How to Protect Your Home From a Sewer Backup Using a Backwater Valve

Sewer backup is one of the last things you ever want to happen to your home. It’s nauseating just to imagine.

But sewer backups do happen…and truth be told, they’re happening more and more frequently in our neck of the woods.

Fortunately, you can greatly reduce the risk of a sanitary sewer backup in your home using a device designed for this exact purpose called a backwater valve.

In fact, backwater valves are so effective in preventing sewer backup that many municipalities and insurance companies will pay you hundreds or thousands of dollars to help cover the cost of installing one.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to protect your home from a sewer backup! Here, we’ll lay out one of the most effective and affordable ways to reduce your risk.

Am I At Risk of a Sewer Backup?

The short answer is this: if your home is connected to a sewer, it is possible for sewage to backup into your home.

The pipe that connects your home to the underground sewer pipes is called the sanitary sewer lateral.  Everything you flush down the toilet or pour down the drain eventually makes its way into that pipe, and from there, into the municipal sewer system.

Ordinarily, the sewer lateral is a one-way street. But when the sewer system receives more water than it can handle, the water can move backwards up the pipe toward your house.

In a worse case scenario, sewage can even come into your home through any of your basement fixtures: the floor drain, toilet, sink, or even your washing machine. Next thing you know, there’s sewage spilling onto your basement floor.

Unfortunately, we’re seeing this happen more often now that urban flooding has become so common. It’s not only urban Toronto that’s affected – just look at how flooding has hit Stratford, Orangeville and other cities on the outskirts of the GTA in recent years.

But the scary thing is, sewer backup can occur even when there hasn’t been any flooding! It can also happen at any time of year if there’s a major sewer blockage downstream.

Sewer backups don’t happen terribly often, but when they do, they can cause significant  property damage. The damage can extend to your:

  • Basement drains and plumbing fixtures
  • Flooring, carpeting and drywall
  • Electronics and belongings stored in the basement
  • Furnace and water heater units
  • Home’s foundation and structure

Even one of these items could cost thousands of dollars to repair or replace, and then there’s the items that are irreplaceable.

What Is a Backwater Valve?

A backwater valve, also known as a check valve or backflow prevention valve, can effectively stop sewage from backing up into your basement. It is a one-way valve that allows wastewater to flow out of your home into the sewer system, but not the other way around.

When sewage comes back up the pipe toward the house, the flow automatically forces the valve shut. It will only reopen when the water level drops back down. This simple mechanism works requires no electricity and minimal maintenance, so it’ll continue to protect you even in a blackout or when you’re away from home.

Some newer houses are sold with a backwater valve already installed, but most are not. Call us if you need help finding the backwater valve in your home.

Installing a Backwater Valve: What You Need to Know

For those of us who live in flood-prone areas, a backwater valve might seem like a perfect solution to a growing problem. However, installing a backwater valve isn’t as simple as replacing a few pipes.

Here are a few things to consider when you’re thinking of having one installed:

  1. When the backwater valve closes, you can’t use your plumbing system as you normally would.
    You’ll have to avoid showering, flushing the toilet, using the washing machine or dishwasher, or putting anything until conditions return to normal. Consider having an alarm installed so you’ll always know when the valve is shut.
  2. You’ll need to apply for a permit before you install one.
    Paperwork and permit fees may apply.
  3. Installing a backwater valve is a big job.
    The installer will have to cut out part of your basement floor to service your sanitary sewer lateral. The valve must be installed just outside of the point where the lateral exits your home. You will also need to account for your home’s weeping tile.
  4. Your backwater valve will require some maintenance.
    Otherwise, it could fail when you need it most. A licensed plumber should check to ensure the valve is sealing properly and free of blockages once a year.

Call us or reach out to us online to find out whether a backwater valve is right for your home.

Backwater Valve Subsidies

With the rise in urban flooding events, many municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area have begun offering subsidies to help homeowners cover the cost of installing a backwater valve.

Need something we haven’t covered here? Call us or send us a message to learn more on the benefits of a backwater valve. We’re happy to help!

AtlasCare Announced Title Sponsor of Golf Fore MS Peel-Dufferin

September might just be our favourite month of the year.

Granted, it marks the bittersweet end of the summer season (and the start of six to eight months of cruel weather.) But it also brings us one of the single most anticipated events on the AtlasCare calendar: the annual Golf Fore MS Classic.

This year’s event takes place on Wednesday, September 25th, 2019, at the Royal Ontario Golf Club. We know many of you have already secured your spot in the tournament – but if not, you can still register as a participant today.

We’re counting down the days and can’t wait to see you there! In the meantime, here’s a bit of background on what makes this event so special to the AtlasCare team.

What Is the Golf Fore MS Classic?

Golf Fore MS is an annual charity golf tournament organized by the Peel-Dufferin Chapter of the MS Society of Canada. The funds raised here go towards supporting two very important causes: researching the cause, cure and treatment of MS, and helping people in our community who are affected by MS.

Each September, Golf Fore MS takes place at the beautiful Royal Ontario Golf Club in Milton, located just off Trafalgar Road. The tournament kicks off at 8 am and continues into the early afternoon, with plenty of food and refreshments to go around.

For those of you who aren’t the best golfers, you still have a chance to win other fun awards, like the Best Dressed Foursome!

