Wood Rot: What It Is and How to Prevent It

January 20th, 2015

Rotting wood creates an unstable foundation for your home, which means structural beams, flooring, and ceilings may need some major renovations. Once wood rot begins, the structure of your home can quickly fall into decline, and it can be difficult to control the problem without taking drastic measures. That’s why most experts recommend focusing on prevention: worrying about how to stop wood rot before it happens. And what’s the key component leading to wood rot that we can control? Moisture.

Fungus and Wood Rot

Wood rot occurs when fungi breed on a wood surface, which can only happen if the wood is wet. Any type of fungus needs a few things to live: water, oxygen, and food. And the type of fungi that wear down wood get their food source from the carbohydrates therein. There are three basic types of wood rot—brown rot (or dryrot), white rot, and soft rot—and all three are caused by the presence of moisture, oxygen, and a food source. The only difference is in the appearance and the effect on the wood. Brown rot, for example, causes the wood to turn dark brown and eventually crumble. White rot leaves wood with a soft spongy feeling.

Installing a Dehumidifier

All wood contains the carbohydrates lignin and cellulose, so you cannot prevent wood rot by choosing different building materials. You can’t take away the oxygen either, which is why removing moisture from the air is the best mode of prevention. And a whole-home dehumidifier is the best way to reduce moisture levels in the home.

Dehumidifiers remove moisture much like central air conditioners do. The blower fan draws in the indoor air and moves it across a coil where moisture collects as condensation. The major difference is that it’s far more efficient to run a whole-house dehumidifier than to keep the AC on at all times. A dehumidifier can make the air in your home feel more comfortable and help people to cool down. It can also keep mold from developing, a fungus which does not directly cause wood rot but can contribute to poor indoor air quality.

Allow the professionals at Astro Air Inc. to install your new dehumidifier in Wellington, and gain some control over your home comfort and stability. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment.

Problems Caused by Poor Duct Installation

January 13th, 2015

Your ducts are the unsung heroes of your home’s infrastructure. When properly installed and maintained, they circulate warm and cool air throughout the house to keep everyone comfortable. They prevent the air in your home from getting stale, and make central heating and air conditioning possible. When poorly installed, however, your ducts can have quite the adverse effect on your home. Let’s take a look at the kinds of problems that poorly installed ducts can cause.

Leaks

Ducts come in a wide variety of sizes, materials, and configurations. One thing that links them all is their vulnerability to leaks. Ducts are often simply sections of sheet metal fastened together to form a tunnel. This is all well and good for the purpose of directing air throughout the house, but it does mean that there are small cracks in the ductwork every few feet where the sections connect. A skilled installer will know how to seal these cracks to prevent air from escaping. Unfortunately, there are far too many technicians who don’t properly seal the ducts when they first install them. This leads to an incredible waste of energy over time.

The US Department of Energy has estimated that forced air heating systems lose as much as 30% of their heat on average to leaks in the ductwork. That equals almost a third of your heating system’s total output. You’re still paying for that heat, but it’s dissipating through the duct leaks before it can actually get to its destination. This leads to much higher heating bills, as your system has to stay on for longer to compensate for the lost heat.

On top of losing energy, duct leaks provide a point of entry for moisture from sources like leaky pipes. If moisture gets into the duct system, it provides the perfect environment for mold growth. If mold manages to take hold in your ductwork, it will release spores that are then circulated throughout the house when the system is turned on.

If you haven’t had your ducts checked in a while, call Astro Air Inc. to schedule service. We provide professional ductwork installation throughout Lake Worth.

MERV Rating and Finding the Right Air Cleaner

January 6th, 2015

The air in your home could be contaminated with dust, bacteria, and other dangerous organic and inorganic particles. These contaminants can circulate through the air until somebody breathes them in. And if this person has allergies, asthma, or an immune disorder, it may become aggravated. In fact, even if this person has no preexisting conditions whatsoever, particles in the air can still trigger an illness.

