Should You Rent a Furnace or Air Conditioner in Ontario?

The option to rent your furnace or air conditioner (in addition to water heaters, which have long been a rental option) is now a reality in our marketplace. They allow for monthly payments and predictable repair costs that are more attainable for some than an initial cash outlay.

When I ask someone why they might rent rather than buy, the answers are usually for peace of mind and cost certainty. I agree these are essential considerations for any family making such an important investment in their home.

Though it seems affordable at first glance, when you look at the big picture, renting a furnace or air conditioner could cost homeowners thousands more than they expect.

So, Should You Rent a Furnace or Air Conditioner?

I have written in the past about the pitfalls of renting, and it bears repeating. The biggest one is that a rental is amortized like a mortgage: you pay off the interest first and then the principal.

This can become a big issue when you sell your home before the contract has expired – what is the buyout, or will future buyers want to inherit a lease on their HVAC equipment? To presume you won’t move during a 10 or 12-year lease may not be in your best interest – change happens in life.

Another issue is that you are locked in with your rental company for service. If it is a particularly busy time – which happens more often than most people think – and your rental company is backed-up a couple of weeks to get to your home, you’re stuck. Another contractor can’t touch that equipment without consequences to you, the homeowner.

One of the challenges with HVAC rentals is that so much of this business has been done by travelling sales reps who knock on your door and pressure you into taking their rental. This has become so problematic the Ontario government recently passed a bill to regulate this activity. The question that comes to my mind is that if this is such a good thing for consumers, why does it require rental companies to resort to such sales tactics?

At AtlasCare we have excellent financing options that, when coupled with an annual protection plan, give you peace of mind along with cost certainty with a contractor you can trust who has been in business for over 85 years. As always, we’re happy to sit down and help you explore your options.


Image: bacho12345

5 Furnace Mistakes That Could Cost You

A furnace is a tricky piece of equipment. Most people can tell when something goes wrong, but they don’t always know how it works ‘under the hood’. Unfortunately, there are many common misconceptions about furnaces, and some can lead to inconvenient (and costly) trouble for homeowners.

Don’t be fooled — if you’re not careful, these furnace mistakes could cost you!

1. Forgetting the Air Filter

When the furnace pulls in air, it also pulls allergens, bacteria, and other airborne contaminants. The air filter is designed to stop these pesky particles from re-circulating or accumulating in your home’s ductwork.

However, a filter is not something you can install once and forget. Air filters collect a lot of dirt, and letting the furnace run on a dirty filter is a costly mistake.

A dirty air filter clogs the air intake of the furnace and impedes the flow of air. It forces the system to work harder and consume more energy, which bumps up your gas bill and takes a toll on the furnace components. We’ve seen this time and time again while performing furnace inspection in Toronto, Mississauga, Oakville, and throughout the GTA.

Fortunately, this mistake is easy to avoid! Simply clean the air filter every few months; or, in the case of a disposable filter, replace it with a fresh one.

2. Turning Up the Heat All Day, Every Day

There’s no question this winter has been a cold one. Really cold. Even so, it is rarely necessary to have the furnace running full-blast at all hours.

Think about it. Does your house sit empty for hours while you’re at work and the kids are at school? What about the time you spend asleep in bed each at night? You can save money without compromising on comfort by turning the thermostat down a few degrees during these times.

It may sound inconvenient to change the temperature so often, but it’s easy with a programmable thermostat or smart thermostat. These devices let you set the device to adjust the temperature automatically on a schedule.

3. Blocking the Heat Registers

It’s a common misconception that closing or blocking the heat registers in rooms you don’t use can help cut your energy bill. In truth, this mistake could end up costing you!

Home heating systems are designed and installed to distribute heat efficiently throughout the entire house. By restricting the flow of air to certain areas, you unintentionally raise the pressure in the system, and this extra strain can cause the furnace to wear out before its time.

4. Raising the Temperature to Warm Up Faster

Perhaps the most common myth about home heating? The notion that setting the thermostat above the desired temperature will make the house warm up faster.

Sadly, furnaces don’t work that way. While it’s tempting to turn it up to eleven on a freezing-cold day, all this will do is consume more energy.

You should instead set the thermostat to a reasonable temperature and wait it out. In the meantime, you can always find other ways to stay warm and cozy.

5. Skipping Your Annual Furnace Inspection

While some furnace issues come with clear warning signs, others are harder to spot.

A furnace can often continue to operate while its components slowly wear out and damage the system. By the time you notice a problem, you could already be in for a big repair bill!

The best way to avoid these unexpected expenses is to schedule an annual furnace inspection. A professional technician can clean or replace the air filter, check the components, and spot issues before they compromise your home heating system.

Contact us for a free quote on furnace inspection in Toronto, Oakville, Mississauga, and the rest of the Greater Toronto Area.

