What It Means If Your Air Conditioner Still Uses R-22 Refrigerant

Pop quiz: what type of refrigerant does your air conditioner use?

Don’t worry too much if you don’t know the answer! Most people are in the same boat. After all, air conditioners are a closed system, with the refrigerant totally out of sight and out of mind.

Still, it pays to know what’s going on inside your A/C, especially since one popular type of refrigerant is about to be phased out!

We’ve put together a quick primer on what you should know the upcoming phase-out of R-22 Freon or refrigerant. Read on to learn about:

  • What is R-22 refrigerant/Freon-22
  • Why R-22 refrigerant is being phased out in 2020
  • How to tell what kind of refrigerant your air conditioner uses
  • What you should do if your air conditioner uses R-22
  • Replacing R-22 with a better alternative

What Exactly is R-22 Refrigerant of Freon-22?

Refrigerant is a substance that absorbs, transports and releases heat as it moves from a gas to a liquid/vapour state. It circulates through a system of tubes to extract heat from the air inside your home and then release it outside, creating the cooling effect that gets us through the summer.

For decades, the standard substance used as refrigerant in residential air conditioners was R-22. Officially called chlorodifluoromethane, R-22 has been sold under numerous names that include:

  • HCFC-22
  • R-22
  • Genetron 22
  • Freon 22
  • Arcton 4
  • Arcton 22
  • UN 1018
  • Difluorochloromethane
  • Fluorocarbon-22
  • Refrigerant 22

Starting January 1, 2020, it will no longer be legal to import or produce R-22 in Canada or the United States. The only remaining source of R-22 will be that which is recycled, reclaimed or recovered from existing units.

In other words, R-22 refrigerant is being phased out of use.

Why is R-22 Refrigerant Being Phased Out in 2020?

It’s not by chance that R-22 is about to be in short supply.

You might’ve heard warnings about the dangers of releasing Freon into the atmosphere. That’s because R-22 interacts with the sun’s UV rays and produces chlorine, which is known to contribute to depletion of our ozone layer.

Back in 1987, Canada and the United States both signed an agreement called the Montreal Protocol. This included a commitment to phase out ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) called hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), including R-22.

The plan to phase out R-22 has been well underway for years, but 2020 marks the first year that no new supplies will be brought into Canada or the U.S.

How Do I Know If My Air Conditioner Uses R-22?

You can probably tell which type of refrigerant your air conditioner uses based on its installation date.

The two main types of refrigerant used in air conditioners today are R-22 and R-410A. Most central air conditioners manufactured and installed before 2010 use R-22 refrigerant, as was the standard at the time. Units installed after 2010 are more likely to use R-410A.

You can tell when your A/C was installed based on the owner’s manual. Here in Ontario, it’s standard practice for the installer to write down the date of installation in that manual.

Should I Be Worried If My Air Conditioner Uses R-22?

No need to panic! Your air conditioner isn’t dangerous, and it certainly isn’t illegal.

However, there’s a good chance it will become more expensive to repair.

Starting in 2020, R-22 refrigerant is going to be in increasingly short supply. So, if your A/C develops a leak and needs a refrigerant “refill”, it will be far costlier to you than it ever was in the past.

In fact, the cost of R-22 has already gone up in anticipation of this change!

Can I Convert My Air Conditioner from R-22 to R-410A?

You can have your R-22 air conditioner converted to use R-410A, but it’s not as simple as it sounds.

It’s not only a matter of removing the old refrigerant and adding the new. Your air conditioner will require a whole new line set and a new evaporator coil. You will also need to have the old components disposed of in a safe, professional manner.

Considering most R-22 air conditioners are at least 9 years old, it’s unlikely that these retrofits are worth your money. A newer model air conditioner that’s built to use R-410A from the ground up will last longer and consume far less energy month-to-month. From a cost perspective, installing a new air conditioner is the far better choice in the long run.

Still have questions about the R-22 refrigerant phase-out? Feel free to call us or contact us online. We’re here to help you 24/7.

Why You Should Never Let Your Water Softener Run Out of Salt

Don’t you hate it when glassware comes out of the dishwasher covered with streaky stains?

Or your laundry comes out of the washing machine all stiff and scratchy?

You might have tried switching detergents, which can help alleviate the problem but not eliminate it. Some who have struggled with these frustrations will go as far as replacing the appliance entirely…which, unfortunately, won’t make much of a difference.

The truth is, it’s not your detergent or machine that’s responsible for stiff laundry and streaky glassware ‒ it’s your tap water.

Though it might appear crystal-clear, your tap water contains numerous minerals, including calcium and magnesium. 

When the concentration of these minerals is high, it can have a major impact on your home’s plumbing and appliances ‒ including the laundry and dishwasher troubles we just discussed.

As licensed and certified plumbers, we feel that anyone who is having problems with hard water should consider installing a water softener. Water softeners reduce the amount of hard minerals in your water without adding chlorine or other harsh chemicals. Our plumbing technicians install and service water softeners throughout the Greater Toronto Area.

Read on to learn more about how a water softener can help make it easier to clean your clothing, linens, dishes, and even your hair ‒ and the important effect on your plumbing pipes.

How a Water Softener Works

Most water softener systems have two main parts:

  1. The resin tank or mineral tank, which contains small, plastic beads called water softening resin.
  2. The brine tank, which contains a rock salt and water used to “clean out” the resin tank every few days. 

