Althoff Home Services Blog: Posts Tagged ‘Residential HVAC’

Spring Air Conditioner Maintenance Checklist and Tips for Homeowners

Friday, April 10th, 2020

When the weather starts to warm up, you want to be sure you can count on your air conditioner to do its job before it gets too hot. If you’re prepared, you can make sure you’re ready for the summer heat before the temps start climbing.

In this blog, we’ll outline the DIY air conditioner tasks that you can perform to get your system ready for summer. Of course, if you’d rather be enjoying the warm spring days instead of tinkering with your A/C unit give Althoff a call, and we can handle all your system’s annual A/C maintenance tasks for you.

Safety First

When working on home appliances, you must turn off the power before you get started. With air conditioners, you should turn off power at the thermostat and the breaker. Additionally, you’ll need a pair of safety glasses and possibly gloves. As you would expect, using a hose to spray debris out of the outside unit can get messy.

Air Conditioner Maintenance Checklist

When performing work on your air conditioning system, you’ll be working on the inside HVAC system and the outdoor unit.

1. Inspect your air filter

Your HVAC system needs to breathe to operate. If you’re getting ready to turn on your air conditioner for the first time, inspect the system’s air filter, first. Odds are that you’re probably due for a new filter.

Inspecting your air filter monthly and changing it as needed is one of the most simple and cost-effective ways to keep your system running.

Dirty air filters force your system to work harder, and over time, that extra workload can cause unnecessary wear and tear on the system. You don’t want your air conditioner to break down in the middle of a heatwave because of a clogged filter.

2. Inspect and clean out the evaporator drain

On the most basic level, your air conditioner keeps your house cool by removing heat from the air it’s circulating. Your air conditioner removes heat from the air using an evaporator coil, in which humidity condensates and collects. Eventually, water droplets from that drip from the coil to a drain pan, and finally, down the drainpipe.

Over time, this drainpipe can become clogged with mold or debris. If the drain can’t properly carry water away from the unit, then your system may shut off automatically to prevent damage, or it may leak water all over the floor.

You can easily clean out the drainpipe with a wet/dry vacuum. Simply use the vacuum to suction the drainpipe for a few minutes to ensure it’s clear of obstructions.

3. Clear debris away from your outdoor unit

Over winter and early spring, sticks, leaves and other debris have likely fallen on or around your outdoor air conditioner. Be sure to clear away any yard waste that has collected near your unit. You’ll want to clear at least a 2-foot radius around the unit to ensure it can function properly throughout the summer.

4. Complete a visual inspection of your outdoor A/C unit

Once you’ve cleared away any debris, visually inspect the outside unit for any signs of damage. Check to see if any pieces seem broken or out of place. This damage could be caused by the weather or by animals making nests in your unit over the winter.

Also, make sure the insulation is still in place around the unit’s refrigeration lines. Make sure the insulation isn’t brittle to the touch and surrounds the lines completely.

5. Clean the outside unit

Cleaning the outdoor unit is simple and only requires a few household tools and a garden hose. First, remove the cover from the unit. Then, remove any debris inside.

Next, use a garden hose with a sprayer attachment to clean the unit’s fins. From the inside of the unit, point the nozzle toward the outside to dislodge any debris that’s stuck between the fins. Once cleared, you can use a butter knife to straighten out any fins that have become bent or misshapen.

Need Help? Contact Althoff Industries

We know that not everyone gets excited about annual air conditioner maintenance as we do. Sit back, relax, and let us get our hands dirty instead. Contact us today to schedule your yearly air conditioner tune-up. Give us a call at 844-202-7430 or complete an online form to schedule your appointment. If you are having trouble getting your air conditioner to work even after completing the maintenance steps above, we can help with that, too. You can use the link above to schedule an appointment or, if the situation needs to be taken care of right away, call our emergency service hotline.

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What Is a SEER Rating and Why Does It Matter?

Friday, March 6th, 2020

Are you in the market for a new HVAC system for your home? If you’re shopping for a new air conditioning system, you’ve probably had a bunch of numbers thrown at you: price, tons, voltage, or, what we will focus on today, SEER rating.

A SEER rating is used to measure the efficiency of your cooling system. Do you know what SEER rating system you need for your home? Do you know what to look for when shopping for air conditioners and reviewing SEER ratings? Do you know why SEER ratings matter?

In this article, we’ll help you understand SEER ratings and why they’re important when shopping for your new AC system.

modern ac unit

What Is a SEER Rating?

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio.

What the SEER rating does, is measure the cooling efficiency of an air conditioner or heat pump. Manufacturers calculate the SEER rating by dividing the cooling output for a typical cooling season by the total electric energy consumed during the same period.

