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.



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. 

Tankless Water Heaters: What are They and Why are They Better?

Your water heater is likely tucked away in a closet or deep in the depths of your basement. Out of sight, out of mind. But what if we told you that a tankless water heater is a space-saving, energy-reducing, water-conserving alternative that can provide endless amounts of hot water throughout your home?

These facts might just make you give your water heater a second look.

Traditional Water Heaters

Traditional water heaters are ‘storage’ or tank-style units that fill with cold water, heat it, then keep it warm until it’s used. Here in Ontario, most homes use this type of water heater. However, these units come with three notable downsides:

  1. Once the tank is about 2/3 empty, the hot water runs out. If you need more, you’ll have to wait for the tank to refill and reheat. This process doesn’t take too long, but it can be frustrating, especially if many people are living in the home. If you’ve ever lived in a house where you couldn’t take a hot shower while the dishwasher was on, it’s because the tank ran empty.
  2. Traditional water heaters are not very energy-inefficient. They must constantly heat the water inside the tank, thus consuming energy 24/7 and resulting in standby energy losses. The tanks have good insulation nowadays, and it’s possible to add additional insulation through exterior jackets, but it remains costly. Water heating accounts for 19% of the average home’s energy use, more than all household appliances (excluding furnaces) combined.
  3. Water heaters take up a lot of room. Some units are wall-mounted, which saves some space, but the bottom line is that a smaller tank means less hot water available.

It’s not to say that storage tank water heaters are bad news – they remain the model of choice for most homes, and there are high-efficiency models available from manufacturers like Rheem, A.O. Smith and Weil McLain.

Still, if you’re planning to replace your water heater soon, the tankless alternative is well worth your consideration.

How Tankless Heaters Work

So, how does a tankless water heater get the job done?

Simple. When you turn on the hot water tap, cold water is drawn through a pipe into the unit and heated either by an electric heating element or a gas burner. It heats the water on-demand, which is why tankless water heaters are often called ‘demand water heaters.’ Tankless water heaters typically deliver hot water at a rate of 2-5 gallons per minute, and gas-fired models will usually have higher flow rates compared to electric.

Types of Tankless Water Heaters

There are two main types of tankless water heaters: small, point-of-use units and whole-home units.

Typically, small units are designed to service a single room and often installed near the point-of-use. These smaller models can reduce heat losses through piping, but multiple units are usually needed to serve a whole home. They can be useful for supplementing a regular water heater for a bathroom or in a location far from the main water heater.

Larger tankless water heaters can provide hot water for multiple points-of-use throughout the home. While these units eliminate the heat losses from a storage tank, there will still be some minor losses through the hot water piping unless it’s fully insulated.

Pros of Using a Tankless Water Heater

Tankless water heaters solve the issues that traditional water heaters present. Here’s how:

  1. Tankless water heaters essentially provide endless hot water, with the caveat that is its flow rate. To size a demand water heater, you must determine the flow rate you’ll need for its application. For example, your tankless water heater might not provide for two hot showers and a dishwasher at once, but if five people took turns showering one after the other, they would all get hot water.
  1. Since tankless water heaters heat water on demand instead of keeping a tank warm 24/7, tankless units use a lot less energy. An ENERGY STAR certified tankless water heater uses 30% less energy on average than a storage tank type.
  1. Tankless water heaters are wall-mounted and much smaller since they dispense with the need for a big storage tank.

Cons of Using a Tankless Water Heater

There are a few downsides to tankless water heaters, namely:

  • They come with higher upfront costs. They often require new venting and gas lines as part of the installation and these costs can add up. However, these costs are recovered upon installation, with the energy savings of not constantly re-heating water in the tank.
  • Due to the reduced flow rate, tankless water heaters may not be compatible with low-flow faucets/showerheads.

Interested in learning more about tankless water heaters to make sure they’re the perfect match for you? Check out our selection of tankless water heaters or fill out our contact form to receive a free quote for water heater installation and services in Toronto.

5 Reasons Why Your Water Heater Might Not Be Working As Well As It Used To

No one likes running out of hot water. What’s worse is when your water heater is consistently running out of water or failing to heat it up properly.

There are several reasons why a water heater might not be working as well as it used to. Fortunately, it’s usually something we can fix.

1. New Fixtures or Appliances

Have you replaced your old showerhead with a luxurious high flow rate model? Did you install a new bathtub or a large-capacity dishwasher?

It could be that nothing is wrong with your water heater at all; it simply isn’t big enough to accommodate the change.

Traditional water heaters store hot water in a tank, keeping it warm for when you need it. Once the tank is about two-thirds empty, you will have to wait for it to refill and heat up to get more.

Adding new appliances that consume water increases the hot water demand in your home, draining the tank faster than before. Replacing old faucets or showerheads can have the same result.

There are two main solutions to this problem: reduce your hot water use, or upgrade to a new water heater. Either a larger tank-style water heater or a properly-sized tankless water heater can keep the hot water flowing.