Most water softeners have these tanks as two separate units, but some newer, high-efficiency water softener models house both tanks in a single unit.

People often assume that salt is used to ‘neutralize’ or dissolve hard minerals in the water, which isn’t quite true. The actual process is quite fascinating. 

Water softeners use a process called ion exchange

  1. Water enters the resin tank, where it flows over small, plastic beads that are negatively charged with a sodium ion. 
  2. This charge allows the beads to ‘grab’ magnesium and calcium mineral ions, which are attracted to the sodium because they have a positive charge. When a bead grabs hold of a hard mineral, it lets go of its sodium ion. 
  3. The hard minerals stay behind in the resin tank while the softened water flows out to wherever it’s needed: the faucet, showerhead, dishwasher or washing machine!

In other words, a water softener pulls unwanted hard minerals out of the water by trading them for sodium. 

You’ll notice the difference right away. Softened water doesn’t usually taste different than hard water, but it’s far better at dissolving dirt and grime, making it much easier to do the dishes. It leaves laundry cleaner, brighter and softer. You might even find that your skin and hair benefits, since hard water is known to worsen dry skin and hair!

Why You Need to Top Up Your Water Softener Salt

Eventually, the resin beads inside the water softener become saturated with hard minerals and need to be ‘regenerated.’  

This is where the second tank comes in. 

Water from the brine tank flows into the resin tank to trigger a reverse ion exchange ‒ the beads give up their mineral ions and grab a fresh sodium ion. The mineralized water is then drained out of the tank.

Modern water softeners run this ‘regeneration cycle’ automatically every few days… until the brine tank runs out of salt. 

If you forget to top off your water softener, the water softening resin will stay saturated. This brings the ion exchange to a screeching halt and allows hard water minerals into your pipes, fixtures and appliances.

What Hard Water Can Do To Your Plumbing System

We mentioned a few off the problems with hard water up top: streaky glassware, stiff laundry, and a general sense that things just aren’t getting as clean as they should be.

Those are frustrating issues, of course…but they’re really only the beginning when it comes to hard water problems.

The real concern lies in how hard water can affect your plumbing system.

You’ve seen firsthand how minerals create scale build-up on your faucets, tub and showerhead. You know how tough it is to scrub off those deposits once they’ve accumulated.

Without a water softener, the same thing happens on the inside of your plumbing pipes.

Scale build-up is invisible from the outside, but its effects are impossible to ignore. The more minerals build up, the less room there is for water to flow. Your water pressure drops, and your water-using appliances start burning more energy just to do their job. 

As your hydro bills climb and your water pressure plummets, an even worse problem is building behind your walls: the health of your plumbing system. Hard water is one of the biggest culprits for premature failure in water pipes, which can cause thousands of dollars in water damage in no time at all.

How to Tell If You Need a Water Softener

Certain parts of the Greater Toronto Area (particularly Halton Region) are known for having hard water. 

To help put it in perspective, let’s take a quick look at how we define water hardness.

Hard water is caused by higher concentrations of calcium, magnesium and other minerals with a positive charge. The concentration of hardness minerals in water is usually described in grains per gallon (gpg) or milligrams per litre (mg/L). 

The Water Quality Association and NSF International define soft water and hard water as:

  • Soft water: less than 1 gpg or 17.1 mg/L
  • Slightly hard water: 1.0 to 3.5 gpg or 17.1 to 60 mg/L
  • Moderately hard water: 3.5 to 7.0 gpg or 60 to 120 mg/L
  • Hard water: 7.0 to 10.5 gpg or 120 to 180 mg/L
  • Very hard water: greater than 10.5 gpg or 180 mg/L

With that in mind, here is the average water hardness in various parts of Halton Region:

  • Burlington: 8.6 gpg or 123 mg/L (Hard water)
  • Oakville: 8.7 gpg or 124 mg/L (Hard water)
  • Georgetown: 23.6 gpg or 335 mg/L (Very hard water)
  • Acton: 21.9 gpg or 312 mg/L (Very hard water)
  • Milton (areas serviced by well water): 20.8 gpg or 296 mg/L (Very hard water)
  • Milton (areas serviced by lake water) 8.8 gpg or 125 mg/L (Hard water)

Based on WQA and NSF standards, the entire Region of Halton has more-than-moderately hard water, and some parts of the region have very hard water. 

As we covered in a previous article, Oakville, Burlington and parts of Milton get their tap water from Lake Ontario. This is part of the reason why our water isn’t as hard here in Oakville as it is in Georgetown…which is lucky for us, and not great for our neighbours down the road.

Fortunately, there’s a hard water solution that works for all of us: water softeners! 

Water softeners are quick to install, dependable, and incredibly affordable to run. The Novosoft water softeners we install here at AtlasCare run on less than $2 of electricity per year!

Our Novosoft water softeners come with a 7-year system warranty and lifetime pressure tank warranty, with financing options to help you get your system up and running fast. 

For those of you who aren’t in need of a long-term solution, we also rent out water softeners.

To learn more about installing a water softener, you can always call us at (905) 829-1296 or reach out to us online!


Should You Run Your Furnace on ‘Auto’ or ‘On’ this Winter?

Setting the thermostat is always a bit of a balancing act.

On one hand, you want to keep your home cozy and comfortable as possible…but you’re well aware of the cost of heating your home, and you’re not one to spend frivolously!

