Preparing for the worst from hurricane season

Preparing for the worst from hurricane seasonHurricane season typically runs from June 1 to November 1 each year. Hurricanes can form anytime the conditions are right, but summer and fall are considered “prime time” for superstorms. Although many hurricanes fall to the southeast and through the Gulf of Mexico, New England isn’t immune from them. If a hurricane strikes, what should you do to protect your plumbing?

What to do before a hurricane

Shut off the water! If you evacuate, take a moment to shut off the main water valve to your home. You can also open your taps to help drain the pipes. If the storm damages pipes in your home, you can at least minimize any fresh-water flooding.

Check your sump pump. Your sump pump could save your home from serious flooding. Or not. An electric sump pump can’t bail you out if you lose power. If you have a generator, make sure your sump pump makes the list of must-have services. Some sump pumps can work without electricity. If flooding is a serious concern, or you often lose power during storms, consider installing a non-electric sump pump to keep the water moving.

Clear drains. If you have storm drains on or near your property, make sure they’re clear before the storm hits. The storm will bring a lot of debris along with it, and the drains may clog quickly and often. Starting with a clear drain, however, may help clear some early runoff and lessen flooding around your home.

What to do after a hurricane

Check your sump pump! After a storm, make sure your sump pump is still on duty. If it failed, get it replaced as quickly as possible.

Clear debris from storm drains. Keep storm drains clear on and around your property. This allows water to abate more quickly and lessens the likelihood of post-storm flooding. You may have to clear the drains several times following the storm.

Don’t turn your water on immediately. The storm may not have affected your plumbing directly, but the municipal water supply may have been contaminated. Wait until the water authority gives the all-clear to begin using your taps again.

Have your plumbing inspected. Major storms can cause the ground to shift, uproot trees and damage foundations. The added weight of the water also puts enormous pressure on underground pipes. This can cause severe problems for the plumbing inside and outside of your home. Following a hurricane, have your sewer pipe inspected for cracks, breaks and collapses. Also, look for signs of water leaks outside your home, including sinking ground, persistent puddles, and unusual “soft” spots. Leaks can also cause a loss of water pressure, the sound of running water, and cracks in driveways and foundations. New problems with dampness, mildew and mold growth, and high water bills are also symptoms of plumbing damage.

Look for toilet troubles. Hurricanes can dump a lot of dirt and debris into the sewer system, which can cause plumbing performance problems. If your toilets don’t flush as well as they did pre-storm, your sewer connection could be in trouble. The storm could have damaged the municipal sewers, which can set you up for backups and sanitary sewer overflows. If a sewer inspection of your pipes is clear, notify the municipality of your troubles.

One last piece of hurricane advice

Be patient! Plumbers are in high demand following major storms and hurricanes. It’s common for plumbers to be booked 24/7 in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane. Consider signing up for an emergency services contract. This agreement can ensure that you have preferred access to plumbing, heating, and cooling services around the clock.

Contact us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911 for your plumbing, heating, and cooling needs. We offer emergency service contracts for plumbing, heating, and cooling.

Photo Credit: Adam Pieniazek, via Flickr

Heating, Cooling and Plumbing Product Recalls You Should Know About

Heating, Cooling and Plumbing Product Recalls You Should Know AboutProduct recalls are a fact of life. There are a few residential heating, cooling and plumbing products that currently make the list. Product recalls can be voluntary on the part of the manufacturer. Additionally, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has the power to issue mandatory recalls. Typically, products make this list because they’re defective, mislabeled, or prone to dangerous misbehavior. If you have one of these products in your home, stop using them immediately!

Heating and Cooling recalls

Goodman Packaged Terminal Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps. Goodman Packaged Terminal Air Conditioners (PTAC) are marketed under the Amana brand name. The company recalled these air conditioning and heat pump units due to a fire hazard. The outdoor fan unit can overheat, leading to a fire.

According to the recall notice, affected models include those beginning with EKTC15, EKTH15, PMC15, PMH12, PMH15, PTC15, PTH12, PTH15, UCYB15, and UCYH15. The recall affects only units with the first four digits of the serial numbers in the range between 1001 and 1709.You can find the model number and serial number on a label behind the front cover of the unit. The company reports that there have been nine fires in affected units to date, and one case of smoke inhalation. The company sold the affected units between January 2010 and January 2018.

