8 Surprising Things That Can Trigger Allergies in the Winter

Ever wonder why your so-called “seasonal” allergies seem to linger on in the colder months? You might be allergic to more than just pollen. The air inside our homes is full of microscopic particles, many of which can trigger allergy symptoms throughout the year.

These are the facts on winter allergies: how to tell allergies apart from a cold, what causes them, and how to keep your home as allergen-free as possible this holiday.

Is It Allergies or a Cold?

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), two-thirds of allergy sufferers have year-round allergy symptoms in addition to seasonal pollen allergies. If you’re prone to summer allergies, you are likely to experience symptoms in the winter as well.

However, many people don’t recognize the potential allergy triggers that roll in each year with the winter weather.


That’s because people tend to attribute their winter allergy symptoms to the cold virus. When you wake up in December with a sore throat and a runny nose, a cold is the first thing that comes to mind – not allergies.

According to Web MD and Harvard Medical School, the biggest clue that you’re dealing with allergies instead of a cold is how long the symptoms last. Cold symptoms are often at their worst in the first few days, but mostly taper off after a week; allergy symptoms, on the other hand, can persist for weeks on end with little to no change.

What Causes Allergies in the Winter?

When the temperature drops, most of us start spending a lot more time indoors, increasing our exposure to indoor air pollution and airborne allergens.

Some of these triggers are present in the home year-round; others are more common in the winter, especially around the holidays. It might surprise you to learn how certain holiday traditions can contribute to poor indoor air quality and trigger coughing, sneezing and other allergy symptoms.

The prominent winter allergy triggers and irritants include:

  • Wood smoke
  • Scented candles
  • Fresh-cut trees and boughs
  • Holiday decorations
  • Airborne dust
  • Mold and mildew
  • Pet dander
  • Dry air

1. Wood Smoke

Not everyone enjoys a roaring fireplace. Although wood smoke is not a sole cause of allergies, it can irritate the lungs and worsen the impact of other symptoms. If someone in your family has allergies or asthma, consider gathering around a gas fireplace instead of a wood fire (it’s just as cozy and safer to boot.)

2. Scented Candles

Scented candles, aerosols and potpourri can contain tiny particles and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that trigger allergy symptoms. Save your real candles for special traditions and decorate with flameless candles around the house.

3. Freshly-Cut Trees and Boughs

Few people are allergic to evergreen trees, though some do react to the terpenes that give trees their pine-fresh scent. The trouble with Christmas trees is their tendency to harbour mold spores. The longer it sits outside, the more likely freshly-cut wood is to attract mold.

4. Holiday Decorations

As for artificial trees? Depending on how you store them, these and other decorations can become the source of another common allergy trigger: dust mites. To avoid this, seal your festive décor in a closed storage box during the off-months.

5. Mold and Mildew

Fallen leaves and other yard debris are a haven for mold, which can hitchhike into your home on the soles of your boots. Make a habit of wiping your shoes on a mat outside the door until the ground is covered by snow.

6. Pet Dander

Pets usually spend more time indoors in the winter, too, leading to more pet dander particles in the air. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration can help to reduce the levels of these allergens present inside your home.

7. Airborne Dust

When you fire up the furnace for the first time in a while, it can stir up dust that has settled in your central heating ducts. Having your air ducts cleaned professionally every few years can help reduce the volume of dust circulating in your home’s air.

8. Dry Air

Turning up the heat can make the winter air even drier. Low humidity causes your throat and nose to become more prone to irritation, increasing your sensitivity to airborne allergens. Living in a house with very dry air can even increase the odds of getting sick.

If the humidity in your home drops below 35% (check your thermostat display or use a hygrometer to find out), you can install a furnace humidifier to regulate it.

Create a Comfortable Home for the Holidays

Indoor air quality is key to your family’s comfort throughout the year. Browse our selection of ventilators, humidifiers and air purification filters designed to keep your indoor air fresh and clean – or contact us to discuss how we can help your family breathe easier this winter.

Winter Vacation Checklist: How to Prepare and Protect Your Home in Canada

Planning an extended winter vacation?

