Chimney liners – What you need to know

Chimney liners – What you need to knowIf you’re planning to install a high-efficiency furnace, one likely item on your to-do list will be to line your chimney. Chimney liners aren’t just a good idea – they’re required to help maintain the proper performance of your chimney.

Gas-fired appliances need to vent to the outside to avoid a build-up of carbon monoxide. In the past, gas furnaces and water heaters used the home’s chimney to provide adequate ventilation. Newer, high efficiency furnaces may vent out the side of the home’s foundation rather than up the chimney. If they use the chimney for ventilation, the chimney as built may be too big to work properly with a newer gas furnace.

If you plan to vent any appliances through the chimney, a chimney liner may be in order. There are three good reasons to line an existing chimney. First, unlined chimneys actually constitute a serious fire hazard. Studies have shown that heat moves through (not up) an unlined chimney rapidly. This means the chimney can transfer heat from the masonry to adjacent woodwork inside the home. In National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) tests, an unlined chimney caused adjacent woodwork to ignite in less than 3.5 hours! In fact, the standards folks at NIST called unlined chimneys “little less than criminal.” Those are some pretty harsh words, but they can give you a lot to think about. If your chimney is unlined (which would be common for an older home), you may want to invest in a chimney liner even if you don’t intend to replace the appliances that use your chimney.

The second reason to line a chimney is to protect it from your appliances. Combustion is a messy process. It can leave behind some caustic by-products that won’t do your chimney any favors. Over time, these caustic chemicals can eat away at the brick, as well as the mortar that holds your chimney together. Which brings us right back to Reason #1 to line your chimney. If the mortar inside your chimney deteriorates, the chimney will become even better at transferring heat to the surrounding structures. This naturally increases the risk of fire. A liner can both slow and reduce the transfer of heat to nearby structures, decreasing the risk of fire.

The third reason to line your chimney is to ensure that it drafts properly. A chimney is like a big straw that draws exhaust gas from your home. It also drafts air into your home, which your gas-fired appliances need. Big chimneys don’t draft well. A chimney that’s exceptionally large might draft either ineffectively or perhaps not at all. That could cause carbon monoxide to build up in your home. A chimney liner can help size your chimney properly for your appliances and help ensure that your home and appliances are vented properly.

Most chimney liners are made from one of three materials: clay, metal or resin. Clay tiles are the most common type of chimney liner. While they’re the least expensive way to line a chimney, they may not perform well in adverse conditions. (“Adverse conditions” = chimney fire.) They also might not work well with new, high-efficiency gas fired equipment.

Metal liners are usually made from stainless steel or aluminum. Aluminum liners don’t perform as well as stainless steel liners do. In fact, they’re not recommended for high-efficiency applications. Stainless steel performs very well, but it can be expensive. Finally, you can choose a custom-fit resin liner for your chimney. A resin liner is “built in place” and form fits to your chimney. It is lightweight, resist etching and reduce heat transfer. They can also help improve the structural integrity of your existing chimney. Resin liners are permanent and they work well with all fuel types.

An alternative to lining your chimney is to vent your furnace, water heater, boiler and other appliances directly through the foundation wall of your home. This strategy will enable you to abandon your chimney altogether. You can leave an abandoned chimney in place, provided that you cap the holes previously used by your equipment. You may also want to cap the chimney at the top to prevent water, animals and other undesirables from entering the chimney. Before you abandon your chimney, you may want to have it inspected by a professional. If your chimney is in dangerous condition, it may be worth your while to either stabilize it or deconstruct it altogether.

While we don’t do chimney lining, we can recommend chimney professionals as part of a heating or water heater replacement project. Give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to set up a consultation!

Photo Credit: Ben Freeman, via

Trick or Treat: Exploding toilets are neither!

Trick or Treat: Exploding toilets are neither!Just in time for Halloween, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has a scary story about exploding toilets! Nothing good happens when the words “toilet” and “explosion” find themselves in the same sentence. This is no exception.