You need an air filtration system that will do more than trap large debris, so turn to the experts to help you select a new air cleaner with a high MERV rating that will help to keep you breathing easier and give you peace of mind about the health of your friends and family. The friendly technicians at Astro Air Inc. can help you select the right type of air cleaner in Palm Beach according to the size of your home, your daily life, and your family’s needs.

What Is MERV?

The MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) is a numbering system that indicates how effective a filter is at removing particles. A higher MERV on a filter indicates that it is capable of removing smaller particles, making it more effective. The MERV rating system goes up to 16, although it is extended to 20 in some cases. The air filter installed in your HVAC system is most likely at a MERV of around 1-4.

But here’s what makes a higher MERV so important. When the MERV is 4, it can eliminate pollen and dust mites, both of which are known allergens and irritants. But a filter with a MERV of 12 can eliminate lead dust, legionella, mold spores, and even vehicle emissions. Filters and electronic air cleaners alike can be equipped with a MERV, depending on how the air cleaner operates (ionizers and electrostatic precipitators do not contain a filter and, therefore, are not given a MERV).

So how do you choose the right air cleaner for you?

Sometimes, a technician will recommend a high quality filter or an electronic cleaner with a high MERV. Other times, the technician may instead recommend a UV germicidal light system for your ducts or a dehumidifier. It’s important to note that if the MERV of your filter is too high, it may block airflow and cause your HVAC unit to struggle. These are just some of the reasons you should leave the job to professionals.

At Astro Air Inc., our technicians are indoor air quality experts. Call today to purchase your next air cleaner in Palm Beach.

12 Grapes for 12 Months: An Unusual New Year’s Tradition

January 1st, 2015

Across the world, many cultures have specific traditions to celebrate the transition from the old year to the new. In the U.S. and Canada, we associate New Year’s with the ball in Times Square, kissing at the stroke of midnight, resolutions, and singing “Old Lang Syne.” But for many Spanish-speaking countries, one of the key traditions has to do with eating grapes as fast as possible.

The “twelve grapes” tradition comes from Spain, where it is called las doce uvas de la suerte (“The Twelve Lucky Grapes”). To ensure good luck for the next year, people eat one green grape for each of the upcoming twelve months. However, you cannot just eat the grapes during the first day of the new year any time you feel like it. You must eat the twelve grapes starting at the first stroke of midnight on Nochevieja (“Old Night,” New Year’s Eve) as one year changes to another. And you have to keep eating: with each toll of midnight, you must eat another grape, giving you about twelve seconds to consume all of them. If you can finish all dozen grapes—you can’t still be chewing on them!—before the last bell toll fades, you will have a luck-filled new year.

Where did this tradition come from? No one is certain, although it appears to be more than a century old. One story about the Twelve Lucky Grapes is that a large crop of grapes in 1909 in Alicante, Spain led to the growers seeking out a creative way to eliminate their surplus. But recent research through old newspapers shows that perhaps the tradition goes back almost thirty years earlier to the 1880s, where eating grapes was meant to mock the upper classes who were imitating the French tradition of dining on grapes and drinking champagne on New Year’s Eve.

It can be difficult to consume grapes this fast, and the lucky grapes of New Year’s Eve have seeds in them, making the job even trickier. (Seedless grapes are not common in Spain the way they are over here.) For people to manage eating all the grapes before the last stroke of midnight requires swallowing the seeds as well and only taking a single bite of each grape.

Oh, there is one more twist to the tradition: you have to be wearing red undergarments, and they have to be given to you as a gift. The origins of this part of the tradition are even more mysterious, and it’s anybody’s guess why this started.

Whether you go for the grape challenge or find another way to ring in New Year’s, all of us at Astro Air Inc. hope you have a great start to the year and a, uhm, fruitful 2015.

The Composition of Snowflakes: Are No Two Alike?

December 25th, 2014

“No two snowflakes are alike.”