This event is one of the Peel Dufferin Chapter’s biggest and most important fundraisers. In 2018, the Peel Dufferin Chapter contributed close to $55,000 towards funding MS research and provided $60,000 worth of support to individuals living with MS!

AtlasCare continues to be a lead organizer, title sponsor and eager participant in the Golf Fore MS tournament.

Why AtlasCare Supports the MS Society

Charity is at the core of our company culture, and MS is a cause that is very close to our hearts.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is classified as an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and optic nerve.) The disease impacts the function of nerve impulses, resulting in a variety of symptoms that have numerous impacts on daily living.

Many people who have MS experience unpredictable remissions and relapses, alternating between manageable periods and difficult ones. You don’t really know when it’ll come knocking at your door. For others, MS is a progressive condition that steadily worsens over time, and it is common for people to gradually transition from one type of MS to another.

Researchers aren’t certain what causes MS, but they do know that Canadians have the highest rate of MS in the world. There are over 77,000 Canadians living with MS today, including people here at home in the GTA.

Multiple Sclerosis has personally affected the Grochmal family twice. Roger Grochmal lost his first wife, Kathy (Michael’s mother) to the disease in 2003, and Michael’s mother-in-law also passed away from MS in 2012.

The MS Society of Canada provides information, support, educational events and other resources for people and families living with MS across Canada. The organization also contributes millions of dollars to research, leading to significant breakthroughs in diagnosis and treatment since 1948.

Our local Peel-Dufferin Chapter provides education sessions and webinars, facilitates self-help groups, and provides quality-of-life grants to individuals. Last year, the Chapter contributed $60,000 to help 80 people in the Peel Dufferin area purchase important equipment like wheelchairs, walkers and lifts.

How You Can Support Golf Fore MS

  1. Turn out and play in the tournament! We promise you’ll have an absolute blast. Flip to page 50 of our Culture Book to see what you’d be missing.
  2. Make even more of an impact leading up to the Golf Fore MS Classic by asking your friends, family and co-workers to support your day on the course!
  3. Can’t make it on the 25th? You can still donate to support other participants. Pick your favourite team and help them race to the top!
  4. Become a Golf Fore MS Sponsor! If you miss the opportunity to sponsor this year’s event, you can always plan to do so next year.
  5. Help spread the word about the event on social media – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or wherever you like to hang out!

We’re grateful for your support and can’t wait to see you on the green!

How Our Business Gives Back to the Community – And You Can, Too

Since our start back in 1932, helping others has been an integral part of AtlasCare’s company culture. Whether it’s raising funds, spreading awareness or donating our time to a local cause, we’re always looking for ways to give something back to this community we call home.

Sometimes, we all get together to contribute as a team – but we also support individuals on our team who give back in their own way.

Here, we’d like to introduce you to a few of the efforts we’ve undertaken and organizations we’ve supported over the years. We hope that these stories can inspire you to do some good, too!


Care to Share Charity Program

Whether you’re a volunteer, a donor or a beneficiary, you can surely name at least one charity that has made a positive difference in your life.

There are literally thousands of charitable organizations doing important work in the Greater Toronto Area. As a local family-owned business, we have seen their impact on our communities first-hand.

Sadly, many of these organizations have urgent needs that are not being met. That’s why we started our Care to Share program.

Care to Share invites anyone in the community to tell us about a worthwhile charity and nominate them for a monetary donation. We revived the program in 2017 to celebrate our 85th anniversary. That December, AtlasCare made three cash donations totalling $8,500 to three worthwhile causes:

  1. Eagle’s Nest Association of Waterdown, which provides compassionate support and numerous services for local families in need.
  2. The Dale Ministries, which supports people experiencing poverty in Toronto’s Parkdale Community by providing free meals, drop-in programs and on-the-ground outreach.
  3. Scientists in School, which brings hands-on science and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workshops to over 660,000 students from Kindergarten to Grade 8 each year.

We had the privilege of meeting representatives from each of these organizations at our offices in Oakville. There, AtlasCare President Michael Grochmal and CEO Roger Grochmal presented each organization with funds in support of their essential services!



Everyone has a unique skill or expertise they can put toward helping a worthy cause. We encourage our staff to get involved in the community hands-on, and we often get together to volunteer together!

Earlier this year, we spent a day at the Compass Food Bank in Mississauga. Our duct cleaning technicians cleaned the facility’s duct system top-to-bottom, while the rest of the team helped to organize and prepare meals. We were thrilled to donate our services so that Compass could have cleaner air and a smoother-running HVAC system. The Compass Food Bank is always looking for more volunteers and donations of food and household essentials, so you should give them a call if you’re in the area!

The AtlasCare team has also been long-time volunteers and supporters of the Oakville-based charity SafetyNet. SafetyNet provides a wide range of services for kids and families, including free bicycles, clothing and household items. They also offer tutoring and music lessons for children who don’t have access to these services otherwise. We love volunteering at the SafetyNet warehouse, and just about anyone who wants to pitch in for a few hours can help with sorting donations! If you happen to musically or academically inclined, you can also make a big impact as a volunteer tutor or music instructor.

Fundraising and Sponsorship

We’re eager participants in a variety of local fundraisers – especially when we can take part as a team! In 2017, Roger and Michael Grochmal participated in Ovarian Cancer Canada’s Walk of Hope to help raise funds towards improving the lives of people living with ovarian cancer.