Certain (mostly) commercial toilets that use a pressure-assisted flush unit are at risk of explosion. The Sloan Series 501-B Flushmate II pressure assisted flushing system could rupture, causing damage to the toilet and user injury. Sloan, the manufacturer, recalled a similar device – The Series 503 Flushmate III – in 2012, 2014 and 2016.

Flushmate II products manufactured from Sept. 3, 1996 to Dec. 7, 2013 are on the CPSC’s no-flush list. The manufacturer says it has received notice of nearly 1,500 incidents of the device bursting while in use. 23 people have sustained largely non-serious injuries, although one person required surgery on their foot. In addition to the recall of US units, the company is also recalling Canadian units for the same issue.

The failure occurs at the time of flushing. A weld seam can burst while the unit is at full pressure. This can cause the tank lid to lift, dislodge and shatter. Consumers have reported both impact and shatter injuries related to the failure.

Consumers may have purchased the affected units between 1996 and 2015 at Home Depot, Lowe’s, online or through national retailers. The units were also pre-installed in toilets made by American Standard, Corona, Crane, Kohler and Mansfield.

In the meantime, don’t use a toilet equipped with an affected system. Read the complete Flushmate II recall notice, and contact the manufacturer for a replacement.

Seriously, there’s (probably) no reason to be afraid of your toilet. If it bothers you though, call us at Boston Standard Plumbing at (617) 288-2911. We service all commercial and residential toilets.

Even ones that explode.

Happy Halloween!

Photo Credit: Phil Kalina, via Flickr

There’s still time for fall furnace maintenance

There's still time for fall furnace maintenanceIf you heat your home with a gas forced-air furnace, now is an excellent time to complete your fall furnace maintenance. The temperatures have dropped a bit, but preventative maintenance always beats repairs, right?

A heating and cooling professional can evaluate, clean and maintain your furnace to ensure trouble-free operation throughout the heating season. If you have a high efficiency furnace, this annual check-up is especially important. Regular use can wear (and damage) your furnace’s heat exchanger. A broken heat exchanger can allow poisonous carbon monoxide gas into your home. Carbon monoxide gas is a colorless, odorless gas that can sicken and kill you and your family.

Routine maintenance by a trained heating and cooling professional can spot potential problems before they harm you or your family. The heat exchanger isn’t the only cause for concern in your furnace. Other important components include the blower motor, the thermostat, the ducts and vents, and your fan. Any of these components can reduce the efficiency of your system, or cause a breakdown.

In addition to inspections, routine maintenance includes cleaning your heating system, which enables your furnace to work more efficiently. Regular removal of dust, ash and debris that accumulates through normal operation can actually save you money all winter long!

Regular maintenance also includes evaluating the electrical connections, the controls, belts and other moving parts of your furnace. These parts can deteriorate quietly, leaving you with a surprise mid-winter repair.

One kind of regular maintenance you can perform is changing the furnace filter. Regular filter replacement can improve the efficiency of your system and save operational dollars. You can purchase disposable filters at any home improvement store. Look at your existing filter or consult the owner’s manual to find the right size for your furnace.

Routine furnace maintenance: furnace filters

A couple of notes about furnace filters: too much of a good thing can be … well, too much. Furnace filters have a MERV rating – Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. The higher a filter’s MERV rating, the smaller the particle it will trap. On the surface, having the filter trap as many minute particles as possible sounds good, right? Except that it might not be. Having such a restrictive filter in your air handling system can reduce air flow excessively. Essentially, you’re putting a pre-clogged filter into your furnace.

An overly restrictive filter can actually damage your furnace by making it work harder to pull air through the system. You can find MERV 16 filters, but do you want them? A MERV 16 filter will trap 95% of smoke, sneeze and bacteria particles. The LEED standard (for building efficiency) recommends a minimum of 8 MERV. The US Department of Energy recommends a MERV rating of no more than 13. Unless your furnace manufacturer recommends a higher MERV-rated filter, do not exceed the DOE recommendations.

