Althoff Home Services Blog: Archive for the ‘Plumbing’ Category

Plumbing Issues That Seem Small But Cause Big Headaches

Tuesday, September 29th, 2020

When it comes to any sort of problem in the home, you want to make sure that you pick up on it at the earliest opportunity. After all, the sooner you notice an issue, the quicker it can be fixed. This can make it a lot more convenient and cost-effective too.

However, the trouble is that we often do not realize that we have a big problem until it is too late. Because of this, we are going to take a look at some of the most common plumbing issues that may seem small but can cause a big headache.

plumber fixing sink pipe

Bubbling Wall Paint or Ceiling Paint

The first indicator that you have a plumbing issue is bubbling wall or ceiling paint. If this is an issue that you have noticed, it is an indicator that you have an excess amount of moisture. The most common cause of this plumbing problem is a leak in the plumbing system or the roof.

If you notice that you have any blistering or bubbling in your paint, or there are brown spots appearing on your wall or ceiling, it can be easy to simply ignore these. However, you should not do that. Now is the time for you to explore the problem further to make sure that you do not end up with a plumbing nightmare on your hands. A reputable plumber like Althoff Industries will be able to investigate the issue for you to ensure it is rectified quickly.

Spiking Water Bills

Have you noticed that your water bills are a lot higher than usual? If this is the case, it could be that there is some sort of problem. After all, if your water use has not increased significantly, then there must be another issue. High water bills indicate that something has changed within your plumbing system.

A running toilet is one of the most common reasons why people have spikes in their water system. A lot of homeowners do not appreciate the quantity of water used by their toilets. A toilet valve is pretty much a garden hose going at full blast. Therefore, it is not unusual for hundreds of dollars to be wasted as a consequence of a single running toilet.

Other common issues that could cause a spike in your water bill include clogged drains, dripping faucets, or a problem with your water supply. If you notice any of these issues, then make sure to call a plumber straight away.

Weak Water Flow In a Number of Locations

Low water pressure or a slow stream of water indicates that there is a problem with your water supply. If this is something that is only happening in one place in your home, the problem will typically be in the faucet aerator. Luckily, this is a pretty easy fix. However, if you have low water pressure in numerous spots around your property, this is an indication of a bigger issue.

If this is the case, the issue is probably going to be at the water main. It could also be an active leak in the supply line, which is the worst-case scenario, or a problem with the hot water heater. If you see that you have low water pressure and a number of other symptoms have presented themselves too, you really do need to call a professional plumber at the earliest opportunity.

Sewer Odor

A general rule in the world of plumbing is that all drains require a trap and all traps need to have a vent. All of these drains and traps have been designed so that sewer gas does not get inside of your home. The vents within your property should ensure that sewer odor is channeled up to the roof, while a ‘water plug’ is created by the drain traps and this acts as a barrier, preventing sewer odors from coming through your sink drain.

So, if you can smell sewer gas in your property, this means that either the vent line has cracked or the trap has run dry. You can fix a dry trap very easily. All you need to do is refill it with water. It is worth doing a quick assessment to make sure that there are not any signs of a leak. It can be much more difficult to track down a cracked sewer vent, though.

This is because they are enclosed into the wall, which demands a bit of drywall surgery. Your plumber will be able to provide you with more information on this if required.

Discolored Pipes

On a final note, discolored pipes can be an indicator of a bigger problem. Yes, they are unsightly, but a lot of people simply put up with this, especially as most pipes are located out of eyesight. So, if there are any signs of discoloration on your pipes, whether under your kitchen sink or in your basement, it is worth exploring this further because it indicates that moisture is present.

This may have happened as a consequence of dripping from a drain line or sink. In some cases, it can be a more severe incident, for example, a slow leak within the supply line. If it turns out that it is the latter, this is something that needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

To conclude, there are a lot of different plumbing issues that can seem small on the surface but can result in big problems if you are not careful. If you notice any of the signs that have been discussed above, the best thing to do is get in touch with a professional plumber like Althoff Industries as soon as you can.

Whether it is a small issue like a malfunctioning garbage disposal or a slow drain, or a larger problem with your water supply, we will be able to assess the issue for you and ensure that it is rectified quickly and effectively so that you can have complete peace of mind.

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Toilet Tank Overfilling? Most Common Causes and Quick Troubleshooting Tips

Thursday, August 20th, 2020

Toilets are notoriously prone to plumbing issues. As necessary as they are, toilets can suffer from a number of problems, one of the most common being the toilet tank overfilling.

Toilets are made up of two major components: the toilet bowl and the toilet tank. The latter of which is usually the cause of any plumbing problems that your toilet may be having.

