Althoff Home Services Blog: Posts Tagged ‘Residential Services’

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.

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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.

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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.

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7 Causes of Poor Indoor Air Quality and How They Affect Your Health

Friday, June 5th, 2020

Are you continually waking up with a scratchy throat, stuffy nose and puffy eyes? The air quality inside your house might be to blame.

If your home’s indoor air quality is less than ideal, it can have dangerous short-term and long-term effects on your health. Poor indoor air quality is typically a combination of environmental, hygienic and climate-related causes. Fortunately, improving your home’s air quality is affordable and straightforward when you understand the reasons for poor indoor air quality.

What Causes Poor Indoor Air Quality?

1. Cleaning supplies. Many household cleaning products contain strong chemicals that leave behind dangerous fumes. While you’re cleaning your surfaces, these chemicals are polluting the air inside your home, especially if you’re cleaning in a room with poor ventilation. The toxicity of household cleaners depends on the brand and the type of cleaner you’re using. Typically, bathroom and kitchen cleaners contain the most dangerous fumes.

2. Pet dander. Most of us consider our pets as part of the family. Dogs and cats especially, while cute, loyal companions, can impact the air quality inside of your home. Pet hair and dander can collect on carpets and blow around in the air, which can cause respiratory problems when it accumulates inside of your home.

3. Carpet fumes. If you’ve recently installed carpet into your home, you may have noticed a new smell. The carpet’s backing and the adhesive that bonds the carpet to the floor both contain chemicals. The carpet releases these fumes over time, which can cause headaches, nausea and dizziness. Additionally, carpet can harbor dirt, dander and allergens. If you’re particularly sensitive to fumes, or if you have a sensitive respiratory system, carpet may not be the best choice for your home.

4. Mold and mildew. Mold and mildew rapidly grow when there’s a lot of moisture in the air. When mold grows, it releases spores into the air that can cause dangerous respiratory health effects. Mold and mildew are typical problems in bathrooms, basements and kitchens.

5. Pesticides. One of the most uncomfortable things you can deal with in your home is an invasion of pests. Ants, cockroaches and spiders can be a startling sight to see in any home. On the other hand, the pesticides used to treat and prevent pests can damage your indoor air quality. The chemicals in pesticides are strong enough to kill insects, and the fumes can affect your respiratory system if the area isn’t well-ventilated.

6. Paints and varnishes. You’ll recognize the smell of polyurethane if you’ve ever walked into a house with freshly refinished hardwood floors. Likewise, most people are familiar with the scent of a newly painted room. While these smells can be a sign of a finished project, the fumes also affect indoor air quality and can trigger respiratory problems.

7. Poor air circulation and ventilation. When it comes down to basics, poor indoor air quality is generally the cause of poor air circulation and ventilation. As the air gets trapped in your home, dust, debris, pollen and fumes don’t have a quick way to escape your home. There’s also a lack of fresh air coming into your home, which is essential for controlling indoor air quality.

How to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

First, the simplest and most affordable way to improve your indoor air quality is by increasing the ventilation and circulation within your home. By opening windows and doors, you’re allowing fresh air to enter your home and replenish the poor air inside of the house. Along the same lines, cleaning your ductwork and regularly replacing your air filter helps improve the indoor air being recirculated by your HVAC system.

Additionally, consider purchasing an air purifier or an upgraded air filtration system to improve your home’s indoor air quality. These devices can help clean the air inside of your home if you’re unable to improve ventilation.

In most areas prone to mold and mildew buildup, consider investing in a dehumidifier to lower the humidity in the air and prevent mold growth.

Click here to learn more about the indoor air quality solutions at Althoff.

We Can Help You Breathe Easier

Measuring air quality and nailing down the cause of poor air quality can be tough. Althoff Industries employs experts in ventilation, whole system humidifiers and dehumidifiers, air purifiers and duct cleaning services to help improve your home’s air quality.

Do you have questions or concerns about your home’s air quality? Contact our expert team today to discuss which indoor air quality solution is right for your home.

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How Central AC Works and How to Keep Cool All Season Long

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

Summer is the perfect time for backyard barbecues, going for a swim at the pool, or taking a weekend getaway to the lake. When your air conditioner is running at 100 percent, summer is a breeze. If your AC isn’t performing its best, the summer heat can quickly turn into your worst enemy.

What’s the key to keeping your AC up and running? First, you need to know how the system works. With some basic AC know how, you can better understand what your AC needs to have a long, efficient life.

Once you understand how the system works, all the AC tips you’ve read online—and hopefully, here on our blog—make sense. Best of all, if you run into any trouble along the way, or suspect you need professional help, we can help.

How Your Central AC System Works

Most residential AC systems are pretty straightforward. They have a thermostat to control the temperature in your home, an air handler to circulate air throughout your home, and an air conditioning system to cool the air as it circulates through your home.

Thermostat

You’re probably familiar with your home’s thermostat. It actively measures the temperature within your home. In cooling mode, when the registered temperature is higher than the set temperature, the thermostat tells the system to turn on the AC and cool the home.