You might’ve wondered whether it’s better to use the ‘Auto’ or ‘On’ setting on your thermostat. The answer to that question really depends on your personal needs and preferences – but when it comes to furnace efficiency, we do lean towards one more than the other.

Here’s what you should know about running your furnace on ‘Auto’ versus ‘On’ when it comes to comfort, energy-efficiency and the overall health of your home’s heating system.

What Does the ‘On’ Setting Do?

When you’ve selected the ‘On’ setting on your furnace, it means the furnace fan will be running all the time.

Advantages of the ‘On’ Setting

One of the primary benefits of the ‘On’ function is that it will continually cycle air through your HVAC filters, removing more contaminants from the air you breathe. So long as you’re switching out your air filters regularly, running the furnace on ‘On’ can help improve the quality of the air inside your home.

Drawbacks to the ‘On’ Setting

Leaving your furnace running 24/7 isn’t conducive to a lower energy bill! The abundance of air cycling through your furnace also means you may have to replace your air filters more often.

Plus, running your furnace all the time can backfire during the winter. The fan will keep running even when there’s no heat being produced, which at times causes cold air to circulate − a no-go during frigid Toronto winters!

What Does the ‘Auto’ Setting Do?

With the ‘Auto’ setting, your furnace fan runs when it receives a signal from your thermostat. This function is meant to maintain a set temperature, but not run continuously.

Advantages of the ‘Auto’ Setting

The fact is, when don’t leave your furnace running all the time, you waste far less energy and save considerable money as a result. Your air filters will also last longer, offering another form of savings.

Drawbacks to the ‘Auto’ Setting

If you own a high-end furnace, the system should last between 15 to 18 years to get a reasonable return on investment. Even a low-to-medium-end model should give you around 12 good years of use.

Unfortunately, there’s a concern that if you continue to stop and start your system, the wear and tear on your furnace can begin to add up. Starting and stopping any motor causes more wear and tear than leaving it running continuously. This can cause motor failure to occur.

Beyond that, the ‘Auto’ furnace function might cause disjointed air distribution when it initially turns on. Again, we can’t help but bring up the importance of an adequately warmed living space during Canadian winters! Your home is your castle, and the temperature should never reach uncomfortable levels.

There is one more way to mitigate issues with heat distribution throughout your home. An HVAC professional can finetune your furnace while balancing your ducts and vents, which results in even temperatures in all rooms.

‘Auto’ vs. ‘On’: The Final Verdict

While there are pros and cons to the ‘On’ and ‘Auto’ settings on your furnace, we tend to lean towards the ‘Auto’ setting.

Here’s why.

When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, the damage done to your system by turning on and off often is negligible. Any of the problems can be mitigated with seasonal furnace maintenance performed by HVAC professionals, who can also help with any air distribution problems.

Plus, the energy savings are monumental when compared to what you’ll spend if your system runs continuously!

Is An HVAC/Plumbing Service Plan Really Worth Your Money?

Think of the last time you had a service technician in your home. Once they were finished working on your HVAC or plumbing system, the tech probably took some time to suggest a few ways you could prevent future problems. There’s also a good chance they asked if you were interested in a service or maintenance plan ‒ paying a fee in return for a discount on their services or other benefits.

You’re not wrong to view these agreements with some skepticism. Every year, the Ontario consumer services ministry receives a number of written complaints from homeowners about heating, cooling and plumbing maintenance packages.

The truth is, there are so many service companies offering so many different plans in Ontario that it’s practically impossible to generalize them. We’ve seen many service plans that provide a great deal of value…and others that aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

To help provide some clarity on this often-confusing issue, we’ve put together some important facts on maintenance and service plans for your home’s heating, cooling and plumbing systems.

  1. What is a service plan?
  2. What a service plan typically includes
  3. Situations where a service plan can save you money
  4. Questions to ask when you’re considering purchasing a service plan
  5. Other service plan tips

What is a Service Plan?

In simple terms, a home maintenance or service plan is an agreement between you and a service contractor.

You pay a recurring fee to the contractor in return for same-day emergency service or a discount on their services and/or other benefits such as priority service, discounts on repairs, parts and labour, or free annual safety and efficiency inspections.

There are many names for these agreements in Ontario, including service plans, protection plans and maintenance plans.

What’s Included in a Service Plan?

Each company with a service plan offers you something different. No two heating, cooling or plumbing contractors in the GTA have identical plans. This makes it difficult to lay out a concrete list of things that are included in a plumbing, air conditioning or furnace maintenance plan.

Below is a list of things that are typically included in many service plans, but keep in mind that no two plans are totally alike:

  1. Free annual check-up or inspection
    Your annual furnace, air conditioning and plumbing inspection may be covered as part of the plan.
  2. Discount on repair or diagnostic services
    Often a percentage off the total cost, not including the dispatch fee. May be limited to a certain number of repairs per year.
  3. Reduced dispatch fee or no dispatch fee
    Many service companies charge a small dispatch fee on top of the cost of parts and labour. A service plan may lower or eliminate that fee for members.
  4. Discount or credit on parts and equipment
    When it comes time to upgrade your equipment or repipe your plumbing, the plan may provide full or partial coverage of the cost of the equipment.
  5. Priority Service

You could be entitled to a reduced service window (such as a promise to arrive between 8AM and 11AM instead of 8AM and 4PM), first-in-line emergency service or priority service on the busiest days of the year.

7 Times a Service Plan Pays for Itself

Not all service plans are created equal. However, there are definitely times where the benefits of a comprehensive service plan far outweigh the membership cost. In these situations, the plan essentially pays for itself!