When the toilet tank overfills it can lead to lots of other problems, chief among them being flooding. Nobody wants to come home from work to find their bathroom flooded. A flooded bathroom could lead to you having to pay significant money for floor and wall repairs.

Along with an outright blockage in the waste line, an overflowing toilet tank is one of the more serious problems that your toilet could be having because it can waste water.

There are a number of common causes that can lead to this issue, but there are plenty of solutions as well. Some of these you can take care of by yourself, whereas others you will probably want to call a professional to come fix them for you.

This guide will help you diagnose the problem and figure out some possible solutions if you notice that your toilet tank is overfilling.

Most Common Causes for Your Toilet Tank Overfilling or Overflowing

There are two very common issues that could lead to your toilet tank overfilling. Because your problem likely stems from one of these two issues, it is fairly easy to diagnose what is causing the excessive water in your toilet tank.

A Misaligned Overflow Tube

When you flush the toilet, the rubber flapper which normally covers the flush valve is released. When this happens, the water that was previously resting in the toilet tank is forced into the toilet bowl at a high speed.

This is what causes the waste in your toilet bowl to be flushed into the sewer. After this process is complete, the toilet’s fill valve, which connects to your house’s water supply, fills the toilet tank back up with water, readying it for another flush.

If you remove the lid and look into your toilet tank, you will notice a white tube floating in the middle of the tank. This is the overflow tube. This is what prevents your tank from, well, overflowing.

The tube normally works by sending excess water in the toilet tank back into the bowl to stop it from either spilling over the sides or leaking through the opening where the flushing lever is located.

If the tube is out of alignment or is set too high, then it needs to be adjusted to the correct height so that it can properly deal with excess water. This can be done by using a hacksaw to cut the overflow tube and correct its alignment.

This can be done by yourself, but, if you’re worried about cutting the overflow tube incorrectly or damaging other areas of your tank, you may want to consider calling the professionals at Althoff Industries to come out and do the job for you.

A Leaky Fill Valve

It is easy to recognize if your overflow tube is not functioning properly, because water will be spilling out the sides of the tank. However, if your overflow tube is working the way it should, but your toilet tank is still overfilling, then it will manifest itself as a different issue: a running toilet.

A running toilet describes a toilet that will not stop running despite the fact that it has not been flushed recently. This occurs because the fill valve, which is used to refill the tank, has been worn down over time and is constantly leaking water into the toilet tank.

Since your overflow tube is working, the excess water will not spill out the sides, but your toilet will continuously run due to the cycle of the toilet tank filling and emptying repeating over and over again.

In order to check your fill valve, turn off the water to your toilet by pulling the lever that is located behind the toilet bowl. Then, flush the toilet to drain the water out of the tank. Since the water is turned off, your fill valve will not refill the tank.

After you have taken care of these steps, take a look at the sealing around the edges of the fill valve. If you notice any cracks or chips in the seal, then you have discovered your problem. The fill valve needs to be replaced, otherwise, your toilet will never stop filling.

If this is coupled with a broken overflow tube, then it could cause a flood. A fill valve should only be replaced by a professional plumber. They will be able to replace the valve without causing any more damage.

Other Causes For a Running Toilet

A Faulty Flapper

A constantly running toilet can be related to other factors besides the fill valve. While these issues don’t necessarily lead to overfilling per se, they can be the cause of a running toilet if you find that your fill valve is working just fine.

As we mentioned before, the rubber flapper covers the flush valve, which does the exact opposite of the fill valve. The flush valve pushes the water from the tank into the bowl to flush the waste away into the sewer.

However, if the rubber flapper is failing to work properly, water will continuously seep into the bowl causing it to run constantly.

If this is in fact your problem, then you should replace the rubber flapper in your toilet tank. It has probably become compromised due to wear and tear over the years. A new flapper should do the trick.

A Broken Ball Float

This issue is similar to the previous one. Older toilets used a ball float to control the flushing mechanism until the much more effective rubber flapper was introduced. Rubber flappers have replaced ball floats in newer models of toilets.

If you live in an old house with an older model of toilet, it is likely that you have a ball float and not a rubber flapper. If this is the case, and your toilet is constantly running, you will either have to purchase a new ball float or rubber flapper.

However, we recommend that you just go ahead and replace the ball float with a rubber flapper, as flappers are the newer technology and are far less likely to break again.

Althoff Industries has years of experience solving people’s plumbing woes in the Chicago area. If your toilet has been afflicted by any one of these issues or is experiencing other problems, have us come out and take care of it today!

