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Opening Your Cottage for the First Time? We Can Help With That!

opening cottage mist

While your thermometer may not reflect this just yet, we are finally closing in on the end of another long, cold, snowy, rainy winter season.

It feels good to think about spring's imminent arrival!

As Ontario's urban areas become increasingly congested, more Canadians are turning their eyes toward an investment in seasonal housing.

According to Canadian Real Estate magazine, a full three-quarters of seasonal homeowners are buying a cottage for now and later. Now, they want to enjoy cottage life with their kids. Later, they want to enjoy cottage life during their retirement years.

In this post, we share our favorite spring cottage-opening tips for first-timers and seasoned cottage owners alike. If you need assistance with getting your cottage in ship-shape condition for spring's arrival, give us a ring: we're happy to help!

First Things First: Retracing Your Steps

If you are an established cottage owner, you have likely developed a regular routine regarding cottage closings and openings. But if you are new, this may be your very first cottage opening—exciting!

The first and most important step is to remember what you did and didn't do when you closed down your cottage for the winter season.

For example, some cottage owners will turn off the main power source, while others will leave that on to power outside lighting and security and just turn off individual elements instead.

For help jogging your memory, we've created a handy Cottage Closing Checklist you can refer to and use to make notes about what to do when you arrive to re-open your cottage.

What to Do Before You Head for Your Cottage

If you chose to disconnect any of your regular services for the winter season, you will want to call your providers to have these services reconnected before you arrive to re-open your cottage:

  • Electricity

  • Propane

  • Water

  • Phone/internet/television

You will also probably want to assemble some tools and supplies for the re-opening (if you don't already have these at the cottage):

  • Copies of your insurance documents and claim phone numbers (just in case)

  • A ladder and tarp

  • Basic tools (hammer, wrench, screwdrivers, etc.)

  • Broom, dustpan, cleaning supplies, and paper towels

  • Batteries (to change out the smoke alarm and other devices)

  • Air filters as needed

  • Snacks for the road and when you arrive

  • The cottage keys!

The Cottage Pre-Opening Walk-About

When you arrive to re-open your cottage, first do an exterior walk-about, paying special attention to any of these (or similar) issues:

  • Fallen tree limbs and debris

  • Hanging power lines or phone lines

  • Cracked windows or missing/torn screens

  • Loose roof shingles or siding

  • Visible holes in roofing or elsewhere

  • Loose boards in the porch or deck

  • Areas of soggy ground or standing water

  • Evidence of wildlife, rodents, or insect pests

  • Missing components to secure your dock

  • Any strange or unpleasant odour

Now you can do the interior walk-about, paying special attention to any of these (or similar) issues:

  • Damp or discolored patches on the ceiling

  • Soggy areas of carpet or pooled water on flooring

  • Evidence of wildlife, rodents, or insect pests

  • Any strange or unpleasant odour

Make notes about anything you will need to return to fix or investigate further later.

Restoring Your Water Supply

Even experienced cottage owners sometimes find it challenging to go through the steps of reconnecting the water pipes, cleaning, and then priming (filling) the water pump, replacing the filter, filling up the hot water tank (as applicable), and restoring water to the cottage.

This is one of the hardest tasks for cottage owners, especially if you have to haul the water to prime the pump by hand. And doing a visual inspection of your water lines, pump, and whole system can be confusing if you're not sure what warning signs to look for!

Another common issue is water pipes that leak or have frozen and cracked/burst during the winter.

Sometimes watching a professional go through the steps of restoring water to your cabin is just what you need to learn how to do this yourself in future years.

As well, if you have noticed signs that there may be a water leak or a pipe has burst, this is a good time to call in the pros.

We are happy to help with restoring water to your cottage and handling well and septic system inspection and cleaning chores.

NOTE: We always recommend that you consider having your well and septic cleaned at the start of the new spring/summer season, for your own safety.

Restoring Power to Your Cottage

Before you restore power to your cottage, first take a look at the central electrical panel and tighten all the fuses. If you see any tripped breakers (in the case that you left the central power on), restore those as well.

Take a look at any exterior and interior power cables or connections to be sure nothing has been damaged.

Uncover the chimney and open the flue, then inspect for any signs of wildlife if you plan to use the fireplace.

If all looks operational, restore power to the central electrical panel, and then power up each individual appliance and test that everything is working as it should.

Here, please do not attempt DIY electrical repairs, for your own safety!

Contact Gravenhurst Plumbing

Give us a call at 705-687-3402 or fill out our online form to schedule your service appointment. We are happy to do a full inspection and perform any maintenance or repairs you need to be sure you can re-open your cottage safely. We look forward to hearing from you!

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What You Don't Know About Your Sump Pump Could Cost You

sump pump installation

The sump pump certainly isn't the most glamorous appliance in the average home. Often hidden away in rarely visited areas such as basements, sump pumps can easily get completely forgotten in the flurry of winterizing activities.

What this means is that winter time sump pump failure is more common than most people assume. You might be surprised to learn about all the unique ways a sump pump can fail during the coldest months of the year!

We always hate to get that emergency winter call from a valued client whose sump pump line has frozen or burst and flooded their basement with water. In this post, we share our top tips for winter sump pump maintenance in hopes this will never happen to you (but if it does, remember, we are just a phone call away!).

A Short Sump Pump Tutorial

Many homeowners inherit a sump pump along with a newly purchased home (in fact, according to CBC News, nearly all new construction in the Ontario area includes a basement-area sump pump).

It is important to know what a sump pump is and what it is supposed to do so you can make sure it is well maintained and working properly.

Definition of a sump pump

A sump pump is a smallish pump that is typically installed at the lowest point in your basement or crawlspace area.

Sump pump job description

The sump pump's sole job is to keep your home basement, crawlspace, and foundation moisture-free.

How moisture gets in

Moisture can get in from a number of directions. The most common ways are from groundwater seeping upwards through the water table, moisture falling off the roof and eaves through the downspouts, or backed up foundation drains.

How the sump pump gets the moisture out

A sump pump that has been installed correctly is perfectly situated to catch moisture in its surrounding sump pit and either pump it or use gravity to naturally drain it away from your home and back into the ground.