1. Fast, No-Hassle Service

Scheduling is often one of the biggest headaches of dealing with a service company. It’s bad enough to have to wait on hold and Press 1 just to talk to a real person, but many contractors will make you wait even longer on the day of the appointment.

If you’ve ever been told that a technician will arrive between 8AM and 4PM…you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. Long service windows mean you have to take hours off work just to wait for the contractor, causing you to lose out on more money on top of the service fee.

Many service plans, including our Protection Plans at AtlasCare, solve that problem by giving you priority service and guaranteed shorter service windows. We offer same-day and next-day appointments to everyone, of course, but members come first.

2. Solutions for Outdated or Complex Systems

Say you bought a house with a temperamental mid-century plumbing system, or a century home with old, radiant heating. You might not be ready to replace them just yet, but unfortunately, these systems tend to require a lot of attention ‒ and the repair bills add up fast.

In this case, a plan that provides coverage for ongoing repairs could pay for itself in no time.

3. Premium Service at a Discount

Consider air duct cleaning, a service that can save you a considerable amount of time and money by helping your equipment operate more efficiently.

At full cost, many people will forego having their ducts cleaned as often as they should, but a plan that offers a discount off the bottom line makes this a far more viable option.

You always have choices when it comes to your heating, cooling and plumbing systems. For many people, a service plan gives you far more options to choose from!

4. Experience and Stability

There are so many benefits to having a go-to service company. A company that knows you, your home and your equipment can deliver far more personalized service. If a customer is pleased with a technician’s work, we always try to send that same technician on the customer’s future calls.

Having a service plan with a reputable, established company guarantees you’ll get personalized treatment. At AtlasCare, for instance, we allow our technicians to do the little things for members at no extra cost. This enhanced level of care saves you in many small ways that adds up over time.

5. No Hard Choices

Your HVAC and plumbing systems aren’t always top of mind. When there are multiple bills to pay and things to fix, things like leaky faucets and air conditioners tend to fall to the bottom of the list. Unfortunately, these kinds of problems tend to get worse (and more expensive to repair) over time.

With a plan that offers discounted or free service, your home’s most important systems won’t fall to the backburner. This can save you from having to bear significant future repair costs.

6. Dependable Emergency Service

One of the biggest advantages of being on a maintenance plan is knowing who you’ll call in a plumbing or HVAC emergency. An emergency situation could include:

When your home is hit with an emergency, you’re under a lot of pressure to find a solution fast. Far too many contractor horror stories begin with a desperate person calling the first company in the phone book or the first one that shows up on Google.

If it’s an emergency, AtlasCare is open 24/7, 365 days a year. Your safety is our highest priority.

7. Never Forget Annual Maintenance

Furnaces, air conditioners and any other piece of home comfort equipment is a major investment. A well-maintained unit should last you well over 10 years. It’s worthwhile to protect this investment by following the manufacturer’s instructions to perform annual maintenance.

Maintenance is important for your plumbing system, too, since it’s an opportunity to spot small problems that could turn ugly if they’re left unchecked.

Plans that offer free or discounted maintenance are a great way to keep up the minimum service requirement on your home’s essential systems.

What to Ask When Purchasing a Service Plan

Remember: not all service plans are worth the cost. It’s important to ask the right questions and shop around before choosing the right service plan for your family.

  1. Is the plan charged in weekly, monthly or annual fees? Are there administrative fees on top of the membership?
  2. Which parts of my home does the plan cover? Are there additional costs for additional coverage? (furnace, boiler, water heater, air conditioner, humidifier, pipes and plumbing fixtures, etc.)
  3. Does free or discounted service include the dispatch fee, parts, and/or labour?
  4. Do offers relating to service and repairs extend to emergency service, weekends or holidays?
  5. What does your company consider to be ‘emergency service’?
  6. Do you offer discounts on parts and equipment purchased and installed through your company?
  7. Will you send the same service technician to my home every time?
  8. Does the plan renew automatically?
  9. What are my options if I’m not happy with the plan?
  10. Do you guarantee your work?

Other Service Plan Tips

Purchasing an HVAC service plan is a financial decision, of course, but also an emotional one. It’s important that the plan gives you peace of mind.

That said, you should never feel pressured to start a service plan. It’s normal for service technicians to offer you a plan during your appointment, but a reputable company will never put you on the spot. You should always do your own research before you decide, especially if it’s your first time working with the company.

At AtlasCare, we offer two types of optional membership plans to suit different needs.

  1. Essential Plus Membership is a basic furnace or air conditioner maintenance plan available for as little as $6.95/month. Members receive one FREE emergency service diagnostic per year and a 15% discount on all repairs.
  2. Optimum Plus Membership includes everything in the Essential Plus plan, plus 100% repair coverage for a furnace or air conditioner, in addition to annual maintenance, for as little as $25.99/month.

We service every brand of home comfort equipment currently on the market including: Lennox, Carrier, Trane, KeepRite, York, Weil McLean, Ruud, Coleman and Bryant among others.

Call us at 647-952-2012 or contact us online to learn more about any AtlasCare or Bosco protection plan.

Is Your Tap Water Safe to Drink? What to Know in the GTA

Clean water is one of the easiest things to take for granted. Without it, there’d be no flushing the toilet, no showering or bathing, no clean dishes or clothes…not to mention no water to drink!