Our success as an HVAC and home services company has also given us the ability to sponsor organizations in the community. This year, we had the privilege of supporting  Burlington Soccer Club (Go Bayhawks!) as a sponsor. AtlasCare is also the Title Sponsor of the annual Golf Fore MS Classic event – a fundraiser golf tournament in support of our local chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society of Canada.

The funds raised at Golf Fore MS go towards helping to achieve two very important missions: researching the cause and cure of MS while providing services for local people affected by MS. Last year, our local Peel-Dufferin Chapter of the MS Society contributed $55,000 towards MS research and provided close to $60,000 in support to individuals in our community (including purchasing 63 pieces of equipment like wheelchairs and lifts.)

MS is a cause very close to our heart. It has affected the Grochmal family personally, along with many other families in our community. Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world, affecting an estimated 1 in 385 people and over 77,000 Canadians overall.

AtlasCare continues to be a lead organizer, title sponsor and participant in the Golf Fore MS tournament. It’s a wonderful way to honour the memory of our loved ones while raising money to support those who still live with MS.

We hope you’ll join us at the 2019 Golf Fore MS Classic on Wednesday, September 25th! You can learn more about the event or register online right here.


Education and Mentorship

We believe technical excellence comes from a commitment to continuous learning, whether it’s discovering new products or simply a better way to work. We’re also eager to encourage and nurture the next generation of HVAC professionals – which is why AtlasCare proudly supports skills competitions at technical colleges and through Skills Ontario.

AtlasCare has been involved with Skills Canada for many years.  Dick Thomas, our VP of Sales (and part of AtlasCare for over 40 years!) serves as the Skills co-chair for HVAC. He, along with our HR Coordinator Catherine Brelik, also lend their insight to several college advisory boards to help ensure young people learn the skills they need to succeed in our industry.

Dick also invited a group of local Scouts to AtlasCare’s offices to learn about trades in the mechanical fields. During their visit, the scouts got to see the rewards of a career in the trades!

Discover More About Our Culture

We couldn’t possibly fit all of our community engagement into one blog post, but you can learn all about us in the AtlasCare Culture Book! Here, you can see even more photos and stories about the things we do here at AtlasCare. Give it a look, and feel free to contact us if you have any questions about our company.


The Truth About Air Duct Cleaning – What You Should Know

Duct cleaning. Is it the secret to pristine indoor air quality? An instant cure for your allergy symptoms? Or just another way for contractors to take your hard-earned money?

So many companies market products and services that claim to improve the quality of your air. If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, there’s a very good chance you’ve received countless coupons for one of service in particular: air duct cleaning.

Truth be told, the duct cleaning business has cleaned up its act somewhat in recent years. Gone are the days of people hawking bottom-price duct cleaning services door-to-door, and review sites like HomeStars have made it much easier to vet duct cleaning companies.

But you’re not the only person wondering if duct cleaning is really worth your money. There are still widespread misconceptions about the purpose of duct cleaning, how duct cleaning works, and the results you can realistically expect it to achieve for your home.

We are proud of the work we do in the duct cleaning services, but we’re also the first to tell you that not every home needs to have its ducts cleaned! It’s important that you know the facts about duct cleaning before you decide if you need to book an appointment.

Here, you’ll learn:

  • How duct cleaning works
  • How long an average duct cleaning takes
  • How often you actually need to have your ducts cleaned
  • Whether it really gets rid of dust, mold and bacteria
  • The potential health benefits
  • What a duct cleaning should cost

What is Duct Cleaning and How Does it Work?

Duct cleaning refers to the process of cleaning various parts of your forced-air heating and cooling system to remove dust and other particulates. Along with the air ducts themselves, a complete professional duct cleaning also includes cleaning of:

  • Supply and return ducts and registers
  • Grilles and diffusers
  • Heat exchangers
  • Heating and cooling coils
  • Condensate drip pans
  • Fan motor and housing

To do this, the duct cleaning technician first dislodges contaminants from the surfaces of the HVAC system using brushes, air nozzles and other so-called agitation devices. Next, the loosened particles are collected and removed from the house using a powerful vacuum system.

During this process, the entire HVAC system is placed under continuous negative pressure to prevent particles from escaping into the living space. It essentially creates a suction that forces the contaminants to move in only one direction – which is into the vacuum hose. Some refer to this as negative pressure duct cleaning.

Duct cleaning technicians may also apply a chemical biocide to kill microbes inside the ducts and other components.

Why Do People Have Their Ducts Cleaned?

Your central air conditioning or heating system continuously circulates air between your living space and HVAC equipment. Depending on the size of your home and your HVAC system, the air makes 5-7 full circulations each day.

The system also draws fresh air into your home outside using mechanical ventilation.

As this process repeats on and on, dust particles from inside and outside your house will begin to accumulate inside your air ducts. These particles can consist of everything from dirt and dust to pollen, pet hair, air pollutants, spores and bacteria. The exact makeup of the ‘dust mix’ in your home depends on the age of the house, the climate, your household habits and the number of people living there.

How much dust lives inside your ducts? Again, it depends on the situation inside and around your home. In our experience, the average duct cleaning in the Greater Toronto Area removes between 5 and 6 pounds of dust and debris.

How Long Does Duct Cleaning Take?

