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Avoid Costly Mistakes by Working with the Right Installation Company

This winter we had a lot of calls from homeowners in desperate need of furnace repairs. What surprised us was how many of these furnaces were almost new: in fact, many were only 1-2 years old.

The cause? Improper sizing and bad installation. These people used low cost providers who didn’t take the time or have the knowledge to help them get the right furnace: now they’re having to pay for repairs that could have been avoided.

We want to keep this from happening to anyone else who is looking to upgrade. This article will explain the problems with getting the wrong furnace, and how to pick the right installation company the first time.

Low-Cost Providers Don’t Take the Time to Assess Your Needs

Low-cost installation companies will often just replace the old furnace with a new furnace of the same British thermal units (BTUs) and call it a day. But furnaces are becoming more and more efficient: you can’t simply hook up a new furnace without taking into account the following factors:

  • House size
  • Insulation level and quality
  • Furnace efficiency ratings
  • Climate
  • Housing and ductwork layout
  • Sun exposure, and even the number and size of windows

But many low-cost providers will disregard all of that, going off of old, outdated information. The end result of a low-cost installation is a furnace that’s entirely the wrong size for the home.

The Wrong-Sized Furnace Will Wear Out More Quickly

An oversized furnace turns off and on frequently because it runs hotter than it should. This not only heats up your home quickly and far too much, but it causes the furnace’s overheating safety mechanism to kick in, shutting it off. When this happens too much, it will cause your furnace to fail.

When a furnace is too small for a home, it will cause the furnace to run much longer than it should, with your home never quite getting warm enough. The end result is a furnace that becomes so worn out from constant use that it breaks down.

With an improperly-sized furnace, not only will you experience more breakdowns (which, according to Murphy’s Law, will happen on the coldest day of the year), but the lifespan of your furnace will be drastically reduced.

You’ll Spend Hundreds Trying to Make it Work

When we were called to these homes, the story was the same: the original, low-cost provider was making them wait days, even weeks for repairs to the furnaces they had installed. They’d been without heat the entire time.

We helped as quickly as we could with the repairs, but a wrong-sized furnace will stay the wrong size: it’s going to keep wearing out and needing repairs.

More frequent repairs means more money spent on operating your furnace. The wrong furnace size will also cost impact your heating bills: constantly turning off and on or being constantly in use is extremely inefficient.

This means that after getting an upgraded furnace to try and save money on bills and repairs, these homeowners are having to actually spend more on a furnace that won’t last as long.

It Could Have Life-Threatening Consequences

Not only were these homeowners having to spend more money: they also had increased safety risks.

A natural gas furnace creates carbon monoxide, an invisible gas that is normally vented safely out of the home. If something goes wrong, however, it can be deadly. In fact, it kills homeowners each and every year. It was just in March 2018 that carbon monoxide claimed the life of an infant, and it wasn’t that long ago that 3 people in Brampton passed away from a leak.

A furnace that is wearing out often and overheating is at risk of cracks and leaks in the heat exchanger, causing carbon monoxide to enter your home. It’s one of the reasons furnace maintenance is important for everyone, and why you need to have working carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

How Can I Avoid Buyer’s Remorse?

Deadly gas, hundreds in bills and repairs, constant discomfort: does this sound like a nightmare to you? It should. It’s incredibly frustrating and expensive to have a new furnace failing only a short time after buying it. But you can avoid buyer’s remorse by working with the right installation company the first time.

Do Your Research

It can seem a little scary when you don’t know much about furnaces, and there’s a lot of companies out there trying to get you to pick them. But if you do some careful research, you’ll be able to sort out the good companies from the bad.

Online reviews are an excellent way to get honest feedback from other consumers about their experiences with companies. You can read some of ours here >

Ask Questions

The best way to be confident in your decision is by asking questions. A company that evades your questions or gives you vague answers that leave you feeling uninformed won’t be your best option.