3.5KW and 5.0KW models of the same product were also recalled in 2013 for defective power cords.

General Electric PTAC and dehumidifier units. General Electric has issued recall notices for several PTAC and dehumidifier units. The recall notices date back to 2011-2016 and affect several products. The recall notices provide specific information for identifying affected products.

E-Heat Envi Wall Heaters. E-Heat issued a product recall for a small number of wall mounted heating units in March 2018. The company sold the affected units between July 2015 and August 2016. The affected units may have defective wiring that can cause the unit to overheat, smoke or melt. If you have an affected unit, the company advises you to stop using it immediately and contact them for repair or replacement instructions.

Water Heater and Boiler Recalls

American Standard Water Heaters. A small number of American Standard GSN and GN model water heaters may have a manufacturing defect that improperly seals the flange between the combustion chamber and the burner. The defect could allow outside air into the combustion chamber and poses a fire hazard. Affected GN model units have serial numbers beginning with: F15 / G15 / H15 / J15 / K15 / L15 / M15 / A16 / B16. Affected GSN model numbers have serial numbers beginning with: E15 / F15 / G15 / H15 / J15 / K15 / L15 / M15 / A16 / B16 .

If you have an affected product, please stop using the water heater immediately. Move all flammable materials away from the water heater and call the company at (888) 883-0788 for further instructions.

US Boiler residential boilers. US Boiler issued a product recall for three specific residential boiler models in 2014. The affected boilers could produce excessive carbon monoxide emissions under certain conditions. No injuries have been reported to date. The affected boiler models begin with ESC, SCG or PVG. If you believe you have an affected boiler, please contact the company for further instructions. The company also advises that you install a working carbon monoxide detector near all sleeping areas in your home.

Thermostat recall

White-Rodgers Thermostats. White-Rodgers recalled about 750,000 thermostats manufactured between 2006 and 2013 under a variety of brand names, including: COMFORTSENTRY, DICO, Emerson, Frigidaire, GemStat, Geocomfort, Hydron, Maytag, Module, Nutone, Partners Choice, Rheem, Ruud, Sears, Tetco, Unico, Water Furnace, Westinghouse, White-Rodgers or Zonefirst. Consumers may have purchased the thermostats from hardware or home improvement stores. Additionally, the thermostats may have been installed by heating and cooling contractors as part of a system replacement or upgrade. Alkaline batteries included with the thermostat could leak and damage the unit, leading to a fire. The company has received seven reports of burn damage to the unit, with no injuries reported.

It’s important to act on product recalls as quickly as possible to protect yourself and your family from injury or loss. If you’d like more information on heating and cooling products, water heaters or boilers, please contact us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to discuss a range of options for your home.

Photo Credit: Goodman

Eco-friendly residential plumbing solutions

Eco-friendly residential plumbing solutionsMore homeowners have made caring for the environment a priority. Growing evidence suggests that what we put down the drain and how we consume water have a noticeable impact on future water quality. Just over a year ago, for example, the federal government banned the use of microbeads in products that get washed down the drain. Microbeads are tiny plastic fragments that used in personal care products like shampoos, lotions, and soaps. Manufacturers also used them in whitening toothpaste products. Microbeads pose an environmental hazard for fish and other aquatic life.

While federal and state governments work to preserve or improve water quality, you can also protect your local water supply. Here are a few ways to incorporate eco-friendly residential plumbing solutions and habits into your daily routine. Besides protecting the environment, these ideas can also help you lower your water bill!

Environmentally friendly drain care


Drain cleaners. To be frank, drains are gross. They typically contain a soup of water, soap, organic materials, and organisms that thrive in your dark, wet drains. Clogs occur when these items combine and prevent water from moving freely through the drain. It’s tempting to pour boiling water down the drain or use a harsh drain cleaner to burn out the clog. Drain cleaners aren’t eco-friendly! In addition to burning out the clog, they kill helpful bacteria and pollute the water. They can also damage your drains, leading to expensive repairs. Worse, they can deliver serious chemical burns if gas in the drain forces the drain cleaner backwards in the pipe.

