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Angie's List Recognizes Boston Standard Company again!

We’re pleased to announce that Boston Standard Company has been recognized by Angie’s List with a Super Service Award for the 6th consecutive year! Angie’s List is a members-only organization where subscribers rate and review a wide range of service providers. The top 5% of service providers on the list each year are given a Super Service designation.

As always, we want to thank all of our customers, and especially those who took the time to review us. Your feedback helps your neighbors and friends learn about the good work we’re doing at Boston Standard Company. We wouldn’t receive recognition like this without you. We also want to recognize all of our dedicated employees, who make Boston Standard Company stand out from the crowd every single day.

What makes Boston Standard Company so different? We always put the customer first. As much as we would like it, we know that our customers aren’t calling to invite us over for a cup of tea. They’re usually up to their elbows in something unpleasant when our phone rings! We spring into action immediately – whether you’re having a meltdown in July, or you’re playing hockey in your basement – we’re always ready to help.

We can service most makes and models of heating and cooling equipment, and we’re ready to tackle any plumbing problem you can throw at us. We’re also a great resource when you’re planning your next upgrade, or you want to modernize the equipment in your home.

Call us for a consultation on a replacement boiler, furnace, air conditioner or heat pump. Need a new water heater? We can help with that, too! We can also show you how to save money year-round on your plumbing, heating and cooling by choosing the most efficient models.

We know that replacing a major system in your home is a big decision, often with a big price tag. You want to make sure you get the right equipment for your home and your budget. We’ll help you take advantage of rebates, tax breaks and incentives on your purchases, and we can also help with financing, too!

If you’d like to see Boston Standard Company in action, give us a call at (617) 288-2911. We offer true 24-hour emergency service for those truly memorable moments, and scheduled service for repairs, upgrades and consultations.

Thanks again for all of your great feedback and Happy 2016 from Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating.

How We're Spending Our Summer!

It’s summer and we’ve been hopping at Boston Standard Company! We’re proud to announce that we’re sponsoring Men of Boston Cook for Women’s Health. This amazing organization raises funds and awareness to improve women’s health in our community.

Men of Boston will be having a supremely tasty fundraiser on Thursday, October 1 at 6:00 PM at its annual Under the Tent Gala at the Codman Square Health Center at 637 Washington Street in Dorchester. All proceeds go to benefit local women’s health programming. If you would like more information, or would like to join us under the tent, please contact Scotland Huber at (617) 822-8734 for tickets or more information. Since 1995, Men of Boston has raised more than $2 million in support of women’s health.

We also sponsored the All Dorchester Sports League this summer, and helped raise funds to repair and rehabilitate the facilities and bleachers. Regardless of your favorite sports, ADSL has something for you! ADSL sponsors baseball, softball and basketball programs, and also offers fitness classes for kids of all ages, along with tutoring and homework help programs for kids between the ages of 10 and 18! Check out the ADSL at http://www.alldorchestersports.org/.

We had so much fun sponsoring the Franklin Park Zoo last year that we did it again this year. This year, Boston Standard Company sponsored the dwarf crocodile exhibit. We find a lot of things in the sewers around Boston, but thankfully, we’ve never run across any of these guys! The West African Dwarf Crocodile only grows to about 5 feet in length, and they’re slow movers, but they’ve got plenty of time – they have a life expectancy of up to 100 years! You can find this guy in the Tropical Forest exhibit at the Franklin Park Zoo.

With all of these great projects, you may be wondering whether we’ve gotten any work done. Well, we’re glad you asked! Check out our latest “rough” work on a great new coffee shop near South Station. Gracenote Coffee is an independently owned 200 square-foot espresso and coffee bar serving locally roasted in Boston’s Historic Leather District. We’re happy to say that we did the plumbing work for their compact new kitchen, and B. Haley Designs did the design work, so raise a cup to this fabulous space when you stop and pay them a visit!

For more information about what we’ve been up to, or to get some plumbing work done on your own fabulous space, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime.
Photos: B. Hayley Designs

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating Sponsors Girls, Inc. of Lynn!

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating is a proud sponsor of Girls, Inc. of Lynn. Girls, Inc., of Lynn provides programs and resources to more than 1,000 local girls from low-income homes and families, and is dedicated to improving the lives of girls and by extension, the communities in which they live.

Girls, Inc., of Lynn provides programs to help girls overcome barriers to lifetime success, and creates a positive environment in which girls interact with trained mentors. Participants learn how to succeed academically, socially, physically, economically, and culturally, and are given opportunities to explore their interests in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Summer programs help disadvantaged girls maintain their academic achievements when school is not in session. Year-round programs allow girls to explore STEM subjects, and to develop academic and career pathways in these areas. Teen programs help participants become peer leaders and explore college and career opportunities.

