People Are Noticing Energy-Conscious Boston

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has recognized Boston’s energy saving efforts as first in the nation. This is the second consecutive year Boston has been given this designation. A host of state and local policies and initiatives that are designed to help residents reduce both energy and water consumption puts Boston on the top of this list.

Energy efficiency means that homeowners, commercial property owners and governmental authorities can heat, cool and light buildings, deliver clean water and provide more efficient transportation at a lower cost. Those savings can provide the opportunity to fund other quality-of-life initiatives that make an area more attractive to businesses and residents over the long haul.

Boston was awarded 82 out of 100 points, and was the only US city to score more than 80 points on the Council’s annual report card. One initiative that earned major points for Boston was the city’s requirement that medium- and large-sized buildings report energy and water usage, and undergo an energy assessment every five years. Beyond simply reporting consumption, buildings that don’t meet stated efficiency targets must make energy improvements.

Boston also scored favorably for its climate action plan, which aims to cut the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2050. A factor in this goal is the increased use of mass transit, in order to reduce the number of vehicles on the road in the city. Another part of the climate action plan involves engaging residents to make them more aware of their greenhouse gas emissions and to provide ways in which residents can make their homes and commutes more energy efficient.

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating can help you reduce your home’s carbon footprint in a variety of ways. We currently participate in a number of rebate programs designed to reduce the cost of switching to more energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment. We can also help you reduce your home’s clean water consumption, and take advantage of federal and state tax credits designed to encourage energy efficiency. If you’re interested in switching to a cleaner, more cost-effective fuel source, we can help you there, too!

If you would like more information about your home’s current energy consumption, or would like to learn how you can save money and reduce your fuel consumption year round, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We can conduct energy assessments and help you choose the best, most efficient and most cost-effective heating, cooling and plumbing equipment for your home or business.

New Survey Shows Trane Is Most Trusted HVAC Brand

A new survey released by Lifestory Research shows that Trane is the most trusted residential HVAC brand among American consumers. The results come from more than 10,000 surveys collected in 2014.

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating is a certified Trane Comfort Specialist, and this survey confirms our experience with the brand. Trane heating and cooling products are among the most reliable in the industry, and that’s why we recommend, install and service the brand.

Like Trane, we at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating are absolutely committed to providing the highest quality service and support to our customers. We have NATE-certified technicians on staff. What that means to you as a customer is that you can count on us to provide well-trained, industry-certified technicians to work on your heating and cooling systems.

As a Trane Comfort Specialist, we regularly attend training sessions, so that we’re up-to-date on the newest, most energy-efficient heating and cooling products for your home. We’re also trained to provide the most reliable service possible for units that are already installed in your home.

But we don’t stop there. We can also help you find financing programs, rebates and tax credits that are designed to reduce the cost of replacing old, inefficient heating and cooling units with qualified, energy-efficient new units.

Whether you’re looking for instant service for a malfunctioning furnace, boiler or heating unit (from any manufacturer), or you’re looking for an energy-efficient and cost-effective replacement strategy for heating and cooling your home, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We provide true 24/7 emergency service and fast, friendly consultations for all of your heating, cooling and plumbing needs.

Do-It-Yourself Plumbing Repair or Call In A Professional?

Plumbing repairs can be expensive, and they make tempting targets for homeowners looking to save money, but how should you make the decision to do something yourself or call in a professional?

Does the repair require special tools, supplies or knowledge?
In most cases, simple repairs and upgrades don’t require professional help. Replacing a leaky faucet (or replacing faulty faucet parts) is a classic do-it-yourself project. Faucet repair or replacement is something that the average homeowner can do. This requires no specific professional training, and only a few simple tools and supplies that most homeowners will already have on hand. What isn’t already in the toolbox can be easily obtained at a home improvement or hardware store.

Regular maintenance and cleaning also fall into this category. As long as you know what you’re doing, and know what your systems need, these also make good do-it-yourself projects.

Does the repair require a permit?
Repairs that need permits are more challenging, and may require special knowledge and/or equipment. If not done correctly, these repairs could jeopardize your personal safety or the sanitary operation of equipment in your home. If you have to pull a permit, you’re also going to need to have your work inspected. If your work doesn’t pass muster, you’ll need to fix the problems, redo the repair altogether or call in a professional.

