Althoff Industries Inc. Blog: Posts Tagged ‘Residential Services’

Why Is My Garbage Disposal Not Working?

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

A broken garbage disposal can be a major headache. It can completely disrupt your usual dishes routine and lead to clogs in your drain. Luckily, if you’re having issues with your garbage disposal, there are ways you can fix it.

Potential Issues With Your Garbage Disposal and How to Fix Them

There are several problems you could be having with your garbage disposal. Here are a few of the most common problems that occur with garbage disposals and what you can do to fix them.

Garbage Disposal Won’t Turn On

One of the most common problems that homeowners face with their garbage disposal is that it won’t turn on when they flip the switch. The good news is that this is often a simple repair process.

If your garbage disposal won’t turn on, there could a problem with your power supply. If you think this is the case, locate the reset button on the bottom of the disposal and press it.

If that doesn’t work, check your circuit breaker to see if the switch that supplies power to the unit has been switched off. If neither of these options works, then you may need to get your plumbing repaired by a professional.

Humming Noise or Slow Drainage

If your garbage disposal is humming but is not grinding any food waste, or your sink is becoming flooded with water and debris, there may be a jam within your garbage disposal.

Due to the amount of food, waste, and debris that gets shoved into a garbage disposal, this problem is also fairly common. Luckily, this is another traditionally easy repair that often involves removing an object that has been wedged into the disposal.

First, turn the disposal all the way off so that you can safely inspect the blades. Yes, this means turning off the power to your disposal. You don’t want to risk losing any fingers!

Then, take a flashlight and take a look around the interior of the garbage disposal. Once you have identified the foreign object causing the jam, use a pair of pliers to remove the item.

Afterward, run water down the disposal to remove any excess debris that might still be caught. Then, run the garbage disposal.

Garbage Disposal Leaks

Over time, the vibration from the garbage disposal can loosen its connection, causing water to leak from your sink drain and into the base of the cabinet below. In most instances, the cause of the leak is due to the flange that attaches the disposal to the bottom of the unit.

To fix the leak, turn off the power to the garbage disposal and remove it from its mounting flange. Next, loosen the bolts and push the flange above the sink surface. Apply a new plumber bead between the flange and the sink.

Afterward, reattach the flange, bolts, and disposal and reconnect the power to ensure your disposal is working correctly. If the leak continues, you may need to call a plumber to have the garbage disposal replaced.

Contact Althoff Industries for Emergency Plumbing Services

Although the garbage disposal may seem like an uncomplicated piece of machinery, it often causes problems for homeowners. If you have tried everything mentioned above and are still having issues, it may be time to call a professional.

Severe plumbing problems shouldn’t wait, which is why it’s critical that you have an emergency plumbing service on call, no matter what time of day it is.

At Althoff Industries, we provide our Chicago, Illinois customers with around-the-clock emergency plumbing repair services. We make sure that you never have to worry about the plumbing in your home.

Whether you need routine maintenance, emergency repairs, or new plumbing installed in your home, we provide licensed and specialized plumbing services to our neighbors in Northwest Chicago.

Take a look at our emergency plumbing services!

Continue Reading

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!

or

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

What Does a Gas Leak Smell Like? How to Recognize a Natural Gas Leak

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

Natural gas is a relatively safe, effective, and convenient source of energy. However, if the natural gas line in your property is not correctly installed or maintained, a natural gas leak can become a health risk and a source of danger in your home. Additionally, gas leaks also have explosive potential thanks to the extremely flammable nature of the gas vapors.

Male hand turning switch knob on modern gas stove in kitchen showroom. Cooking appliance in domestic kitchen. Home improvement and House interior design concepts

Signs You Might Have a Gas Leak

Natural gas is used in households for different heating needs. When properly installed and maintained, natural gas is a reliable and stable utility. However, regular wear and tear or improper use of gas appliances can lead to a gas leak.

Gas leakage can occur in several locations. Some leaks are easy to find, but not all of them are as immediately apparent. Whether at home or a place of business, it is necessary to know the signs, symptoms and procedures associated with gas leakage. Here are some of the most common warning signs of a gas leak.

Rotten Egg Smell

The most common sign of a natural gas leak is the scent of rotten eggs. For safety reasons, a substance called mercaptan is added to natural gas lines by utility companies. Mercaptan is harmless, but it has an odor that compares to that of rotten eggs. If you smell the scent of rotten eggs in your home, then you might have a natural gas leak.

Bubbling in Standing Water

One of the quickest ways to determine whether or not you have a gas leak is to conduct a bubble test. If you see bubbles formed in any wet areas around your home, you may have an underground gas leak.

