5 Possible Red Flags for the Air Quality Inside Your Home

Have you ever stopped to think about just how much time you spend indoors? If you are anything like the average person, you have a roof overhead and four walls around you about 90% of the time. That means most of the air you breathe recirculates through a ventilation system — along with any airborne particles that populate it. As a homeowner, it is important to recognize what could be red flags for the air quality inside your home.  

People are often surprised to learn that the air inside our homes and workplaces can be anywhere from two to five times as polluted as outdoor air. With the amount of time we spend in our homes, indoor air quality (IAQ) is as much a concern for our health as it is for comfort.  

Symptoms of Poor Indoor Air Quality 

Physical symptoms are often the first sign of poor indoor air quality. According to the Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, common symptoms of poor-quality air include: 

  • Dryness and irritations of eyes, nose, throat, skin 
  • Headache 
  • Fatigue 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Dizziness 
  • Nausea 

The trouble is, all of these symptoms can result from other common health conditions as well, making it difficult to diagnose indoor air quality from physical symptoms alone. You must look to other factors in the environment as well.  

Red Flags for the Air Quality Inside Your Home 

If you can rule out that the above symptoms are the result of other health issues, or they accompany one of the red flags below, you should investigate the air quality as the possible culprit.

1. Signs of Mould 

Do certain parts of your house have that musty “wet basement” smell? That is a sure sign of mould growth. Mould contributes to poor air quality by releasing tiny spores that are small enough to breathe in, which can be harmful to your health.  

2. Dust from the Air Registers 

As your furnace or air conditioner draws air through its intake, it also pulls in the dust, pet dander, and other airborne particles that are present in your home. These contaminants build up in the air ducts over time. If years go by without a thorough duct cleaning, the dust will continue to circulate and pollute the air inside your home. 

It is normal for ducts to be a bit dusty, but if you see dust coming out of the registers, that’s not a good sign. For duct cleaning in Toronto and the GTA, we recommend scheduling an appointment before the busy season in the summer. 

3. Allergy Symptoms that Worsen at Home 

Do your allergies seem to act up more at home? Physical symptoms that develop within a few hours of arriving home (and improve after you leave) could be a red flag for your air quality.  

The same goes for reactions in other indoor spaces; if your symptoms flare up at work, for example, there could be problems with the air quality there. 

4. Malfunctioning Furnace or Air Conditioner  

Your home’s HVAC system is responsible for removing stale indoor air and replacing it with fresh, outdoor air. Problems with the heating or cooling equipment, or the ventilation system that distributes warm or cool air, is a frequent cause of poor indoor air quality. If your system is in need of repairs, it could be a red flag for the air quality inside your home. 

5. Recent Renovations 

Home remodelling projects can create lots of dust. They can also expose patches of mould that was growing surreptitiously behind the walls. Without proper ventilation, these airborne contaminants can spread to other parts of the home. If your symptoms of poor indoor air quality follow a recent renovation, it could be a sign of excessive dust or mould contamination.  

We recommend replacing the air filter on your furnace or air conditioner after renovating. Your air ducts may also be due for cleaning. We’d be happy to visit your home for a duct cleaning in Toronto or elsewhere in the GTA. 


Image: Wavebreak Media Ltd

How Indoor Air Quality Can Help You Recover From the Flu

The horrible flu that went around this winter reminded me that it has been some time since I wrote about indoor air quality.

As we face these tough strains of flu, an aging population and young children with growing lungs who are especially vulnerable, it’s important to reinforce the benefits of having the purest indoor air possible. I’m not saying it will prevent the flu, but it is proven to help, and every defense is a smart one.

The issue of air quality impacted me directly this year, as my new home doesn’t have the IAQ equipment I am used to. I noticed immediately and I sure miss it.

The first piece of equipment I plan to install is a high-efficiency filter on my new Lennox furnace called the PureAirTM system. It’s an industry-leading product that cleans the air in your home better than any other single system you can buy. It removes 99.9% of all airborne particles like pollen, dust and pet dander, and removes over 90% of viruses such as flu and cold. It’s also great at removing household odours caused by things such as pets, cleaning products and cooking.