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Trouble Getting Your Toilet to Flush? Here Is What Could Be Going On

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

Plumbing issues can be a big problem, especially when they affect something you use every day like your toilet. If you are having toilet flush problems, it is important to determine the source of the problem. This article will help you to identify the problem, figure out how to solve it and get that toilet flushing once again.

A lot of issues are minor and can easily be rectified. However, some pretty severe plumbing concerns may require a visit from the professionals. We’ll run through the most common issues and provide some tips on what to do.

Clogged Toilet

The number one cause of toilet problems is a clog. This usually stems from attempting to flush too much toilet paper at once or trying to flush objects that weren’t meant to be flushed in the first place.

Either way, this problem is solved by using your toilet plunger to dislodge the blockage. This should solve the problem and allow you to fish out the culprits to avoid another clog.

However, if this does not work, then your clog is more serious. Most clogs happen in the toilet itself, which is why your plunger works. But, if the clog is deeper into the pipes, you may be unable to remove it. The best advice is to call the professionals at Althoff to help you out. They can find the source of the blockage and remove it for you.

Flapper Issues

The flapper is the rubber seal found inside the upper tank that helps to release water when you flush the toilet. It also prevents the tank from overflowing when it fills back up. There are two possible problems that could arise with the flapper inside your toilet tank.

The first is when the flapper becomes misshapen and no longer works properly. This is easily remedied by purchasing a new one for your toilet. Just make sure to drain the water tank before replacing the flapper.

The other issue relates to the chain that attaches to the flapper. This also connects to the flushing handle, and it needs to be tight enough to trigger the flushing mechanism. Over time, the chain can get too loose, making it unable to lift the flapper and initiate a flush.

If you keep pushing the handle and nothing happens, this is most likely your problem. To correct this, simply tighten the chain, which will enable it to pull the flapper up.

A Lack of Water

It is possible that you may have accidentally turned off the water valve in your toilet. This decreases the water levels in the tank, which means your toilet won’t be able to flush. If the valve is off, you need to switch it back on to get your toilet working properly. If it turns out that the valve is not turned off, there could be a more serious problem, so call a plumber to diagnose the issue.

Clogged Inlet Holes

If you look under the lip of your toilet bowl, you will notice several small holes. These are called the inlet holes, and they’re responsible for flushing the water from the tank into the toilet bowl.

It’s extremely common for these holes to become blocked or clogged due to a build-up of bacteria and/or mineral deposits. If you think your inlet holes may be clogged, simply try flushing your toilet and watch carefully to see if some of the holes do not have water coming from them.

A clogged inlet hole stops water being sent from the tank from reaching the toilet bowl. This reduces your toilet’s flushing power. Thankfully, this problem can be solved easily enough by cleaning the inlet holes. You can do it yourself by using a mirror to get a good angle and then using a thin tool to unclog the holes, or you can call the professionals to take care of it for you.

Terrible Toilet Design

Has your toilet always had flushing problems? Perhaps it’s always been slow, but it’s gotten even slower lately? If this is the case, you could have issues with its design. If a toilet drain pipe isn’t designed correctly, it won’t flush properly.

You’ll know if this is your issue because you’ve tried to fix all the other potential problems and you’re still having issues. The only way to solve this is by calling a plumbing professional to redesign your toilet drain pipe to make it flush more efficiently.

These are the most frequent causes of flushing problems in toilets. Check your toilet to see which one is your culprit, then work on getting it fixed. If you’re ever in doubt, call a professional plumbing company to take care of everything for you.

If you are having plumbing issues, give the experts at Althoff a call at (815) 455-7000 and let us come help solve the issue quickly!

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What to Do If Your Water Heater Is Leaking

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

There’s nothing worse than coming home after a long day at work to a house full of water. 30+ gallons of water sure seems like a lot when it’s accumulating throughout your home.

Despite advancements in engineering and product manufacturing, most tank water heaters have a 10 to 15-year lifespan. The good news is, the earlier you catch a water heater leak, the better. Plus, not all water leaks indicate you’ll need to replace the entire unit.

If your water heater is just starting to leak, act quickly before you need an expensive repair, or you have a flash flood on your hands.

Safety First!

Remember, when dealing with a leak, your water heater gets hot enough to cause first degree burns. There is also electricity going to your water heater, which can cause a severe electrical shock.

So, before inspecting and working on your water heater, be sure to turn off the power at the circuit breaker and turn off the water supply.

Check to See What’s Causing the Leak

With a tank water heater, there’s water coming in, water heated in the tank, and water flowing out.

Water is constantly flowing through the appliance, so there are several places to inspect to see where the leak is coming from.

