Althoff Home Services Blog: Archive for the ‘Indoor Air Quality’ Category

The Most Common Source of Humidifier Leaks (Video)

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

The number one source of humidifier leaks is the homeowner not changing the water panel inside the unit.

If the panel gets plugged up with hard water deposits, the water can’t travel through the surface space of the panel like it’s supposed to. Instead, it begins to cascade—not down the pad, but on the outside of the unit. You may see water coming out of the cabinet.

Here’s how to maintain your water panel and resolve leaks.

1. Remove the water panel unit from the cabinet and take off the distributor. You will see the nozzle where water goes in and then distributes along a series of holes along the top. If the holes are plugged up with hard water deposits, the water will build up and cascade over the top. Clean any hard water build-up.

2. Change out the water panel itself.

3. Vacuum out the sleeve and/or wash it out in a utility sink or your kitchen sink. Make sure there isn’t any blockage.

4. Before you put the water panel unit back in, take a look at the cabinet. There is a spud along the bottom of the cabinet. A nipple on the bottom of the water panel goes into this spud, creating a connection that allows water to drain out of the bottom of the humidifier. Make sure this is not plugged up with calcium hard water deposits, which can interrupt proper drainage flow.

5. Put the water panel unit back together and place it back in the cabinet.

Test the operation. More than likely you took care of the humidifier leak by changing the water panel, cleaning the distributor, making sure the sleeve is clean, and making sure the cabinet is clear of debris.

Still troubled by a humidifier leak? Hand it off to Althoff.

If the above steps didn’t fix your humidifier leak, or you’d just prefer to have a pro handle the process, call us at (815) 455-7000. Althoff Industries serves the Greater Chicago area.

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Whole House Humidifier Pros vs. Cons

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Many view home heating from a pretty straight-forward standpoint. If they are comfortable, their thermostat is set correctly. If they are not comfortable, the thermostat is set too low or too high. Of course, when multiple family members are involved, this can create quite a challenging situation that is often resolved by the person who pays the utility bills. There is, however, another major factor in the comfort of your home. It is humidity.

We are all familiar with humidity during our Chicago summers but humidity plays a significant role in comfort during our winters in the Crystal Lake area as well.

Humidified air can feel much warmer, cozy, and comfortable. Dry air can lead to static electricity, premature drying of wood cabinets, flooring and furniture, and even more frequent illness. Families are often surprised at the amazing impact a properly humidified home can have on their comfort, especially during the cold weather months. They can also see energy saving benefits.

Some are familiar with smaller, single-room humidifiers that can help humidify a small space. These portable humidifiers can offer some relief but if lack of humidity is an issue for the whole house, and having an impact on you and your home’s comfort you may want to consider a whole house humidifier.

What is a Whole House Humidifier?

A whole house humidifier is a device that works with your furnace to add moisture into the air in your home. This moisture is provided through your home’s plumbing and is heated and dispersed into your home through your furnace and ductwork. A whole house humidifier is sometimes referred to as a furnace humidifier and provides air that simply feels warmer.

Pros and Cons

If you experience dryer air in your home, you can find relief from either a portable or whole house humidifier. Portable humidifiers only impact a small area and the water tank the humidifier uses must be refilled frequently. A whole house humidifier will improve the comfort of your entire home and because it is directly fed moisture through your plumbing, refilling a tank is unnecessary.

The downsides to a whole house humidifier are few but significant. First, a whole house or furnace humidifier can be a sizeable investment. Many, however, find that the air is warmer in their home following installation, allowing them to operate their furnace at a lower temperature. This, of course, can translate into long-term energy savings, which can help offset the original investment.

The other con to the installation of a whole house humidifier is that it can be a fairly complex task. It should be handled by a professional. A furnace humidifier must be installed correctly to provide full value. Beyond exceptional comfort, families using a whole house humidifier experience less illness and annoying static shocks.

Contact the Pros at Althoff Industries

If you’ve ever caught yourself saying “I can’t seem to get warm in here” or are constantly edging the thermostat upwards to stay warm, the problem may not be the heat but the lack of humidity. We invite you to contact us at Althoff Industries for a complete assessment of your HVAC system and your indoor air quality. We can help determine the efficiency of your present system and help you decide if a whole house humidifier can be beneficial to you and your family.

