Boston DIY Plumbing Workshop

Plumbing and heating are two of your home’s most important systems. When they don’t work correctly, they can jeopardize the comfort and safety of your home. The good news is that homeowners can manage many common problems that can arise with heating and plumbing systems, thanks to an excellent DIY plumbing workshop coming up this weekend.

Plumbing and Heating Workshop


Joseph Wood, owner of Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating will be on hand to deliver a great classroom-style DIY plumbing workshop designed just for homeowners who want to know how to maintain and repair issues like plumbing leaks and drain clogs, and perform routine maintenance on heating systems.

In addition to repair and maintenance tips, Joseph will share advice for homeowners who want to reduce their water consumption without sacrificing performance. He will also address questions and concerns about pipes and pipe replacement, heating and cooling system replacement, rebates and incentives for system improvements, and offer preventative maintenance strategies. Joseph will also show attendees how to spot more serious plumbing and heating issues that require professional attention.

The DIY plumbing workshop is also a great opportunity for anyone who’s considering a career in plumbing or heating and cooling. The next decade will see tremendous growth in employment for trained, licensed plumbers and heating and cooling professionals. As an apprentice, you’ll begin working immediately and developing the skills you’ll need to earn your plumbing license.

Joseph has been working in plumbing, heating and cooling for more than 20 years, and owns Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating in Dorchester. Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating has been recognized annually since 2010 with an Angie’s List Super Service Award. Boston Standard has also been recognized by the Better Business Bureau and the Best of Boston for its outstanding service.

The DIY plumbing workshop takes place Saturday, November 5 from 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM at Boston Building Resources, 100 Terrace Street in Boston. Please visit the Boston Building Resources website to register for this workshop. The registration cost is $25. We hope to see you there!

Photo Credit: clement127, via Flickr.com

Should you invest in a WiFi thermostat?

WiFi thermostats have been gaining ground in the US marketplace for a few years. Today, many manufacturers offer WiFi enabled options for controlling the temperature in your home. Is now the time to invest in a WiFi thermostat?

Choosing a WiFi thermostat

Nest Labs has received a lot of attention for its Wi-Fi thermostat, but Nest, which was founded in 2010, isn’t actually the first WiFi enable thermostat on the market. That honor goes to Ecobee, a Toronto company that was founded in 2007. Ecobee is now on its third-generation device.

Aside from Ecobee and Nest, Honeywell, Trane, Schneider Electric, Lux/Geo, Emerson, Aprilaire, Venstar and a host of others offer WiFi enabled thermostats. Generally speaking, WiFi thermostats – when used properly – can reduce your energy expenditures by about 20%-25%. Since heating and cooling account for the majority of a home’s energy consumption, it’s fair to say that you can realize significant savings using a WiFi thermostat. How much you save will depend upon how much you consume.

If you’re purchasing a new heating and cooling system, chances are good that the manufacturer makes a WiFi enabled thermostat. Going with a thermostat that’s made by the manufacturer of your equipment virtually eliminates the issue of compatibility.

If you’re going with an after-market product, you’ll need to do a little research on your candidates to verify that a particular product works with your heating and cooling equipment. You may need additional wiring to support WiFi operation. You’ll also need to verify that a product is compatible with your household wireless router. Finally, you’ll want to know that the product you select works with the mobile devices you use. iOS is the most popular mobile platform, followed by Android. Windows is less popular, so if you carry a Windows phone or a Windows mobile device, you will want to make sure a compatible app is available so you can control your thermostat while you’re away.

If you’re good with technology, WiFi thermostat installation can be a do-it-yourself project. If you’re not good with technology, or your system needs additional wiring to support the thermostat, you may want to go with professional installation and setup.

Right now, customers of Eversource, National Grid, Columbia Gas, Liberty Utilities and Berkshire Gas can purchase certain WiFi thermostats at a discount through the MassSave program and have them professionally installed at no cost! In addition, you may be eligible for rebates of up to $100 on WiFi thermostats not available through MassSave’s discount purchase program.

If you’d like more information about WiFi thermostats, or would like to have one installed through MassSave, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to help you select a WiFi thermostat that’s right for you, and get it up and running!

Photo Credit: ecobee

Air Conditioning: A marvel invention

Willis Carrier is the “Thomas Edison” of air conditioning.  During one of the hottest years on record, the mechanical air conditioner was born. In 1902 the United States was in the middle of a massive heat wave, this made the dangers of being outside for too long, very real.