Think about the SEER rating this way. Automakers almost always disclose the miles per gallon a car will receive; the SEER rating is extremely similar. Instead of thinking about gas consumed over miles traveled, think electricity consumed over cold air generated.

Typically, the SEER ratings for new residential air conditioners range from 13 to over 20. Like mpg for vehicles, a higher SEER rating indicates greater efficiency.

While the SEER rating is important to consider when purchasing an air conditioner, the highest SEER rating may not be the most suitable or the most affordable option for everyone. You’ll need to consider factors including the age of your house, the size of your house, your preferred temperature setting, and where you live.

What Does the SEER Rating Matter?

Like any other seemingly arbitrary calculation, you may be wondering, “I know higher is better, but what does the SEER rating really mean to me?”

Minimum SEER ratings

The U.S Department of Energy has established minimum SEER rating requirements for air conditioners, this rating varies based on region. If you live in the northern U.S., you can purchase air conditioners with a 13 SEER rating minimum. New systems in Illinois have to have a rating of no less than 14. For more information, refer to this brochure from

Lower environmental impact

When you purchase an air conditioner with a higher SEER rating, you’re committing yourself to a lower environmental impact. Units with higher SEER ratings produce more cool air using less energy.

More efficiency equals lower utility bills

Piggybacking off the lowered environmental impact, when you use less energy, you can lower your monthly utility bill. This will be especially noticeable if you’re replacing an older air conditioner with a new one.

Older units typically have lower SEER ratings and have lost their efficiency even further as the unit has worn down over time. In some cases, the savings from a newer, more efficient AC unit can offset the cost over time.

Greater indoor comfort

Being hot and sweaty inside of your own home during a heatwave can be unbearable. Maintaining a cool indoor environment is particularly essential if you have difficulty breathing or other medical conditions. Typically, air conditioners with higher SEER ratings have more efficient motors to help keep your home at a consistent, cool temperature all summer long.

You may qualify for a rebate

If you’re replacing an older air conditioning unit, you may be able to qualify for a tax rebate, depending on where you live and what you have installed. has a rebate finder that you can use to find out if you are eligible.

Improved air quality

Air conditioners with higher SEER ratings can also help maintain air quality.

There isn’t a lot of fresh air making its way into your home. Using a central AC unit allows you to continuously circulate the air through the home and filter out particles like dust and allergens. It is important to note that you need to regularly check and change your AC filters to ensure the best air quality.

Need Help Finding the Perfect Air Conditioner for Your Home?

The air conditioning experts at Althoff industries can help you determine the perfect air conditioner with the best SEER rating for your home and budget. Contact the experts at Althoff Industries today for more information or give us a call at 815-455-7000.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Do Energy-Efficient Appliances Save Money?

Friday, December 20th, 2019

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

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

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

Energy Star Appliances and SEER Ratings

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

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

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

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

Energy-Efficient Appliances Use Less Energy and Save You Money

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

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

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

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


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

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

Washing Machines

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Energy-Efficient HVAC Systems

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Cooking appliances
  • Dishwashers
  • Toilets
  • Water heaters

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

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

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

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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.

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Why Does My A/C Have Ice on It in the Summer?

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

There’s nothing that’ll get you more steamed than coming home to a hot house in the summer. Imagine your surprise when you go to inspect your air conditioner, and it’s covered in ice! Each summer, this is one of the most common calls we get at Althoff Industries.

Luckily, an icy air conditioner is easy to diagnose and repair. While it may seem like you’ll have an expensive repair bill coming your way, oftentimes you simply need to make a few simple changes to prevent your air conditioner from icing over. In this article, we’ll identify the causes of most frozen air conditioners, the repair process and how to prevent your air conditioner from freezing in the future.

Warning: If you notice ice building up on your air conditioner, turn off the unit immediately. To prevent additional damage from occurring, do not turn on the air conditioner until the ice has melted and you have located the cause. If you’re unsure of the issue causing your air conditioner to freeze, contact us to schedule an appointment.

