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.


Why Your Home Insurance Might Not Cover Water Heater Damage

You know that home insurance is important. But are you completely certain that all your home’s systems are covered?

In our previous blog on home insurance, you learned of the various kinds of water damage that are and are not covered under the standard home insurance policy in Ontario. There, we talked about damage caused by burst pipes, leaky plumbing, spring flooding and sewer back-up.

One thing we didn’t cover in that article is another potential source of damage in your home: your hot water heater. Does home insurance cover water heater damage?

Why A Busted Water Heater Could Cost You Big

Although it isn’t mandatory here in Ontario, most banks and lenders will insist that you purchase and show proof of home insurance before they’ll approve you for a mortgage. It’s easy to understand why.

Home insurance can protect you from the costs of a fire, storm, or another unexpected disaster. It also represents peace of mind – the comfort of knowing that your family won’t have to be responsible for a major financial hardship in an already difficult situation.

Without this coverage, many of us would be forced to pay for the significant repair and replacement costs out-of-pocket.

But as you already know, home insurance doesn’t cover every kind of damage and disaster that can occur to your home. And recently, the list of exceptions has expanded to include certain water heaters.

Today, most basic home insurance policies no longer cover damage resulting from a water heater that has been installed for a certain number of years – often 10 years or more.

This means that if your water heater leaks, you could be financially responsible for fixing your basement and replacing your water-damaged belongings yourself.

Why Home Insurance Doesn’t Cover Water Heater Damage

How can insurance companies get away with not covering this type of damage? After all, a water heater is something every single home has.

To understand what’s going on here, it helps to explain what insurance companies mean when they talk about ‘insured perils.’

A peril is a chance event that is both unexpected and accidental. Most home insurance plans cover these types of events.

For example, suppose someone comes by and sprays graffiti on your garage door. Since this event wasn’t something you did on purpose, and you couldn’t reasonably predict that it would happen, your home insurance would likely cover the cost of this damage.

Vandalism is generally considered an insured peril. Other commonly insured perils include fire, lightning, theft, wind, hail, falling objects, vehicle impact and smoke from a malfunctioning appliance.

But what about a leaking water heater? Most storage tank water heaters hold 50 gallons, or around 200 litres, of water, which is more than enough to seriously damage your basement floor and any nearby belongings.

As far as most insurance companies are concerned, this is not an insured peril – at least if the unit is over a certain age. Here’s why.

As the name suggests, storage water heater units keep hot water in a tank to be available immediately when you need it. When you turn on the tap, hot water flows out of the tank and cold water flows into the tank to replace it. A thermostat controls the burner or electrical element that maintains the water’s temperature.

Over time, the corrosive minerals in the water can wear away at the tank’s metal components, including the valves and the walls of the tank itself. Storage water heaters do have measures in place to minimize corrosion (the anode rod, for example) but they still require regular maintenance to stay in top shape.

Unfortunately, so many people forget to have their water heater serviced. It is common to see water heaters leak or fail around the 10-12 year mark for exactly this reason.

This has led many insurance companies to view water heater failure after 10 years as an avoidable incident, not an insured peril.

How to Protect Yourself from Water Heater Damage

First thing’s first: if you ever notice your water heater leaking, shut it off right away! You can shut off the water valve near the unit or cut the main water valve in your basement. It’s important to know where to find these valves before it becomes an emergency!

Next, there are a few things you can do right now to avoid unexpected water heater expenses in the future.

  1. Call your home insurance provider to find out what your policy says. Some policies cover water damage to your home caused by a broken water heater, but not a replacement unit. Others only provide coverage for units installed or manufactured less than 10 years ago. It’s important to know where your policy stands.
  2. Check the age of your water heater. Most water heaters come with a certification plate that states the year of manufacture. If you have rented your water heater, check with your provider.
  3. Have your water heater serviced by a professional. This is especially important if your unit is approaching its 10th year. If it’s not in great shape, you should start thinking about a replacement before you find yourself with a soggy basement.