Needing a permit isn’t an absolute red flag, but it’s a very good indication that you should think carefully about how to get the work done safely and completely before you start on the project.

Is the repair an emergency?
Bar none, emergency repairs are the worst. They seem to happen at the worst times – vacations, holidays, nights, weekends and the coldest (or hottest) day of the year are always prime time for emergencies – and their costs usually come entirely out-of-pocket, since many emergencies are not covered by homeowners insurance. When the cost of a repair is high and funds are low, it’s exceedingly tempting to think about “temporary repairs” and do-it-yourself options.

At times like this, your primary focus should be on the safety and well being of your home and family. Most professionals will work with you to help manage the cost of an unexpected repair. Additionally, for major systems like furnaces, water heaters, boilers and air conditioners, professionals can help you take advantage of rebates, tax-credits and local assistance programs designed to lower the cost of making these major repairs. These programs can include zero-percent financing, sizeable rebates on qualified replacement equipment and payment plans that can take the sting out of an unexpected expense.

If you would like assistance with a plumbing, heating or cooling repair or replacement project around your home, or would like to discuss options to help lower the cost of major system replacements, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to help you assess your situation and provide information about options that may be available to you!

Residential Clean Energy Grant Available for Boston Residents

Last month, Governor Deval Patrick announced a new residential clean energy grant available to all Massachusetts residents that will allow homeowners to save on the purchase and installation of renewable heating and cooling technologies. The $875,000 grant program will enable homeowners to claim rebates of as much as $10,000 when they upgrade their home heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems using qualified equipment.

To take advantage of the grant program, homeowners must install high-efficiency, inverter-driven air or ground-source heat pumps. High efficiency heat pumps can put out three heating or cooling energy units for each unit of electricity they consume. When used as a replacement for conventional electric, oil, or propane-based heating and cooling systems, heat pumps can reduce operational costs by as much as 50%.

The grant program is part of a larger effort by the Patrick administration to reduce heating and cooling costs for state residents, reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the state, and create jobs in clean energy industries.

Currently, three manufacturers – Daikin, Fujitsu and Mitsubishi – offer air-source heat pump models that qualify for the grant program. Air source heat pump installations can qualify for rebates of up to $6,250 per applicant. Both central and mini-split heat pump technologies qualify for the program.

Installation of a qualifying ground-source heat pump may allow residents to claim a rebate of as much as $10,000. For ground-source heat pump installations, applicants should work directly with a qualified installer to ensure that their purchase meets the program’s selection and installation requirements.

Applications for rebates will be accepted until August 31, 2014 on a first-come, first-served basis, or until funding for the program is exhausted. Applicants must work with their installers to claim this rebate. Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating is certified to install qualifying Fujitsu and Mitsubishi products. If you would like more information about this program, qualifying products or other products that are designed to save on your heating and cooling costs, please contact us at (617) 288-2911 to set up a consultation.

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!

DOE Stays Implementation of 80%-Efficient Furnace Phase-Out

The Department of Energy announced last week that it will temporarily hold off on enforcement of the agency’s phase-out plan for 80%-efficient furnaces in Massachusetts and 28 other states. The change in plan comes as the result of pending industry litigation that is not expected to be resolved prior to the proposed May 1, 2013 start date.

For Boston homeowners, that’s good news because it provides some additional time to consider the purchase and installation of 80%-efficient furnaces. We don’t know when enforcement of the new plan will begin, but the DOE is committed to phasing out 80%-efficient furnaces as soon as possible.

For the consumer, the option of having an 80%-efficient furnace often means saving money on the purchase and installation costs of a new furnace, and a reduction in operating costs if the 80%-efficient furnace replaces an older, even less efficient model. While it’s true that 90%-efficient furnaces cost less to operate than 80% efficient models do, they also come with a steeper price tag and more costly installation requirements. In some cases, the amount of time required to see real savings from a higher-efficiency furnace is actually longer than the payback period for the less efficient 80% model!

In addition, very high efficiency furnaces require special venting preparations that increase the cost of installation. These preparations include the need to install a chimney liner (if it’s going to be used for ventilation) or suitable ventilation ports for your high-efficiency furnace.