Reduced Air Flow

One of the common culprits we discover when investigating frozen air conditioners is reduced air flow. Usually, this is one of the first issues we look for, since it’s one of the easiest to correct and cheaper for homeowners to repair. Reduced air flow could be caused by any of the following:

  • Dirty air filter. It’s important to inspect and replace your system’s air filter regularly. It’s a relatively inexpensive home ownership task, but you can end up with a hefty repair bill if you don’t keep up with the maintenance. When you have a dirty air filter, your system has to work extra hard to move the air through your home. This causes your air conditioner to work overtime, which may lead to ice buildup on the compressor, among other issues.
  • Too many closed air registers. You might think you’re doing yourself a favor by closing air registers and saving yourself a few dollars on your summer cooling bill. Unfortunately, when you close too many registers, you reduce the amount of airflow below the amount required to optimally run your home’s cooling system, which can cause the condenser to freeze. Make sure at least 75% of your air registers are open at all times.
  • Damaged air ducts. Depending on where they’re located, in a wall, basement or even closet, your system air ducts can take a beating when you’re moving heavy equipment or doing home repairs. If you end up damaging a duct, you can decrease the airflow.
  • Decreased fan speed. Over time, your system can get worn down, and your fan speed can decrease. On the other hand, your system’s fan speed may not have been set fast enough to begin with. If you’ve tried all other air flow repair methods without any luck, a technician can help you determine if the fan speed is freezing your air conditioner.

Faulty Thermostat

If your system is having trouble regulating the temperature, you waste money, energy, and odds are, your air conditioner is freezing over. When your system can’t properly regulate temperature, it’s running constantly, even when it’s cold out at night. As your condenser works overtime, the coils can build up condensation and eventually freeze over. If you notice your system is running even when it’s cool outside, your thermostat could be the culprit. A professional can help you test your thermostat and pinpoint the issue.

Drainage Problems

In addition to keeping your house cool, your air conditioner extracts humidity from the air to make your home’s air more comfortable. This excess moisture needs somewhere to go if it’s not in the air. Your air conditioning system should have a drainage pipe attached that carries moisture away from the unit. If this pipe becomes blocked, the water can get stuck in the unit and freeze. Ensure your system drain is clear and removing moisture efficiently.

Similar drainage problems can occur if you have a window unit that’s freezing up. To drain properly, window unit air conditioners must be tilted at a slight angle out of the window to allow water to drain. If your window unit is freezing up, ensure the air conditioner is tilted according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions, and check that no debris are blocking the drainage hole. 

Low Refrigerant

You might have never have guessed, but having low refrigerant can actually make your evaporator coil freeze. Seems weird, right? If you don’t have the proper amount of refrigerant in your A/C system, it has to work harder to cool your home. When your unit is working too hard, icing is likely to occur. Typically, low refrigerant is a sign of a leak in the system. You can usually identify a leak by listening for a hissing or gurgling sound coming from the condenser. If you suspect a leak, it’s time to call a professional to help repair the leak and recharge the system with refrigerant.

Is Your Air Conditioner Putting a Freeze on Your Summer Fun?

The experts at Althoff Industries can help you identify why your air conditioner is freezing and repair the issue. Don’t let a frozen air conditioner prevent you from staying cool during the summer, give us a call at 815-900-5002, and schedule your appointment today!

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My A/C Is Running but Not Blowing Cold Air

Monday, July 1st, 2019

Summer is in full swing and, on really hot days, all you want to do when you get home from a long day is to enjoy some cool air conditioning. Nothing kills this excitement more in the warm summer months than entering your home only to realize that your A/C is not blowing cold air. Unfortunately, an A/C is not fail-proof and they can quit blowing cool air for a variety of reasons. We have listed some of these reasons below so you can have an idea of why your A/C quit working and how you can resolve the issue.

Reasons Why Your A/C is Running but Not Blowing Cold Air

1. Your Thermostat Is Set Incorrectly

Sometimes an A/C doesn’t blow cold air simply because your thermostat settings need to be adjusted. Luckily, this is a pretty easy issue to resolve on your own. Some people think that leaving their A/C running all day is the best way to keep their home cool, but it is actually best to set your fan to AUTO, this will ensure that your air conditioner is running only when it is actually cooling the air. Changing this setting will help save money on energy bills, ensure that you don’t wear out your A/C too quickly, and keep your home cool.

2. Your Air Filter Is Dirty

Having a dirty air filter can inhibit airflow which could definitely be a reason that your A/C isn’t blowing cool air. Take out your air filter and see if there is any debris. If you do notice that the air filter is dirty, swap it out for a new one and get in the habit of changing it out every month.

A great way to ensure that your air filter is clean and your A/C works all summer long, we suggest having professional regularly scheduled maintenance.

3. Your Outside Unit Is Dirty

In the same vein as point number two, having an outside unit that is covered in dirt, dust, and other debris could also be inhibiting cool air from making its way into your home.

Air conditioners work when the inside unit (called an evaporator) absorbs heat from the air and then transfers that heat to the outside unit (called the condenser). The condenser can’t properly dissipate heat if it’s dirty or crowded with debris.

You can resolve this issue by spraying the outside unit with a garden hose on a gentle setting and removing weeds and overgrowth around the unit.

