Althoff Home Services Blog: Archive for the ‘Our Maintenance Plan’ Category

Electrical Emergency Service: Common Code Violations

Friday, May 3rd, 2019

It’s a homeowner’s worst nightmare. You flip on a light switch and nothing happens. You check an outlet, also no power. Finally, you head to the breaker box to see if anything needs to be reset. If that doesn’t work, then you’re calling an electrician and spending the rest of the day in the dark ages until your power is back up and running.

Do you know what’s more frustrating? When the electrician arrives and points out a simple code violation, that if corrected, would’ve saved you the hassle of making a phone call. It’s important, especially if you live in an older home, to be aware of common electrical code violations. Down the road, an inspection can save you from a hefty repair bill or even better, save your home and family from an electrical fire. Here, we’ve illustrated a few common electrical code violations to look for in your home.

electrical fire in outlet

New Lights and Old Wiring Don’t Mix

Back in the day, houses weren’t constructed to handle today’s modern, high wattage light fixtures and bulbs. When you put a high-powered bulb in a fixture that’s only able to handle 60 watts, you’re putting yourself in a dangerous situation. Higher wattage light bulbs create a lot of heat. Over time, that heat can melt the light socket and the insulation around the wires. Without proper insulation and a melted light socket, a fire can spark at any moment. In fact, this is one of the most common causes of electrical fires. It’s also one of the easiest to prevent. Make sure you inspect the light fixture to determine the maximum wattage bulb allowed. When in doubt, always choose a less powerful bulb.

Beware of Knob and Tube Wiring

Anyone who’s familiar with home renovation television shows will spot this electrical issue right away. It’s one of the most common budget-destroying home renovation finds next to asbestos or load bearing beams. Knob and tube was the first type of electrical wiring used in homes built before the 1940’s. We’ve learned a lot since then, and by today’s standards, knob and tube wiring is extremely unsafe. What makes knob and tube wiring so scary is that there’s no ground wire to protect your house from surges and other faults. Instead, the wiring could spark and set your whole house ablaze. If you’re down in your basement and notice old ceramic knob and tube wiring, it’s time to give your house an upgrade before you lose everything you own in a house fire.

Recessed Lighting Deserves a Second Look

Recessed lighting can give rooms a clean, modern look. It can also be a dangerous fire hazard if not installed properly. To be safe, non-IC-rated lights need to be at least three inches away from insulation. If not, the lights can overheat. Non-IC-rated recessed lights can produce a lot of heat, enough heat to ignite insulation that’s too close. If you’re unsure of the type of recessed lighting you have, it’s important that you have a professional to inspect the light and insulation to make sure you’re not at risk of sparking a house fire.

Look Out for Illegal Splicing

This electrical issue might be a bit more difficult for the average homeowner to identify without the help of an expert. Electricians use a splice to connect two or more wires together. In order to be up to code and safe, electricians need to run the wires into a junction box, make a splice with wire nuts and cover the junction box with a cover plate. Oftentimes, DIY homeowners think they can do their own electrical work. Not only is an illegal splice a dangerous fire hazard, but it can be a sign that there are more serious electrical issues in the house. If you suspect an illegal splice in your house, it’s a clear sign you’ll need a more thorough inspection.

Overcrowding Wires Happens Too Often

Sometimes, DIY-ers and inexperienced electricians get lazy. When roughing in electrical wiring, they try to run too many wires through a ⅞ hole. The maximum number of wires allowed through a ⅞ hole is three. When an electrician runs too many wires through a hole, they run the risk of burning. Burning occurs when wires rub together and the insulation wears down. With exposed wiring behind your wall, without you knowing, you run the risk of a fire sparking at any time.

Do You Think You Have An Electrical Emergency?

Have you noticed lights flickering in your home? Outlets not working? Maybe you’ve noticed one of the issues we pointed out on this list. If you think you have an electrical emergency on your hands, give Althoff Industries a call at 815-455-7000 to schedule an appointment today.

This information is provided as a general guideline. Althoff Industries does not assume any liability resulting from the provided information.

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Surge Protector Safety Tips

Monday, March 25th, 2019

Surge protectors are essential electrical safety features in just about every home. Living in a world powered by electronics, most households have at least one surge protector for their computers, entertainment centers, mobile devices or kitchen appliances.

While surge protectors can supercharge productivity, they can also cause devastating damage if used improperly.

Surge Protector Safety: Important Things to Know

According to Electrical Safety Foundation International, “Home electrical fires account for an estimated 51,000 fires each year, nearly 500 deaths, more than 1,400 injuries and $1.3 billion in property damage.” Of those 51,000 fires, “The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that electrical receptacles are involved in 5,300 fires every year, causing 40 deaths and more than 100 consumer injuries.”

To make sure your surge protectors are keeping your devices safe, without potentially causing devastating damage to your home, we’ve compiled a list of essential safety tips.

