Althoff Home Services Blog: Posts Tagged ‘Residential Heating’

Feeling a Bit Frigid? Everything You Need to Know About Emergency Furnace Repair

Monday, January 18th, 2021

A cold winter night can quickly escalate if the furnace in your home unexpectedly stops working. While you may be able to throw on an extra blanket or sweatshirt in some cases, a malfunctioning furnace has the potential to cause several problems.

If your furnace is experiencing any serious issues, you may want to enlist the emergency services of a furnace repair company. As one of the most critical appliances in your home, it’s important to keep track of how well your furnace is working, especially during the frigid winter months.

Key Takeaways

  • Emergency furnace repair services are best for situations that require an immediate response. They are also perfect for situations that occur after hours or over the holidays.
  • If your furnace is repeatedly cycling on-and-off or simply won’t turn on, then it probably needs repairs. Other signs that a professional should come take a look include strange noises, smells, and poor heat output.
  • Before calling emergency services, you should check to make sure that your thermostat is working properly and that power is being supplied to your furnace. You should also check the air filter to ensure that it is not clogged.
  • Some furnaces run on batteries or flash codes to diagnose the problem. Check your owner’s manual to determine what these codes mean.
  • If you are in need of emergency furnace repairs, Althoff Industries has got you covered! Check out our services page or call our emergency hotline at (815) 455-7000.

Difference Between Standard Furnace Repair and Emergency Furnace Repair

Before you call upon emergency furnace repair services, you need to determine whether your situation is an emergency or not. The following are the most common reasons that people require emergency services.

  • You need a quick response
  • You need after-hours service
  • You need service on a holiday

You Need a Quick Response

If your heating system needs immediate maintenance, emergency services are probably your best bet, as they can typically handle the situation within a few hours.

You Need After-Hours Service

If your furnace is experiencing issues, and they’re happening after regular business hours, an emergency furnace repair service team will be ready to assist you.

You Need Service on a Holiday

Having a furnace blow out on a holiday can really put a damper on things. If this happens to you, an emergency heating technician will be ready to respond as quickly as possible.

Not a lot of businesses are open on the holidays or at night. Fortunately, Althoff Industries’ emergency heating and air conditioning repair services are available at any time, no matter what day it is. Give us a call at (815) 455-7000, and we’ll be there to help!

Signs That Your Furnace Needs Repairs

There are several signs that your furnace may need repairs.

  • You are hearing strange noises
  • You are smelling strange odors
  • Your furnace is outputting very little heat
  • Your furnace is cycling on and off abnormally fast
  • Your furnace will not turn on at all

Strange Noises

Strange noises are a sign that your furnace is not functioning properly. If you hear any tapping or banging sounds, then you will definitely want to have your furnace checked by a professional. However, if you hear other, more intense sounds, such as screeching, you may want to utilize emergency HVAC services.

Strange Smells

If you smell gas, then you most likely have a natural gas leak. This is an issue that should be addressed immediately. Other smells to look out for include smoke, chemicals, or burning plastic. If you smell any of these, then contact emergency repair services immediately.

Poor Heat Output

Many people turn the thermostat up a few degrees to keep warm when the temperature outside is frigid. However, if you find yourself continuously turning up the thermostat and still unable to get warm, your furnace may be malfunctioning.

Fast Cycling

A furnace that turns on and off quickly is said to have a fast cycling issue. If you find this is happening with your furnace, it may be experiencing problems.

Furnace Is Not Running at All

If your furnace is not turning on at all, and you have tried all the troubleshooting steps, your best bet is to call an HVAC repair company.

Recommended Read: 5 Furnace Problems You Don’t Want to Have at the Start of Winter

What You Should Do Before Calling Emergency Furnace Repair Services

Most people who think they have issues with their furnace during the winter months will immediately call and arrange emergency furnace repair services. However, there are a few quick troubleshooting tips to consider before calling emergency repair services.

  • Check your thermostat
  • Check for power issues
  • Check your HVAC system’s air filter
  • Check your furnace’s batteries (if it uses them)
  • Check your furnace’s code

Check the Thermostat

Make sure your thermostat is set to “HEAT.” This is the first thing you should check if your furnace is having issues. In most instances, this should solve the problem. It may take a minute or two for the fan to turn on and the heat to kick in.

Check for Power Issues

If your furnace is operating on electricity, check the thermostat’s fan switch, which is typically set to “ON” or “AUTO.” The “AUTO” setting ensures that the fan will turn on as soon as the furnace is switched on.

If the fan turns on after turning the switch to “ON,” you can rule out any power-related issues. Additionally, check your circuit breaker to ensure that everything is working properly.

Check the Air Filter

Filter-related failures are among the most common problems with furnaces. The filter is intended to clean the air that goes into the furnace and the hot air that goes into the home. If it is clogged or dirty, the airflow can become compromised, leading to pressure and heat build-up in the furnace.

Recommended Read: How You Can Avoid Air Conditioner Airflow Problems

Check the Batteries

While most furnaces are connected to the home electrical grid, some furnaces use batteries. If your furnace uses batteries, check the low-battery indicator to determine if the batteries should be changed.

Check the Furnace Code

Depending on when your furnace was manufactured, it may have a small window where you can see a light indicating whether the furnace is powered. It might also flash a “code” to let you know exactly what’s going on. If your furnace is displaying a code, refer to your owner’s manual to determine what the code means.

Call Althoff Industries Today for Professional Furnace Repair Services in the Chicago Area

We hope these tips provide you with everything you need to identify your furnace repair and troubleshoot any heating problems you may be having. Above all, it’s critical that you don’t miss any annual maintenance service appointment for your furnace.

Many of the aforementioned issues can be identified and corrected during a yearly maintenance appointment, ensuring no loss in heating and cost-saving performance year-round. However, if you are experiencing any problems with your furnace, we can help.

At Althoff Industries, we provide 24-hour emergency furnace repair services in the Chicago area and standard maintenance, repair, replacement, and installation services. If your furnace isn’t working the way you know it should, you can trust our team of reliable, skilled, and licensed HVAC technicians to restore your furnace to working condition.

With two locations that can offer quick service to Chicago residents, you can be sure that Althoff Industries will do whatever it takes to repair your furnace and bring back warmth to your home.

Take a look at our emergency furnace repair services!


Call (815) 455-7000 to request our emergency repair services!

Continue Reading

5 Furnace Problems You Don’t Want to Have at the Start of Winter

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

There’s no worse feeling than waking up in the middle of the night to your entire house feeling like it’s a refrigerator. Let me guess, you usually fix this issue by pulling up the bedcovers and turning up your space heater. However, a cold house could mean that you’re having furnace problems.

Luckily, troubleshooting and fixing your furnace typically only requires a little elbow grease and some DIY experience. However, when it comes to more serious issues, make sure to call a professional. They can take care of the problem swiftly and efficiently.

Key Takeaways

  • If you notice that your furnace is not working properly, first check the thermostat, then the breaker, then the air filters.
  • If you can’t diagnose an easy fix to the problem, then you need to contact a professional furnace repair and maintenance company.
  • Check your furnace regularly, change the air filters every three months, and schedule yearly tune-ups to make sure your furnace lasts a long time!
  • Althoff Industries offers 24-hour emergency service to residents of Chicago and the surrounding areas. Call our emergency hotline number at (815) 455-7000!

5 of the Most Common Furnace Problems

Some of the most common furnace problems happen more frequently than others and, in some instances, are relatively easy to fix. Take a look at some of the most common furnace problems below.

1. Your Furnace Is Not Producing Enough Heat

Your furnace’s primary job is to circulate warm air throughout your home. While a furnace that is failing to generate heat is a cause for concern, the problem could actually be with your thermostat. In addition, dirty filters can prevent the flow of heat in your home. Check the thermostat or air filter to see if either one of them is the problem.

2. Your Furnace Is Repeatedly Turning On and Off

As your furnace heats your home, it typically cycles on and off to keep the temperature at the desired level. If you find that your furnace is repeatedly switching on and off or it is only working for a few minutes at a time, your problem may be a clogged filter.

3. Your Furnace Is Not Turning on Automatically

If all is well and good, your furnace will turn on and generate heat as soon as it receives a signal from the thermostat. However, if you’ve found that it doesn’t promptly turn on, try checking your breaker box. Flipping the furnace safety switch may solve the problem.

4. Your Furnace Just Plain Stopped Working

If your furnace isn’t heating your home at all, it could be a problem with your boiler or thermostat. If you can’t determine the issue, then you should call a professional to come repair or replace your furnace. Nobody wants to be stuck in the middle of winter with a faulty furnace!

5. Odd Noises Are Coming From Your Furnace

Any instances of squeaking, rumbling, scratching, or rattling noises coming from your furnace are all indicators of a mechanical problem. Most furnaces will create some slight noise, as they run continuously. However, if you notice anything that sounds blatantly noticeable, you should call an emergency furnace repair service to schedule an inspection.

Tips for Maintaining Your Furnace

While there are times when a furnace problem needs the attention of an experienced technician, in other situations, the problem might be something that could be prevented in the future. If you start to notice problems, run through these basic furnace troubleshooting measures to see if it’s a problem you can fix on your own.