Whether you’re fleeing to warmer climates or hitting the ski slopes, it’s not too soon to start preparing your home for the trip.

This winter vacation checklist is designed for Canadian homeowners to help ensure your home is safe in the event of a blizzard or a blackout. We’ve also included a few points on home security so you can fly south with peace of mind.

Winter Vacation Checklist: What to Do One Month Before Departure

1. Ask a Friend to Keep Watch

Arrange to have a friend or neighbour take care of your vacant home. The task may be as simple as dropping by to check on things or shovelling the driveway to make the house look lived-in. In any case, the sooner you ask, the better!

Don’t forget to leave your house-sitter a list of your preferred service providers in the event of furnace trouble or storm damage.


  • Having a friend stop in ensures that problems with the furnace or plumbing will not go unnoticed. That’s important if your home doesn’t have a Wi-Fi connected smart thermostat or a leak sensor to keep you informed.
  • For home security purposes, it’s important to show signs of activity in and around the house. Asking a friend to visit periodically makes your home look occupied.


2. Stop Mail Delivery

Leaving for a week or longer? Consider contacting Canada Post to put a temporary hold on mail delivery to your home. It must be done at least five business days before you plan to put delivery on pause.


 Letters and flyers piling up in your mailbox signals to everyone that your home is vacant, which is a safety concern.

  • In a typical Canadian winter, any letters left in the mailbox for more than a day are likely to get soggy and ruined.


3. Inform Home Insurer of the Vacation

No, we’re not talking about travel insurance – we mean home insurance. Not all insurance policies are alike, and you’ll want to make sure yours provides the coverage you need.



One Week Before Departure

4. Store Outdoor Furniture Indoors

Put away patio chairs, tables and anything else in your yard that could be toppled by a strong wind. The same goes for your BBQ.


  • Leaving these items out in the elements could leave them susceptible to damage.
  • If the wind bowls over your backyard furniture and no one picks it up, it’s a clear sign that nobody’s home.

5. Make Plans for Pets (and Houseplants)

Don’t wait until the last minute to make sure your beloved pets are well cared for while you’re off!  Might as well make arrangements for your potted plants – after all, they need care and attention, too.


  • Well-established pet-sitters and kennels often book weeks in advance. The longer you wait, the more difficult (and expensive) it will be to find a reputable caregiver you trust.
  • There are lots of ways to keep plants watered for an extended time, but it’s best to test out the effectiveness of these methods before using them for real.


One Day Before Departure

6. Clean Out Your Fridge, Take Out the Trash, and Seal Up Remaining Food

Empty the dishwasher and take out the garbage before you leave on vacation. If you plan to be gone for more than a week, clear out the fridge and move non-refrigerated foods to airtight containers.

You can also unplug the refrigerator to save energy once it’s empty (be sure to leave the door ajar to prevent moisture build-up.)


  • Your home could lose power for an extended time while you’re away, causing food in your fridge and freezer to sit unrefrigerated for days and spoil.
  • Leaving garbage out attracts mice and other pests to your home.
  • Emptying the bins and the dishwasher ensures you won’t return home to an off-smelling kitchen.


7. Unplug All Appliances and Electronic Devices You Don’t Need to Leave On

Chances are there are 25 or more such devices in your home, including computers, televisions, tablets, and digital alarm clocks.


  • Any device left plugged in on sleep or standby mode consumes electricity. Though small, this consumption adds up to about 10% of the average Canadian’s energy bill.
  • Expensive electronics, like TVs and computers, could fall victim to a power surge in the onset of a blackout.
  • Though small, leaving electrical devices unattended for long periods does increase the risk of fire.


8. Set a Lighting Timer

Set a programmable outlet timer or a smart lighting system to switch on the lights inside your home in the evenings. Choose the lights in one or more rooms with street-facing windows.


  • Having the lights flick on creates the illusion that your home is occupied, deterring burglars after dark.
  • Using a timer saves you the energy cost of leaving the lights on all night and day. The on/off cycle also appears more natural to onlookers than a light left on 24/7.


Day of Departure

9. Turn Down the Heat

Set your thermostat to 55°F/16°C. That’s warm enough to minimize the risk of pipes freezing (see the next point) while keeping energy costs low. Be sure to raise the temperature accordingly if pets are staying behind!