When it comes time to replace your water heater, there are several extra measures you can take to minimize the chance of water damage, including:

  • Install a leak detector that will automatically shut off the water intake valve when it detects a leak.
  • Install a water heater recovery plate under the new tank to contain any leaks that do occur.
  • Have your other basement appliances elevated off the floor to keep them from being damaged by low levels of flooding.
  • Drain the water heater storage tank any time you will be away from home for an extended period, especially in the winter. This will prevent the pipes from bursting if they freeze.
  • Invest in basement waterproofing.



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.


What NOT to Do When Your A/C Stops Working

What should you do when your AC suddenly stops working?

Don’t Lose Your Cool!

Call the air conditioner specialists at AtlasCare for the fastest emergency service in the GTA. At AtlasCare we mean it when we say we’re “always there when you need us.” We proudly provide a 4-hour service window, day or night. Call us at 905-829-1296 for fast and reliable air conditioning emergency service.

Don’t Try to Fix It Yourself

Tinkering with your AC unit is not a DIY project and best left to the HVAC experts. The heat & cooling service maintenance experts at AtlasCare can troubleshoot your air conditioner to get it up and running smoothly again in no time.

The internet is full of DIY tips and how-to videos for the homeowner. It can easily lead you to believe that you can diagnose and repair your AC unit yourself. But unless you have experience with mechanical repairs, troubleshooting your unit is best left to a trained HVAC technician. Not only can they diagnose the problem in half the time, but they can also quickly source any replacement parts.

Don’t Look for Replacement Parts Yourself

Don’t go searching for replacement parts yourself. Cheaper products on the internet may be inferior to your equipment. AtlasCare sources products from reputable companies and combine that with their expert training so that they’re installed properly and guaranteed to last.

Don’t Overlook the Obvious

Be sure to check your thermostat to make sure the program settings for you AC unit are correct. Sometimes little hands, or even not so little hands make unwanted changes. The thermostat should be set to cool, and left on AUTO. It’s also a good idea to check the thermostat battery.

It’s also possible that a circuit breaker has tripped. Check to see that your circuit breaker is not in the off position. If so, flip it on and see if your unit restarts.

A clogged air filter will prevent any airflow. Clean or replace your air filter to see if that remedies the problem. Clean your filter with a soft brush, mild soap and water. Change and clean your filter often to avoid this problem in the future.

Don’t Switch Your A/C Unit On and Off Repeatedly

When your system is running as it should it automatically cycles on and off according to the temperature changes. Turning your AC unit on and off quickly and unnecessarily causes excess stress and wear and tear on your system.

If cleaning or replacing the filter does not resolve the problem, there may be any number of other problems to diagnose with simple solutions, to more serious situations where your AC unit will need to be replaced.

If you’re in the running for a new system, consider the ENERGY STAR certified Lennox® XC21 Air Conditioner that runs 20% quieter than standard air conditioners, or the Lennox Elite® Series XC16S Air Conditioner, which boasts outstanding home comfort with even temperatures, lower energy bills and the highest level of reliability. AtlasCare’s expert team will work with you to find the best solution.

Here is a list for common AC unit problems:

  • Not blowing cold air
  • Not cooling enough
  • Won’t turn off
  • Won’t turn on
  • AC fan not working
  • Leaking water outside
  • Leaking water inside
  • Leaking water when turned off

Note anything unusual such as any bad smells or noises coming from the unit that you can share with your HVAC technician.

Don’t Skip the Yearly Inspection

Avoid sudden breakdowns of your AC unit, especially in really hot and humid weather when you rely on it most, by having your AC system serviced annually! With regular maintenance, your AC unit will last longer, run smoother, and save you money on your energy bills in the long run.

Contact our air conditioner 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.  

Why It’s Important to Keep Your A/C On – and How It Can Save You Money

Like most of us, you try to save a few extra dollars whenever you can – especially when it comes to major expenses like your hydro bill.

You might have even considered shutting down your central air conditioning off whenever you leave the house. But that would mean coming home to a stiflingly hot house after a long, summer day…which is not something anyone wants.

