Rental Furnaces and Air Conditioners

The whole issue of renting furnaces and air conditioners has been getting a lot of attention lately – largely for the wrong reasons.

One reason why so many companies, including the big water heater monopolies, have gotten into renting furnaces and air conditioners is that they made so much money renting water heaters. While the Ontario government passed a law some time ago to protect consumers from door-to-door sales agents trying to switch their hot water heaters, the door was left open on other equipment, which is another reason we are hearing so much about it.

Do you know someone selling a home?

The issue of furnace and AC rentals is too big to tackle quickly, but I wanted to provide some information to help our customers and their families avoid some of the pitfalls with some rental contracts, especially if you are looking at selling a home.

We have recently become aware of the potential challenges with rental contracts that occur when you go to sell your home. Better real estate agents are advising customers to make vendors buy out their rental contracts. They have done the math and figured out that it is not a good deal to assume someone else’s rental contract. The buyouts with some contracts can still be very costly, even after several years of ownership. The initial capital cost that you agreed to can be as much as 50% higher than the cost of purchasing the system outright. After five years of paying $150/month or more to rent, you might still have to pay more to buy out the contract than the equipment was originally worth.

Rental companies can register a lien against your home

These rental contracts are rock solid and there is no getting out of them. In fact, these companies can register a lien against your property to protect their interest. It’s a high price to pay for short term cost certainty.

New home builders like rentals a lot. They get to reduce their costs without having to reduce their prices. This makes first time homebuyers particularly vulnerable, since most of them often move up within five years of their initial purchase. The end result: when they go to sell their home, they find out they have a lot less equity in their home than they thought.

So, if you have children who are buying their first home, please advise them to be careful so they are not taken in. We’ll be watching this issue closely and providing more information to help our customers and families in the future.

Why Replace a Furnace and Air Conditioner Together?

I recently had to buy a new car, not because I wanted to but because my last one was stolen (that’s a story for another day). I decided to get the same model as one I had owned 10 years ago.

The car was essentially the same in look and feel but was totally different in most other aspects. It was the same size, had roughly the same power and handled essentially the same. That’s where the similarities ended. My new car has superior gas mileage, improved comfort, more advanced technology and improved convenience and safety — all features that enhance my enjoyment of the vehicle.

Sure, the more basic car of 10 years ago would have gotten me from A to B, but not in quite the same way.

So, how is this story relevant to air-conditioning? The relevance is actually in how buying a car and buying air conditioning or other HVAC equipment is different.

In a car, all the pieces of the system are contained in a single package. While they are discreet pieces of equipment, they are integrated into a system where everything works together. You can replace a single component and get essentially the same performance as you had previously.

However, with air conditioning or your furnace, to take full advantage of recent technological improvements, they should be upgraded together. This is especially true if they are more than 10 years old as there has been a lot of technological change in this time.

We now have air conditioners that are up to three times as efficient as the models they’ve replaced. New high efficiency air conditioners come with multi stage and even fully variable speed compressors to match the output of the air conditioner with the load required by the home, so no energy gets wasted. To reach these efficiencies, however, they must be matched with a compatible furnace that also has a variable speed blower motor. Coupled with the right thermostat you can get better temperature distribution throughout your home and enjoy the added benefit of managing it through your smart phone, wherever you happen to be.

While energy efficiency is a big feature of today’s furnaces and air conditioners, moisture management is equally important. When a high efficiency air conditioner is matched with a variable speed furnace, you can also improve humidity control, particularly in the spring and fall, which can be quite damp. They can also work together with an energy recovery ventilator to bring fresh air into your home for optimal moisture control year round. There have also been significant improvements in sound reduction, inside and outside the home.

Contractors anxious to make a quick sale and then move on will often focus on the one piece that needs changing now. They might propose replacing the furnace or air conditioner as well but only at the entry product level. As you might suspect, the best efficiencies and features are only available on the higher end products. There is no question they can cost more, which is why we try to make them more accessible for our customers with financing plans that can put leading edge technology into your home for as little as $165/month.