10. Winterize Your Home’s Plumbing

Use the main water shutoff valve (usually found in your furnace room or basement) to turn off the flow to your pipes, then open all the faucets one-by-one to drain them. Then, close all but one.


  • Should your house lose heat during your vacation, water inside the pipes could freeze and expand, causing the pipes to burst. Failing to winterize your home’s plumbing properly can lead to very costly repairs.
  • Leaving one faucet open prevents pressure from building up from any water remaining inside the pipes.


11. Turn on Water Heater’s Vacation Mode or Drain and Shut Off

Many water heaters now come equipped with a ‘vacation mode’ setting that reduces its energy consumption while heating the water just enough to prevent pipes from freezing. If yours has one, you may switch it on – otherwise, have the tank drained and shut down for your vacation.

Note that if you do drain and shut off the water heater, you must allow the tank to refill before firing it up again – running on an empty tank can damage the unit.


  • Since the water heater will not be in use, it isn’t necessary to keep it running at a shower-ready temperature.
  • Some homeowners prefer the peace of mind that comes with draining and shutting down the tank entirely since it ensures the water will not freeze if the heater loses power and the house goes cold.


12. Close and Lock All Doors and Windows

Visit each room in the house one-by-one to check that the windows are fully shut and locked. Don’t forget basement windows and skylights!


  • A window left even a tiny bit ajar can let blowing rain and snow into your home – not to mention rodents trying to escape the cold.

Any open doors and windows are a potential entry-point for home invaders.

Geek Alert! 5 Cool Things About Home Heating You May Not Know

Sometimes, we take for granted just how big a role heating technology plays in our lives. At this time of year, just about every building in the country has a furnace working behind the scenes to keep its inhabitants comfortable. There’s a good chance you’re enjoying the benefits of home heating right now!

Here are some furnace facts and cool things about home heating you may not know.

1. 40% of our energy goes towards heating

Given our climate, it’s no surprise that Canadians use a lot of energy on heat. However, when you consider all the other ways we use energy, fuelling our vehicles, lighting our homes and offices, and powering our industries, to name just a few, it’s amazing to think that more than 40% of all energy produced in Canada goes toward heating.

2. Only half of Canadians use natural gas

Most residents here in Ontario (about 72%) use natural gas to heat their homes. Natural gas is safe and efficient, and though we often cringe at our monthly gas bill, it’s still the most affordable heat source in this province.

However, not everyone in Canada has access to natural gas. Only 49% of Canadian households use natural gas heating, while 37% use electricity and 8% use fuel oil. In the neighbouring province of Quebec, just 3% of homes use natural gas, while 80% rely on electricity. Meanwhile, the Maritimes mainly use fuel oil to warm their homes.

3. Central heating is thousands of years old

Home heating has come a long way. From campfires to stoves, steam engines to radiators, heat pumps to smart thermostats, the technology has evolved in leaps and bounds over thousands of years.

Today, most homes use a central heating system, which generates heat in a single location and distributes it throughout the home using ducts or radiators. But central heating isn’t a new concept. In fact, beginning in the year 80 BCE, the upper classes of ancient Rome widely used central heating in their homes, villas, and public baths. The Roman method, called a hypocaust, used a large fire or furnace in an open space below the floor to heat the air, which moved through passages beneath the floors and walls to heat the entire home.

4. Opening the door doesn’t let all the heat out

It’s a refrain familiar to kids across Canada: close the door, you’re letting the heat out!

But is it true?

Leaving doors and windows open will result in some air leakage, but the real problem is not warm air escaping; it’s the frigid, winter air getting in. As heated air rises to the top of a building, cooler air rushes in to replace it. The greater the difference between the inside and outside temperature, the more an open door will change the indoor temperature.

5. Replacing the furnace can cut heating costs by up to 25%

Today’s top-performance furnaces come equipped with a variable speed ECM motor, which is designed to operate at varying output levels depending on the outdoor temperature. On the coldest days of the year, when the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures is greatest, a high-efficiency furnace can perform at a higher BTU output to meet the demand. When the temperature drops, it can scale back on energy, reducing heating costs by up to 25%!

