Roman plumbing wasn't all that

History books make much about the fact that the Romans had plumbing and public toilets, but you might be surprised to learn that Roman cities weren’t really all that sanitary. For all that the Romans did to promote public sanitation – baths, public toilets, sewers, waste removal and running water – these civic improvements didn’t really live up to the promise of a good, old-fashioned public works project. And they certainly didn’t improve the health and well-being of John Q. Publicus.

The Romans had the right idea, but they went about public sanitation in the wrong way, say researchers at the University of Cambridge, who actually spent some good quality time at the bottom of ancient Roman latrines. The evidence they uncovered strongly suggests that Romans had just as many human-unfriendly parasites as less fastidious civilizations that came before and after them.

Researchers found evidence of whipworm, roundworm and amoebic dysentery in about the same concentrations in ancient Rome as they found in earlier Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements. They also found these parasites in similar concentrations in settlements from the Middle Ages, well after the fall of the Roman Empire. Layer on the presence of pests like lice and fleas in ancient Roman baths, and the overall evidence implies that Roman sanitation practices weren’t really effective against some of the most significant health hazards of the time.

Where did the Romans go wrong? While some health issues can be traced to Roman hygiene practices – not changing out bathwater regularly and keeping the water steamy warm – a bigger part of the problem had nothing to do with their sanitation practices, but rather, their agricultural ones. Romans used human excrement as a fertilizer. This isn’t much different than us using cow manure as a fertilizer, but today’s manure fertilizer doesn’t come straight from the source, so to speak. An aging process kills the bacteria in the manure, rendering it safe (and sanitary) for use on food crops. Romans weren’t patient people, it seems. They didn’t age their fertilizer, which allowed disease-causing parasites and parasite eggs to survive and enter the Roman food supply over and over again.

We have a decided advantage over ancient Rome when it comes to understanding germs and germ theory, and we’re better equipped to keep germs and pests out of our homes and public spaces, but the ancient Romans also remind us about the narrow difference between what seems sanitary and what actually is.

PhC Klaus Sandrini, via

Toilet: a luxury or an indispensible?

How much would you pay for a toilet? If you think about toilets for more than about six seconds, you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that, while a toilet is an indispensible fixture in an American home – in fact, you can’t get a Certificate of Occupancy without one – it’s usually the opposite of a “luxury item.” Aside from maybe the sewer connection, the lowly toilet clearly has the worst job in the house.

And yet … there are those folks who will gladly pay as much as $10,000 for a toilet. Not just any toilet, mind you, but a Toto washlet – arguably the Rolls Royce of toilets. What makes the Toto washlet so attractive? Well… it changes the whole experience of using the toilet.

No one questions the ingenuity of Japanese engineering, so it’s so surprise that a Toto washlet comes to us from the Land of the Rising Sun. A washlet is far more than your all-access pass to the sewer. It’s certainly much more than an aesthetic marvel, although it does look beautiful.

If you’ve ever paid attention during the Olympics, you know that every culture has its own take on going to the bathroom. In some cases, it’s a minor shift from what you might be accustomed to. In other cases, the differences are mind blowing. Now, Toto makes a lot of conventional toilets, but the washlet is anything but conventional. From a functional perspective, the Toto washlet is where East meets West.

If you’ve ever visited Europe, you’ve seen a bidet. We don’t do bidets in the US. The people who do use them swear by them, but for the most part, you won’t find a bidet here. Then there’s the washlet. The washlet combines a toilet with a bidet, and adds some serious luxury to the package. Heated toilet seats with adjustable temperature controls. Seats that self-raise and lower. UV light to kill germs. Remote controls. Front and rear wash with adjustable direction and power. Air drying. Automatic deodorizing. 2-person memory settings. A night light. Touchpad operation. Patented glazing to resist soiling, and tinted to match the unit for a decorative touch.

You really don’t need toilet paper.

The mind boggles.

The washlet can actually be purchased separately as a kit upgrade for a standard toilet from any maker, but some washlet kits are designed exclusively for use with Toto toilets. The upgrade kits vary in price, depending upon the fixture features and size. You can also buy a “basic” Toto fixture and washlet upgrade for about $2,500 give or take a bit, again depending upon the model and features you choose.

It’s an understatement to say that the experience of a Toto toilet renders other toilets pedestrian. In fact, many Toto aficionados say that standard toilets are just plain crude.

Toto has gone to great lengths to turn America on to its toilets, but it’s been an uphill battle so far. For many Americans, conversion starts with a trip to Japan or another Asian country, where Toto toilets are standard. Toto will be opening an educational gallery in Manhattan this spring, in the hope that more Americans will see the wisdom in changing their bathroom habits.

If you would like more information about Toto toilets, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911.

Photo Credit: Toto

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