Girls, Inc. advocates for girls, and seeks out ways to improve their lives by addressing critical issues that can severely diminish a girl’s quality of life, including dropping out of school and early pregnancies. About half of the girls served by Girls, Inc. of Lynn come from households with average annual incomes below $25,000. About 55% of the girls served come from single-parent households.

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating is proud to support the work of Girls, Inc., of Lynn. If you would like more information about Girls, Inc. of Lynn, please visit their website at girlsinclynn.org/. If you would like more information about us, please visit our website at Boston Standard Plumbing or give us a call at (617) 288-2911 anytime!

Tankless Water Heaters: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Tankless water heaters have been on the market for awhile and provide an option for homeowners who want to recover some floor space, are looking for something more efficient, or who are space-limited. Manufacturers make both electric and gas-fired tankless water heaters. You can also find propane-fired tankless systems.

The up-front cost of a tankless system is generally higher than a conventional hot water tank, but tankless systems also last about two to three times as long as a conventional tank system. Over time, you’ll actually save money on a tankless water system through lower operating costs and a longer replacement cycle.

Tankless hot water systems don’t do a very good job of providing hot water at a low flow rate. Generally, a tankless system will heat water if it detects a flow rate that exceeds about ½-gallon per minute. If you turn the hot water tap on to get just a small stream of hot water, the flow rate may not be sufficient to trigger the water heater. Likewise, there is a delay in getting hot water from the system, as it takes a brief period of time to get the water heated to the desired temperature.

Tankless systems free up floor space, but they’re wall-mounted, so you’re giving up wall space to get floor space. Based on the unit’s size, you’ll need about 2 square feet of wall space plus some new piping, and since the units can weigh about 75 pounds or more, they’ll need to be anchored securely to the wall. They can be mounted to either an interior or exterior wall. Annual maintenance on the tankless coil involves cleaning and/or replacing a sediment filter, and deliming the system to discourage lime and scale buildups.

Natural gas-fired tankless water heaters
Gas-fired tankless systems can be designated as either “condensing” or “non-condensing.” Condensing tankless water heaters can achieve efficiencies of up to 98%, while non-condensing water heaters have a maximum efficiency of about 80%. Since your current water heater has an efficiency rating in the mid-50% range, either type of tankless water heater offers a major efficiency improvement over what you have now. An important design variation between condensing and non-condensing water heaters accounts for differences in both up-front and operating costs.

How does a tankless water heater work? Unheated water in a tankless system flows across a heat exchanger, which is itself heated by combustion. Heat is transferred to the water as the water flows across it. One of the natural by-products of combustion is steam. Because the combustion process produces other noxious gases, the exhaust is vented to the outside.

A condensing tankless water system extracts additional heat from the steamy exhaust and returns it to the water in the system. This technique reduces the corrosiveness of the exhaust gases and increases the efficiency of the system. Condensing tankless water heaters are somewhat more expensive to manufacture, but they can use common venting materials like PVC. Throughout 2015, Gas Networks customers can claim a rebate of $800 on gas-fired condensing tankless water heaters with an efficiency rating of .94 or better.

A non-condensing tankless water heater vents all of the corrosive by-products of combustion, including the super-hot, toxic steam to the outside. Because the steam is not recaptured and reused, a non-condensing system is less efficient and requires higher quality venting materials. Typically, non-condensing water heaters require stainless steel venting, which – as you might guess – is expensive. On the plus side, non-condensing systems cost less to produce and buy. Throughout 2015, Gas Networks customers can claim a rebate of $500 on gas-fired non-condensing tankless water heaters with an efficiency rating of .82 or better.

Gas-fired tankless systems normally require a ¾” or 1-inch gas line, which is larger than the line your conventional tank takes, so you will need to re-plumb your gas service at the time of installation. Tankless systems also require an electrical service, since they feature an electronic pilotless ignition. (This means you won’t have hot water during a power outage.) Tankless hot water systems work best when they’re located close to the fixtures and appliances that draw hot water. Long hot water pipe runs will cause the water temperature to cool, so you’ll definitely want to insulate your hot water pipes if you go tankless.

Electric tankless water heaters
If you don’t have natural gas service, you can consider electric tankless water heaters. Electric tankless systems need to be sized carefully to ensure that they provide sufficient hot water. Electric tankless water heaters require a minimum household electrical service of 200-300 amps, 240 volts, and a dedicated, double-pole, high-amperage breaker for the unit itself. If you are considering an electric tankless water heater, consult with an electrician to determine how your current electrical service will need to be improved to accommodate your new water heater.

Electric tankless water heaters are priced similarly to natural gas tankless water heaters. They are also comparably efficient to condensing tankless water heaters, and do not have the same venting issues that gas water heaters do. Even though an electric tankless water heater is highly efficient, the operating costs for a tankless water heater are significantly higher because electricity typically costs about 2.5 times more than natural gas does to produce the same amount of heat. Electric tankless water heaters are typically used only where natural gas service is not available.