Considering heating accounts for 40% of our energy use, 25% can go a long way in reducing heating costs.

Image: OKsix

What Everyone Should Know About Renting a Furnace in Ontario

When we ask our customers why they decided to rent a furnace, they usually reply with one of two answers:

  1. The low monthly cost of renting a furnace seemed more affordable than buying one up front.
  2. Since the rental cost covered any potential repairs, renting a furnace gave them cost certainty and peace of mind.

Put in those terms, it’s easy to see why so many homeowners in Ontario choose to rent their furnace instead of buying. Cost and peace of mind are top-of-mind when it comes to any home investment, especially when one that involves your family’s safety and comfort in our cold winter months.

For homeowners who cannot afford to purchase a new furnace (or who plan to move), it feels like a way to give their family top-of-the-line comfort without the cost or commitment.

However, those same reasons are exactly why we advise everyone – whether they’re an AtlasCare customer or not – to think twice about renting a furnace in Ontario.

It’s not to say that buying a furnace is always the better choice. Every family’s circumstances are different, and there may be situations where renting a furnace for your home makes the most sense in the long run.

But we do believe that anyone thinking of renting a furnace should know exactly what the decision will mean for them.

We encourage you to take these things into consideration before you sign a furnace rental contract.

1. Renting a Furnace Rarely Saves Money

Furnaces aren’t cheap.

Though it might not look it on the outside, a furnace is an intricate piece of equipment – and they’re only becoming more complex as smart home and energy management technology continues to advance.

Families looking to upgrade to the latest in energy-efficient heating systems can expect to pay an initial sum well into four figures. For top-of-the-line custom comfort solutions, the costs can run even higher.

Compare that to the monthly cost of renting a furnace in Ontario (approximately $175 to $250, depending on the deal) and the rental option looks far more affordable. Plus, rental contracts often cover the cost of a maintenance call, meaning no surprise repair bills.

But when you consider that furnace rental contracts usually last for 12 to 15 years – and that the monthly cost remains constant – renting a furnace could end up costing thousands more than buying a furnace outright.

Consider what happens when one homeowner purchases an energy-efficient furnace for $5,000 while another signs a contract to rent the furnace for $175 a month. The renter pays less in the first two years, paying $2100 in year one and $4,200 by year two.

If the homeowner who rented a furnace sells their home (and escapes the contract) in year two, they can come out on top (assuming rental costs don’t increase, which they do on average 3.5% every year.) But if the renter remains in the contract by the middle of year three, the renter and purchaser are even – and at the end of that year, the renter is down by $1200.

By the end of the 10-year contract, the renter has paid more than twice what the purchaser did for the same piece of equipment and still doesn’t own a furnace unless they pay an additional buyout cost. That, combined with interest rates of 18-22% on the term of the contact, make renting a furnace for more expensive than buying one in the long run.

2. Renting is Not the Same as Rent-to-Own

Most of the furnace rental contracts out there are just that – rentals. The homeowner pays a monthly fee to use the equipment in their house, but the furnace remains property of the rental company.

In other words, the monthly rental fee doesn’t go towards paying off the furnace.

At the end of the contract, the homeowner is typically left with three choices:

  1. Renew the lease agreement and reset the clock on the contract;
  2. Pay an additional buyout fee to purchase the furnace; or
  3. Pay a removal fee to get the furnace out of the house.

Considering many people who rent a furnace do so with the intention of saving money, none of these outcomes are favourable. 

3. Renting a Furnace Removes the Choice of Service Provider

One of the perceived benefits of renting a furnace in Ontario is that it often comes with cost certainty as to repairs and maintenance. Ideally, this would mean that if your furnace ever breaks down, the rental company (or another service company they’ve agreed to work with) will be there to help.

But what happens if all their service technicians are fully booked, and they cannot respond for days or their office is closed for the holidays?

Your first instinct might be to fire up a Google Search for another emergency furnace service provider – not realizing that the rental contract prohibits you from using another service company.

If another contractor so much as touches the equipment, it could have consequences. 

