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Do you know the differences between residential HVAC and commercial HVAC? Knowing the differences can help you choose the right contractor for your routine maintenance, repairs and HVAC replacements.
Residential HVAC contractors repair, replace and maintain central air conditioning and heating units on single-family homes. These units often contain an outdoor condenser that is located near an outside wall and is responsible for dissipating heat and an indoor unit that is responsible for filtering the air and pushing the cool air through the air ducts.
Commercial HVAC units are much larger than residential HVAC units because they are needed to cool much larger spaces, and they must be repaired, maintained and installed by commercial HVAC contractors that are familiar with large systems. These units are typically located on rooftops, and depending on the size of the building, more than one rooftop unit may be installed. Unlike the residential HVAC system, the commercial rooftop unit is an all-in-one unit that contains everything needed to heat and cool the building. The only items located inside the commercial or large multi-story building are the air ducts and the thermostats.
The Primary Differences Between Commercial and Residential HVAC Units
There are three main differences between commercial and residential HVAC units, including the size of the units, the location and the expansion options.
1. Size and Power of the Unit
Commercial HVAC units are often much larger and much more powerful than their residential counterparts. This is because they must be able to heat, cool and dehumidify the occupied spaces of the building, which could range in size from 5,000 square feet to more than 100,000 square feet. By contrast, single-family residential homes average about 2,000 square feet, and their heating and cooling functions are often separate with the cooling functions being controlled by the central air conditioner and the heating functions controlled by a furnace or heat pump.
2. Location of the HVAC Unit
Because commercial HVAC units are so large, they are often located on rooftops to keep the bulky and oftentimes unsightly equipment out of view of the public. Rooftops also offer lots of room, which means multiple rooftop units can be easily connected together to add heating and cooling power. Residential HVAC units are rarely located on roofs. Instead, the inside parts of the unit are typically located inside an HVAC closet, and the outdoor unit is typically located near an exterior wall and connected to the interior unit via copper piping and electrical wiring.
3. Expansion Options
Residential HVAC units are not typically expandable. Instead, the residential HVAC technician chooses the right sized unit by calculated the occupied square feet, number of doors and windows and ceiling heights. Once the area to be cooled is known, the right sized unit can be purchased and installed. If expansions are performed on the house and additional cooling power is needed, the unit has to be replaced with a large HVAC system.
By contrast, commercial HVAC units are designed to be expandable. If the commercial building undergoes a renovation that increases the occupied square footage, additional rooftop units can be connected to the existing units in order to provide more heating and cooling power.
Residential and Commercial HVAC Services with Althoff
We are proud to be able to provide the entire city of Chicago and the surrounding communities with residential HVAC services and commercial HVAC services. Our residential and commercial heating and cooling technicians are experienced in repairing, replacing and maintaining all types of HVAC equipment from complex rooftop units located on multi-unit multi-story buildings to central units located outside single-family homes.
To talk to one of our HVAC technicians about replacing, repairing or maintaining your residential HVAC system, call us at 815-455-7000. To have your commercial HVAC system serviced, replaced or upgraded, call us at 800-225-2443.
Most of us view our homes as inanimate objects, constructed of wood, bricks, steel, glass, and roofing materials. Few look at our houses as a representation of who we are. Literally.
Take, for example, our home’s electrical system. It serves as the “nervous system” of our houses, providing the power it needs to function efficiently. A home’s plumbing serves much like our own and even our insulation qualities are similar. Have you ever given thought to the fact that your home’s HVAC system serves as the lungs of your home?
For the most part, in extremes of heat and cold, we rely on our heating and air conditioning to provide us with clean, refreshing air. There are those few months in Crystal Lake and NW Chicago that we can shut it all off and open our windows but for the most part, we rely on our HVAC “lungs” to provide us with comfortable, safe, clean air to breathe.
There is a potential problem that can occur, however, particularly in colder weather. It is the issue of a carbon monoxide leak. A furnace carbon monoxide leak is a serious issue that takes diligence to prevent and expert technicians to diagnose and resolve.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless flammable gas that is created when the combustion of carbon is not completed. The biggest issue with carbon monoxide is that it is toxic, causing illness, brain damage and even death can occur.