You’re right to ask questions about the quality of your drinking water. We’re fortunate to have access to clean, safe water sources here in the Greater Toronto Area, but there was a Do Not Drink Advisory in Halton Region as recently as 2017. What’s more, a number of older homes in the GTA still use lead pipes, and new changes to the law allow municipalities to bypass certain drinking water regulations.

Here’s what you need to know about your drinking water here in the GTA:

  1. Where your drinking water comes from;
  2. How drinking water can become contaminated; and
  3. How to choose a water filtration system.

What Is the Source of Toronto’s Drinking Water?

Here in the Greater Toronto Area (including most of the Peel and Halton Regions) our tap water comes from Lake Ontario. It is collected through underwater intake pipes located at least 1km away from the shore.

Once it’s removed from the lake, the water goes through a multistage treatment process designed to remove debris, impurities, algae, bacteria and viruses. This process, which takes place at one of many water treatment facilities throughout the GTA, includes filtering the water to remove large debris and and disinfecting it with either chlorine or ozone.

Our water is also treated with the following additives:

  • Chlorine to destroy bacteria, algae and viruses.
  • Fluoride to help prevent tooth decay.
  • Ammonia to ensure that chlorine levels remain consistent as water travels through the distribution system.
  • Phosphoric acid to help create a barrier between residential lead pipes and drinking water.

In Canada, the responsibility to make sure our drinking water is safe is shared between the municipal, provincial and federal governments. However, most of the day-to-day work for this important task is handled at a local level.

Whenever there are concerns about water safety, the municipal government is typically the first to let you know. When Milton had a Do Not Drink Advisory in 2017, for example, it was Halton Region’s Associate Medical Officer of Health who issued the warning and spread the word.

How Can Drinking Water Become Contaminated?

Drinking water can become contaminated in various ways at different parts of the water system:

  1. Source water can become contaminated through human activities, like agricultural or industrial runoff. For example, agricultural pollution was what introduced E.Coli into the water supply in Walkerton in 2002.
  2. Water treatment system can be the origin of contamination or, if water is not processed properly, allow contamination that occurred in the source water. An inquiry into the Walkerton crisis found the town’s water supply managers ultimately responsible for failing to prevent the spread of E.Coli.
  3. Water distribution system, which carries water to homes and other buildings, can also become contaminated. Municipal water main breaks, for example, can introduce contaminants into the supply.
  4. Your home’s plumbing system is the final leg of the drinking water distribution system and it, too, can be a point of contamination. A leaking water line can allow potentially harmful contaminants into your drinking water, and corroded lead pipes can cause lead poisoning.

In Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area, our tap water is continuously tested, monitored and analyzed to flag possible contamination and deal with it quickly. This approach goes a long way to ensure that your family’s water is safe to drink.

However, the city can only go so far when it comes to clean drinking water. Once water enters your plumbing system, it can still become contaminated on the way to your tap – especially if there’s a problem with your water line.

There are also a number of common water problems that aren’t dangerous, but still raise concerns among residents, such as:

  1. Cloudy water
    Can occur after construction has occurred in and around a water main. Construction work can cause rust and sediment to break away from inside the pipe and find its way into your glass.
  2. Chlorine
    Chlorine is added to the drinking water to eliminate bacteria, algae and viruses, but many people are sensitive to the taste and smell.
  3. Fluoride
    Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that is added to water to help prevent tooth decay in children. However, not everyone wants to drink fluoridated water.
  4. Earthy taste or smell
    Our drinking water comes from Lake Ontario. From late summer and early fall, algae growth in the lake can give drinking water an earthy or musty smell.

These are among the most common reasons why many people install water filtration systems in their homes.

How to Choose a Water Filtration System

There are several ways to filter water before it comes out of your tap.

No single water filtration method can filter out all possible contaminants, but there are systems that incorporate two or more methods at once to achieve better results. If you’re only worried about filtering one specific contaminant, you might find that one method is all you need.

The three most popular water filtration systems installed in the Greater Toronto Area are carbon filters, reverse osmosis systems and distillation systems. There are a few other systems available, but these are generally used for specific situations rather than as a whole-house purification solution.

  1. Carbon Water Filtration

Removes: VOCs, radon, pesticides, lead, mercury, chlorine

Carbon water filters can be installed on a tap, under a sink, or on the main water line for whole-house water filtration. They’re actually part of a three-stage filtration process that removes sediment and chlorine in addition to potentially hazardous substances like VOCs, pesticides, lead and mercury.

  1. Reverse Osmosis

Removes: Microorganisms, fibres, metals, minerals, asbestos, nitrates

Reverse osmosis filters water through a fine membrane at high pressure. A reverse osmosis system can be installed on a tap or under the sink. Although it takes longer than carbon filtration, it removes almost every type of contaminant at once. However, it must be noted that reverse osmosis also removes minerals – including ones that are beneficial.

  1. Distillation

Removes: Microorganisms, fibres, metals, minerals, asbestos, nitrates

Distillation is a whole-home water filtration system that vaporizes water to separate it from any contaminants. The purified water passes through a condensation filter and leaves the impurities behind. As with reverse osmosis, distillation will remove beneficial particles as well as harmful ones, so people often choose to have water remineralized after it’s distilled.

To learn more about water filtration system or inquire about installing one in your GTA home, call us at 647-952-2012 or reach out to us online.

How to Stop Your Toilet From Clogging Once and For All

We all know the sinking feeling that comes with a clogged toilet. First, there’s the panic of overflow…then, the frustration of loosening the clog before someone notices.

