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Air Conditioning & COVID-19 – April 27th Update

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We recently received some calls from customers about a news item circulating in some media outlets online suggesting that air conditioning can cause COVID-19 to spread between people. As we all know, COVID-19 is spread mostly by human to human contact. Secondly, it can be obtained from surfaces where droplets land which is why we should not touch our faces. I read the research paper about the one case being cited in Wuhan. A team of Chinese engineers identified that both the supply and return vents for the central AC system in a restaurant were right above the table of some infected patrons and may have contributed to people at the next table becoming infected. In this case, the researchers were unable to come to a conclusion about the impact of the central air conditioner. However, they recommended that improved ventilation with fresh air could have made a difference.

People using their home air conditioning are not at risk of infection, especially if they are remaining at home, having no contact with the rest of the population. The key as always is not the temperature of the air but rather the quality of the air. Generally speaking, the poor quality of indoor air can help in the spread of all diseases and other pollutants. One key factor is humidity. COVID-19 lives longer in a dry environment. It is important to ensure that you maintain a humidity level in your home at all times in the range of 40%-60%.

We have been seeing strong interest in other solutions to improve the quality of the air in homes. The first is mechanical ventilation. The installation of an ERV/HRV air exchanger is now in the building code for new homes. We recommend an ERV because it does a better job of managing humidity in our climate. Every home, not just new ones, should enjoy the benefit of continuous fresh air.

The second item is an ultraviolet light. There is no proof yet that a UV light will kill the COVID-19 coronavirus. However, these lights have been proven to kill other viruses. Installation by a knowledgeable professional is important as UV light can damage certain plastics if the light shines directly on them.

Lastly is improved filtration. Filters can’t filter out virus particles on their own but can filter out other particles that the virus might attach itself to. A hospital grade HEPA filter is a good option as is the Lennox Pure Air filter.

There is no silver bullet here. I have always taken the approach in life and in business to minimize risks wherever I find them. For the past 20 years, every home I have lived in has had the 4 solutions above, namely, steam humidifier, ERV, UV light and HEPA filter. These are proven solutions and working together give me the best quality air with the least amount of contamination at all times.

Is it time you to upgrade the quality of air in your home? In the meantime, stay healthy and safe.

Roger Grochmal, P.Eng.

Life Member ASHRAE


Spring has Sprung! – COVID-19 April 20th Update

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We have had several customers raise the issue of whether what AtlasCare does is an “Essential Service”. This is a valid concern, but I want to put it to rest. The Premier’s Office laid out a list of essential services and had this specifically to say about what we do:

“Businesses that provide support and maintenance services, including urgent repair, to maintain the safety, security, sanitation and essential operation of institutional, commercial industrial and residential properties and buildings, including, property management services, plumbers, electricians, custodial/janitorial workers, cleaning services, security services, fire safety and sprinkler systems, building systems maintenance and repair technicians and engineers, mechanics, (e.g. HVAC, escalator and elevator technicians), and other service providers who provide similar services.”

Last week AtlasCare began moving into full swing with spring maintenance services. As expected, we identified many common problems that we were able to rectify that could have led to emergency service calls down the road. In some cases, we identified furnaces and air conditioners that were of an age and condition where replacement was more appropriate than a costly repair. We also found a number of plugged dryer vents that needed to be cleaned out. Plumbing and drain issues continue to lead the list due to the ongoing hygiene precautions we have all adopted and the extended time we are all spending in our homes. We would like to offer a complementary plumbing or drain inspection for our loyal customers who think they may have a potential issue developing in their home.

We have had some great feedback from our customers over the past week. One customer wrote: “On my Spring Maintenance Service of April 14th, 2020, Sean, the service technician was sent as per Nimo to do the Spring tuneup on the A/C and followed the guidelines set forward by AtlasCare. And in conversation with Sean, one of the main reasons he is with AtlasCare is his manager Nimo. Thank you to Nimo for his caring of his staff and customers in this very trying time.”

Our spring schedule is starting to fill up and we are now booking into June for our maintenance visits. Don’t hesitate to call to schedule yours. Remember that these are placeholders and can be rescheduled if need be. If you have any health concerns and would require an earlier service, please call and we will do our best to accommodate you. In the meantime, stay healthy and safe.

Roger Grochmal, P.Eng.