The next time you are replacing a key piece of HVAC equipment, consider how it will work most efficiently with other equipment in your home.


Water heaters – rent or purchase?

As most of you are aware, there has been great upheaval in the water heater business. You have been besieged by unscrupulous door to door salespeople pretending to be utilities wanting to give you a “free” upgrade to your water heater.

It got so bad at one point that the Ontario government enacted special legislation to deal with the matter. This situation arose largely as a result of the water heater industry being controlled by a duopoly firstly of gas utilities and then international energy infrastructure companies. It became so lucrative that a host of opportunists jumped into the market.

Many of our customers were taken in and now have rental water heaters with God knows who. These portfolios of water heaters get bought and sold every day. Many of our customers are fed up and have asked us to intervene and become involved in the business. To that end, we are pleased to announce that effective April 1, 2016, you will be able to get your water heater from AtlasCare.

We have partnered with Rheem, the number one supplier of water heaters in Ontario to bring you a full range of water heating options.

We believe it is always better to own your own assets, so to make ownership easier for our customers we have developed an innovative “rent to own” program with rates that are competitive with the big guys. With AtlasCare, though, you will own your water heater after 10 years, while enjoying rate increase protection along the way. This way you can have the best of both worlds: low monthly cost with eventual ownership. If you rent your water heater you can expect to pay almost twice as much for the same one over its anticipated lifetime, than if you purchased it under the AtlasCare “rent to own” program. In addition to the savings, you can get the same great service from AtlasCare for your water heater that you currently enjoy for your furnace and air conditioner.

Water heaters are one of the least efficient appliances in the home today. We know that in the very near future legislation is coming to mandate higher minimum efficiencies and make those old water heaters obsolete. We offer excellent higher efficiency options such as tankless and condensing models with efficiencies in the same range as your furnace.

The best time to replace your water heater is now. AtlasCare will remove your old water heater, install a new one, return the old tank to the rental company and have them stop the charges on your gas bill. Why wait? Have AtlasCare replace your water heater today and get on the path to ownership and great service.

Duct cleaning & dryer vents

It is hard to believe, but AtlasCare has been in the duct cleaning business for more than five years now.

We got into the business in response to many requests from customers who were tired of being hounded by relentless telemarketers and wanted to have their ducts cleaned by someone they could trust. We took the plunge and invested in leading edge, high-powered vacuum trucks to do the job right. We hired people dedicated to the task and earned our National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) certification.

Duct cleaning can be done at any time during the year but many homeowners seem to get spring cleaning fever and want to clean their homes thoroughly including the ducts. This is not a service we recommend every year unless there is a particular reason such as a recent renovation or you have pets in the home. Having it done every three years is a good frequency so, if you haven’t had your ducts cleaned for more than three years, this is a good time.

People are always amazed at how much dirt (six pounds on average) our trucks can remove each duct cleaning, using the latest technology.

Even more important than cleaning your ducts is cleaning your clothes dryer vent. Dryer vents are one of the most common causes of fires in the home. No matter how good the lint traps are in our modern dryers, plenty gets through and eventually plugs the vent, especially if it has corrugated ribbing. If your dryer vent is made from flexible plastic and/or is ribbed it’s recommended that it be replaced with one made from smooth sheet metal similar to that used in heating ducts.

Carbon Monoxide. Danger Can Lurk In Your Furnace.

You’ve probably seen it in the news. The silent killer, carbon monoxide strikes again. Carbon Monoxide or CO often comes from heating appliances in your home such as your furnace, boiler or water heater. That’s why it’s worth it to have you heating system serviced annually to ensure safe operation for your family.

Carbon monoxide is colourless, odourless, tasteless and non-irritating. It’s why it’s called the silent killer that takes many lives in Canada every year. Every homeowner living with fuel-burning appliances is potentially at risk to CO poising.

CO can be circulated throughout your home by the heating system. Once released, CO is heavier than air. That’s why it is particularly problematic in bedroom areas and why many homeowners die in their sleep.