Only Purchase UL or ETL-Certified Surge Protectors

The Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and Intertek ETL certifications help you ensure you’re buying a surge protector that’s been tested and inspected by professional safety organizations. These certifications demonstrate that the surge protector meets electrical safety standards in the U.S. You can identify UL and ETL-certified surge protectors by looking for the logo on the device, checking the owner’s manual or inspecting the device’s packaging. Not only should you see the logo, but you should be able to identify the code for the lab the product was tested in.

Surge Protectors Are Not a Substitute for Additional Wiring

Have you been using a surge protector because there aren’t enough outlets in the room? If so, you may be setting yourself up for an expensive disaster.

A surge protector’s job is to protect the devices plugged into it from an electrical surge, not necessarily give you 10 extra outlets to plug devices into. When you overload a surge protector, you can trip the circuit breaker or blow a fuse. Repeatedly overloading your surge protector can cause greater, more expensive damage to your home’s electrical system or even spark a fire.

To take it a step further, never plug one surge protector into another. This is known as daisy chaining or piggy backing. Interpower quotes a U.S. government white paper on daisy chaining stating, “Most power strips or surge protectors are approved for providing power to a maximum of four or six individual items. When multiple power strips are interconnected, the one directly connected to the building wall outlet is often supplying power to far more outlets than the approved number. This electrical current overload can result in a fire or can cause a circuit breaker to trip, de-energizing computers and other equipment throughout the area that are connected to a surge protector.”

It’s also important to note, never use a 2-to-3-prong adapter to plug in a surge protector. To operate safely, surge protectors must be grounded properly.

Give Your Surge Protector a Check Up

When is the last time you inspected your surge protectors? It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day life and forget about the surge protector that’s been hiding behind your entertainment center since you bought your television years ago. It’s important to check the surge protector for signs of wear, including worn outlets, frayed wires, chewed wires, or loose wire insulation. You should also hold the surge protector to see if it feels hot. An overheating surge protector is a surefire warning that it’s either overloaded or worn out.

When conducting your inspection, make sure your surge protectors have room to breathe. Blankets, rugs and pillows prevent surge protectors from expelling heat generated by electrical energy. In case of an electrical malfunction, you want to keep flammable materials as far from surge protectors as possible.

Concerned About Your Home’s Electrical Health?

Contact the experts at Althoff Industries. Our knowledgeable technicians can help you tackle any electrical issue, including safety checks, circuit breaker inspections, electrical panel upgrades, wiring upgrades, whole home surge protectors and more. Give us a call today at (815) 455-7000.

This information is provided as a general guideline. Althoff Industries does not assume any liability resulting from the provided information. 

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3 Reasons Why a Mismatched HVAC System Costs You More Money

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

There is a reason HVAC companies refer to their equipment as a “system”. It’s because each component is designed to work in harmony to provide efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. The older an HVAV system is, however, the more opportunities there are to end up with a mismatched evaporator coil and condenser. A mismatched HVAC system can often be referred to as a “Frankenstein” system because it is still operating on pieces and parts that weren’t intended to work, or certainly not work efficiently together.

A Question of Economics

For homeowners, it becomes a question of economics when looking at replacing either an air conditioning unit or a furnace. Can you replace one or the other? Yes. There are, however, a lot of reasons you shouldn’t. Here are three ones.

  1. Replacing both units at the same time will save you money long-term. What many homeowners may not realize is that if they replace only the outdoor AC unit, they’ll probably be spending money to replace the indoor unit shortly thereafter. Your HVAC company won’t have a problem with that because you, in essence, will be paying installation costs twice. In the photo used as an example, you’ll see an AC unit that was replaced just two years before the furnace. To make sure the AC unit worked with mismatched hvacthe furnace they had at the time, we had to make use of a wider coil. When we replaced the furnace, the new furnace was not as wide. This means that now the components aren’t properly matched or aligned for optimal airflow. It involved more work and added more expense. Replacing both units would ensure an efficient, dependable system that will function properly for a longer period of time.
  2. Matched systems perform better. When air conditioning units are designed, they are built to work with a matched indoor unit. This matched system works in tandem to generate optimum efficiency and ideal system performance. As mentioned, replacing an outdoor air conditioner unit without installing the matching indoor unit will work. However, you are jeopardizing the dependability of both units. This compromises your HVAC system’s efficiency, which may cost more in the long run.
  3. Efficiency ratings are based on matched systems. When you purchase a new HVAC unit, the heating and cooling efficiency ratings are based on matched system performance. That means, if you bought a condenser with an 18 SEER rating to help you save money on monthly bills, you won’t realize the full potential of those savings without the matching furnace. The wider the difference range between SEER ratings of equipment, the less efficient they will be in working together.

Another Reason Trusted, Reputable HVAC Service is Important

The issue of a mismatched evaporator coil and condenser and a mismatched HVAC system is yet another reason to perform due diligence in selecting your HVAC company. While we will do what we can to extend the life of any system, there is a time when the wiser choice is to simply replace a system.

A matched system will run more efficiently, perform better, last longer, and deliver cost savings well beyond the extra expense. To learn more, contact one of our expert HVAC technicians today! We service homeowners in the NW Chicago suburbs  and would love the opportunity to service your residential home or commercial business.

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