Second, you can find “vent” filters for your cold air returns. Vent filters can prevent larger particles (including dust, pollen, carpet fibers and pet hair) from getting into the duct work. Vent filters don’t seriously restrict air flow, but they can prevent larger debris from getting into your furnace. Like furnace filters, you would need to replace vent filters every 30-90 days.

Finally, most filter manufacturers recommend changing your furnace filter every 90 days or less. Inspect your furnace filter monthly and change it when necessary. Don’t allow a filter to sit in your furnace for more than 90 days.

Schedule your fall furnace maintenance now!

Call us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 to schedule your fall furnace maintenance. We’ll be happy to help you keep your furnace in excellent condition all winter long!

Photo Credit: Mike Gifford, via Flickr

How well do you know your kitchen sink?

How well do you know your kitchen sink?You probably spend more time at your kitchen sink than you spend thinking about your kitchen sink. The kitchen sink is a hub of activity and a vital part of any household. It can also be a hub of unpleasant activity that can cause problems in your happy home. Today, we’re going to take a few minutes to look at your kitchen sink and how to care for it.

Your kitchen sink is most likely mounted to a countertop. Most kitchen sinks are made from stainless steel, porcelain-coated cast iron, resins, acrylic, copper or some kind of stone (or stone composites) like quartz, granite, or marble. The durability of the material is important because sinks can be bacterial reservoirs. The less durable the material, the more often you’ll need to replace your sink to avoid problems that bacterial growth can cause.

Underneath your sink is the sink drain. A sink drain consists of the pipe that run from the drain hole that’s visible in the sink to the main drain in the house. Directly under the sink, you’ll also see a p-trap – a curved piece of pipe. The p-trap is an essential element of any drain. The p-trap retains a bit of water, which forms a seal. This seal prevents gases from further down the drain from escaping into the house. The plumbing code requires p-traps in drain lines. If your sink doesn’t have a p-trap, or your p-trap is damaged, you’re going to encounter some really unpleasant smells.

Many kitchen sinks also feature a garbage disposal. A dishwasher may also be integrated into the garbage disposal or sink drain. No one disputes the utility of either a garbage disposal or a dishwasher, but they can also be a source of problems for your kitchen sink and drain.

Kitchen sink do’s

Do clean your sink regularly. Cleaning the sink surface can help reduce bacteria and odors, remove food particles and prevent staining. If you stack dirty dishes in the sink, clean the sink after washing the dishes. Also clean the sink if unprepared foods – raw meat, eggs, etc., come into contact with it. Sanitize the surface with bleach to kill bacteria and remove stains.

Do use the right cleaning products on your sink. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for caring for your sink, based on the materials it’s made from. Surface scratches can eventually lead to a breakdown of the sink surface. This can promote rust and surface cracks, or encourage staining.

Do look for leaks. Your faucet can leak, sending a stream of clean water into the sink. Your drain can also leak. Unlike the faucet, the drain leaks dirty, potentially hazardous water. Drain leaks can be sneaky, so periodically check the drain for leaks. Signs include scale build-up, obvious water accumulations or water stains, and mold or mildew growth under the sink. Drains can leak if the sink mounting flange is not set well, or the plumber’s putty underneath it is deteriorating. Couplings around the drain stem and p-trap can also deteriorate or loosen.

Periodically, check the drain couplings. Especially if you have a dishwasher or garbage disposal, make sure your drain couplings are tight. Vibrations from these machines can loosen the joints in your drains and cause leaks – or worse – a cruddy flood.

Do check the water shut-off valves periodically. Local shut-off valves are notoriously cheap. Check your valves periodically to make sure they can still shut off the water. If the valve shut-off spins continuously, replace it.

Do use cold water in the disposal. Hot water just allows grease to congeal farther down the drainpipe.

Kitchen sink don’ts

Don’t put grease down the drain.