What happens when the sump pump doesn't work

When the sump pump stops working as it should, there is a risk of flooding in your basement or home and persistent moisture gathering around the home foundation.

What Causes a Sump Pump to Stop Working?

There are infinite possible reasons why a sump pump might stop working. These are some of the most common reasons:

  • The power goes out (the sump pump can't work without power, so unless you have a standby generator, it will stop working during a power outage).

  • The pump mechanism, motor, or other moving parts wear out.

  • The sump pump hose or discharge pipe freezes.

  • The sump pump discharge pipe has come loose from the sump pump itself.

  • The pipe becomes clogged or blocked.

  • The discharge pipe is improperly connected to the sanitary sewer instead of the storm sewer.

  • The check valve (that ensures water flowing out can't flow back in) has malfunctioned or is missing.

  • The water is being improperly discharged and flows back towards the home.

Critical Sump Pump Maintenance

After reading through this list of potential causes for a sump pump failure, you may find yourself eager to schedule a sump pump inspection and maintenance call.

The good news here is, winter is a particularly good time to schedule this type of maintenance with your Gravenhurst Plumbing technician.

Here is what will happen during our inspection and maintenance appointment:

  • First, we will visually inspect the sump pit, sump pump, hose, and discharge hose to make sure everything is set up properly.

  • We will do light cleaning on the exterior of the sump pump itself and in the sump pit to remove debris or excess gravel.

  • Next up is a test run to make sure the whole system is working properly, which we do by pouring water into the sump pit and observing the water removal process.

  • We will also test to be sure the sump discharge line is free and clear of any blockage or clogs.

  • During our inspection we will make recommendations to repair or replace any worn parts.

  • If you do not have a standby generator for backup power, we can also make recommendations for the best approach to keep your sump pump working as it should during a future power outage.

  • Finally, if there is any standing water, visible leaks, or moisture seepage/dampness, we can clean that up and make repairs as needed.

Contact Gravenhurst Plumbing to Schedule Your Sump Pump Maintenance

Gravenhurst Plumbing first opened its doors back in 1945 and we've been busy ever since. If you need help with installation, troubleshooting, repair, or maintenance for your HVAC, sump pump, or plumbing system, or you are ready to install a standby generator to keep your family safe during a power outage, we are on-call for you.

Contact us at 705-687-3402 or fill out our easy online form to schedule your service appointment. We look forward to hearing from you!

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2 Keys to Winter Indoor Air Quality: Ventilation and Filtration

winter indoor air quality

Canadian winters have a pretty daunting reputation. From heavy snowfall to ice, sleet, and rain, it isn't surprising most Canadians spend so much of the winter season indoors.

But too much time spent indoors can be hazardous to your health in a way you may not realize. Today, the air we breathe indoors is often more toxic than the outside air. Wintertime indoor air can become especially toxic because we don't want to open windows and doors to ventilate.

In this post, learn what to do to freshen and purify your indoor air in winter.

What Makes Your Indoor Air Toxic in Winter?

As any Canadian knows, there isn't anything you can do about winter weather conditions. Storms come and go, snow falls and thaws, and you wait for warmer days to return.

In the meantime, you are running your furnace or stoking your fireplace or woodstove and perhaps using space heaters as well.

You are also likely burning candles, spraying air fresheners, using common cleaning products, and perhaps enjoying a cigarette or two indoors to avoid the cold.

Unfortunately, each of these activities releases toxins into your indoor air supply.

And if you are living or working in a new build, your home or office is built to be airtight. No air gets in or out, which is good for energy efficiency but bad for air quality.

According to the Canadian Lung Association, some of the most common winter toxins found in Canadian homes and offices are these:

  • Toxic gases Ozone, radon, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, particulates, tobacco fumes.

  • Allergens Dust mites, dust-borne lead particles, pet dander, mould spores, pesticides, soot and ash, fungi, bacteria, viruses, pollen.

  • Chemicals Candle scents, air fresheners,  cleaning products, craft glues and adhesives, personal care products.

Here, it is important to understand that this list of chemicals won't change measurably during the other seasons, except when you are no longer using a wood-fired stove or fireplace.

However, it is the decreased amount of two key air purifiers that contributes to the increasing toxicity of winter-time indoor air. These two air purification tools are ventilation and filtration.

Ventilation and Filtration

"Ventilation" is a term that refers to keeping air fresh by continually moving stale indoor air out of the space and replacing it with fresh incoming air.

"Filtration" refers to keeping indoor air fresh by filtering out, or removing, airborne toxins.

Together, ventilation and filtration can work wonders to purify and detoxify indoor air at any time of year and especially during the winter season.

Ventilation Options

Unless you happen to work in the HVAC or air quality industry, you may not realize that just opening a window or turning on a fan isn't the best way to ventilate indoor air. Both of these techniques are good, of course, but neither is particularly likely to happen in winter, when it is freezing outside!

The very best way to ventilate your indoor air during winter (and when it gets very hot outside in summer) is by installing an appliance called a heat recovery (or energy recovery) ventilator.

This appliance is a little miracle device that ensures a steady supply of fresh, oxygenated outdoor air to purify your indoor air at home or work. It can actually precisely calibrate how much new fresh air to pull in based on how frequently you run your heater or furnace.

Best of all, a heat/energy recovery ventilator will use the heat from the outgoing stale air to warm the fresh incoming air, which makes it a model of energy efficiency that can help you save valuable cash on energy bills.

Other options to ventilate your indoor air in winter:

  • Try micro-ventilation. Here, you don't open up a window all the way, but just crack open one window in each room to permit a bit of fresh air to enter.

  • Switch ceiling fans to "winter" mode. Most ceiling fans have a switch on the side of the fan mechanism that reverses the blade direction. This reversal pulls the cold air up and pushes the warm air downwards.

  • Run bathroom and kitchen fans. When showering, run the bathroom fan to avoid excess humidity accumulating and turning into mould and mildew. When cooking, run the kitchen exhaust fan to exhume potentially toxic stove and oven fumes.

Air Filtration Options

The primary goal of any air filter is to clean and purify the air by removing airborne toxins, allergens, and irritants.