It’s hard to say how long a duct cleaning will take without knowing more about your home. The time it takes to clean a home’s HVAC system depends on many different variables, including:

  • Size of the house
  • Size and number of HVAC components
  • Amount of dust build-up
  • Number of duct cleaning technicians working on the job

Without this information, it simply isn’t possible to provide an accurate time estimate. Be skeptical of any quote you receive that doesn’t account for these factors!

How Often Is Duct Cleaning Necessary? (According to the EPA)

No one likes the idea of the air they breathe moving through filthy dust-covered passages. If you want to keep your ducts as tidy as possible, we generally recommend having them cleaned about every 3 years.

However, both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation agree that you don’t need to have your ducts cleaned on any particular schedule – so it’s not a necessary part of your annual home maintenance routine.

There are, however, exceptions. According to the EPA, agrees that you should have your ducts cleaned or replaced when you notice:

  1. Excessive Dust
    This doesn’t just mean lots dust around your home, but when you see dust coming out of the supply registers. The registers should never be expelling visible dust into your living space.
  2. Vermin
    Rodents, insects or other vermin are a serious potential health hazard. If you’ve seen critters in your air ducts, it’s all but certain that there are droppings and remains in the ducts as well.
  3. Water Damage
    Water-damaged ducts are a breeding ground for mould. However, you must address the source of the damage and complete the necessary repairs before having the ducts cleaned.
  4. Restricted Airflow
    Excessive dust or debris can restrict the flow of air to your furnace or air conditioner.
  5. Mould
    Visible mould, slime or any other growth inside the ducts is a cause for concern. Sometimes, the first sign of mould is a musty or earthy odour rather than a visual cue – but in that case, you should confirm the presence of mould first.
  6. Odour
    Notice a bad odour originating from the ducts (or any other part of your HVAC system)? It could indicate mould, vermin, or water damage, which need to be addressed.

Does Duct Cleaning Really Help Get Rid of Dust?

When it’s done right, a professional duct cleaning will effectively remove dust from every surface inside your ducts. However, the effect is not permanent. As long as you’re using your forced-air heating or cooling system, the ducts will continue to accumulate dust as before.

Dust is a fact of life. You’ll never banish it from your house completely, no matter how often or thoroughly you clean your house. The same goes for duct cleaning.

The good news is, most of the dust inside your ducts sticks to the surface. It doesn’t all end up in your living space. That’s why we don’t recommend duct cleaning more frequently than every few years.

Does Duct Cleaning Get Rid of Mould and Bacteria?

It isn’t possible to eliminate mould and bacteria by agitating and vacuuming the ducts alone. However, biological contaminants can be removed through the targeted use of biocides and disinfectants. Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) does regulate chemical and biological cleaners specifically for use in HVAC cleaning.

At AtlasCare, we have chosen to offer a safe, plant-based disinfectant called Benefect instead of harsh cleaners made from synthetic chemicals. This vent deodorizer kills more than 99.9% of bacteria, mould, and fungal spores while remaining chemical-free and keeping your family safe from toxins longer.

Does Duct Cleaning Leave a Mess?

Provided the job’s done right, duct cleaning should not blow dust into your living space, and there is no evidence to suggest that a professional duct cleaning is detrimental to your indoor air quality. A competent, NADCA-certified duct cleaning company will always take the time to properly seal your vents, keep their duct cleaning equipment clean, and protect your carpeting and household furnishings from the vacuum hoses.

AtlasCare’s Red Carpet Service goes several steps beyond these measures to keep your home as clean as possible: our technicians wear protective booties to keep from tracking in outside dirt and complete each service call by cleaning any leftover debris with an Asthma Society of Canada-approved HEPA vacuum.

Are There Proven Health Benefits to Duct Cleaning?

As mentioned earlier, the dust inside your home is made up of a wide variety of particulate matter, and the typical dust mix includes dirt, dust mites, pollen, hair and pet fur. There’s no reason to believe that a sprinkling of these particles in your air ducts poses any risk to your health. But we do know that these particles can trigger allergies and other symptoms in those who are sensitive to them.

Although dusty air ducts don’t necessarily mean unhealthy air, they can contribute to larger health issues. Dust mites, for example, produce allergens that are known triggers for people with asthma. In fact, dust triggers symptoms in 64% of asthma sufferers. Dust is also among the most common year-round allergy triggers, and many people who have seasonal allergies like hay fever are also allergic to dust mites.

Air ducts can also become contaminated with materials that are harmful to most people, like mould and bacteria. The ducts can become a means of distributing these contaminants throughout the home. Therefore, the EPA recommends having your ducts cleaned after vermin infestation or water damage, or if you see or smell mould.

How Much Does Duct Cleaning Cost?

The short answer is, it depends. The cost of a duct cleaning won’t be the same for everyone.

When someone requests a duct cleaning quote, they usually provide us with some basic information on the size of their house (in square feet), the number of storeys and the number of supply registers. Those facts do have an impact on cost…but it’s not enough to create an accurate, complete cost estimate.

The cost also depends on:

  • Your existing HVAC equipment
  • Size of your HVAC system
  • How easy it is to access the system
  • Level of contamination inside your ducts
  • Number of team members needed to do the job
  • How long the job is expected to take
  • Other environmental factors

The last thing we want to do is mislead you on the cost of a duct cleaning based on an incomplete picture of your home. That’s why we only provide cost estimates after we’ve had a chance to speak with you one-on-one.

