Raise A Glass To National Drinking Water Week!

Raise A Glass To National Drinking Water Week!

Raise A Glass To National Drinking Water Week!

The American Water Works Association has designated May 4-10, 2014 as National Drinking Water Week. While we have abundant, clean, fresh drinking water in Boston, concern for continued access to healthy water is on the minds of people throughout the United States. After several years of continuous drought, towns in the southern and western United States are increasingly turning to wastewater recycling to provide an ongoing source of clean, safe drinking water.

In and around Boston, efforts to improve the safety of the area’s drinking water have revolved around separating rainwater from wastewater by eliminating illegal sump pump connections and removing lead contamination from the water delivery system.

Last month, the Massachusetts Water Abatement Trust awarded more than $500 million to Massachusetts communities to help them deal with the cost of repairing, replacing and improving their water delivery and sewer systems. In Revere, for example, homeowners whose sump pumps connect directly to the sewer system can take advantage of the town’s Sump Pump Amnesty Program.

This program allows the homeowners to disconnect illegal sump connections at no cost to the homeowner. After the amnesty program expires, homeowners will be required to pay the full cost of disconnecting illegal sump connections, and may also face fines. To take advantage of the Sump Pump Amnesty Program, Revere residents must notify the City of Revere before December 31, 2015.

Keeping storm water out of the sanitary sewer system is an important strategy for maintaining the sanitary sewer system, and ensuring that storm water influx doesn’t exceed the sewer system capacity. It also helps manage the water treatment process.

Many Boston-area homes have sump pumps that discharge into the sanitary sewer system, but not all towns have a sump pump amnesty program. In this case, homeowners must pay for the cost of fixing illegal sump connections. If you have an illegal sump connection, or suspect that you may, Boston Standard Plumbing can help you create a safe, legal and cost-effective storm water discharge system for your home. By repairing illegal sump connections now, you can increase the value of your home and make your home more attractive to prospective homebuyers.

Lead contamination is another significant problem for some homes in Boston. In most cases, lead pipes have been removed from the municipal water delivery system, but some area homes may still have lead water connections and lead-containing fixtures in the home.

The EPA-recognized safe level of lead in drinking water is 0 ppb, and the only way to truly mitigate the presence of lead in drinking water is to locate the source of the contamination and remove it. Boston Standard Plumbing can help you identify lead water connections in your home, and sources of lead (including solder and lead-containing fixtures) in your home’s plumbing system.

If you have concerns about a potentially illegal sump connection in your home, or lead contamination in your home’s water supply, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to perform an inspection and develop a mitigation plan for your home. Don’t forget to “like” us Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook, and enjoy a cold glass of fresh, clean water during National Drinking Water Week!

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Happy World Plumbing Day 2014!

Happy World Plumbing Day 2014!

Happy World Plumbing Day 2014!

If you’ve never heard of World Plumbing Day, it’s a special day set aside by the World Plumbing Council to draw attention to the important role that plumbing plays in sanitation and health. Currently, about 3 million people each year die from preventable water-related illnesses each year. The majority of deaths occur in children under five years of age.

In the US, we have access to reliably clean, safe and abundant water. Sanitation is the other half of the safe-water equation, and we also enjoy some of the most sanitary living conditions in the world – thanks to our strict plumbing and building codes.

For nearly ten years, global organizations like the World Health Organization have been working to bring clean drinking water and improved sanitation to areas of the world where access to these necessities are limited. We tend to think of water-related sanitation as a third-world problem, but every year, we receive many reminders about the dangers that lurk in our own high-quality water supplies.

Legionnaires Disease was first identified in Philadelphia in the mid-1970’s. It is a form of bacterial pneumonia that thrives in treated water systems like cooling towers, air conditioning systems, evaporative coolers, fountains, spas, humidifiers, icemakers, and hot water tanks.