Hissing Sound

A hissing sound that escapes from nearby gas lines is one of the first indications of a significant gas leak. If you hear the sound of air leaking out of a nearby pipe, you should call a gas company or another professional and leave the area immediately.

Dead Plants

If there is a leak in the gas line of your home, dead or dying plants can warn you of the problem. When a natural gas leak occurs, it displaces the oxygen required for the plants to survive. If you find dead plants in your home or yard, you might have a natural gas leak.

Why It’s Important to Fix a Gas Leak

A skilled plumber can easily find the source of a natural gas leak and fix it safely. However, uncontrolled gas leaks can pose a risk to nearby individuals. In addition to physical conditions, natural gas is flammable, so it is advised that you stop using electrical appliances or lights immediately.

While natural gas is non-toxic, prolonged exposure to its products can cause a noticeable decline in health. As natural gas keeps leaking into your home, it can impair your sense of smell and cause breathing problems, headaches and nausea.

What to Do if You Find a Gas Leak

If you think you suspect a gas leak has occurred in your home, make sure to open all your windows, turn off the pilot light or water heater, and leave the house as quickly as possible. Next, once signs of a natural gas leak have been found and you are safely away from your home, you will want to call your local gas company or contact local emergency plumbing services.

Wait until you and your loved ones have completely evacuated your home before making any emergency calls. Electronic devices produce static electricity that can potentially ignite the extremely flammable natural gas that has leaked into the air.

Contact Althoff Industries to Fix Your Gas Leak!

If you smell gas or have another reason to suspect that you may have a gas leak in your home, make sure that you call Althoff Industries. Our team of highly-experienced professionals want to make sure that your home is a safe and comfortable place for you and your loved ones to live.

We offer expert, licensed plumbing services in the northwest Chicago area and can assist with any gas leak issues your home may have. In addition, we offer 24-hour emergency services and can be reached at our emergency hotline (815) 455-7000.

Continue Reading

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

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

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

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

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

Common Reasons for a Power Outage

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

Equipment Failure of Maintenance

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

Trees

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

Animals

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

Vehicle Accidents

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

Human Error

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

What to Do During a Power Outage

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

Safely Inspect the Area

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

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

Turn Off Major Appliances

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

Stay Safe

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

Power Your Home with the Help of Althoff

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

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

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

Continue Reading

Plumbing Issues That Seem Small But Cause Big Headaches

Tuesday, September 29th, 2020

When it comes to any sort of problem in the home, you want to make sure that you pick up on it at the earliest opportunity. After all, the sooner you notice an issue, the quicker it can be fixed. This can make it a lot more convenient and cost-effective too.

However, the trouble is that we often do not realize that we have a big problem until it is too late. Because of this, we are going to take a look at some of the most common plumbing issues that may seem small but can cause a big headache.

plumber fixing sink pipe

Bubbling Wall Paint or Ceiling Paint

The first indicator that you have a plumbing issue is bubbling wall or ceiling paint. If this is an issue that you have noticed, it is an indicator that you have an excess amount of moisture. The most common cause of this plumbing problem is a leak in the plumbing system or the roof.

If you notice that you have any blistering or bubbling in your paint, or there are brown spots appearing on your wall or ceiling, it can be easy to simply ignore these. However, you should not do that. Now is the time for you to explore the problem further to make sure that you do not end up with a plumbing nightmare on your hands. A reputable plumber like Althoff Industries will be able to investigate the issue for you to ensure it is rectified quickly.

Spiking Water Bills

Have you noticed that your water bills are a lot higher than usual? If this is the case, it could be that there is some sort of problem. After all, if your water use has not increased significantly, then there must be another issue. High water bills indicate that something has changed within your plumbing system.

A running toilet is one of the most common reasons why people have spikes in their water system. A lot of homeowners do not appreciate the quantity of water used by their toilets. A toilet valve is pretty much a garden hose going at full blast. Therefore, it is not unusual for hundreds of dollars to be wasted as a consequence of a single running toilet.

Other common issues that could cause a spike in your water bill include clogged drains, dripping faucets, or a problem with your water supply. If you notice any of these issues, then make sure to call a plumber straight away.

Weak Water Flow In a Number of Locations

Low water pressure or a slow stream of water indicates that there is a problem with your water supply. If this is something that is only happening in one place in your home, the problem will typically be in the faucet aerator. Luckily, this is a pretty easy fix. However, if you have low water pressure in numerous spots around your property, this is an indication of a bigger issue.

If this is the case, the issue is probably going to be at the water main. It could also be an active leak in the supply line, which is the worst-case scenario, or a problem with the hot water heater. If you see that you have low water pressure and a number of other symptoms have presented themselves too, you really do need to call a professional plumber at the earliest opportunity.

