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

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Involved in an Electrical System Upgrade?

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

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

6 Benefits of an Electrical Upgrade

Improved safety

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

Reliable service

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

Added value

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

Protect your devices

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

Insurance discounts

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

Room for future improvements

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

Considering an Electrical Upgrade? Call Althoff.

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

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

What to Do If Your Water Heater Is Leaking

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

There’s nothing worse than coming home after a long day at work to a house full of water. 30+ gallons of water sure seems like a lot when it’s accumulating throughout your home.

Despite advancements in engineering and product manufacturing, most tank water heaters have a 10 to 15-year lifespan. The good news is, the earlier you catch a water heater leak, the better. Plus, not all water leaks indicate you’ll need to replace the entire unit.

If your water heater is just starting to leak, act quickly before you need an expensive repair, or you have a flash flood on your hands.

Safety First!

Remember, when dealing with a leak, your water heater gets hot enough to cause first degree burns. There is also electricity going to your water heater, which can cause a severe electrical shock.

So, before inspecting and working on your water heater, be sure to turn off the power at the circuit breaker and turn off the water supply.

Check to See What’s Causing the Leak

With a tank water heater, there’s water coming in, water heated in the tank, and water flowing out.

Water is constantly flowing through the appliance, so there are several places to inspect to see where the leak is coming from.

Loose connections

Check to make sure the connections to and from the tank are tight and that the lines don’t show any signs of damage or excessive wear.

You can tighten these connections yourself pretty easily. If you are nervous, you can always contact a professional to come and assist you.

Leaky elbow joints

While inspecting the connections, check any joints in the piping. These areas can experience extra stress as water flows to and from the tank.

These likely need to be replaced or tightened.

Temperature and pressure valve

As the water heater heats the water in the tank, it creates gas and pressure. The temperature and pressure valve safely ensures that your water heater tank doesn’t explode. There should be a vertical pipe that runs down the side of your tank that stops just a few inches above the floor. 

Usually, if the temperature and pressure valve is leaking, there will be a puddle below this pipe or water stains on the floor.

This is a slightly more advanced repair and best performed by a professional who is familiar with water heaters.

Water heater tank drain valve

Every tank water heater has a drain valve located near the bottom of the tank. Over time, sediment at the bottom of the tank can wear down the seal on the drain valve and cause a leak.

If this part is to blame, you should be able to see water or water staining around or below the valve.

The drain valve will need to be replaced if this is the source of the leak.

Leaky gaskets

If you have an electric water heater, it contains gaskets to protect the electric heating elements from contacting water. Electric water heaters will have a hatch that allows you to inspect the electrical connections and check for signs of moisture.

If you see signs of moisture here, contact a professional as this can be a dangerous repair to attempt without experience.

Failing water heater tank

When water flows through the tank, it carries a small amount of minerals and sediment in the water supply.

As the tank heats the water, this sediment settles and builds up at the bottom of the tank. Eventually, this sediment will erode through the tank’s lining from the inside. If you notice water pooling below the tank and a significant amount of rust, it’s time to replace your water heater.

How to Prevent Water Heater Leaks

Water heater leaks are an eventual pain almost all homeowners will experience at one point or another. If you’ve experienced any kind of leak before, you’ll know that water damage is messy and expensive. However, there are preventative maintenance tips you can follow that will help prolong the life of your water heater and help you catch a small leak before it boils over into a flood.

Drain your water heater annually

Sediment can gradually cause serious damage to your water heater over time. One way to lessen this damage is by draining and flushing your water heater tank annually. This procedure can also help your water heater function more efficiently.

Inspect your water heater regularly

It’s easy to forget about your water heater until you experience a warning sign like no hot water when you shower, or you step on a sopping wet carpet. Water heaters are usually tucked away in your basement or in a utility closet so it can be hard to remember to inspect them. Make a habit of inspecting your water heater periodically to check for excess moisture and leaks.

You can always set up a prescheduled maintenance plan with the Althoff team to ensure that your water heater is good to go and leak-free all year long.

Need Help With a Water Heater Leak or Maintenance?

Althoff Industries has plumbers available to help with all your water heater needs 24/7, 365 days a year. If you’re in the Chicago area, give us a call at 815-455-7000 and schedule an appointment today.

Continue Reading

6 Signs of a Gas Leak and What You Should Do

Friday, February 7th, 2020

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

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

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

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

Common Causes of Gas Leaks

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

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

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

How to Tell If You Have a Gas Leak

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. You hear a hissing sound.

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

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

4. You receive a high gas bill.

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

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

5. Your furnace has orange or yellow flames.

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

6. Your houseplants die unexpectedly.

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

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

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

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

Questions About Natural Gas Appliances or Service?

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

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

Continue Reading

Furnace Not Turning on Automatically? 7 Troubleshooting Tips

Monday, January 27th, 2020

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

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

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

1. Follow Furnace Troubleshooting Safety Tips

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

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

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

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

2. Check the Furnace’s Power Switch

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

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

3. Inspect the Furnace Filter

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

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

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

4. Find and Inspect the Gas Valve

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

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

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

5. Check the Vents Around Your Home

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

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

6. Inspect the Condensation Pan and Drainpipe

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

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

7. Look at the Furnace’s Flame

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading