Fall Tips For Senior Home Maintenance

As summer slowly comes to an end, now is a great time for seniors to start thinking about preparing for winter. Taking care of your home before any issues arise is a great way to minimize unexpected damages. Maintenance is important to improve health, safety and possibly your bank account! Here are some tips for seniors to consider while we still have some sun:


  1. Check the furnace. Every home should have good indoor air quality. Inspect your furnace filter and ensure it’s clean for the winter. You may be spending more time indoors so you will want to make sure you and your loved ones are breathing in clean air. Read this for more tips.
  2. Protect the air conditioner. Your air conditioner should also be cleaned from summer use. Removing any debris may prolong its lifespan and save you time next summer when you’re ready to use it again. After it’s been cleaned, be sure to cover it so that it doesn’t become damaged throughout the winter.
  3. Get your ducts in a row. Duct cleaning is also linked to good air quality. When dust collects inside ducts, it can affect your furnace’s performance. Dusty ducts will fill up the furnace’s filter and the dirty cycle begins. You may also find some lost treasures you’ve been missing in the ducts, or unwanted critters. AtlasCare technicians are experienced and can do this for you.
  4. Check your windows and doors. Cold air can get through any crack or gap. Inspect your windows to ensure there aren’t any obvious issues where winter can make its way into your home. Your furnace will continue to run if the temperature inside the home is not controlled. For both windows and doors, also check that the locks are working. Keeping them locked can keep the cold and other unwanted guests out.

These easy steps can allow for a stress-free winter – even spring. It’s important for anyone to stay on top of home maintenance, but if you’re a senior and need assistance, seek help from a loved one or a professional.


Why Do Air Conditioners Freeze? 5 Possible Causes of a Frozen Air Conditioner

A frozen air conditioner? Strange as it sounds, it happens. We answer hundreds of calls for air conditioner repair in Toronto and the GTA each year, and there are always a few homeowners asking how to fix a frozen air conditioner. So, why do air conditioners freeze in the first place, and what can you do about it?

Why Do Air Conditioners Freeze?

In most cases, the cause of a frozen air conditioner has to do with an interruption in the heat transfer process.

The most common type of central air conditioning in Toronto is the split system. Split central air conditioners work by drawing warm air out of the home with the help of a blower fan; the warm air moves through the air ducts until it reaches the evaporator coil. There, a heat transfer takes place. The air is cooled by refrigerant as it passes over the coil, and the refrigerant disperses the heat outside through the outdoor condenser unit.

What does this have to do with air conditioners freezing up? When something prevents this heat transfer from happening, the ice-cold refrigerant can freeze condensation that builds on the evaporator coil.

Left untouched, ice can encase the entire indoor unit and even spread to the outdoor components.

An air conditioner that continues to freeze up or is frozen for an extended time can be severely damaged. If your air conditioner is frozen, we recommend calling for air conditioner repair in Toronto or the GTA as soon as possible.

Possible Causes of a Frozen Air Conditioner

The following are common causes of ice build-up on a split central air conditioner:

  1. Leak in the refrigerant line causing low pressure
  2. Poor airflow to the evaporator coil
  3. Dirt build-up on the evaporator coil
  4. Low outdoor temperature (16°C/62°F)
  5. Malfunctioning blower fan

1. Refrigerant Leak

Putting refrigerant under pressure causes its temperature to rise; the opposite occurs when it expands. Air conditioners use this effect to cool the evaporator coil and transfer heat from the warm indoor air to the air outside.

A leak in the refrigerant line (even a very small one) causes pressure to drop. As a result, the refrigerant is forced to expand more, causing the evaporator coils to become colder. This temperature shift may not be evident at first, but if the system continues to lose refrigerant, more and more ice will accumulate on the coils.

If the air conditioner is in good condition overall and has years of useful life left, a qualified heating and cooling technician can fix the problem by repairing the leak and ‘recharge’ the refrigerant. For older units, a refrigerant leak is often caused for replacement.

2. Poor Airflow

A split central air conditioner lowers the home’s temperature by drawing warm air into the ductwork and through the evaporator coils to transfer the heat outside. In the process, moisture from the air builds up on the coils as condensation. The heat absorbed by the refrigerant prevents this moisture from freezing.

But what if warm air can’t get through to the coils? The heat transfer cannot take place if something is obstructing the flow of air. In that case, there is nothing to keep the condensate from turning to ice.

There are many possible reasons for poor airflow to an air conditioner:

  1. Filters have not been cleaned or replaced in more than three months
  2. Supply registers blocked by furniture or other objects
  3. Closed or blocked gates or dampers
  4. Air ducts clogged with dust or debris
  5. Air duct leak

The first three are potential causes are things homeowners can investigate themselves. Inspecting air ducts for leaks or obstructions is messier and more difficult.

If you suspect a problem with your air ducts, contact a qualified HVAC technician you trust (not a door-to-door duct cleaning salesperson.)

3. Dirty Evaporator Coils

Few people realize how much dust and debris build up in their central heating and cooling system. Most of it is caught in the air filter or ductwork before it reaches the air conditioner, but dirt can accumulate on the evaporator coils over time.