2. Defective Dip Tube

The dip tube refills the water heater tank as you use up hot water. Since the outlet that sends warm water to your taps is near the top of the tank, the dip tube releases its cold water near the bottom.

A defective dip tube could be one reason why your water heater isn’t working as well as it used to. If the tube has a tear near the top, it will release cold water near the warm water outlet and result in lukewarm water that ought to be hot.

Dip tubes don’t malfunction nearly as often now as they did in the 1990’s, but it can happen. Fortunately, replacing the dip tube isn’t too time-consuming.

If you’re not confident replacing a water heater dip tube yourself, call a plumber or an HVAC company that offers water heater repair services in your area.

3. Sediment Build-Up

Water heaters in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area deal with relatively hard water. As a result, the tank develops a layer of mineral sediment on the inside over time, which flakes off and accumulates at the bottom of the tank.

Sediment can reduce energy-efficiency and prevent the water from heating up as well as it should. If your water heater isn’t working as well as it used to, and it has never been flushed, this could be the cause.

Flushing a water heater is a messy job, so we recommend having it serviced by a trustworthy company.

4. Problems with the Heating System

Whether your water heater is gas-powered or electric, various components in the heating system can malfunction.

Problems with the heating element, thermostat, or (in the case of a gas water heater) pilot tube can prevent the water from heating up as much as it should. Unfortunately, these issues are difficult to diagnose as a homeowner.

Have the tank inspected by a qualified HVAC technician if you suspect problems with your water heater’s heating system.

5. Increase in Hot Water Demand

As mentioned, most water heaters store water in a tank. Once the supply is exhausted, you’ll have to wait for the tank to refill. But what does it mean if you keep running out of hot water faster than usual?

Sometimes, this poor performance is rooted in one of the issues we’ve discussed: a defective dip tube, sediment build-up, or problems with the heating systems. Other times, it has more to do with your water usage habits.

Think about how things might have changed in recent months. Are there more people living in the house? Is someone spending more time at home? Are you washing more dishes and clothing?

It could simply be that you’re using more water than usual, and your water heater cannot keep up. If the change is permanent, we recommend upgrading to a tankless water heater or a tank-style heater that holds more water.

Water Heater Installation and Service in Toronto

Water heater not working as well as it used to? AtlasCare can help, whether you’re looking to upgrade or get your old unit back to peak performance.

Call us or fill out our contact form to receive a free quote for our water heater services in Toronto.

Water Heater Problems? 4 Early Warning Signs to Watch For

Has your water heater done something odd lately? This appliance is usually the last thing on a homeowner’s mind, but strange sounds, not enough hot water and mysterious leaks are hard to ignore. These are among the warning signs you should watch for to prevent bigger water heater problems in the future.

Read on to learn about water heater sounds, leaks, pilot light issues, and circuit breaker problems.

Warning Signs of Water Heater Problems

When our team answers calls for water heater repair in the Greater Toronto Area, we often find that the homeowner noticed at least one red flag beforehand. These are some of the most common warning signs of water heater problems:

  • Loud knocking/popping/banging sounds, which indicates a layer of sediment at the bottom of the tank.
  • Pilot light that won’t stay lit, usually because of a defective thermostat, thermocouple, or pilot tube.
  • Leaks from the top of the tank (a minor issue) or bottom of the tank (much more serious)
  • Circuit breaker tripping when the water heater is in use due to electrical issues.
  • Not enough hot water for a shower

Most of these issues are minor if dealt with early on. However, they can lead to more serious water heater problems if not addressed.

We’ll look at each of these issues in more detail below.

1. Water Heater Making a Knocking, Banging, Popping Noise

It can be alarming to hear sudden pops and bangs coming from inside the water tank. Why would a water heater make knocking noises when there isn’t there anything but water in there?

Fortunately, the cause of the popping noise is not something serious. The sound you hear is most likely the sound of steam bubbles bursting through a layer of mineral scale that rests on the bottom of the tank.

Water heater tanks accumulate a layer of mineral sediment on the inside over time. The harder the water, the more minerals deposit on the sides and bottom of the tank. Since the water in our region is considered moderately hard (between 6 and 7 grains per gallon) water heaters in Toronto are prone to this issue.

When the bottom heating element heats up, the water between the element and sediment boils and escapes with a popping sound.

Why is this a bad sign? Because that amount of sediment is going to make your water heater less efficient. With a layer of gunk sitting obstructing the heating element, the heater has to consume more energy to maintain the desired water temperature.

2. Water Heater Pilot Light Won’t Stay Lit

Most gas-powered water heaters use a pilot light to ignite the heating element. Without it, the heat won’t kick in when it’s in demand.

What does it mean if a water heater pilot light stays lit? There are several potential causes. When a pilot light keeps going out, it may indicate a problem with one or more of the following components:

  • Control thermostat
    Part of the gas valve assembly, this component monitors temperature and lets you adjust the temperature using a dial.
  • Thermocouple
    The thermocouple uses an electrical current to gauge whether the pilot light is on. When defective, dirty or damaged, it can restrict the supply of gas to the pilot assembly.
  • Pilot Tube
    The tube that supplies gas to the water heater can be obstructed by dirt and grime. Anything that prevents a clear path can cause the pilot light to go out frequently.

