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Looking for a job? How about plumbing?

There aren’t too many good-paying jobs that you can get with a high school education, but plumbing happens to be one of them. Across the United States and right here in Boston, plumbers are in high demand. Employment for plumbers is expected to grow by more than 20% between 2012 and 2022. Better still, a large number of experienced plumbers are retiring, which means that incoming plumbers will see better job prospects and higher wages.

Currently, the median salary for Boston plumbers exceeds $55,000. That figure takes into account all plumbers at all levels of experience. An entry-level position won’t pay that much to begin, but even the entry-level salaries are good. Plumbing is classified as a skilled trade, so most states (including Massachusetts) require plumbers at all levels to be licensed.

Classroom training is an important part of the process, but you really learn how to be a plumber on-the-job. As an apprentice (yes, you get paid!), a Master Plumber must directly or indirectly supervise your work. Most apprentices in the State of Massachusetts will need to document 1,700 hours of on-the-job experience and 110 hours of classroom training per year for five years when they apply to take the exam for a Journeyman license. (That’s about 35 hours per week of work and school combined.) If a Master plumber hires you, you can start working without being enrolled in a classroom program, but you must hit the books within 9 months.

Once you work full-time for at least one an additional year as a Journeyman plumber, you can apply to take the exam to become a Master plumber. A Master license means that you can work unsupervised, and that you can supervise journeyman plumbers and apprentices. There is a limit to the amount of time (10 years) you can work as a licensed apprentice. You must earn at least a journeyman license to remain employed as a plumber.

As a Master plumber, you can work for yourself or you can work for someone else. Plumbers don’t just work on water pipes, either. Plumbers can also install gas lines, fire suppression systems, steam systems and other specialized construction for commercial, residential, industrial and medical construction.
If you’d like more information about becoming a plumber, please visit Cape Cod Plumbing School.

Currently at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating, we’re looking for experienced plumbers and HVAC technicians. We offer a competitive salary, excellent benefits and paid time off. If you would like more information about open positions at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating, please give us a call at (617) 288-2911 or email us at careers@bostonstandardplumbing.com.

Missed Fix-A-Leak Week? You Can Still Save On Your Own

Earlier this month, Delta Faucet Company and the Environmental Protection Agency paired up to help homeowners save more than 7 million gallons of fresh water annually. The event took place in nine cities, including Boston. Water-saving plumbing fixtures were installed by volunteers. Fixtures included faucets, showerheads, toilet valves, and flow regulators.

Even if you missed this particular opportunity, you can still put water-saving fixtures to work in your home. Low-flow toilets can use less than a gallon of water to provide an impressive, bowl-clearing flush. If you don’t want a low-flow toilet, you can also install a special dual-flush valve that reduces your water consumption. The dual flush valve allows you to flush and clear the bowl with running water, rather than using the 2 or 2.5 gallons that are stored in the toilet tank. This low-consumption flush is good for clearing liquid waste. When the flush is complete, the bowl refills with running water.

Water stored in the tank is used only when you need to “power-flush.” These dual-flush valves can reduce your toilet’s water consumption by one-third to one-half. They’re also easy to install, adjustable and are available at most home improvement stores.

Water-saving showerheads can limit flow to no more than two gallons of water per minute while still providing an excellent rinse. These fixtures are also available at your local home-improvement store are easy to install. In most cases, the shower fixture has a threaded connector. Simply disconnect the old one and connect the new one. You can also install an inline temperature control for your shower that can help prevent scalding injuries. Just like the showerhead, the inline temperature regulator is threaded and simply screws into place.

A leaking faucet that drips at a rate of once every 6 seconds can waste about 700 gallons of water per year! That’s significant when you look at your overall water consumption. Put another way, that’s the same amount of water you’d use showering daily for a month, or doing about 25 loads of laundry using a large-capacity washing machine.

Sometimes a leaking faucet requires a simple adjustment to stop leaks, but depending upon the faucet’s design, you may need to replace the entire fixture to stop a drip. Replacing a faucet isn’t hard and requires only a few basic hand tools, like a screwdriver and an adjustable wrench. The effort is definitely worth it when you consider how much water you can save on an annual basis.

If you have leaking sink, tub or toilet fixtures and you can’t address them yourself, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We can recommend low-consumption fixtures that will address your leak problem and save water in the process!