Improve Your Home’s Air Quality

For 88 years, AtlasCare has cared about the health of our customers’ homes, but it has never been more important than it is now. With quarantine and social distancing in place due to COVID-19, our homes are where we spend most of our time. Staying indoors can, without a doubt, affect our quality of life in many ways. Our home’s air quality plays a huge part in our physical and mental wellbeing, as well as how we experience our home on a day to day basis. Here are a few ways you can improve your air quality and ensure you have the cleanest air in your home.

HEPA Filter

With the season changing, the High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Filter might be your best bet. A HEPA Filter is designed to eliminate very fine particles and is crucial in limiting the spread of airborne bacterial and viral organisms which could lead to infection. Because it is a mechanical filter that doesn’t use negative ions or ozone gas, there is also little risk of developing any side-effects like allergies or long-term respiratory illnesses such as asthma. However, it does not filter out gasses and odour molecules.

UV-C light

When you think of UltraViolet light, the first thought that might come to mind is skin cancer and harmful radiation. However, the effects of UV light vary according to wavelength. UV rays from the sun are composed of a combination of UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C rays which clean our environment naturally. The UV light with the shortest wavelength, which is therefore the most powerful, is UV-C. It can destroy microorganisms by scrambling their DNA. This makes it a very effective form of air purification, sterilization, and disinfection. UV lights are chemical-free and can kill and sterilize mold and bacteria that may be growing in your HVAC unit, which can be highly beneficial for people who are allergic to chemicals and dust.

Lennox PureAir System

Small air cleaners may be great for targeting specific rooms in your home, especially dusty ones, but they don’t address pollutants that are circulating through your entire home. The Lennox PureAir System is a filter that offers a solution to this. This system is designed to improve air quality throughout the whole house. Unlike most air purifying systems, the Lennox PureAir System cleans 3 types of air pollutants:

  • Airborne particles: pollen, dust, pet hair
  • Germs and bacteria
  • Chemical odours and vapours

This system also does not generate any ozone which eliminates the chances of lung irritation. Because of its carbon filtration, it also helps to reduce ozone generated by other sources that may be found in your home.

With COVID-19 still in action, taking precautions for your health is the best and safest way of keeping you and your loved ones protected. At AtlasCare, we care about our customers. If you’re unsure which filter you need for your home, give us a call. Our team of experts is always there when you need us!

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Air Conditioning Season will be here Soon – COVID-19 April 13th Update

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AtlasCare was founded in 1932 during the depths of the Great Depression. It was not the best of times to start a business, but I suspect Harry Bach found himself out of work and decided to create his own job. Fast forward 88 years and we now find ourselves in the throes of another great upheaval in human history. AtlasCare was born in turbulent times and we are here for you as an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

We have now begun our transition from the heating part of our seasonal cycle to air conditioning. This is going to take on greater importance than in the past, not only because we are all going to be confined to our homes, but also because there are no alternatives. If your air conditioner breaks down, you can’t go to the theatre, shopping mall, hotel, relative’s home or take a walk in the park. We are all staying home for the greater good.

We have started performing essential maintenance services and I would like to review our key procedures:

  • We just received a supply of surgical masks and our staff now have them for added protection.
  • Please make a sink available for our technicians to wash their hands. They carry soap and towels to follow the recommended Health Canada procedures for handwashing.
  • Please ensure that you maintain 6’ – 10’ of physical distance at all times from our technician both inside and outside the home.
  • We need to make adjustments to your thermostat during the tune-up process. Let our technician know if you would prefer to adjust the thermostat yourself.
  • Upon completion, our technician will provide findings and make recommendations verbally from a safe distance or phone you from his/her truck to discuss.

Thank you to everyone in advance for helping us keep the AtlasCare community safe and healthy.

We are also starting to understand how being confined to home has affected mechanical systems.

  • As I mentioned in my last update, we are starting to get calls for backed-up drains due to wipes being flushed down the toilet. We even had one drain back up from cigarette butts. Nothing should go into a toilet but toilet paper.
  • A sewer back up can be prevented with a backflow preventer installed in the floor drain in your basement. This is now part of the building code and many municipalities have subsidies available to put one into an existing home. Again, like AC, if your sewer backs up, you have no place to go.
  • People seem to be doing more laundry and dryer vents are getting plugged. If your clothes don’t seem to be drying as well as they used to, you may have a plugged dryer vent. Call us to clean it out for you.

We have also seen our first round of price increases come through from our suppliers. At this stage, it is being driven by the reduced buying power of the Canadian dollar vs the American dollar. However, we do expect supply chain shortages to have an impact as well over time. We will continue to keep you updated. Stay healthy.

Roger Grochmal, P.Eng.