3. Water Heater Leaking from the Top

When a water heater leaks from the bottom, it’s an emergency that necessitates shutting down the appliance and calling for water heater repair. Leaks from the top are usually less urgent.

Most of the time, a water heater leaking from the top simply needs to have its fittings tightened in the areas where water enters or leaves the tank: the cold water inlet, temperature and pressure release valve (TPR or TP valve), or anode rod.

However, these small leaks can point to bigger problems. A damaged TP valve, for example, is an urgent problem that should be addresses immediately. In rare cases, a water heater leaking from the top could have a crack or hole, which indicates extensive corrosion.

If you cannot easily identify the source of the leak, it’s worth having the water heater inspected by a professional to head off more serious issues.

4. Water Heater Tripping Circuit Breaker (Electric Tank)

Compared to the other water heater problems on this list, a tripped circuit seems minor. But when it happens over and over again, it’s much more than a simple annoyance.

If a water heater keeps tripping the circuit breaker, it may have to do with a malfunctioning heating element. The casing of the element can split and expose its electrical components to the water, causing a short circuit.

Wiring issues with the water heater thermostat can also trip the circuit.

In either case, the appliance should be assessed by a professional.

5. Not Enough Hot Water

If you notice the hot water isn’t as hot as it used to be this usually requires a service call. There are a few issues that could cause this but as a home owner make sure the thermostat is set properly on the knob near the gas valve. On newer hot water tanks there is an electronic controller that indicates a normal position.

Water Heater Repair in the Greater Toronto Area

Need water heater repair in Toronto or the GTA? Since it’s between the busy seasons for air conditioner and furnace inspection, fall is a great time to have your water heater inspected or repaired.

Call us or request a free quote for water heater repair at any time.

Water Heater Maintenance: 3 Things You Should Do With Your Water Heater At Least Once a Year

When it comes to water heaters, a few minutes of maintenance goes a long way. Most water heater problems are preventable with proper care. Unfortunately, many people go years without having their water heater serviced.

Performing these three basic maintenance tasks today will reduce the risk of costly water heater repairs down the road:

  1. Test the pressure release valve
  2. Flush the tank
  3. Inspect the anode rod

Below, we’ll explain why these aspects of water heater maintenance are so important.

1. Test the Pressure Release Valve

All water heaters have an essential safety device called a temperature and pressure release valve (often called a TPR valve or T&P valve). This valve is designed to gauge pressure inside of the water heater tank and open automatically to release pressure when necessary.

Without a working temperature and pressure release valve, there is a risk that the tank can over-pressurize due to excess heat — and potentially explode. While unlikely, the risk is one no homeowner should take.

Most water heater maintenance is about ensuring the efficiency and longevity of the unit. Testing the temperature and pressure release valve, however, is a vital safety issue.

2. Flush the Tank

Over time, naturally-occurring calcium will deposit on the interior sides of the water tank. Much of this sediment settles at the bottom of the tank. Although this doesn’t affect the water quality, it can interfere with the water heater’s performance, since it creates a barrier between the water and the heating element at the bottom of the tank.

The trouble with sediment is that it accumulates slowly. Most homeowners won’t notice a change to their water, and it’s only gradually that the water heater will become less efficient. By the time someone points out the issue, it may be difficult to restore the appliance to peak condition.

To prevent sediment build-up, homeowners should have the water heater tank flushed at least once a year. Flushing the tank involves shutting power to the water heater, closing the cold-water inlet, and opening the pressure and drain valves to allow water to drain until it runs clear. It’s a dirty job, and one that requires caution, since the water inside the tank is extremely hot.

Some homeowners do flush the tank themselves, and there are videos that demonstrate the process online. For safety reasons, we recommend calling an HVAC technician with experience in water heater repair and maintenance.

3. Inspect the Anode Rod

This maintenance issue should be done by a professional. Inside every tank-style water heater is a replaceable rod called an anode. The rod is made of a reactive metal like zinc or aluminium. So long as the anode is in place, the water’s electrolytes will corrode the rod instead of the walls of the tank.

But that anode doesn’t last forever. Eventually, it disintegrates, leaving the tank prone to corrosion.

Proper water heater maintenance includes removing the anode to ensure it is still intact. If the rod is less than half an inch in diameter, it’s time to replace it.

Bonus: Tidy Up Around the Tank

In most homes, the water heater is installed in one of two places: a laundry room or basement utility room. Both locations are prone to fill up with boxes and other clutter. But unless the owner’s manual states otherwise, it’s best to maintain at least 2 feet of clearance around the water heater tank.

If you have to clear away clutter before you can perform maintenance, don’t put those objects back where you found them. Leave plenty of space around the tank to make future maintenance a breeze!