Eco-friendly drain cleaners like BioClean use enzymes to eat the material that grows in your drains. These enzymes are highly effective at removing clogs, clearing drains, and cleaning up natural organic growth. They don’t damage your pipes and won’t burn you if they contact your skin. They also won’t harm the environment, contaminate the water supply, or reduce water quality. They’re easy to use, too. Simply pour the cleaner into the drain and let it work overnight. In the morning, you’ll have a clog-free drain. You can also clear a drain mechanically, using a plumbing snake or plunger. Be aware, however, that a plunger might simply push the clog further down the line.

Soap. Phosphates, a common ingredient in soaps, can damage the environment and reduce water quality. Look for phosphate-free soaps to ensure that your wastewater doesn’t damage the environment. If you use powdered soap, consider switching to a liquid version. Powdered soaps dissolve easily in water, but they can reconstitute in a rock-hard form deep in your drains. The accumulated hardened residue can cause a nasty, whole-house backup if it closes off your main drain.

Environmentally friendly water fixtures


Reducing your water consumption is probably the best way to save the environment. Here are a few ways to tame a wild water bill.

Laundry. Older top-load washers use about 50 gallons per load. Switch to a water-saving front-loader and reduce your laundry water usage by about 75%. Using less water deals double-damage to the water bill because water usage often determines sewer charges. Your new washer will pay for itself in about two years.

Low-flow shower heads. A low-flow shower head can limit your water usage to 1.75 gallons per minute or less. Some shower heads also come with a button that cuts flow to a trickle while you’re soaping up. Combine a low-flow shower head with a shower timer to maximize your water savings.

Low flow faucets. Kitchen and bathroom faucets that restrict water flow to 1.5 gallons-per-minute can also help you chop down an overgrown water bill. Faucets account for about 15% of your home’s water usage, so they offer another opportunity to save. If new faucets aren’t in the budget, spend a couple of bucks to add an aerator to your existing fixture. These little attachments screw on to the threaded end of your faucet and cut consumption by about half! That’s a pretty good return for pocket-change.

Low-flow toilets. Low-flow toilet technology is constantly evolving, and the latest models offer excellent performance and deliver on savings. You’ll spend more up-front to acquire a low-flow toilet, but you’ll recover your investment each time you pay your water bill!

If you’d like more information about water-saving fixtures or environmentally friendly plumbing products, contact us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to discuss your options and recommend eco-friendly and water-saving products.

Photo Credit: Steven Depolo, via Flickr

Boston Standard Company Wins 2017 Angie’s List Super Service Award

Boston Standard Company Wins 2017 Angie's List Super Service AwardFor the 8th consecutive year, Boston Standard Company has won the Angie’s List Super Service Award. The award is issued annually by Angie’s List, and it is based on verified customer reviews. The award is given only to the top 5% of companies in each category.

We’ve been named a plumbing and heating Super Service Provider in Boston for eight straight years, and we have only our customers to thank for that. We’re grateful that our clients think highly enough of our service to take the time to review our work. By letting others know about their experiences with service providers in a public forum like Angie’s List – positive and negative – they help identify both reputable and disreputable contractors in our field.

Boston deserves great heating, cooling and plumbing services

At Boston Standard Company, we strive to provide the highest quality service to our customers each time we enter their home or business. Our customers don’t usually call us when things are going right. We get the call when the furnace won’t work, a pipe is leaking or a drain is clogged.

We know our customers rely on us to diagnose their problems accurately, and provide a solution that gets them back on track fast. Fixing a problem in your home or business isn’t like fixing a problem with a car. We know that in order to serve you, we need to come into your home, and some people aren’t comfortable with that.

We also know that repairs and installations can be messy. We take the time to protect your belongings and floors from spills, splatters, dirt and debris. Other than the repair itself, we like to “leave no trace” of the time we spend in your home.

We try to be clear and honest in our communications with you regarding your unique situation. Our trained and licensed staff can offer options for immediate repairs, as well as longer-term solutions for your situation, if that’s warranted. We don’t try to scare our customers into making expensive, unnecessary repairs. We also have a range of solutions that can save you money on your long-term heating and cooling costs.