There’s been a lot of debate on this question of turning off the A/C to save energy. Your money is important, of course, but so is your family’s comfort! Is it really that much more efficient to switch off the air conditioning when you leave the house?

Let’s air out the facts on this issue.

Should I Turn Off my Air Conditioner to Save Money?

First thing’s first: the long-standing myth that turning off your air conditioner actually wastes more energy than it saves.

This theory posits that your air conditioner uses more energy just to power itself back on than you would save by switching it off. Were this true, leaving your air conditioner running would always be the more energy-efficient choice.

However, that theory doesn’t really hold true. It may have been true in the past, but the air conditioning systems we use today run most efficiently when they’re operating at full speed. If your A/C has been switched off for a few hours, it might make a bit more noise when you first switch it on – but it is still using less energy than it would had it been running all that time.

When you leave your air conditioner on, it will constantly consume power to keep your home cooler than the ambient conditions. As the temperature outside fluctuates, the system must work continuously to maintain that perfect temperature you left it on.

In short, keeping your air conditioner on all day during the summer will invariably cost more than it would to switch it on and off each day. Turning it off when the house is empty is definitely the more cost-effective way to run your A/C.

But there’s a catch: just because you can save energy this way doesn’t mean you should. There are definite drawbacks to cutting the power whenever you leave – namely, the humidity.

Why You Shouldn’t Shut Your Air Conditioner Off Completely

You might picture your air conditioner as a machine that simply blows cold air into your home. But what’s really going on is a bit more interesting. Central air conditioners cool your home by removing heat and humidity from the space and then returning the conditioned air.

If you’ve ever looked inside your air conditioning unit, you’ll have noticed the evaporator coil – a square, metal component with tubes full of refrigerant. Below it you’ll find a drip pan, which collects the moisture the coil pulls from the humid air.

Your air conditioner doesn’t only cool the air down. It also removes excess moisture to make the air less humid. So, if the air is humid and you’re A/C isn’t running at all, you’re not removing any moisture at all – and you run the risk of damage caused by excess humidity.

What About Pets?

Do you share your home with a furry or feathered friend? You’ll want to keep them in mind when it comes to setting the temperature.

Although your home doesn’t heat up in the sun nearly as fast as your vehicle, unconditioned rooms can become uncomfortable or even hazardous to animals in the summer heat. For many of us, leaving our pets at home without air conditioning is simply not an option.

What’s the Best Way to Run Your Air Conditioner?

So, you won’t save energy by leaving your air conditioning on all day. But you can’t just power it off completely, either. Is there a compromise?

1. Set a Smart Schedule with Your Thermostat

For most people, the simplest solution is to invest in a programmable thermostat. You can easily save approximately 15% on your energy bills just by scheduling a temperature adjustment while you’re away! Every degree makes a difference in your energy bill.

Programmable thermostats let you adjust the temperature throughout the day. Set a schedule to inch up the temperature just a few degrees while you’re away so the air conditioner is still running, but not at full blast. Just have the A/C ramp back up to your preferred temperature about half an hour before you come home!

Smart thermostats like the iComfort and ecobee4 have risen in popularity over the past few years. These devices give you complete control over your home’s central heating and cooling using a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection.

With a smart thermostat, you have even greater control over the level of heating in your home based on the time of day, weather and more. And if you happen to forget to set the temperature before you leave your home, you can do it remotely using your laptop or mobile phone (like the one you’re using right now!)

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>

You can also use a smart thermostat see how much energy you’re using in real-time. This information allows you to be more energy efficient and save money!

Not only is this easier than shutting the air conditioner on and off…it means you’ll never have to come home to a hot, humid house.

2. Install a Two-Stage Air Conditioner

Another great option would be to install a two-stage air conditioner. While it’s not as quick and easy as installing a thermostat, a two-stage air conditioner will yield far greater energy savings in the long run – even if you do keep the A/C running.

A two-stage air conditioner like the Lennox XC21 has two levels of operations: high for hot summer days and low for milder days.  The system would run on low stage for most of the day and increase to the second stage later in the afternoon when the heat is the greatest.