This is a statement nearly every schoolchild has heard at least once, either while crafting unique snowflakes with a sheet of folded paper and some scissors or while learning a lesson on the science of snow. While even most scientists don’t quite understand what causes a snowflake to form such complex and beautiful columns and points and branches, one thing is for certain, the composition of snowflakes guarantees that no two will ever be identical.  However, it is possible for two snowflakes to appear to be nearly exactly alike.

A snowflake begins to form when a piece of dust catches water vapor out of the air. Water is created when two hydrogen molecules attach to an oxygen molecule. The two hydrogen molecules are angled from one another in such a way that they form a hexagonal shape when they come together during the freezing process; thus, a snowflake begins as a simple hexagonal shape or as layers of hexagons called diamond dust. The emergent properties that follow from the original hexagon are what differentiate one snowflake from another, as the humidity, the temperature in the air, and many other factors (some of which remain unclear to scientists) allow each snowflake to form in an entirely unique way with a seemingly endless variety of shapes.

However, in 1988, a scientist named Nancy Knight claimed to have located two that were the same while studying snowflakes as part of an atmospheric research project. And it appeared to be so; when put under a microscope, the emergent properties looked nearly identical. But while it is feasible that two snowflakes can appear to be exactly alike on the outside, they are never identical on an atomic level. Deuterium is an atom that appears attached to about one in every 3000 hydrogen molecules in the air. Because there are millions of atoms that make up a snowflake, the random assortment of deuterium in any two snowflakes—even in two that so very closely resemble one another—simply cannot be the same.

Here at Astro Air, we’d like to remind you to grab a cup of cocoa and relax with your family this holiday, perhaps by crafting some unique snowflake creations of your own. We wish you a very happy holiday season, from our family to yours!

Rule Your Attic: Benefits of Improving Attic Insulation

December 17th, 2014

Cooler weather is finally here, which makes now the perfect time to address possible deficiencies with your heating system. And this doesn’t mean simply mean having a technician inspect and clean your unit, although yearly heating maintenance is highly recommended. One of the most common reasons that a heating system struggles and that you do not feel enough heat is lack of insulation. And one of the places that insulation matters the most is the attic.

A lot of heat can escape through the attic without the proper amount of insulation to keep heat from moving in and out. Find out more about the benefits of choosing a professional contractor for attic insulation with today’s guide.

  • Greater Comfort: Attic insulation can help to make you feel a little bit more comfortable since less heat can escape through the ceiling of your home. Often, a lot of the heat our heating systems create can be lost through the attic, the structure of which does not provide an adequate barrier for heat transfer. But with insulation, heat has a chance to fill your home before it escapes.
  • Energy Savings: When heat escapes from the roof of your home, it will be more difficult for the heating system to heat up the living space. So it will run for longer, utilizing a lot of energy in the process.
  • Fewer Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Finally, a home that is well-insulated amounts to a heating system that emits fewer greenhouse gases, an environmentally-friendly decision.

It takes a trained heating technician to select the amount and type of insulation material. Insulation is rated by its R-value, which helps a technician to know how effective the material will be. A qualified professional will check for any air leaks and take the proper safety precautions, such as ceiling plumbing vents and any recessed light fixtures. And a technician has equipment that can help you to save some money on the job, so you won’t have to rent any special equipment or purchase the wrong type of insulation yourself.

Astro Air Inc. would like to help you to rule your attic and lower the cost of staying comfortable in the winter with our professional attic insulation service in Wellington. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment.

What Are the Advantages of Ultra-Aire Dehumidifiers

December 10th, 2014

Humidity plays an important role in our lives, as you may notice any of several problems in the home when there is not enough water vapor in the air. Too little moisture in the air you breathe every day can make you feel dry and uncomfortable, often leading to dried out nasal passages, dry skin, a scratchy throat, or chapped lips. But too much moisture is perhaps an even larger issue, making you feel hot and sticky, increasing moisture levels in the home, ruining the structure of the home, and creating an ideal condition for mold and mildew to thrive.