While we know it’s not the prettiest topic to discuss, it’s important for homeowners to understand that clogged toilets can be much more than an inconvenience.

Here, we’ll run through why toilets clog, how a clogged toilet can damage your home, and how to avoid a clogged toilet and an unnecessary visit from the plumber.

Why Do Toilets Clog in the First Place?

A toilet clog is a backup of water in the toilet or in the drain pipes connected to the toilet. These clogs may be partial, blocking only part of the water’s passage, or they may totally occlude the pipe so that no water can pass.

Some clogs develop gradually, while others may occur all at once, like when you flush too much toilet paper in one go.

There are a number of reasons why toilets may clog, but first among them is that something was flushed down the toilet which the toilet and its drains were not designed to process.

Why Clogged Toilets Can Be a Big Deal

Unfortunately, a clogged toilet is more than just an inconvenience and a call for some hard work with a plunger! It can wreak havoc on your plumbing affect the rest of your home, too.

These “side effects” of a clogged toilet include:

  • Drain damage which can lead to foul odours throughout the home. In some cases, clogs that are large enough to prevent water from reaching certain areas of a pipe may result in the pipe drying out. When a clog prevents the flow of water, the mechanism of removing waste is eliminated, and the stinky, stagnant water behind a nasty clog can lead to unpleasant smells throughout your home.
  • Health hazards to the home’s occupants. Perhaps most serious of all is the health risk associated with airborne irritants which may seep into the home as a result of a clogged toilet.
  • Leaks and flooding. When there’s nowhere for water to go, you might say it gets desperate. Clogged pipes may eventually lead to leaks as the water searches for a way to escape the pipe. These leaks can be devastating as they damage walls, floors, and ceilings or, worse yet, result in back-up and flooding.

What’s Safe to Flush

Now that you know the devastating effects of stubborn toilet clogs, you’re likely wondering how you can prevent your home and its occupants from experiencing this fate.

Luckily, all you need to know is a single rule of thumb: toilets are designed to process three things and three things only. You might call them the “three P’s.” Any guesses?

That’s right—pee, poo, and paper. And when I say paper, of course, I meant toilet paper. Unlike other bathroom paper products, toilet paper is designed to dissolve quickly in water, making it much less hazardous to flush than other materials.

These substances are all perfectly safe to flush (in moderation, of course), and modern, properly functioning toilets and pipes should have no problems processing them.

What You Should Never Flush

Just as there are rules establishing what you can flush, there are rules dictating what you shouldn’t!

Again, it’s pretty simple. Is whatever you want to flush one of the three P’s? If not, don’t flush it!

Unfortunately, flushing is viewed by some people as a convenient way to get rid of waste, and many homeowners flush items that should never, under any circumstances, find their way into the toilet. For example, never flush:

  • Hair
  • Dental floss
  • Hygiene products like liners and tampons
  • Wet wipes (even the ones labelled as “flushable”)
  • Food
  • Medication
  • Band-aids
  • Cotton balls
  • Cat litter

Do any of these things start with “P”? No!

So, the next time you’re tempted to flush that floss because your bathroom trash is full, think again!

But if you’re already stuck with a clogged toilet…don’t panic! You don’t have to deal with it alone. Our licensed, certified plumbers can be at your home in no time. Call us at 647-952-2012 or get in touch online to book your same-day or next-day appointment.


How a Simple Plumbing Check Could Put More Money In Your Pocket

When was the last time you called a plumber?

If you’re anything like most people, it was probably when you needed some plumbing work done in your home. The majority of our plumbing calls come from customers who need a specific repair or upgrade (ideally as soon as possible.)

But isn’t that the only reason to call? Why contact a plumber when you don’t really need to?

Well, there are several reasons. For one, we always enjoy catching up with our neighbours! But there’s also a different type of service call we wish we received a lot more often:

Plumbing system checks.

From time to time, people call and ask for us to inspect their plumbing system ‒ even though there’s nothing obviously wrong with it.

What is a Plumbing System Check?

You might know them as plumbing inspections, tune-ups or diagnostics. We usually call them plumbing system checks. Whatever the name, the purpose of this service is the same: to find out the status of your plumbing system and stay ahead of any necessary repairs.

During a plumbing check, a licensed and certified plumber inspects various parts of your plumbing system, including toilets, sinks, showers, tubs, water pipes and drain pipes. They’ll check that fixtures have good water pressure and are draining properly. The plumber will also ask you questions about how your plumbing system has been functioning.

You’ll have a chance to talk about any specific problems or concerns that have come up since the last time your plumber was there.

Essentially, a plumbing system check is like an annual physical for your pipes and fixtures! It’s a chance to check up on potential problems, get a “big picture” of your plumbing system, and make plans for upgrades or repairs if necessary.

How Getting a Plumbing Check Could Save You Money

You might wonder: why go to all the trouble of having your plumbing system checked when you’re not even sure there’s a problem?

The people who invest in preventative checks don’t do it because they like spending money on their plumbing system. In fact, it’s the opposite.

Here are a few of the ways that a routine plumbing inspection could put more money in your pocket!

1. Find and Fix Leaky Pipes

You would be shocked to learn just how common it is to find water leaks in a home’s plumbing.

Some leaks, like dripping faucets, are obvious. But many go undetected for years because they’re hidden behind walls…even as they waste thousands of dollars in water each year!