How to Find a Reliable Duct Cleaning Company

Although the government has cracked down on door-to-door duct cleaning sales, we continue to hear from people in the GTA who have been mislead by cut-rate duct cleaning companies.

In fact, that’s why AtlasCare began offering professional duct cleaning services in the first place – many our heating and cooling customers complained to us about the lack of trustworthy duct cleaning services in and around Toronto.

Wherever you live, there are a few practical steps you can take to make sure you find the best duct cleaning company in your area. Keep these in mind the next time you’re looking for someone to clean your ducts.

  1. Only hire duct cleaning services from companies and contractors that are in good standing with the National Air Duct Cleaners Association or NADCA. This association is the gold standard for duct cleaning services in Canada and the United States. To become a member, a company must have certified Air System Cleaning Specialists (ASCS) who have passed NADCA’s certification exam on staff. NADCA’s member list should be the first place to look for services in your area.
  2. Make sure that a service provider agrees to clean all components of your HVAC system, not just the ducts. This is part of NADCA’s standards for a complete and professional duct cleaning. Neglecting to clean the entire system can result in re-contamination, which negates any potential benefits of having the ducts cleaned in the first place.
  3. Check customer reviews on unbiased, third-party sites like Google, Facebook and HomeStars (Home Advisor in the United States.) Take note of any customers who report high-pressure sales tactics, hidden fees, or claims of problems with their heating and cooling systems after the duct cleaning.

For more information or to book your service appointment, contact our duct cleaning specialists today.


The Benefits of Whole-Home Humidification

The goal of many homeowners during the winter is to keep their families warm.  

That’s a wonderful thing except it comes at a cost: the warmer the air the drier it becomes.  

Ideally, your home should fall under the 40-50% humidity range for both your home and your health.  

Your furnace can often strip the air of moisture when trying to heat rooms and maintain temperatures. This leads to dry air throughout the house.  

The best way to save money and be energy efficient is to have an indoor humidifier.

The Benefits of Whole-Home Humidifiers

Everyone notices when the air in the house is dry. Maybe you’re putting on Chapstick more often or moisturizing your hands.  

Besides these small things, what does a whole-home humidifier actually do? 

Prevents & Treats Illness

Winter is an invitation to get sick. Dry air is a catalyst.  

Dry air pulls the moisture from your nose and mouth. And because your nose needs moisture to combat against viruses, you can become vulnerable to illness such as colds, sinus infections and the flu. 

With proper humidity within the home, you can fight against the common cold and flu symptoms we are all susceptible during this time. 

And good news! Bacteria can’t thrive in moist air. 

Protect Your Wood Furnishings

Remember that beautiful antique dresser that was your grandparents? You’ll want to keep it in good condition especially when the humidity is down.  

Without properly maintained humidity levels, your wood floors, and antique furniture like the beautiful old dining room table, could be damaged. 

Low humidity can cause the wood to dry out and even split.  

Create Warmth

Think about how hot it gets in the summer. What is the leading cause of feeling overly warm during those months? The humidity. 

We all know the saying “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” and it is absolutely true.  

The humidity plays a major role in how warm it actually feels as opposed to what the temperature actually is. While this can be undesirable in the summer, it is very beneficial for your home in the winter.  

Not only can proper humidity in your home make you feel warmer, it can help your furnace be more energy efficient and use less. The more moisture in the air means the more heat the air can store. 

A home with proper humidity and set at 68 degrees will feel like a home that’s set to 70 degrees.  

When you feel warmer at a lower temperature, you’ll save money on your heating bill.  

Physical Comfort

When your nasal cavity is dry, it can sometimes lead to snoring. 

With proper humidity you can: 

  • Reduce snoring 
  • Keep your skin from feeling overly dry 
  • Preserve your voice 
  • Prevent your throat and nose from feeling dry and scratchy 

Static Electricity

Have you noticed that you’ve been getting shocked when you touch a doorknob or someone else?  

Static electricity is much more prevalent when the air is too dry. This is largely why we experience static shock and hair that stands on end when it is colder and drier.  

Humidifiers can help eliminate this nuisance from your home and reduce the risk.  

There are a few key differences between whole-home and single-room humidifiers to consider when deciding whether to invest in one.  

Whole-Home Humidifier Vs. Single-Room Humidifier  

From a whole-home humidifier, the water used comes directly from your water supply. Over the course of the heating season, the water panel will need to be changed one or twice.  

They are attached directly to your home’s HVAC system, meaning it will use less energy to humidify the entire home than individual room humidifiers. 

Single-room humidifiers, while at a lower initial cost, are much more maintenance. The water within the humidifier needs to be changed daily to ensure: 

  • The humidity level is correct in the room 
  • To avoid the container becoming a breeding ground for bacteria and mold

They must be placed near a bed or living space depending on the location for best results. The bubbling noise could be a nuisance, especially when guests are present.  

Single-room humidifiers also must be deep cleaned regularly to prevent bacteria or mold from developing and entering the air.  

While single-room humidifiers can be used occasionally for isolated areas of the home, they are not the most efficient.  

If you’d like to learn more about improving your home’s comfort and furnace efficiency, contact us here for more information.  

What You Should Know About Your Home Ventilation

How much do you really know about your home’s ventilation system? 

Home ventilation is something we all tend to forget about. It goes on while we go about our days unaware…until something goes wrong. 