People generally say they feel most comfortable when humidity levels are around 30-50%. But in Florida, our climate often allows for levels that are well above this. That’s why many experts recommend dehumidifiers for homeowners in Deerfield Beach and the surrounding area, so that humidity levels are always right where they need to be in the home.

Can’t I Just Run My Air Conditioner Instead?

Air conditioners contain a similar system for dehumidification to a whole-home unit. As warm air blows over the cooling coil, condensation occurs and collects in an angled tray that leads to a drain pipe. However, using an air conditioner for dehumidification is an inefficient way to get the job done. You may feel uncomfortable when you cool your home to a level that allows for enough moisture control, and it’s pretty nonsensical to run the AC in the spring or fall. Besides, your bills are likely to suffer quite a bit if this is your only form of humidity regulation.

The Ultra-Aire dehumidifier line contains some extremely efficient units that provide exceptional dehumidification as well as some additional benefits. For example, you won’t have to worry about the feeling of stale indoor air from keeping your home sealed tight. Not only do these units remove moisture with consuming a ton of energy; they also protect your air quality with additional filtration and ventilation.

An Ultra-Aire Whole House Ventilating Dehumidifier offers precision moisture control with the added comfort of ventilation. Improperly ventilated homes contribute to stale air and an uncomfortable living space as well as allowing pollutants to recirculate through the air. With Ulta-Aire technology, you’ll also get fresh, filtered, conditioned air every time you run the unit.

Call Astro Air Inc. to learn more about purchasing a quality Ultra-Aire ventilating dehumidifier in Deerfield Beach today!

How Do Dehumidifiers Work?

December 3rd, 2014

High humidity is a problem in many homes in Florida. Our climate is prone to excessive moisture in the air, which moves into our homes and makes the air feel stuffy and warm. Humidity makes it difficult for your body to evaporate sweat, which is why it can seem as though it feels warmer around you than the display on your thermostat. Furthermore, humidity can diminish the structural integrity of a building and allow for mold and mildew growth—which can make you sick.

One of the best ways to control humidity inside of your house is with a whole-house dehumidifier. While you can find a small portable dehumidifier at many department stores, these are intended for a small area only and will not help to control moisture in an entire house. A whole-house dehumidifier is designed to work in conjunction with your forced-air heating and air conditioning system, so you’ll need a professional to install it.

Dehumidifier Operation Basics

There are actually several different types of dehumidifiers available out there, many of them tend to operate under the same basic principles. While there are desiccant dehumidifiers, which use a desiccant like silica gel to absorb moisture (much like those small packets of silica gel in a new box of shoes) most dehumidifiers are refrigerative. This type of unit collects moisture from the air as condensation and moves it into a reservoir so that it can drain via a drain pipe (although some models require you empty the reservoir regularly instead).

A dehumidifier uses the same principles of refrigeration as an air conditioner, but running an air conditioner alone is an inefficient way to monitor humidity. With a whole-house dehumidifier, a refrigeration cycle requires refrigerant to cycle through and cool down the cooling coils in the unit. A fan pulls in air from your home and blows it over the coils which then pull moisture out of the air via condensation.

A dehumidifier requires some maintenance in order to work properly, so you should make sure to schedule annual heating and air conditioning maintenance, and have the technician check out your supplementary dehumidifier as well. Call Astro Air Inc. for installation, maintenance, or repairs for your dehumidifier in Deerfield Beach.

10 Facts You Should Know about Thanksgiving

November 27th, 2014

Thanksgiving has been celebrated as an official holiday in the United States for over 150 years, so you may think you understand all there is to know about this family feast. Most of us have heard the story of the pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving in 1621 after arriving in North America on the Mayflower. But did you know that only about half of the people on this ship were actually pilgrims? This fact is one of ten things that may actually surprise you about the Thanksgiving tradition!