Although we associate Legionnaires Disease with massive outbreaks, as many as 18,000 cases are documented each year in the United States, mostly among individuals. Aerosolized water in hotels, cruise ships, grocery stores, office buildings and public spaces spreads the bacteria. Aggressive changes to plumbing, heating and cooling codes, and procedures for treating and cleaning water-handling and storage systems now discourage major outbreaks of Legionnaires and other similar water-borne illnesses.

Clean, safe drinking water and high-quality sanitation form the basis of our modern society, but even in 2014 in Massachusetts, we still struggle with removing contaminants like lead from our water. According to the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, as of September 2013, nearly 2% of “high-risk” homes in Massachusetts still contain lead in the water in unacceptable levels.

At Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating, we take the safety of your plumbing seriously. Whether we work on your home heating, cooling or plumbing systems, you can rely on us to keep your water-handling systems clean and safe. If you have any concerns about the safety of your plumbing, heating, cooling or water-handling systems, contact us for help. We can help identify and remove lead-containing fixtures and water lines, the chief source of lead in residential tap water. Call us anytime at (617) 288-2911 and let us help you maintain your major residential heating, cooling and plumbing systems safely.

Visit Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook, and enjoy World Plumbing Day!

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Ventilation Is Important For Heating Equipment

Ventilation Is Important For Heating Equipment

Ventilation Is Important For Heating Equipment

Last week, I discussed the need to keep plumbing ventilation free from obstructions, and what can happen to vents that are blocked, disconnected or improperly installed. This week, I want to focus on proper ventilation for heating equipment. Boston has had an unusual amount of snow this winter, and that can increase the need to provide maintenance for your heating vents.

Home heating equipment is designed to work with ventilation of some type. Most heating fuels create toxic gases as a byproduct of combustion, and these noxious gases are vented safely out of the home through the chimney. Preventing accidental exhaust escape is key to keeping a home and its occupants safe.

High efficiency heating equipment must have both intake and exhaust ventilation ports. These ports must be kept free of debris and must not be obstructed by the buildup of snow, ice, or stored objects. Reducing the airflow into and away from the heating unit can cause operating problems, decreased efficiency, unexpected equipment shutdowns, and improper venting of exhaust gases back into the living space.

Keep all heating vents clear of obstructions at all times. Maintain a 3′ clear, unobstructed space around any heating vents that exit the sidewall of your home. During heavy snowfalls, make sure that the vents are open and unobstructed. This may involve clearing away snow and ice that could be accumulating around the vent pipes. If you find that you are often required to clear accumulating snow and ice away from your heating intake and exhaust ports, you may want to consider moving the ports to a more sheltered location, or venting your heating equipment through the roof of your home.

One special note about chimneys: chimneys are generally designed to reduce or eliminate the possibility of obstruction by organic materials and debris that might otherwise enter the opening at the top of the chimney. Chimneys can become blocked or obstructed over time by the build-up of ash, creosote and other physical by-products of combustion. They can also be obstructed by the deterioration of the chimney itself. If your heating equipment vents out of the chimney, have your chimney inspected periodically for signs of deterioration, and correct any problems you find.

If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove that you use for supplemental heat, pay special attention to your chimney(s). Creosote, which is a product of the incomplete combustion of wood or coal, can accumulate inside a chimney over time. The accumulation of creosote in the chimney reduces the chimney’s ability to draft air upward. This, in turn, reduces the overall amount of air available to the wood/fuel, which lowers the temperature of the fire and promotes the production of creosote. Over time, it creates the conditions that lead to chimney fires. Before each heating season, have your fireplace or wood-burning stove inspected. Check the flue for proper operation, and monitor the build up of creosote.

Replacing older, low-efficiency heating equipment with high-efficiency models can reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental heat, and can make your home safer during the winter heating season.

For more information about high-efficiency home heating equipment, rebates, special financing programs and tax credits that you may be able to take advantage of, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to assess your current heating equipment and show you how you can save money on your winter heating bills.

Visit Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook!