Circulating the air

Your central AC air handler is responsible for circulating cool air throughout your home. The air handler sucks in air through the return vents in your house. Next, the air passes through the air conditioning system and cools the air. Once cooled, the air handler blows the air through the vents in your home to lower air temperature in your house. Finally, when the thermostat measures that the temperature of the air in the house is cold enough, it tells the air handler to turn off.

Cooling the air

The air conditioning system is responsible for cooling the air as the air handler circulates it throughout your home. As a refrigeration system, the air conditioner actually removes the heat from the air in your home to make it feel colder. Air conditioners have three main components: a condenser, evaporator, and compressor.

As air passes through the air conditioning system, it passes through copper tubing that contains a refrigerant. This refrigerant removes heat from the air passing through the system. The compressor helps release the heat extracted by the refrigerant as the cooled air moves back through the air handler and into your house.

Simple Tips for Maintaining Your AC

AC repairs can be inconvenient, expensive, and as luck would have it, tend to happen on the hottest day of the year. Here are a few basic tips you can use to help keep your AC in tip-top, efficient shape for the long haul.

1. Be smart with your windows and doors. The hotter the air in your house, the harder your AC has to work. Open windows and doors leak hot air from the outside into your house. During hot summer days, limit how often you come in and out of your house. Also, identify and seal leaky windows in your house.

2. Inspect and change your air filter regularly. Your central AC system needs to circulate air freely throughout your house to operate efficiently. As the air handler sucks in air from your house, it also sucks in dirt, hair, dust, and other debris. Over time, these materials clog the air filter, which causes more wear on the system as it has to work harder to circulate air through the dirty filter.

3. Let the condenser breathe. Are there a lot of plants and leaves around your air conditioner’s outside unit? The condenser needs to expel air from the system freely. If plants are growing around the condenser or if it’s covered in leaves, clear them away so the unit can operate efficiently.

4.Allow air to flow freely through your home. For your air conditioner to operate at its optimal efficiency, the air handler needs to circulate through your home. You may think that closing vents and closing doors will help save money on your utility bills. In reality, it makes your air conditioner work harder as it tries to circulate air through closed vents and areas.

Don’t Forget to Schedule Regular AC System Maintenance

Need help maintaining your air conditioning system? The AC experts at Althoff Industries are just a phone call or click away. Give us a call at 815-455-7000 or fill out a contact form.

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6 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality This Summer

Monday, May 11th, 2020

When people think of air quality, they usually think of the air outdoors but the air inside can also become very polluted – especially during the warmer months. Things like dust and allergens, mold, chemicals used in conventional cleaners, and more can compromise indoor air quality. Luckily, there are steps you can take to improve indoor air quality in your home this summer!

snake plant air quality

1. Use a Dehumidifier

Pests and allergens thrive in the humidity. Dust mites, in particular, are a common trigger for allergies and asthma, and they love the humidity. However, most dust mites die off in low humidity environments. Keeping humidity around 30%-50% will help keep this under control. Although humidity in the Midwest region isn’t nearly as high as it is in places like Florida, humidity is still definitely present!

A dehumidifier removes moisture from the air and creates an environment that prevents dust mites and pests from shacking up in your home this summer.

2. Switch to a High-Quality Air Filter

If you went through our Spring Air Conditioner Maintenance Checklist and found that your filter was looking pretty dirty, you likely need to replace it. There are tons of air filters on the market but some perform better than others.

To tell how effective an air filter is, you will need to look at the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV). MERV was developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioner Engineers – ASHRAE and values vary from 1 to 16. The higher the MERV value is, the more efficient the filter will be in trapping airborne particles.

At Althoff, we recommend the high-quality filter and cabinet from Aprilaire. Based on the needs of our customer, our typical installation is either MERV 11 or MERV 13.

To learn more about the Aprilaire air filters, visit our indoor air quality page!

3. Groom Your Pets Regularly

We love our pets but they can create a lot of issues when it comes to indoor air quality. Pet dander is harmful to those who are allergic, but pets can also bring a whole host of other things into your home from the outdoors.

Regularly grooming your pets removes extra fur, dust, dirt, and other debris that can affect indoor air quality. We suggest brushing their fur and bathing them outside if possible or taking them to a professional groomer.

4. Avoid Synthetic Fragrances and Remove Odors

Synthetic fragrances in things like laundry products, cleaners, and air fresheners emit a lot of chemicals into the air. Although they may make your home smell clean, they are compromising the air quality. Fragranced products are not required to say exactly what makes the fragrance and can contain VOCs.

In addition, you may not be sensitive to heavily fragranced home products but visitors or pets might be.

Use products that are fragrance-free or naturally fragranced. You can also install an odor remover and air purification device like the Air Scrubber by Aerus. This device is installed in the ductwork of the central AC and uses a combination of UV-C light and activated carbon to reduce odor-causing 

VOCs.

To learn more about the Air Scrubber by Aerus, visit our indoor air quality page!

5. Purchase Air Purifying Plants

Indoor plants are a wonderful addition to any home and some can actually help clean the air. Although not quite as effective as man-made air purifiers, they work well in conjunction with effective purification systems.