Replace the Air Filters Every Three Months

A clogged filter can have a drastic impact on your furnace’s ability to do its job. Luckily, changing the filter is one of the easiest, albeit most important, maintenance tasks you can perform. Replacing the filter every three months can increase indoor air quality and extend the life of the furnace. If it’s been a while since you inspected the air filter, it may be a good idea to replace it with a new one.

Furnace maintenance with hand removing dirty filter

Regularly Check Your Unit When It’s Not in Use

Even when not in use, power up your furnace at least once every season to ensure that it is working properly. Switching on the furnace will help you detect any underlying issues, such as excessive dust in the filters, which can restrict airflow. If you notice anything serious, then you should contact a professional.

Clean the Vents and Ducts

Ensure that all vents and registers are open and that nothing is obstructing the vents to ensure proper airflow and circulation in your home. Additionally, cleaning the ductwork will help keep the furnace running correctly and avoid potential damage.

Schedule Routine Maintenance With an HVAC Professional

Lastly, you should have an HVAC specialist inspect, test, and perform maintenance on your home heating system every year. Regular maintenance will help increase your furnace’s performance and prolong its lifespan.

The Best 24-Hour Furnace Repair Service in Chicago

Althoff Industries has served the residents of Chicago and the surrounding areas since 1961. With our team of qualified and certified furnace repair technicians, we can inspect your furnace, diagnose any problems, and let you know what repairs need to be made.

If your furnace isn’t heating your home the way it should, or you think there may be another problem, give us a call today. One of our certified and reliable technicians will get your furnace back up and running in no time.

Call Althoff Industries’ emergency hotline number at (815) 455-7000. We’ll be there as soon as we can!

Continue Reading

A Guide to Home Humidifier Maintenance: Better Performance and Better Health

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

As we transition from warm 80 degree days to chilly 40 degree temps, it’s likely that you’ll notice that the indoor air in your home becomes much drier than usual. As temperatures drop and the air becomes drier, many homeowners turn to humidifiers for a solution. But what does a home humidifier do, and why is it so beneficial to own one?

In this article, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about what a humidifier does, how it can improve your health, and how to perform routine home humidifier maintenance. If you have been on the fence about purchasing a house humidifier, then keep reading to learn more before making your investment!

How Does a Humidifier Work?

The most common type of humidifier is the evaporative humidifier. A water reservoir holds cold water and dispenses it into a basin. From here, a wicking filter absorbs the water from the basin, and then a fan blows air through the moistened filter.

Evaporative humidifiers are usually self-regulating. As the air passes through the filter, some of the water evaporates. The higher the humidity is in the environment, the more difficult it is for the water to evaporate from the filter. Thus, as humidity increases, the humidifier’s ability to add humidity to the air decreases.

However, at Althoff Industries, we offer homeowners durable, whole-home, industrial-grade Aprilaire humidifiers. These are far superior to evaporative humidifiers, as they don’t utilize a water reservoir and are instead connected directly to your house’s water supply. Each Aprilaire humidifier comes with a five-year warranty, and they are equipped with easy-to-use digital controls that allow for simple adjustments to be made.

Maintaining Humidity Levels

Overall, try to keep the humidity in your home between 30% and 50% if possible. Humidity levels above 60% have the potential to allow moisture, germs, and bacteria to build up on indoor surfaces, while humidity levels below 30% will cause the air to become too dry.

What to Do if Your Humidifier Is Malfunctioning

Humidifiers are capable of lasting for several years. However, with the amount of use they get, you may find that your humidifier may not be working as effectively as it should. Additionally, dirty humidifiers may also lead to a build-up of the very same germs and bacteria that the humidifier was designed to protect you from.

Manufacturers often suggest that most humidifiers should have some type of general maintenance performed on them at least once a year. This is because air traveling through the humidifier carries dust, debris, and other particles, which can clog the filter and create a buildup of mineral deposits. The best way to keep your humidifier up and running is to have a professional perform regular maintenance on it.

Althoff Industries can perform repairs and maintenance on your current home humidifier, or we can completely install a new humidifier if your old one is broken. We offer high-quality, durable Aprilaire humidifiers that are some of the best available on the market. The following are ways that our humidifiers can improve the quality of your household.