How is Carbon Monoxide Produced?
Carbon monoxide is produced by anything that burns carbon as a fuel. This includes water heaters, fireplaces, charcoal grills, kerosene, gas heaters, wood stoves, and even clothes dryers. The more energy an appliance uses, the greater the risk of the carbon monoxide it can produce.
Why is it a Dangerous?
Carbon monoxide is dangerous because takes the place of oxygen in the bloodstream and prevents oxygen from getting to the heart, brain, and organs. When exposed to carbon monoxide in large amounts, humans can be overcome in just a matter of minutes. This can cause a person to lose consciousness and ultimately suffocate in a relatively short period of time.
How Can You Protect Yourself and Your Family?
The best way to prevent yourself and family from carbon monoxide poisoning may be through the installation of carbon monoxide detectors. This will serve as a last line of defense in the event carbon monoxide levels in your home are becoming dangerous. There are steps you can take, however, to minimize your home’s carbon monoxide levels so they never reach the point of becoming dangerous.
Schedule an annual tune-up or maintenance check on your furnace. Most carbon monoxide issues develop over time and can be discovered and addressed by an annual maintenance check on your furnace. Many carbon monoxide issues develop gradually and can be prevented by these maintenance checks.
Change air filters often. As inexpensive and easy to change as air filters are, many homeowners simply forget or fail to change their air filters often enough. This can prevent fresh air from entering your furnace. It also increases the risk of carbon monoxide production.
Make sure your furnace was installed correctly. It doesn’t matter whether your furnace was installed 10, 20 or 30 years ago, there may have been errors made in its installation. Poor ductwork, venting or blower installation can create carbon monoxide problems. They also may be inhibiting your furnace from operating efficiently. Standards are higher today. To make sure carbon monoxide is not an issue with your system, contact a professional.
Few things may be as frightening as the thought of a furnace carbon monoxide leak. We rely on our furnaces as a source of warmth and comfort. If it has been more than a year since you’ve had a furnace check-up, cleaning or tune-up, we would encourage you to schedule one today. Of course, we would call us at Althoff Industries. For over 50 years we’ve been keeping families safe and comfortable in NW Chicago. We would be honored to assist you.
HVAC installation day for your new HVAC system is an exciting time for our team at Althoff Industries. While we try to minimize any negative impact HVAC installation day may have on you and your family, we want you to know what to expect. We also hope that the day brings a certain excitement to you, knowing you will soon have a new, more efficient HVAC system providing a more comfortable indoor environment.
There are six general steps our team takes to help ensure the successful installation of your new equipment.
Loading and preparation at our shop. Installation day starts with making sure we not only have your new HVAC equipment aboard our trucks but all the tools, testing equipment, and components to complete your installation properly, safely, and efficiently. This takes making sure we have everything we need loaded before we head to your NW Chicago suburb area home.
Arrival and meeting of the installation team. Once our technicians arrive, they will introduce themselves and explain a bit about the installation process and what you can expect. They will determine the best place to park vehicles as to offer as little inconvenience to you as possible.
Preparation for installation. Preparation for installation includes determining the easiest and simplest pathway to the installation site(s) and making sure any flooring is covered to prevent any potential damage. Once access is determined, the real work is ready to begin.
Removal and disposal of old equipment. Before we can install your new equipment, we must remove the older equipment it will be replacing. This can sometimes be a relatively simple process but in some instances where very old equipment is involved, it can be a challenge. We will remove all of the old equipment and get it ready for disposal upon our departure.
Installation of new equipment. Once the old equipment is removed, we will bring your new HVAC equipment into place and begin the installation process. Even after installation, our job is not done as the HVAC system must be carefully tested and checked for safe, smooth, and efficient operation. This is done through an initial start-up and thorough monitoring and testing using specific HVAC testing equipment to monitor gasses, combustion, and airflow.
We’ll explain your equipment and its operation. Once our technicians are completely satisfied your new HVAC equipment has been properly and safely installed, they will explain the operation of your equipment to you and the routine maintenance you can perform to keep it running at peak efficiency.