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Boston Braces For Hurricane Sandy

Boston Braces For Hurricane Sandy

Boston Braces For Hurricane Sandy

If you’re a homeowner in Boston, you should be making preparations for Hurricane Sandy. While the central portion of the hurricane is expected to make landfall in New Jersey, residents will experience significant wind and flooding in Boston as a result. Compounding the problem is a large cold front that’s traveling southward from Canada, which is expected to meet the remnants of Sandy as it moves inland.

The National Weather Service is predicting between 1 to 2 inches of rain. Flooding is expected throughout Boston, and additional water may come ashore during high tide later in the evening. Residents should verify that sump pumps and emergency generators are in good working order.

It seems like obvious advice, but homeowners should ensure that their sump pumps are connected to an electrical circuit that will be supported by their generator. This will help ensure that low-lying water can be pumped out if electrical services fail as can be anticipated during a storm of this magnitude.

Additionally, residents should stockpile clean bottled water for drinking, cooking and sanitary uses. Residents should have enough water to last 2-4 days. Municipal fresh water systems, as well as sewage systems may be overwhelmed by storm water during this event, and sewage backups may be unavoidable.

Outside of your home, make sure that all storm water drains are clear of autumn leaves and debris. This will help clear water runoff during the worst part of the storm. If time permits, homeowners should also verify that their downspouts and gutters are clear of leaves and other organic debris to allow more water to drain away from their home’s foundation. Downspout extensions can also help direct water away from the home and reduce the chance of flooding and other water damage related to the storm.

Officials are predicting that Sandy may leave millions without power for 2-4 days following the storm, and emergency power crews from around the country have already assembled in the area to assist with power restoration efforts. Boston residents should avoid driving during the storm, as flooding and flash flooding can occur, especially in areas where the ground is already saturated with water.

If you experience a plumbing emergency during the storm, please contact Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We can help repair or replace damaged or non-working sump pumps, and help clear clogged drains, sewer lines and help assess other types of water damage.

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Dry Wells Can Help Flooding in Boston

Dry Wells Can Help Flooding in Boston

Dry Wells Can Help Flooding in Boston

Boston has been urbanized for a very long time, and along with urbanization comes a growing problem: storm water flooding. In Boston, the Back Bay area was also filled in for development in the late 1800’s. More than 100 years later, the shrinking water table in Boston has created some issues with the stability of the fill and the buildings that rest on top of that.

On natural land, rainwater is reabsorbed into the ground where it is filtered through the soil and eventually returned to the underground water reservoirs. In the city, buildings and driveways, roads and other structures cover much of the surface and interrupt the natural recharging process that would otherwise keep the water table at a relatively constant height.

To accommodate the loss of natural land, cities like Boston have extensive storm sewer systems that aggregate storm run-off and discharge it back to rivers, lakes and reservoirs. While it’s good to get water off the streets, storm drains don’t provide an ideal solution. By redirecting water to lakes and rivers, the water levels in rivers and lakes tend to rise, sometimes beyond what the waterway would normally hold. At the same time, storm sewers reduce the water table in urbanized areas.

Reduction of the local water table has been particularly bad for areas like the Back Bay, which was constructed on landfill. Untreated wood pilings that support buildings in this area and were supposed to be submerged under water are now exposed because the water table has fallen. This exposure has made the pilings more susceptible to decay and has compromised the stability of these buildings.

Each permanent structure in the city reduces the amount of land that is available to reabsorb rainwater, and places additional strain on the remaining natural land. Municipalities and homeowners alike are now looking for ways to recharge the local water table by returning storm water runoff to the ground in highly urbanized areas.

One way to accomplish this is through the use of a dry well. Dry wells have been used in Boston for a long time to help reduce storm water flooding. A dry well is a special structure that is designed to collect run-off and return it to the ground, primarily through infiltration.