Our focus is always on meeting our customers’ needs. We take the time to train, prepare and equip our technicians to diagnose problems and provide rapid solutions. We also offer 24-hour emergency service plans that give you the emergency plumbing, heating and cooling services you need around the clock.

Once again, thanks to our Boston area customers who took the time to review our work and recommend us on Angie’s List in 2017!

Photo Credit: Angie’s List

Tips for beating the cold temperatures!

Tips for beating the cold temperatures!The most unpleasant part of winter has got to be the ultra-cold temperatures that rush in from the Arctic. If you’re going to do battle with an Alberta Clipper, you’re going to have to be prepared. Here are a few tips for beating the cold, no matter where you are.

Protecting yourself from cold temperatures

The best way to beat the cold is to employ two strategies – one designed to keep yourself warm, and the other to keep your home safe!

Let’s tackle personal comfort, first.

Keep moving. Keeping your body moving is the best way to maintain your personal comfort. Moving regularly will help you avoid the aching joints and muscles that always seem to accompany Arctic air.

Layer your clothes. Keeping your core warm – that is, your head, chest and abdomen – will coax your body into maintaining good blood flow to your extremities. Your body’s first priority is to keep its internal organs warm, so it will naturally reduce blood flow to your extremities if it’s having trouble minding the store. Keeping your core warm with layers of clothes will make it easier to maintain proper circulation throughout your body. Even if it means wearing a jacket, vest, hat or sweater inside, keeping your core warm will benefit your entire body.

Wear wool and down. Wool and down are traditional winter wear, but they have a special property that other materials don’t have. Both wool and down will retain heat even when they’re wet. Other fabrics lose their insulating properties when they come in contact with water. Choose wool and down over other materials – including synthetics – to keep yourself downright toasty.

Ditch your wet clothes. If you have to go outside and your clothes get wet, change them ASAP. Wet clothes offer a double whammy. First, they generally don’t retain heat. Worse than that, the water will freeze before it will evaporate. That puts you at serious risk of developing hypothermia.

Helping your home beat the cold

Now, let’s look at ways to improve the comfort of your personal space.

Use a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats can actually help you save money and heat your home to a comfortable temperature. Regardless of your programmed schedule, leave the heat turned up when temperatures drop to single digits or below zero. At that point, your pipes are at risk of freezing. It costs less to run the furnace than it does to repair your plumbing!

Humidify your home. Dry air will make you feel cold, even when the temperature is 70°F or better. A whole house humidifier attached to your furnace can help keep your home comfortably warm and save you money, too.

Adding humidity to dry air will help the air retain heat better and will make you feel more comfortable. It also reduces the air’s ability to transfer moisture from your body. 50% humidity is ideal. If your home’s humidity is lower than that, you’ll feel cold, even when the thermostat says you shouldn’t.

If you don’ t have a whole house humidifier, leave your bathroom door open while you shower. You can also put shallow dishes of water near the heat ducts and radiators to force more water into the air.

Run your ceiling fans clockwise. Ceiling fans have a switch that allows them to run clockwise or counterclockwise. In the winter, run your ceiling fans clockwise, so they force heat that has risen to the ceiling back toward the floors.

Change your furnace filters regularly. Keeping your furnace filters clean is the best way to maintain your heating system’s efficiency. Clogged filters make the furnace work harder, and causes it to consume more energy. Regular filter maintenance will also improve the air quality in your home.

A special note about pipes

Take care of your pipes. Keep pipes from freezing by keeping the heat on. Open sink cabinet doors to help air circulate around the pipes. If the worst happens, turn the water off as the shutoff. Clean the area around the pipe to remove cobwebs, lint, dust and insulation. These things can all ignite! Use an incandescent bulb or a hairdryer to thaw a frozen pipe. You can also use heat tape. Do not use a torch!

If you have to thaw a pipe, open the tap and work your way back to the frozen section. Pressure from the ice will have weakened the affected pipe. It will need to be replaced, even if it isn’t leaking.

Because water expands when it freezes, ice exerts enormous pressure on a pipe. According to one insurance adjuster, the average cost to repair a frozen pipe and its associated damage is $10,000. The repair process can take weeks or months. Most often, water damage caused by pipes isn’t covered by insurance.