Temperatures would continue to rise, but thanks to Willis, the world was changed with his invention. The original reason for mechanical air conditioning? To keep moist air out of printing plants in order to keep magazine pages from wrinkling!

Carrier had been born in 1876 to an old New England family—including an ancestor who was hanged as a witch in Salem—and attended Cornell University, He then took a job with a heating outfit. The research Carrier had produced saved his company $40,000 a year per year and he was given control over a new department to experiment with the engineering that would help him design his first air conditioner.During his tenure there, he met Irvine Lyle, a salesman who later became his partner in Carrier Corp., a company that succeeded in marketing the air conditioner to Americans in the 1950s. Today, Carrier Corp is known as United Technologies.

Throughout the years air conditioning units have lost it’s air of luxury, Today, almost 90% of U.S. homes have air conditioning, and international demand for cooling systems are staggering. Air conditioners bring much needed relief to more than 3 billion people who live in the tropics and subtropics, according to a

Most people approve of, and enjoy the air conditioning unit’s ability to provide relief from heat and a comfortable space in the home,not everyone is on board with Carrier’s invention. Environmentalists who are concerned about global warming have called for cutting back on the use of air conditioners. While they recognize the invention’s public health benefits, to them, the environmental effects are worth limiting usage. With record-breaking temperatures expected for the coming decades, air conditioning likely isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

Cooling Efficiency – What Do The Numbers Mean?

Cooling efficiency plays a big role in the comfort of your home. The more efficient your cooling system is, the more comfortable your home will be. As an added benefit, you’ll also save money because an efficient cooling system doesn’t work as hard as an inefficient one.

A confusing set of measurements – EER and SEER – describe cooling system efficiency. What are these numbers and what do they tell us? The efficiency of any system compares what you get out to what you put in.

EER. The Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) compares the cooling output in BTUs to the energy input in Watt-hours. It tells you how much energy a cooling system uses over one hour using precise temperature and humidity conditions. Unfortunately, Mother Nature does not usually give us these ideal conditions, so that limits the value of EER.

SEER. The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) tries to overcome some of the shortcomings of the EER. Where the EER only looks at how a cooling system will perform over an hour under ideal conditions, the SEER tries to predict how a cooling system will work over the course of a season. Looking at efficiency over a longer period of time sometimes can give a better picture of efficiency. At the same time, efficiency varies with the conditions. SEER also has some significant shortcomings.

EER and SEER don’t tell the whole story

So why use EER or SEER at all? EER and SEER will never tell you how much a particular cooling unit will cost to operate over an hour or a season. Even so, the measurements give you a way to compare one unit to another. The higher the EER or SEER, the more efficient the unit is, and the less it will cost you to operate.

Condensers can become clogged with leaves and other organic growth. Contaminants like stray garbage and dryer lint can also come into play. Sometimes, people do not consider the position of the dryer exhaust when they place their outside cooling unit. Dryer lint is a good insulator, and can really change a system’s cooling efficiency.

As a condenser becomes dirty, it becomes harder for the cooling system to transfer heat from the refrigerant to the outside air. That leaves more heat in the condenser, which makes the system work harder. It draws more energy, runs longer and doesn’t cool as well.

Efficiency is a big component of the overall cost of cooling. Mathematically, efficiency is simple – power out over power in – but in real life, many variables determine how hard a cooling system has to work. You can’t control things like the outside temperature or humidity, but you can control some things – like how clean your cooling system is.

A dirty system loses efficiency quickly. As the system becomes less efficient, the cost to operate it rises. Changing the filters regularly, having your cooling system professionally inspected and cleaned, and performing regular maintenance can help your cooling system operate at its rated efficiency.

If you would like more information about how to improve the efficiency of your cooling system, please contact us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We can help you maintain your cooling system efficiency, and help you take advantage of its peak efficiency.

Photo Credit: seven twenty five, via Flickr.com

Allergies and Your Air Conditioner

For many people suffering with allergies, their air conditioning units may be the culprit for those hazy sinus’. Often times, homeowners believe that the air filters in our furnaces and air conditioners remove dust and allergens from the air we breath. When in reality, HVAC filters were not designed with that in mind.

HVAC filters were actually designed to keep dust out of the equipment itself and to protect the unit from damage to keep it running effectively. While HVAC filters do help to remove some dust from the air when changed often , they do little to trap the microscopic particles that cause all of that sneezing and wheezing of allergy season.