You should begin enjoying the benefits of your new HVAC equipment quickly through better heating and cooling of your home and lower energy bills! Our goal is to leave your home as we found it, only better!
We’ve prepared a brief video of our team preparing for an install. Enjoy the show!
You can help us on HVAC installation day by removing any items that may be in the path while we take out or bring in your equipment. For the safety of any pets as well as our technicians, please keep any animals in a separate area during the installation process. If you have a cat or dog that is sensitive to noise or strangers, you may want to consider having a friend or relative take your pet during the installation period.
Keep in mind, the installation of a new HVAC system is a major project. It is likely the largest mechanical system in your home. There will be noise and technicians will be coming in and going out of your house frequently. While we do everything we can to minimize disruptions, it is an involved process.
Thanks for choosing Althoff Industries. If you ever have any questions about your new HVAC system or would like to know more about keeping your indoor air as clean and comfortable as possible, please contact us.
Those who live and work in the Crystal Lake, Northwest Chicago area, and its suburbs have likely seen our Althoff Industries service trucks on the area roadways. You may not, however, have given much thought to what all is contained in these vehicles.
It helps to understand that for our technicians, these trucks tend to serve as their offices on wheels. As such, they need to contain the parts and tools that we use most often. This better allows us to complete a repair on the first call properly. It also saves us, and you, time and money.
Of course, with so many brands, types, sizes, and configurations of heating and air conditioning equipment, this leads to quite a collection of parts and tools. Is it always pretty and well-organized in the back of our service trucks? Not very often. But through the years, however, we have become quite adept at making sure our trucks are equipped to handle the most common HVAC and plumbing related problems on an initial call. Let’s take a closer look at what you may typically find in an Althoff HVAC residential repair truck.
Hand and Power Tools
Of course, one of the most critical factors in residential HVAC repair is having the right tool for the right job. This means a variety of both common and specialized hand and power tools that range from hammers and pliers to sheet metal cutting tools and soldering equipment.
Gauges, Diagnostic and Measuring Equipment
At Althoff Industries, our primary concern is that of the safety of your family. This makes it necessary that we have a variety of gauges and measuring equipment to help us properly diagnose any potentially dangerous conditions. These devices include equipment like a combustion analyzer, draft gauge, manometer, and more. Humidity and temperature gauges also help us in determining HVAC related issues.
Various Nuts, Bolts, and Small Parts
The back of one of our residential HVAC repair trucks will have a variety of nuts, bolts, screws, and small parts to help technicians complete their tasks. This will also include a variety of sealers, electrical tapes, duct tape, and PVC and sheet metal parts.
Parts that Commonly Fail
Some HVAC parts are more prone to failure than others. These include relays, transformers, circuit boards, capacitors, thermostats, thermocouples, blower motors, igniters, and more. Our trucks contain a variety of these parts including replacement hoses and valves, wiring, switches, connectors, breakers, and others.
The Most Important Part
Our trucks contain refrigerant, refrigerant reclaim jugs, flush kits, glycol and glycol pumps, and so much more. But it is what you don’t see in the back of our HVAC contractor truck that is perhaps most important. That is the knowledge, training, and experience of our Althoff Industries technicians.
When you contact us for a service call, you likely want that call completed as efficiently and quickly as possible. A properly equipped and stocked truck can help us better accomplish that.
Keeping our trucks properly stocked and outfitted with the latest tools is part of the cost of doing business. So is properly maintaining our vehicles so they are ready to go when you need us. Whether your furnace decides to give out during the coldest day of the winter or your AC fails in the mid-summer heat, you can count on the team at Althoff Industries to be prepared. When you experience HVAC issues, we invite you to contact us, at Althoff Industries.
Odds are you and your neighbors are looking for ways to save on heating costs this winter. You’ll be glad to know you can cut Illinois energy costs without expensive remodeling or the purchase of brand new HVAC equipment. Here are some relatively simple, low-cost ways you can cut your heating costs on your Illinois energy bill this winter.