  • Save on Utility Bills An effective humidifier will keep the air in your home moist, allowing it to hold heat better. This will help you feel more comfortable at lower temperatures.
  • Prevents Uncomfortable Dry Skin Our humidifiers prevent excessive itchiness, flaking, and chapped lips. Overly dry air can exacerbate existing conditions like eczema and acne, and our humidifiers can help with that too.
  • Prevents Static Electricity Overly dry air can lead to a build-up of static electricity in your household, causing your clothes to stick together, painful electric shocks, and even damage to your electronics.
  • Prevents Damage to Your Home If there isn’t enough moisture in the air, damage to your home can occur, including cracking, shifting, and loss of shape.
  • Keeps Your Family Healthier Breathing in dry air can dry out your sinuses, leading to an increased risk of catching colds and getting sick, as your mucus is less able to catch germs that you breathe in.

Contact Althoff Industries to Solve Your Air Quality Needs

If your humidifier isn’t cutting it, and you think you need the help of professionals, contact Althoff Industries. With our staff of experienced HVAC technicians, we can thoroughly inspect your home and recommend the best high-quality humidifiers for your home. Estimates on new equipment are always free!

If you are in the market for a new humidifier, then contact Althoff Industries, so we can help you make an educated purchase. We also offer a number of other air quality, plumbing, and electrical services to keep your home running in tip-top shape!

Continue Reading

Emergency HVAC Services: Why You Should Always Have a Pro on Call

Thursday, November 19th, 2020

Regardless of the climate where you live, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are critical to your overall well-being. However, much like all major home systems and appliances, HVAC systems can sometimes break down at the most inconvenient times, which is why you should always have a 24-hour emergency HVAC service company at your beck and call.

If your HVAC system is malfunctioning and you require the assistance of a reliable heating and air conditioning repair company, then contact the professionals at Althoff Industries today. No matter the time of day, you can count on Althoff Industries to keep your equipment in working order.

Types of Emergencies That May Require the Help of HVAC Technicians

Having a problem with your cooling and heating systems is never a pleasant situation, especially if it happens in the middle of the night. However, understanding if a situation is severe enough to merit a call for an emergency HVAC service can be challenging. Here are a few suggestions to help you determine if your heating and cooling system needs immediate attention.

Air Conditioner Failure

There’s no worse time for an air conditioner to stop working than in the middle of a hot summer day or night. Breakdowns and issues with your air conditioner can be harmful to your family’s health and safety during a heatwave. Additionally, many homeowners have health problems that could potentially worsen in hot and humid conditions, making the need for emergency air conditioning services even more critical.

If your HVAC system stops cooling, internal temperatures can rise rapidly and can not only be harmful to your physical well-being but your mental health as well. If your AC system suddenly stops providing you with adequate air conditioning, calling an emergency HVAC service is more than warranted.

No Heat or Airflow

Just as your HVAC system is critical for cooling in the summer, it is equally as important for heating during the winter months. In Chicago, there are many days when the temperature falls below zero, and you need your HVAC system to provide you with adequate heating.

If your HVAC system stops working in the middle of winter, temperatures in your home can plummet quickly. Whether your boiler stops working or your furnace is malfunctioning, calling an emergency heating service to repair your HVAC system is critical.

Strange Smells

Furthermore, it doesn’t just have to be a heating or air conditioning malfunction that warrants a phone call to an emergency HVAC repair specialist. HVAC systems are not supposed to smell funny, and they certainly should not be pumping out potentially toxic air.

If your air conditioner or heater is filling your home with a strange or funny smell every time you use it, it could mean there’s an overflow of bacteria, contaminants, or mildew. Additionally, it could also indicate an electrical problem within the HVAC system itself that could cause it to become overheated.

If your HVAC system is filling your home with a strange smell, contact an emergency HVAC service to fix the problem immediately.

Safety Concerns

Last but certainly not least, if you have any questions regarding your HVAC system’s ability to provide you with adequate safety in your home, an emergency HVAC service may be able to help. When it comes to your HVAC system, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially if you live in an area with inclement weather.

If you are concerned about the health and safety of you and your loved ones and aren’t sure if your HVAC system is working properly, call an emergency HVAC service right away to have them take a look.

Contact Althoff Industries Today for Your 24/7 Emergency HVAC Service

Here at Althoff Industries, we’re committed to providing our customers with around the clock emergency HVAC services to make sure your home stays warm and cozy. No matter what the issue is, Althoff Industries is here to help. Our technicians will diagnose and quickly fix any signs of malfunction or failure within your HVAC system and work around the clock to keep you safe.

If there’s an issue with your HVAC system and it needs immediate attention, contact the professionals at Althoff Industries to provide you with reliable services 24 hours a day.

Continue Reading

6 Signs of a Gas Leak and What You Should Do

Friday, February 7th, 2020

Natural gas can be a safe, cost-effective way to meet your household’s energy demands when used properly and safely.

