Time to check the …. furnace?!

After last month’s heat wave, the last thing you might be thinking about is your furnace, but now is a great time to consider furnace repairs. Boston forecasters are keeping their eyes on a currently weak El Nino that could produce below average temperatures and above-average snowfalls during the 2013-14 winter. Similar conditions in the past produced record snowfalls in Boston, including major storms in 2005 and 2010.

What does this mean for homeowners in Boston? Heating system maintenance and repairs should be added to your list of priorities now! The coldest, snowiest part of the winter probably won’t arrive in Boston until November, but that’s no reason to put off inspections and routine maintenance on your existing furnace or boiler.

If you’re looking to replace your heating equipment or convert from heating oil to natural gas, now is also a great time to make the switch. Currently, the price of heating oil is about $3.65 per gallon. The peak price for heating oil last winter was about $4.35 per gallon. Those costs alone might make conversion to natural gas a highly desirable alternative!

Gas Networks’ rebate programs can help defray the cost of replacing a highly inefficient working, older furnace or boiler. High efficiency units cost less to replace than you might think and use less fuel during operation. That means you save when you install a new gas furnace or boiler and you save each time you heat your home. With a high efficiency unit, most of the fuel it uses is converted to heat for your home. With older, inefficient models, most of the fuel it uses is sent up the chimney!

Gas Networks’ rebates on furnaces and boilers have varying deadlines. Early boiler replacement rebates are only available through September, and a site inspection must take place before August 31, 2013 to qualify, so you may need to act now if you want to take advantage of one of these excellent rebate opportunities. As an added incentive, your high-efficiency heating equipment purchase may also qualify you for 2013 residential energy tax credits on your federal income tax return.

Ultimately, forecasters don’t yet know what the winter of 2013-14 will bring, but making sure your heating system is ready for the coming cold is never a bad idea! Give us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating a call at (617) 288-2911 to set up an inspection and maintenance appointment on your heating equipment. Whether you heat with a boiler or furnace, we can help! We can also consult with you on oil-to-gas conversion and perform the inspections required to take advantage of the Gas Networks rebate program.

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MassSave Still Offers 0% Financing On Qualified Boston Heating Improvements

Recently, I wrote about a program designed to help homeowners cope with the cost of replacing an old boiler. That rebate program, which provides between $1,900 and $3,500 in cash to homeowners who are replacing hot water boilers or steam boilers, expires July 31. If you plan to take advantage of that program to replace your boiler, Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating can help.

What if you don’t have a boiler, but you are contemplating a major improvement to your heating and cooling equipment? Well, you’re not out in the cold! MassSave offers 0% financing on qualified energy-efficient improvements. Homeowners and business owners can borrow as much as $25,000 on “same-as-cash” terms. Qualified improvements for residential borrowers include the installation of high efficiency heating and domestic hot water equipment; solar hot water systems; ENERGY STAR® qualified replacement windows; and weatherization. Loan terms are over 7 years, so if you borrow the program maximum, your payments would be less than $300 per month.

Highly efficient heating equipment, combined with weatherization and/or replacement windows can save you hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars in operating costs each year. Old heating systems may be as low as 20%-30% efficient, meaning that for every $100 you spend on fuel, you could be sending $70-$80 up the chimney. With highly efficient systems – those rated at 90% or better – the majority of what you spend on fuel is converted to heat for your living space. The system turns on less often, uses less fuel and makes your home more comfortable. As an added benefit, weatherization and window replacements will help keep your home more comfortable year-round.

Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating specializes in replacing old heating systems, including oil and gas equipment. We’ll come to your home, do a complete energy assessment and help you determine which improvements can help you make your home more energy-efficient. Contact Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating today at (617) 288-2911 for more information about 0% financing through MassSave or about how you can make your home more energy efficient.

Back To Boilers: Stainless Steel Makes Sense

In my last post, I discussed the IBC line of residential condensing boilers . One of the things that makes this line of boilers special is their use of a stainless steel heat exchanger. That’s a very important differentiator for boilers, and it’s part of the reason that we at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating will be installing and servicing IBC boilers.

The basic operation of a boiler is simple. Boilers raise the temperature of water in a closed system. The heated water is then distributed around the residential space through pipes and radiators, and raises the temperature of the surrounding air.