Staying comfortable indoors is more than just about the heat. Discover the important role well functioning equipment and humidity play in the warmth of your home with a call to Althoff Industries.

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The Best Overall Furnace Filter for Your Residential HVAC System

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

There are more choices than ever when choosing a furnace air filter for your home. How do you know what is the best furnace filter for you?

Furnace Filter Purpose

It can help to have a basic understanding of the purpose of an air filter. A furnace air filter should remove larger particulate matter from the air flowing into your furnace, keeping it from accumulating in your HVAC system and being redistributed into your home. It also should facilitate proper airflow through your HVAC system and into your home. It seems simple enough, so why the confusion?

The sheer number of choices in furnace filters complicates the matter for many. Today’s furnace filters range from just a few dollars up to $50 or more. Some feel that more expensive filters must be better. That is simply not the case. Some consumers are impacted by the clever marketing of some companies producing filters that promise fresher, cleaner, healthier air. The challenge is that some of these filters restrict airflow to the point of causing inefficiencies, potentially overworking your furnace and perhaps even causing mechanical problems.

Standard Air Filter, the Best?

So what’s a homeowner to do? The reality is for the vast majority, the inexpensive, fiberglass, disposable furnace filters will perform fine, especially when replaced frequently. These filters range from 1-4 on the MERV scale, removing 80% of the particles that are 50 microns and larger while collecting 25% of the particles within the 3 to 10-micron range. Pleated filters may improve filtration by 15-20% over the spun fiberglass variety but they can cost four to five times as much and inhibit airflow.

Video embedded here- https://youtu.be/muHQReOx7Y8

What about Air Filters and Allergies?

Now, if someone in your family suffers from severe allergies or is sensitive to dust, you may want a filter that can remove smaller particles without negatively impacting airflow. At Althoff Industries, we offer such filters that can be compatible with your system. These thicker air filters we recommend will upgrade your indoor air quality, while minimizing negative impact on air flow. Our professionals will measure the airflow to ensure your equipment is being protected while improving filtration. This is not something you should guess at on your own, however.

It’s a Balancing Act

The appropriate air filter strikes the balance between protecting equipment, facilitating airflow, and keeping your indoor air quality in check. Keep in mind, the main function of your furnace is to heat your home, not clean the air. Asking it to perform the added task of an air cleaner with an inappropriate filter may ultimately cause mechanical issues.

If you have questions on how to improve your indoor air quality without damaging your HVAC system or would like to schedule a thorough clean and check of your system for the winter, contact the professionals at Althoff Industries.

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3 Essential HVAC Tools that Provide Accurate Diagnostics

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

At Althoff Industries, our priority is not only hiring and training talented technicians but equipping them with the highest quality tools to get the job done accurately. We ensure our technicians are not only well-trained and proficient in HVAC repair and installations but that they have the essential HVAC tools to assist them in the accurate diagnosis of your heating and air conditioning equipment.

While our trucks are filled with many parts, equipment, and tools, there are three HVAC technician tools that we use at every service call. They are the combustion analyzer, draft gauge, and manometer. These tools give us the ability to measure and analyze things happening with the system that cannot be seen by just visually looking at it. Our highly trained technicians understand that the proper diagnosis involves digging deeper to uncover hidden problems that impact safety, performance, and can cause breakdowns.

3 Essential HVAC Tools

1. Combustion Analyzer

A combustion analyzer is a handheld device that looks much like a multi-meter an electrician would use to check circuits. Like blood work being analyzed at the lab, the combustion analyzer gives our technicians all the components of the combustion process at once. The three main components checked are carbon monoxide levels, oxygen levels, and flue temperature. A trained technician knows that having just one of those numbers doesn’t tell you the whole story. It takes putting all the pieces together to accurately understand what’s happening. The purpose of the combustion analysis unit is to measure the percentages of oxygen and carbon dioxide along with the flue temperature. These measurements help our technicians determine whether or not the furnace is operating within the parameters that the manufacturer of the equipment has specified.

A combustion analyzer is important for three different reasons. It can help in determining and achieving optimum fuel efficiency, it is critical for the safe operation of your equipment, and it can ensure your HVAC system is operating within the guidelines of any warranty.