Loose connections

Check to make sure the connections to and from the tank are tight and that the lines don’t show any signs of damage or excessive wear.

You can tighten these connections yourself pretty easily. If you are nervous, you can always contact a professional to come and assist you.

Leaky elbow joints

While inspecting the connections, check any joints in the piping. These areas can experience extra stress as water flows to and from the tank.

These likely need to be replaced or tightened.

Temperature and pressure valve

As the water heater heats the water in the tank, it creates gas and pressure. The temperature and pressure valve safely ensures that your water heater tank doesn’t explode. There should be a vertical pipe that runs down the side of your tank that stops just a few inches above the floor. 

Usually, if the temperature and pressure valve is leaking, there will be a puddle below this pipe or water stains on the floor.

This is a slightly more advanced repair and best performed by a professional who is familiar with water heaters.

Water heater tank drain valve

Every tank water heater has a drain valve located near the bottom of the tank. Over time, sediment at the bottom of the tank can wear down the seal on the drain valve and cause a leak.

If this part is to blame, you should be able to see water or water staining around or below the valve.

The drain valve will need to be replaced if this is the source of the leak.

Leaky gaskets

If you have an electric water heater, it contains gaskets to protect the electric heating elements from contacting water. Electric water heaters will have a hatch that allows you to inspect the electrical connections and check for signs of moisture.

If you see signs of moisture here, contact a professional as this can be a dangerous repair to attempt without experience.

Failing water heater tank

When water flows through the tank, it carries a small amount of minerals and sediment in the water supply.

As the tank heats the water, this sediment settles and builds up at the bottom of the tank. Eventually, this sediment will erode through the tank’s lining from the inside. If you notice water pooling below the tank and a significant amount of rust, it’s time to replace your water heater.

How to Prevent Water Heater Leaks

Water heater leaks are an eventual pain almost all homeowners will experience at one point or another. If you’ve experienced any kind of leak before, you’ll know that water damage is messy and expensive. However, there are preventative maintenance tips you can follow that will help prolong the life of your water heater and help you catch a small leak before it boils over into a flood.

Drain your water heater annually

Sediment can gradually cause serious damage to your water heater over time. One way to lessen this damage is by draining and flushing your water heater tank annually. This procedure can also help your water heater function more efficiently.

Inspect your water heater regularly

It’s easy to forget about your water heater until you experience a warning sign like no hot water when you shower, or you step on a sopping wet carpet. Water heaters are usually tucked away in your basement or in a utility closet so it can be hard to remember to inspect them. Make a habit of inspecting your water heater periodically to check for excess moisture and leaks.

You can always set up a prescheduled maintenance plan with the Althoff team to ensure that your water heater is good to go and leak-free all year long.

Need Help With a Water Heater Leak or Maintenance?

Althoff Industries has plumbers available to help with all your water heater needs 24/7, 365 days a year. If you’re in the Chicago area, give us a call at 815-455-7000 and schedule an appointment today.

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Do Energy-Efficient Appliances Save Money?

Friday, December 20th, 2019

We’re always looking for new ways to save money without giving up the small luxuries we love. By switching to energy-efficient appliances, you could save hundreds of dollars per year.

Better yet, you’ll be keeping more money in your pocket, instead of paying it to the utility companies. That means more vacations and less painful bills and this switch will have minimal impact on your life.

Not only are energy-efficient appliances good for your wallet, they’re also beneficial for the environment as well. You’ll sleep easier knowing you’re making smart environmental and financial decisions.

Energy Star Appliances and SEER Ratings

If you’ve purchased an appliance in the past 25 years, you’re probably familiar with the Energy Star label. Energy Star is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect our climate through superior energy efficiency.

According to the Energy Star website, “Since 1992, Energy Star and its partners helped save American families and businesses nearly 4 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity and achieve over 3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas reductions, equivalent to the annual emissions of over 600 million cars. In 2017 alone, Energy Star and its partners helped Americans avoid $30 billion in energy costs.”

SEER stands for “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio,” and is the efficiency rating of an HVAC system, which measures the efficiency of specific appliances in your home. The SEER rating of an appliance—your AC unit, refrigerator, or your heating system—is based on a number of factors.

It is also important to note that the higher the SEER rating, the more energy-efficient the appliance will be.

Energy-Efficient Appliances Use Less Energy and Save You Money

Customers often wonder how they can save money by dropping money on new energy-efficient appliances when their older models seem to be functioning just fine.

Energy-efficient appliances can help you save money by using less energy and resources such as electricity, gas, and water.

Remember that your gas, water, and electricity bills aren’t set in stone. Utility companies charge based on the amount you consume every month.