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Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating: Toilet Flush Technologies, Part 1

Power outages remind us of how difficult life can be without modern conveniences, but going without one relatively recent addition to modern households can be downright torture! I’m talking about the modern flush toilet. In Boston, there are a variety of toilet technologies in use, from the very old to the most modern. As Boston plumbers, we see it all.

Toilets have been around for a long time. Archaeological evidence from Britain as far back as the 31st century BC shows us that some households at that time had hydraulic toilets. Virtually all homes in the Indus Valley had flush toilets connected to underground sewer systems in the 26th century BC. Flush toilets were also used throughout the Roman Empire until the 5th century AD, when the Roman Empire fell, and flush toilet technology was for the most part, lost in the Western Hemisphere.

In about 1200, an Arabic inventor developed a combined sink basin and flush toilet. The user would use the toilet, wash his hands and then drain the waste water to flush the toilet. (These water-saving toilets are making a comeback in Asia and Europe today.)

But where did the modern toilet come from and how exactly does it work? Today’s toilet is the product of a lot of small innovations on the user’s end, and the creation of modern sewer (or septic) systems. Most of the important inventions involved valves that started and stopped the flow of water; waste containment systems or sewers; and traps that both hold the water in the bowl and prevent noxious sewer gases from escaping into the living space.

In the 1880’s in Britain, Albert Giblin and Thomas Twyford designed different toilet systems, which Thomas Crapper built. Unbelievably, there is no relationship between Thomas Crapper’s name and the word “crap.” “Crap” (whose meaning hasn’t changed a bit) entered the English language long before Thomas Crapper entered the world!

Crapper popularized (but did not invent) the siphon flush system, which we still use heavily today. Additional innovations have allowed the use of pressurized water to empty the bowl more reliably, provide shorter recharge times between flushes and supply a self-cleaning mechanism to keep the bowl in good shape. These pressurized systems are most often used in commercial appliations.

Most residential toilets are of the gravity-fed variety. Basically, these toilets have a tank of water suspended above the bowl. The amount of water in the tank varies, based on the age of the toilet. The newest toilets use anywhere between 1.28 and 1.6 gallons of water per flush. Older toilets may use more than 5 gallons per flush.

Each gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. The toilet tank has a strong flapper valve at the bottom, which prevents water from leaking into the bowl. When the flush handle is depressed, the wide flapper valve at the bottom of the tank opens and the tank water rushes like mad down into the bowl. With older toilets, the more water you have in the tank, the more sustained pressure you can create in the bowl. The newer toilets operate differently, and as you’ll see in my next post, they’re just as effective at clearing the bowl as the older water-hogs are.

A trapway, which is built into the porcelain of the pedestal, is set at a very sharp angle and makes an upside-down U-shaped bend. You can see the trapway built right into the porcelain if you look near the base of the toilet almost directly under the tank. When the water in the bowl reaches the height of the inside curve of the U bend, a siphon is created and the wastewater is sucked out of the toilet and down the soil pipe.

On the topside of the toilet, the water rushes out of the tank and lowers a float valve. When the float valve reaches a certain angle, it opens a fresh water valve to refill the tank with clean water. Meanwhile, the flapper valve at the bottom of the tank closes to hold the fresh water in. As the water level in the tank rises, the float valve rises, too. When the float valve reaches a certain, pre-set level, the fresh water valve closes and the toilet is ready for the next flush.

If the float valve is not adjusted properly, some fresh water may leak into the tank. To prevent overfilling, there’s a relief tube that has a separate drain path around the flapper valve and into the bowl. If your float valve isn’t working properly, you’ll hear regular drainage into the bowl and the water level will rise. Once it fills the trapway, the water will drain out of the bowl.

On the other hand, if your flapper valve is leaking, you’ll still hear draining water, but periodically, your tank will fill for a short period, then shut off. The excess water will also fill the bowl. When it fills the trapway, the bowl will drain.

If you’re having trouble with a leaking toilet, and you don’t have the tools or the time to make a repair, contact the professionals at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating. We’ll be happy to fix your leak. We can even recommend water-saving toilets that we know you’ll be pleased with. Contact us at (617) – 288-2911 anytime!

In my next post, I’ll talk about new flush technologies and how they can save water without sacrificing performance.

Winterizing The Plumbing In Your Boston Home, Part II

Last week we covered the first part of winterizing your Boston pipes. We’ll finish up the job today.

Sometimes, gravity alone won’t completely drain the plumbing. In this case, you’ll want to use compressed air to “blow” the remaining water out of the pipes.