Grease hardens when it cools and it makes a pretty effective stopper. Unfortunately, a grease plug usually doesn’t form in a convenient, easy-to-reach place. And unless you throw a bunch of grease down the drain at once, a grease plug forms slowly over time. To dispose of grease, pour it into a tin can and freeze or refrigerate it until it hardens. Then toss it out. You could also pour the grease into a plastic bottle or jar with a lid and trash it.

Choose what you dispose of carefully. If you have a garbage disposal, don’t put coffee grounds down the drain. Coffee grounds combine with other things in your drain (like grease), and turn into an impossibly hard substance. Also on the no-fly list: eggshells. Same problem; same result. In fact, avoid putting fats, oils, stringy vegetables, potato peels, pasta, rice, beans and non-food items down the disposal. Pasta, rice and beans all swell in water, so they take up a lot more room in the drain. If they collect in a place that’s normally wet, (even in their ground-up state), the diameter of your drain pipe will shrink.

Don’t use chemical drain cleaners in the kitchen sink. Chemical drain cleaners are really hard on your pipes. They’re also dangerous to you! To keep your drain clean and clear, you can put a cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar down the drain. Let it sit for a few minutes and then wash it down the drain with hot water. You can also use an enzymatic drain cleaner to clear out the kitchen drain.

Don’t ignore drips and leaks. Even a small leak can do a lot of water damage.

If you have a household plumbing problem you’d like us to take care of for you, contact us at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to return your sinks and drains to good working order!

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Heating options for your home

Heating options for your homeThe change of season provides a good opportunity to think about how you heat your home. About half of the homes in Massachusetts use natural gas heat. This is part of a 50-year trend away from using heating oil as a primary fuel source. If you’re thinking about replacing your current heating system, there are a few things to consider.

Your overall heating and cooling objectives.

Do you simply want to update your existing heating and cooling system? Are you trying to reduce your energy consumption? Change your carbon footprint? Switch from one fuel type to another? Add air conditioning? These questions help determine which options best suit your home.

Efficiency.If you have a furnace or boiler that’s more than 30 years old, you’re probably wasting money on heating in the winter. Although some heating systems can last forever, that’s not necessarily a good thing – especially if your die-hard isn’t efficient. Replacing an old system with one that’s more efficient can reduce your carbon output and save money on operating costs, regardless of your fuel type.

Environment. The environment is a consideration for many people. Burning fossil fuels of any kind releases carbon into the atmosphere. Electricity is “clean” from the user’s perspective, but if it comes from a power plant that burns coal, that’s not a big win. Switching from fuel oil to natural gas can reduce (but not eliminate) your home’s carbon footprint. It can also eliminate the possibility of fuel oil spills in and around your home.

Very few homes in Massachusetts rely on wood for primary heat, but wood is carbon-neutral. Burning wood releases the same amount of carbon that the tree would release if it were rotting instead. Further, trees – which sequester carbon -are renewable resources. If you cut down a tree, but replace it with another tree, you’ve (at least in theory) provided a new carbon trap.

While wood is carbon-neutral, it’s not particulate-neutral. Burning wood releases waste particles (smoke, ash, creosote, etc.) into your chimney and into the air. Some communities are trying to limit the use of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces to improve air quality. Wood burning also increases the risk of an accidental fire.

Other “clean” energy resources include solar and wind power, but most homes have limits to how much power they can produce independently.

Fuel types.

More than any other factor, your choice of fuel will determine your lifetime operating costs. The price of natural gas has been relatively stable, so homeowners who heat with gas have enjoyed significant cost savings. Some homeowners are giving electric heat a second look, thanks to massive improvements in efficiency. If your concept of electric heat involves baseboard or space heaters, you haven’t been keeping up with the times! Mini-split ductless systems have become highly efficient and can produce enough heat to keep your home comfortable in winter. In addition, these systems can provide cooling during the summer months. They’re ideal as a primary or supplementary system in homes that don’t have ductwork, and they make zone heating easy. In other words, a ductless mini-split could make a nice case for itself among homeowners wondering what to do about their old boilers. The good thing about mini-splits is that they don’t have to replace your existing heating equipment. You could use a mini-split as a primary heat system but leave the boiler in place as a backup.