This can be accomplished in a number of different ways:

  • Installing MERV- or HEPA-rated central HVAC filters. With ratings between 1 and 20, higher-rated filters will filter more of the smaller particulate matter out of the air.

  • Cleaning or replacing filters regularly. This should be done at least every 30 days.

  • Using non-ozone-producing electric air filters. These filters use an electric charge to filter and clean the air. Be sure the filter you select does NOT produce ozone.

  • Using CADR-rated portable room-size air filters. CADR (clean air delivery rate) filters can filter and clean the air in smaller spaces. These can be good choices if someone in your family is particularly allergic or suffers from asthma.

  • Humidification. Adding a room-sized humidifier in winter can help further.

Contact Gravenhurst Plumbing for Help

If you notice you are struggling to stay healthy and allergy-free in cold weather, your indoor air could be the culprit.
We can help you design a custom air ventilation and filtration plan to clean and purify your indoor air at home and work. Call us at 877.885.3403 or contact us online.

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Why Standby Generators are Essential

backup generator generac

Canada can kick out some pretty difficult winters. This is a fact most Canadians simply take for granted (and new transplants will find out quickly enough).

During the winter, it is more common to hear about the need for a standby generator. Heavy snowfalls, ice and snow buildup in trees and on rooftops, high winds, freezing rain—this is the type of winter weather that reliably produces power outages.

But the truth is, power outages happen all year long. Spring, summer, and fall storms can be just as devastating. Wildlife, construction, natural disasters, and simple human error can cut power to homes and workplaces at any time.

This is why we became a Generac authorized dealer for the Muskoka, Gravenhurst, and surrounding areas here in Ontario. We believe that having a reliable source of emergency standby backup power is simply a necessity in a world where nearly every resource we rely on requires power to operate.

In this post, find out what you need to know to choose the best standby generator for your home or business.

What Would Life Be Like Without Power?

The choice to purchase and install an emergency standby generator is a deeply personal one. For some people, they choose to install a generator because they have gone through an extended power outage and don't ever want to do it again.

For other people, the birth of a new family member or a perfectly understandable fear of the future unknown prompts them to pick out an emergency generator and have it installed.

Because no two home or business situations are ever identical, the best way to decide if now is the right time to install a standby generator is to ask yourself these types of questions:

  • How well would I be able to cope without access to light, heat, air conditioning, cooked food, and similar power-driven comforts?

  • Are there members of the family (especially the young and elderly) who might struggle to cope with an extended power outage without health consequences?

  • How would an extended power outage (more than 24 hours) affect stored foods such as frozen meats, perishables, and groceries?

  • Would it be safe for family and/or pets to go without power during certain times of year, such as when temperatures are very hot or below freezing?

  • Is it possible the house or business itself might sustain damage from an extended loss of power (such as burst pipes or inoperable sump pumps that might cause water damage or flooding)?

  • Would there be a potential safety or security risk during a power outage in terms of high-value items that are stored on site under the protection of a powered security system?

By answering these and other similar questions for yourself, you can get a better sense of how well your home or business and its occupants would fare during a power outage.

Most importantly, you could more accurately gauge the financial consequences of a power outage and weigh those against the choice to invest in an emergency on-site standby generator.

How a Standby Generator Works in an Emergency

If you have never had an emergency standby generator before now, you are likely quite curious about how it would work.

For example, let's say all of a sudden the power goes out. What happens next?

If you have a standby generator, this is what will occur the moment the power goes out:

  • Your standby generator will detect the loss of power and prepare itself to take over.

  • Your standby generator will automatically turn on whether you are home or not.

  • Your standby generator's automatic power transfer switch will begin sending power to your home via the generator and continue until regular power is restored.

  • Your standby generator will sense when regular power is restored and automatically shut itself off when it is no longer needed.

This entire process will unfold in a matter of seconds once your regular power source is no longer accessible.

So as long as you have selected a standby generator that is sized and rated appropriately for your space and power needs, you will hardly know that there has been a power outage—this is how fast your generator power will take over.

How to Select a Standby Generator

The key to making this all work, of course, is to select the right generator for your space and power needs on a daily basis.

Here, it is important to understand that there is a very real difference between the small portable generator you have probably seen on sale at home improvement stores and a true standby generator.

The typical small plug-in generator generally taps out at around 12,000 watts, which is far less than the 22,000+ watts the average home requires for backup power.

The difference is one of powering a single appliance or room versus powering an entire home or office. With a small plug-in generator, you might be able to keep your perishables from spoiling for a day or two.

But with a full-size wired standby generator that is well-matched to the needs of your space, you could power your entire home or office until regular power is restored.

Here, you need to decide what you need to power during an outage. Powering just a few essential appliances will require less generator energy than will powering your entire home or office.

Contact Gravenhurst Plumbing, Heating & Electric for Help

Here at Gravenhurst Plumbing, we are proud authorized resellers of Generac standby generators. With more than seven decades of expertise under our belt, we have the knowledge and expertise to recommend and install the right standby generator for the size of your space and your power needs.

Contact us at 705.687.3402, 877.885.3403, or online.

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10 Tips to Ensure Your Indoor Air is Safe to Breathe

10 tips indoor air quality

Most Canadians today spend nearly all of their daily time indoors. This wouldn't be so bad if our indoor air was safe to breathe.

But recent testing statistics have highlighted an alarming increase in the quantity and volume of toxins in indoor air nationwide.

In this article, learn how and why our indoor air has become so polluted and what you can do to purify your family's indoor air.

Airtight Homes Increase Indoor Toxicity

Over the last half-century, builders have become increasingly focused on building airtight, draft-free homes. While this can be good for energy bills and temperature control, it has not been good for overall indoor air purity.

The more airtight any space becomes, the less natural air circulation and ventilation occurs to keep air fresh and pure. The air becomes staler and increasingly more toxic.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average adult takes between 17,000 and 24,000 breaths daily.

When the air you are taking into your lungs and circulating to your cells is clean and pure, this is no cause for worry. But when the air you are breathing in becomes stale and laced with pollutants, your cells become sick and weak over time. This can open the door to lung disease, asthma, cancer, heart disease, and stroke, among other serious health issues.

What is Polluting Our Indoor Air Supply?