This gives you the best of both worlds: lower energy costs during the day, better humidity control and complete comfort in your home when you arrive from work.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>

Want to Spend Less on Air Conditioning?

Did you know you can lower your air conditioner’s energy use by up to 15% just by having the filter cleaned?

That’s why washing or replacing the filter is part of our 20-point precision air conditioner tune-up. Preventative maintenance is the key to keeping your A/C running efficiently. Contact our air conditioner specialists to learn more about how we can help you spend less on air conditioning this summer.

Water Damage and Basement Flooding: What Does My Insurance Cover in Ontario?

What does it cost to repair a flooded basement? What if your sewer backs up due to overland flooding from heavy rainfall, or your sump pump fails due to a power outage? 

These problems are becoming all too familiar here in Southern OntarioSadly, the risk of urban floods will likely continue to increase as we experience earlier snowmelt, more intense rainfall and other effects of climate change in Canada 

You’d hope that your homeowner’s insurance policy would provide adequate coverage for any flooding or water damage. But there are many types of home flooding that are not covered by a typical home insurance policy – and according to new data from the Insurance Bureau of Canada, families who fall victim to flooding can expect to pay an average of $43,000 in repairs. 

Don’t wait until you are in a crisis to understand what your insurance company will and won’t cover regarding plumbing! Here’s what you should know about flood and water damage coverage in Ontario. 

Does Basic Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Basement Flooding in Ontario?

Most basic homeowner’s insurance plans do cover basement flooding in some circumstances, but it often depends on the source of the water damage. 

Typically, homeowner’s insurance covers damage resulting from any water overflow from malfunctioning household appliances such as your dishwasher, washing machine or hot water heater. When your pipes burst from freezing in the winter (or possibly from your A/C unit), your insurer will likely cover the damage and any replacement costs. 

But what if the cause of your flooded basement is the result of a hot tub or swimming pool overflowYour insurance company will generally replace and repair any damage caused by these types of flooding because they are considered “sudden and accidental.” The same applies if your toilet overflows and ruins your newly laid bathroom flooring. 

Of course, when most people think about basement flooding, they aren’t thinking about plumbing issues. They’re worried about overland flooding caused by severe weather 

Unfortunately, this is exactly where your homeowner’s insurance could fall short. 

When Do I Need Additional Insurance Coverage for Flooding?

In reality, most homeowner’s insurance policies don’t include overland flood insurance at all. 

Overland flooding occurs when water flows over the ground and seeps into buildings through the windows, doors and cracks in the foundation. Most flooding occurs when rivers or streams overflow during the wet spring months, but floods can occur anywhere at any time of year.  

Although this type of flooding is one of the most frequent and costly natural disasters in Canada, most basic homeowner’s insurance policies do not provide coverage. Instead, many insurance companies offer overland flood insurance coverage for a small, additional fee.  

The cost of this extra coverage is minimal in comparison to the cost of the potential damage caused by flooding or sewage backup. But when you take out a flood policy, you will need to purchase both dwelling and contents coverage to get the maximum coverage for your basement.  

You should also consider sump pump coverage, as many policies do not cover water damage if your sump pump fails due to malfunction. 

Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Sewage Backup?

Sewage backup from an overwhelmed municipal sewer system can be one of the most extensive and costly disasters that can befall a home.  

Unfortunately, like overland flooding, this type of water damage is not part of most basic homeowner’s insurance policies. But most companies do offer an endorsement for sewage backup that is relatively inexpensive and highly advisable addon to your homeowner’s policy.  

Installing a mainline backwater valve can prevent sewers from backing up. A backwater valve will close automatically if sewage backs up from the main sewer.

How to Protect Yourself

As a homeowner, it’in your best interest to take any preventative measures you can. We encourage you to have a having a backwater valve installed to prevent sewage backup, as well as getting the extended home insurance mentioned above.  

Some municipalities offer rebates or subsidies to install flood prevention devices such as sump pumps and backwater valves.