The best way to deal with frozen pipes is to avoid them! If you have pipes on or near an outer wall or crawl space, insulate them. Pipe insulation is inexpensive and is readily available at home improvement stores. Flowing water doesn’t freeze readily You can open the tap and let the water run continuously in a stream about the diameter of a pencil. If the thought of wasting water bothers you, remember that paying a larger water bill is cheaper than repairing the damage from a broken pipe.

At Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating, we’re here to help. If you experience trouble with your plumbing, furnace or boiler, or you’d like more information about adding a humidifier to your home, please give us a call at (617) 288-2911.

Photo Credit: Marcus Jeffrey, via Flickr

Caring for high efficiency boilers

High efficiency boilers – why maintenance can be expensive“High efficiency” is all the rage. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about heating and cooling equipment, furnaces or automobiles. People want to get the most out of what they’re paying for. So why does maintenance for a high efficiency boiler cost so much?

High efficiency boilers need regular maintenance

Marketers use “efficiency” as a synonym for “saving money.” It’s true – you can save money by improving the efficiency of just about any device. Briefly, efficiency is a comparison of what you put into something versus what you get out of it. When you can reduce your input but increase your output, you gain efficiency. On the other hand, when you put a lot in and don’t get much out, your efficiency suffers.

The same is true with boilers. You burn fuel, and you expect to get a certain amount of heat out. High efficiency boilers specialize in producing a lot of heat while consuming less fuel. The trick to maintaining high efficiency is regular maintenance. But regular maintenance can be expensive. Maintenance on a high efficiency boiler can be even more expensive – but why?

Boilers might perform the same service in your home that a furnace or other heating system does, but they’re not the same thing. “High efficiency” generally means that the item – whatever it is – will have a premium price tag. High efficiency furnaces and water heaters, for example, may cost 30%-50% more than a similar piece of equipment that doesn’t sport the “high efficiency” label.

A high efficiency boiler might cost twice as much as a non-HE boiler. You can trace back some of the increased cost to design and manufacturing changes. You can also chalk some of the increased cost up to the limited number of manufacturers of high-efficiency boiler equipment. Scarcity makes the price of anything go up.

High efficiency boilers and the total cost of ownership

The higher price to purchase and install a high efficiency boiler is definitely offset by its operating costs. High efficiency boilers can achieve 85%-95% efficiency during the middle of winter. The boiler returns the vast majority of the fuel to you as heat, and that’s what you want!

The disadvantage is that high efficiency devices require a lot of maintenance. Corrosion affects a high-efficiency boiler in the same way it affects lower-efficiency equipment. The design of the boiler might actually impair the operation of the heat exchanger, resulting in higher maintenance costs. A new boiler may also not play well with other components of your heating system, causing either a reduction in efficiency or increased maintenance costs.

High efficiency boilers also have much higher water flow rates than conventional boilers do. To maintain proper operation, the pump must be sized correctly to meet the boiler’s need for a higher water flow rate.

In addition, regular maintenance for a high efficiency boiler includes changing out the parts that either wear out through use, or that become unsuitable for use when a technician disassembles the combustion chamber.

One way to think about the cost of high-efficiency boilers is in terms of your total cost of ownership (TCO). Boilers have fixed costs – purchase, installation, maintenance – and ongoing costs – the cost of fuel to operate the boiler. Depending upon your fuel source and the efficiency of your boiler, your operating costs could make up the majority of your total annual or lifetime costs. By keeping your operating costs low, you’ll come out ahead.

Your high efficiency boiler could replace your water heater

Another thing to keep in mind is that your boiler can also provide your domestic hot water. If you have a boiler and also a separate water heater, you could potentially save money by having your boiler take over the water heating duties. Eliminating the conventional water heater will reduce your overall utility costs.

If you’d like more information about high efficiency boilers, boiler maintenance or configuring your boiler to provide hot water for your taps, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating at (617) 288-2911.

Photo Credit: Weil McLain

Oil to gas conversion debate rages in winter

Oil to gas conversion debate rages in winterWhen the temperature drops, Boston homeowners who rely on heating oil always ask, “Should I do an oil to gas conversion?” Heating oil is a commodity, so prices can fluctuate significantly during the heating season. To some extent, Boston homeowners can offset price increases by stocking up on heating oil before the heating season gets into full swing.

