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Heating options for your home

Heating options for your home

The 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

High-Efficiency Heating Equipment Q & A

At Boston Standard Company, we’re all about high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment. High-efficiency appliances can reduce your operational costs and open up options that traditional heating and cooling equipment doesn’t provide. Here are a few common questions and answers from our own Joseph Wood about high-efficiency boilers and furnaces, in case you’re thinking ahead for this coming winter.

Heating accounts for as much as 50% of a home’s energy costs in places like Boston. Can a high-efficiency furnace really help lower my heating costs?

JW: Absolutely. You can reach only about 80% efficiency with traditional chimney-vented equipment, so if you want more from your heating dollar, a high-efficiency furnace can get you as much as an extra 15%. When you account for the ability of high efficiency products to modulate the gas valve, you could very easily save in excess of 25% over what you’re currently spending with an older, less-efficient furnace.

My furnace is more than 40 years old, but it still works! Should I just wait until my current furnace quits, or are there other reasons to consider replacing it now?

JW: Sometimes producing heat and working properly are considered to be the same thing, but they’re really not. A system could produce heat, but could also produce high levels of carbon monoxide, for instance. That’s definitely not proper operation! When combining efficiency, safety and reliability, there are many reasons to consider replacing a boiler or furnace before it fails.

In addition, there is a great program from the gas utilities, the “Early Boiler Replacement Program.” There’s also an Early Furnace Replacement program. For those that take advantage of this program, you get a minimum of a $2,000 increase in the rebate. In my opinion, getting paid extra to replace an older, inefficient system is great, and you get new equipment on “your terms,” instead of having to deal with a broken boiler or furnace in the dead of winter! If you plan to take advantage of this rebate program, you need to start the ball rolling before September 30!

If I replace my furnace, what other costs – besides the new furnace itself – do I need to consider?

JW: Most high efficiency appliances require annual service and check-ups. Annual maintenance is the key to maintaining the high-efficiency operation (and money-saving ability) of these appliances. Maintenance on high-efficiency equipment can range from $200-$500 annually depending on system. If you have asbestos from previous installations, oil tanks or other similar issues, those should be considered as well.

The price of heating oil only seems to go up. What kind of savings can I expect if I move from oil to natural gas? If I convert, what other things do I need to think about? Are there other benefits to conversion?

JW: The gas utility claims savings of 30%, which isn’t far from what I normally suggest as well. While every year the temperature and cost of fuel will undoubtedly fluctuate, owning equipment that is 15% or more efficient than equivalent oil products will always be a good idea. Many customers appreciate things that have nothing to do with money when they convert to natural gas…. No more oil smell! No more running out of oil!

Are there any tax advantages to installing a high-efficiency furnace now? Are there any rebate programs I can take advantage of?

JW: There are tax programs that are available for high efficiency upgrades that start around $300 for a high efficiency product and go up from there. Right now, the biggest rebates are found through Gas Networks. You can receive more than $10,000 for commercial projects! Most homeowners would expect to see between $1,900-$4,400 in rebates for converting to high efficiency equipment, depending on the installation requirements.

Early Boiler Replacement Program Now Includes Furnaces

Massachusetts customers of NSTAR and National Grid can participate in the MassSave Early Boiler Replacement Program beginning April 15. Consumers who replace a working forced hot water boiler or steam boiler that is at least 30 years old may qualify for rebates of between $1,900 and $4,000, depending upon the type of boiler being replaced and whether the boiler is being installed in a personal residence or rental property. Qualifying forced hot water boilers must have an AFUE rating of 90% or better. Qualifying steam boilers must have an AFUE rating of 85% or better.

A new feature of this year’s program includes rebates for replacement natural gas furnaces. Homeowners can receive rebates of $1,000 on the purchase and installation of a replacement furnace with an AFUE rating of at least 95% and an electronically commutating motor (ECM). The existing furnace must be at least 12 years of age and must be fueled by natural gas, propane or heating oil. The newly installed furnace must use the same type of fuel as the equipment it is replacing. (Conversions are not eligible to participate in this program.)

Whether you want to take advantage of the Early Boiler Replacement program or the Early Furnace Replacement program, the key is that you must be replacing a working boiler or furnace. Non-operational equipment is not eligible for this replacement program. The first step in participating in this program is to have a MassSave Home Energy Services Program Site Visit performed by a participating contractor, like Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating. The site visit must be performed between April 15, 2014 and September 30, 2014, and the replacement equipment must be installed by October 31, 2014. Once the installation has been completed, submit the rebate form (available at the MassSave website) and the required documentation, and MassSave will process your rebate request.

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating can also help you with financing options on qualifying boilers and furnaces to make this important home improvement project as painless as possible. Taking advantage of this boiler/furnace replacement program can allow you to begin saving money on operational costs immediately this fall. In addition, summer is the ideal time to perform a boiler or furnace replacement.

If you would like more information about the Early Boiler Replacement program, or the Early Furnace Replacement program, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 for details. We can help you get your MassSave Home Energy Services Program Site Visit scheduled and help you select qualifying, high-efficiency replacement home heating equipment.

2013 Boston Heating and Cooling Rebate Programs

Want to reduce the cost of heating? Boston homeowners can still take advantage of a number of programs designed to reduce the cost of making energy-efficient improvements around your home. Here are a few of the programs that can reduce the cost of purchasing and installing new heating equipment, and can also help you save money on operating costs throughout the year!