Regardless of your current heating and cooling plan, there are a number of energy-efficient options available to you. If you’re interested in learning more about the heating and cooling options available for your home, give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating at (617) 288-2911 for a consultation. We can show you how you can meet your heating and cooling objectives.

Photo Credit: National Renewable Energy Lab, via Flickr

Is this the year for an oil-to-gas conversion?

Is this the year for an oil-to-gas conversion?Nearly one-third of homes in Massachusetts use heating oil as their primary heating fuel. Historically, the price of heating oil has been hard to predict. For most of the 1990’s, each gallon of fuel oil cost about $1. In 1999, the price of heating oil began to rise significantly. It peaked in 2014 at more than $4 per gallon. Today, the price of a gallon of heating oil is about $3.25.

The variability of heating oil pricing is just one thing that homeowners consider when thinking about an oil-to-gas conversion. Convenience, the cost of conversion, availability and environmental concerns also factor into the decision to hold onto what you have or switch.

The most important consideration in oil-to-gas conversion

The cost of conversion is complex. It’s not simply about the sticker price of a new furnace. Initial costs are only one part of the lifetime costs of a furnace. In addition to your fixed costs, you also need to take into consideration the ongoing costs of operating the furnace.

For example, say a new 80% AFUE heating oil furnace costs $4,000 to purchase and install in an average-sized house. Homeowners paid an average of $1,700 to heat with oil in 2017-18, so we’ll assume an annual operating cost of $1,700. After 15 years, the homeowner will have paid $29,500 for heating with oil.

If the same homeowner installs a 90% efficient gas furnace instead, the expected install cost jumps to $6,000, but the annual operating costs drop to $900. After 15 years, the homeowner will have paid $19,500 for heating with gas. That’s a savings of $10,000 over heating oil.

Fifteen years is a generous lifetime for a high efficiency natural gas furnace. An oil furnaces can last for 30 years or more. So what happens when we calculate the cost of heating over 30 years – the life expectancy of the oil furnace? Keeping the fuel cost constant, the lifetime cost of each furnace looks like this.

The oil furnace, at $4,000, operated over 30 years will cost $55,000. The gas furnace – which gets replaced midway through the 30-year-cycle – will cost $39,570. This assumes that the initial furnace costs $6,000 and the replacement furnace costs $7,500. It also assumes that the second gas furnace takes advantage of technology to operate more efficiently, so the home’s gas consumption drops during the second 15 year-period to $850. Over the lifetime of an oil furnace, a natural gas alternative offers a savings of $15,430 (-28%) over 30 years.

The hidden cost of doing nothing

The example illustrates why keeping old technology might not be a good idea, even if it seemingly “costs nothing to do nothing.” An oil furnace built in 1990 may have been highly efficient by 1990’s standards. But technology improves over time, allowing newer furnaces to become more efficient. If you keep an inefficient furnace for 30 years, you keep that furnace’s inefficiency. You’ll end up paying a significantly higher operating cost for 10, 20 or even 30 years. As the example above shows, that can be a costly mistake.

The real cost consideration for a furnace is not the price tag of buying it and putting it in your home. The real question is how much does a furnace cost to operate over time? You’ll easily spend 2-13 times the furnace’s purchase price on operating costs over its lifetime. When operating efficiency determines the lifetime cost of a furnace, keeping an old, inefficient furnace simply doesn’t make financial sense.

The savings you’ll get from a natural gas replacement for an oil furnace can literally pay for the new furnace in just a few years. And if you set aside the money you’d have otherwise spent on running your older, inefficient oil furnace, you can use that cash to pay for a more efficient replacement gas furnace in 12-15 years. That allows you to continue reaping the benefits of lowered heating costs without having to finance the purchase of a new furnace.

If you’d like more information about oil-to-gas conversion, or you’d like to talk about replacing your older, less efficient furnace, call us at Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating at (617) 288-2911 to set up a consultation.