A dry well consists of a pit that is filled with gravel or other coarse material. Runoff from building roofs is directed into the dry well where the water is returned to the surrounding soil through perforated pipes. Dry wells are designed to distribute any overflow that might occur following a significant storm or melt. Dry wells can be custom-engineered on site or can be made from pre-fabricated components that can safely discharge 25 gallons or more of water at one time.

A dry well must be constructed deep enough to avoid freezing in the winter, but not so deep that it sits below the local water table and ends up acting as a groundwater reservoir instead. Dry wells are constructed completely underground so they do not significantly alter the visible landscape of a property. Properly maintained dry wells can last between 30 and 100 years!

The location and construction of dry wells is exceptionally important because an improperly constructed dry well can cause damage to foundations or flooding in areas adjacent to the dry well. Certain areas are not good for dry well construction, including land where clay and other non-porous soils are prevalent.

If you would like more information about installing a dry well for your home, or you have a dry well that is in need of maintenance or rebuilding, please contact Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 to schedule a consultation.

In the right circumstances, dry wells in Boston can make a significant difference in the long-term health, well-being and value of your home. They can also help preserve the local water table and provide an ideal solution for controlling rainwater runoff.

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Plan Ahead To Control Boston Home Flooding

Plan Ahead To Control Home Flooding

Plan Ahead To Control Home Flooding

It’s hard to think about flooding during the driest part of a Boston summer, but this is actually a great time to protect your home against water damage. Water damage from flooding can occur with little warning, and can be the result of severe storms or plumbing problems within your home. Regardless of the water source, you can take steps to avoid home flooding.

If you have a sump pump in your home, proper maintenance can help ensure that your sump works when you need it to. Sumps come in a variety of designs. Some are designed to sit submerged in a sump well, while others sit on a pedestal above the water line, or to the side of the sump well. Submersible sumps are more expensive, but they’re sealed so they require less maintenance and may even last longer.

Regardless of your pump design, check the inlet valve to make sure that no debris has accumulated at the bottom of the well. Get rid of any debris (dirt, pet hair, lint, etc) that could reduce the flow of water into the pump. If your sump pump has a float-arm actuator, check it to ensure that it turns on properly. Do this by lifting the float arm until the pump turns on. Don’t do this with your bare hands. Use a stick or a scrap piece of wood to lift the float-arm. You can adjust the sensitivity of the sump pump by adjusting the float arm.

Consider installing a water alarm that will sound when the water level in the sump well gets too high. You can also use water alarms to detect leaks in other parts of your plumbing system, or in hidden water lines that feed appliances. These alarms can let you know of a problem immediately so you can limit the damage to walls, floors, cabinets and your personal possessions.

Keep in mind that your main sump pump probably runs on electricity, and won’t work when your power goes out. In other words, a severe storm could leave you without your sump pump just when you need it the most. If your home is susceptible to flooding, consider installing a backup sump pump. Backup systems operate when the primary pump fails and may operate on battery power.

Another popular “unpowered” design uses pressurized clean, flowing water from your municipal supply to create a strong suction in the sump well. The suction draws water up from the well and into a drain. When the water level in the sump well drops sufficiently, a special valve turns the supply line off and breaks the suction.

If you need assistance with installing or maintaining a sump pump, or you would like to install a backup sump pump or water alarms, we’re happy to lend a hand. Contact Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 and we’ll be happy to schedule a visit.

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Dealing With Boston Plumbing Emergencies

Dealing With Boston Plumbing Emergencies

Dealing With Boston Plumbing Emergencies

Last week, I talked about dealing with fresh-water Boston plumbing emergencies. This week, I’ll talk about “dirty” emergencies that can happen when something bad happens to a drain pipe.

Fresh water is only one source of potential problems with plumbing in your home. Your drains – which don’t have shutoffs – can create some nasty messes. For regular drain maintenance, use a product like Bio-Clean. This will remove the naturally occurring bacterial growth and by-products that accumulate in your drain and cause clogs and slowdowns. Keeping your drains clean can prolong their useful lives.