March and April are the ideal time to install an IAQ system – ahead of allergy season and the winter viruses that are likely going to rear their ugly heads again next winter.


Image: Shao-Chun Wang

5 Signs Your Home Could Use a Humidifier

Are your sinuses acting up? Do you find yourself catching a static shock whenever you enter your home? It could be a stroke of bad luck, but it’s more likely these are signs your home could use a humidifier.

As the temperature drops, so does the level of moisture in the air. Low humidity is a common complaint from the late fall to early spring, especially in homes with central heating, which makes the air even drier.

Humidifiers can help to alleviate the ailments caused by low humidity. Here are signs your home could use one!

1. Your Sinuses Keep Acting Up

When the air is too dry, it can irritate the membranes in your nose and leave you prone to sinus congestion and inflammation. That’s one reason why many people are more likely to get sinus infections in the winter.

Moist, humid air helps to relieve sinus pain by keeping nasal passages lubricated, which is why it helps to take a hot shower when you’re stuffed up. While it may not cure the source of your sinus pain, adding a humidifier to your home can help keep congestion under control and reduce the chance of getting an infection.

2. You’re Always Getting Static Shocks

Ever notice how static shocks seem worse in the winter? It’s not just you. Dry air acts as an insulator, making it easy for a static charge to sneak up and zap you.

If it feels like you’re getting a shock from everything you touch, it may be because the air inside your home is too dry. Buying a humidifier will reduce static electricity and get those annoying static shocks off your heels.

3. The Floorboards Creak Beneath Your Feet

Wood naturally reacts to changes in humidity. It’s normal for hardwood flooring to lose moisture and shrink slightly when the humidity drops. But major fluctuations in humidity over time can stress the wood, even to the point of splitting and cracking along the grain. Other wood structures, like doors and window frames, are also susceptible to damage from low humidity.

Creaky floorboards is one of the early warning signs your home could use a humidifier. Maintaining consistent humidity level will help keep the floorboards beautiful (and silent) for years to come.

4. Your Houseplants Are Withering Away

Many species of indoor plants hail from tropical climates. Like many of us, they prefer warm temperatures and moist, humid air. It’s no surprise, then, that even a veteran Canadian gardener can have difficulty keeping houseplants alive through the winter.

One of the biggest reasons houseplants wilt in the winter is low humidity. The solution? Place a humidifier in the room. With proper humidity and a green thumb, you can keep your houseplants alive and well until spring.

5. You Have Really Dry Skin

Chapped lips, cracked knuckles, and itchy, flaking skin is a prevalent winter problem. The drier the air, the faster water in the skin evaporates, leaving you feeling sore and dry.

There are numerous products and home remedies meant to soothe dry skin, but one of the simplest solutions is buying a humidifier for your home. Place it in your bedroom to help replenish the moisture in your skin overnight. You may even find that having a humidifier in the room helps you sleep better at night!

Buying a Humidifier for Your Home

You have several options when it comes to buying a humidifier for your home. Small humidifier models, such as vaporizers, are a good choice if you need to increase the humidity in one room. To add humidity to an entire home, you should invest in a whole-house humidifier that injects water vapor into the ductwork of your forced-air system. Our first choice is the GeneralAire furnace humidifier.

Want to learn more? We’re happy to help. We offer top-notch service for all types of humidifiers, so feel free to give us a call or request a quote today.

Image: belchonock

5 Products to Turn Your Home Smart!

By now, you’ve probably heard the buzz about technology that can turn your home ‘smart’. But what is it that makes these devices so smart?

Man using a smart thermostat app on his mobile phone.

A smart home device is one you can control with a remote, smartphone, tablet or even your own voice. Wireless connectivity has become a feature in everything from appliances to home heating and cooling systems.

Need help getting started? These five easy-to-use products can turn your home smart — and save energy while they’re at it!

1. Smart Thermostat

Gone are the days when thermostats were only meant for turning the temperature up or down. Smart thermostats come with many cool and convenient features, along with user-friendly controls anyone can learn to use.