Because the furnace exhaust port carries heated air, CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride) is normally used for heated exhaust applications. When heated (even to a relatively low temperature), PVC piping can release toxins into the air and water through a phenomenon known as “PVC outgassing.” CPVC is manufactured differently, and is rated for use in applications where temperatures may reach 200°F. CPVC is somewhat more expensive than standard PVC, but both PVC and CPVC are substantially less expensive than metal piping made from stainless steel (for exhaust) or copper (for hot water).

The bottom line for homeowners in Boston: furnace replacement choices will become more limited very soon! Once the DOE regulations go into effect, it will be impossible to purchase or install a lower-cost, lower-efficiency furnace. Homeowners will need to absorb the increased purchase and installation costs associated with higher-efficiency furnaces and may find that their homes cannot provide the required ventilation for high-efficiency furnaces.

If you’re considering the installation of a new gas forced-air furnace, and would like to know more about your current options, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 for a consultation. We can assess your home and provide you with a range of product and financing options.

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Proper Ventilation Extremely Important In Weather Extremes!

Ventilation, whether for plumbing fixtures or heating and cooling equipment, is vital to proper operation! Blocked plumbing vents can cause unpleasant odors to escape into the home, and can interfere with proper drainage. Blocked ventilation ducts for heating and cooling systems can cause a range of problems, including improper venting of noxious gases, improper fresh air intake, and decreased efficiency, which translates into higher operating costs.

Plumbing vents are connected to a home’s plumbing system and exit the home through the roof. These vents must be kept open to ensure that the plumbing system operates properly in a home. When the home’s plumbing vents are clear, gravity drains plumbing fixtures in a controlled fashion, leaving behind some water in each fixture’s trap. The residual water acts as a barrier between the top of the plumbing fixture (sink drain, bathtub drain, toilet bowl, etc) and the waste water pipe. This residual water prevents sewer gases from traveling “backwards” through the plumbing and escaping into the living space.

Organic debris from falling leaves and animal nests can cause a ventilation duct to become partially or completely blocked. In addition, prolonged below-freezing temperatures and increased snow accumulation can cause frost to build up on the plumbing vent.

The symptoms of blocked plumbing vents include the escape of unpleasant sewer gases into the home and drainage problems. When a plumbing vent is blocked, the drain empties completely or almost completely due to a phenomenon known as siphoning. When a drain siphons, the water drains with significant force, and the water that should remain in the trap is instead removed. Without the water in the trap, sewer gases can escape from the drain and foul the living space.

Usually a drain that is siphoning makes a significant amount of noise when water is present. Visually, you may also see a “whirlpool” created around the drain that allows the drain to admit both water and air into the drainpipe. In addition, an improperly vented drain will drain noticeably faster than one that is properly vented. Loud noises during drainage can indicate that a plumbing vent is blocked or partially blocked. The increased rate of drainage is due to the additional force that is pulling water through the drainpipe.

To correct a blocked ventilation pipe, manually inspect the vent and remove any debris that may have accumulated in the pipe. Do not cap or cover the vent stack, as they are required to remain open. If the vent is blocked due to frosting, you may not need to do anything special, as the first increase in temperature will melt the accumulated frost.

If your plumbing vent regularly frosts, you may want to modify the plumbing vent to widen out at the point of exit from the roof. Wider vent terminals tend to discourage complete frosting. Keep tree branches away from your roofline at all times to reduce the amount of organic debris that might accumulate otherwise.

If you have a blocked plumbing vent that you cannot clear on your own, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 for assistance!

In my next post, I’ll discuss the importance of keeping ventilation pipes for heating and cooling equipment clear.

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Boston Standard Plumbing Receives 2012 Angie's List Super Service Award

We’re pleased to announce that for the third year in a row, Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating has received the Angie’s List Super Service Award. The award recognizes the top five percent of all companies rated on Angie’s List during the year. Angie’s List is a member-based organization that provides consumer reviews on a wide variety of local service providers.

The awards, which were announced in late December, are given to service providers based on the number of member reviews they’ve received, the ratings given by list members, and the recipients’ ability to follow Angie’s List operational guidelines.

