What Happens When Your Furnace is Red Tagged in Ontario

It’s even worse than you thought.

You knew this could end in a big repair bill – it’s never a good sign when your furnace starts failing in the middle of January. You were even prepared to go without heat for a day while the service tech made the repairs.

But you never expected they would shut off your gas entirely.

Now, not only are you worried about the cost of fixing your furnace, you’re wondering how you’ll prevent your pipes from freezing and keep your family comfortable in the meantime

Here are the facts on red tags in Ontario: what they are, why they’re issued, the process for red tag removal, and how to get second opinion on a red-tagged appliance.

What is a ‘Red Tag’? What Does it Mean?

Here in Ontario, the use of gaseous fuels like natural gas is subject to rules in the Technical Standards and Safety Act and its Regulations. Certified licensed gas technicians, like those that work for service companies like AtlasCare, are required by law to follow these standards.

In some circumstances, this regulation will require a gasfitter to fill out a red tag.

So, what exactly is a red tag?

Warning tags, more commonly known as red tags, indicate that:

  1. A gas-powered appliance is in “unacceptable condition”; and
  2. The person responsible for that appliance (be it the owner, property manager or another occupant) must take action to fix the conditions.

Depending on the seriousness of the problem, the technician may also be required by law to shut off the supply of gas to the appliance. And it’s not only furnaces that can be red-tagged – any gas-powered appliance, including boilers, water heaters and gas dryer units, can also be the target of a warning tag.

Why Was My Appliance Red-Tagged?

Licensed certified gas technicians are required by law to red-tag an appliance they find in “unacceptable condition.” They have the discretion to determine whether a furnace (or another appliance) should be red tagged, and if so, which type of tag it should be (more on this in the next section).

What counts as “unacceptable condition”? If your furnace or water heater has been red-tagged, it could be because:

  1. It has been damaged or has deteriorated in a way that impairs its safe operation.
  2. There is an issue with the condition of its piping, tubing or hoses.
  3. It is being used for a purpose other than that which it was approved.
  4. It has been altered in a way that impairs its safe operation.

In the case of residential heating appliances, option A or B are the most likely issues – chances are, you haven’t altered your equipment or used it for some unusual purpose. In any case, you won’t have to guess, because the tag will state the reason why your appliance has been red tagged (and a good technician should have taken time to explain the issue.)

With furnaces, a cracked heat exchanger one of the most common reasons for red-tagging. The heat exchanger transfers heat energy to the circulating air while safely containing the by-products of combustion; when it’s cracked, there is a chance those by-products (like carbon monoxide) could leak.

What happens next depends on which type of red tag you have received.

Types of Red Tags: Unacceptable Condition vs. Immediate Hazard

Different gas companies’ red tags work the same way. They’re all based on the standards set out in the regulation, so an Enbridge red tag means the same thing as a red tag from Union Gas or another distributor.

What matters more is the category of tag you get.

There are possible types or ‘levels’ of red tags a technician can dispense: Category “A” (immediate) or Category “B” (30-day). The choice will determine whether the appliance can stay on while it is being repaired.

Immediate Red Tag/Warning Tag Category “A”:

  • Means the licensed technician has found that the appliance’s condition poses an immediate hazard.
  • Requires the technician to shut off the supply of gas to the appliance immediately.
  • Bars the appliance from being used again until the unsafe conditions have been fixed and proof has been received by the gas company.

30-Day Red Tag Warning Tag Category “B”:

  • Means the licensed technician has found the appliance in condition unacceptable but does not believe it poses an immediate hazard.
  • Includes an expiry date (30 days from the day of the tag) that sets the deadline for when the appliance must be fixed.
  • Requires the gas company to shut off gas to the appliance if they do not receive proof that the appliance has been fixed by the 30-day deadline.

In other words, red tag Category A means the licensed technician shuts off your gas before they leave; red tag Category B gives you an opportunity to have the appliance fixed before that happens.

What Are My Options for Red Tag Removal?