Like programmable thermostats, you can program a smart thermostat to adjust the temperature automatically at set times. However, with a smart thermostat, you can do it wirelessly using a smartphone or other device. This means you can adjust the temperature from anywhere in the home, while you’re at work or school, or even while on vacation!

Some high-tech models of smart thermostats can learn about your habits and adjust the temperature automatically. The popular ecobee3 smart WiFi thermostat, for example, uses wireless sensors to read the temperature in different rooms.

2. Smart Speakers / Smart Home Assistants

The latest crop of smart speakers do more than just play music. Smart speakers can serve as a central ‘hub’ for various smart devices, letting you control everything from thermostats to smart TVs with the sound of your voice. Products like the Amazon Echo and Google Home also come with a virtual assistant able to keep track of your schedule, shopping list, and other useful bits of information.

Manufacturers are increasingly designing smart home devices to work with smart speakers right out of the box. However, not all devices are compatible with the various smart speakers on the market, so it’s important to do your research before you invest in one. If you already own a smart home device, be sure to opt for a hub able to speak its language.

3. Smart Water Sensors

If you’ve ever had a pipe burst in the winter, you know how important it is to catch leaks early on. Trouble is, an old-fashioned leak detector is only useful if someone’s around to hear the alarm!

Fortunately, manufacturers have patched this flaw with smart water sensors. Smart home water sensors are battery-powered leak detectors that include wireless technology, allowing them to connect with smart speakers and other devices. If the sensor detects water, it can instantly send an alert to your computer or smartphone.

Like a smart thermostat, smart water sensors give homeowners more control over the home while they’re away. This peace of mind is more than worth the modest price tag!

4. Smart Shades and Blinds

You may not realize it, but windows have a big impact on the temperature inside your home. The sun’s rays bump up the temperature in the summer, and in the winter, warm air can escape through a poorly-sealed window.

A simple way to control the amount of heat entering or exiting through the windows is to install heavy curtains or blinds. Unfortunately, we tend to leave them in one position most of the time. This makes automated smart shades and blinds a great choice for energy-conscious homeowners. You can also combine smart shades and blinds with a smart thermostat for even bigger energy savings!

5. Smart Light Bulbs

Remember The Clapper? It seems we have always been looking for ways to control the lights without flicking a switch. Smart light bulbs are the next big leap in this technology, allowing you to turn the lights on or off from afar with the use of a smartphone or smart speaker.

Smart lights are more expensive than traditional bulbs, especially if you plan to convert the entire house, but they also use less energy and last longer than incandescent bulbs.


Image: Prykhodo

The Importance of Air Duct Cleaning

Did you know a single duct cleaning removes an average of six pounds of dust per home? The air inside your home is full of tiny particles like dust, pollen, and pet dander. When your furnace or air conditioner draws air, it also pulls in airborne particles.  Over time, these contaminants can build up inside the ducts, reducing air flow and re-circulating throughout your living space.

Like furnaces and air conditioners, air ducts require proper cleaning and maintenance to perform at their best. Keeping ducts free of dust and debris can also help reduce your energy bill and improve air quality in your home.

What is Air Duct Cleaning?

Air duct cleaning is the process of clearing debris from air ducts, registers, grilles, and other components of a forced air system.

Since the ducts are hidden behind walls and above ceilings, the only way to effectively clean them is with a high-powered, truck-mounted vacuum and compression system. No other method guarantees a complete clean.

We recommend more frequent duct cleaning if you have indoor pets, or are sensitive to indoor air quality. You should also have your ducts cleaned if you have recently renovated your home, as this will increase the amount of dust in your forced air system.