When we’re approached about an installation, the first thing we do is send our comfort specialist to the home to take measurements, ask the homeowner thoughtful questions about their heating or cooling needs, and give them a presentation of their options. We encourage all our customers to ask as many questions as they want: we want you to understand your options, and have your concerns addressed.

Ask More Questions During the Installation

A company like ours has excellent installation technicians who answer questions and explain what they’re doing as they do it. That way everyone is on the same page. So don’t be afraid to approach one of us and ask away: we’re happy to answer.

Continue Working with the Installation Company That Knows Your Home

A reliable company won’t just install your furnace or air conditioner and say good day. They’ll be there for any heating and cooling repairs you may need, and help you book your annual maintenance appointments, making sure that everything is ship-shape.

Dr. HVAC actually has a maintenance plan that gives its members special front-of-the line services privileges, so you NEVER have to worry about whether someone is coming to help you. All you have to do is alert us to the problem, and we’ll be there.

Work with Dr. HVAC, the Installation Company That Cares

We don’t want to see anyone stuck with a furnace or air conditioner that doesn’t work. So before you make a decision, ask us for a free, no obligation installation quote. We’ll make sure you’re 100% informed of your options, and provide the quality of service you deserve.

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Why You Should Pay Attention to Your Home Air Quality

You hear the term pollution, and immediately your thoughts turn to fossil fuel emissions and oil in our oceans, not to mention the litter you see on the sidewalks. Wherever we go, we are breathing in a little something more than oxygen.

It makes sense that you breathe easier when you’re in your own home. After all, you know exactly what’s in the air…right?

Unfortunately, even the air in your home can be riddled with pollutants that, if they remain unchecked, could cause you serious harm.

What Is Indoor Air Pollution, and Why Should I Care?

Image putting a drop of food colouring into a large bowl of water. The food colouring will disperse and you may not even be able to see much of the colour.

Now imagine putting a drop of food colouring into a small glass of water. The colour will be more vibrant because it has less space to disperse in. It is more concentrated.

This is indoor air pollution. Your home is a concentrated space, and the pollution has no where to go. You may not see it or feel it, but it’s there.

The Causes of Indoor Air Pollution

You take care of your home, so how on earth does the air become polluted? Don’t worry, it’s not your fault. Indoor air pollution can be linked to a few key causes.

1. Smoke

As kids, we all heard about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke. Tobacco smoke is made up of approximately 4,000 chemicals, including carcinogens, which you breathe in even after the visible smoke has cleared the room.

If you or someone who lives with you smokes inside, the level of pollutants inside your home increases.

2. Mold and Fungi

A home that has its fair share of moisture is more prone to growing mold. Mold negatively affects your home air quality and your health.

The best way to solve this particular pollutant problem is to find the source of the mold and remove it properly.

3. Formaldehyde

You wouldn’t think that your common household products would slowly be leaching pollutants into the air, but they are.

Things like tile grout, paint, and cigarette smoke contain formaldehyde, which disperses through the air in your home. Thanks to your home being so well insulated, it doesn’t always leave.

For more information on formaldehyde, the Government of Canada has created this useful guide on air quality levels.

4. Dust Particles

Perhaps one of the most common indoor pollutants is dust. Now, we know everyone has dust, and that is perfectly normal.

But if you have dust building up in your duct work or air filter, particularly if you’ve recently completed a construction job, you could have higher than normal levels of pollutants. If you notice higher than normal dust levels, book a duct cleaning appointment with us.

5. Radon

Radon is a colourless, odorless, mildly radioactive gas that, if it builds up in your home, can cause major health problems, like lung cancer.

It can enter your house through cracks in the foundation, building joints, and drains.

The best way to determine if radon is present in unhealthy levels in your home is to hire a professional to complete a test and propose the best options for reducing it. If the amount of radon in your is deemed unhealthy, you will need a professional certified under the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C-NRPP) help solve the problem.

Indoor Air Pollution is Dangerous to Your Health

The biggest problem with poor home air quality is the risk it poses to your health. There are some common symptoms that, depending on the state of your individual health and the amount of pollutants, you’ll experience.

