Demystifying Duct Cleaning

Over the past couple of years, it has been a rare day when I have not received a phone call at dinner time from an overseas telemarketer trying to sell me duct cleaning, despite the best efforts of our government to establish do not call lists and issuing penalties for violators.

In January 2013 CBC Marketplace even did a segment on these companies, exposing the kind of work they do or, more accurately, don’t do. The existing lack of trust with duct cleaning services was the principal reason AtlasCare entered the business in the first place. Our customers wanted their ducts cleaned by someone they could trust. They sought someone who would not only do the work right, but who would also respect them and their home in the process.

I am proud to say that AtlasCare fits the bill completely in responding to what customers want in their duct cleaning. In the six years we have now been in the business, we have completed more than 5,000 duct cleanings to the complete satisfaction of our customers.

The message we want potential customers to know is that there are a number of ways to clean ducts and they are not all the same. You will find duct cleaners who use every method from a shop vac to sophisticated vacuum trucks and everything in between. It’s hard to see the finished product because it is enclosed inside the duct. Since the end product is so hard to see, we feel it’s important to let customers know our approach to duct cleaning so they can feel confident choosing our services.

First off, we use only the highest end truck mounted vacuum and compression systems, which is the only way to guarantee that the ducts will be completely cleaned.

In fact, this month we just added another truck to our fleet. We seal off all vents to ensure that dirt does not get blown back into the home. Should a vent cover ever come loose (a rare occurrence) it’s important that you are dealing with a contractor with good insurance coverage and a commitment to customer care so that things are cleaned up to your satisfaction.

We do little things like covering up the air conditioner coil so it doesn’t get plugged with dirt. We also protect your walls and baseboards from the impact of large vacuum hoses. And, of course, we put down the AtlasCare red carpet to protect your floors.

It isn’t that complicated to get into the duct cleaning business, which is why so many folks do it. Doing it right, though, takes a big investment in people and technology and a commitment to delivering what customers expect and more.

Teeing Off for MS – Our Annual Golf Tournament

Once again AtlasCare was pleased to be the lead sponsor for what’s become a vitally important annual fund raising golf tournament for the MS Society of Canada, Peel-Dufferin Chapter. The event was held on September 13 at the Royal Ontario Golf Club. We enjoyed spectacular weather and had a great turnout of golfers. We raised a total of $60,500 for this very important cause.

We would like to thank our many sponsors including lunch sponsor – Aecon Construction, breakfast sponsor – Lennox, cart sponsor – NPL Canada, on-course event sponsor – York and our raffle and silent auction sponsor – Harbinger. We would like to thank everyone who participated, including all of our hole sponsors, who help send a collective message of support and hope for people living with MS.

Helping Customers Escape Costly Water Heater Rentals

In our last issue of An Engineer’s Opinion, I announced that we were entering the water heater business with a new rent-to-own product. I also outlined some of the benefits of this type of product vs. renting for life.

About half of the water heaters we installed over the summer were rent-to-own and the other half were purchased outright. Both are good options and our rent-to-own option can cut the cost of ownership of a water heater in half, should it last 20 years, which is very common in the GTA.

As with all new ventures you learn a few things as you go along. The technical aspects we mastered quickly. What proved to be a bigger challenge was dealing with the existing water heater monopolies. They clearly don’t want AtlasCare, or anyone else for that matter, taking out their water heaters. They will occasionally offer customers a financial “incentive” to stay with them. More than likely, however, they will issue empty threats of big financial penalties and legal action if they are not paid (just the kind of company
I want to do business with).

To make it easier for water heater customers to switch to AtlasCare, we ask you to sign a document naming AtlasCare and our financial partner, Vista Credit, as your agent. The great news for you is that we take out the tank, return it to the monopoly and assume all of the financial risk and indemnify you (the homeowner) from any charges that could potentially be levied.

Please call us if we can help you get out of a costly rental agreement and leave it to AtlasCare to look after all of your HVAC service needs.

A Message About Customer Service

Anyone who experienced it will not be surprised to hear that the summer of 2016 was the hottest since 2005, even though old guys like me have trouble remembering back that far.

Constant demand over a sustained period of time tends to expose any weaknesses within a company’s processes. In our case, over the past couple of years we had adopted some new processes that worked well during periods of slow demand but failed us when the heat came.

These processes made it too slow for us to respond and were too inflexible to enable staff to make adjustments on the fly.

So, to those of you who experienced the weaknesses in our processes, I offer my sincere apologies.

The good news is that we now have a clear understanding of the issues that impair our ability to deliver great customer care and are committed to fixing these issues and being ready to go before the heating rush comes with the colder weather this fall. I’m pleased to let you know that Michael Grochmal has taken over direct responsibility for the Customer Care department and will personally handle any specific concerns.

I wanted to personally thank you again for your patience over the past few months.


Roger Grochmal
AtlasCare Heating + Cooling

Rental Furnaces and Air Conditioners

The whole issue of renting furnaces and air conditioners has been getting a lot of attention lately – largely for the wrong reasons.

One reason why so many companies, including the big water heater monopolies, have gotten into renting furnaces and air conditioners is that they made so much money renting water heaters. While the Ontario government passed a law some time ago to protect consumers from door-to-door sales agents trying to switch their hot water heaters, the door was left open on other equipment, which is another reason we are hearing so much about it.

Do you know someone selling a home?

The issue of furnace and AC rentals is too big to tackle quickly, but I wanted to provide some information to help our customers and their families avoid some of the pitfalls with some rental contracts, especially if you are looking at selling a home.

We have recently become aware of the potential challenges with rental contracts that occur when you go to sell your home. Better real estate agents are advising customers to make vendors buy out their rental contracts. They have done the math and figured out that it is not a good deal to assume someone else’s rental contract. The buyouts with some contracts can still be very costly, even after several years of ownership. The initial capital cost that you agreed to can be as much as 50% higher than the cost of purchasing the system outright. After five years of paying $150/month or more to rent, you might still have to pay more to buy out the contract than the equipment was originally worth.

Rental companies can register a lien against your home

These rental contracts are rock solid and there is no getting out of them. In fact, these companies can register a lien against your property to protect their interest. It’s a high price to pay for short term cost certainty.

New home builders like rentals a lot. They get to reduce their costs without having to reduce their prices. This makes first time homebuyers particularly vulnerable, since most of them often move up within five years of their initial purchase. The end result: when they go to sell their home, they find out they have a lot less equity in their home than they thought.

So, if you have children who are buying their first home, please advise them to be careful so they are not taken in. We’ll be watching this issue closely and providing more information to help our customers and families in the future.