Ventilation may not be noticeable, but it is certainly crucial. It directly affects both the quality of your air and your life at home! There is often significant room for improvement when it comes to ventilation in homes new and old 

Here’s what you need to know about your whole-house ventilation system. 

What is Whole-House Ventilation?

Whole-house ventilation is a method of indoor ventilation using a mechanical system. One or more fans and duct systems are used to remove stale air and supply fresh air from the outside into the house.  

There are a few different types of whole-house ventilation systems, each with their own benefits and costs: 

  1. Exhaust ventilation 
  2. Supply ventilation 
  3. Balanced ventilation 
  4. Energy recovery ventilation 

1. Exhaust Ventilation

Exhaust ventilation works by depressurizing your home by exhausting air from the house. While this occurs, fresh air that has been brought to the same temperature as the house (make-up air) is released inside. 

In typical models, a single fan is connected to a centrally located exhaust point. Other models can connect multiple fans that have been placed in several rooms, such as the bedroom or bathrooms. 

One potential drawback to this model is that pollutants could be drawn into the house along with fresh air: mould from crawlspaces, dust from attics or fumes and gases from fireplaces and connected garages. 

2. Supply Ventilation

As opposed to the exhaust systems, supply ventilation systems pressurize your home. This means that a fan is used to push outside air inside of the building while air leaks from intentional vents and ducts. Like exhaust systems, supply ventilation models usually consist of one fan and duct system. 

Supply systems minimize the number of pollutants entering living spaces because there is control over the air that enters the house. Pollen and dust are filtered from the outdoor air before entering. 

It is not recommended that this type of ventilation be used for extreme warm or cold climates, as the moisture could lead to mould or mildew. Supply ventilation is ideal for mild climates. 

3. Balanced Ventilation

Balanced ventilation systems are a combination of both exhaust and supply systems, but it neither pressurizes nor depressurizes your home. Fresh outside air and stale inside air are introduced and exhausted in equal quantities.  

The two fans and two duct systems are strategically placed throughout the house in order to expel air wherever moisture and pollutants tend to build up. Filters are also used to remove dust and pollen from the outside air before entering inside.  

Like exhaust and supply systems, balanced ventilation systems may need to mix the outdoor air with indoor air before entering the house. The downside of this is potentially higher heating and cooling costs.

4. Energy Recovery

Energy recovery ventilation systems provide a way to minimize the amount of energy lost while controlling the ventilation within the home. There are two types of energy recovery systems: HRVs and ERVs. 

  1. In the winter, heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) reheat incoming cold air from outdoors by mixing it with the indoor heated air. This reduces the amount of energy used by your furnace. The HRV will do the opposite in the summer, cooling down the incoming warm air.  
  2. Energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) follow the same principle as HRVs, but with one key difference: they also transfer a certain amount of water vapour along with energy. This vapour is used to regulate the humidity inside the home.  

 Both ERV and HRV systems recover 60%-80% of energy exiting the system.  

Air Exchangers

HRVs and ERVs require small ventilation tools called air exchangers. An air exchanger mixes air drawn from inside and outside the house to heat the cold air or cool the warm. 

What Can Happen If Your Ventilation Isn’t Working

When your ventilation system is failing, it’s often difficult to notice the effects early on. However, a malfunctioning ventilator can lead to serious problems, including: 

  • Increasing CO2 levels inside the home
  • Moisture from cooking and running water building up inside the ducts  
  • Volatile organic compounds accumulating from furniture and building materials 

Why is this important? 

Well, when these kinds of things build up, it can damage both you home and your health. Poor indoor air quality can contribute to headaches, fatigue, allergies, dizziness, coughing, nausea or sinus congestion.  

It is important to try and spot these problems early on. 

Signs of Problems with Your Ventilation System

Ever noticed a strange draft that appeared out of nowhere, especially during the winter? This could be a sign of excess air infiltration 

Do you that you can smell your cooking in the kitchen but nowhere else? This could mean that air isn’t circulating effectively throughout the house.  

What about odours that just won’t seem to leave? Persistent smells and lack of circulation suggests that you have inadequate air exchange or very little ventilation.   

You can also have too much air ventilation, causing a room to become excessively humid or uncomfortably dry, depending on the season. It could be a sign that your air conditioner or furnace can’t keep up with the ventilator. 

As soon as you notice these signs, it is important to check your air ventilator for any issues or call a Home Comfort Specialist to take a look 


Why You Should Have Your Dryer Vent Professionally Cleaned

There’s one item you definitely don’t want to leave off your spring cleaning checklist – your dryer vent.  

You may think your dryer vent is clean because you empty lint after each load of laundry, but tiny bits of dryer lint sneak through the lint trap and build up inside your dryer vent over time 

Why do these tiny bits of lint matter? Safety, safety, safetyLint is extremely flammable. This accumulated lint reduces air flow to the dryer’s hot air vent, causing the appliance to operate at increasingly high temperatures, creating a serious fire hazard.  

Dryer fires are surprisingly commonA single spark can set ablaze at a moment’s notice, and the fire can quickly spread from the laundry room to the rest of your home.  

 Fortunately, dryer fires are preventable.  

Lint Trap vs. Dryer Vent – What’s the Difference?

The confusion typically lies in the difference between your lint trap and your dryer vent.  

Yes, they are two different things and yes, they should be cleaned differently.  