Photo Credit: Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, via Flickr

Water Heater Maintenance Tips

Water Heater Maintenance TipsIf you have a tank water heater in your home, chances are good that your only genuine contact with it is your daily shower. Most people don’t realize that water heaters require regular maintenance. Performing regular maintenance on your water heater can not only extend the life of the tank, but also ensure that you have trouble-free operation for years.

You might think of your water heater as being a giant kettle that sits in your basement or in a utility closet. The water inside never heats up enough to boil (hopefully), but the tank always keeps heated water ready to go. Your water heater is a little more complicated than that, which is why it requires regular maintenance.

If you have a conventional tank water heater, you’ll want to become familiar with the maintenance routine for your tank. If you have an older tank in service, and you’ve never performed routine maintenance on it, beginning a maintenance routine may not get you very much. The trick to prolonging the life of a hot water tank is to begin maintenance on the tank when it is brand new and continue the routine throughout the tank’s life. Knowing how a water tank operates will show you why this is the case.

A conventional water tank has an energy source – either electricity or natural gas. (Water heaters can also operate on propane or fuel oil.) It has a water inlet for the cold water supply, and a water outlet for the heated water. The tank also has a thermostat to control the water temperature, and a pressure relief valve. A gas water heater will have an exhaust vent at or near the top of the tank and a gas burner at the bottom (outside) of the tank. An electric water heater will have one or two heating elements inside the tank. The tank itself is lined with glass. There’s a drain valve at the bottom of the tank, and the tank is insulated to improve energy efficiency.

Tanks also have a “sacrificial anode” which is a magnesium rod that sits in the water and controls the rate of corrosion in the tank. If the magnesium rod weren’t there, the tank itself would begin to corrode immediately. Because its job is to corrode, the rod deteriorates over time. Once the rod has deteriorated, the tank will begin to corrode rapidly. Replacing the sacrificial rod periodically will extend the life of your tank. The tank warranty provides a good rule of thumb for changing the anode in the tank. If your tank has a 6-year warranty, change the rod every 5-6 years. If it has a 9 year warranty, change it every 7-9 years. With a 12-year warranty, change the rods every 10-12 years.

Factors other than the passage of time can affect how rapidly the sacrificial anode deteriorates. Inspecting the rod annually can better help you determine when to replace your tank’s rod.

As a side note, the deterioration of the sacrificial anode is the reason you should never consume hot water from the tap. The water becomes contaminated by the water heater and is no longer fit for consumption.

Over time, debris from the anode, minerals and corrosion build up at the bottom of the tank. If you don’t drain the debris out periodically, it will form a “blanket” at the bottom of the tank and decrease the tank’s heating efficiency. The sediment can also escape the tank and collect in your water fixtures. Draining the tank from the bottom periodically will remove the sediment. Some people prefer to run a gallon or two of heated water from the bottom of the tank regularly to keep the sediment level in check.

Your water heater also has a temperature and pressure relief valve. This valve will open if the temperature or the pressure in the tank becomes too high. You can test the valve by pulling the trip lever on it. If the valve is operating correctly, it should relieve a little water or water vapor from the tank. You may also hear a little rush of air escaping the valve. If none of these things happen, the temperature and pressure valve may have gone bad. It’s important to replace the T&P valve. Without it, your tank could experience a dangerous increase in pressure, which could lead to an explosion.

If you’d like more information about water heater maintenance, or if you would like to replace your existing water heater, please call us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911.

Photo Credit: Cole Camplese, via Flickr

Should you replace your heating system, and if so, with what?

Should you replace your heating system, and if so, with what?We’re fast approaching heating season. If you have an older heating system, chances are pretty good that it’s inefficient. Depending upon how old your heating system is, it may not be more than 30%-40% efficient. For these systems, that means 60% or 70% of the fuel input gets “lost ” on its way to heating your home.

Another way to put it is that for every $100 you spend on operating these systems, $60-$70 is wasted. That’s hard to accept, isn’t it? If this is your system, it means one of two things: either you could be a whole lot warmer during the winter, or you are burning a lot of cash to stay warm.

