5 Steps to Securing Your Home for Summer Vacations

If there’s one upside to this scorching-hot weather, it’s the excuse to escape the city for a summer vacation. But don’t forget to secure your home for the summer before you go!

These tips will help give you peace of mind that your house and home comfort system are safe and secure while you’re away.

1. Remove Your Home Address from Your GPS

Does your GPS device or mobile phone app have a “Go Home” button?  If so, anyone who has access to the device can discover where you live.

And if they ‘find’ it your bag or vehicle at the airport, they also know you aren’t home.

Be sure to remove your home address from GPS apps or devices before you hit the road. Otherwise, leave them at home.

2. Install a Smart Wi-Fi Thermostat

In just a few short years, smart thermostats have grown from a high-tech niche to a must-have device for millions of Canadian homes.

One of the benefits of a smart thermostat is that it allows you to monitor the status of your home remotely. That’s great news for summer travellers, since it lets you know if something goes wrong with the air conditioning while you’re away.

With the help of a smart thermostat (and a friend or neighbour to let in the technicians), you can arrange an emergency air conditioner repair in Toronto from a campsite up north or a beach down south.

3. Turn the Thermostat Up to Save Energy (But Only a Bit)

Turning the thermostat up when nobody’s home is the most tried-and-true ways to save energy in the summer. However, we do not recommend shutting off the air conditioning entirely.

In addition to keeping the house cool, central air conditioning also regulates the humidity inside your home. Fluctuating humidity levels can damage your home in numerous ways:

  • Causes wood to shrink and expand, which can damage wood floors and furniture
  • Leaves moisture on the outside of pipes, causing rust
  • Spurs the growth of mold, mildew and dust mites

Turn the thermostat up just a few degrees while you’re away. You’ll save energy and keep your home safe from humidity hazards.

4. Put Mail on Hold

If your trip lasts more than a few days (and your house still gets home mail delivery), your mailbox could quickly fill up with flyers and bills. This poses two potential problems: first, it tells onlookers that you’re away from home, and second, it leaves you vulnerable to mail theft.

Here in Ontario, you can stop mail delivery to your house for a time by purchasing a mail hold from Canada Post. You must do this at least five business days before the date you want to mail to stop. For newspapers, you will have to call the person or company responsible for delivery.

You could also ask a neighbour to collect the mail and newspapers for you.

5. Leave Signs of Life, Even Though You Aren’t Home

There are many ways a potential burglar could catch on to an empty house: no lights, tall grass, empty driveway, and untouched newspapers, to name a few. You can secure your home against all these issues with a bit of ingenuity and some from your friends and neighbours.

  • Put a few indoor lights on timers so they will turn on for a few hours at night. In addition to the traditional plug-in timers with a dial, you can now find Wi-Fi-enabled “smart lighting” that can be adjusted using a mobile app.
  • Have a friend or neighbour mow your lawn once a week, so the grass doesn’t grow too tall. You could also hire a landscaper.
  • Ask a neighbour on your street to park their car in your driveway while you’re on summer vacation. They can collect your unread newspaper at the same time.


Image: maximkabb

Reasons Why Your Air Conditioner Isn’t Working As Well As it Used To

Air conditioners typically have a lifespan of between 10 and 12 years. At that point, it’s not surprising for the unit to falter. But when a newer air conditioner is not working as well as it used to, it means something’s going on behind the scenes.

Below, we’ll point out some of the possible reasons why an air conditioner is not working as well as it used to.

Common Air Conditioner Problems

These are among the most common complaints people have when we get a call for air conditioner repair in Toronto. Often, it’s a combination of issues that seem to have gotten worse over time.

  1. Air conditioner not cooling effectively (or not at all)
  2. Some rooms are colder than others
  3. Air conditioner turning on and off frequently
  4. Air conditioner running all the time
  5. Air conditioner frozen

1. Air Conditioner Not Cooling Well or Not Cooling at All

Does the central AC that kept you comfortable last summer seem to be on vacation this year? Numerous problems can result in subpar performance.

  • Restricted airflow
    There should be a clear passage for air to travel from the supply vents to the evaporator coil and back into the home through the air registers. The air conditioner won’t do its job as well if there’s something in the way, be it a clogged air filter, weeds and debris in the outside condenser unit, furniture blocking the supply vents, or unclean air ducts.
  • Thermostat issues
    Check to confirm that the thermostat is in working order. It may simply require fresh batteries, or it could need replacement.
  • Frozen evaporator coils
    The evaporator coil cools and removes moisture from the air to manage the temperature and humidity inside the home. When the coil freezes over, warm air cannot pass through it to cool down. We cover what to do if your air conditioner is frozen in the section below.
  • Low refrigerant
    When an air conditioner is low on refrigerant, it can cause a whole host of problems, including poor performance. If the problem persists after replenishing the refrigerant, it could indicate a leak — which is a problem that necessitates an air conditioner repair call.