4. Refrigerant Leak

Refrigerant is the liquid that absorbs the heat from the air. When you don’t have enough refrigerant, your A/C can’t absorb enough heat to cool the air. Refrigerant leaks are fairly common and can definitely be the reason why your A/C isn’t blowing cold air.

Signs you have a refrigerant leak include:

  1. Ice buildup on the outside unit and line
  2. Bubbling or hissing noises
  3. Your A/C doesn’t cool the home on hot days but works fine on cool days and at night

If you see these signs, turn off your A/C immediately and call a professional. Refrigerant chemicals are very dangerous and need to be handled by the experts.

5. Air Duct Leaks

Over time, the air ducts that move air conditioning through your home may become loose or their seal may be compromised. This means that air is escaping erratically which makes it hard to keep your home at the temperature you want. You will need to have a professional come out and evaluate your air ducts to ensure that they are not leaking cool air and make repairs as needed.

6. A Bad Compressor

The compressor is one of the most important parts of the A/C system and pushes the refrigerant through the unit. If your compressor isn’t working properly, your A/C cannot work. Compressors need to be evaluated by a professional and replaced if they appear worn out or defective. Unfortunately, compressors are expensive unless you have a warranty. Chances are if your compressor is bad, you’ll probably need to replace an entire outside unit.

7. Dirty Evaporator Coils

An evaporator coil is the part of the A/C system where the refrigerant absorbs heat. Over time, the evaporator coils get dirty and affect the performance of your A/C and make it harder to remove warm air.

Dirty evaporator coils can lead to your A/C overheating and potentially shutting off completely. Evaporator coils should be evaluated and cleaned by a professional to ensure that they are in good condition.

Schedule an Appointment and Stay Cool All Summer Long

If your A/C is not blowing cold air, contact our licensed Chicago HVAC technicians. They can help troubleshoot the problem so you can cool down and relax again. Contact us at 815-455-7000 to schedule.

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5 Air Conditioning Noises and Their Causes

Thursday, June 13th, 2019

Summertime—it’s sunshine, warm breezes, barbecues and the gentle hum of air conditioners keeping houses cool throughout the neighborhood. In a split second, that gentle hum can turn into an unnerving hissing, banging or screeching. While all air conditioners make noise, it’s important to be able to recognize which noises are normal, and which noises require a professional inspection.

1. Hissing

Uh oh! More than likely, you’ve sprung a leak. Usually, a hissing sound indicates that your air conditioner is leaking refrigerant. In some cases, there’s a small opening in one of the refrigerant lines. In others, there may be an internal valve leak.

If the hissing is really loud and accompanied by squealing or screeching from the compressor, you need to turn off your air conditioner immediately. This indicates that there is too much pressure in the compressor, which could lead to a costly repair bill if you don’t act soon.

2. Screeching

One of the most startling noises is generally one of the easiest to diagnose. In newer direct-drive A/C units, you can trace a screeching noise to a shot bearing in the fan motor. Usually, you’ll have to replace the fan motor to get the noise to stop. In older A/C units, the screech could be coming from the belt that connects the motor to the blower. Belts gradually wear down, and you need to replace them from time to time.

3. Banging

A loud banging or rattling can mean that there’s a loose part somewhere in your A/C unit. Before more damage occurs, you’ll want to shut of the air conditioner as soon as you hear the noise. Is the noise louder outside of your house or inside of it? If it’s outside, one of the fan blades could have come loose in the compressor. If the noise is louder inside, your blower fan might be causing the racket.

4. Clicking

Hearing a clicking sound when the air conditioner kicks on is common and completely normal. That click is how your thermostat communicates with the unit. However, when it’s on, your A/C shouldn’t be ticking like a clock.

Like banging noises, clicking often comes from a loose or damaged part that’s hitting against something that it normally wouldn’t. An occasional clicking noise could indicate that there’s something stuck in one of the airways. On the other hand, if the clicking is constantly coming from your thermostat, there could be an issue with the circuit board.

5. Buzzing

A couple of issues could make your air conditioning unit buzz, like a swarm of hornets building a nest in your outside unit. If you can rule out pests, the buzzing could be coming from loose parts rubbing together, or your air conditioner might have frozen up. If you see a buildup of frost and ice on the unit, a professional can help you determine the cause. Finally, listen to hear if the buzzing sound is coming from the unit’s power source. The A/C could be overloading your circuit panel, which will require a professional evaluation.

If your air conditioner is making a noise that it shouldn’t, call Althoff.

Ignoring the problem could cause damage to your unit that then requires more extensive repairs. Have one of our licensed Chicago HVAC technicians check out the sound now and get peace of mind. Contact us at 800-225-2443 to schedule.

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