Early Boiler Replacement Program Boston homeowners still have a little time to take advantage of the Early Boiler Replacement Program offered by National Grid. If your home has a working boiler that is at least 30 years of age, you may qualify for a rebate of between $1,750 and $4,000, depending upon the type of boiler you have installed right now. Qualified homeowners must begin the boiler replacement process before September 30 to take advantage of these generous rebates. Installation of the new equipment must be completed by November 1.

Programmable Thermostats. You can save money on your heating and cooling bills simply by installing a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats can help you save as much as 10% on your heating and cooling costs throughout the year, and help maintain the comfort level of your home year-round. Right now, you can collect a $25 mail-in rebate on the purchase of one programmable thermostat, or $50 on the purchase of two programmable thermostats.

Residential High-Efficiency Heating Equipment Rebate Program Boston homeowners can collect rebates of between $25 and $1,500 on the purchase of high-efficiency home heating equipment, including programmable thermostats, Wi-Fi thermostats, warm-air furnaces, forced hot water boilers, integrated water heater/condensing boiler units, outdoor boiler reset controls, heat recovery ventilators and a variety of water heating equipment, including both tankless and conventional water heaters.

Mass Save HEAT Loan 0% Interest Financing for 2013 Mass Save offers 0% financing on qualified energy-efficient home improvements including high efficiency heating systems, central air conditioning/ air source heat pumps, ductless mini split heat pumps, high efficiency domestic hot water systems, solar hot water systems and 7-day digital & Wi Fi thermostats. HEAT Loans are a great way to reduce the cost of replacing your heating and cooling equipment and allow you to take advantage of the savings that high-efficiency equipment can offer.

Heat Pump Water Heater Rebate Boston homeowners can take advantage of this rebate when they replace an existing electric water heater storage tank with a qualifying electric heat pump water heater, or install an electric heat pump water heater in new construction.

Now is a great time to replace older, less efficient equipment, save money immediately on the purchase and installation of new equipment, and save money on operational costs over the lifetime of your high efficiency equipment.

For more information about these programs or to learn about how you can take advantage of these rebates and special financing programs, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing at (617) 288-2911 to set up an in-home site visit or consultation. We’ll be happy to help you make the most of these exceptional, money-saving programs.

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Own property in Boston? Water usage disclosure may be required

Last month, Boston became the eighth US city to require property owners to disclose energy and water usage. The regulations apply only to medium- and large-sized properties. The City Council passed the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance on May 8. Following the passage of the ordinance, the City of Boston reported its 2012 energy usage data on May 15.

Commercial buildings with a gross area of 50,000 square feet must begin disclosing energy and water usage in 2014. Multi-family properties with 50 or more units must begin disclosing usage data to the City of Boston in 2015. Commercial units with 35,000 square feet of space or more will be required to report usage data starting in 2016. Residential buildings with more than 35 units will be required to report usage data starting in 2017.

The reporting requirements are part of Boston’s Climate Action Plan. The goal of this plan is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Boston by 25 percent by the year 2020. According to figures released by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s office, buildings currently account for 70% of the City’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Private homeowners are not required to participate, but you can begin reducing your energy and water consumption right now! Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating can help in a number of ways. Replacing old, inefficient heating and cooling equipment makes a major difference in energy consumption, and the production of greenhouse gases! Older equipment is not at all energy efficient. Currently, we can help you take advantage of rebate programs through National Grid designed to reduce the cost of replacing working boilers that are 30 years old or more.

Mass Save offers 0% interest financing on many heating and cooling upgrades that will enable homeowners to swap low-efficiency units with high-efficiency replacement models. A side benefit of high efficiency units is that they cost less to operate, so you can start taking advantage of lower heating and cooling bills right away!

You can also claim federal tax credits to replace inefficient working or non-working water heating systems. These credits were initially offered in 2012, but have been extended through 2013.

All of these programs have different rules, and some programs require an audit as part of the process of filing a rebate request. We would be happy to discuss all available programs, and help you take advantage of these excellent money-saving and energy-saving opportunities. We can also inspect and diagnose leaks in your water system, and recommend or install water-saving appliances and fixtures for your home.

Contact Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 for a consultation with a licensed plumber. Visit Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook!

Don't Miss Out On This Great Boiler Replacement Rebate!

There’s still time for you to take advantage of this great rebate program, which provides a rebate for a qualifying Boston boiler replacement. The rebate program is offered through Gas Networks and can put as much as $3,500 back in your pocket!

Now through July 31, 2012, if you have a boiler that’s at least 30 years old, you can get a rebate of $3,500 on a new gas, forced hot-water boiler or $1,900 on a steam boiler if you replace the system. Homeowners are required to complete home energy assessment through MassSaves as part of the qualifying process.

Summertime is the ideal time to consider a boiler replacement. Homeowners can consider all of their options without the pressure of having to make a snap decision in the middle of the winter, or having to make expensive, emergency repairs to an old boiler that really should be replaced.

One of the catches to the program is that the boiler being replaced must be operational at the time of replacement. It’s hard for some homeowners to justify the cost of replacing a boiler when the one they have still works. But keep in mind that new boilers are more efficient and cost less to operate, and take up less space than the 30-year-old models do. You can also assure yourself that a new boiler will get you all the way through the coming winter without expensive repairs or maintenance work.

The home energy assessment must be completed no later than July 31 to qualify for the rebate. If you’re considering replacing your boiler, or would like more information about this great rebate program, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 for a consultation. We’ll come to your home, perform your home energy assessment and make sure you qualify for the program rebates.

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