2. Some Rooms Colder than Others

Central air conditioning should maintain an even temperature throughout the home. It’s fair to expect small differences (rooms furthest from the AC unit will be slightly warmer, for example), but a significant temperature difference indicates a problem.

  • Air duct leak
    Small leaks in the air ducts can hinder airflow to the entire house, and larger leaks can result in distant rooms being cut off from central air.
  • Thermostat location
    The thermostat acts as a temperature gauge for the entire house. If the environment surrounding the thermostat differs drastically from other parts of the home, it can result in a temperature imbalance.

One solution to temperature differences is a zoning system, which lets you fine-tune the temperature in different parts of the home individually.

3. Air Conditioner Turning On and Off Frequently

Short cycling is one of the most prevalent air conditioner problems. The usual cause is an oversized air conditioner that cools the home too quickly, resulting in a constant on-off cycle. But if your air conditioner used to work fine, it could be a different issue entirely.

  • Thermostat location
    Heat sources near the thermostat can cause the air conditioner to cycle more often than it should. Make sure the thermostat is not in direct sunlight or close to a supply vent. Avoid placing heat-emitting electronics, like TVs, near it.
  • Thermostat settings
    If you use a smart or programmable thermostat, check to see that it’s set to adjust on a schedule you desire.
  • Low refrigerant
    Low refrigerant causes pressure in the system to drop. The compressor unit, which supplies refrigerant to the evaporator coil, will usually shut off automatically if the pressure drops too low. Afterwards, the pressure will rise again, creating a rapid On/Off cycle.

4. Air Conditioner Running All the Time

A central air conditioning unit is designed to shut off once the home reaches the desired temperature set on the thermostat. There are several possible reasons why this isn’t happening.

  • Broken contact
    The contactor is a switch in the outdoor compressor unit that tells the air conditioner when to shut off. If the contactor is broken or obstructed by debris, the unit will run non-stop.
  • Not cooling effectively
    Another reason why the air conditioning might constantly be running is that it cannot meet the home’s cooling demand. See the section above on why an air conditioner might not be cooling as well as it used to.

5. Air Conditioner Frozen

You know something’s not right when you find a sheath of ice on your air conditioner in the middle of summer. Turn off the unit to let it thaw, then consider the following possible culprits.

  • Restricted air flow
    Ice forms when warm air can’t reach the evaporator. This could be because the air filter is clogged, the blower fan is malfunctioning, or something is blocking the supply vents.
  • Low refrigerant
    When pressure drops due to the low refrigerant, the remaining refrigerant expands, causing cooler-than-normal temperatures inside the system.
  • Low outdoor temperature
    This isn’t a likely concern in the summer, but it’s something to keep in mind when fall comes around: running the air conditioner when the temperature drops below 18°C can turn your AC into an icebox.


Image: thamkc

5 Things Smart Homeowners Do When They Move

Your move-in checklist probably covers all the basics: labelling boxes, changing your billing address, replacing the locks, and so on.

But did you buy new batteries for the smoke alarms? What about an air duct cleaning? 

They don’t take long, but these steps will help keep your family safe and healthy in your new home. 

1. Take Photos of Your Empty House

Smart movers unpack their camera first. Why? There are good reasons to take photographs of each room in your new home before you start placing furniture:

  1. A lot can happen to a house between the time it passed home inspection and the day you finally move in. The only sure way to prove any changes or damage that occurred before you moved in is to document it, preferably with photographic proof.
  2. Documenting the state of the house before you move in is also important in case the movers cause any accidental damage (like scratching a hardwood floor). To the insurance company, a picture really is worth a thousand words!
  3. Having photos of each room with bare walls and floors is a big help when it comes time to renovate or redecorate. Once all your furniture is in place, it can be hard to picture the house any other way.

2. Test Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

It’s the law in Ontario to have at least one working smoke alarm on every level of the house, and at least one carbon monoxide alarm (or a device that combines the two).

One of the first things you should do when you move is replace the batteries in both devices, then test to ensure the alarms are working and your family recognizes them. This is also a good time to mark a reminder in your calendar to replace the batteries again in six months.

Did you know that smoke alarms have an expiration date? While you’re replacing the batteries, turn the device over and look for the date of manufacture on the back. If it has been ten years or longer since then, it’s time to replace it.

3. Check for Water Leaks

With the house empty and the plumbing unused for at least a few hours, moving day is a good time to test for potential water leaks. One simple way to do this is to look at your water meter. To check for water leaks using your water meter:

  1. Make sure all the faucets (indoors and outdoors) are shut off.
  2. Locate the water meter in your home. In Ontario, the meter is usually found in the basement, often in a basement laundry room or furnace room.
  3. Note where on the meter the red triangle is pointing. Take a photo of the meter with your phone so you don’t have to write it down.
  4. Check the meter again two hours later. If you haven’t used any water during that time, and the red arrow has moved, you may have a leak.

