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

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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Should I Get a Tank Style or Tankless Water Heater?

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

Tankless water heaters are known for being efficient and small in terms of their overall size and for that reason they are quite popular among most homeowners. Tank-style water heaters, on the other hand, will cost you much less than tankless water heaters and are easier to operate. Both have their benefits and drawbacks, but one might suit your home better than the other.

Tank-style or tankless water heaters: Which is right for your home?

Water heaters are a costly investment, and it’s often a decision you will be living with for more than a decade. However, a water heater can have a significant impact on your life without you even noticing which makes the decision even more important.

Whether you need to make sure you have enough hot water for your household or want to keep a low utility bill, choosing the right water heater for your home is extremely important.

We will now dive in and examine all of the pros and cons of tankless and tank-style water heaters so you can make the most informed decision possible.

Benefits of a Tankless Water Heater

Tankless water heaters are produced to be high-efficiency, direct-vent units. Because tankless water heaters have no tank, instead of slowly heating the water and keeping it in a tank, tankless water heaters only heat the amount of water that is needed and does so rather quickly.

It doesn’t matter if you take a five minute or a forty-five minute shower, you will never run out of hot water, and it will be available to you instantly. Having no tank also allows tankless water heaters to be smaller and rather than taking up a considerable chunk of your floor space, tankless water heaters are able to be mounted on your wall.

The best arguable benefit of a tankless water heater, though, is the amount of energy it consumes or rather doesn’t consume. Because there is no tank of water constantly needing to be kept hot, tankless water heaters don’t experience the same amount of standby energy losses that tank-style water heaters do.

In fact, the most efficient gas tankless water heater on the market has an energy factor of 1 and uses only 150 therms/year for natural gas. Not only that, but tankless water heaters also have a lifespan of 20 years or more which means you will be able to enjoy the upgrade for many years to come.

Drawbacks to a Tankless Water Heater

The most obvious and understandable drawback to a tankless water heater is the overall cost. For both the unit, as well as the installation, tankless water heaters typically cost about twice as much as traditional, tank-style water heaters, depending on the flow rate.

The average cost of a tankless water heater installation varies depending on the type, brand, your home, and whether you are installing a new water heater or replacing an old one.

As we mentioned earlier, tankless water heaters can be mounted on the wall to save floor space, but they also have special venting requirements and often need larger gas lines because of the higher BTU rating which makes them more difficult to install.

Lastly, though tankless water heaters can deliver an unlimited amount of hot water, there is, however, a limit to how much water is delivered at once. Tankless water heaters heat water as it passes through, so it’s important to make sure that you purchase a large enough tankless water heater to ensure that adequate hot water flow is available.

Benefits of a Tank-Style Water Heater

One of the main advantages of tank-style water heaters is that they are more cost-effective than tankless water heaters.

Tank-style water heaters also operate much simpler than tankless water heaters. Because of this simple operation, there will be less maintenance and less repair for almost identical functionality if you opt for a tank-style heater.

Tank-style water heaters can hook up to the existing gas supply in your home without having to make any changes or alterations in plumbing. Tank-style water heaters are also ready to go with the existing electrical power load in your home so new circuits will not have to be put in during installation.

Tank-style water heaters also have no minimum flow rate, so you never have to worry about how much hot water you need at one time. Because tank-style water heaters have a standby supply of heated water, you won’t have to worry about waiting for the water to reach your taps.

Drawbacks to a Tank-Style Water Heater

As with everything, though, there are some drawbacks to having a tank-style water heater in your home. Tank-style water heaters are relatively large and will take up more space in your home. This can be a bit of a challenge because you will need it to be in an area that is convenient and out of sight.

Also, compared to tankless water heaters, you will notice energy loss, also known as “standby loss,” caused by the energy that is wasted on keeping a full tank of hot water at all times.

It’s also worth noting that if the tank-style water heater is in a cool environment, it needs to work even harder during winter months to produce hot water which will increase gas or electric bills.

As you can see, deciding between a tank-style and tankless water heater depends on you and your home’s specific needs.If you are looking for more information on water heaters, or need a water heater installed in your home, contact one of the licensed Chicago plumbers from Althoff. Contact us at 800-225-2443

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Where are My Water and Gas Shut Off Valves?