To put it simply, the lint trap is that thing your mother always bugged you about cleaning out. It’s the easilyaccessible tray that you clean out after every load of laundry – the lint you can see.  

The dryer vent is located behind the dryer and its purpose is to exhaust the heat from your dryer to the outside of your home. During a dryer cycle, lint can sneak past your lint trap and get caught in the dryer vent causing buildups – the lint you can’t see.

More Than Safety

While safety is the number one reason to have your dryer vent cleaned, it’s not the only reason. Lint build-up is not only dangerous, but it’s also expensive and annoying.

Having your dryer vent cleaned will:

1. Save you time

Last minute laundry – we’ve all done it. Whether it’s staring at the dryer waiting for your kid’s soccer jersey to dry so you’re not late for the game or waiting for your favourite pair of jeans before a night out, dryer times can really affect your day.

That’s why having your dryer vent cleaned is important. A clean dryer vent decreases wait times and makes your life easier. Lint build-up in dryer vents causes laundry to dry slower and takes up more of your time; having your dryer vent cleaned improves the efficiency of your dryer and makes your clothes dry in less time. 

2. Save you money

With less efficiency and longer drying times comes higher energy bills. When there is a build-up in your dryer vent, there is not enough hot air reaching your dryer and therefore more energy is spent trying to dry your clothes. Sometimes it can even take multiple cycles.

Having your dryer vent cleaned means you spend less money on energy bills and simply drying your clothes, and more on what you want.

3. Help your dryer last longer

Like many things in life, your dryer will work better if it’s properly cared for. Having your dryer vent cleaned is not only proper care, but it will also increase its lifespan and reduce repair costs.

If your dryer is working longer and harder to get a load of laundry done, its lifespan shortens. An overworked dryer puts a lot of wear and tear on the appliance, resulting in more frequent breakdowns and problems.

Should I Clean My Own Dryer Vent?

Some stores sell vacuum cleaner attachments that claim to be a DIY solution to dryer vent cleaning. They’re not.

There’s a reason why our technicians use a specially-designed, truck-mounted vacuum system for duct and dryer vent cleaning – an ordinary vacuum simply does not reach far enough or use enough force to give your dryer vent a thorough cleaning.

And that’s not just marketing from dryer vent cleaning companies! Some things just aren’t meant to be a DIY project, and dryer vent cleaning is one of them. It’s a matter of fire safety, your time and your money.

How Often Do I Need to Have My Dryer Vent Cleaned?

Having your dryer vents cleaned professionally is the only way to ensure your vents are clear of flammable lint. Dryer vents should be cleaned at least once a year.

The best way to remember? Pair it with your duct cleaning! When we provide our professional duct cleaning service, our technicians can also clear your dryer vents of accumulated lint – one less thing on your to-do list!

How to Easily Make Any Bypass Humidifier More Water-Efficient

Water rates in Ontario are rising even faster than our property taxes. In 2016, the average household water cost was $800 per year – and it’s climbed even higher in the years since.

You’ve fixed leaky faucets, shut down your lawn sprinklers, even tried to cut your showers short – but it hardly makes a dent in your ever-growing utility bills.

You’re not alone if you’re looking for new tactics to reduce your water use.

One of the common sources of water waste is something most homeowners haven’t considered: the humidifier. All humidifiers waste water, and unfortunately, the more convenient whole-home humidifiers tend to be big culprits.

But humidifiers are a lifesaver in our cold Canadian winters, especially when the humidity drops below 35%. Low humidity makes your home feel even colder, and the dry air can wreak havoc on your health and overall level of comfort.

Fortunately, if you own a bypass humidifier, there’s an easy way to drastically increase its water-efficiency and reduce water waste without turning down the humidity level.

Below, we’ll talk about:

  1. How your humidifier works;
  2. Why bypass humidifiers waste water;
  3. How to make your bypass humidifier more water-efficient

1. How Your Humidifier Works

Many people believe their furnace ‘removes’ moisture from the air and a humidifier puts it back. While it’s true that central heat makes your home feel dryer, it isn’t exactly taking moisture away.

Cold air expands as it warms up. If the amount of water vapour remains the same as the temperature rises, the relative humidity in the space drops. Humidifiers counteract this effect by increasing the amount of moisture the air. There are several ways to do this – some humidifiers produce steam, while others draw the air through a moistened ‘vapour pad’.

Humidifiers fall into one of two categories: whole home humidifiers that humidify the entire home and portable humidifiers than humidify the surrounding space. Portable humidifiers are ideal for small spaces (single rooms, dorms or small homes with no central HVAC system) but whole home humidification is significantly more convenient in the long-term because:

  • A home humidifier controls the humidity in the entire home at once.
    • You don’t have to continually refill it with water.
    • It’s quieter and less obtrusive than a portable humidifier.

Some whole-home humidifier units have a built-in fan (like the Lennox HCWP3-18 Humidifier) while bypass humidifiers like the GeneralAire Legacy 1099 Bypass Humidifier work off your forced air furnace’s blower fan.

2. Why Bypass Humidifiers Waste Water

Bypass humidifiers are ultra-quiet and highly efficient, but they have one drawback: water waste.

Some humidity is lost as the air travels through your central heating and cooling system before it reaches your living space. Water also drains off the unit’s water-soaked vapour pad. Most humidifiers include a drain line that carries this excess water into the sewer.