A layer of dirt between the air and the coils makes it harder for the refrigerant to absorb heat. The result? Condensate begins to freeze on the coils, further limiting heat transfer.

Most homeowners do not have the expertise to inspect or clean the evaporator coils without risking damage to the air conditioner. Call a qualified technician if your central air conditioner requires maintenance.

4. Low Outdoor Temperature

Central air conditioners require a warm ambient temperature to transfer heat outside the home. If the outdoor temperature drops below a certain threshold (usually 16°C or 62°F), the system cannot operate properly, and ice can form on the coils.

Low temperature is not normally a concern in the summer months in Ontario, but the temperature can drop suddenly at night on rare occasions. This is one reason why it’s wise to program the thermostat to shut off the air conditioning at night.

Barring an unseasonably warm September, homeowners should take steps to close the air conditioner come fall.

5. Damaged Blower Fan

The blower fan pulls warm air into the air ducts then re-distributes cool air throughout the home. If the fan or its motor malfunctions, the heat transfer process comes to a standstill, and ice will begin to accumulate on the evaporator coils if the air conditioner continues to run.

My Air Conditioner Is Frozen – What Should I Do?

The most common causes of a frozen air conditioner are heat transfer issues: low pressure due to a refrigerant leak, a lack of warm air reaching the evaporator coil, or low ambient temperature.

If the problem stems from a dirty air filter, blocked vents, or closed dampers, the homeowner can usually resolve it. Other issues, such as a refrigerant leak, dirty evaporator coils, or blower fan malfunction, should be addressed by a professional qualified in air conditioner repair.

Our team is on-call 24 hours a day for air conditioner repair in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area. View our service area here or click here for a free estimate.

Central Air Conditioner Buying Guide: What to Consider When Installing an Air Conditioner in Toronto

A central air conditioner is a significant and long-lasting investment in your home. Knowing what to consider when choosing a central air conditioner is important to ensure you choose a reliable system that fits your home and budget.

Keep these facts in mind as you prepare for a central air conditioner installation in Toronto.

Types of Central Air Conditioner

There are two main types of central air conditioning systems in use in Ontario:

  • Split-system central air conditioners consist of an indoor evaporator coil unit inside the ducting and an outdoor compressor unit. The compressor unit sends refrigerant to the evaporator coil, which cools and removes moisture from indoor air as it passes through the ducts.
  • Ductless air conditioners distribute cool air through narrow piping instead of large air ducts, which means it can be installed in a house that does not have existing ducting. Some have an outdoor compressor while others are single-package units.

If a home already has a furnace, it is possible to modify the existing air ducts to accommodate central air conditioning. However, the scope of this project will vary depending on the size and location of the current ducting. It may be necessary to resize, reseal, or replace all or part of the ducts.

Ductless air conditioners are an alternative for homeowners who do not wish to undertake the often-extensive renovations necessary to add air ducts to an existing home. For heritage homes with small attics, ductless air conditioners are the most discrete way to add central air conditioning.

When shopping for air conditioning installation in Toronto, be sure the installer inspects the home to ensure the existing air ducts are properly sized and have sufficient supply registers for central air conditioning.

Sizing a Central Air Conditioner

When choosing what size air conditioner to buy, there are two terms you should know: cooling capacity and cooling load.

  • Cooling capacity is what people mean when discussing an air conditioner’s ‘size’. Cooling capacity is an air conditioner’s ability to remove heat. It is measured either in British thermal units per hour (Btu/hr) or in tons (one ton is equal to 12,000 Btu/hr).
  • Cooling load is the amount of heat that builds up in a space when there is no cooling system.

An air conditioner should have sufficient cooling capacity to meet a home’s cooling load. If the unit is too large, it will short-cycle, meaning it will cool the air too quickly and shut off before it has had a chance to de-humidify. The result is a damp, uncomfortable home.

There is no rule of thumb for choosing the right size air conditioner to buy. Whoever you hire for air conditioner installation in Toronto should calculate the home’s cooling load using reliable methods like that developed by the CSA.

You should also know that a house’s cooling load can change. If the home has had more insulation or energy-efficient windows installed since the air conditioner was last replaced, its cooling load may be smaller. On the other hand, if the house has a new addition, the cooling load will have increased.

Noise Level

Does your city or town have by-laws limiting the noise level allowable for outdoor compressor units? Some municipalities in Ontario do. Most energy-efficient air conditioners have low sound ratings, but the noise level varies between different models.


For central air conditioners, efficiency means the amount of cooling a system can provide per watt of electricity it consumes. The seasonal energy-efficiency rating or SEER expresses an air conditioner’s efficiency over a typical cooling season (where the average outdoor temperature is 28°C). The higher the SEER, the less it costs to run the air conditioner.

Thanks to technological improvements like efficient compressors, more effective heat exchangers, and better refrigerant flow, today’s top-performance air conditioners are more than twice as efficient as those from just a decade ago. A 10-year-old air conditioner has a typical SEER of 7.0 to 8.0, while high-efficiency air conditioners can now reach a SEER as high as 17.0.