4. Renting a Furnace Makes it Harder to Sell Your Home

We mentioned in the example above that a homeowner who sells their home within the first few years of a furnace rental contract could come out on top in terms of costs.

Unfortunately, there’s a catch.

Savvy realtors are increasingly advising their clients against accepting the seller’s furnace rental contract when they purchase a home.

With the housing market cooling off, more and more buyers are insisting that sellers buy out of the rental contract as a condition of the sale. Essentially, renting a furnace decreases the value of your home – or at least makes it harder to sell. It takes what should be a four-figure asset and turns it into a potential liability.

First-time home buyers are especially vulnerable to this trap, since they’re most likely to move within the duration of the rental contract. 

5. Renting a Furnace Can Impact Your Home Equity

Suppose that you have the sudden need to make extensive renovations on your home. Many homeowners in the Greater Toronto Area found themselves in this situation after their homes were damaged by floods in 2017, for example.

One possible recourse in these circumstances is to borrow against your home equity. But what if you discover that your equity is $8,500 more than you thought it was – all because of a furnace rental?

That’s what happened to one homeowner who tried to get a second mortgage after signing a lease with a major furnace company.

Many homeowners don’t realize how renting a furnace can impact their home equity. Rental contracts often register a lien or another form of interest (like a notice or lease of chattel) against the homeowner’s property to protect the company’s interest. It’s a big price to pay for short-term cost certainty.

Why Are Furnace Rentals So Common in Ontario?

In this post, we’ve discussed many of the ways we feel that homeowners end up on the losing end of a furnace rental contract. We also mentioned two of the main reasons why people sign onto these contracts: affordability and peace of mind.

However, there is one other reason why leasing furnaces and other home comfort equipment has become commonplace. Many newly-built homes are sold with these leases from day one.

So, if renting a furnace comes with so many pitfalls, why do so many new home builds come with a lease?

The answer is simple: it allows home builders to reduce the costs of building a home without having to reduce the asking price. Buyers don’t feel like they’re being sold a house without a furnace, and builders don’t have to invest in installing one outright.

These kinds of details are often overlooked in the fever of a housing market boom. Unfortunately, they can also trap buyers in an unfavourable position when it comes to their home’s most important equipment.

Alternatives to Renting a Furnace in Ontario

At AtlasCare, we believe it’s always important to own your own home comfort assets. It adds equity to your home, saves money in the long run, and allows the freedom to choose who services your equipment.

Still, we acknowledge that a furnace is a major purchase, and not everyone can afford to purchase new equipment outright.

That’s why we offer a number of finance options for furnace installation. Unlike rental contracts, financing agreements don’t lock homeowners in to an excessive 12 to 15-year term with an expensive buyout.

We also endorse the SNAP Home Finance program, which provides a line of credit to finance heating, cooling and ventilation equipment upgrades. AtlasCare has worked with SNAP customers for years and found it to be an efficient, consumer-friendly program.

If you’re not sure which route is right for your family, we’re always happy to sit down and help you explore the options. Call us at 647-952-2012 or contact us any time online.

5 Reasons Why Your Water Heater Might Not Be Working As Well As It Used To

No one likes running out of hot water. What’s worse is when your water heater is consistently running out of water or failing to heat it up properly.

There are several reasons why a water heater might not be working as well as it used to. Fortunately, it’s usually something we can fix.

1. New Fixtures or Appliances

Have you replaced your old showerhead with a luxurious high flow rate model? Did you install a new bathtub or a large-capacity dishwasher?

It could be that nothing is wrong with your water heater at all; it simply isn’t big enough to accommodate the change.

Traditional water heaters store hot water in a tank, keeping it warm for when you need it. Once the tank is about two-thirds empty, you will have to wait for it to refill and heat up to get more.

Adding new appliances that consume water increases the hot water demand in your home, draining the tank faster than before. Replacing old faucets or showerheads can have the same result.

There are two main solutions to this problem: reduce your hot water use, or upgrade to a new water heater. Either a larger tank-style water heater or a properly-sized tankless water heater can keep the hot water flowing.

2. Defective Dip Tube

The dip tube refills the water heater tank as you use up hot water. Since the outlet that sends warm water to your taps is near the top of the tank, the dip tube releases its cold water near the bottom.