Exactly how much water a humidifier uses depends on:

  • How long the humidifier runs
  • How much air passes over the vapour pad
  • Chosen humidity setting (and how far it the desired humidity is from the baseline humidity in your home)
  • What is installed in the water line

That’s assuming your humidifier doesn’t have a leak. Just like a leaking toilet tank, a poorly-maintained humidifier can waste thousands more litres of water each year. If you suspect your humidifier is leaking, it’s time for a service call.

Modern humidifiers are far more efficient than their predecessors (using less water per day than washing a single load of laundry in a high-efficiency washing machine.) Still, all whole-house humidifiers waste at least some water while they run.

You want to reduce that waste as much as possible.

3. How to Make Your Bypass Humidifier More Water Efficient

Several years ago, one of the top manufacturers in the humidifier space decided to do something about water waste.

To date, their product remains one of the only devices on the market to effectively limit waste water in your humidifier.

The solution is simple: when the humidifier receives a call for water, the device automatically switches on and limits water supply to the vapour pad. The humidifier releases only the amount of water needed to keep the pad moist – no more and no less – so less water ends up down the drain.

Simple as it is, the WaterSavor™ is proven to cut water waste by a minimum of 50%. That’s using the default settings. If you fine-tune the settings to a specific humidifier model, settings and season, it’s possible to achieve savings up to 96%.

Most importantly, the WaterSavor™ doesn’t affect your humidifier’s output.

Keep Your Humidifier in Top Working Condition

Like all parts of your heating and cooling system, a whole-home humidifier requires proper care and good maintenance to perform at its best. Regular service is also important to avoid costly humidifier leaks – which can trickle away for months or years before it’s discovered.

Homeowners in the Greater Toronto Area can contact us 24/7 to schedule service for any type of humidifier, from drum-style humidifiers to flow-through bypass humidifiers and more.

You can also reach out to learn whether a WaterSavor™ is right for your humidifier.

6 Ways to Start Your Spring Cleaning While There’s Still Snow Out

After a long and cold winter, spring has finally sprung – or, so we hope! With sun and warmer weather around the corner, the last thing you’ll want to do on a nice spring day is spend it indoors cleaning. That’s why now is the perfect time to get an early start on your spring cleaning. As you build a list of chores to conquer throughout your home, it’s important not to forget about your home comfort products. During the winter months, snow, ice and colder temperatures can have a serious effect on your HVAC system. When it’s cold, your furnace works extra hard to evenly distribute heat throughout your home. Oppositely, chances are your air conditioning unit has been sitting unused throughout the course of winter. It’s important to check-in and have these units serviced prior to the warmer weather to ensure that you’re not without A/C on a hot summer day!

Change Your Furnace Filter

During the winter months, no appliance in your home works harder than your furnace. Most people typically get their furnace filter changed before winter to help trap dirt, dust and harmful pollutants. This is just as important of a task come spring. Switching your air filers is perhaps the most impactful HVAC furnace maintenance task you can undertake. Not only does it help with air quality – protecting your family, but it can also reduce energy usage by as much as 15%. There are many benefits to scheduling regular preventative maintenance of your furnace, including prolonging the lifecycle of your heating and air conditioning equipment.

Air Duct Cleaning

After a long and tough winter, chances are your ducts are not in prime condition. Your homes air ducts have one job to do; but it’s very important – circulate warm and cold air throughout your space. During the winter months, your ducts can accumulate mold and mildew spores, cobwebs and grime; all of which are harmful to your family. Before spring hits, achieve cleaner air in your home with duct cleaning and air quality services.

Clean Your Outdoor Air Conditioning Unit

Although at a much slower rate, weeds and grass still grow during the winter months. With the weather improving and spring showers looming, these growths will continue to grow at a much faster pace. Any unwanted plant growth encroaching on your air conditioner can restrict air flow, risking the effectiveness of your unit. Take time this spring to clear weeds, grass and growth away from your air conditioner – keeping growth at least 2’ away from your AC unit. It’s recommended that you cover your outdoor AC unit with a tarp or cover during the winter months – either way your condenser could still use a spring clean. As the snow melts, it’s easy to see that winter leaves a considerable mess of dirt and grime. Take a peek in your unit to clear it of all debris including, leaves, twigs, stones and dirt!

Replace Batteries in your Carbon Monoxide & Smoke Detector

Throughout the year, it’s important to test the batteries in your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors – this can help avoid irreversible damage to your home or family. Spring is the perfect time to replace the batteries in your home detectors. In fact, dust that’s caught within your smoke or CO detectors can prevent them from working properly. A properly working smoke detector can increase odds of survival during a home fire by 60%. As well, having a properly working CO detector can protect your family from potentially fatal situations – as carbon monoxide is colourless, odourless and tasteless.

Declutter Your Home

The most popular spring-cleaning chore is decluttering some of the mess that’s accumulated over the winter. Not only does removing clutter free up extra space, but it helps with your HVAC maintenance too. The more clutter in your home, the more dust and allergens can accumulate on – especially items not used on a regular basis. Although sitting dust won’t circulate through your home, the moment it is disturbed, it moves through your home and worsens your indoor air quality.

Don’t Wait, Get Your Air Conditioner Serviced

As the weather warms, sudden breakdowns are not only inconvenient but can mean higher repair costs. To guard against unexpected costs, it’s important to get your air conditioning unit serviced regularly.