10 Tips to Save on Heating Costs
Check the height of your exterior door thresholds. You should not be able to see any light between the bottom of your exterior doors and the bottom threshold under the door. If you can, you are giving warm air an easy way to get out and drafty cold air an easy entry point. Cure this issue by raising the threshold height or by adding a door sweep to the bottom of the door. You can also use a variety of tubular, stuffed draft stoppers that you can lay across the bottom of your door once you are inside.
Use a portable heater to help heat the room in which your family spends the most time. Most of us heat our entire home to the temperature we are most comfortable, yet many of the rooms are empty. Consider a space heater or portable heaters for the rooms you use most. This will keep you cozy without wasting money overheating rooms that aren’t being used.
Check your ductwork for leaks. The sheet metal pieces of your ductwork can develop leaks and creases over-time. This prevents all of the heated air from getting to the specified heating vents. You can save on heating costs by inspecting ductwork where you can and sealing any seam that appears loose with duct tape.
Buy a programmable thermostat. You will likely save heating costs by purchasing a thermostat that you can program to comfortable temperatures when you are at home and save energy when you are not. Thermostats are inexpensive, usually under $50.
Buy heavier, insulated curtains to help keep your home warm. Heavier blinds, curtains, and shades can do wonders keeping out the cold, especially if you have older windows. At the same time, you can use windows that face the sun to “capture” natural sunlight to help warm your home during daylight.
Check weatherstripping around windows and doors. It may seem like last year when you replaced weatherstripping around your doors and windows but it may be much longer. Weatherstripping loses its ability to be effective after several years and replacing it can help you save on heating bills.
Caulk or use expanding liquid foam to insulate where pipes and vents enter your home. Anywhere there is a breach into your home where cold air or drafts can enter is likely costing you money. Look under your sinks, around your dryer’s vent, and take electrical socket covers off to see where you can save on heating bills.
Install clear plastic film over windows. Today’s modern, plastic fill products are easy to install and are hardly noticeable once installed. Using a simple blower hair dryer will stretch the film to be virtually invisible. The impact they can have to cut heating costs can be surprising.
Reverse ceiling fans. You may know that heat rises but did you know that your ceiling fan can help recirculate that warm air back down from the ceiling to save on heating bills? There is likely a switch on your fan that can reverse the direction of the blades to counterclockwise in the winter, helping you use energy more efficiently.
Change your furnace air filters. We say this so often but it is absolutely critical if you want to save on heating costs. Furnace filters are inexpensive and easy to change and should be step number one if you want to cut heating costs.
Of course, if you are still frustrated with your heating bills, we invite you to call the indoor air experts at Althoff Industries. We’ve been helping keep Chicago and Illinois area homeowners comfortable for over 50 years.
Next to the safety of your family, the highest priority of the team at Althoff Industries is to make sure your property is protected from damage from your HVAC system. To help ensure that, one of the routine maintenance tasks we perform on every clean and check and repair is to make sure the condensate line is clear.
What is the purpose of a condensate line or drain, how does it get clogged, and what can be the result if it does clog?
The Role of a Condensate Line
Many homeowners don’t understand that their air conditioner not only cools the air it treats but it dehumidifies it as well. On a humid day in Chicago, as much as five to 10 gallons of water can be removed from the air. This water is funneled into a drip pan and then removed through the condensate line to the outside of your house or to a drain inside the home.
How Does a Condensate Line Become Clogged?
Even if you are diligent in keeping air filters clean and even if you have a whole house air cleaner, dust and dirt can still collect in and around your HVAC system. The moisture that is removed from the air can serve as a “dust magnet”, attracting dust and dirt particles into the drip pan and eventually the condensate drain. If not cleaned, this can clog the condensate line.
What are the Potential Ramifications of a Clogged Condensate Line?
If the condensate drain is clogged, the water in the drip pan has nowhere to go and will overflow. This can cause damage to your HVAC equipment, flooring, and walls. If not promptly corrected, it can even lead to mold, which can be expensive to remediate. You are far better off having your condensate line cleaned with your annual furnace maintenance and HVAC check.