A defective dip tube could be one reason why your water heater isn’t working as well as it used to. If the tube has a tear near the top, it will release cold water near the warm water outlet and result in lukewarm water that ought to be hot.

Dip tubes don’t malfunction nearly as often now as they did in the 1990’s, but it can happen. Fortunately, replacing the dip tube isn’t too time-consuming.

If you’re not confident replacing a water heater dip tube yourself, call a plumber or an HVAC company that offers water heater repair services in your area.

3. Sediment Build-Up

Water heaters in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area deal with relatively hard water. As a result, the tank develops a layer of mineral sediment on the inside over time, which flakes off and accumulates at the bottom of the tank.

Sediment can reduce energy-efficiency and prevent the water from heating up as well as it should. If your water heater isn’t working as well as it used to, and it has never been flushed, this could be the cause.

Flushing a water heater is a messy job, so we recommend having it serviced by a trustworthy company.

4. Problems with the Heating System

Whether your water heater is gas-powered or electric, various components in the heating system can malfunction.

Problems with the heating element, thermostat, or (in the case of a gas water heater) pilot tube can prevent the water from heating up as much as it should. Unfortunately, these issues are difficult to diagnose as a homeowner.

Have the tank inspected by a qualified HVAC technician if you suspect problems with your water heater’s heating system.

5. Increase in Hot Water Demand

As mentioned, most water heaters store water in a tank. Once the supply is exhausted, you’ll have to wait for the tank to refill. But what does it mean if you keep running out of hot water faster than usual?

Sometimes, this poor performance is rooted in one of the issues we’ve discussed: a defective dip tube, sediment build-up, or problems with the heating systems. Other times, it has more to do with your water usage habits.

Think about how things might have changed in recent months. Are there more people living in the house? Is someone spending more time at home? Are you washing more dishes and clothing?

It could simply be that you’re using more water than usual, and your water heater cannot keep up. If the change is permanent, we recommend upgrading to a tankless water heater or a tank-style heater that holds more water.

Water Heater Installation and Service in Toronto

Water heater not working as well as it used to? AtlasCare can help, whether you’re looking to upgrade or get your old unit back to peak performance.

Call us or fill out our contact form to receive a free quote for our water heater services in Toronto.

Most Important Amenities for Home Buyers in 2018

Home and garden shows might lead you to believe the top priorities for home buyers are things like quartz countertops and herringbone floors. In reality, most buyers in Toronto and beyond aren’t all that fixated on things like décor. A recent survey confirms what we in the home comfort business already knew: the most important amenities for home buyers are things that provide practical, long-lasting benefits.

In 2018, the top five non-negotiable amenities for home buyers were:

  1. Heating and air conditioning
  2. Private outdoor space
  3. Guest bedroom
  4. Walk-in closets
  5. Home orientation (the direction the house faces)

Here’s what this data means for homeowners looking to make upgrades in the next few years.

1. Central Air Conditioning and Heating

We confess that furnaces and air conditioners aren’t as exciting as pools or countertops. However, the survey results are clear: 82% of home buyers consider these amenities mandatory.

In fact, buyers would spend an average of $4,951 more on a home with central heating and air than one without it.

With proper maintenance, furnaces and air conditioners can provide reliable service for over a decade. Potential buyers enjoy not having to worry about replacing a newly-installed HVAC system.

Quality heating and cooling equipment don’t come cheap, but homeowners in Ontario can benefit from rebates on heating and cooling equipment through Save on Energy. Our long-time supplier Lennox also offers lucrative rebates, including this fantastic furnace/AC bundle.

2. Private Patio or Backyard

Space comes at a premium in the GTA. Lot sizes are shrinking, and townhouses are increasingly sold with little to no private backyard space.

Regardless, home buyers aren’t ready to give up on the dream of a big backyard, and more than half of them still consider having their own outdoor space non-negotiable. The survey showed that a private patio or backyard could boost the value of a home by $5902.

Soon-to-be sellers can’t add additional outdoor space where none existed before, but they can take steps to make their backyard as presentable as possible.