For appliances that are connected to the plumbing via hoses, you’ll need to detach the hoses and drain them manually. This will include your dishwasher and your washing machine. It may also include any flexible hoses that are used under sinks or in tight spaces.

Visually inspect the toilet tank(s). Don’t be surprised if you find a substantial amount of water in the tank. Flush the toilet again and hold down the flush handle until the water drains from the tank. You may be left with a small amount of standing water. Remove this with towels or sponges. Plunge the bowl to drain any remaining water here.

Finally, check the water meter pipes to see if you need to drain any water from your side of the meter. Your meter may include a bleeder valve to help drain water from the meter. If so, open this valve to drain any residual water in the meter. You may need to use a pipe wrench to open a connector if no bleeder valve is present.

Once all of the pipes have been drained, you’ll need to add antifreeze to each drain in the home. RV antifreeze works well. Add a small amount of antifreeze to each toilet tank, and to the bowl. You’ll want to cover the drain completely to prevent sewer gas from entering the home.

Fill every sink and tub trap. You can do this with about 1-2 cups of antifreeze. You’ll also want to add antifreeze to the dishwasher drain. Start the dishwasher and run it until the pump turns on.

Add a quart of antifreeze to the washing machine. Set the control to spin and run it until it stops draining. You can also remove the drain hose from the utility tub and empty any residual water into a bucket. Don’t forget to put antifreeze into the drain for the utility tub.

If the furnace has a humidifier attached to it, drain the humidifier, but don’t add antifreeze to this appliance. High-efficiency furnaces may also have a condensate pump. You may need to put antifreeze into the condensate pump. Doing so is not harmful. This pump usually drains water to a floor drain or to a higher spot in the plumbing if no floor drain is available.

If your home has a hot water or steam heat system, you’ll need to drain this as well. If you need assistance with draining a steam heat or hot water heating system, or if draining your plumbing seems like an overwhelming task, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing at (617) 288-2911. We can drain and secure your home’s plumbing system in preparation for your extended absence.

Winterizing The Plumbing In Your Boston Home, Part I

If you plan to vacate your home during the winter for any length of time, you should consider winterizing the plumbing system. If you plan to turn the heat off, this is a must-do! Winterizing the plumbing in your Boston home will protect the plumbing from significant damage that can occur in an unheated structure.

In elementary school, we’re taught that water expands when it freezes. This same expansion occurs to water that freezes while it is trapped in pipes in an unheated home. The expansion can do incredible damage to the pipes; most vulnerable are joints and valves in the pipes. When the frozen water thaws, it will leak from damaged areas of the pipe, causing additional water damage to the structure. It will also promote the growth of mold and mildew in the home.

Does this mean you shouldn’t turn the heat down in your home if you’re planning to go away for a lengthy period of time? You can still turn your heat down (or even off altogether) as long as you take steps to protect the plumbing while you’re away.

If you plan to be gone only a week or two, turn your thermostat down to about 50°F. Insulating water pipes can also help protect them from the cold. Pay special attention to pipes in unheated spaces like basements, crawl spaces and around garages. Turn off the water to any outside plumbing (like outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems) and drain these fixtures completely.

If you plan to be gone for a substantial length of time or you’re vacating the home and don’t plan to return, you should drain your plumbing system altogether. To do this, turn off your main water shutoff valve, located near your water meter. Open all taps to allow them to drain. Leave at least one tap open at the highest point in the plumbing system. This will speed the process of draining the pipes by allowing air to enter the system easily.

Don’t’ forget to open any taps you may have in the basement of your home. Flush all toilets to empty them. Drain any standing water you may find in the base of your dishwasher. Turn on all showers. Turn off the icemaker in your freezer, if you have one and drain the water out of the supply line. Turn off the gas or electricity to the hot water heater and drain the tank. Most hot water heaters have a cleaning valve that you can use to drain the tank.

Sometimes, these cleaning valves are threaded to accept a garden hose. You can use this to drain the tank into a sump well or floor drain. Otherwise, you’ll need to drain the tank into a bucket or other container and “bail” the tank until it’s empty. Draining a hot water tank this way can take upwards of an hour, depending upon the size of the tank.

A note: before you repressurize the system, consider performing maintenance on your hot water heater’s sacrificial anode. Since the hot water tank is already empty, this is the ideal time to consider maintenance of this type. Boston Standard Plumbing can help with replacing your hot water heater’s sacrificial anode(s).

Check back next week for the rest of our advice on winterizing your plumbing.