These include:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dry or irritated throat, skin, and eyes

If you have a pre-existing breathing or heart condition, indoor air pollution may cause an increase in symptoms.

Keep Track of Your Symptoms, and Talk to Professionals

If you begin experiencing any of the above symptoms, keep track of when they start, if they go away, and your location when you experience any changes. For example, if you start coughing in your basement, but the cough goes away when you’re at the park, there’s a chance your home has high levels of pollutants.

Speak to both your doctor and an inspector if you are concerned about your home air quality.

How to Improve Your Home Air Quality

It’s scary thinking about all the pollutants mixing unseen in your home, affecting your home air quality. Luckily, there are ways to combat the problem.

One of the best ways to combat indoor air pollution is to install an air filtration system. It will pull the air from your ducts, and take it through a stage by stage filtration process before sending it back into your home.

We’ll Help Get Your Air Clean Again

Our team of professional technicians will not only install an air filtration system that works with your home and your needs, but walk you through the process so you know exactly what’s it’s doing and how it’s helping you.

Contact us for a free service quote to start the process of improving your home air quality.

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Before You Go On Vacation: Safety Tips for Your Home

Your vacation is fast approaching, and you’re getting more and more excited. We understand completely. But don’t forget that while you’re on vacation, your home needs to be taken care of.

We have some safety tips for your home you should do before you go on vacation.

1. Get Someone to Keep an Eye on Things

You don’t necessarily have to get a house sitter, but having a trusted friend or family member keep an eye on your home is an one of the most important safety measures. They can do little things to make sure your house looks lived in. For example, if you’re going out of town for a long period of time, have someone mow the lawn and collect flyers that may be dropped on your doorstep.

Taking these steps will make sure your house doesn’t look neglected and empty while you’re enjoying your time off.

2. Hold Your Mail

A pile of mail steadily building up is a clear ‘no one is home’ signal. Before you go on vacation, call the post office and ask them to put a hold on your mail.

If you don’t want to ask the post office, ask the person keeping an eye on your home to also collect your mail for you.

3. Put Your Lights On Timers

One of the safety measures we recommend is putting your lights on timers. This will give your home the lived-in look.

If you are able to, find a timer that can connect to your cell phone. This way, no matter where you are (as long as there’s cell reception) you will be able to set the lights to go on and off at different times. This will help discourage anyone who may be watching your house. Lights that go on and off at the same time will work for a few days, but it’s a pretty noticeable pattern if you’re away for any length of time.

4. Set Your Thermostat

You don’t want to waste energy and money went you aren’t home, but it is still a good idea to program your thermostat so that your air conditioner occasionally cycles on and off. This will give the impression that you’re home and it’s business as usual, because people will see or hear your outdoor condenser unit.

5. Check All the Locks

This may seem like the most basic tip, but there are a lot of locks in a home. It is important to go around and check every single one before you go on vacation.

Don’t forget to check all the windows, exterior doors, and your garage if you have one. If you have an sliding doors, place a metal rod or a piece of wood on the track to keep it from sliding open if someone tries.

6. Unplug

This is both a safety tip and an energy saving one. Make sure to unplug your appliances and electronics before you go on vacation. If no one is at home to monitor them, leaving them plugged in increases the risk that something could happen, like an electrical fire.

Unplugging appliances that won’t be in use during your vacation is also a good way to save yourself a little money on your next electricity bill. You don’t want to be paying for energy consumption that no one is using.

7. Security System

Particularly if you are going away for a long period of time, a security system is a great way to protect your home. Systems today can send alerts directly to your cell phone about any unusual activity, including broken windows.

8. Don’t Shout It From the Rooftops

It’s exciting to go on vacation, no matter where you’re going. You naturally want to share that excitement – and possibly brag a bit – to the people you interact with. This isn’t a good idea when it comes to ensuring your home’s safety while you’re gone.