2. Draft Gauge

A draft gauge is a device that verifies that your chimney has proper draft pressure. Improper draft can be caused by lack of combustion air, too much combustion air, outside temperature and wind conditions, or a blocked chimney. A proper draft is critical to make sure the by products of combustion are safely disposed of outside the home. Most companies just assume this is happening correctly, at Althoff our technicians are trained to verify it. HVAC tools like a draft gauge help our technician determine if there are any problems creating these potential draft issues.

3. Manometer

The manometer is a device used to measure differences in pressure. We use this in a couple different ways. First, we use it to measure duct static pressure to make sure that you have proper air flow through the furnace and duct system. Another way is by measuring gas pressure to the equipment. Equipment is rated for certain gas pressures and those outside of those ranges can have very negative effects on performance, safety, longevity of the equipment

Other Trade Tools Used on Daily Basis

The three critical HVAC tools listed above are just part of what technicians need to perform their job on a daily basis. Other such tools may include:

  • A refrigerant recovery machine
  • Hand seamer
  • Swage tools
  • Leak detectors
  • Hand and power tools
  • Tin snips
  • Multimeter
  • Humidity and temperature gauges…and more!

Our technicians in the field often play the role of part technician, mechanic, sheet metal worker, detective, and chemist/scientist. It is why they are so extensively trained and outfitted with the latest equipment. It is not an inexpensive proposition but we take what we do very seriously here at Althoff Industries. After all, it is not just the efficient operation of your HVAC equipment that is at stake. It is also the safety of your family.

When you experience an issue with your furnace, trust the experts at Althoff Industries.

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The #1 Way to Improve Air Flow in Your Home

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Many homeowners don’t fully appreciate the importance of airflow when it comes to the performance of their HVAC system and ultimately, the comfort of each room in your home. The fact is, if you have one room or many rooms that are less comfortable than others, it is quite possible it is an issue with airflow. Free airflow is disturbed by two basic forces friction and turbulence. What are some of the causes of poor or restrictive airflow in a home and how can it be improved? What is the #1 way to improve airflow in your home?

To find out the #1 way to improve airflow, we will first discuss 5 causes of poor airflow. At Althoff, our goal is always to get to the root of the problem first then provide solutions to improve comfort, function and performance of your equipment.

5 Causes of Poor Airflow

5. Duct Work That is Improperly Installed or Blocked

This happens more frequently than you may think. Improperly installed ductwork may not be sized properly or may even not be connected correctly. We have seen ductwork runs that seem to simply and mysteriously end! More common is ductwork that becomes blocked through the years by layers of dirt and dust or even foreign objects like clothing and toys. These improperly installed or blocked ducts create frictions that restrict proper airflow and will negatively affect the comfort of a room.

4. Lengthy Duct Runs and Those That Contain Too Many Turns

Some installers just expect too much from their HVAC, installing lengthy duct runs or duct runs that have too many turns. These turns create turbulence that doesn’t allow them to efficiently reach their desired destinations.

3. Too Few or too Small Return Air Vents

An efficiently installed and operating HVAC system with good airflow will both push air into a room and pull it out at the same rate. If too much air is being pushed into a room, it becomes slightly pressurized and uncomfortable. A frequent problem with rooms with poor air flow is that of having too few or too small return air vents.

2. Ducts That “Leak” Air

Over the course of the life of a structure, duct work can easily get holes or cracks from a combination of age, settling, and alterations to the structure. Duct work is often inadvertently punctured through nails. Like holes in a water hose, this leaking air can make the duct work and thus the furnace, much less effective in delivering treated air and in returning fresh air. It is estimated that nine out of ten homes have duct work that is leaking on some level. Depending on the number, size, and location of these holes, airflow can be dramatically negatively affected.

1. Dirty Air Filter 

While the above issues negatively affecting air flow in your home may take the assistance of a professional to properly correct, the simple, most effective way to improve air flow is to keep your air filter clean by performing regular air filter maintenance. Air filters are inexpensive and easy to change on your own. Ideally, they should be changed bi-monthly. If you have gone to a more restrictive air filter to get cleaner air in your home, it may be too restrictive for your HVAC system. If you have found some rooms becoming more uncomfortable, you may want to select a less restrictive filter. We’ve put together a brief video that helps explain why this is such an effective and simple idea to improve airflow in your home.