Those white paper filters that are often purchased for HVAC units are designed to trap large particles of dust  to protect the motor and fans .Other harmful particles like mold, bacteria, and certain types of pollen are so tiny that they slip right through the fibers of those regular filters.

What does that mean for air quality? It means that those allergens get circulated through your ductwork and blown back into your space through traditional HVAC units. There are simple fixes to this common problem, such as allergen filters or more commonly, HEPA filters. These filters have smaller woven fibers to trap smaller particles, however this option cannot guarantee that those particles are not coming into your air space.

Using the right air filters for allergies may help to reduce the allergens in the air, but regular air conditioning maintenance and cleaning is even more important with HEPA filters. If you haven’t had your air conditioning system maintained at least once every year, your system likely has high levels of buildup on the blower fans and in your ductwork.

Each day, the air you breathe is cycled through your HVAC systen 5-7 times. each day? Right now, there could be a year’s worth of dust, pollen and even mold spores are sitting in on your equipment and inside your duct work.

Investing in HVAC maintenance will not only save your equipment, it will create a cleaner, more comfortable environment in your home or office.

 

Cooling without air conditioning

Summer is always a mixed bag. Sunshine is always nice, but the heat can make you downright uncomfortable. Cooling your space not only feels good, it also helps avoid the dangerous consequences of overheating. But what’s the trick to cooling without air conditioning?

3 tips for cooling without air conditioning

Darken your space. A lot of heat that accumulates in the house during the summer comes from solar heat gain. Your space heats up when sun’s full spectrum light shines through your glass windows, UV radiation and all. The objects in your house (carpets, floors, furniture) absorb the UV radiation, then re-radiate it out into the room. If it also happens to be humid, that’s when things will get uncomfortable. The same thing happens in your car, except that your car is a very small, well sealed space compared to your house. The temperature in your car might shoot up 50° F in just a few minutes. The temperature rise in your house won’t be so extreme, but it will still be uncomfortable.

One key to cooling without air conditioning is to limit solar heat gain. Use shades, blinds or drapes on the east, south and west windows in your space. You can also install exterior awnings to limit direct sunlight without blocking out the windows.

Dry out your space. Humidity plays a big role in how you feel during the summer. Air takes on water when it’s dry, but doesn’t like to take on water when it’s already saturated. (The ideal humidity is 50%.) Water, including the water in the air, takes on heat. The more water in the air, the more heat the water can take on. An 80° F day in the summer will feel great when the relative humidity is 50%. Crank the humidity up to 80%, and your 80° F day will make you miserable.

Combine this with the fact that human beings are water-cooled. We sweat to transfer excess heat from our bodies to the air around us. If the air around us is already overly wet, our excess heat is going to stay put.

One key to cooling without air conditioning is to reduce the humidity in the air, so that it’s better able to take on water. That’s kind of what air conditioners do. A whole-house dehumidifier can help keep heavy humidity in check and make your surroundings more comfortable. Portable dehumidifiers usually end up heating up the space around them. Unless you can vent them to the outside, a portable dehumidifier may not be as helpful for cooling purposes.

Swamp cooler, anyone? In Boston, we’re much more likely to be overly humid than overly dry, but you can pull off evaporative cooling without an air conditioner when the humidity is low. A so-called “swamp cooler” can cool the air pretty effectively under the right conditions. With evaporative cooling, you actually add water mist to the air to reduce the temperature and increase the humidity. Both of these will make you more comfortable IF the temperature is high AND the humidity is low. You can fake a swamp cooler by putting a fan in front of a dish of cold water. (You could also put a lightweight damp cloth over the fan.) This will create a mist that will cool you off, and lower the temperature in the vicinity of the fan.

Depending upon your circumstances, you might want to consider a ductless cooling system. Ductless systems are affordable and highly efficient. They’ll also provide heat in the winter!

If you’re tired of trying to beat the heat, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We can provide a range of options that can help keep you cool in the summer!

Photo Credit: Radu B, via FreeImages.com

2016 Heating Equipment Replacement Rebates

MassSave has announced its 2016 Early Heating and Cooling Equipment Replacement rebates! This program provides a rebate incentive to replace WORKING but inefficient residential heating and cooling equipment. Non-working equipment is not eligible for rebates under this program.

To qualify for rebates under this program, a homeowner or landlord must replace a working boiler that is at least 30 years old or a working furnace that is at least 12 years old. Rental properties with up to 4 units qualify for this rebate. Properties with more than 4 units are not eligible to participate.