Energy-efficient appliances use fewer resources than older appliances to complete the same task, which lowers your monthly utility costs.


Dryers generally consume the most energy of any appliance. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a typical household dryer consumes as much energy per year as an energy-efficient refrigerator, washing machine, and dishwasher combined. If you have an older model, that number could be even higher.

Energy Star certified dryers use 20% less electricity than a conventional model, which will save you a significant amount of money on your energy bills over time.

Washing Machines

Pair that energy-efficient dryer with an energy-efficient washing machine, you’ll enjoy even bigger savings on your monthly bills.

An Energy Star certified washing machine uses about 25% less energy and 33% less water than regular washers, according to Energy Star.

Energy Star also estimated that there are 74 million top-loading washers and 24 million front-loading washers—26 million of which are at least 10 years old—still in use across the country and these inefficient washers cost consumers about $4.7 billion each year in energy and water.

Energy-efficient front-loading clothes washers also require less laundry detergent than top-loading washers, so you save more money from week to week!


There have been significant advances in the technology used in refrigerators over the last decade or so, which means that outdated refrigerators are using a ton of extra energy in many homes to this day.

The Energy Star certified refrigerators available today are around 10% more energy-efficient than models that meet the federal minimum energy standards.

If you have an older refrigerator, you can save even more on your energy bills by upgrading to a more efficient option. Energy Star certified refrigerators use up to 40% less energy than the conventional models sold in 2001.

Energy-Efficient HVAC Systems

By upgrading the HVAC system in your home, you will likely see a significant return on your investment over time.

Now, it may seem like a lot of cash upfront, but if you keep your new system well-maintained you will definitely see the savings in the long term.

According to the DOE, the most efficient central AC systems today use 30% to 50% less energy than those built in the mid-1970s. Even when a 10-year-old unit is replaced, the new air conditioner can cut cooling costs by anywhere from 20% to 40%.

In addition to that, heating your home actually costs you the most money, making up about 42% of your utility bill according to An outdated system with a low SEER rating is likely costing you a lot more monthly than you would like.

We have come really far when it comes to the technology available in modern HVAC systems in the last 20+ years. Talk to an expert and find out which HVAC system is right for your home so you can start saving.

Other examples of energy-efficient appliances available to consumers include:

  • Cooking appliances
  • Dishwashers
  • Toilets
  • Water heaters

Are You Considering Making Energy-Efficient Improvements to Your Home?

Maybe you are ready to take a step towards a more energy-efficient home and cost savings or you’re already there and your energy-efficient HVAC system needs maintenance. No matter what your case is, the experts at Althoff Industries can help with your energy-efficient appliance needs.

We’ve been serving the Chicago area for over 60 years, so we’ve done our fair share of energy-efficient home improvements. Contact us at 815-455-7000 and schedule your appointment today!

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Things You Should Never Put Down Your Garbage Dispo

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

A garbage disposal can make cleaning up after meals a whole lot easier. Instead of constantly unblocking your drain or having to worry about sneaky pieces of food making their way into your pipes, a garbage disposal does the hard work for you—it grinds up food waste, allowing scraps to easily flow through your pipes and out to the sewer.

More waste that goes out to the sewer means less waste that’s stinking up your trash can.

It’s common knowledge not to put things like cooking utensils, plasticware and bottle caps down the garbage disposal, but did you know that there’s a long list of things you should never put down your garbage disposal?

We have a list of food items that can cause havoc on your disposal and plumbing below, but first, let’s talk about how garbage disposals work.

How Does a Garbage Disposal Work?

A big misconception is that garbage disposals work like blenders—that the blades are spinning around, chopping up food into little pieces. However, if you ever take a peek inside of a garbage disposal, you’ll notice that’s not exactly how they work.

Instead, your garbage disposal relies on heavy metal lugs that have been mounted on a spinning plate.

As the lugs spin, the garbage disposal creates centrifugal force, grinding the food particles against a grind ring until they’re essentially liquefied. Once they’ve been ground to bits, water helps flush out the particles and carry the waste down the drain.

Okay, now that you know how a garbage disposal works, here is a list of things you should never put through it.

1. Fats, Oils and Grease

When you’re cooking, heat causes fat, oil and grease to liquify.

Once removed from the heat, these substances begin hardening as they cool.

Unfortunately, your garbage disposal can’t do anything to break down fats, oils and greases when you dump them into the drain.

These substances instead slide through the machine and into your pipes. As they travel down your pipes, they cool and eventually solidify, sticking to the sides of the pipes.

This can cause plumbing problems, including slow-moving drains and blockages.