Here, you might naturally assume the answer lies in smog, carbon emissions, and other outdoor toxins that are seeping into your home from the outside.

But since homes have become evermore airtight, it has gotten harder for outside toxins to gain entry. Rather, we as homeowners have unwittingly been polluting our own air from within the home.

Here is a list of some of the most common indoor air pollutants found in the average Canadian home today:

  • Tobacco smoke and formaldehyde (a byproduct of burning tobacco)

  • Smoke from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces

  • Chemicals from cleaning products, air "fresheners," scented candles

  • Dust and dust mites

  • Allergens, pollen, mould, and mildew

  • Bacteria, viruses, and fungi

  • Craft and home improvement supplies (paint, glue, solvents, sprays)

  • Carbon monoxide (emitted from appliances)

  • Dirt and debris from clogged air ducts, vents, filters, and pipes

  • Radon (seeping up through the foundation of a home)

  • Pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides

  • Ozone (printers, copiers, and other home office equipment)

As you can see, this is a long and potent list of toxins and pollutants, many of which may already be circulating freely inside your home.

10 Tips to Clean Up Your Indoor Air

With these 10 tips, you can begin to clean and purify the air inside your home.

Tip 1: Bring in a professional for an air quality (IAQ) test

This test can tell you precisely which toxins and pollutants are present in what quantities in your home's indoor air. The test is fast and unobtrusive and can help you prioritize where to start with improving the air quality in your home.

Tip 2: Change out regular air filters and replace them with HEPA-rated filters

HEPA-rated filters continue to be the industry standard for filtering out 99.97 percent of airborne toxins. You can also upgrade to a HEPA-rated vacuum cleaner.

Tip 3: Have your indoor air ducts professionally cleaned

Over time, the duct system that carries temperature-controlled air from room to room can become clogged with debris, dust, dander, bacteria, and other toxins. Unless you clean the ducts out from time to time, they will just continue to accumulate more pollutants, which then get pushed back out into your home.

Having your air ducts cleaned is like pushing the air quality reset button for your home, so you start again with a fresh and clean HVAC system.

Tip 4: Have your dryer vents professionally cleaned

It is always a good idea to have your dryer vents cleaned at the same time you have your air ducts cleaned, since the deep vents inside your clothes dryer collects much of the same type of debris as what you will find inside your air ducts.

Tip 5: Do not smoke or burn wood inside the home

Burning tobacco or wood will emit formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and other by-products that can exacerbate allergies and asthma symptoms and build up over time to toxic levels.

Tip 6: Install a heat or energy recovery ventilator to freshen stale air

A heat recovery ventilator (also called an energy recovery ventilator) can ensure that fresh incoming air and stale outgoing air do not meet and commingle.

Tip 7: Regulate your home's humidity levels (aim for 30-50 percent)

Generally speaking, air tends to be more humid in warm weather and less humid in cold weather. At either end of the spectrum, conditions can be conducive to the spread of germs, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, mould, and mildew. Maintaining a humidity range of 30-50 percent lessens the chances of this occurring.

Tip 8: Use ventilation fans in bathrooms and kitchens, and ceiling or floor fans in main areas and bedrooms

Ventilation not only keeps air moving so it stays fresher and cleaner, but it also keeps humidity levels inside the home more balanced, so mould and mildew do not take root.

Tip 9: Clean only with natural, healthy products

Baking soda, lemon juice, coffee grounds, white vinegar, essential oils, and pure water are all amazingly effective cleaning and disinfecting tools. Even better, not a single one has toxic chemicals.

Tip 10: Open windows and doors on pleasant days to get air circulating

Air circulation is quite simply essential to keeping your indoor air more pure, clean, fresh, and safe to breathe.

Contact Gravenhurst For Help

We’re here to help. We have extensive experience with indoor air quality. If you have any questions or concerns about your home’s air quality, feel free to contact us by phone at 877.885.3403 or online.

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The Benefits of Renting Versus Owning Your HVAC Equipment

rent vs buy hvac

Home spaces today come in all shapes and sizes. For instance, some homeowners like the modern, contemporary look, while others prefer a rustic, outdoorsy vibe. But regardless of how different your home may look from your neighbor's, you can always find one thing to commiserate about: the costs of home ownership.

In other words, owning a home is expensive! From routine maintenance to emergency repairs, unexpected weather damage to that first time your teen driver makes contact with your garage door (literally), if you own a home, you already know there is always something you could be fixing, maintaining, or updating.

So when it comes to major repairs to or replacements of your air conditioning and heating, it helps to consider whether buying or renting a new unit makes more sense costwise. In this post, we share our expert insights about the benefits of renting versus owning your HVAC equipment and how to decide.

What Happens When You Buy a New HVAC Unit

First things first: there is absolutely nothing wrong with simply buying a new HVAC unit outright!

In fact, we consult with our clients every day about the pros and cons of purchasing this unit versus that unit. We also regularly assist our clients by talking through warranty and service agreements and helping with installations and maintenance for brand-new units.

One aspect we specifically like to emphasize is that your responsibilities will be different when you buy a new HVAC unit outright than if you rent a unit that you will eventually relinquish back to the rental company.

When you own a unit, you are responsible for:

  • Vetting the warranty to be sure it offers the most comprehensive coverage (versus what other distributors are offering for the same unit)

  • Ensuring maintenance and repairs can be handled by local contractors, and that there is a system in place for handling unsatisfactory repairs

  • Reviewing user testimonials to be sure the unit can live up to its distributor's claims

  • Maintaining and repairing the unit as needed (or hiring a contractor to do so) so as not to void the warranty and/or incur extra costly repair charges

  • Purchasing replacement filters and parts as needed for maintenance and repairs

What Happens When You Rent a New HVAC Unit

In some situations, it can make sense to consider renting air conditioning and/or heating equipment.

This especially holds true if you plan to occupy the home for just a short time or if your budget simply won't stretch to cover another major purchase.

When you rent a unit, you are responsible for:

  • Selecting a reputable rental company to do business with

  • Understanding what your monthly rental fee includes (just the equipment only, maintenance and routine repairs, emergency service, replacement filters and parts, etc.)

  • Understanding what happens if you need to get out of your contract early for any reason (say, if you have to move for your job); is there an early-termination penalty, and if so, are there reasons excluded from that penalty?