However, if a gas leak occurs in or around your home, your family can be in sudden danger. Natural gas is extremely flammable and when released, the tiniest spark can ignite the gas, causing catastrophic damage.

It is also important to know that leaking gas can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning and you should have functioning carbon monoxide detectors installed in your home before you move in.

Thankfully, many common causes of gas leaks are easy to detect and occur slowly, allowing you time to safely evacuate if you notice one of the telltale signs.

Common Causes of Gas Leaks

Depending on the age of your home, where you live and the types of appliances in your home, a gas leak could occur just about anywhere inside or out.

Generally, gas leaks occur when there’s a poor connection between gas lines and appliances, someone accidentally punctures or breaks a gas line, or the gas supply to a stovetop or fireplace has been accidentally turned on, but not ignited.

Gas leaks can also surface during construction projects. This normally happens when someone accidentally ruptures a gas line while digging outside or completing interior demolition work. If you’re getting ready to begin a home construction project, make sure you know where your gas lines are located before you begin digging or demolishing.

How to Tell If You Have a Gas Leak

While gas leaks can be dangerous and deadly, they are easily detectable – if you know where to smell, listen and look.

1. You can smell rotten eggs or sulfur inside of your home.

Natural gas is an odorless, colorless gas. To help people recognize a gas leak before an incident occurs, gas companies add a highly recognizable rotten egg or sulfur scent to the gas so it can be easily identified. Typically, the stronger the smell, the more dangerous the leak.

2. You feel nauseous, dizzy or have a headache.

A prolonged, slow gas leak can create a toxic environment, causing dull headaches, dizziness and nausea.

Even if you don’t notice the typical gas smell, you may notice these physical symptoms when a gas leak is present. If you notice these ailments coupled with any other signs on this list, a slow interior or exterior gas leak may be to blame.

3. You hear a hissing sound.

Depending on the age of your home and where you live, you could have steel, copper or brass gas lines.

When a metal pipe is ruptured and the gas begins to dissipate, you will hear a hissing sound as the gas exits through the broken pipe. With a ruptured gas line, you will also typically notice the smell of sulfur mentioned above.

4. You receive a high gas bill.

There’s nothing more surprising or painful on your wallet than receiving a huge gas bill.

With a gas leak, your bill can quickly skyrocket when there’s a continuous flow of gas running through your meter. Be sure to consider seasonal changes in weather and your usage when reviewing your gas bill. If you have questions about your bill you can contact your gas company.

5. Your furnace has orange or yellow flames.

When natural gas leaks out, other gasses can leak in. Clean burning natural gas should produce bright blue flames when ignited by a furnace or stove. If you notice orange or yellow flames instead of blue ones, you may have a gas leak.

6. Your houseplants die unexpectedly.

Similar to how gas leaks can create a toxic environment for people, it can wreak havoc on your houseplants too. Rapidly browning or dying houseplants can be an indicator that you have an undetected gas leak in your home.

What Should You Do If You Suspect You Have a Gas Leak?

If you suspect that you have a strong gas leak, you should leave the premises immediately and call the 24-hour emergency number for your utility provider or your local emergency response. It’s important that you avoid making any sparks while exiting your home.

  • Do not light a match or lighter
  • Do not turn on any appliances or light switches
  • Do not open your garage door
  • Do not open or close any windows
  • Do not make any phone calls until you have safely exited your home

Questions About Natural Gas Appliances or Service?

Althoff Industries can assist with your natural gas plumbing and appliance needs, including furnace, water heater, boiler and help you choose a service plan and maintenance schedule so points of vulnerability can be detected and repaired before bigger problems occur.

Contact our experts today at 815-455-7000 and let us take you from problem to solution.

Continue Reading

Furnace Not Turning on Automatically? 7 Troubleshooting Tips

Monday, January 27th, 2020

When the temperature starts to plummet, you want to be able to get comfortable and cozy in your own home. There are few things more uncomfortable than waking up in the middle of the night in winter and shivering because your furnace isn’t working.

Depending on how cold it gets, you could be at risk for burst pipes or even put your family’s safety at risk.

Is your furnace on the fritz? If so, there are some basic troubleshooting tips that most homeowners with a little bit of DIY know-how can accomplish.

1. Follow Furnace Troubleshooting Safety Tips

Before you roll up your sleeves and start troubleshooting, you need to take a few safety precautions.

First, turn off your thermostat. You don’t want your furnace to accidentally ignite while you’re working on it.

Then, turn off the power supply to your furnace at the breaker box. Anytime you’re performing work on a device that requires electricity, you should turn off the power to the device. You don’t want to accidentally shock yourself.