In some cases, however, homeowners can’t take full advantage of lower heating oil prices when they occur. When prices are relatively low, homeowners may not have sufficient space to store heating oil. They also may not have the extra cash on hand to top off their heating oil supplies.

Right now, heating oil prices are comparatively low, at about $2.70 per gallon. That doesn’t mean that heating oil customers are getting a break, however. In 2016-17, the average cost per gallon of heating oil was about $2.50. According to the experts at the Energy Markets Division (MassDOER), the average Massachusetts natural gas residential customer spent about $730 to heat a home last year. In comparison, the average Massachusetts heating oil customer spent nearly $2,200. With oil prices already above last year’s averages, homeowners that use heating oil can expect to spend more this year to heat their homes.

Can an oil to gas conversion save money?

Is an oil to gas conversion worth the expense? When you can reduce your operating costs by two-thirds, it’s definitely worth considering. Over a five-year period, homeowners could reduce their heating expenditures by more than $7,000. With such a significant reduction in operating costs, an oil to gas conversion quickly pays for itself!

Overall, the price of natural gas has been remarkably stable over the past seven years. The price of other fuel types, including heating oil, propane and electricity, have experienced wide fluctuations. Experts predict continued stability in the cost of natural gas heat. That means homeowners can expect to see stable winter heating costs for the foreseeable future.

In addition to significant cost savings, there are other benefits. First, the cost of heating is spread out over the course of the season. Natural gas is a metered service, so your bill is based on what you use during a particular billing period. Unlike heating oil, you don’t need to come up with a big payment up front. Utilities also offer “budget” plans that amortize the cost of gas consumption over the course of an entire year. A budget plan allows you to equalize your utility payments each month. By itself, that can be a big stabilizer for your annual energy costs.

Even if you don’t want to budget through your utility company, you can still set aside your “average” utility cost each month in a separate savings account. In the summer, you’ll be setting aside more money when your utility bills are low. In the winter, you’ll be drawing on the extra cash you’ve socked away. You’ll get the benefit of stability in your heating and cooling budget, and remain in control of your cash.

An oil to gas conversion offers other benefits

Another benefit to consider is environmental. When you convert to natural gas, you no longer store fuel on your property or in your home. You eliminate the danger of a spill or leak. Oil spills and cleanups are carefully regulated by the State. Cleaning up a leak – even a relatively small one – can be remarkably expensive. Further, heating oil is toxic. Contact with skin and inhalation of vapors can cause serious health issues.

Even if your oil tank is in good condition, other events in and around your home can cause problems for your tank. Broken pipes or excessive rain can cause flooding that compromises the integrity or stability of the tank. Careless refilling and other accidents can cause significant spills. When you do an oil to gas conversion, you eliminate these hazards and make your home healthier and safer.

If your goal is to reduce your home’s carbon footprint, an oil to gas conversion will help you! Heating oil combustion releases about 38% more carbon dioxide into the air than natural gas combustion does. In fact, natural gas combustion releases less carbon into the atmosphere than coal of any type, diesel fuel, heating oil, gasoline or propane.

Most consumers in the Boston area qualify for 0% interest loans to finance energy efficiency upgrades. In addition, some homeowners can qualify for 0% loans of up to $50,000 for large improvement projects that improve weatherization or heating system upgrades.

For more information about an oil to gas conversion, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing at (617) 288-2911.

Photo Credit: Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, via Flickr

Tankless water heaters v. Storage tank water heaters

Tankless water heaters v. Storage tank water heatersIn the United States, most homes have storage tank water heaters. The tank typically stores between 30 and 50 gallons, but you can find larger or smaller tanks, depending on your application. Storage tank water heaters are responsible for about 17% of a home’s annual energy usage. In terms of energy consumption, it’s one of the major players in your home.

For years, statistics showed that heating comprised the majority –more than half – of a home’s annual energy usage. With the move toward high efficiency, heating now consumes about 40% of a home’s annual energy consumption. Appliances, water heaters and air conditioning combined have become the major consumers.