Don’t tell people about your vacation plans unless they are close friends or trustworthy family members. You don’t want to advertise that your home is empty.

Best Exterior Paint Colors for Selling Your Home

Curb appeal can make a big difference when it’s time to sell your home, and the color of your home has a big influence on its curb appeal. If you’re thinking about painting your home before putting it on the market, choosing the right color is very important.

Colors that Keep Up With the Neighborhood

Consider the colors of the other homes in your neighborhood. In neighborhoods that have unified color schemes, one of the most risky colors that you could choose is one that might clash with other homes in your neighborhood. Colors that disrupt the visual flow of the surroundings can make your property stand out in an unappealing way.

Consider Architectural Style

Certain architectural styles are complimented by specific colors. When choosing colors for a structure of specific style structure, it’s important to prioritize traditionally selected colors. Doing so will underscore your home’s architectural design. For example, if choosing a paint for your desert southwest style home, try to combine neutral earth tones with bold, warm hues like deep red, burnt orange and golden yellow. This color scheme will match the expected colors for the type of home you own.

Historic Homes

For an older home, seek paint colors that are true to the time period when your house was built. Painting your home with a historically correct color scheme will draw attention to your home’s historic value and wow buyers when they come to take a look. For example, if painting a Victorian-era home, seek bright, colorful hues like blues, reds, purples, yellows. These colors will help make your house more authentic.

Consider Neutrals

When in doubt, neutral colors are a safe choice for most home sellers because they’re tasteful, easy on the eyes and they typically match a variety of other homes in the neighborhood. Neutrals that include earth tones like brown and blue gray also have the advantage of blending in with nature, which means your home will fit in better with your landscaping.

Work with Your Agent

If you’re having a hard time trying to pick the right color for your home, talk to your real estate agent. An experienced agent will be able to help you pick a color that will positively impact curb appeal and attract buyers to your property.

hands holding green paper house

9 Money-Saving Spring Home Maintenance Tips

Here’s a topic that everyone will love: spring cleaning! Yay!

Wait, what? Are you not down with that? Oh, come on! While spring home chores are not exciting, doing them — and doing them early — can really help you save money in several ways.

You will save on energy costs, for one thing. You will also avoid bigger problems later on– problems that are costly, stressful, and will take time away from summer fun.

In the following list of things you need to do, we’ll skip washing windows and jump to the really important stuff. We’ll tell you how much each item will cost and how much money or energy you can save by doing the task.

One thing to keep in mind about this spring home checklist is that not all homes are alike. If you own a townhouse condo, for example, you might not be able to get to your roof to inspect the gutters (well, maybe you could, but you’d tick off the neighbours).

Still, we’ve presented the items in the order that you should tackle them, so if something simply doesn’t apply to you, move on to the next item on the list.

1. Repair Your Sump Pump, If Needed

Approximate Cost: About $470 on average.
Potential Savings: Thousands of dollars from water damage.

This spring home chore is best done before all of the snow and ice has disappeared. Making sure your sump pump works properly can prevent bigger issues from arising later.

Sump pump maintenance is something worth hiring a contractor for, particularly if you don’t know what you’re doing. They will fill the sump pit with water to make sure your pump discharges it and that the float works properly. They will then clean the air hole in the sump pump’s discharge pipe and listen for weird noises made by the motor. If required, they can replace the battery on the backup sump pump.

Sometimes, it’s cheaper to replace the sump pump rather than repair it. Either way, there are some signs that you might be looking at a repair job or replacement:

  • The pump is seven years old or older.
  • It runs all the time.
  • It makes bizarre noises.
  • It vibrates a lot when running.
  • It hasn’t run since it last rained.

You may also have problems if:

  • You see rust on the sump pump.
  • You have a lot of moisture in your basement.

That last item on the preceding list is a particularly big problem. Your personal belongings could get damaged, or you may have mould or mildew issues to clean up. All the good reason to make sure your sump pump is in tip-top shape.