Importance of Air Duct Cleaning

  • Maintain Good Air Quality. The air passing through the ducts is the same air your family breathes each day. Left unchecked, ducts can harbour allergens like pollen and pet dander, which can re-enter your living space through the supply registers. Though these particles aren’t necessarily a health hazard, they can pose problems for people who have asthma, allergies, or other respiratory issues. Having your air ducts cleaned will help improve air quality and keep your air free of airborne particles.
  • Boost energy efficiency. Dust and debris restricts the flow of air to and from the components of your HVAC system. When the ducts are clogged, your furnace or air conditioner has to consume more energy to do its job. Keeping ducts clear will ensure your units can perform at peak efficiency.
  • Protect heating and cooling equipment. A dirty ventilation system can lead to clogged air conditioner coils, contaminated blower wheels, and other issues that result in costly repairs. Making duct cleaning a part of your maintenance routine will extend the life of your HVAC system.

Choosing a Duct Cleaning Company

Duct cleaning is not an easy job. Doing it right takes specialized equipment in the hands of a skilled technician. When choosing a duct cleaning company, always check to ensure they use a truck-mounted vacuum and compression system, are certified by the National Air Duct Association (NADCA), and have established a positive reputation backed by real customer reviews. Be cautious when it comes to telemarketers and door-to-door salespeople offering discount duct cleaning services.

AtlasCare entered the duct cleaning business back in 2010 because our clients were tired of dealing with inferior services from unscrupulous companies. Since then, we’ve completed over 5,000 duct cleanings to NADCA standards and to our clients’ complete satisfaction. We take time to seal the vents, cover the air conditioner coil, and shield your walls and baseboards from vacuum hose impact. And, as always, we roll out the AtlasCare red carpet to keep your floors as clean as they were when we knocked on the door.

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8 Ways To Improve Energy Efficiency In Your Home

Whether we want to admit it or not, fall is just around the corner and now is a perfect time to think about how to prevent the cold from creeping through our home…and wallets!

Take the time to inspect your entire house and ensure there aren’t any major concerns before you begin winter-proofing your home.

Here are eight easy ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency:

  1. Weather-strip your doors and windows. Weather-stripping can easily close up any cracks. Stopping the cold from coming in and preventing the heat from going out.
  2. Clear the way. Make sure there aren’t any objects obstructing the registers and preventing heat from coming through.
  3. Switch out old lightbulbs. Replacing incandescent bulbs to fluorescent is an easy and efficient upgrade. It can also help with that late-night reading.
  4. Stop wasting water. Switching to a low-flow showerhead and a modern two-flush toilet will save the amount of water and energy used – it can be that easy!
  5. Thicker curtains. This quick fix can prevent heat from escaping and cold from coming through. They’re also great for the summer when you want to block the sun from heating your home.
  6. Retire your appliances. Your appliances should match your needs. These can be pricy purchases, but if done right, can save you money in the long run. Bigger isn’t always better.
  7. Turn your heat down and grab a sweater. Sounds simple right? It is. By turning your heat down just a little, you will improve your efficiency and save on your energy bill. Don’t worry, your body will adjust – you won’t freeze.
  8. Insulate the attic. A properly insulated home will trap your desired temperature in, and keep the exterior temperatures out. An insulated attic is the perfect way to control heat or air.

These useful tips are handy for the cold months and summer. If you choose just a few of the suggestions, you’ll see an improvement in your energy bill and know that you’re doing the earth a big favour.


Indoor Air Can Be a Health Issue For Seniors

No doubt, come winter, many seniors will be outdoors skiing the day away. But for some, winter’s cold, ice and snow make venturing out a little more dangerous. Older adults spend as much as 90 per cent of their winter at home. It is a time to take a deep breath and just get through it.


However, that deep breath may not be good for us. The air indoors is around 10 times more contaminated than fresh air. Household chemicals, pet dander, dust mites, dirt, fibers, mould, smoke, lint, germs and viruses… they can linger in air, rugs, draperies, upholstery and vents. Particularly when the furnace is on, even in the cleanest of homes these microscopic roommates will be moving around in the air we breathe.


For anyone, breathing all that in can lead to eye, nose and throat irritation, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, worsening of asthma and other allergic reactions, according to Health Canada.

For seniors, poor indoor air can be a health concern. Their immune systems are typically weaker, and they may have pre-existing lung or heart conditions that make them more vulnerable.