Targeting older appliances and fixtures will help reduce your energy costs, and the water heater is a pretty juicy target. But should you go for a tankless water heater? Can you still save money with a tank?

The pros and cons of tankless water heaters

A tankless water heater provides instant hot water, if you can be a little flexible about your definition of “instant.” Instead of storing pre-heated water for use “on-demand,” a tankless water heater creates hot water only when you need it. Some “tankless” water heaters have a tiny tank that holds a small amount of pre-heated water to minimize the “cold water sandwich.” Many tankless water heaters, however, just heat water when you open a hot water tap. The cold water that remains in the pipe is flushed out and soon enough, you’re getting “endless” hot water.

The rating for a tankless water heater shows the number of gallons per minute the water heater can provide. Higher capacity tankless heaters can supply 9 or more gallons per minute of hot water. That’s clearly enough for a shower – which might only take 2.5 gallons per minute of hot-and-cold water mixed. If your shower routinely competes with a dishwasher, a washing machine or another bathroom, the higher capacity water heater may be needed.

The bottom line on tankless water heaters

If you use less than 40 gallons of hot water per day, you can save money with a tankless water heater, but there are some conditions involved! Tankless water heaters are more expensive to buy than a conventional storage tank water heater is – by about a factor of two. You’ll pay twice as much for a tankless water heater, and the installation costs will be higher. Tankless water heaters require a larger gas (or electric) service, so you may need to do some retrofitting of your existing gas or electricity service to supply a tankless water heater.

The good news is that a tankless water heater will last about two to two-and-a-half times as long as a storage tank water heater. Since they’re wall-mounted, you’ll recover the space that your storage tank water heater currently takes up. Another potential positive – they can be mounted on the outside wall of the home.

In terms of operating costs, a tankless water heater can save you between one-quarter and one-third of what you’d spend on keeping stored water hot. Your savings would depend on how much hot water you use in a day. The more hot water you use daily, the less you’ll save. If your household consumes a lot of hot water every day -60 to 80 gallons – you would reduce your savings to 10%-15%.

The pros and cons of storage tank water heaters

Storage tank water heaters aren’t particularly efficient. The tank loses heat in a number of ways. Combustion losses can reduce your tank’s efficiency by 15% or more. Standby losses – heat escaping through the tank walls – reduces efficiency by 30% or more. Transmission losses – heat escaping through the pipes –may reduce your efficiency by another 10%. By the time your hot water exits a tap, you might get only 40%-50% of what you paid for.

Residential storage tank water heaters have a rated life of between 6 and 12 years. You’ll replace your storage tank water heater twice during the lifetime of a tankless water heater. That gives the tankless heater a cost advantage over a storage tank water heater.

Another negative for storage tank water heaters is that they don’t “fail pretty.” Mineral deposits inside the tank can cause uneven heating, overheating, smelly water and noisy operation. A failing hot water tank can discharge rusty water or leak. Any of these signs indicates an impending tank failure. Don’t ignore them!

On the positive side, a storage tank water heater is the cheapest way to provide a source of heated water in terms of immediate, out-of-pocket costs. 40-gallon storage tank water heaters are widely available, relatively inexpensive and can be installed in a day with limited need to modify an existing gas or electrical service. Your operating costs will be higher and your tank may have a shortened life cycle, but if you need hot water today – a storage tank water heater is still a respectable option.

If you’d like more information about tankless water heaters, storage tank water heaters or other water heating options, please give us a call at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911 and we can help you choose the best option for your home.

Photo Credit: Alan Levine, via Flickr.com

Is A $69 Tune Up A Good Deal?

Is A  Tune Up A Good Deal?One of the sure signs of spring is the “$69 tune up special” for cooling systems. But what is it and what should you consider before taking someone up on this offer?

First, if you’re wondering whether annual central air conditioner maintenance is necessary, it is. A dirty air conditioning unit can lose efficiency quickly – about 15% or more each year you put off maintenance. That’s just from dirt and debris alone. A loss of 15% of operating efficiency will quickly translate into higher electric bills and lower comfort levels in your home. What you “save” by not having your system inspected and cleaned, you’ll lose in the form of higher energy bills.