2. Coffee Grounds

Your garbage disposal won’t have any trouble processing coffee grounds. However, your plumbing might, especially in an older home.

As coffee grounds pass through your drains, they tend to clump together and create clogs and your garbage disposal won’t be able to do anything else to help break down the coffee grounds. They’ll clump together in the pipes no matter how big or small.

3. Bones

Remember, your garbage disposal isn’t a tiny ninja that can pulverize whatever you throw down the drain. Typically, bones are too large and too hard to be broken up by the average garbage disposal.

Most likely, the bones will spin around while making a crazy noise in the garbage disposal forever and never make it down the drain.

It’s best to toss them in the trash when you’re cleaning up after a meal.

4. Fruit Pits

Pieces of leftover fruit shouldn’t be a problem for your garbage disposal, but it’s better to chuck the pits in the garbage.

Generally, fruit pits are too large and too hard to be broken up by the average garbage disposal.

More than likely, the pit will just rattle around inside the disposal and potentially damage the lugs inside preventing them from properly breaking up food particles.

5. Pasta, Rice and Oatmeal

In small quantities, these foods shouldn’t be too much trouble for your garbage disposal. They’ll simply get spun to small particles and flow down the drain.

The problem with these foods occurs when you dump large quantities into the garbage disposal or let them sit in the garbage disposal for an extended time. Pasta, rice and oatmeal absorb water, which can turn into a gummy, sticky mess. The buildup can cause the lugs to seize inside of your garbage disposal and prevent it from spinning.

6. Corn Husks, Potato Peels and Fibrous Vegetables

High angle view of dirty stainless steel kitchen sink with vegetable and fruit peels

Similar to pasta or oatmeal, small pieces of these vegetables should be ok for your garbage disposal to process.

However, in larger quantities, the fibers in peels and vegetables like celery and some squashes can get tangled up in the garbage disposal, preventing it from spinning around.

You’re better off composting these items instead of trying to wash them down the drain—your pipes and the environment will thank you.

Are You Having Garbage Disposal Trouble?

Whether you’re having trouble with your existing garbage disposal or if you’re looking to add one to your kitchen, Althoff Industries can help.

Our experts are here to help with your plumbing maintenance, repair and installation needs. Give us a call at 815-345-2778 to schedule an estimate today.

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What To Do If Your Toilet Overflows?

Monday, November 4th, 2019

As a homeowner, or even as a renter, hearing water unexpectedly splashing on the floor in the bathroom when it’s vacant can make your heart skip a beat.

Water damage can be an expensive, unpleasant burden to handle. Unfortunately, you’ll probably have to deal with a faulty, overflowing toilet at some point in your life. Do you know what to do when the water from the toilet starts flooding your bathroom?

Thankfully, most overflowing toilet problems can be quick and inexpensive to repair when you have some basic plumbing know-how.

Here, we’ll illustrate what to do when your toilet starts overflowing and how you can get water flowing down the drain again. When in doubt, remember the plumbing experts at Althoff Industries are only a phone call away.

1. Shut off the Water

Before you can figure out why your toilet is overflowing, you need to stop the flow of water to your toilet to prevent excessive water damage.

Most toilets have a water shut-off valve located close to the wall between the tank and the floor.

Turn the valve handle clockwise until it’s fully tightened, and you no longer hear water flowing.

This should stop water from flowing out of the toilet and limit the amount of cleanup and water damage you have.

If you’re unable to turn off the water at the toilet’s shut-off valve, you can remove the lid from the toilet tank and manually lift the float. When the float reaches a certain height, the toilet knows to stop filling the tank with water.

Oftentimes, the float gets stuck and the toilet overflows with water if it’s unable to drain properly.

If you still can’t stop water from flowing out of your toilet, you can shut off the flow of water to your entire house.

Depending on the age of your home and where you live, the water shutoff valve should be located near your water heater, or if you are connected to a municipal city water supply, by the street. This should prevent any additional water from flowing to your home.

If you’ve turned off the toilet water supply, adjusted the tank float and turned off the main water supply, and the toilet is still overflowing, you may be experiencing a sewer line backup. For sewer line backup emergencies, contact a professional immediately.

2. Figure Out Why the Toilet Isn’t Draining

The likely culprit for an overflowing toilet is a clogged drain. What’s the easiest and most effective way to unclog a toilet drain? A flange plunger.

In comparison to standard flat-based sink plungers, flange plungers have an extra rubber ridge that fits inside of a toilet drain. This creates more suction during the plunging process and helps you unclog the drain with ease.

First, remove some of the water from the toilet. This will ensure you make less of a mess during the plunging process.