How do you avoid the dangers of CO?

  • Obviously have working CO detectors on each floor of your home and make sure the batteries are changed annually. Ask your heating contractor where to properly place detectors in your home. But remember, a detector is no substitute for proper heating repair and maintenance.
  • Secondly, have your furnace or boiler serviced and inspected. If your furnace is older than ten years, it may be a danger and time to replace it.
  • The savings you get on a new higher efficiency furnace may make it worthwhile when you think of the fuel savings over the next ten years and the invaluable safety for your family.
  • Keep areas around your water heater and furnace clear so air can properly circulate and maintenance work can be performed.
  • Have your chimney inspected if you’ve had it for a number of years. A deteriorating chimney may become blocked and prevent CO from properly venting to the outside.
  • Cars produce a lot of CO, so back your car out of the garage to warm it up on those cold winter days to keep the CO from entering your home.


9 Ways to Keep Your Home Toasty in Winter


AtlasCare’s Dick Thomas, Vice President of Operations, was recently interviewed for by Walmart Canada’s Live Better Magazine, about saving heating costs during the cold months of winter.  We are honoured that Walmart thought so highly of our expertise in the Heating and Cooling industry and we are pleased to share this article with you in case you didn’t get a chance to read it in the November issue of Live Better magazine.

Feeling The Heat – 9 ways to keep your home toasty in winter.

With freezing temperatures on the way, your home heating costs will likely start to increase. How do you keep that heating bill from burning a hole in your budget? Here are nine things you can do that may lead to big savings.

By Martha Li

  1. Install a high efficiency furnace: “It’s the number one way to reduce your heating costs”, says Dick Thomas, Vice President of operations at AtlasCare, an Oakville, Ontario based contractor specializing in installation and service of residential heating and air-conditioning equipment. If you have an old furnace, look into replacing it with a high efficiency one – Thomas says, “it can equal savings of 30 percent or higher off your current heating bill.”
  1. Clean or replace furnace filters: “A furnace with a dirty filter is not allowing the maximum airflow to go through the house, and therefore the furnace is not operating at its most efficient level,” says Thomas. How often to replace your furnace filter depends on the type that’s used. “If it’s a one inch disposable filter, it should be replaced approximately every two months,” says Thomas. “A furnace using a pleated filter should be replaced once or twice a year.”
  1. Install a programmable thermostat – and use it: Nowadays there are Wi – Fi thermostats that allow a homeowner to adjust the temperature from virtually anywhere by using their smartphone, tablet or laptop. Just make sure it’s programmed to automatically lower and raise the temperature based on peak consumption times and periods of the day when the home is vacant. A properly programmed thermostat can reduce heating costs by up to 10 percent.
  1. Ensure your attic and basement are properly insulated: Together, these areas represent as much as 15 to 30 percent of your home’s overall heating and cooling losses. “Adding insulation in these areas can curb your homes overall heating loss,” says Jennifer Smith, vice president of corporate relations at Burlington Hydro In Ontario.
  1. Check your home’s humidity: “If a house has the proper humidity, it’ll feel warmer than if it’s dry,” Thomas says. “Look into getting a whole house humidifier, not just ones that service single rooms.”
  1. Close heat registers in unused rooms: Close the door, too, adds Smith, since shutting doors means you’ll only heat the rooms used most often.
  1. Let the sun in: “Open curtains during the day to let the natural heat from the sun come in,” says Smith. “At night, close the curtains to minimize heat loss.”
  1. Eliminate drafts: Seal or caulk drafts around windows, doors, and air vents, and install insulated plates on electrical outlets – doing so can shave off up to 25 percent of total annual heating costs.
  1. Turn down the heat: For every degree lower, you’ll save up to two percent on heating costs, according to Epcor Utilities Inc. in Edmonton. The most commonly recommended settings are 20 °C (68°F) during the day, 18°C (64°F) for sleeping and 16°C (61°F) when you are away from home.