In Canada, an ENERGY STAR® qualified split central air conditioner must have a SEER rating of at least 13.0.

Electrical Load

An often-forgotten consideration when choosing a central air conditioner is electricity. Depending on the home’s current capacity, it may be necessary to upgrade the electrical service to accommodate the increased electrical load of a central air conditioner. This is another consideration an installer should be aware of and check before advising on which central air conditioner to buy.

Cost of Air Conditioner Installation Toronto

The cost of air conditioner installation will change depending on several factors, including:

  • Cooling load
    Large or inefficient homes require a more powerful central air conditioner to meet the larger demand for cooling. Typically, the cost of installing an air conditioner increases with cooling load.
  • Air ducts
    If the home already has ducts, it may be necessary to modify them for central air conditioning. Adding new ductwork to a home that does not have ducts is often a costly and time-consuming renovation.
  • Electrical load
    Upgrading the electrical service to deal with the electrical load of central air conditioning will add additional costs to installation.

A reliable installer will always provide a free quote for air conditioner installation.

6 Ways to Reduce Summer Energy Bills (Without Touching the Thermostat)

One of the easiest ways to reduce summer energy bills? Turn down the air conditioner and allow the temperature to rise a few degrees in your home. But in this weather, that’s a sacrifice few of us can make.

Here are six other sure-fire ways to reduce your summer energy bills without laying a finger on your thermostat:

  1. Shut summer heat outside
  2. Reduce the amount of heat generated inside the house
  3. Use an energy-efficient air conditioner
  4. Move certain activities outside
  5. Make your swimming pool more energy-wise
  6. Keep your air conditioner running efficiently

1. Shut Out Summer Heat

Blocking heat from entering through doors and windows saves energy by making it easier for the central air conditioner to keep the house cold. With a few quick changes and touch-ups, you can significantly reduce the amount of heat that comes in.

  • Use caulking and weather stripping to seal air leaks around windows and exterior doors.
  • Tightly shut windows and exterior doors from morning until evening. Don’t leave the front or back door hanging open when coming and going!
  • Close curtains, blinds, or window shades during the day to block direct sunlight. Window coverings also reduce the amount of heat that enters the home through conduction.

2. Reduce Heat Generated Inside the House

Much of the heat generated inside a home comes from appliance use. The more heat you generate, the more energy it takes to maintain a cool temperature in the house. Changing your usage habits will contribute to a reduction in summer energy bills.

  • If you still use incandescent light bulbs, consider switching to LED or CFL bulbs that use less electricity and produce less heat. Between 10 and 15% of the electricity incandescent bulbs consume is turned into heat.
  • Use the washing machine and dishwasher sparingly, washing only full loads when possible.
  • Unplug or switch off electronic devices with a power strip. Electronics continue to consume power and produce heat while in Sleep or Standby mode.
  • Use kitchen or bathroom fans to ventilate while cooking or taking a shower.

3. Upgrade to an Energy-Efficient Air Conditioner

The average cost of running a 2.5-ton central air conditioner in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is $112.95 per summer month. You can reduce this cost by replacing an old unit with a newer, more energy-efficient air conditioner.

ENERGY STAR-certified air conditioners use 8% less energy than standard models. By replacing an air conditioner that was installed 10 years ago or longer, you can easily save upwards of 20% on cooling and significantly reduce summer energy bills.

4. Spend More Time Outside

Summers are short here in Canada, so get outside and enjoy it! Moving a few of your routine activities outdoors will keep the house cooler, easing the load on your central air conditioner and reducing energy consumption.

  • Hang clothes on the clothesline instead of using the dryer. Dryers use more energy than washing machines and produce a great deal more heat.
  • Cook on the BBQ instead of the oven on hot nights.
  • Unplug electronic devices or switch them off using a power strip. As mentioned, many electronics continue to use power and produce heat while in Standby mode. Besides, it’s too nice to spend all day with your devices!

5. Have a Pool? Make it More Efficient

Swimming pools are a blessing on sweltering summer days, but it’s shocking how much energy it takes to keep them up and running.

How much? On average, running a swimming pool in the GTA costs:

  • $58.09 per month for a 1/2 HP pool pump
  • $77.45-$135.54 per month for a pool filter motor, depending on HP
  • $322.71 per month for a pool heater

Fortunately, there are ways to make swimming pools more energy-efficient so you can keep cool without spending a fortune on electricity.

  • Use a swimming pool cover to reduce water evaporation, which helps to lower heating costs.
  • Clean the pool filter regularly so the system can run as efficiently as possible.
  • Replace an inefficient pool pump with an energy-efficient, multispeed pump. This improvement can reduce the associated energy cost up to 70%.
  • Replace an electric pool heater with an energy-efficient gas or solar heater.

6. Service Your Air Conditioner to Maintain Efficiency

Like your vehicle, central air conditioners require regular maintenance to perform at peak efficiency. Having your system serviced once a year will help reduce the cost of running your air conditioner in Toronto and the GTA.

Request a free quote to find out the cost of air conditioner service in your area.


Image: Anna Bizoń