  • Calculating the total estimated rental cost over the time you will need it and deciding whether it makes better financial sense to rent versus own the unit.

A "Rent Versus Own" Example

Here at Gravenhurst Plumbing, Heating & Electric, we offer HVAC units both for purchase and for rent. We do this because we know there is no "one size fits all" option—some of our clients will be best served through owning, while others will find renting to be a better choice.

For the sake of this example, let's say you are considering a particular HVAC unit that retails for $3,000. You are trying to decide whether to purchase or rent the unit. You know there is no right or wrong answer, just what is right for you in your current home ownership and financial situation.

You have three options:

  • Buy the unit outright for cash.

  • Finance the unit with interest.

  • Rent the unit for a flat rate per month.

Buy the unit outright

In this situation, you plunk down $3,000 to buy the unit. You plan to apply for energy efficiency rebates at tax time to try to reduce your total investment. In the meantime, you have some additional costs that won't wait:

  • Installation fee (one time)

  • Maintenance fee (annual plan)

  • Filter replacement cost (per month)

  • Depreciation (annual basis)

Total costs: $3,000+.

Finance the unit

You can also opt to purchase the unit outright by applying for financing rather than paying cash up front. In this case, you will get a much lower monthly cost, but you will also have to pay interest on the unpaid balance. Plus, you will still have all of the additional costs of owning a unit as detailed here.

Total costs: $3,000+.

Rent the unit

When you decide to rent the new unit instead of purchase it, your costs immediately go way down. Instead of having to pay interest on the financed cost or fork over the cash to buy the unit outright, you will have a flat-rate monthly payment over the lifetime of the contractual period.

Typically, each of the following is included in a quality rental agreement (which is why it is important to read the rental contract very carefully!):

  • Installation

  • Maintenance and repairs

  • Replacement filters

  • Option to renew with perks

Total costs: $15/month for the life of the contract (so, for one year of renting, this would add up to a flat amount of $180).

Contact Gravenhurst Today

If you are trying to decide whether to buy or rent a replacement HVAC unit, we can help! Call us at 877-885-3403 or contact us online.

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Worried About Your Water Quality? You Don't Have to Be!

water quality

As Canadians, we are lucky. Our country takes air and water quality quite seriously. For instance, Environment and Climate Change Canada is an organization set up to continuously monitor the quality of water in all the provinces, both urban and rural, with the help of local partners.

But even so, the risk of water contamination from a variety of sources always remains a reality. From storm runoff to acid rain, human and animal waste to chemical by-products, the water we use to drink, bathe in, clean with, and swim in has an uphill battle to stay pure in the face of so many potential contaminants.

In this post, learn about what goes into keeping your water safe and pure and how to ensure you never have to worry about water quality.

How Water Purity is Defined and Measured

Scientists, biologists, and chemists know something most of us don't realize, which is that water is designed to be capable of cleaning itself. This happens with the help of two essential partners: sunlight and aquatic living organisms.

The living organisms transform sunlight into energy, which produces oxygen. Oxygen is a natural cleaner that helps break down organic matter present in the water. As this cycle continues, the water is continually cleaned and purified by the very cycle of life happening within it.

But this natural purification process cannot cope with the ever-increasing levels of toxins being introduced into our water supply today, many of which do not break down readily or at all over time.

This is why more Canadians are becoming concerned about having a backup water purification system for their personal use.

Waterborne Disease You Want to Avoid

When toxins and contaminants get introduced into the water supply, they don't always produce a tangible effect. So you may never realize you are using water that contains pathogens linked to serious waterborne diseases.

Here are just a handful of the known diseases linked to consuming or using contaminated water:

  • Typhoid fever

  • Dysentery

  • Cholera

  • Parasitic infections

  • Zoonotic (from animal to human host) diseases

While modern medicine has been developed to treat most known waterborne pathogens, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) along with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other monitoring agencies are continually tracking and monitoring waterborne diseases to facilitate earlier detection and create treatment approaches. In other words, there is always something new to be discovered about what may lurk in our water supplies.

How to Ensure Your Personal Water Supply is Pure

Here in Canada, unlike in many other nations, we have amazingly rich supplies of water. But even some of our purest waters are now under heavy pressure to keep their contents clean. As such, it is no longer safe to assume you can drink from a stream or lake and never have to worry about waterborne pathogens.

Happily, there is a way to ensure you can drink freely and deeply from your home water supply and never have a moment's worry about contamination.

You can achieve this by using an ultraviolet (U.V.) water purification system. There are so many great benefits of using a UV purification system. Here are some of our favourites:

  • UV comes from sunlight and is completely natural—using UV to purify your water doesn't waste any water as a result of processing.

  • Using UV replaces the need to add chlorine to purify the water. Chlorine does work as a purifier, but unfortunately it is now known to interact with other waterborne compounds to produce cancer-triggering by-products.

  • UV is a planet-friendly purification agent that has been in use for more than 100 years. Today, some of North America's largest cities (for example, New York) use UV as their main city water purification system.

  • UV is proven to destroy 99.99 percent of waterborne micro-organisms—no other purifier scores higher. It is one of only four water disinfection systems approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

  • UV (unlike chlorine and other additive-based purifiers) contains no odour or flavour that will dilute or overpower the natural taste of water itself.

  • UV purification is incredibly quick, reliable, and energy efficient. Even running 24/7, the energy it takes is equivalent to burning a single 60-watt lightbulb.

  • UV purification is a low-maintenance option, requiring only the annual replacement of the UV bulb and a routine inspection and cleaning every 2–3 years. You never have to deal with handling any additives or chemicals or disposing of dirty worn-out parts.

How to Use a UV Water Purification System

It is important to size the UV system you buy to the water use requirements of your household. Also, some users decide to install their UV system to work with just one tap in the house, while others install their system to work with every tap in the household, indoors and outdoors (this is the safest option, since you never have to worry you just took a sip of potentially unsafe water from another tap).

Your UV system will work best when partnered with a pre-treatment 5-micron sediment filter. This should be installed upstream of your UV system to be sure no large particles get through. Larger particles are sometimes capable of blocking or deflecting UV light, which can mean less-pure water for your household.

