Althoff Home Services Blog: Posts Tagged ‘Residential Electrical’

It Didn’t Even Storm! Why Is My Power Out? 5 Reasons for Power Outages

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

From high winds to lightning strikes to ice storms, many regions of this country are more prone to power outages than others throughout the year. However, a power outage doesn’t always require a major storm for it to occur. In fact, there are several reasons for a power outage that have nothing to do with the weather.

Sooner or later, we will all deal with a power outage. However, when you can narrow down the causes of your power outage, you may be able to gain better insight into how long you may be without power and what to do when one occurs.

Below are a few common causes of power outages, as well as what you can do in the event you experience a power outage in your home.

Common Reasons for a Power Outage

The causes of power outages can vary, and each one may affect the length of time it takes to restore power to your home. Here are a few of the most frequent causes of power outages.

Equipment Failure of Maintenance

While it doesn’t happen frequently, electricity equipment, such as transformers, can fail or short circuit, causing the flow of power in your home to stop. Additionally, if a utility company must perform maintenance on their equipment, they might want to temporarily switch off the power to protect their employees from injuries. Utility companies should be giving you advance notice for these planned outages.


One of the most common causes for power outages, aside from major thunderstorms, is falling trees or tree branches. Furthermore, if trees are growing right beneath an overhead power line, it’s possible that their branches may get caught in the power lines and cause a power outage. However, this doesn’t frequently happen because utility companies are allowed to cut down trees if they could potentially pose a threat to power lines.


Believe it or not, another common cause of power outages is due to animals. Squirrels and other small animals are known to chew through power lines relatively easily, which can quickly trigger a power outage. Because of this, many utility companies install “squirrel guards” around their utility poles to prevent them from climbing the poles.

Vehicle Accidents

With the number of electrical poles located throughout each community, it’s not unusual for a vehicle accident involving an electrical pole to cause a power outage. If a car crashes into an electrical pole, it may also result in a power outage in the entire region served by the specific electrical pole.

Human Error

Another common cause of power outages is human error. Though they are mostly avoidable, power outages caused by human error are somewhat prevalent. They often occur when excavation contractors or homeowners dig into their property before consulting with their local utility company or the national call-before-you-dig phone number (811) and accidentally come into contact with power lines.

What to Do During a Power Outage

Although power outages leave homeowners with a sense of helplessness, there are several things that you can do if you find yourself in the middle of one. Let’s take a look at a few of them below.

Safely Inspect the Area

When a power outage occurs, the first thing you can do is inspect your nearby area to narrow down the causes. Of course, you should do this as safely as possible, but here are a few things you can look for when inspecting your surroundings:

  • Check to see if there is a problem with your circuit breaker
  • Check to see whether or not your neighbors have power
  • Look for any downed power lines
  • Walk around your home to see if there is any flooding

Turn Off Major Appliances

Another good thing to do during a power outage is to turn off any major appliances that are plugged into the wall. While many homeowners often overlook this, doing this can help prevent electrical energy surges when the power returns and avoid severe damage to equipment such as computers and televisions.

Stay Safe

Above all, the best thing to do during a power outage is to stay safe. Though they can be unpredictable, the best way to deal with a power outage is to prepare for one. Be sure to keep bottled water, flashlights, and extra batteries on hand, as well.

Power Your Home with the Help of Althoff

When owning a home, knowing whether or not you have a professional electrical service you can call at a moment’s notice is critical. Whether your home needs electrical repairs, installations, upgrades, replacements, or inspections, Althoff has you covered.

Since 1961, Althoff has remained dedicated to providing the Chicago area and Northwest suburbs with professional home HVAC, electrical, and plumbing services. With our accredited and highly trained staff of electricians, no job is too big or too small for the Althoff team. We also provide mechanical and electrical contracting services for our Greater Chicago customers and members of the surrounding areas.

If you’re looking for residential heating, cooling, plumbing, electrical and mechanical services in the Greater Chicago area, contact Althoff today or call our emergency service number at (815) 455-7000.

Continue Reading

Is It Time for an Electrical Upgrade? 6 Benefits for Homeowners

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

Do you live in an older home? Do you have a circuit breaker that’s always tripping, or even scarier, outlets with scorch marks? If you do, it is probably time for an electrical upgrade. Even if you don’t have either of those issues, maybe you’re considering refinishing a basement.

No matter what your reason for considering an electrical upgrade is, there are a slew of benefits that come with choosing to upgrade your current system.

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Upgrade Your Home’s Electrical System?

Most people don’t wake up and think, “It’s time to upgrade my electrical system today!” Most of the time, homeowners have a specific reason for upgrading their system. Usually, the reason is related to safety, a new purchase, or a combination of both.

  • You’re purchasing a new appliance. Certain home appliances require a lot of electricity. If you’re planning to purchase a new appliance such as an air conditioner, dryer, stovetop/range or water heater that relies primarily on electricity, make sure your existing system can handle the extra load.
  • You’re planning a home renovation. Planning on turning the attic into a playroom for the kids? Converting an unfinished basement to a home gym? If you’re adding lights, outlets, technology or pretty much anything that requires drawing more electricity from your system, you’ll need to assess your current system’s capacity. The same logic holds if you’re building an addition or planning a garage conversion.
  • Your circuit breakers trip frequently. Circuit breakers trip as a safety measure to turn off the flow of electricity when a breaker is in danger of overheating. This feature helps prevent electrical fires from sparking in your home. If you have a circuit breaker that’s tripping regularly, it’s time to upgrade.
  • You hear noises coming from the circuit breaker box. Humming or buzzing noises from your electrical breaker box can indicate that your system is overloaded and overworked. An overloaded electrical system can spark and set fire to your home.
  • Your house has 2-prong outlets. Of all the outlets within homes, 2-prong outlets are considered the least safe because they don’t have the third wire/prong to ground the electrical connection.