You wouldn’t pay $100 at the gas station for $30 worth of gas. It doesn’t make sense to spend $100 on heating for $30 worth of heat, either. High efficiency heating equipment can shift your efficiency rating from less than 40% to 80%, 90% or even 95%. That means that up to 95% of what you’re spending gets returned to your house in the form of heat. You’ll spend much less to stay warm this winter if you install a new, high-efficiency heating system.

If you’re planning to replace your old heating system, a high-efficiency system should be a must-have on your list. While the cost of a high-efficiency system may be greater than a less efficient model, it will also cost less to operate year after year. The small margin you pay up front can produce thousands of dollars in savings over the lifetime of the equipment.

You should also think carefully about the fuel that operates your heating system. Today, most homes in Massachusetts use either natural gas, fuel oil or electricity. About 6% of Massachusetts homes use propane, wood, solar or some other fuel type. Each system has its advantages and disadvantages.

Electricity is the least popular way to heat a home because traditional electric heat systems can be expensive. One excellent way to save money on electric heat is to consider adding an air-source heat pump. An air-source heat pump can provide standalone heat efficiently. You can also use an air-source heat pump to provide supplemental heat (and cooling) to your home without switching away from your primary heating system.

Today, nearly 30% of Massachusetts homes use heating oil as a primary fuel source. Heating oil can pose environmental challenges that other fuel systems don’t. Heating oil is a commodity, so consumers are subject to the “spot price” of heating oil at the time of purchase. Buying heating oil off season is one way to save money, but if you run out of heating oil mid-winter and need to refill, you can end up paying a significant premium for heat. Many people who use heating oil are considering converting from heating oil to natural gas. The price stability of natural gas is the primary reason. Efficiency and environmental concerns are other primary motivators for making the switch.

Just over half of the homes in Massachusetts use natural gas to heat their homes. Natural gas is delivered to the home “on-demand” from a utility company. The price of natural gas has been relatively stable over time, and burning natural gas for heat reduces the impact of heating on the environment.

However you choose to heat your home, switching to the most efficient equipment on the market today will help recover the cost of your investment, and reduce your energy consumption for years to come.

If you’d like more information about high efficiency options for heating your home, please gives us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating at (617) 288-2911 to set up a consultation.

Photo Credit: Alex Gorzen, via Flickr

Early Heating Replacement Programs Still Available

Early Heating Replacement Programs Still AvailableMassSave offers rebates of up to $3,250 on early heating system replacements . To qualify, you must replace a working but inefficient natural gas, propane or oil heat system that is (in most cases) at least 30 years old. The rebate applies to replacement systems that use the same fuel type as the system you’re replacing. The rebate varies, depending upon the type of system you’re replacing.

$750 Rebate

Customers who replace an oil-fueled furnace with a unit that has an ECM motor can claim a rebate of $750. To claim this rebate, the replaced furnace must be at least 12 years old.

$1,000 Rebate

Customers who replace a propane- or natural gas-fueled furnace with a unit that has an ECM motor can claim a rebate of $1,000. To claim this rebate, the replaced furnace must be at least 12 years old.

$1,700 Rebate

Customers who replace an oil-fueled hot water boiler with a unit that is at least 86% efficient, can claim a rebate of $1,700. To claim this rebate, the replaced boiler must be at least 30 years old.

$1,900 Rebate

Customers who replace an oil-fueled steam boiler with a unit that is at least 84% efficient, can claim a rebate of $1,900. To claim this rebate, the replaced boiler must be at least 30 years old.

Customers who replace a propane- or natural gas-fueled steam boiler with a unit that is at least 82% efficient, can claim a rebate of $1,900. To claim this rebate, the replaced boiler must be at least 30 years old.

$3,250 Rebate

Customers who replace a propane- or natural gas-fueled forced hot water boiler with a unit that is at least 90% efficient, can claim a rebate of $3,250. To claim this rebate, the replaced boiler must be at least 30 years old.