For households with hard water (lots of mineral and sediment deposits), it may be beneficial to install a water softener as well. This, too, should be installed upstream from your UV system.

Contact Gravenhurst Plumbing for Help

Here at Gravenhurst Plumbing, we take community water quality very seriously. After all, our families are drinking the local water too! If you need help selecting, sizing, and installing a UV water purification system at home, call on us for help. You can reach us by phone at 877.885.3403 (Canada) or 705.687.3402 or online at

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Geothermal Cooling & Heating: Save Cash & the Planet Too!

geothermal heating and cooling

If you had to guesstimate how much of your monthly energy bill goes to cooling and heating your home, what would you guess? 25 percent? 50 percent?

How about 70 percent? (Yes, you read that right.) For most Canadian homeowners, a full 70 percent of their monthly energy expense goes towards keeping their home cool or warm, depending on the season.

This also holds true whether the energy source is electric, gas, propane, oil, or another type. We live on a planet with ever-dwindling natural resources, so energy of all types is at a premium.

But there is one exception—solar energy. Solar energy is economical, widely available, reliable, and totally renewable and sustainable. Knowing this, if you found out you could heat and cool your home using solar power—saving yourself cash and preserving the planet for your children—would you make the switch?

Read on to find out what you need to know to decide.

Geothermal is the Energy Source Our Planet Ordered

There has never been a better time than now for the HVAC industry to roll out a geothermal energy-based heating and cooling system. Called the Canadian GeoExchange Coalition, or CGC for short, this system harnesses indirect solar energy stored in the earth and water surrounding your home or workplace.

This energy has a zero-carbon footprint and requires no hazardous materials or processes to harness power. It is also cheaper than any other energy source currently available. Plus, since the sun isn't scheduled to burn out for another 5 billion years or so, there is no danger of not having enough energy for everyone who wants to use it.

How Geothermal Cooling & Heating Works

Did you know that, regardless of what your window thermometer reads, the ground outside maintains a consistent temperature of 55°F to 70°F year-round? This means that whether it is 20°F or 120°F, the ground right outside will stay between 55°F and 70°F.

This also means that conditions remain ripe all year to harness geothermal energy right out of the ground your home or business sits upon. Using a series of underground pipes, geothermal energy can be generated to keep your home as warm or cool as you like.

But this isn't all the good news geothermal energy has to share. Consider these facts:

  • For every $1 of electrical energy you use, you could be generating $4 worth of free solar (geothermal) energy.

  • The energy creation and conduction system is housed entirely underground in the underground piping system, so you won't have to hear any noise or endure the sight of any unattractive machinery around your home or workplace.

  • With the energy savings you will generate by switching to geothermal heating and cooling, you can potentially fully recoup your initial investment in the first five years.

  • Each single geothermal heating and cooling system installed offers the planet the equivalent of planting 750 new trees or taking two emissions-producing, fossil fuels-burning vehicles off the roadways.

  • The safety factor of geothermal heating and cooling can't be beat. Geothermal energy production requires no combustion and produces no emissions or fumes.

  • A geothermal heating and cooling system cleans your outdoor and indoor air simultaneously, removing common allergens as it does.

  • Geothermal systems installed under the auspices of the Canadian GeoExchange Coalition guarantee the most reliable, cost-effective, efficient and sustainable heating and cooling available on the market today.

While We're On the Subject of Geothermal....

Here at Gravenhurst Plumbing, Heating & Electric, we are so proud to announce that we have just become the very FIRST firm qualified to offer geothermal heating and cooling under the Canadian GeoExchange Coalition!

As an accredited and certified provider of geothermal based systems, we operate under the code of the CGC itself:

  • The systems we provide deliver the promised benefits.

  • The systems and installation practices are safe.

  • The designers, contractors, and installers are competent and reliable.

  • Full legal and regulatory compliance is guaranteed.

Participation in the CGC's process of accreditation and certification is 100 percent voluntary. We chose to go through the CGC's training program because we wholeheartedly believe that our planet's future and thus our children's future deserve our best effort to conserve natural resources and switch to sustainable energy sources.

We believe that by becoming trained, accredited, and certified as geothermal heating and cooling providers and installers, we can serve you even better, save you more on your energy bills, and provide you with systems that will be safe and reliable to use in your home and workplace over the long term.

P.S. Many of our customers are also able to qualify for energy tax credits by making the switch to geothermal heating and cooling.

What is it Like to Make the Switch to Geothermal?

Geothermal heating and cooling equipment is attractive and compact, and the majority of the system is housed under the ground outside. The main control box is small and nearly silent, and the entire system is Energy Star-certified, so you won't find a more energy-efficient option anywhere.

You control your geothermal unit through an internet-based, cloud-based software program called Symphony that continuously monitors the entire system, from each component's functioning to a historical look at energy use to ongoing cash-saving thermostat adjustments. With Symphony's help, you can monitor, control, and tweak your geothermal heating and cooling system as desired.

Contact Gravenhurst Plumbing, Heating & Electric to Learn More

Gravenhurst Plumbing, Heating & Electric first opened the doors of our family-owned and operated business in 1945. In the ensuing decades, we have participated in many new developments in the energy and plumbing industries.

So whether you need maintenance for your traditional home or office plumbing and HVAC system or you are interested in transitioning to a geothermal-based system, we are honored to participate! Contact us by phone at 877.885.3403 or online.

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6 Reasons to Protect Your Family with a Standby Generator

backup generator

If you have ever endured a power outage, you can probably easily recollect the feelings of helplessness this event can evoke. You may become acutely aware of just how much you take ready power for granted. The microwave doesn't work and neither does the stove. Your cell phone is down for the count, as is your HVAC unit.

But there is a way to ensure future power outages don't cause discomfort and possibly danger to you, your home, and your family. In this post, learn 6 key reasons why a standby generator might be the best investment you make this year.

Reason #1: No power? No problem!

If you look at the fundamental function of a standby generator, you will quickly realize its sole purpose is to provide power when there is no other ready power source. As such, a standby generator is your last-resort power supply for any need you may have, no matter how specific.

