replacing an air conditioning unit are a complete failure or maintenance has become too expensive. The information supplied by a qualified home inspector will help the buyer to make an informed decision about buying a home, by factoring in the cost of correcting any deficiencies in the air conditioning system.


EPA Ozone Layer Protection Homeowner FAQs

Dryer Fire Statistics

dryer fire firefighters

Dryer fires are a cause of house fires that is more common than many home owners realize. Proper cleaning and maintenance of clothes dryers is the best way of avoiding this not so rare tragedy.

Every year in the U.S., there are an average of 13,000 house fires caused by clothes dryers. There are also approximately 370 injuries, ten deaths and $97 million dollars in property damage. Most of this damage and destruction is preventable by having the dryer duct cleaned regularly and the dryer serviced when it is not running correctly.

Causes of Dryer Fires

dryer lint buildupTypical consumer drying machines can be electric or gas; both types are susceptible to fire due to the combustible nature of accumulated lint build-up (see right). A dryer works by removing water from all the fabric placed inside the appliance. This process creates lint, which becomes compressed overtime in the ducts of the appliance.

A dryer has a motor that rotates the drum and a flame, or electric heating element, that dries clothing, towels and fabric. Both generate substantial heat (in addition to consuming large amount of electricity).

Good ventilation of this heat is needed so that the dryer will operate efficiently, as well as for safety. And if lint is causing a blockage, ventilation becomes virtually nonexistent.

Inadequate Ventilation

Unfortunately, dryers are typically installed in a tight location, such as in a closet or pressed up against a wall, which restricts access and ventilation. Obstruction of the dryer duct is the biggest cause of these fires. This problem accounts for over one third of all dryer fires. Lint is the biggest culprit for obstructing a duct. This is most common with flexible tubing, especially ones that are long, or have bends in them. Most homeowners assume that by simply cleaning out the lint trap after every cycle, they’ve eliminated all lint caught up in their machine. This is not the case. Lint, dust and debris builds up in the ducts as well as in and around the lint trap and is not easily removed. At least, not without the proper tools.

Clogged Ducts

Flexible ducts are prone to sagging, leading to a pile up of lint which then prevents the hot air from getting out. A blocked duct can cause overheating of the motor, which can then ignite lint and lead to a fire. This is especially true for condominiums and multi-story apartment complexes.

Bird Nests

bird nest in dryer ductBirds and insects are often attracted to openings in the outside of buildings and choose these locations for nest building. As with lint build up, nests will keep air from flowing properly and the motor can overheat igniting material that has accumulated underneath the dryer.

Damaged or missing lint screens can also result in lint being drawn into the interior of the dryer and be another route to fire. Thermostats and limit switches that are malfunctioning are another source of fires, along with flexible ducts that get crushed.

How to Prevent a Fire

Indications that a dryer is not working right in ways that could lead to a fire include:

  • The dryer taking longer and longer to dry clothes;
  • Clothing that is still damp or extra hot when removed from a normal drying cycle;
  • A duct flap that does not open when the dryer is operating;
  • A low amount of air exiting the duct when the dryer is running.

The best ways of preventing a dryer fire are cleaning the lint trap every time the dryer is used and having the duct that leads outside cleaned and inspected at least once a year. More frequent cleaning might be needed if the dryer is used a lot. Replacing flexible tubes with ridged metal ducts makes it harder for material to build up and will also make cleaning easier. If there is a fire, metal ducts are more likely to contain it.

Do-It-Yourself Dryer Vent Cleaning

Removing lint and reducing a fire hazard in your home is by no means difficult to do by yourself. For $20 to $30 bucks you can pick up a vent cleaning kit from your local hardware store, which typically contains a wire, circular brush, some rods, and some vacuum attachments. The video below is a great walkthrough for how to clean and maintain your dryer ducts by yourself.

Having the dryer duct cleaned is also good for the life of the dryer. It will last longer and cost less to run. Most importantly, it will greatly reduce the chances of your house becoming a dryer fire statistic. If home improvement is not your forte, give us a ring and we can come out and clean your dryer vents for you. Our duct cleaning company charges only $69 for a thorough, professional cleaning, no mess, no fuss.

Need your ducts cleaned as well? Contact us about our $99 Platinum Air Duct Package. This offer includes dryer vent cleaning, air duct and coil cleanings, a complete duct system diagnostic, and complimentary organic deodorizing. For more information, contact our friendly customer service department at (561) 404-0340.