How’s that possible? According to the City of Toronto:

  • 1/16’’ diameter hole (slightly larger than the tip of a ballpoint pen) costs $14.12 per day.
  • 1/8″ diameter hole costs $55.37 per day.
  • 3/16″ diameter hole costs $127.07 per day.

That’s an astonishing cost to just let slip by for so long!

Having your plumbing checked annually can help you catch on to those types of leaks far sooner.

2. Avoid Costly Water Damage

Sure, leaky pipes can cost a few hundred dollars to repair. But if that leak grows and the pipe eventually bursts…you could expect to be on the hook for thousands more just to clean up the mess.

It doesn’t take much time for a burst pipe to cause four-figure damage to your home. Water damage can also spur the growth of mould, which can be an even bigger headache to deal with in the aftermath.

It definitely pays to have those leaky pipes diagnosed and repaired as soon as possible.

3. Make Your Pipes Last Longer

Plumbing pipes aren’t made to last forever, especially ones made from outdated materials like polybutylene. But even the best-quality pipes installed by the most skilled master plumber will eventually need to be replaced!

Having them inspected will help you keep your pipes healthy and know when it’s time to have your system repiped.

4. Avoid a Plumbing Emergency

Speaking of repiping…the job is a whole lot smoother when it’s a planned project! Having to conduct emergency repairs on the spot comes with added costs and a much bigger mess.

Other plumbing emergencies, like sewer line collapse and sewage back-up, can also carry a very high price.

You can save yourself from thousands of dollars in damage by detecting potential problems like these before they reach a tipping point. That’s exactly what plumbing system checks are for!

5. Plan for Future Repairs and Renovations

A plumbing check gives you a detailed overview of your pipes, faucets, and other fixtures every year.

With this information, you can easily plan ahead for what needs to be replaced and when ‒ instead of fixing and replacing things as they break.

You can wait until the time is right. No more surprise plumbing expenses!

7 Signs It’s Time for a Plumbing Check

It pays to schedule an annual plumbing check, even when there’s nothing clearly wrong with your plumbing system. But if you’re seeing any of the following signs, you’ll want to book your appointment sooner than later to avoid bigger problems.

  1. Unusually high water bills
    Often a sign of a small leak somewhere in the system.
  2. Foul-smelling drain
    Indicates a partial clog, mould, or bacteria in your drain pipe.
  3. Unexplained sewage smell (occasionally or often)
    Could be a problem with your traps or drain ventilation that’s causing sewer gas to come into your home.
  4. Slow-draining tub, sink or toilet
    One of the most common signs of a clogged drain. Multiple slow-draining fixtures could indicate a more serious sewer line problem.
  5. Low water pressure
    Leaking faucets, mineral build-up, or a damaged shut-off valve are all possible causes.
  6. Discoloured or off-smelling water
    May be caused by rust, sulphur or other metals inside your pipes, or a problem with your water heater.
  7. Noisy/banging pipes
    Some of your pipes may not be properly secured.

Ready to book your annual plumbing check? AtlasCare will send a licensed, certified plumber to inspect your home in the Greater Toronto Area today. Call us or contact us online to schedule a same-day or next-day appointment!

5 Simple Things You Can Do Now to Keep Your Home Cozier This Winter

Once the calendar flips from October to November, life starts to get busy ‒ fast. There’ll be presents to wrap, gatherings to attend, dinners to make…in fact, things probably won’t slow back down until next year!

Needless to say, furnace trouble is the last thing you want to be dealing with over the busy holidays. Unfortunately, that’s exactly when trouble tends to call! You’d hate to be scrambling to stay warm, and keep your pipes from freezing on top of everything else.

The good news is that most common winter HVAC issues are preventable! All it takes are a few simple, proactive steps to get your home ready for winter. With a bit of help, you can get these jobs done and keep your home cozy in no time!

1. Check Your Furnace

First thing’s first: head down to the basement and give your furnace a good, old-fashioned inspection! Here are a few things you can safely do on your own before your annual furnace tune-up.

  • Tidy up around the furnace. It’s generally recommended to leave at least 3 feet of clearance around the unit, so put away any boxes or other odds and ends that were stored there over the summer. This will also make it easier for your HVAC technician inspect and service the furnace later!
  • Make sure your humidifier is set up for winter. Turn the water on for the humidifer and open the bypass damper if there is one. The damper is labelled either summer/winter or open/close.
  • Pay attention to sounds and smells. You know how your car sounds when something is wrong? Your furnace can also give audible warning signs. Be on alert for odd smells as well, especially the telltale “rotten egg” odour of gas.

2. Replace the Furnace Filter

Furnace filters remove particulates like dust, pollen and fibres from the air moving through your heating system. A dirty air filter restricts airflow and forces the furnace to work harder, thus consuming more energy and putting more strain on the unit.

  • Replace the filter now! Your furnace’s 1” filter should be replaced at least every 3 months during the heating season. Starting off with a clean filter means you won’t have to remember to replace it again until next year.
  • Consider an upgrade for cleaner air. The Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value or MERV rating tells you how well a filter removes various particulates from the air. Filters with a MERV rating of 9 to 12 will capture 95% of airborne pollutants like bacteria, dust and smoke. Just be sure your furnace is equipped to handle a filter with a higher MERV rating! These quite often require alterations to your existing ductwork.

3. Clean Your Air Vents

Any dust, lint or other “fuzz” that has accumulated on the vent over the summer will reduce the flow of air.