2. Check for Leaky Faucets and Pipes

Cost: Free.
Potential Savings: Up to $4,000 or more to replace water-damaged drywall and solve mould problems; costs can be much more if cabinets or flooring gets damaged.

Make sure your pipes and hoses under your kitchen and bathroom sinks are tightly sealed and free of leaks. Check around appliances such as clothes washers and dishwashers for any moisture. Make sure your water heater isn’t showing any signs of leaks or corrosion, too.

Preventing leaks means that you’re less likely to have water damage to the walls of your home. You’ll also prevent mould and mildew from taking root. That will save you money from having to call in a professional to look for and fix the leak.

If you do find a small leak that has caused damage, you’ll also save money, in many cases, by treating it in its early stages. You’ll only be replacing a section of drywall, for instance, rather than an entire wall. Drywall repairs are annoying and messy, folks, so this is something you should get on top of early, rather than later.

3. Seal Air Leaks Inside Your Home

Cost: About $40 to $65 for materials, plus taxes.
Potential Savings: Up to 20 percent of your energy bill.

It’s a good idea to seal up any cracks in your windows and doors, as the Energy Star program says that about 20 to 30 percent of your heated or cooled air is lost to leaks in a typical home. The US government notes you can save between 10 and 20 percent of your energy bill by plugging up leaks.

If you use caulk or weather stripping, you can save as much as $108 or almost three percent of your home’s yearly energy bill.

You can find leaks and drafts for free by using a candle’s flame to see how it acts around your windows and doors. If there’s a draft, the flame will bend towards it. Note that all candles are a fire hazard, so be careful when doing this.

More money can be saved by sealing your ducts with mastic duct sealant that you paint onto ductwork cracks. This keeps air from getting into your attic or crawl spaces, and can save you up to 10 percent of your heating bill in the winter. It’ll also help cool air from escaping during the summer, so your air conditioner won’t work as hard — saving you money on electricity, too.

4. Clean Your Gutters and Downspouts

Cost: Free if you do it yourself, about $150 on average if you hire professionals to do it.
Potential Savings: Thousands in future costs from water damage to roofs, walls and foundation.

woman cleaning guttersEach spring after the snow is gone, you should get rid of leaves and debris that are in your gutters. Plan to clean them more often if your home is in the shade or the Greater Toronto Area experiences more storms than usual.

You can do this yourself, but be sure that you have no problems with getting up on a ladder. Again, you can hire a professional to do this, but you’ll be spending more money with each additional storey they have to check.

If you have longer gutters, you’ll spend additional money to have them cleaned, too. Still, for safety’s sake, you might be better off hiring the pros if you have more than one storey to your home.

For about $50, you can buy a gutter cleaning kit that connects to a leaf blower. If you go this route, be sure to protect yourself from leaves and dirt that will be whipped around by wearing goggles and a dust mask.

Cleaning your gutters can save you a lot of money in home repair costs by preventing:

  • Rotting wood in your home that can invite insects in.
  • Mould.
  • Cracked foundations.
  • Leaky roofs.
  • Slippery sidewalks (water from blocked downspouts can pool and freeze on your walkways during the winter.)
  • Cracked driveways.

5. Look at Your Roof for Damage

Cost: Free to more than $250 for a roof inspection.
Potential Savings: More than $7,000 on average for a new roof – often much more.

While you’re up there on your roof, you should also make sure that everything is in order. Check for warped or missing shingles. Make sure that your shingles are nailed down properly. If you’re scared of getting up on the roof, or can’t get up there because your townhome has a neighbouring unit, you can use a pair of binoculars or a camera lens to take a look.

If you are thinking about paying for some repairs to your roof, many roof inspectors will do a general inspection free of charge. Some inspectors will charge to do an interior inspection from your attic as an extra service.

The cost of not checking your roof? It can run up to tens of thousands of dollars for a new roof due to water damage. So make sure you’ve plugged any leaks before they become a problem.

6. Examine Your Chimney and Foundation

Cost: Free to about $440 or more on average to repair a fireplace.
Potential Savings: Thousands in major repair costs.