The rebate program is limited to customers of Berkshire Gas, Blackstone Gas Company, Cape Light Compact, Columbia Gas of MA, Eversource, Liberty Utilities, National Grid and Unitil. Eligible installation dates vary by utility, but most installations must be completed and rebates must be requested by December 31, 2016. Rebates through some utilities expire on October 31, 2016.

The rebate program is not available to customers who want to switch fuel sources. For example, you cannot receive a rebate if you intend to switch from an oil furnace to a natural gas furnace.

Heating oil: Rebates of between $750 and $1,900 are available for the replacement of oil furnaces and boilers, provided the new equipment’s AFUE rating is 86% or higher for furnaces with an ECM blower and forced hot water boilers, and 84% for a steam boiler.

Propane and Natural Gas: Rebates of between $1,000 and $3,500 are available for the replacement of propane or natural gas furnaces and boilers, provided the new equipment’s AFUE rating is 95% or higher for furnaces with an ECM blower, 90% for forced hot water boilers in rental units and owner-occupied single-family residences, and 82% for steam boilers. Fuel source conversions are not eligible.

Electric: Homeowners can take advantage of rebates of between $750 and $1,000 on early replacements for central air conditioners and heat pumps of any age, as long as the replacement central air conditioner is rated with a SEER of at least 16 and an EER of at least 13. Central heat pumps of any age are eligible for a $750 rebate, as long as the replacement heat pump is rated with a SEER of at least 16 and a HSPF of at least 8.5. Central heat pumps of any age are eligible for a $1,000 rebate, as long as the replacement equipment is rated with a SEER of at least 18 and a HSPF of at least 9.6.

If you have older, inefficient but working heating and cooling equipment in your home, the 2016 Early Heating Equipment Replacement rebates offer a great opportunity to replace your system(s) with more efficient ones. You’ll recover the cost of the upgrade more quickly through reduced operating costs, and you’ll be doing your part to help the environment.

If you would like more information about the MassSave Early Heating and Cooling Equipment Rebate program, or would like to schedule a visit, please call us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911.

Photo Credit: Nerijus J., via FreeImages.com

Air Source Heat Pumps Can Save Money

You might be tempted to think about heat pumps as “new” technology. They’re not. The concept of a heat pump was actually described in 1852 by Lord Kelvin, and even that was a refinement of a demonstration of artificial refrigeration – one that took place in 1748! Robert C. Webber developed the idea (and a working prototype) for a ground source heat pump in the late 1940’s, with a little help from his water heater and an accidental encounter with the business end of his freezer. (He burned himself by touching the freezer’s refrigeration line – which was hot!) After re-routing the refrigerant line through his water heater as a test, he built a full-sized heat pump that served his entire home.

There are many different heat pump designs, but they all do the same basic thing – they move heat from one place to another using refrigerants. Although they may have operated on the same basic principles, those basic heat pumps are a far cry from today’s air-source heat pumps. If you have dismissed heat pumps as being too expensive to operate, or not robust enough to make it through a Boston winter, keep reading.

In very basic terms, a heat pump is an air conditioner that operates in reverse, generating heat instead of cool air. A mini-split or ductless system is a reversible system, so it can generate both hot and cold air. When refrigerants are compressed, they heat up. When they’re expanded, they get very cold. By circulating uncompressed (cold) gases, the system can make the refrigerants “absorb” heat. When the system forces the gas to expand, the refrigerant dumps heat.

Early heat pumps used the ground as a heat source, so refrigerant loops were buried in the ground around a house or building. Advances in technology have made air-source heat pumps more efficient and less expensive to install and operate. Today’s heat pumps aren’t like heat pumps that were installed even 10 years ago. New refrigerants are exceptionally efficient because they can compress and decompress much better than older refrigerants. This “supercompression” allows the refrigerants to absorb and transport heat from the air much more readily than ever before.

As an added bonus, air-source heat pumps (think mini-split ductless systems) can operate in both directions. The refrigerant flow is reversible, so when the refrigerant moves in one direction, it delivers heat into a home. Reverse the flow of refrigerant and the refrigerant will absorb heat from the home and dissipate it outdoors.

Air-source heat pumps are electric, so when you install one, your electric bill will rise, but because air source heat pumps are so efficient, the rise in your electric bill will offset the cost of heating your home using another fuel. As an added advantage, you get both heating and cooling in one package without the need to install ductwork – a major source of inefficiency. They’re also incredibly quiet. When they’re operating, the indoor units are acoustically no louder than a whisper.