We’re very proud of the service we deliver at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating, and we’d like to thank our customers for their continued support. We work hard to provide the best quality heating, cooling and plumbing products, and the outstanding service that our customers have come to know and expect.

We offer true 24-hour end-to-end emergency response services. What we mean is that when you call us – no matter what time of the day or night – the first person you talk to is a trained, certified, licensed and insured plumbing, heating and cooling professional. We don’t turn our phones over to an answering service, so we can respond immediately to your plumbing, heating and cooling emergencies.

Our fully stocked trucks are ready to roll around the clock. We keep a wide range of the most commonly needed parts in stock, so you won’t have to wait on parts to get your repair work completed. We have the staff to handle both large and small repairs, and we provide “bottom-line” quotes before we start work, so you won’t be left wondering about labor costs and time estimates.

Plumbing, heating and cooling repairs are rarely convenient and can be messy! We also take care while we work in your home, and won’t leave a mess behind. We cover your floors and items in the work area to protect them from dust, dirt and debris. We also use shoe-covers to avoid tracking dirt and debris from the work area through your home.

We offer a wide variety of the highest quality heating and cooling products, and provide certified installation services that can help you save money while keeping your home comfortable and safe. We are fully licensed and insured, so you can be confident that you’ll get the expertise you need to safely correct heating, cooling or plumbing problems in your home.

Count on Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating when you’re contemplating major system revisions, like oil-to-gas conversions, tankless water heater installations, boiler service, and central air conditioning installations or replacements. We can also provide you with a wide variety of money-saving options when your circumstances require something different. We can also help you take advantage of rebates and tax credits that are currently available for high-efficiency heating, cooling and domestic hot water systems.

When it comes to comfort and safety in your home, count on Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating, winner of the Angie’s List Super Service Award for three consecutive years! Contact us at (617) 288-2911 anytime for your plumbing, heating and cooling needs!

Spa Incident Underscores CO Dangers

The recent downtown Boston carbon monoxide poisoning incident underscores the danger that carbon monoxide can pose to humans. About 30 people were sickened last Saturday at a spa, and 8 people were hospitalized. The source of the carbon monoxide was believed to be the commercial dryers the spa uses to dry its towels.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is created as a by-product of natural gas combustion. People exposed to even low levels of carbon monoxide can experience symptoms of varying severity, including dizziness, nausea, vomiting, disorientation and chest pain. Exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide in the air can cause unconsciousness or death. People exposed to CO while sleeping can die without experiencing any symptoms at all.

Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when the body substitutes carbon monoxide for oxygen. CO in the bloodstream binds to red blood cells and prevents oxygen from reaching the cell. Immediate medical treatment is required to prevent physical complications from worsening.

Preventing CO from accumulating in a closed space is essential. All gas appliances must be vented to the outside of the living space to ensure that CO cannot escape into the building’s interior. Gas stoves are typically not vented to the outside because they typically burn all fuel completely.

Build-ups of food, grease and other debris should be eliminated to help ensure that all gas burns completely while the stove or oven is in operation for cooking. Installation of a vented range hood, however, can help ensure that any unburned fuel is vented safely away. Never use a gas range or stove to heat the living space.

Annually, homeowners should have appliances that burn gas or coal inspected for any damage that may allow CO to vent improperly into the living space. This includes stoves, water heaters, gas dryers, furnaces, gas fireplaces and other similar appliances. Portable fuel-burning heaters and generators should not be used indoors under any circumstances.

Homeowners should also have their chimneys inspected annually, and any debris or buildup should be removed to help ensure that exhaust gases vent properly away from the building. Ventilation pipes for gas appliances should never be repaired with duct tape or other porous repair materials, as the repair can become a route for CO to enter the living space.

Ventilation pipes should also be properly installed by a trained installation professional. Horizontal pipes should be inclined slightly to discourage CO from entering the living space at the pipe joints.

Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed in the living space, and should be tested periodically. Devices should be replaced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
If you have questions about your gas-fired appliances, or would like to arrange an inspection, please contact Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We’ll be happy to test your gas appliances, their connections and ventilation pipes for CO leakage.

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