You’re outside, and what’s next on your spring home maintenance checklist? Making sure that there are no problems with the chimney and foundation. Does your chimney lean like the Tower of Pisa? Then you have a foundation problem that needs to be addressed.

If there are plants growing between the cracks in your chimney, you have a water leak somewhere. That’s a major problem for next winter to repair now. The water will be acidic, and will rust dampers and damage any wood, including ceilings and floors, around your fireplace.

Carbon monoxide can escape through cracks caused by masonry joints expanding and contracting, and pose a hazard. If you have a wood burning furnace, hot ciders can find their way into these leaks and cracks, and start a house fire.

Examine your foundation for masonry cracks. If you have any, you’ll need to hire professionals to fix it. It’s too complicated for a home fixing job. If you have wood siding, make sure that it isn’t damaged so that insects won’t be attracted to tunnel their way into your house.

7. Attend to Outdoor Watering Systems

Cost: Free to about $230 on average to repair a sprinkler system.
Potential Savings: Hundreds or even thousands in damages to your home’s foundation.

After the threat of frost has passed in May, you can open up the water valves to the outside hose bibs. You should then check for damage to the outside hose faucets caused by winter freezing. Turn on the water and place your thumb over the opening. If the water flow stops, you’ll have an indoor pipe that’s damaged and needs to be replaced. Look at your garden hose for any rot, as well.

If you have an irrigation or water sprinkler system, you should check that it’s working as well. Check to see that:

No pipes have burst when you run water through the system.
Your sprinkler heads aren’t blocked by dirt. Adjust any heads spraying water at your house and windows.
Your timer on a sprinkler zone is working properly.

Calling a professional is best if you don’t know how to maintain your system.

8. Reseal Your Deck

Cost: About $800 on average, including both sealant and stain.
Potential Savings: Hundreds in damages to your home.

If your deck is starting to peel, it’s time to give it a reseal. Sealing your deck helps to protect it against the elements. It also prevents your house from being damaged, because a deck that can’t shed water allows moisture to pool against your home. This welcomes mould and mildew not only to your deck, but to your home’s walls and foundation, as well.

It might also be good to put waterproofing over your sealant and stain for a particularly rainy season. Waterproofing allows moisture to roll off your deck and away from your home. It may be worth the extra investment to protect your humble abode and all of its belongings.

9. Tune-Up Your Air Conditioner

Cost: About $120 to $150 to tune-up your AC.
Potential Savings: Up to $1,800 for major repairs.

There are lots of ways to save on cooling costs this summer. But you ensure you spend as little as possible when you do need your AC, giving your air conditioning system a little TLC will pay off, especially with electricity rates being the way they are.

When is it time to check your air conditioner? After your yard work is all done, so that any leaves or dead grass don’t get into the outdoor unit after you’ve cleaned it up.

Here are some steps to help you get started:

  • Start by making sure branches and debris are clear of the AC. Clear about 60 centimeters or two feet of space around the unit to make sure enough airflow is going in and out of it.
  • Remove the cover from the outside unit.
    You can clean the condenser fins on the outdoor unit with a fine paintbrush. Just be careful that you don’t bend or damage these fins.
  • Change the filter on your system indoors.
  • Check for any leaks in the pipes and hoses indoors and out. Make sure that the drain pans are doing their job and are draining.
  • Check that mice and rodents haven’t made a nest in your AC.

Beyond that, you should hire a professional to give your AC a tune-up. Be sure to call early enough in the season so that you’re not waiting in line when the weather starts to heat up.

With regular maintenance, you’ll be making sure your air conditioner lasts longer and runs more efficiently to save you money in cooling costs. Plus, you’ll save more with regular tune-ups than you would be paying for a major repair.

If you’re ready for that tune-up, you can learn more about our tune up service. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

In the end, we hope you stay cool, relaxed and not dreading those spring home tasks that you have to do. Think of the potential money you’ll be saving and get to it!