There are a few major considerations that homeowners with boiler-based heat systems need to be aware of. One important factor is the composition of the heat exchanger. Heat exchangers in boiler systems are usually made either from aluminum or stainless steel.

The composition of the heat exchanger is important because the heat exchanger comes in contact with the water in the system. While the water in the system comes from the municipal water supply and is “clean” when it is added to the system, water has its own properties that can actually support and encourage corrosion inside a boiler system.

The pH level of the water is a good example. pH is a relative measure of the acidity of the water. Aluminum heat exchangers work best only in a narrow pH range. To ensure that the pH range is optimal, boiler water must be treated with special chemicals, and regular maintenance is required to maintain the proper pH and preserve the manufacturer’s warranty protection.

Stainless steel heat exchangers work optimally in a wide range of pH levels, so this actually reduces the amount of maintenance and care the boiler requires. With a stainless steel heat exchanger, a boiler can give years of trouble-free service using just clean water and propylene glycol, a common organic alcohol.

The flip side of the pH issue is corrosion. The reason boilers need this kind of maintenance is to avoid corrosion throughout the system. Aluminum heat exchangers work well in only a narrow pH range. Once the system water goes out of this range, the corrosion begins. Corrosion reduces the efficiency of the system and the lifespan of the boiler’s major components. You’ll spend more money on preventative maintenance with a system that uses an aluminum heat exchanger than you will on a system that uses a more efficient, more durable and less vulnerable stainless steel heat exchanger. You’ll also replace your boiler more often.

Another major consideration is that aluminum heat exchangers wear faster in high-intensity operations. If you run your boiler at or close to its peak flow, the aluminum heat exchanger will wear out faster than it would if you operate your boiler in a more controlled way. Stainless steel heat exchangers are much more tolerant of peak operation, and don’t tend to wear out from this kind of use. Based on how you use your boiler, this could be a significant consideration for you. An outdoor reset control can give you better control over your boiler operation, but you can also gain efficiency and lifespan by using a boiler with a stainless steel heat exchanger.

If you would like more information about stainless steel heat exchangers, boilers, outdoor reset controls or boiler maintenance, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We offer round-the-clock boiler and furnace repair. We’re also happy to consult with you on boiler replacement options. Don’t forget to like Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook!

Finding A Reputable Plumber

Let’s face it: no one calls a plumber until they have to, but when you need plumbing help, you generally need assistance fast! How can you find a reputable plumber? Boston residents have a lot of plumbers to choose from, and that can make finding a good contractor even more difficult. Here are a few suggestions for finding a plumber in Boston that may make your life easier when it comes time to calling for help.

1. Do your homework. Look for plumbers, heating and cooling contractors, and general handyman services before you need them. You can use referral services like Angie’s List to find recommended Boston plumbers. Check references, verify the business’ standing with the Better Business Bureau and verify that any prospective contractors are licensed and insured. When the pressure is off, call for information about pricing, after-hours services, and regular maintenance services that you might be interested in.

2. Figure out what you’re most likely to need. You may have immediate needs for maintenance, replacement or repair on your major systems, or you may not know exactly what services you may need from plumbing, heating or cooling professionals. Once you’ve found a contractor you might want to work with, invite the contractor to your home for a system inspection. The contractor can give you a better idea of the age and condition of your plumbing, heating and cooling systems.

3. Shop around and ask questions about the contractor’s on-call services, hourly rates, dispatch times, staff credentials and more. When you call the contractor after hours, do you speak with the contractor or do you get routed to an answering service? Does the contractor offer any package services or service plans that can help reduce your costs, especially in an emergency?

The best approach is to make decisions about contractors when you have no immediate or urgent need for services. That way, you can take the time to review a contractor’s credentials, reviews from other customers, and ask friends and neighbors for their input. You can also take time to think about what you need (or might need) and make your choices accordingly.

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating is a proud member of Angie’s List, and was voted the Best of Boston 2010 for heating and cooling services. We offer a wide range of plumbing, heating and cooling services in Boston. Call us at (617) 288-2911 for a consultation on all of your heating, cooling and plumbing needs. Friend Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook and learn why we’re one of the best in Boston!