Cleaning the condensate line is a relatively simple task, yet some HVAC companies won’t perform a condensate drain cleaning unless a clog is apparent. At Althoff Industries, we understand that clogs usually don’t just occur overnight, they develop over time. By cleaning the condensate line on every visit, we are conducting proactive maintenance to prevent a potential problem in the future. We’ve created a brief video explaining condensate drain cleaning if you’d like to learn more.
If you have any questions about your HVAC equipment or would like to schedule an annual furnace maintenance clean and check, we invite you to give us a call. Next to the safety of you and your family, protecting your home is our next highest priority.
You don’t have to be a mechanic to own or operate a vehicle. Some knowledge, however, can be valuable when encountering an issue or even when purchasing a car. Likewise, you don’t have to be an HVAC technician to own a home with a furnace but having some basic knowledge can help keep you safe and help you make better decisions when it comes time for repairs or an HVAC replacement.
Homeowners, for example, should understand the basics and importance of combustion. If you have any gas appliance, whether it is a water heater or furnace, combustion is taking place in your home on a regular basis. You certainly want it to occur efficiently. It is critical that it takes place safely. Knowing how combustion takes place and why a combustion analysis with draft gauge measurement is so important can be helpful.
The Three Components of Combustion
The three components to maintain combustion are fuel, heat, and oxygen. If any one of these is insufficient, combustion won’t occur.
Fuel – As it relates to your natural gas furnace, the fuel is the natural gas itself. We tend to take the supply of gas for granted but corrosion and debris impede the supply of fuel to your furnace.
Heat – The heat to your furnace is generally supplied by the igniter on your furnace. Your thermostat controls when the igniter will supply heat to the natural gas based on the temperature it is set at. If the ignition source fails, safety features will keep gas from flowing into the combustion chamber.
Oxygen – Air that is supplied to your furnace or water heater provides the necessary oxygen to complete the combustion triangle. High-efficiency furnaces will have air pumped directly into the combustion chamber from the outside. Less efficient furnaces will draw in air through louvers in the furnace cabinet. If this air is restricted the furnace can’t operate efficiently and may not ignite at all.
Along with the three components of combustion, draft is also critical to the safe and efficient operation of any gas appliance. That is because, after combustion, carbon monoxide and flue gasses need to be removed from the home. The proper draft is important in removing these gasses. This is why our Althoff HVAV technicians perform a draft check and combustion analysis on each service call.
Our technicians use three tools to ensure the safe operation of your HVAC system. A recent short video we created helps demonstrate the importance of these tools as a way to diagnose your equipment.
Your HVAC equipment may be the largest mechanical component of your home. Make sure it is operating safely and efficiently. For a furnace clean and check, professional repairs, and for recommendations on the most efficient equipment to choose for your application, we invite you to contact the professionals at Althoff Industries. We are here to keep you safe and comfortable.
If you find yourself having to set your thermostat at unusually high or low temperatures just to stay comfortable, your problem may be poor air flow. Poor air flow may be caused by too much friction in your HVAC system or too much turbulence. One of the most significant causes of friction in an HVAC system is the air filter.
How is an Air Filter Related to the Comfort of a Home?
Even a clean HVAC air filter will offer some friction to the air flow in a furnace. If a filter is dirty or too restrictive in its design, it will not allow a sufficient airflow through your system and into the rooms it serves. This can lead to your system overworking and struggling to provide the comfort you desire. It will also increase the inefficiency of your unit. While we find that more and more homeowners understand the importance of changing filters, many still fail to remember to do it or are purchasing filters that are too restrictive for their systems to operate properly.
How Do You Determine the Best Filter for You?
HVAC filters are rated based on a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV). This is a 1-16 scale but most home filters fall within the 4 to 12 range. The higher the rating, the smaller the particles are that can be trapped by the filter. Higher ratings also make filters more restrictive to air flow and generally are more expensive.
Selecting the right filter for you and your family will depend on the balance you place on comfort, expense, clean indoor air quality, and furnace efficiency. Most homeowners can usually settle in the 6-8 MERV range without negatively impacting air flow. The 6-8 range filters are also still affordable.