NASA recommended air purification plants:

  • Snake plant
  • Money plant
  • Chinese evergreen
  • Spider plant
  • Aloe vera
  • Dragon tree

6. Install a Robust Air Purifier

All of the above are great ways to improve indoor air quality but if you really want clean air in your home, you should consider investing in an air purifier like the Abatement Technologies HEPA Residential Air Purifier.

The Abatement Technologies HEPA Residential Air Purifier converts home’s HVAC System into a Hospital-Grade HEPA Filtration System. The system removes at least 99.97% of microscopic airborne particles and pushes the air through multiple filtration cycles. Multiple filtration cycles means that the system catches tiny particles that lower-quality purifiers and most filters miss.

This type of high-quality HVAC purification system also offers germicidal UV (UVGI) lamp technology irradiates and helps control mold spores and bacteria.

With an air purifier like this one, you will want to hire an expert to install it correctly to ensure that the air in your home is as clean as can be!

To learn more about the Abatement Technologies HEPA Residential Air Purifier, visit our indoor air quality page!

In recent decades, many are spending significantly more time inside and that means we all should be mindful of the air quality in our homes.

If you are interested in learning more about the indoor air quality systems and installation, click here! If you are ready to invest in the air quality of your home, you can request a quote from our experts at Althoff Industries or give us a call at 815-455-7000 for more information.

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What You Need to Know About AC Freon Leaks and What to Do

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

A cool, comfortable home can feel magical on a hot summer day. With a few taps of the thermostat, you can go from sweating to sleeping comfortably. While it may seem like magic, what’s happening in that big metal AC box outside is science.

Air conditioners rely on a refrigerant, in many cases, freon, to help cool the air circulating through your house. More often than not, when your AC breaks down and stops blowing cold air, a refrigerant leak is to blame.

Do you know how to tell if you have a freon leak? Refrigerant leaks can not only be harmful to the environment, but dangerously harmful for your health too. If you live in a house with AC, it’s important for you to be able to identify a refrigerant leak and know what to do if your AC is leaking.

air conditioner not working

What Is Freon?

As a type of refrigerant, freon removes heat from the air inside of your home as it moves through the AC unit and displaces it outside. The air conditioner then circulates the cool air through your house.

Without a refrigerant, your HVAC system would just continue circulating the same warm air through your house. For your home to stay cool throughout the summer, the level of refrigerant in your AC system needs to remain full.

The refrigeration system that houses freon in your AC is a closed system. With a closed system, none of the gas or fluid within the system has a chance of escaping, unless there’s a leak. A technician should never recommend “topping off” your system’s freon—they should recommend fixing the leak.

If your technician does recommend topping off freon, contact a different company immediately to come and take a look at your system.

5 Signs Your AC Is Leaking

You don’t have to be an HVAC expert to know if your air conditioner is leaking refrigerant. We’ve come up with five critical indicators your system needs an immediate repair.

  1. AC is blowing warm air. As we pointed out earlier, refrigerants like freon cool the air by removing heat and circulating cool air through your home. If there’s not enough freon in the system, it may feel like the blower is circulating warm air through your house.
  2. Low airflow. Understandably, if your system is running low on refrigerant, it won’t be pumping out as much cool air. This effect may feel like there’s a lower airflow coming through the ducts in your house.
  3. Ice builds up on outside lines. If you notice your house isn’t as cold as it should be, and you start poking around the outdoor unit, you may see icy buildup on the copper refrigerant lines. This sign is a surefire indicator that your system has a refrigerant leak.
  4. It won’t maintain a consistent temperature in the house. Are you noticing that your home can’t seem to keep cool during the middle of the day, but it cools down at night? If your house is struggling to stay cool, but you can still feel some cold air coming, it’s an indicator your AC may have recently sprung a leak.
  5. Your utility bill has skyrocketed. If your air conditioner is running low on refrigerant, it’s not operating at its optimal efficiency. Even when working at 100 percent, ACs demand a lot of electricity. If your AC is always running because it’s trying to keep the house cool, you’re going to see it reflected on your utility bill.

What Should You Do If You Expect Your AC Is Leaking Freon?

If you expect your AC is leaking refrigerant, the first thing you should do is turn off your thermostat. By running the AC with a leak, you’re at risk for causing more damage to the unit and releasing more freon into the environment.

While refrigerant leaks are easy to identify, it usually takes a skilled hand to locate the leak, complete the repair, and recharge the system with refrigerant. Althoff Industries can help. We offer expert 24/7/365 AC repair. To schedule an appointment, give us a call at 815-455-7000 or if you have an emergency dial our hotline at 800-225-2443.

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

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Involved in an Electrical System Upgrade?

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

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

6 Benefits of an Electrical Upgrade

Improved safety

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

Reliable service

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

Added value

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

Protect your devices

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

Insurance discounts

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

Room for future improvements

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

Considering an Electrical Upgrade? Call Althoff.

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

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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 Energy.gov.

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. Energystar.gov 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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