3. Guest Bedroom

Guest bedrooms hold all kinds of potential. For some homeowners, it represents extra storage space; to others, it’s the opportunity to share the holidays with the people they care for most.

In any case, a guest bedroom is high on the list of amenities home buyers were looking for in 2018. Almost 42% saw it as a must-have feature.

A comfortable guest room can increase the value of a home in the eyes of these buyers by approximately $4527.

4. Walk-In Closets

Walk-in closets are no longer a luxury; they’re a given. Most newer houses include a walk-in master bedroom closet, and according to the survey, 32.2% of home buyers would walk away from homes without one.

Although walk-in closets are rare in older construction, it’s often possible to add one with a bit of remodelling. The same goes for heritage homes and central air conditioning.

5. Home Orientation

Pop quiz: what direction does your home face?

That question was certainly on the minds of home buyers in 2018.

A home’s orientation affects much more than its view; it also has an impact on energy efficiency. Seasonal sun and wind patterns can increase or decrease heating and cooling costs. Maybe that’s why 31.7% of home buyers paid close attention to the direction a house faces.

Appealing to Home Buyers

Some homeowners hold off on upgrading their furnace and air conditioner if they plan on selling. After all, what’s the point of paying for an upgrade you’ll only enjoy for a few years? But the results of this survey are a strong counterargument.

It’s clear that central heating and air conditioning are among the most important amenities to potential home buyers. Upgrading is more than an investment in your family’s comfort; it’s a big boost to the value of your home in the eyes of a buyer.

If you’re thinking of installing a new furnace or air conditioner in the GTA, the AtlasCare team is happy to help. Call us or send us a message any time.

10 Reasons Why You Should Check the Humidity This Winter

Winter is a strange season. When it’s wet, slushy, and just plain damp outside, you can almost count on your home feeling bone dry. However, alleviating that discomfort is just one reason you should take steps to ensure your dwelling maintains a proper level of humidity in winter (40-60% is ideal).

Here are some of the things that suffer when your home’s air is too dry.

  1. Health

We could write an entire article about how low humidity levels in winter are bad for your health. Here are just a few:

  • Higher rate of bacteria survival
  • Dry and/or inflamed mucus membranes, leading to greater chance of cold or flu
  • Dry skin
  • Nosebleeds
  • Increased chance of allergy symptoms
  • Irritated throat and sinus
  1. Wood

Lack of humidity can cause wood to both shrink and swell. That leaves it more likely to sustain cracks and other damage. Low humidity can also cause wooden floors to warp and separate.

  1. Wallpaper

Too much humidity is bad for wallpaper and so is too little. Insufficient moisture in winter can cause the paste holding the paper to dry out and weaken, leading to peeling.

  1. Electronics

Many people worry about how summer humidity can wreck their TV or computer, but lack of moisture is no good for them either. Dry air is more likely to conduct static electricity and that can lead to costly damage. And who likes getting a static shock?

  1. Paintings

Do you like to display art in your home? Dry air can wreak havoc on even the finest oil paintings by leaving the paint in a state that is brittle and prone to cracks.

  1. Books and Photos

Dry air can also cause these keepsakes to weaken and damage. Paper shouldn’t shrink and expand, as that leaves it brittle.

Low humidity is not as damaging to photos as the opposite end of the scale, but it can still be quite bad. The gelatin emulsion in the image will gradually separate from its support, which keeps the picture stiff. That causes the photo to bend and curl. Although they do not have the same composition, a digital photo printed using a pigment-based ink jet device could still suffer from fading and colour bleeding in low humidity.

  1. Wine

If you are a wine connoisseur, you know the importance of cork integrity. Dry air causes cork breakdown, which creates shrinking and cracking that lets in air and causes wine to spoil. This is particularly disastrous for those who consider their wine collection an investment.

  1. Musical Instruments

Whether you play piano, violin, or guitar, the wood contraction resulting from dry air can throw things out of tune. It can also wreak havoc on any parts of the instrument held together with glue.

  1. Doors and Windows

Here are some more things in your home that you don’t want to warp. When a wooden door or window changes shape due to low humidity, it will no longer fit properly. That makes them tougher to open and close.