Image: Iopolo

Is Your Home Ready for Spring Floods? 6 Ways to Prepare

Spring is a time of year when many homes are at risk of flooding. Southern Ontario has already seen more its share of floods this past year, and officials in many areas are already warning residents to prepare for more.

Unfortunately for us, the conditions that lead to flooding are becoming more and more frequent in this part of the world. If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that preparing for floods in Ontario is no longer simply a precaution; it’s a necessity.

Here are things you can do now to prepare for the spring melt and minimize the risk of flood damage to your home.

Shovel Snow Away from the House

When the snow around your house starts to melt, water can seep into the concrete foundation. That becomes a problem if the temperature suddenly drops. When this moisture freezes and the surrounding soil expands…crack! You’ve got a leak.

It pays to pick up the shovel and clear away any snow that has built up around the house, especially in stairwells and window wells.

Clean the Gutters and Downspouts

Between the melting snow and April showers, your gutters get a good workout in the spring. But they can’t do it with ice and debris weighing them down. These blockages will cause water to pool and run off the side of the house, damaging the roof and foundation.

You should also ensure the downspout extends far enough from the wall to let water drain away from the house.

Remember: never climb the ladder to clean your gutters unless you have even footing and proper safety equipment. If it’s not safe, this job is one best left to the professionals.

Clear Out Drains, Ditches and Catch Basins

Ditches, culverts, and catch basins can fill up with broken branches and other debris over the winter. If you can’t clear them yourself, you can do your part by calling your municipal services to let them know of the blockage. Taking this step will help ensure the drainage system on your street is best-prepared to deal with heavy rain and melting snow.

Check Your Sump Pump

Have you tested your sump pump lately? You’ll only need it in a worst-case-scenario, but you should make sure the pump is in good working order. Depending on how serious the flood risk, you may consider investing in backup battery power so the pump can continue to work in a power outage.

Stock Up on Clean Water

Homes in rural areas often rely on a well as their primary water source. These wells are at risk of contamination when a flood washes in. If your home uses well water, turn off the tap during a flood and stick to bottled water until you can test your well for contaminants.

Clear Out the Basement

Does your home have a high risk of flooding? If the answer is yes, there may be little you can do to stem the coming tide. But you can minimize the damage and make the potential clean-up safer.

First, cut the power to the basement, and clear out any sharp objects or chemical products that could pose a hazard. You should also remove any food, furniture, or other objects you wish to salvage from the basement. After a flood, it is best to throw away any food that has come in contact with flood water, even if the container is sealed or the food is dry. Any objects made from wood or textiles will be difficult to save once they’ve been through a flood.

Finally, if you live in town, inspect the backflow valve to ensure it will shut automatically in the event of a sewer backup.


Image: Anna Nikonorova

5 ecobee Smart Thermostat Features You’re Missing Out On

Time flies! It seems like just yesterday that we first got our hands on the ecobee3 smart thermostat. Now, the Toronto-based company behind the ingenious technology is rolling out the ecobee4 in Canada. This next-generation device improves on its predecessors and comes fully-equipped with Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa.

If you haven’t seen an ecobee smart thermostat in action, you’re missing out. There’s a lot you can do with an ecobee beyond setting the temperature. Read on to learn a few of the top ecobee smart thermostat features we’ve seen over the years — and the best way to install one.

1. It Can Be in Two Places at Once

Most thermostats only read the temperature in one place: the vicinity surrounding the device itself. It works, but it’s not ideal. After all, the temperature can vary from one room to the next.

The ecobee3 and ecobee4 have a novel solution to this problem. The thermostat pairs with small, wireless sensors that can read the temperature in other rooms. The sensors also act as motion detectors, allowing ecobee to ensure the room you occupy is always at the right temperature.

Essentially, it’s like ecobee can be in two (or more) places at once!

2. It Watches the House While You’re Away

Worried about the temperature dropping too low or rising too high? You can set the device to notify you by email or text message when the temperature passes a certain threshold. The same goes for the level of humidity in the home.

This feature lets you keep track of what’s happening inside the house while you’re away. If you’re vacationing over the winter, for instance, you can ensure the temperature doesn’t drop to the point where you risk the pipes freezing. In the summer, you’ll know if the air conditioning stops working while you’re at work.

3. It Follows Your Routine

It’s usually unnecessary to run the furnace or air conditioning at full capacity 24/7. Powering down when you’re asleep or out of the house is one of the best ways to save energy. But switching the thermostat on or off manually is inconvenient, and many people don’t take advantage of a programmable thermostat’s energy-saving potential.

The ecobee has a fix for this. You can create three separate heating or cooling profiles: Home, Away, and Sleep. If you work from 9 to 5, for example, you can set the thermostat to Away until 5:30PM. That way, you’ll save energy while you’re gone and still arrive home to a comfortable temperature.