Sewer Odor

A general rule in the world of plumbing is that all drains require a trap and all traps need to have a vent. All of these drains and traps have been designed so that sewer gas does not get inside of your home. The vents within your property should ensure that sewer odor is channeled up to the roof, while a ‘water plug’ is created by the drain traps and this acts as a barrier, preventing sewer odors from coming through your sink drain.

So, if you can smell sewer gas in your property, this means that either the vent line has cracked or the trap has run dry. You can fix a dry trap very easily. All you need to do is refill it with water. It is worth doing a quick assessment to make sure that there are not any signs of a leak. It can be much more difficult to track down a cracked sewer vent, though.

This is because they are enclosed into the wall, which demands a bit of drywall surgery. Your plumber will be able to provide you with more information on this if required.

Discolored Pipes

On a final note, discolored pipes can be an indicator of a bigger problem. Yes, they are unsightly, but a lot of people simply put up with this, especially as most pipes are located out of eyesight. So, if there are any signs of discoloration on your pipes, whether under your kitchen sink or in your basement, it is worth exploring this further because it indicates that moisture is present.

This may have happened as a consequence of dripping from a drain line or sink. In some cases, it can be a more severe incident, for example, a slow leak within the supply line. If it turns out that it is the latter, this is something that needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

To conclude, there are a lot of different plumbing issues that can seem small on the surface but can result in big problems if you are not careful. If you notice any of the signs that have been discussed above, the best thing to do is get in touch with a professional plumber like Althoff Industries as soon as you can.

Whether it is a small issue like a malfunctioning garbage disposal or a slow drain, or a larger problem with your water supply, we will be able to assess the issue for you and ensure that it is rectified quickly and effectively so that you can have complete peace of mind.

Continue Reading

What Is the Difference Between a GFCI Outlet and a Regular Outlet?

Monday, September 14th, 2020

Electricity is something people take for granted because of how prevalent it is in our daily lives, but electrical safety is no joke. People can get seriously injured by electrical shocks in the home.

Electricity, water, and humans are a bad combination, which is why GFCI outlets were invented. GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, and it is a type of electrical safety precaution that was invented to decrease the likelihood of people suffering from electrical shocks while they are in areas of the house that contain water sources.

Standard electrical outlets provide no protection against ground faults, making them extremely risky to use, especially when they are located near water. If your house has no GFCI technology embedded into your high-risk outlets, then there is a significantly increased chance that you could get electrocuted.

Below you can find our guide to GFCI outlets, including where they should be located in the home and what to do if one is malfunctioning.

What Is a Ground Fault?

First, we should probably explain what exactly a ground fault is.

A “fault” is an electrical term that describes an instance where electricity deviates from its intended path, and a “ground fault” is when electricity takes an unintended path to the ground.

See, when electricity is not in a controlled environment, it makes a beeline toward whatever is the best conductor in the immediate vicinity. This is why most lightning strikes the ground, because the ground is one of the best electrical conductors there is.

In the home, electricity is contained within wires that are covered in an insulating material such as plastic or rubber. This prevents the electricity from escaping and flowing through a different conductor, such as water, the ground, or a person.

Unfortunately, wires can get frayed or damaged which can break the insulation keeping the electricity at bay. When the power source is turned on this can cause a person to become electrocuted which can lead to serious injury or even death.

Standard electrical outlets have no safety features installed within them to prevent people from being electrocuted and these standard outlets were the only ones used in homes built before the 1970s.

Thus, a safety measure had to be invented in order to significantly reduce the chances of this occurring.

What is a GFCI Outlet?

GFCI protection technology was invented in the 1970s and GFCI outlets began to be used in place of standard electrical outlets in certain high-risk areas of the home.

Any electrical outlet that is located in an area of the house containing a water source (i.e. bathrooms, kitchen counters, etc.) is required to be outfitted with GFCI technology.

A GFCI outlet contains sensors that continuously monitor the surge of electricity within the wiring. When a fault is detected, the GFCI immediately shuts off the flow of electricity to the outlet.

This response typically occurs within thirty milliseconds, so the person using the outlet may still receive a painful electric shock. A sustained surge of electricity to the human body is what can cause more serious problems and GFCI is designed to prevent.

Where Should GFCI Outlets Be Installed?

Areas of the house that are required by law to use GFCI protected outlets include kitchen counters, bathrooms, garages, laundry rooms, unfinished basements, and within six feet of wet bars.

Other areas of the house like bedrooms and living rooms that don’t contain water sources are not required to use GFCI receptacles, as there is not much risk of electrocution in those areas.

Houses that are built after the year 2014 require GFCI circuit breakers to be installed during construction, so that the entire house receives GFCI protection.