  1. Drywall

Noticing cracks and separation in your drywall? Insufficient humidity could well be the culprit.

A humidifier suitable for your living space can make all these issues go away. Talk to one of our home comfort professionals today to learn how AtlasCare can help you have a comfortable and healthy home over the winter months.

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Step-by-Step Guide to Closing Your Air Conditioner for Winter

With the forecast calling for a milder-than-usual fall, it’s likely many of us will leave closing the air conditioner in Toronto until late in the fall. But don’t be fooled — winter is coming. Don’t let it catch you before you’ve had a chance to close the air conditioner for winter.

We’ve written a step-by-step guide to closing your air conditioner for the winter in Ontario. Many of these tasks are things homeowners can do by themselves, but you can always call us if you need a hand.

How to Close the Air Conditioner for Winter

Like any responsible supplier, we’ll never install a central air conditioner in Toronto that can’t handle a Canadian winter. However, there are a few steps you should take to ensure your system will not come on during the winter and has adequate protection from the elements.

To close an air conditioner for the winter:

  1. Turn off the air conditioning at the thermostat.
  2. Shut off power to the air conditioner.
  3. Replace or clean the air filter.
  4. Wash the outdoor condenser unit and clear away any debris.
  5. Inspect the condenser and exterior pipes for signs of wear.
  6. Cover the air conditioner with a properly-fitted cover, if necessary.

1. Turn Off the Air Conditioning at the Thermostat

Locate your thermostat and switch the air conditioning from On or Auto mode to Off.

If you have a smart Wi-Fi thermostat like the ecobee or Lennox iComfort models, you can perform this step using your mobile device!

2. Shut Off Power to the Air Conditioner

Since we’re expecting a milder fall, it’s important that your air conditioner doesn’t switch on during a brief warm spell (or turn on accidentally from someone bumping the thermostat).

Find the power switch near the outdoor condenser unit (it’s often mounted to the wall, hidden beneath a flip lid) and flip it to the Off position. Doing this will prevent the air conditioner from coming on for any reason during the winter.

It also saves energy by reducing your home’s phantom power load.

3. Replace or Clean the Air Filter

Central air conditioners use mechanical air filters to keep dust, pollen, and other indoor air particles out of circulation. These filters play an important role in improving indoor air quality.

Replacing the air conditioner’s filter (or cleaning it, if it is reusable) is something that should be done every three months of use. Since you’re working on your air conditioning system already, we recommend doing it now to save yourself the trouble next summer.

4. Wash the Outdoor Condenser Unit

Air conditioner condensers are built to protect the internal components from dirt, brush, and other outdoor debris. However, some debris always finds a way in, and it’s important not to leave it sitting there all winter long.

Use a garden hose to wash away dirt and leaves. Pick up any sticks that have fallen on or around the unit. Be careful not to bend any of the coils; if your air conditioner needs a deep clean, it may be worth calling a professional to help.

Check off the next item on the list while waiting for the air conditioner to dry completely.

5. Inspect the Condenser and Exterior Pipes

Do you spot any cracks, rust, leakage, or other damage? If so, you’ll want to take care of it before winter comes. Otherwise, the harsh weather will make those problems much worse come spring.

6. Cover the Air Conditioner with a Properly-Fitted Cover (if Necessary)

Should you cover your air conditioner for the winter? That’s a hotly-debated question. Some air conditioner installers swear by it, while others say that covering an air conditioner does more harm than good. What’s the truth?

On the one hand, a cover will protect the air conditioner from falling ice or branches during a harsh winter storm. However, an improperly-fitted cover can trap moisture and result in damage to the unit’s wiring and circuitry. Covers can also attract pests seeking shelter from the cold.

In general, it’s best only to use a cover designed by the air conditioner’s manufacturer to fit that specific model of air conditioner. Many homeowners go years without using a cover and report no issues. It’s an optional step here in Ontario.

Is Your Air Conditioner Ready for Winter?

As always, our team is happy to answer any questions you may have about air conditioner maintenance and service. Give us a call or send us a message if you’d like to inquire about your central air conditioner in Toronto or the Greater Toronto Area.