When a licensed gas technician deems your furnace unsafe to the point of “unacceptable condition”, they are required by law to slap on a red tag.

But that doesn’t mean your furnace is done for.

The process for red tag removal in Ontario is as follows.

1. Call a Technician

Have a licensed certified gas technician inspect the appliance and make repairs as needed. It does not need to be the same technician or service company that issued the red tag.

2. Have the Appliance Inspected

Ask the licensed technician to inspect the appliance for the faults identified in the red tag.

The tech can either agree with the red tag designation (and recommend a course of action) or determine that the appliance is already safe. If the appliance is safe to use, the licensed technician can complete the “clearance” portion of the red tag and re-activate the appliance.

3. Send the Clearance Portion of the Red Tag to the Gas Company

Once it is completed, make sure the gas company receives the red tag clearance before the deadline. A reputable service company will take care of this step for you.

You may have heard of service companies offering “second opinions” for red tags in Ontario. These services involve the same red tag removal process outlined above. A certified gas technician visits the home, inspects the appliance, and determines whether it is unsafe. If everything’s fine, the tech fills out the clearance and re-activates the appliance.

Should I Get a Red Tag Second Opinion?

In Ontario, if a licensed certified gas technician finds an appliance in “unacceptable condition”, they are required by law to give it a red tag. There’s no room for argument.

What can be questioned is the conclusion of “unacceptable condition.” That’s where second opinions come in.

There are many cases where homeowners might rightfully question the technician’s call. Sometimes, the furnace gets red-tagged by one service company only weeks after it was serviced by another. Other times, the technician issued the tag without doing a thorough inspection or a proper combustion analysis.

Having your furnace red-tagged can be devastating. It puts you in the difficult position of weighing the cost of repairing a supposedly-dangerous appliance with the cost of replacing it outright, all while you and your family go without central heat.

If your furnace gets red-tagged, it always pays to have a second opinion from a servicer you trust. In a best-case scenario, the technician can remove the tag on the spot – otherwise, they can at least provide sound advice on whether you should repair or replace.

Remember you have the right to ask a technician for a copy of their license to prove they are certified.

For homeowners in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton, you can call or contact us for a free quote on red tag second opinion services from AtlasCare.

5 Reasons Why You Should Never Buy HVAC Parts and Equipment Online

When it comes to big purchases, how often do you check to see if you can find the item cheaper online?

Nowadays, it’s practically second nature to look up prices on the Internet before we buy. There are dozens of apps and websites dedicated to helping us do just that.

In many ways, the Internet has been a boon to consumers. It increases transparency on pricing and provides a wealth of information to help us make well-informed choices about how we spend our hard-earned cash.

However, this wealth of information can sometimes lead us down the wrong path.

Since the arrival of sites like eBay and Amazon, we occasionally receive calls from homeowners in the Greater Toronto Area who want us to install equipment or parts they have purchased online. Other times, we’ll be asked if we can source parts and equipment more cheaply from third-party reseller websites.

In both cases, the answer is no: AtlasCare will not install consumer-supplied parts equipment, nor use parts and equipment from a seller we don’t know.

Why not?

Below, we’ll explain why we don’t recommend buying HVAC parts and equipment online, and why AtlasCare declines to work with those parts.

1. Finding the Right Part for the Job Isn’t Easy

Suppose a service technician inspects your air conditioner, finds out what’s wrong, and quotes the necessary repairs at $800.00, including $450.00 for the cost of replacement parts.

Later, you search the parts on eBay and find them available for a fraction of that.

Why not buy the parts now, and have another technician install them later?

It seems simple enough, but shopping for HVAC and finding the right part for the job isn’t as simple as searching for it online. Many components look similar but are not compatible with all system makes and models. Parts are easily miscategorized or mislabelled.

2. The Trouble with Warranties

To most of us, a new furnace or air conditioner is a significant financial investment – one intended to last for years and years.

Warranties are vital in protecting that investment.