What’s Involved in an Electrical System Upgrade?

When you’re upgrading your home’s electrical system, you typically need the assistance of a qualified professional and the utility company. Electrical system upgrades vary based on the age of the home, size of the home, and type of project.

Typically, an electrical upgrade begins with an assessment of the existing electrical panel, cables, wiring, and terminals. Afterward, an electrician can determine the amount of power to bring into the home and how many additional circuits you need. This assessment could determine that you need a new electrical panel and if you need to replace wiring, outlets, and/or switches in your home.

6 Benefits of an Electrical Upgrade

Improved safety

Everyone wants to feel safe and secure in their own home. Unsafe electrical systems can spark fires accidentally and unexpectedly, at any time.

Reliable service

For most of us, living without electricity is unfathomable. We need power for just about everything we do. When you flip a switch or plug something in, you don’t want to think twice about whether it works or not.

Added value

If you plan on selling your home soon, upgrading the electrical system can be a great feature that adds value to the home.

Protect your devices

New electronic devices are expensive. Televisions, computers and appliances are all susceptible to power surges. Upgrading your home’s electrical system can help protect your plugged-in devices against unexpected surges.

Insurance discounts

Depending on the age of your home, where you live, and your insurance carrier, upgrading your home’s electrical system may qualify you for a discount on your homeowners’ insurance.

Room for future improvements

If you plan on making continuous improvements to your home over time, like major additions, remodels or adding a hot tub, an electrical upgrade now can prevent headaches in the future.

Considering an Electrical Upgrade? Call Althoff.

Our experienced electricians can assess your home’s current electrical system, address your needs, and calculate the cost of upgrading your system. If you’re in the Chicago area, contact us today to schedule an appointment by filling out our form online or giving us a call at 815-900-5002.

Continue Reading

Electrical Emergency Service: Common Code Violations

Friday, May 3rd, 2019

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

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

electrical fire in outlet

New Lights and Old Wiring Don’t Mix

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

Beware of Knob and Tube Wiring

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

Recessed Lighting Deserves a Second Look

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

Look Out for Illegal Splicing

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

Overcrowding Wires Happens Too Often

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

Do You Think You Have An Electrical Emergency?

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

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

Continue Reading

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. 

Continue Reading

The Difference Between a Hot Light Switch and a Warm Dimmer Switch

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

Your home is a marvel of independent and interconnected devices. Water flows in and out, managed throughout via a network of pipes, faucets, and drains. Water is even heated to a desired temperature. Air circulates in and out and is cooled, heated, and even purified and dehumidified. Electricity is available as easily as plugging something into an electrical socket or flipping on a light switch. Most of the time, when they are functioning properly, we take these systems for granted. It’s quite a different story when there are problems.

When there’s an issue with a component of one of these systems it is sometimes obvious. You can usually hear or see a leaky faucet. If the power is out, you know it. But there are times when a problem may not be so obvious, like when you have a hot light switch.

What is a Hot Light Switch?

A hot light switch is a simple on/off switch in a room that feels excessively or unusually hot to the touch. This is a problem because the heat is being generated from the electricity in the switch when it should be going elsewhere. A hot light switch is a fire hazard and a professional should be called as soon as possible. A simple light switch should not, however, be confused with a dimmer switch.

What is a Warm Dimmer Switch?

A dimmer switch usually includes a slider or round knob that can adjust the intensity of light in a room. As opposed to a regular simple light switch, the purpose of a dimmer switch is to manage the flow of electricity to a light. You may feel a warmth coming from a dimmer switch, but it is by design. As long as the heat being produced by a warm dimmer switch is not excessive, it shouldn’t be a problem.

When Should You Call for Electrical Help?

This depends on your level of comfort as a do-it-yourselfer. Many will still call a professional for any electric work, simply because it can be dangerous. Of course, anytime you are working with an electrical component of your home, make sure the power is off at the circuit breaker.

Beyond a hot electrical switch, you should consider calling a professional if:

  • The lights in your house dim when using a major appliance or when the heating or air goes on.
  • One socket of an electrical outlet is not working.
  • A light switch doesn’t connect solidly in the off or on position.
  • You have an old “fuse” system in your home.

“It is What it is” Does Not Apply to Your Electrical Wiring

Keep in mind, your home’s electrical system can be upgraded. If you are tired of reaching under a table or behind a dresser to get to an electrical outlet, use extension cords or if a light switch is inconveniently positioned in your home, changes can be made. Adding switches or additional outlets can add a new level of convenience to your home. At Althoff Industries, we can handle any size electrical work from replacing a hot light switch to completely rewiring your home. Ask us about our electrical outlets with convenient USB ports for charging digital devices. You may want to consider the beauty and energy savings of converting to LED lighting in and around your home. It is amazing how something as simple as a few more outlets, switches or a lighting upgrade can have such a positive impact. If you would like to discuss an upgrade call the professionals at Althoff Industries.

If you are experiencing an electrical emergency, we are available 24/7/365 and are ready to service you during an emergency.

Continue Reading