The real story behind the $69 tune up

So, is a $69 tune up a good price? Strictly from a bottom line perspective, $69 is a great price. (It’s akin to buying a brand new car for $5,000.) But there’s a catch. (There’s always a catch.) Perhaps the deal doesn’t apply to your system, or there’s an extra charge for high-efficiency systems. Maybe it doesn’t include rooftop systems, or it’s limited to certain manufacturers. The $69 special often has an expiration date, and you could end up waiting behind other, higher priority customers for your appointment.

$69 appointments may have limited availability, and you may have to take time from work to accommodate a service appointment. They also include a lot of “inspections” but not much in the way of actual system tuning or maintenance. That’s mainly because the service provider uses the $69 tune up to find opportunities to sell you a more expensive repair. They may not even include something as basic as a filter change, unless you happen to have one on hand.

In most cases, the goal of the “$69 tune up” is to get you to purchase a more expensive service contract for your AC system. The more expensive service contract may cover the maintenance and repairs that will really keep your system operating at peak efficiency – and those will not be included in the $69 special.

One way that some companies pressure you into signing service contracts is to raise the price as the days go by. The longer you wait to sign a service contract, the more expensive your contract will be. So, your $69 special soon turns into an expensive, high-pressure pitch for a much more expensive service contract.

A better approach is to work with an experienced heating and cooling professional that doesn’t simply waste your time and money pointing out what’s wrong with your system. A true precision tune up for your cooling system includes inspections, but it also includes the preventative maintenance that can help you avoid costly and inconvenient breakdowns. When the professionals at Boston Standard Company leave your home, you can be sure that your cooling system is ready to handle the summer heat.

Give us a call at (617) 288-2911 to schedule a Precision Tune up for your cooling system today. Be sure to ask about our $189 special offer.

Photo Credit: Wendy Diedrich, via Flickr

Facial recognition technology foils toilet paper bandits

Facial recognition technology foils toilet paper banditsVisitors to the Temple Haven Park in Beijing are being looked at more closely – by the toilet paper dispensers. The dispensers use facial recognition technology to determine who gets toilet paper and who doesn’t.

Park officials installed the dispensers to curb rampant toilet paper thefts at the popular tourist site. The dispensers, which activate when a person stares into them for three seconds, rip off a precisely two-foot piece of paper. Thanks to the dispenser, a bathroom visitor can only get a new stash of TP once every nine minutes. Need more? Out of luck.

Visitors to the park aren’t particularly pleased with the high-tech TP guardians. Some think that the dispensers are a little too stingy with the paper; others lament the fact that the dispensers are even necessary.

Park officials found that locals, rather than visitors, were making off with the toilet paper in the park’s restrooms. To combat the thefts, they strategized about ways to discourage the bandits. Ultimately, they settled on facial recognition technology because it doesn’t require the user to touch the machine. Other rejected solutions used fingerprint readers and infrared scanners.

The dispensers cost northward of $700 each, but park officials believe that they’ll cut down on paper waste and paper theft. The restrooms at the park are somewhat of an oddity in China; most public restrooms don’t supply toilet paper in the first place. The Temple Haven Park has provided complementary wipes for about 10 years, but was being overwhelmed by the demand.

Some park visitors say that the toilet paper problem exemplifies the impact of poverty on ordinary Chinese citizens. In a country where the “squat toilet” is still the king of the hill, toilet paper is something of a rare commodity. Foreign visitors are advised to carry their own toilet paper when sightseeing, and putting the paper in the bowl when you’re finished is frowned upon. That’s because the plumbing in China often isn’t big enough to accommodate toilet paper.

Visitors who can’t bear the thought of using a public restroom in China are often advised to seek out a local McDonald’s or a western-style hotel, where flush toilets (and presumably free toilet paper) are standard.

Sometimes, even in the good, old US of A, your plumbing may not be up to the task. Objects that weren’t intended to be flushed can clog a pipe. Minerals and other deposits can also reduce water flow in the system. We’re always here to help with the most unpleasant problems that can crop up with your favorite flusher. Give us a call at (617) 288-2911. We don’t provide free toilet paper, but we’ll make sure your toilet is up to whatever you can throw at it!

Photo Credit: Simon Schoeters, via Flickr