Reason #2: Customized options can meet your specific power needs

When you were shopping for your home, you may have felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of options. Some homes had these features but not those. Other homes were perfect in this way but not in that way. Finally, you walked into the door of that special, one-of-a-kind property that you now call "home."

Standby generators are just as customized. Whether your power needs are minimal or extensive, and whether you need your generator to be able to travel with you or remain stationary, you can find a standby generator to meet your needs.

This also holds true for emergency generator options. If you are comfortable with starting up your generator manually in the event of an outage, you can find an option that works for you. In the same way, if you need your generator to detect the loss of power and start up instantly and automatically, there is a generator that can meet your needs.

Reason #3: Today's standby generators are built with safety chief in mind

The whole reason to invest in a standby generator is safety for you and your family. Today's standby generators are built with safety listed at the top of the features and specifications list.

For example, you can choose between a range of safety options, including these:

  • Automatic transfer switches This specialized switch will automatically activate the generator in the event of a loss of power and deactivate the generator when the regular power source is restored.

  • Automatic voltage detection/regulation If the standby generator is wired to power sensitive electronic equipment (examples include computers, entertainment centers, home security systems), it will automatically block fluctuations in voltage so no harm will be caused to these devices.

  • Automatic safety shutoff If there is any internal issue that may cause the standby generator to malfunction (examples include low oil or coolant, overheating or other similar issues), the generator will automatically turn itself off for safety reasons.

  • Built-in circuit breakers This essential safety feature blocks excessive voltage surges that may harm the generator or any appliances or equipment that the generator is wired to power.

  • Liquid cooling option This newer cooling option is a specific fix for high-watt standby generators that have a tendency to run more loudly. With liquid cooling, even generators that can handle a very high wattage will run quietly and unobtrusively in the background, with no risk of overheating.

Reason #4: Easy manual operation (for manual standby generators)

Automatic-start and manual-start standby generators each come with their own unique set of considerations and options.

Even better, in addition to many of the features outlined here for automatic-start generators, the new breed of manual-start generators also offers these features:

  • Button-start operation So long as the generator's battery is holding a full charge, today's manual generators can be started with the press of a button.

  • Easy-to-read fuel gauges Know at a glance how much fuel is remaining to power the manual generator by looking at these gauges.

  • 12V outlet options If there are batteries that need to be charged during the power outage, this special outlet can take care of that while the generator is running.

  • Wheel kits. For generators that are manual-start and portable, wheels make it easy to travel with the generator in tow.

  • Automatic idle. For manual generators that are needed only sporadically throughout a power outage, this feature will idle the generator engine to save fuel.

Reason #5: A standby generator saves perishables

There is no worse feeling than waiting out a power outage while knowing all the food in the fridge and freezer is slowly spoiling. Sometimes these perishables can represent hundreds or even thousands of dollars that become literally unsalvageable when the power goes out.

With a standby generator, this investment won't go to waste. For some families, this savings alone can more than justify the investment in a standby generator!

Reason #6: A standby generator saves lives

There are so many known safety issues that can crop up during a power outage. But it is the unknown issues that are the scariest. For example, for some families who have an ill or recuperating family member who requires in-house powered medical devices, a standby generator is simply not optional.

Finally, in severe weather conditions, especially extreme heat and cold, young and elderly family members may rely on the temperature control function of a standby generator for their health and life.

Contact Gravenhurst Plumbing

Gravenhurst Plumbing has been serving the HVAC needs of the Muskoka and surrounding areas since 1945.

Contact us today to learn more about standby generator equipment and installation options at 877.885.3403 or online.

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6 Tips to Fix Your Home if It Doesn't Cool Evenly

Home cooling unevenly

If there is one fact most Canadians can agree on, it is this: there are never enough warm summer days in Canada to enjoy each year. However, summer is less enjoyable in some households than in others. The reason for this is simple: uneven cooling.

It is easy to tell if your home is not cooling evenly and equally in each room: Look to see which room everyone crowds into on extra-hot days.

In this post, learn 6 tips to fix your home's uneven cooling issues before the short, intense Canadian summer arrives in earnest!

Tip #1: Check that your HVAC unit's thermostat is set to "on"

For most air conditioning units today, there are two options on the thermostat for using the inbuilt fan.

  • Auto. The auto setting will cycle on the unit's fan when the thermostat detects a need to cool the air. Once the air reaches the right temperature, the cooling and fan will power off again.

  • On. The on setting will leave the fan on constantly, both when the air is being cooled and when it is not.

The "on" setting is better for overall home air circulation. It can remedy minor issues with uneven cooling, especially if you live in a split-level house.

NOTE: Be aware that using the fan more frequently may add a few dollars to your energy bill.

Tip #2: Clean and maintain your air ducts

If you just recently bought a home with an air duct system or you've owned your home for some time but can't recall ever doing air duct maintenance, now is a good time to start!

Over time, air ducts can get clogged with dirt, dust, debris, and other matter. The worse the buildup becomes inside the ducts, the harder your air conditioner has to work to push cool air through. If air vents get blocked by built-up debris, a common side effect is hotter rooms in some areas of your house.

If this is the case in your home, there are two key maintenance tasks that can help:

  • Cleaning out your air duct system. With this service, all of that built-up debris is removed, along with particulate matter and allergens that can cause respiratory irritation. You’ll have fresher and cleaner indoor air and a home that cools more evenly from room to room.

  • Sealing and insulating your air ducts. Sealing up air leaks and placing extra insulation around your air ducts can keep more of the cool air in and all of that hot air out. For rooms with major leak issues, this could potentially be a total fix for uneven cooling in your home.

Tip #3: Install a zone system that links to your A/C

With a zone system, temperature sensors are installed in different areas, or zones, of your home. This permits you to more precisely control the air temperature in each of those zones.

So for instance, if your bathroom is always freezing and you boil in your bedroom, a zone system can adjust the temperature settings for each of those areas so the cooling is more comfortable and even.

And if you have a split-level home and notice the upstairs rooms becoming hotter as the warm air rises in summer, you can use a zone system to even out the ambient air temperature for each level of your home.

NOTE: While a zone system can represent an additional cost investment to implement, the potential cost savings can more than offset the investment you make.