While performing these safety checks, you may notice that your thermostat was turned off all along or that the battery was dead. The circuit breaker also could have been tripped and just needs a simple reset.

2. Check the Furnace’s Power Switch

If the circuit breaker is functioning correctly, inspect the on/off switch for the furnace. This switch looks like a typical light switch and is usually located directly above the furnace or on a nearby wall.

Oftentimes, people mistake furnace switches for light switches and turn them off.

3. Inspect the Furnace Filter

Most manufacturers recommend replacing your furnace filter once a month. While some filters claim to be long-lasting, you should still inspect the filter monthly to ensure that excess build-up isn’t suffocating your furnace. Here is some information on cleaning the filter if you choose to go that route.

It is important to note that regular filter inspections are even more essential if you have pets or if the air is dusty.

If your furnace can’t receive adequate airflow, it may turn off automatically to prevent excessive damage.

4. Find and Inspect the Gas Valve

Your furnace will have a difficult time heating your home if it doesn’t have any fuel to ignite it.

Have you had a service appointment for another appliance like a water heater or clothes dryer lately? The gas valve that supplies fuel to your furnace may have been closed in the process.

Locate the gas valve to your furnace and check that it’s in the open position.

5. Check the Vents Around Your Home

To work effectively, your furnace needs to have a healthy intake and output of air.

People try to save on their gas or electric bill by closing the air vents in unused rooms. However, your modern furnace is specifically sized and calibrated to put out a certain amount of air and if too many vents are closed, you could be suffocating your furnace, causing it to overwork and shut down.

6. Inspect the Condensation Pan and Drainpipe

Your furnace has a condensation pan and drainpipe that remove any water build up inside of the unit.

The drainpipe can become clogged with debris, preventing your furnace from draining properly. As a result, your furnace will shut off automatically if there is too much water built up in the condensation pan.

7. Look at the Furnace’s Flame

Your furnace should have a small window that allows you to view the ignition area and flame. The flame should be a healthy, bright blue color.

If the flame is any other color, or if you don’t see a flame at all, it’s time to contact an expert. There may be a more advanced issue going on in your furnace that requires professional diagnosis.

Are You Still Having Trouble Getting Your Furnace to Turn on Automatically?

No one likes freezing in their own home. The residential heating experts at Althoff Industries can help get your furnace up and running in no time. If you’re located in the greater Chicago area, contact Althoff’s 24/7 emergency service team at 800-225-2443 to have your furnace quickly and safely restored.

Continue Reading

Heat Pump vs Furnace: Which Will Keep Your Chicago Home Warm?

Thursday, January 16th, 2020

Are you questioning the best way to heat your home? Heat pumps have been a hot topic of discussion lately for their environmental friendliness. While they’re a popular heat source in the southern U.S., can they handle the notoriously brutal Chicago winters like a standard gas furnace?

When it comes down to it, both heat pumps and furnaces will keep your house warm. The real question is, which heat source will better suit your individual needs? Generally, choosing between a heat pump and a furnace comes down to your type of home, your comfort level, your access to fuel, and your personal preferences.

What Is a Heat Pump?

When weighing your options between a heat pump and a furnace, understanding how heat pumps work will aid your decision-making process. Many Chicagoans are familiar with how furnaces work—a gas burner heats air flowing through the system and pushes the air through your house’s ductwork. Furnaces depend on a fuel source such as gas or propane to heat the air moving through the system.

On the other hand, heat pumps work similarly to air conditioners, but in reverse—they draw in heat from the air, water, or ground outside of your home and concentrate it to redistribute the warmth throughout your home. There are three common types of heat pumps:

  • Air-to-air. Transfers heat between the outside air and your house using air ducts.
  • Mini-split. Works similarly to an air-to-air system but doesn’t require ductwork.
  • Geothermal. Transfers heat between your home and the nearby ground or water source.

When Choosing Between a Heat Pump and a Furnace, Consider Your Individual Needs

Even in the coldest conditions, there’s a relative amount of warmth that heat pumps can extract from the air. With modern technology, both types of heating systems can do an adequate job keeping your home warm, even in the most frigid conditions. To help make heat pumps more accessible to homeowners in the northern U.S., some heat pumps are equipped with a supplemental electric heating element. In the end, it comes down to the benefits you personally want to get from your home’s heating system.

Environmental Impact

With a gas-powered furnace, your dependence on fossil fuels leaves behind a pretty large environmental footprint. Heat pumps can heat your home without depending on fossil fuels to provide heat. Even dual-source systems that use electricity as a heat source when the temperature is too cold to adequately heat your home, your environmental impact is considerably smaller than employing a heat source that’s fully powered by electricity.