Inspect your drainpipes regularly. Look for signs of corrosion and leaking. Corrosion might look like rust depending upon what the pipe is made of. It might also look like a mineralized build-up around joints or couplings. Check the floors and walls around your sinks, tubs, toilets and other fixtures for signs of water damage. Look for discolorations, water stains, softness in flooring or walls, bad odors, standing water, calcification, mold or mildew accumulation, changing colors around pipes and joints and other signs that something may be amiss. If you have a slow drain and treatment does not seem to help, this is also a sign that the interior of the drainpipe may be compromised by corrosion.

If you find corrosion somewhere in your pipes or drains, respond immediately. Pipes rarely wait for a convenient time to break down, so you can avoid more serious repairs by replacing portions of the system that are corroded or fatigued. How you handle a plumbing emergency at the time you discover it really controls the kind of damage that is done and the repairs that may be needed to correct the problem. When you call in a professional plumber, repairs must be “done to code” and the fear of added expense may be why homeowners (and landlords) are reluctant to seek professional assistance.

If the job seems bigger than you thought or you don’t know how to proceed, give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 and we’ll be happy to evaluate your situation, help you avoid a disaster, or rebuild a pipe that has gone bad.

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Grey Water Recycling In Boston Can Save Money

Grey Water Recycling In Boston Can Save Money

Grey Water Recycling In Boston Can Save Money

The average American uses between 80-100 gallons of fresh water each day. For those of us who live in water-rich areas, we may not think much of our water consumption. For those who live in water-poor areas, grey water is taking on a new significance. Grey is the new green, which means you don’t have to live in a water-poor area to consider grey water as a potential source of savings. You can take advantage of grey water recycling systems in Boston to reduce water consumption and water bills, and improve the environment at the same time.

What is grey water? Grey water is any water that’s not fit for drinking, but that’s not contaminated with biological waste materials either. For example, waste water from your laundry system is considered grey water. Collected rainwater is also considered grey water because it hasn’t been purified for drinking.

Normally, grey water (so named because it tends to be cloudy) is washed down the drain and flows into the sewer. While grey water isn’t very appealing for drinking and cooking, it still has some marginal value for non-drinking applications like flushing toilets and watering lawns.

Some systems on the market today allow the homeowner to “recapture” grey water and recycle it for use in toilets. Why does grey water make a good use for this? If you look at how water is consumed in the average American home, you’ll immediately see why there’s benefit to separating potable from non-potable water.

All water that’s delivered to your home from the municipal water supply is potable. That means it’s safe to drink and use in cooking. Certain other water-consuming tasks require clean, potable water – like washing dishes. You probably want clean water to wash your clothes, too, and certain heating systems – like boilers – require clean water.

About 70% of the water you consume on a daily basis is required to be clean. This includes water for showering, drinking, cooking, washing and heating. The other 30 percent doesn’t need to be pristine to accomplish what you’re aiming for. This includes flushing toilets, washing your car, and watering your lawn. About 25% of the water you use each day comes from flushing the toilet. There’s no requirement that toilet water be potable, yet we use potable water to supply our toilets because that’s the only kind of water that comes from the municipal water supply.Likewise, when we water our lawns and wash our cars, we’re throwing drinking water on the ground.

If we can recapture some of the “grey water” – from showers, laundry, car washing, hand-washing, etc.) we can use this non-potable water to reduce our fresh water consumption significantly. We can also capture rainwater that runs off the roof of our homes for later, controlled use in the garden and on our lawns.

The benefits of grey water recycling are tremendous. First, you can get two or more uses out of water before it gets returned for purification. You can also cut down on your water bill by using rainwater (which is free) and grey water for functions that don’t require high quality water. By limiting your consumption of the highest quality water, you can help ensure that the clean water supply is both sustainable and cost effective as the population changes.

If you would like more information about grey water recycling in Boston, please contact Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to show you how you can put grey water recycling to work in your home.