Tip #4: Get an A/C unit that suits your house size

You may find that the air conditioning unit that was installed originally has become unable to handle the cooling tasks required of it. This is a frequent issue when homeowners decide to add onto an existing property.

As well, older model HVAC units lack the inbuilt energy efficiency features of their newer Energy Star-certified cousins. If your A/C unit is more than a decade old, lacks a programmable thermostat, is coping with an add-on to your existing home, or simply isn't cutting it for some other reason, you may find you can actually save funds by upgrading to an Energy Star-certified unit.

NOTE: Energy Star monthly efficiency savings are estimated to range upwards of 15 to 20 percent per month (or around $115 per year).

Tip #5 Tweak the placement of your air vents

When was the last time you checked out your air vents in each room? The air vents are the openings (often placed on the ceilings or walls in each room) that allow the air ducts to deliver temperature-controlled air to that room.

If someone has partially or completely closed the air vent in a certain room, or if it has become covered by dust or blocked by furnishings, cleaning and re-opening that vent may be all that is needed to even out air flow to that room!

Tip #6: Change out your air filters

While this may not remedy uneven air flow throughout your home, it can certainly help, particularly if you have multiple air filters for your HVAC unit.

When the air filter gets filled up with debris, you can know two things for sure:

  • The air filter is doing its job well.

  • Your A/C unit is working harder than it should to cool your home.

Experts recommend changing the air filter(s) every 30 days for the best air circulation and most even cooling in the home.

Questions? Need Help?

Contact Gravenhurst Plumbing by phone at 705.687.3402 or online here. Our experts can help diagnose and repair any cooling issues you might be experiencing. If you are looking for for help in the Sudbury Region please contact Campeau Heating for repair and cooling issues. 

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Choosing a Gas or Oil Furnace


Which type of furnace you choose for your home depends on a number of factors. All modern furnaces are designed to maximize efficiency and provide comfort and energy savings, and there have been significant advances in the safety features of furnaces.

Choosing the right furnace for your home may depend on fuel availability and budget or even space. Some places do not have access to piping infrastructure, and this limits options. There are benefits and drawbacks to using both types of furnaces. Below, we give you the comparisons between the two.

Fuel Efficiency Rating

This is one of the first things a homeowner should consider when choosing a furnace. This rating is often referred to as Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE)—it’s a way to measure the efficiency of the combustion of a furnace. A higher AFUE rating means the product has a higher degree of efficiency.

Many oil furnace manufacturers will claim their products get an AFUE rating of up to 90 percent. There are natural gas furnace manufacturers who claim their products’ AFUE rating is up to 98 percent. Newer furnaces are all more efficient than older ones by as much as 29 percent and more.

Gas Furnace Versatility

A natural gas furnace is able to be used in any type of home, and also operate well with a water heater or any other type of system that requires heat. They are very dependable systems and seldom require repairs. This is important during cold winter months. Natural gas is a clean-burning fossil fuel. It is a heating system that provides no harm to the environment.

Oil Furnace Versatility

Using heating oil is very safe: it won't ignite until it achieves a temperature of 140 degrees. This means if a flame were accidentally put into heating oil, it would be extinguished (the heating oil would react as water in this situation). It's also easy to tell if there are problems with an oil furnace. It will provide noticeable warning signs that something is wrong, like soot, smoke, or some type of odor.

If an oil furnace is properly maintained, it could last an owner three decades or longer. A gas furnace on average lasts less than 15 years. At the same time, it is important to consider the volatility of oil prices, as well as the possibility of getting the oil trucked to your home and having clear access.

Reality of Gas Furnaces

As mentioned, a natural gas furnace may have a higher heating efficiency rating than an oil furnace. The fuel costs may be less, but will provide a home with lower heat per BTU when compared to oil. Gas furnaces are typically about 24 percent more expensive than an oil furnace of similar size. In addition, the home must be located in an area where a supply of natural gas is available.

A gas furnace will require little maintenance, and is able to operate cleaner and quieter than an oil furnace. It's possible for a gas furnace to work even if the electricity is out, and since the natural gas system is underground, fuel outages are rare.

It is extremely important for a gas furnace to be regularly serviced by an HVAC professional; it emits a low level of carbon monoxide, and if not handled properly, it could become a health safety issue.

Reality of Oil Furnaces

To have an oil furnace, the homeowner must have an on-site tank to which oil must be delivered. An oil furnace is easily serviced, and some oil delivery companies will offer a service contract for maintenance.

That said, the maintenance required is often extensive. This is because an oil furnace creates a buildup of soot and dirt in chimneys that needs to be cleaned regularly. It's also essential to frequently change the oil filter.

The costs associated with operating an oil furnace are dependent on oil prices that can fluctuate from one winter season to the next.


When considering either an oil or gas furnace is gather information, gathering the facts and pricing information is a good place to start. Fuel regulations need to be taken into consideration as well. Legislation can have an impact on the supply of natural gas as well as oil. It's also important to know if there is more than one oil supplier in an area, so a homeowner can get the best possible price for their fuel costs.

If you have any questions at all, feel free to give us a call at 705-687-3402, or contact us online. We're happy to discuss your questions or needs and advise on the best, most economical solution that will meet your needs.

For heating services in the following service areas,  Contact ATEL AIR Heating & Cooling: 

  • Morrisburg
  • Winchester
  • Williamsburg
  • Osgoode
  • kemptville
  • Brockville
  • Cornwall
  • Embrun
  • Greely and more,

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Be Wary About That Furnace Lease

Last April 1, the Ontario government passed a law to protect consumers from door-to-door sales agents trying to switch their hot water heaters to another rental supplier.

Sales agents are still knocking on doors. But many have found a more lucrative pursuit than replacing water heaters.

Now they’re pushing you to replace your furnace and air conditioner under a 10-year lease. While a water heater costs $25 a month to rent, a heating and cooling system can be $150 to $175 a month (plus HST).

Moreover, you won’t own the equipment when the contract ends. You’ll have to pay a buyout fee to take ownership or a removal fee to get it out of your house.

I’ve heard from many readers about rental sales pitches. Some said they were taken in by deceptive claims at the door and wish they had investigated before signing up.

Here are some comments about why they agreed to a deal...

Click here to read the rest of this article on the Toronto Star Website.

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