Place the flange inside the toilet drain and firmly press the cup against the drain to create a strong seal. Forcefully push the plunger towards the drain and pull it back up again five times, releasing the seal on the final pull. Repeat this motion until you dislodge the clog and the toilet starts to drain.

3. What if a Plunger Doesn’t Work?

If you’ve worn your arms out trying to clear the drain using a flange plunger, a toilet snake or closet auger may be the solution you need. These manageable, hand-powered tools are easy to use, affordable and available at any local hardware store.

Toilet snakes can clear drains by breaking up the clog, allowing it to pass through the sewer lines. Simply insert the coiled end of the snake into the opening and keep feeding it down the drain until you feel it stop at the clog.

Crank the handle until you feel the clog begin to break up and see water begin to drain. You may need to reverse the snake and crank it multiple times if the clog is particularly tough.

4. Remember to Clean Thoroughly

If your toilet is overflowing, it’s probably carrying harmful, disease-carrying bacteria everywhere the water touches. When you finally get your toilet flowing again, be sure to remove any standing water, completely dry out cabinets and thoroughly sanitize every surface the water touched.

When all Else Fails, Hand It off to Althoff

Our experienced plumbing experts can get even the most stubborn toilets flowing properly again. We understand how unpleasant plumbing troubles can be—that’s why we’re available to help 24/7. Give us a call at 815-345-2778 to schedule your appointment today.

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Does a Low-Flow Toilet Really Save Money?

Monday, September 16th, 2019

If you’re a homeowner with older toilets, you could be flushing your hard-earned money down the drain. Regular-flow toilets can use up to seven gallons of water per flush. In comparison, a low-flow toilet is required to use 1.6 gallons of water or less per flush.

When you start doing the math, you can see that with every flush, a few cents are added to your water bill. These cents can quickly turn into dollars. By limiting the amount of water you use per flush, it’s possible to drastically reduce your water bill.

By replacing old, inefficient toilets with WaterSense labeled models, the average family can reduce water used for toilets by 20 to 60 percent. They could also save more than $110 per year in water costs, and $2,200 over the lifetime of the toilets, according to the EPA.

Can your home and wallet benefit from a low-flow toilet upgrade? We’ll help you do the math.

What Is a Low-Flow Toilet?

In 1992, the Energy Policy Act mandated that all new toilets sold in the U.S. must be limited to 1.6 gallons of water per flush or less. With these new restrictions aimed at environmental conservation, low-flow toilets became mainstream.

Modern low-flow toilets employ one of two methods to remove waste from your home:

  • Gravity. When you remove the flapper from the tank drain, gravity forces water out of the tank and carries away waste from the toilet bowl.
  • Pressure-Assisted. These toilets compress a pocket of air, which then accelerates the water to forcefully clear waste from the bowl when you flush.

High-efficiency toilets are available to help increase your cost savings even further. These toilets have multiple flush controls that differentiate between removing liquid and solid waste.

Liquid waste can be flushed using as few as 0.8 gallons of water, whereas solid waste usually requires the maximum 1.6 gallons per flush.

When averaged out, your water usage will most likely fall well below the standard 1.6 gallons per flush, which is typical of standard low-flow toilets.

How Much Money Can a Low-Flow Toilet Save?

The short answer to “Does a low-flow toilet really save money?” is “yes.” However, the actual dollar amount is more difficult to calculate. Depending on your usage, you may be able to offset the cost of a new low-flow toilet in a matter of months, but it may take years.

The amount of money you can expect to save by upgrading to a low-flow toilet depends on multiple variables, including:

  • Age. If you’re upgrading from a pre-1992 water waster that drains seven gallons per flush, you’re going to see substantial savings on your water bill immediately. If you’re upgrading from a low-flow toilet to a high-efficiency toilet, your monetary savings will add up more gradually throughout the toilet’s lifetime.
  • Number of toilets in the home. The more toilets you have, the more they’ll cost to replace. If you’re replacing multiple regular toilets with low-flow models, you’re probably going to see greater overall savings on your water bill.
  • Household size. Your initial water bill savings will be greater when you’re used to seeing more flushes. Single-person households will see the savings add up over time, whereas large families should notice significant cost savings immediately.
  • Type of water. Homeowners who are connected to municipal infrastructure and pay a water bill will notice greater initial savings than homeowners with private wells. However, newer low-flow toilets will put less strain on your well equipment and supply.

Additional Savings Potential

In addition to ongoing monetary savings, low-flow toilets can provide environmental benefits and potentially, depending on your city or municipality, one-time rebates.

With a maximum of 1.6 gallons per flush, you’ll be conserving water and have a smaller environmental footprint. According to Mother Earth News, low-flow toilets now save the average U.S. household (2.64 people) about 25 gallons of water per day.