Before You Switch to a High-Efficiency Furnace Filter
A high-efficiency HVAC air filter can remove up to 99% of particulate matter in the air. This can be terrific news if you or someone in your family suffers from allergies or are sensitive to dust. A word of caution about high-efficiency filters, however. Before making the switch, contact your HVAC professional. A trained technician can help determine how disruptive the filter will be and perhaps even make adjustments to increase fan speed to make up for the reduced airflow. You’ll also want to make sure you stay on top of changing these more restrictive filters on schedule.
Keep in mind that a dirty HVAC air filter can cause more than just discomfort. They can lead to damage to the blower motor or heat exchanger. You can see the difference between a minimally restrictive fiberglass filter and a pleated filter in the below video.
If you have rooms that just don’t seem to get comfortable, check your air filters. If you are interested in switching to a higher MERV rated filter for cleaner indoor air, contact us at Althoff Industries, We’ll conduct an inexpensive clean and check and help determine the best HVAC air filter for your family. If adjustments need to be made, we can accomplish that on the same call.
Don’t settle for anything less than superior comfort when it comes to your indoor air. Contact Althoff Industries and get the indoor air quality you deserve.
At Althoff Industries, our priority is not only hiring and training talented technicians but equipping them with the highest quality tools to get the job done accurately. We ensure our technicians are not only well-trained and proficient in HVAC repair and installations but that they have the essential HVAC tools to assist them in the accurate diagnosis of your heating and air conditioning equipment.
While our trucks are filled with many parts, equipment, and tools, there are three HVAC technician tools that we use at every service call. They are the combustion analyzer, draft gauge, and manometer. These tools give us the ability to measure and analyze things happening with the system that cannot be seen by just visually looking at it. Our highly trained technicians understand that the proper diagnosis involves digging deeper to uncover hidden problems that impact safety, performance, and can cause breakdowns.
3 Essential HVAC Tools
1. Combustion Analyzer
A combustion analyzer is a handheld device that looks much like a multi-meter an electrician would use to check circuits. Like blood work being analyzed at the lab, the combustion analyzer gives our technicians all the components of the combustion process at once. The three main components checked are carbon monoxide levels, oxygen levels, and flue temperature. A trained technician knows that having just one of those numbers doesn’t tell you the whole story. It takes putting all the pieces together to accurately understand what’s happening. The purpose of the combustion analysis unit is to measure the percentages of oxygen and carbon dioxide along with the flue temperature. These measurements help our technicians determine whether or not the furnace is operating within the parameters that the manufacturer of the equipment has specified.
A combustion analyzer is important for three different reasons. It can help in determining and achieving optimum fuel efficiency, it is critical for the safe operation of your equipment, and it can ensure your HVAC system is operating within the guidelines of any warranty.
2. Draft Gauge
A draft gauge is a device that verifies that your chimney has proper draft pressure. Improper draft can be caused by lack of combustion air, too much combustion air, outside temperature and wind conditions, or a blocked chimney. A proper draft is critical to make sure the by products of combustion are safely disposed of outside the home. Most companies just assume this is happening correctly, at Althoff our technicians are trained to verify it. HVAC tools like a draft gauge help our technician determine if there are any problems creating these potential draft issues.
The manometer is a device used to measure differences in pressure. We use this in a couple different ways. First, we use it to measure duct static pressure to make sure that you have proper air flow through the furnace and duct system. Another way is by measuring gas pressure to the equipment. Equipment is rated for certain gas pressures and those outside of those ranges can have very negative effects on performance, safety, longevity of the equipment
Other Trade Tools Used on Daily Basis
The three critical HVAC tools listed above are just part of what technicians need to perform their job on a daily basis. Other such tools may include:
A refrigerant recovery machine
Hand and power tools
Humidity and temperature gauges…and more!
Our technicians in the field often play the role of part technician, mechanic, sheet metal worker, detective, and chemist/scientist. It is why they are so extensively trained and outfitted with the latest equipment. It is not an inexpensive proposition but we take what we do very seriously here at Althoff Industries. After all, it is not just the efficient operation of your HVAC equipment that is at stake. It is also the safety of your family.
When you experience an issue with your furnace, trust the experts at Althoff Industries.