However, if you live in a house that was built before the 1970s, then all your outlets will be of the standard variety and contain no GFCI protection. If this is the case, then you should most certainly have your existing outlets replaced to reduce your risk of being electrocuted.

According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), electrocutions are down more than 83 percent since the 1970s when GFCI technology was introduced, which goes to show how important GFCI is.

What to Do if a GFCI Outlet is Malfunctioning

You can tell if an outlet has GFCI protection because it will have two small buttons between the receptacles labeled “RESET” and “TEST.” Every so often the GFCI will trigger and shut off electrical flow to the outlet when a fault has not actually occurred.

This could happen for a variety of reasons, but one of the most common is static electricity occurring near the outlet.

The GFCI protection activating by mistake every once in a while is no big deal, as it can be activated again by simply pressing the “RESET” button and turning it back on.

Pressing the “TEST” button allows you to check and see if the outlet is working properly. A GFCI outlet shouldn’t require much in the way of maintenance, but it doesn’t hurt to hit the test button once every month or so just to make sure that it’s working.

If your outlet tests back negative or is repeatedly shutting off without reason, then you should probably get it replaced. If you have experience with electrical wiring, then you can probably do it yourself.

If not, then you should call a professional to come fix it for you. An inexperienced person can get seriously injured by messing around with the wires.

On the other hand, if you live in an old house or you have standard outlets located in areas where GFCI outlets should be, then you should absolutely have them replaced. If you don’t, then you are putting yourself at unnecessary risk.

Althoff Industries has been servicing the Chicago area for many years. Whether you have just a single malfunctioning outlet that needs to be replaced or you need your entire house to be outfitted with GFCI technology, Althoff has got your back.

Call us at (844) 202-7430 if you have an emergency electrical issue that needs to be taken care of or visit our website to view all of the services that we provide.

Continue Reading

Central AC Costs and Considerations: What Will Work for Your Home and Budget

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

Central AC is a game changer when it comes to beating the summer heat. Walking into your home on a hot day and having cold air hit your face is an awesome feeling. Not only do these systems circulate that wonderful cool air throughout your entire home, they also can improve your indoor air quality with high-quality filters, are quiet, and are extremely easy to use.

Now, this all sounds great but what you really want to know is how much it costs to install central AC in your home. Below we have outlined some of the factors that affect how much a central AC will cost.

Before we begin, it is important to consult with a professional who can accurately determine what type of central AC system will work best for your budget and install the system correctly. Our team at Althoff has worked with many homeowners just like you and can guide you through the entire process to ensure you make the best choice for your home.

1. The Size of Your Home

Like many things in life, central AC systems are not one size fits all. The square footage of your home helps to determine which AC unit size will keep you comfortable all summer long.

Air conditioner sizes are based on how much heat they can extract from your home. The amount of heat that can be extracted by an AC system is measured by BTUs (British thermal units). Every AC on the market indicates how many BTUs the unit can handle.

As the amount of BTUs increases, the cost of the system will increase. You will see us reference this unit of measurement throughout the rest of this post as we discuss other things that can affect cost.

2. Your Home’s Exposure to Sunlight

Although the square footage of your home is a great starting point when looking at how much a central AC will cost, it is also important to also think about how heat enters your home.

Even if the square footage is the same, homes with rooms that have huge windows will get hotter than homes with smaller windows and may need a system that can handle more BTUs even if the square footage is the same.

In the same vein, homes that are in the shade for the majority of the day or have windows that are not facing the sun will require a different system than those that are exposed to direct sunlight throughout the day.

3. Ceiling Height

A room with a high ceiling has much more volume than a room with a standard ceiling height – even if the square footage is the same.

If air conditioner capacity is too low for the overall volume of the room, the unit will cycle off frequently and the room will not remain cool – if it ever cools off at all.

4. Replacing Ductwork

Many newer homes are ready for central AC, but older homes may require ductwork. Ductwork will increase the cost but you will be thankful for the update in the long run. Sometimes the existing ducts are too small, worn or not properly insulated. This could lead to loud noise from the AC and higher energy bills because the system is working harder than it should.

5. SEER Rating and Energy Efficient Systems

Units with a higher SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating will cost more than lower-rated models, but they save more money over time and they are more environmentally friendly. Click here to learn more about SEER ratings for residential air conditioners.

6. Professional Installation

Some people try to install their AC system themselves but it is in your best interest to hire a professional. A lot of air conditioning systems are not installed correctly which can lead to issues like improper cooling and higher energy bills. Hiring a professional ensures that your unit will perform efficiently and keep your home cool.

Stay Cool This Summer With Althoff

Whether you are installing a new system or replacing your old one, the experts at Althoff can help. Contact us today to discuss your central AC needs. Give us a call at 815-455-7000 or complete an online form to schedule your appointment.

Continue Reading