However, many manufacturers do not honour warranties on parts and equipment purchased directly by the consumer from a non-certified distributor.

There are valid reasons for these kinds of policies: manufacturers don’t want consumers to take on the risks of installing equipment themselves, and the return rate tends to be higher for products purchased online.

In addition to these consumer-sourced parts not being covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, just installing non-warrantied parts can void the warranty of your existing equipment.

When we install parts and equipment, we want to make sure our consumers are protected in the event of a problem. That’s why our equipment comes with an Unconditional Warranty. However, we cannot provide the same assurance with consumer-supplied parts.

3. No Recourse for Defective Parts

One of the benefits of sourcing our parts and equipment from trusted suppliers is the recourse it gives our customers in the event of a manufacturing defect.

To start, our technicians have enough familiarity with our products to notice many defects before the equipment even leaves our warehouse. We can then have the equipment replaced as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, consumers who purchase parts over the internet may not have the same eye for defects.

Worse, consumers who source parts from resellers have little to no recourse if the equipment turns out to be defective.

Even in a best-case scenario (the seller provides a replacement at no cost), the consumer still pays more than twice the normal service cost: once for initial installation, again for removal of the defective equipment, and a final appointment to install the replacement equipment.

4. Cheaper Equipment Can Have Unexpected Costs

If you found a site selling the latest iPhone for a mere $100 – no strings attached – you’d probably raise an eyebrow.

When an expensive item is suddenly available for cheap, there is probably a reason for it.

In the case of HVAC parts and equipment, there are several possibilities:

  • The equipment could have been opened once already, meaning it could be damaged or missing small parts.
  • The equipment could be counterfeit and lacking the minimum quality and safety standards set by the original manufacturer.
  • The equipment may have been salvaged and refurbished for resale.

If you want to guarantee you’re getting reliable, high-quality parts and equipment, a certified distributor is the only way to go.

5. There Are Better Ways to Save

It’s understandable that someone would consider buying their own equipment only and hiring someone to install it. Energy isn’t cheap, and we’d all like to save wherever we can.

However, buying equipment online isn’t the right way to save.

Instead, use that internet browser to search for rebates on heating and cooling equipment in Ontario – including the Save on Energy rebates offered by the IESO and manufacturer rebates through trusted names like Lennox.

Your installation will always go smoother when it involves warrantied, distributor-certified parts and a qualified installer you trust.


What is the Best Time of Year to Get a Furnace Tune-up? (and other important Q&As)

There’s no bad time to get your furnace inspected—ideally though before any cold weather hits. It is good idea to do it AFTER a season of use, since much of the maintenance is based on what the homeowner notices while using it. You’ll have plenty of time to get any repairs done or replace it before the first frost.


Why is it important to have regular furnace tune-ups?

When thinking of home maintenance, having a furnace tune-up may not be top-of-mind. Though much like a car, if you ignore it, a lot more things tend to break down, and repair costs could quickly start to add up. You get an oil change for your car whenever you need it, since you know that it will prolong the life of your car. Furnace maintenance is the same.

I just had a new furnace installed last year. Does it need a tune-up?

Many people think that if they put in a new system, they don’t need regular maintenance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Records of regular maintenance validates your current or extended manufacturer’s warranty and preserves the longevity of your new furnace.

How long does a furnace tune-up take?

Furnace tune-ups generally take about an hour to complete. Taking the time that is necessary to have a scheduled tune-up, even if it is working fine, will save you time, stress, and money in the long run.

What are the benefits of regular furnace tune-ups?

  • Reduce your energy bill by up to 30%
  • Your furnace will last longer
  • Prevent major breakdowns
  • Maintain your warranty
  • Will help keep your family safe and warm

How will a furnace tune-up keep me safe?

Furnaces produce heat through burning fuel, and it is important to ensure that this combustion process is efficient. A problem in the system could potentially cause a gas leak which can be very dangerous. An unchecked furnace also runs the risk of carbon monoxide leaks. Having annual furnace check-ups can detect any of these potential health and safety risks.