It pays to do the ‘water meter test’ as soon as possible after you move in. Leaky plumbing is a recipe for structural damage and mould growth.

4. Get a Duct Cleaning

If the house has central heating or air conditioning, most of the air you breathe inside the home circulates through the air ducts. And as a new homeowner, you don’t know what has been living in those ducts. Not only do air ducts accumulate dust, but they can also harbour mould and bacteria, which are things you definitely don’t want to breathe in.

While not as urgent as testing smoke alarms and checking for water leaks, duct cleaning should be on your to-do list within the first few months of the move. Not only will it improve your indoor air quality, but it allows your furnace and central air conditioner to run more efficiently, improving the longevity of those essential systems.

5. Locate the Emergency Switches

Every home has its quirks. It will probably take some time before you uncover everything about yours. But there are a few things you should track down right away: namely, the utility shut-off switches.

It’s important to know how to turn off the utilities in the event of an emergency. Every adult in the home should be able to locate the fuse box, natural gas shut-off, and main water stop valve.

If you have moved to a different city or town, you should also note the numbers for the local police, fire department, and by-law enforcement. These numbers are easily available online, but you don’t always have internet access in an emergency, so it’s smart to add them into your cell phone contacts or pinned to your fridge just in case.


Image: Petro

Can You Install Central Air Conditioning in a Heritage Home?

They don’t build homes like they used to. Heritage homes come with decades of charm and a warm, architectural design you can’t find in modern-day homes. But that architecture also creates challenges when it comes to installing modern amenities like air conditioning.  

Most homeowners who have invested in a century home aren’t eager to tarnish its appearance with boxy window air conditioners. But is it possible to install central air conditioning in a heritage home?  

What You Need to Install Central Air Conditioning 

There are two things you need to install central air conditioning:

  1. Space to install both the indoor and outdoor units
  2. Ductwork to distribute air to different parts of the house

The most common type of central air conditioner is the split system. A split air conditioning system consists of an indoor air handler housing the fan and evaporator coil, and an outdoor unit containing the compressor and fan motor.  

The fan draws warm, indoor air into the return ducts, where it travels to the evaporator coil. The outdoor unit delivers pressurized refrigerant to the evaporator to cool the air. Then, the cool air is distributed back into the home through the supply ducts.

This cycle repeats as needed to maintain the temperature set at the thermostat.  

Today, most houses come with the ductwork already installed and ready to move air on day one. But ducts aren’t a given when it comes to older construction, and that complicates the task of installing central air conditioning in a century home.  

When a house already has a forced-air central heating system, it is possible to modify the existing ductwork to accommodate central air conditioning.

Some century-old houses, however, do not have any form of ductwork in the attic, basement or crawlspace. This limits the options of homeowners who don’t want to undertake major renovations just to have central air conditioning. 

Fortunately, there are other options. 

Installing Central Air Conditioning in a Home Without Ducts 

For older buildings and homes without ductwork, there are ways to install central air conditioning without compromising the unique architecture.  

One option is a ductless air conditioner, which uses compact indoor units and space-saving tubing instead of traditional ductwork.  Fujitsu-brand ductless units are popular choices for heritage homeowners who are installing central air conditioning in Toronto and the GTA.   

While not quite the same as a complete central air conditioning system, ductless air conditioners are perfect for cooling a select number of rooms in older homes built without central ventilation. Ductless air conditioners are much more quiet and discreet than window air conditioners. Most importantly, they’re unobtrusive, so they don’t take away from the beauty of a well-loved heritage home. 

Fujitsu Ductless Air Conditioner Installation for Heritage Homes 

Ductless air conditioners are ideal for homeowners who have a desire to install multi-room air conditioning without installing ductwork.

Rather than using ducts, Fujitsu’s ductless air conditioner distributes air through a thin, copper tubing connected to discreet grilles. It is available either as packaged or split system, making it possible to install one even if there is no room for an outdoor unit. 

Spacepak Air Conditioner Installation for Heritage Homes 

Spacepak gets its name from its space-saving design that makes it a great fit for older buildings and heritage homes. Spacepak air conditioners are installed with 2’’ thin flexible tubing that can be threaded between closets, wall studs, or ceiling joists.

The manufacturer offers discreet grilles and registers in many colours and textures to blend in.  

Our technicians have installed Spacepak air conditioners in a variety of homes and buildings throughout the GTA, including the Campbell House Museum in the heart of downtown Toronto. Thanks to central air conditioning, this historic site stays cool and comfortable throughout the sweltering summer months. But good luck spotting the system when you visit — it’s tailor-made to blend seamlessly in with the building’s incredible architecture and interior design.  

Looking for ductless or Spacepak air conditioner installation in the Greater Toronto Area? Call us 24/7 or fill out the contact form here. 


Image: Michael Karbe