If you’re looking to save money in the long run, consider the price of electricity versus gas in your area. If electricity is more expensive per unit than gas, a heat pump will generally cost more than a gas furnace and vice versa. Additionally, gas furnaces tend to have longer lifespans and cheaper maintenance costs than heat pumps.

Access to a Fuel Source

If you’re building a new home in a rural area, you may not have easy access to a natural gas utility, or you may want to save some additional money by avoiding the service altogether. Since heat pumps use the environment around you to extract heat, you can install them just about anywhere.


Do you live in an older home with poor insulation or a new home with the top-of-the-line stuff? How your home is insulated can greatly affect how a heat pump functions in your home. A gas furnace can power through just about anything. If your house is drafty with old windows and insulation, a heat pump could struggle to adequately maintain higher temperatures.

Choose the System That Works for You

When it comes down to the nuts and bolts, both gas furnaces and heat pumps will be able to heat your home no matter where you live. The final decision comes down to your personal preferences and what you plan to gain from your home’s heating system.

The heating experts at Althoff Industries can help you weigh the pros and cons of both systems and help you determine the type of system that will work best for your home. Contact us today to schedule your home heating consultation.

Continue Reading

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!

Continue Reading

Fall Home Maintenance Checklist: Preparing for Cold Chicago Winters

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019

With winter fast approaching, it won’t be long until the cold weather and low temperatures are here to stay. With this in mind, it’s important to ensure your home is fully winterized. To keep your home running and reduce the amount you have to spend on repairs when the snow hits and the wind chill drops, take a look at our fall homeowner checklist.

1. Clean Your Gutters

Increasing precipitation will put your gutters to the test, so make sure they’re not clogged up with leaves and debris. If gutters remain clogged it can cause water to overflow and fall along the foundation of the building. Also, if the foundation is wet and then freezes, this can cause significant heaving and cracks.

2. Check Your Driveway

Even minor cracks in your driveway can cause major problems for your home. When water seeps into the driveway, it will gradually become uneven and less stable. If you don’t address the issue, this water could move to the foundation of your home and require costly repairs. With a little maintenance, you can prevent the need for these repairs and save yourself from some major headaches in the future.

3. Add Weather-Stripping to Your Home

If your home is full of drafts, you’ll find your energy bills during the winter will skyrocket. Weather-stripping is a quick and easy way to tackle drafts, and it’s something you can do yourself. Check every door and window for drafts and, if you find any, add weather-stripping tape to the affected area. This will prevent cold air from entering the property and minimize the amount of heat which escapes. As a result, you’ll be able to keep your home warm and cozy without spending a fortune on energy bills.

4. Make Sure All Exterior Wood Trim Is Properly Sealed

The wood trim around your exterior doors and windows is just a one-inch-thick pine board that can rot very quickly if not protected.

It’s important to keep exterior wood from rotting by keeping it properly painted and caulked. This is a prevention job most people can do themselves. Once the wood rots, however, you will likely have to call in a carpentry expert to replace the damaged areas. This could potentially cost you a lot of money.

5. Prep Your Lawn

First, make sure the soil around your foundation hasn’t settled. This can create areas for water to pool at your foundation. If you find a spot that seems as if it could cause pooling, simply fill it in with some soil.

Secondly, the cold temperatures will impact the grass but adding fertilizer can prevent this from happening. With dedicated grass protection products also available, you can ensure your lawn remains green throughout the winter months.

6. Arrange Boiler or Furnace Maintenance

You absolutely do not want to be without heat in the wintertime, so have an expert come out and check that everything is ready to go before things get really chilly. Faulty furnaces or boilers can be dangerous, so having yours checked will provide peace of mind and pretty much eliminate any risks.

When your boiler or furnace is working optimally and your air filter is changed or cleaned, you’ll spend far less on your energy bills, have better air quality and have complete control over your heating and AC systems.

7. Bring Outdoor Furniture Inside

Although outdoor furniture is designed to withstand some rain and extremely warm temperatures, this doesn’t necessarily mean it does well in sub-zero temperatures and snowstorms. Bring your outdoor furniture inside and make sure it’s stored at an appropriate temperature until you’ll be using it again. If you really don’t have the space to keep it indoors, you can try to use a waterproof furniture cover to prevent most of the damage.

8. Test Winter-Specific Equipment

If you own equipment or tools which you only use in the winter, you’ll want to check that it’s still working. There’s no use finding out your snow blower or snow plow doesn’t work in the depths of winter, so take the time to try it out now. Also, get the necessary maintenance work and repairs done on your equipment now, so you know it will be working when you actually need to use it.