What can I expect from a furnace tune-up?

Qualified furnace technicians will run through a diagnostics and safety checklist covering everything from CO emissions, thermostats, fans, leakages, as well as checking and lubricating any moving parts. A full inspection is performed to check all working parts of your furnace and duct system. Any concerns will be addressed at this time.

Is there anything I can do to prolong the life of my furnace?

Along with scheduling regular furnace tune-ups, you can ensure your system is running as it should by:

  1. Replace your 1” furnace filter every 90 days.
  2. Replace your 4” or 5” furnace filter 1-2x per year – depending on household habits.
  3. Checking your thermostat and replacing its battery regularly.
  4. Making sure your air vents are open.

How long can I expect my furnace to last?

Depending on use, with regular maintenance you can expect your furnace to run between 10 to 15 years. One of the main reasons for early replacement is poor maintenance.

If you’re in the market for a furnace tune-up, contact us today for a quote!

What Does ‘Home Comfort’ Actually Mean?

Home comfort is important to your overall happiness and health—both physical and financial. Creating the ideal indoor environment includes several factors: air temperature, humidity and air quality. Read on to learn how these elements work together to optimize your home’s comfort level.


Heating and Cooling

The average homeowner spends a lot of money on household energy, especially to heat and cool our homes. How much you spend depends on where you live, and the length of the heating or cooling season. The forms of energy used to deliver ideal home temperatures also matter.

According to Stats Canada, natural gas is used by almost half of Canadian households, electricity is used by one-third, while wood is used by only 4%. However, wood used in wood stoves or fireplaces are often a secondary source, and more for the cozy ambience they create.

Ideal Temperatures

During the heating season when occupants are home and awake, temperatures should fall in the range between 20 to 22 degrees Celsius. When household members are asleep or away, between 16 to 18 degrees Celsius is recommended. Your home should be somewhat warmer for seniors and infants. Ensuring optimal night-time temperatures will allow you to get a better night’s sleep, as well as save on energy costs.


For energy savings in makes sense to regulate the temperature using a wall thermostat. Most thermostats include settings for daily and weekly programs. The newest generation of thermostats are the “smart thermostats”, that can be easily controlled from anywhere, using your iPhone, smartphone, or tablet.



The level of humidity in the air can affect your home comfort, as well as the proper functioning of your heating or air conditioning unit. If humidity is an issue with your home’s air quality, then you may want to consider a humidifier or dehumidifier. In the winter months, it’s essential to add moisture, while it is more important to have drier air in the summer.

Air Quality

Indoor air quality is important to protect the health of household members. Air pollutants can include mould, fungi, bacteria, house dust mites, pollen, and spores. Air contaminants come in the form of vapours, gases, and particles. You can protect your home’s air quality by taking various measures:

Air Ventilation and Circulation

One of the easiest ways is to use your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. You can do this by setting your system to the “fan only” option. This option will move interior air and pass it through your filter system.

Ceiling Fans

Not only are ceiling fans attractive, they also serve a function by moving air around the room.

Exhaust Fans and Vents

Ventilation is especially important in the kitchen and the bathroom. Exhaust fans draw moist air outward and remove contaminants from the air. Make sure that your stove, dryer, and bathroom exhaust fans vent outside. Your home will also have exhaust vents in the attic which help warm air flow out from the roof.

Duct Cleaning

Having your home’s ductwork professionally cleaned will also protect your health and energy consumption costs. A lot of nasty stuff can collect in your ductwork, such as dust, cobwebs, fungus and even mould. With all this debris piled up, your furnace has to work harder to filter and push clean air throughout your home.

Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Protect yourself and your family by installing at lest one carbon monoxide (CO) detector, and smoke detectors outside each bedroom, and sleeping area, and on each level of your home, including the basement.

Looking to learn more about the importance of home comfort and how we can help you achieve this? Contact us today for a free quote!