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

If you need to turn off your home’s gas or water due to a needed repair or a weather issue, first you have to know where the water and gas shut off valves are located. Ideally, you’ll want to locate the main or master shut offs, as well as the supply shut offs, before an emergency happens.

SAFETY NOTE: If you suspect a gas leak, do not try to turn off the gas to your home. Get outside, move away from the house, and then call the gas company.

If you have a water leak, your municipal water supplier may have an emergency number you can call to report it.

How to Find the Main Water Shut Off Valve

There are actually two main water cut off valves – one before the water line reaches the meter and the other on the “house side” of the water meter. These turn off the water supply to the entire home. In colder climates, both the meter and the shut off valves are located inside the house to prevent freezing. In warmer climates, the meter and the valves will either be outside the house or below ground, inside a box.

Turn off your home’s water supply: Turn the main shut off valve that’s on the house side, after the meter.

  • If it’s a lever, turn it so it’s at a right angle, or perpendicular, to the water supply line. To turn the water back on, turn the lever so it’s parallel, or in the same direction as, the supply line.
  • If the main shut off valve is a round handle like the ones on outdoor faucets, simply turn it clockwise to turn off the water (righty-tighty) and counter-clockwise to turn the water back on (lefty-loosey).

Note: You may notice two other valves outside your house, but they are only for use by the city workers. An underground curb stop valve is located between your home’s water meter and the water main in the street. There’s also a “corporation stop”, which is where the house water line and the water main meet.

How to Find the Water Supply Shut Off Valves

It’s not always necessary to shut off the main water supply. If you’re just repairing or replacing one fixture, like a faucet, you can turn off the water only to its individual supply line. Also called a supply stop, this shut off valve is usually a small metal oval or round handle located on the water line running to your toilets, water heater, dishwasher, faucets, washing machine and water softener

In some cases, you may find a t-shaped connector on the water supply line for your furnace humidifier or your refrigerator’s ice maker. Be sure to monitor these, as they’re a common source for leaks. Building codes in many areas require them to be replaced with supply stops to prevent water damage.

How to Find the Main Gas Shut Off Valve

If you have any natural gas appliances in your home, the main gas shut off valve that you’ll want to look for is usually inside, where the gas line enters the house. However, older homes may only have one shut off at the meter itself. In most cases, the meter shut off valve is only for use by the gas company, fire department or a plumbing or HVAC contractor.

When you shut off the main gas supply, keep in mind that you’ll have to relight the pilot lights in your gas appliances, unless they have an electronic ignition system. Relighting instructions can usually be found in the owner’s manual or on the appliance itself, but if you’re unsure or not comfortable with it, you can always call a professional like Althoff Industries to take care of it for you.

Turn off your home’s gas supply: The way to shut off the main gas valve depends on what type of setup your house has.

In newer homes, the gas shut off valve may look like a bright yellow lever on a black iron pipe where the gas supply line enters your house. To turn off the gas, just turn the lever perpendicular to the line, and then turn it parallel to the line to turn the gas back on.

If your home is newer and has a high-pressure gas system, the gas supply line will be a flexible copper pipe. The indoor main shut off valve can usually be found near your home’s furnace or water heater, just before the pressure regulator.

Homes that use propane will have a shut off valve on the tank as well as one on the gas line before the connection to the first appliance.

To turn off the gas in an older home that uses natural gas and doesn’t have an indoor shut off, you’ll have to use the street-side shut off valve outside on the gas meter. The valve typically looks like a small rectangle, but you’ll need a special wrench to open and close it. To turn off the gas, turn the valve perpendicular to the incoming gas line. Turn the valve parallel to the line to turn the gas back on. It may be a good idea to pick up a gas meter shut off wrench at your local home improvement store and then leave it attached to the meter in case you need it.

How to Find the Gas Supply Shut Off Valves

Every gas appliance has an individual shut off valve so you can repair or replace it without turning off the gas to your entire home. It’s typically a lever that you turn perpendicular to the line to shut off the gas; turning it parallel to the line will turn the gas back on.

The service, or supply, shut off valve for gas appliances should be located on the flexible supply line, called an appliance connector, no more than 6 feet from the appliance itself. The line may be visible for furnaces, gas fireplaces and water heaters, but gas dryers and stoves will need to be pulled away from the wall to get access to the shut off valve.

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

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