Vdiego embedded- https://youtu.be/Xkzy0FNC3HY 

Althoff Can Service Your AirFlow Issue

If you have areas of your home that never quite seem to get warm enough during our Chicago winters, airflow just may be the problem. Our technicians at Althoff Industries can check your furnace, airflow, and duct work to ensure they are working in harmony. If not, we will come up with a solution to resolve your airflow problem. Don’t just keep turning your furnace higher and higher. Solve your comfort issues at it core cause with an HVAC airflow check and a call to Althoff Industries.

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14 Smart Tips to Lower Summer Cooling Bills

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

Most of us in the greater Chicago area are glad to see the summer months arrive. It means the return of baseball, vacations, and trips to the beach. One thing though that summer brings that is not so welcome is the higher summer cooling bills. You are not helpless, however, in fact, far from it. From investing in solar panels to using energy saving LED lighting, there are plenty of steps you can take to be more energy efficient which in turn helps reduce summer cooling and electric bills. Here are 14 obvious, and some not-so-obvious, tips to save on your summer cooling bills.

  1. Consider a new HVAC system. We know, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. In the case of your HVAC system, however, a new high-efficiency system can actually reduce bills by 50% or more. It doesn’t take long to realize significant savings with efficiency ratings like those now available.
  2. Get rid of energy-gobbling appliances. Have a 15 or 20-year-old refrigerator in your garage for beverages? Odds are that refrigerator costs more to run over a few months than it is worth. Buy a small energy efficient dorm room size refrigerator if you need the space.
  3. Turn off fans in rooms where no one is spending time. Fans serve to move air and cool the skin. Moving the air in an empty room just isn’t an efficient use of electricity.
  4. Use room darkening blinds or curtains. You’ll be surprised at the difference window treatments can make in cooling a room, especially on westward facing windows.
  5. Switch to LED lighting. Not only does LED lighting use minimal electricity, it doesn’t give off any unnecessary additional heat into your living space. They are perhaps the most energy efficient device for your home available today.
  6. Consider how landscaping can help. A properly positioned tree can provide years of cooling shade. Bushes can deflect the heat that your outside brick may otherwise absorb. Grass disburses heat better than concrete. Landscaping is a terrific, natural way to reduce summer cooling bills.
  7. Look into solar options. You don’t have to have a solar farm built in your backyard or on your roof to take advantage of solar energy. You can start small, like with a solar water heater or outdoor lighting. As you realize savings you may be encouraged to do more!
  8. Make sure your AC units, duct work, and filters are clean. Make sure your outdoor AC unit has room to breath and is free from debris. Change filters at least every three months and have duct work cleaned annually.
  9. Have you thought about awnings? Awnings can save energy, add to the appearance of your home and create outdoor living space. Contemporary options are more appealing than ever.
  10. Be on the look out for energy thieves. We use so many electronic devices we may not even be aware they are constantly using energy. These include charging cell phones, laptops, computers, printers, electric shavers, TVs, clock radios and others. Make sure both the unit and charger is unplugged when charging is complete and unplug devices in spare rooms.
  11. Un-condition yourself. We call it air conditioning but we are really conditioning ourselves to be less resilient in uncomfortable temperatures. Make the effort to “un-condition” yourself by increasing the temp in your home or car. You do realize air conditioning wasn’t even invented until 1902 and people did live without it, right? You may not want to go to that extreme but you can increase your use of fans and use less AC.
  12. Make your HVAC system “smarter”. There are plenty of smart home devices to help you take charge of when your AC system is operating. Does it make sense to have your home cooled to 72 degrees for hour after hour when no one is home?
  13. Improve your insulation. You don’t have to go the whole house route but increase an area each year. Make sure doors and windows are sealed as are electrical sockets. Work on the area above the garage this year, in the attic next year. Just keep making progress!
  14. Price energy efficient windows. Not only can new windows save on your cooling and heating bills, but you’ll probably find they make your home quieter and more comfortable. A window and door company should be able to provide you with your approximate energy savings upon installation to help you make your decision.

It can be quite liberating to see your summer cooling bills get smaller, so get started today. If we can be of assistance, please contact us at Althoff Industries.

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