4. You Can Control It With Your Voice

The ecobee4 smart thermostat gives you the option of hands-free voice control with Amazon’s smart assistant software, Alexa. Plus, there’s no end of other cool things you can do with Alexa, from setting reminders to playing music to getting the latest weather forecast.

5. It Crunches Data to Save Energy

Ever wondered how a few degrees’ difference impacts your heating bill? The ecobee3 and ecobee4 can tell you. Using ecobee’s straightforward web interface, you can see the history of your usage in detail. It displays information graphically so you can understand changes over time.

So, what can you do with this information? For one, it can help you spot potential issues with your heating and cooling equipment. A decline in energy-efficiency is often one of the first signs of trouble with your unit. With the ecobee4, you can also ask Amazon Alexa for personalized energy-saving tips.

Installing an ecobee Smart Thermostat

Smart thermostats are powerful tools that can enable homeowners to cut their energy use by 8% or more.

However, there’s a catch:

These devices only work to their full potential when people install and use them properly.

When these ingenious devices hit the mainstream, it’s no surprise many people set their minds to buying and installing one on their own. Unfortunately, getting a smart thermostat up and running is not as easy as it looks. There’s more to installing an ecobee than re-connecting a few wires, many homeowners have found themselves stuck trying to do it themselves.

Whenever one of our technicians installs an ecobee smart thermostat, they take time to ensure the device is fully functional and train the homeowners to use it properly. We want to see people getting the most out of their ecobee.

This March only, we’re offering steep discounts on our complete package for both the ecobee3 and next-generation ecobee4 smart thermostats. That includes full installation of the device and training on how to use it. Included in all ecobee purchases is a three-year manufacturer warranty – another reason to take advantage of a great product.

5 Signs Your Home Could Use a Humidifier

Are your sinuses acting up? Do you find yourself catching a static shock whenever you enter your home? It could be a stroke of bad luck, but it’s more likely these are signs your home could use a humidifier.

As the temperature drops, so does the level of moisture in the air. Low humidity is a common complaint from the late fall to early spring, especially in homes with central heating, which makes the air even drier.

Humidifiers can help to alleviate the ailments caused by low humidity. Here are signs your home could use one!

1. Your Sinuses Keep Acting Up

When the air is too dry, it can irritate the membranes in your nose and leave you prone to sinus congestion and inflammation. That’s one reason why many people are more likely to get sinus infections in the winter.

Moist, humid air helps to relieve sinus pain by keeping nasal passages lubricated, which is why it helps to take a hot shower when you’re stuffed up. While it may not cure the source of your sinus pain, adding a humidifier to your home can help keep congestion under control and reduce the chance of getting an infection.

2. You’re Always Getting Static Shocks

Ever notice how static shocks seem worse in the winter? It’s not just you. Dry air acts as an insulator, making it easy for a static charge to sneak up and zap you.

If it feels like you’re getting a shock from everything you touch, it may be because the air inside your home is too dry. Buying a humidifier will reduce static electricity and get those annoying static shocks off your heels.

3. The Floorboards Creak Beneath Your Feet

Wood naturally reacts to changes in humidity. It’s normal for hardwood flooring to lose moisture and shrink slightly when the humidity drops. But major fluctuations in humidity over time can stress the wood, even to the point of splitting and cracking along the grain. Other wood structures, like doors and window frames, are also susceptible to damage from low humidity.

Creaky floorboards is one of the early warning signs your home could use a humidifier. Maintaining consistent humidity level will help keep the floorboards beautiful (and silent) for years to come.

4. Your Houseplants Are Withering Away

Many species of indoor plants hail from tropical climates. Like many of us, they prefer warm temperatures and moist, humid air. It’s no surprise, then, that even a veteran Canadian gardener can have difficulty keeping houseplants alive through the winter.

One of the biggest reasons houseplants wilt in the winter is low humidity. The solution? Place a humidifier in the room. With proper humidity and a green thumb, you can keep your houseplants alive and well until spring.

5. You Have Really Dry Skin

Chapped lips, cracked knuckles, and itchy, flaking skin is a prevalent winter problem. The drier the air, the faster water in the skin evaporates, leaving you feeling sore and dry.

There are numerous products and home remedies meant to soothe dry skin, but one of the simplest solutions is buying a humidifier for your home. Place it in your bedroom to help replenish the moisture in your skin overnight. You may even find that having a humidifier in the room helps you sleep better at night!

Buying a Humidifier for Your Home

You have several options when it comes to buying a humidifier for your home. Small humidifier models, such as vaporizers, are a good choice if you need to increase the humidity in one room. To add humidity to an entire home, you should invest in a whole-house humidifier that injects water vapor into the ductwork of your forced-air system. Our first choice is the GeneralAire furnace humidifier.

Want to learn more? We’re happy to help. We offer top-notch service for all types of humidifiers, so feel free to give us a call or request a quote today.

Image: belchonock