If you’d like more information about using an air-source heat pump or a ductless mini-split heating and cooling system, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We can schedule a visit and show you how an air-source heat pump can heat and cool your home.

Photo Credit: Stig-Espen Soleng, via FreeImages.com

Angie’s List Recognizes Boston Standard Company again!

We’re pleased to announce that Boston Standard Company has been recognized by Angie’s List with a Super Service Award for the 6th consecutive year! Angie’s List is a members-only organization where subscribers rate and review a wide range of service providers. The top 5% of service providers on the list each year are given a Super Service designation.

As always, we want to thank all of our customers, and especially those who took the time to review us. Your feedback helps your neighbors and friends learn about the good work we’re doing at Boston Standard Company. We wouldn’t receive recognition like this without you. We also want to recognize all of our dedicated employees, who make Boston Standard Company stand out from the crowd every single day.

What makes Boston Standard Company so different? We always put the customer first. As much as we would like it, we know that our customers aren’t calling to invite us over for a cup of tea. They’re usually up to their elbows in something unpleasant when our phone rings! We spring into action immediately – whether you’re having a meltdown in July, or you’re playing hockey in your basement – we’re always ready to help.

We can service most makes and models of heating and cooling equipment, and we’re ready to tackle any plumbing problem you can throw at us. We’re also a great resource when you’re planning your next upgrade, or you want to modernize the equipment in your home.

Call us for a consultation on a replacement boiler, furnace, air conditioner or heat pump. Need a new water heater? We can help with that, too! We can also show you how to save money year-round on your plumbing, heating and cooling by choosing the most efficient models.

We know that replacing a major system in your home is a big decision, often with a big price tag. You want to make sure you get the right equipment for your home and your budget. We’ll help you take advantage of rebates, tax breaks and incentives on your purchases, and we can also help with financing, too!

If you’d like to see Boston Standard Company in action, give us a call at (617) 288-2911. We offer true 24-hour emergency service for those truly memorable moments, and scheduled service for repairs, upgrades and consultations.

Thanks again for all of your great feedback and Happy 2016 from Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating.

CoolSmart Program Changes Head Up 2016

There are some exciting changes to the CoolSmart program for 2016! CoolSmart provides rebates and other assistance to certain utility customers to help them save energy, and lower the cost of replacing older, less efficient HVAC equipment in their homes.

Name change:The first change to the program is a name change. Beginning January 1, 2016, the CoolSmart program will be known as the MassSave Heating & Cooling program. You’ll still get great program benefits in an easy-to-understand program, but the name change reflects the fact that the program offers more than just cooling rebates.

New QIV program requirements: The Quality Installation & Verification (QIV) program is a training certification provided by the CoolSmart program for participating contractors. To take advantage of program rebates, consumers must work with a QIV-certified contractor, like Boston Standard Company. The program requires contractors to attend training sessions to help ensure that new equipment is installed to achieve maximum efficiency. Changes to the QIV program help to ensure that all participating contractors are ready to provide the highest quality installation services, and help customers achieve peak heating and cooling efficiency.

Early AC/Heat Pump Replacement Program: These programs will now be available year-round. This allows consumers to maximize their program rebates and take advantage of off-season discounts on program-eligible heating and cooling equipment. The Early Replacement programs require consumers to retire older, working heating and cooling equipment in order to claim program rebates.

Streamlined forms: Recent, credible research has shown that no one likes to do paperwork, so the MassSave Heating & Cooling programs will be replacing the standard 6-page rebate request forms for Central AC, Heat Pump Water Heater and Mini Split Heat Pump rebates with a simple, 1-page form.
Rebate amounts for 2016: The following rebates will be offered for 2016.

Central AC
16 SEER, 13 EER/$250
Central Heat Pump
16 SEER, 8.5 HSPF/$250
18 SEER, 9.6 HSPF/$500
Mini-Split Heat Pump
18 SEER, 9 HSPF/$250
20 SEER, 11 HSPF/$500
Early AC Replacement
16 SEER, 13 EERm$750
Early Heat Pump Replacement
16 SEER, 8.5 HSPF/$750
18 SEER, 9.6 HSPF/$1,000
Heat Pump Water Heater
< 55 Gallons/$750

If you’d like more information about CoolSmart/MassSave Heating & Cooling Program rebates, the QIV program, or ways you can make your home more efficient and save money at the same time, please call us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 to set up a consultation.

Photo Credit: AAP Deluxe, via FreeImages.com