9. Shut Off Exterior Faucets

If you leave exterior faucets open throughout the winter, there’s a good chance your pipes will freeze – which is a real headache. To prevent this from happening, remove any accessories, such as hoses, and shut off the exterior faucets completely. Rectifying freezing pipes can be time-consuming but shutting off the faucets doesn’t take long and will keep your pipework in excellent working condition.

10. Have Your Humidifier Serviced

Too little humidity is very common in the winter once the heat gets turned on, drying out the air and sometimes resulting in chapped lips, bloody noses and breathing issues. You don’t want too little humidity but you also don’t want too much humidity in your home.

A warm, functional whole-home humidifier can help easily keep all of the rooms in your house comfortable. You will need to make sure you change your humidifier pad/filter and that there are no leaks. If you do have a whole-home humidifier, you should definitely consider having a team of professionals come in to ensure that your system is in perfect working condition.

Keep Your Home Cozy and Warm This Winter

The experts at Althoff Industries can help you make sure that your home’s heating system is running perfectly before the weather hits the single digits. Don’t get stuck out in the cold! Give us a call at 815-900-5002, and schedule your winter maintenance appointment today.

Continue Reading

Can I Get a Tax Credit for Switching to Energy-Efficient Appliances?

Monday, March 18th, 2019

As of the 2018 tax year, many of the federal tax credits for upgrading to new, energy-efficient appliances have expired. In the past, you were able to collect federal tax credits for energy-efficient water heaters, air conditioners, boilers, furnaces and other in-home appliances. Now, the IRS provides these types of tax credits only for residential renewable energy products. According to Energy Star, these tax credits should remain available through December 31, 2021.

The tax credits may have expired, but in many cases it’s still a cost-effective solution to update your major in-home appliances. Depending on the age of your water heater, air conditioner or furnace, you could be wasting valuable dollars every month by powering old, inefficient appliances.

For tax year 2018, we’ll explain some of tax credits you can still qualify for if you decide to choose a renewable energy appliance for your home. We’ll also illustrate some of the cost savings you can expect if you choose to replace your old appliances with energy-efficient ones in 2019.

What appliances can I still get a tax credit for?

The U.S. government has restricted the federal tax credit to apply only to equipment that uses alternative energy. You can receive a 30% tax credit through the end of 2019. After 2019, the credit will gradually decrease until it disappears completely for the 2021 tax year. You can view the appliances available to receive the tax credit on IRS Form 5695. Examples that still qualify for the residential energy credit include:

  • Solar water heater. These water heaters convert power from the sun into an energy-efficient heat source for your water. In order to be eligible, the solar water heater must be installed at your primary residence, not a rental property. At least half of the energy generated by the water heater must come from the sun.
  • Geothermal heat pump. These energy-efficient home temperature regulation systems use an extensive system of pipes to heat or cool the air in your home by removing or distributing heat in the ground. If you’re considering installing a geothermal heat pump for the tax credit, it must be installed at your primary residence. It can be installed in a new or existing home. Geothermal heat pumps with the Energy Star symbol are eligible.
  • Small wind turbine. These residential-sized wind turbines convert wind energy into electricity for your home. In order to qualify, the turbine must be installed at your primary residence; the residence can be a new, existing, or second home. The turbine must have a nameplate capacity of no more than 100 kilowatts.

How do I file my tax rebate?

Filing for your tax rebate is simple, as long as you meet the requirements. According to TurboTax, “To claim the credit, you’ll need IRS Form 5695. Work out the credit amount on that form, then enter it on your 1040. You should keep your receipt for the appliance as well as the Manufacturer’s Certification Statement, so you can prove your claim if the IRS ever conducts an audit.”

Will I save money by upgrading to energy-efficient appliances?

If you’re looking for an appliance upgrade, you don’t need a tax credit to see the cost savings. If any of your appliances have been around for more than 10 years, you can expect to see considerable energy savings when you upgrade to a newer model. For example, according to Energy Star, certified gas storage water heaters are, “about eight percent more efficient than a standard model.” Energy Star certified central air conditioners not only have higher seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) and energy efficiency ratio (EER) ratings but also use about 8 percent less energy than conventional new models.

In total, Energy Star reports that, “By choosing Energy Star, a typical household can save about $575 on their energy bills and still enjoy the quality and performance they expect.”

Are you in the market to upgrade a major home appliance?

Althoff Industries specializes in recommending and replacing furnaces, boilers, air conditioners and more. Contact us today at (815) 455-7000, and we’ll help you get the process started.

Disclaimer: Althoff Industries does not provide tax, legal or accounting services. This article has been prepared for informational purposes only.

Continue Reading