If you’re an older adult or support someone who is, here are 10 tips to healthier indoor air – especially for seniors:

  1. Clean draperies, carpets and upholstery at least once per year, ideally in the fall.
  2. Clean ceiling fans, bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans each fall.
  3. Crack open a window for an hour a day to bring some fresh air in.
  4. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
  5. Have your furnace serviced each year so it’s operating at peak performance and not overworking.
  6. Change furnace filters according to instructions provided by your heating technician.
  7. Have your heating ducts cleaned every couple of years – and your dryer vents, too. You’d be amazed what our AtlasCare duct cleaning technicians find after a cleaning!
  8. Watch pipes and walls for moisture or water damage that may lead to mould spores.
  9. If you’re renovating or improving your home, consider replacing carpeting with wood floors or tile.
  10. Consider investing in the right equipment to keep humidity under control and improve ventilation. An Energy Recovery Ventilator or air purifier can make a huge difference – removing the majority of irritants, and lower heating and cooling bills, too.

Fortunately, by taking a few simple steps, seniors can clear the air and feel a little more comfortable on those toasty indoor days when winter rages outside.


Energy Changes on the Horizon

Much is being reported in the press these days about the rising cost of energy. There is talk about renewable energy versus fossil fuel versus nuclear generated electricity; the merits of electricity versus natural gas and electric vehicles versus combustion engines. Don’t forget climate change and carbon reduction.

There are a lot of “versus” on this song sheet, and the changes in these major areas will have profound impacts on our future.

Two things jump out at me: first, change is necessary, and it’s coming like a freight train. It is illogical and irresponsible of us to stick to our old ways of doing things. If we are knowledgeable about our options, we’re in a better place to make smart decisions about our energy use. And, second, governments at every level and of every political stripe have a dog in the fight. They are going to be involved in every step of the process, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. They are stumbling around like bulls in a china shop, and they don’t always get it right because they don’t always consider the concerns of key stakeholders. It will be critical that we make our voices heard to best represent the interests of our customers.

Amongst individuals (not industry), the biggest consumers of energy in our day-to-day lives are vehicles and buildings. Cars appear to be heading towards being self-driving and our choices for energy source may get limited very quickly in that space.

That leaves buildings as a key area for change. The biggest consumer of energy in most buildings is the HVAC system and that is true for your home. This is something AtlasCare has a vested interest in, and where we hope to drive change in the right direction. Our provincial government is looking to introduce mandatory energy labeling for homes so that a potential buyer of your home will know how efficient it is on an overall basis. This edition of An Engineer’s Opinion is dedicated to the notion of how to “future proof” your home to make it more livable and cost efficient to enhance its long term value.

Keep Those Dryer Vents Clear

Home energy efficiency is important to everyone and it pays to make sure that you are not wasting power. A big energy consumer in the home is the clothes dryer, and its cost to homeowners can add up. While you can take steps to prevent excessive dryer usage (e.g. wait until you have a proper sized load before using the machine), your apparently reliable appliance can still be costing you more than necessary due to a lack of proper maintenance.

One of the best things you can do to prevent this is to have the dryer vent cleaned annually. This can be done as part of a duct cleaning or on its own. We encourage customers to clean their ducts and vents at least every five years, but do it more frequently than that if your appliance gets a lot of use. You can also opt to have it done every year, especially if your family is sensitive to indoor air quality. A properly maintained dryer vent will prevent the circulation of such pollutants as mold, animal dander, and dead skin. Members of your family with allergies or asthma will benefit greatly from this extra bit of home care.

There is also a potential safety issue here as clogged dryer vents are a fire hazard. You can help to prevent this danger by adding an annual vent cleaning to your list of home safety steps. Lint accumulates inside the dryer through regular use and acts as an insulator for the motor, causing it to overheat and burn. The city of Vancouver experienced 13 fires in 2015 caused by clogged dryer vents, which led to over $200,000 worth of damage. On a related note, do not ever operate your dryer while sleeping or leave the house while it is in operation.