As a bonus, many cities and municipalities offer rebates or tax incentives for replacing old regular toilets with new low-flow or high-efficiency toilets. Contact your local public works department to learn more.

Are You Interested in Saving Money by Replacing Your Toilet With a Low-Flow Toilet?

We get it, replacing your toilet isn’t the most fun job in the world. Leave it to the experts at Althoff Industries. We can help you choose the right low-flow or high-efficiency toilet for your home. We can even install it for you, so you don’t have to get your hands dirty. Give us a call today at (815) 455-7000.

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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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How to Prevent Water Heater Leaks

Friday, February 22nd, 2019

Water heater leaks are an inevitable problem for most homeowners, especially with tank water heaters. Like any other appliance, water heaters eventually wear out and need to be replaced. Depending on the brand, use and maintenance, some may last as little as eight years. Other more durable, well-maintained tanks may last 8-12 years.

While there are some factors that are out of your control like water type, manufacturing errors and material quality, there are a steps that you can take to ensure you give your water heater the longest, leak-free life possible.

Prevent water heater leaks before they happen.

As we’ve illustrated, there’s no guaranteed way of preventing your water heater from leaking. As it ages, leaks will become more common as the parts and materials wear down. However, you can take action to make sure you catch minor issues before they turn into major ones:

  • Drain and flush the tank. All water contains minerals. As your tank drains and refills, mineral sediment will start to accumulate, which affects the quality of your hot water and corrodes the bottom of the tank. We recommend draining and flushing sediment from the tank at least once a year.
  • Inspect the anode rod. The anode rod attracts and collects the corrosive mineral sediment that’s present in your water. Eventually, the rod will fill up with sediment, and it won’t be able to remove any more corrosive minerals from your water supply. By inspecting the anode rod and replacing it when it’s completely corroded, you can limit the amount of sediment that settles at the bottom of your water tank.
  • Check pipes and fittings. Make sure the pipes feel sturdy and the fittings are tight. You’d be surprised at how pipes can loosen over time.
  • Identify corrosion and weak spots. Check the tank for any rust, corrosion or other weak spots. This is a warning sign that your water heater is close to failing.

You can make sure these things are done properly and safely by getting a professional water heater tune-up every year.

What causes water heater leaks?

In order to prevent future water heater leaks, you need to understand how leaks occur. Luckily, water heater leaks are pretty easy to spot and diagnose when you can locate the source.

If there’s water everywhere…

Is there water on the walls, ceiling, floor and just about everywhere you look? It might look like your water heater exploded and sprayed water all over the room.

Most likely, it’s not the water heater that’s to blame, but the connection or pipes coming to and from the water heater. Have you ever tried to use a garden hose without screwing on the nozzle all the way? Water sprays everywhere. This is the same concept, just on a larger, messier scale.

Over time, pipe fittings can wear down or loosen. As you continue to use the water heater, the water flowing through will put strain on the pipes, causing the fittings to loosen even further. In some cases, the fittings may have just come loose and need to be tightened. In others, they may need to be replaced completely.

If there’s a huge puddle under the water heater…

Is there a puddle forming at the bottom of your water heater? Is growing worse with every waking minute?water heater leak

This is the most common sign that it’s time to replace your water heater. As your water heater ages, the corrosive properties of the minerals present in your water supply will wear down the lining inside of the tank. You may notice rust or condensation around the base of the water heater tank. That’a surefire way to know that it’s that tank that’s to blame for the mess.

If there’s water gushing from a valve…

Is there water settling more to one side than around the entire base? A loose drain plug might be the culprit. The drain plug is usually located towards the bottom of your water heater tank.

Like the materials that make up the pipes and water heater housing, the drain valve can wear down and fail as the water heater ages.

The pressure release valve can also be the source of a water heater leak. Usually, the pressure release valve is located towards the top of the tank. It looks like a long bent pipe angled towards the floor. There are two telltale signs that the pressure release valve is failing: your water heater is making a high-pitched squealing sound, or there’s water spraying out of the pressure release valve. Depending on the severity of the leak, you may be able to replace the valve, which is relatively inexpensive. In other cases, you may need to replace the whole water heater.

When is the last time you serviced your water heater?

If you can’t remember the last time you serviced your water heater, or if its been over a year, it’s time to give that hard-working appliance some attention.

Althoff Industries has been maintaining and repairing water heaters for over 60 years. With our expertise, you can be sure your water heater is running as efficiently as possible. Give us a call at (815) 455-7000 to schedule your maintenance and inspection today.

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