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Maintaining Sump Pumps in Boston

Maintaining Sump Pumps in Boston

Maintaining Sump Pumps in Boston

Depending upon the design of your home, you may have a sump pump. A sump pump is designed to remove water from the basement of your home and usually resides in a sump well, a covered hole in the basement floor. Maintaining sump pumps in Boston depends upon how often the pump is used, what it is used for, and the pump’s design.

Commonly, a sump pump will have one of four basic designs: floor suckers, pedestal, underwater and water-powered. Floor sucker pumps are meant for use in areas where water may accumulate on an irregular basis – such as basement and crawlspace flooding after a severe rain. Floor suckers remove standing water to within 1/8″ of the floor surface and drain it to the outside, or down a drain. The great advantage of a floor sucker is that it removes water quickly. These types of sump pumps can be invaluable when attempting to mitigate a flooding disaster. They are not, however, meant for regular use.

If your basement or crawlspace has the regular potential to accumulate standing water, a permanent sump pump is installed. Sometimes, homes are built into a hill or low spot in the terrain. In this circumstance, a sump pump can assist in the removal of wastewater when a home’s main drain is at or near grade.

A pedestal sump pump sits above the water line in a sump well and is activated when the water level reaches a certain height. The pedestal sump pump is not designed to get wet. Pedestal sump designs are common. They are less expensive and more efficient than other sump designs, but they are generally noisier.

An underwater sump pump is submerged in the sump well and relies on optical sensors at the normal water level to activate the pump when additional water is detected. Submersible sump pumps are more expensive than pedestal pumps, and require more maintenance. A submersible sump pump should be cleaned three or four times per year, and the pump should be inspected annually for signs of leakage or wear.

A water-powered sump pump is never used alone. Instead, it is used as a backup for a conventional sump pump. A water-powered sump pump would be too inefficient for regular use, but in a pinch, a water-powered sump can mean the difference between a dry basement and an insurance claim. The water-powered sump pump uses your home’s clean water supply to create a significant drop in water pressure, which in turn creates a vacuum. The change in pressure draws the water out of the well (like a straw) and sends it out of the house through a drain or hose. A water-powered sump pump is an excellent protective measure if your home (either through poor design or location) has a high potential to flood.

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating can assist you with sump pump maintenance, repair and replacement. We can also add a water-powered sump pump to your home to give you added protection against accidental flooding. Contact us today at (617) 288-2911 for more information.

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Sump Pump Maintenance

Welcome to spring- and welcome to another lovely rainy day! The front page of Boston.com is running a story on basement flooding, and we just returned from a flooded basement call in Cambridge from a broken sump pump, so it’s time for an update…

So, can you remember where the sump pump even is? Oh dear. Locate your pump and get yourself a garden hose, and run it over to the pump. Is the pump plugged in (you’d be surprised how many are mysteriously unplugged)? After you ensure that it is plugged in, run some water into the pit; 5 minutes may do the trick, but don’t sweat it if it takes longer…

Sump pumps use a “float” mechanism to trigger the pump. If the water in the pit isn’t high enough to hit the switch, it won’t do a thing. Once the pump begins to run, search for leaks in the pipework, and check the discharge outside your home.

Is there debris in the sump pit? People often knock things into the pit which cause premature pump failure. Customers ask “how long should a sump pump last?”. It has to do with how you treat your pump, and how clean you keep the sump enclosure. If you’ve got the knack, unplug the sump pump & remove any debris that you can from the pit. Sand at the bottom is no good.

If your sump pump is firing right up- good for you! It’s a pleasure to know you’re protected from floods. If your pump won’t turn on or doesn’t work too well, give Boston Standard a call. We install quality pump units that stay protected from dirt & debris, and our work is guaranteed. We also offer a unique battery back-up system that can protect you for up to 24 hours in the event of a pump failure. We also keep sump pumps right on the truck.