  • Check and clean the supply and return air vents around your home. Don’t forget spare bedrooms and bathrooms.
  • Make sure there’s space for air to flow. This is also a good time to make sure that none of these vents are blocked by furniture, area rugs or other objects.
  • Consider having your ducts cleaned. If you want to keep your ducts as tidy as possible, we generally recommend having a professional duct cleaning about every 3 years. You should have your ducts cleaned sooner if you notice excessive dust, restricted airflow, mould, odours or other signs that something’s wrong.

4. Test Your Thermostat

Your heating system can’t do its job if your thermostat isn’t working correctly! Many problems you’d assume are caused by your furnace actually originate with your thermostat. You might not have thought much about it over the summer, but now is definitely a good time to make sure your thermostat is doing its job.

  • Try adjusting the temperature a few degrees above or below room temperature and see how long it takes to adjust.
  • Check your thermostat’s programming throughout the day on a less busy day. Is it adjusting the temperature on schedule?
  • Consider a thermostat upgrade. If you find all these adjustments to be a hassle, you’re not alone. Smart thermostats make this all much

5. Watch the Humidity

Dry air is one of the most common discomforts in the home during winter. If your home doesn’t have a whole-house humidifier, you might start to notice a few of these signs!

  • Count the number of static shocks you get. Since dry air acts as an insulator, static electricity can easily build up to a nasty shock in the winter. If you’re noticing it more than usual, your humidity is definitely on the low side.
  • Notice chapped lips, cracked knuckles, and itchy, flaking skin. This prevalent winter problem is in part due to the dry air outside and the low-humidity, heated air indoors. Adding a humidifier to your home can help.
  • Look for moisture on the inside of your windows. This could be a sign of the opposite problem: poor ventilation causing excess humidity to build up in your home. Call a home comfort specialist before the problem leads to mould.

Get Ahead of Winter

There’s still time to get the job done and make sure your home is protected! Call us at 647-952-2012 or contact us online to book your seasonal furnace tune-up in the Greater Toronto Area today.

Why a Frost-Free Hose Bib Is a Must-Have for Canadian Homes

As the weather starts to change and the temperature drops, you’ve probably already started preparing for the long winter season.

You know there’s a lot to do around the home this season, but one area you might overlook is your hose bib ‒ or, as many people call it, your outdoor faucet.

During the summer, you might use your hose bib to water the garden, wash your car, or even hook up the sprinkler for your kids. When the warm season comes to a close, you pack away the hose, shut off the valve and move onto something else.

But what about the water that’s still sitting in the pipe?

Even if you purge the line, you could still end up with costly water damage if you don’t have a frost-free hose bib.

Let’s take a look at how a frost-free hose bib can help you avoid a burst pipe this winter! Read on to learn:

  1. What a hose bib is, and what it does
  2. How a hose bib is connected to the rest of your plumbing system
  3. Purpose of a ‘frost-free’ hose bib
  4. What can happen if your hose bib freezes
  5. How to prevent your hose bib from freezing this winter

What Is a Regular Hose Bib, and What Is It For?

The hose bib is the small faucet on the exterior of your house. It’s essentially an outdoor tap that allows you to run water from the inside of your house to the outside. You use this tap to attach your garden hose for many different jobs.

A hose bib is also called a:

  • Exterior faucet
  • Spigot
  • Sill cock
  • Hose faucet
  • Outdoor tap
  • Hose valve
  • …and many other things!

A regular hose bib typically features a ½, or ¾ inch threaded pipe that lets you screw on a garden hose, and a handle on the top to open the valve on and off.

Inside your home, there is usually a shut-off valve that lets you stop the flow of water leading from the valve to the end of the pipe.

How Does a Hose-Bib Work with the Rest of Your Plumbing System?

Your hose bib is connected to the entire plumbing system in your home, which is what allows you to get water to the exterior of the house. The pipes lead from the end of the hose bib to the main supply in your home.

As mentioned, many homes, especially in the north, have a separate valve inside the house to help prevent the pipes from freezing. But one issue many homeowners run into is that the valve is still too close to the exterior of the home.

When the valve isn’t far enough away from the hose bib, the water is still sitting dangerously close to the freezing zone.

A frost-free hose bib prevents that issue from occurring.

What Is a Frost-Free Hose Bib?

From the outside of your home, a frost-free hose bib looks the same as a traditional one. The difference between the two happens inside the house.

The pipe on a frost-free hose bib is longer than a regular one, and the shut-off valve is further inside the house where the temperature is warmer.

We always recommend having a licensed, certified plumber install your frost-free hose bib, since they can ensure that it sits at the proper angle to keep water from draining to your home’s foundation.

What Happens If Your Hose Bib Freezes?

If your hose bib freezes, it could lead to cracked pipes and water damage. When the pipes break, the damage could spread beyond the valve, which would cause the main flow of water to spray inside your home. Since these pipes often lie near essential components of the house, such as breakers, electrical wiring, and appliances, we consider this a plumbing emergency.

How to Prevent Your Hose Bib from Freezing in the Winter

The best way to prevent your hose bib from freezing this winter is to install a frost-free hose bib.

We understand how important your home is to you and how much time you spend taking care of it, so the last thing you should have to worry about this winter is water damage!

The team at AtlasCare is happy to help you protect your home this winter. Call us or contact us online to learn more about having a frost-free hose bib installed in your Greater Toronto Area home.