  1. Although we often consider Thanksgiving a holiday unique to the United States, many other countries and cultures celebrate their own set of harvest-time and thanksgiving traditions. In Korea, Chu-Sok (or “fall evening”) is put on in remembrance of forefathers on August 15th of every year. Brazil celebrates a contemporary version of the U.S. holiday. Chinese, Roman, and Jewish cultures all have a history of harvest celebrations as well.
  2. President Harry S. Truman began the tradition of a ceremony held before Thanksgiving during which the president receives a turkey. George H.W. Bush was the first to pardon the turkey instead of eating it.
  3. In Minnesota alone, farmers raise over 40 million turkeys a year. In fact, U.S. farmers produce about one turkey for every one person in the country.
  4. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the average American will gain about one to two pounds every year during the holiday season.
  5. On the other hand, turkey is naturally high in protein and has been known to support and boost immune systems to protect against illness and speed up healing. So feast on!
  6. Abraham Lincoln issued a “Thanksgiving Proclamation” in 1863, but a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale can be credited with the idea. While Thanksgiving had been celebrated at different times of year in many areas of the U.S. for years, it was Hale, prominent magazine editor and author of the rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” who urged Lincoln to finally establish the national event.
  7. President Franklin D Roosevelt once tried to change the date of Thanksgiving to the second-to-last Thursday of the month in order to extend the holiday shopping season and boost the economy.
  8. Only about half of the people on the Mayflower were what we would consider today as “Pilgrims.” The other (approximately) 50 people were simply trying to find a way over to the New World.
  9. Gobble, gobble! Click, click? While male turkeys make a gobbling noise, females (hens) do not; it’s often described as a clicking.
  10. Even though we celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November, the month of June has been declared National Turkey Lovers’ Month by the National Turkey Federation so you can continue the celebration in the summer as well!

From our family here at Astro Air Inc., we’d like to wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

What Are the Benefits of Duct Repair?

November 19th, 2014

Without a reliable and effective ductwork system, your HVAC system cannot work properly. This can put stress on both you and your heating and cooling system. One of the best ways to reduce the problems caused by faulty ductwork is to schedule professional duct repair in Lake Worth. Since 1986, Astro Air, Inc., has helped repair many ductwork systems, so if you are having problems with your ductwork, call us today.

What Is Faulty Ductwork?

Faulty ductwork is ductwork that has significant corrosion, holes, cracks or disconnections. It can also be ductwork that has been damaged, installed incorrectly or ductwork that isn’t the right size.

What Are the Signs of Faulty Ductwork?

  • High energy bills – have you seen a rise in your energy bills but haven’t changed how you use your system? Air loss from faulty ductwork can force your system to work harder and as such, use more energy to operate.
  • Whistling noises – if are you hearing significant whistling noises coming from your air vents, this sound can be indicative of air escaping through holes and cracks.
  • Increased dust throughout your household – faulty ductwork allows a number of contaminants into your home, including excessive dirt and dust.
  • Strange odors – smells, fumes and odors can enter your ductwork easily and be transported directly into your living spaces.

What Are the Benefits of Duct Repair?

There are several important benefits provided by professional duct repair:

  • Better energy efficiency – it’s estimated that you can lose up to 30% of your home’s total air loss from faulty ductwork. Having the issues repaired helps to significantly reduce this significant amount of air loss.
  • Increased comfort – faulty ductwork often results in uneven heating throughout your home, including hot and cold spots. Repairing your ductwork helps your ducts to function optimally, so the air delivery is stable and reliable.
  • Less stress on your system – repairing your ductwork allows your HVAC system to achieve the heating and cooling you need without struggling to do so, putting less stress and wear and tear on your system.

If you are seeing the signs of faulty ductwork in your home, don’t wait for the next high energy bill to schedule professional duct repair service in Lake Worth. Call Astro Air, Inc. today and schedule an appointment with one of our duct repair experts.