This is a great opportunity to reduce the cost of a new, highly efficient heating system for your home and reduce your overall energy costs. To participate in the plan, you’ll need to schedule a no-cost energy assessment/site visit through MassSave.

Even if your system doesn’t qualify for early replacement rebates, you may still qualify for other rebate programs through MassSave. In addition, MassSave offers 0% financing on qualifying replacement systems. This is also a great way to replace an old, inefficient heating system and begin to save on your annual operating costs.

If you’re interested in replacing an old, inefficient but-still-working cooling system, MassSave has rebate incentives for that, too!

If you’d like more information about incentives available to you for early heating or cooling replacement, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating at (617) 288-2911.

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5 tips for maintaining your plumbing fixtures

5 tips for maintaining your plumbing fixturesIf you live in the United States, your home has a modern plumbing system, thanks to regularly updated plumbing codes and laws. Without proper maintenance, however, a home’s plumbing system can deteriorate. That can put your family and your home at risk. Here are five tips to keep your plumbing fixtures in good working order. These can also help you spot problems while they’re still manageable.

Keep your drains clear.

Every plumbing system has two sides: the clean side and the dirty side. Drains fall on the “dirty” side of the system, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep them clean. One of the best ways to keep your drains clean is to monitor what goes down them. Soap, hair, food particles, grease and other biological agents can combine to form clogs. Preventing hair, grease and food from making their way down the drains can go a long way toward preventing clogs. If your drains do begin to run slowly, snake them out manually to remove any accumulations. Avoid using chemical drain cleaners. Instead, try an enzymatic drain cleaner like Bio-Clean to keep the drains flowing freely. Some people also swear by a mixture of baking soda and vinegar to kill organic material that may grow in your drains.

At least once every 5 years, have your sewer connection videoscoped. This can help you discover breaks and tree root invasions in your sewer line. While no one wants to see a break in their sewer connection, taking care of the problem outside beats having a sewage backup inside!

Know and test your plumbing system.

On the clean side of things, inspect your pipes annually. Test the local shut-off valves to make sure they still work. Shut-off valves are notoriously cheap, so giving them a little regular exercise will help keep them in good shape. If a shut-off valve self-retired while you weren’t looking, replace it immediately. If you can’t count on it to work in an emergency, it’s not of much use! Also test your main shut-off valve. While this valve is unlikely to break, moving it periodically can help ensure that you won’t need to manhandle it to shut off the water supply in an emergency.

Flush your water heater.

Debris, scale and rust particles can build up at the base of your water heater. Most water heaters have a drain near the bottom that you can open for maintenance. The debris settles at the bottom of the tank, so opening the tank and tapping off a gallon or two can help remove this sediment. Some manufacturers recommend this procedure monthly. Others say it’s ok to do it annually. However often you do it, do it. Also, you can extend the life of your water heater by having the sacrificial anode replaced on schedule. If you don’t, once the sacrificial anode is gone, your tank will begin to rust.

Don’t ignore signs of trouble. Plumbing problems rarely arrive completely unannounced. If you see signs of plumbing problems, act. Symptoms of trouble can include leaks, smells, drips, reduced or increased water flow and damage to surrounding walls, floors and ceilings.

Put a trash can next to your toilet.

You might wonder how putting a trash can next to your toilet can possibly help your plumbing. Some people use their toilets as a substitute trash can. They flush just about everything from cigarette butts to grease down the loo. That’s an excellent recipe for big plumbing problems! The only things that should ever go down your toilet are human waste and toilet paper. Throw everything else – including Kleenex, diapers, tampons, sanitary pads, cigarette butts, “disposable” or “dissolvable” wipes, paper towels and whatever else you can think of – in the handy trash can you’ve placed next to the toilet.

When you run into a plumbing problem that you want help with, contact us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We specialize in both residential and commercial plumbing in the Boston area.

Photo Credit: Bill Wilson, via Flickr