Many electric tankless systems are designated as “point-of-use,” which means that they provide hot water for a single application, such as an individual sink, shower or appliance. Point-of-use units typically do not supply hot water for an entire building, and are commonly used in additions and remodeling.

If you’re considering the installation of a tankless water heater, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We can explain the benefits and costs associated with tankless water heaters, and help you make the best choice for your home.

Boston Standard Plumbing Sponsors The Mather Elementary School

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating is a proud sponsor of The Mather Elementary School in Dorchester, the oldest tax-funded elementary school in North America! The Mather Elementary School, which serves about 600 children in grades PK-5, celebrates its 375th anniversary this year. The school officially recognizes its founding with special celebrations planned all this week – October 19 through the 24th.

While the Mather Elementary School has served tens of thousands of Dorchester’s children over its nearly 400-year history, the school faces many challenges. Most of Mather’s students today come from low-income households and about 1 in 5 Mather Elementary Students require special education support.

As part of the school’s anniversary celebration, they are trying to raise $375,000 to help pay for building improvements, technology improvements and additional academic support. If you would like to join Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating in supporting this exceptional resource that has impacted so many families in Dorchester, please consider donating to the fundraising campaign, or attending the Birthday Benefit on Friday, October 24.

For more information about The Mather Elementary School, please visit: http://www.matherelementary.org/
For more information about Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating and the services we offer in Dorchester, Boston and the surrounding areas, please contact us anytime at (617) 288-2911.

Boston Standard Helps Turn On The Water At The Berkeley Community Garden

The Berkeley Community Garden (BCG) at the corner of East Berkeley and Tremont in Boston’s South End provides gardening space during the summer months for seniors and low-income families in the area. In mid-March, the plumbing system for the gardens was vandalized. Thieves stole 21 of 22 watering stations, most likely for their scrap value. The stolen fittings didn’t contain much copper, but their loss meant that the garden would not have a working watering system.

The thefts were covered well in the Boston media and we at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating saw an opportunity to help! We reached out to Ann McQueen, who sits on the Board of Directors of the Boston Natural Areas Network, which the Berkeley Community Garden is part of. Ann let us know that the water lines in the garden would need to be replaced to return the garden to operating condition for the spring.

Once we knew what had to be done, we turned to Tom Blades at FW Webb, Boston’s largest heating, cooling and plumbing supplier, and they donated the materials we needed to repair the vandalism to the BCG’s water lines. We installed new pipe and watering stations, and the garden was back in business! Or so we thought…

The weekend after we installed the new taps, the thieves returned and removed eight stations from the garden. Because the BCG is such a valuable community resource, we have requested a meeting with the Plumbing Board to seek a variance to use plastic piping in the garden, to make the water lines unattractive to thieves and to preserve the BCG as a great local resource.

We’ve posted items about copper theft in Boston the past, but copper remains a very attractive target for thieves. As plumbing, heating and cooling professionals, we’ve seen many copper installations – both commercial and residential – that have been vandalized by scrap metal thieves. It’s natural for thieves to target unoccupied homes and buildings looking for copper, but we’ve also heard reports of thieves stealing the plumbing out of occupied homes!

We’ll keep the blog updated on our request to the Plumbing Board, and on the state of repairs at the Boston Community Garden.

If you need help getting your outdoor plumbing ready for the summer, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911, and we’ll be happy to help you get your own garden in order! Visit us online, and like Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook!

Boston Standard Plumbing Seals Up 2011 Angie's List Super Service Award!

We’re pleased to announce that for the second year in a row, Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating has received the Angie’s List Super Service Award! Angie’s List is a national service that provides rating information on service providers of all kinds throughout the United States. The award is given annually to the top 5% of contractors and service providers, based on customer recommendations.

Making Angie’s List is special because the service ratings are all customer-driven and completely unsolicited. Angie’s List is a member-driven organization whose mission is to provide unbiased rating information to homeowners and business owners nationwide. Unlike other ratings services, the reviews are not anonymous to the reader, so you can rely on the information you receive.

We work hard at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating to ensure that our customers get prompt, fast and accurate service, and that we meet their plumbing, heating and cooling needs. We’re delighted to have been selected by our customers as being one of the most value- and service-oriented plumbing, heating and cooling firms in the Boston area, and we’re motivated to deliver the superior service we’ve become known for in the Boston area in 2012!

We offer a wide range of services to help keep the plumbing, heating and cooling systems in Boston homes in good working order. We realize that many plumbing, heating and cooling jobs are unplanned, and are the result of an unexpected event. That’s why we offer true 24-hour on-call service for our customers.

In a plumbing or heating emergency, most local firms will route your call to an answering service. As licensed plumbing, heating and cooling professionals, we realize that time is often of the essence. That’s why you speak with a member of the Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating staff when you call us after hours for help. We keep our trucks stocked with a wide range of common (and uncommon) parts so we can usually respond to the problem immediately.

Offering genuine 24-hour emergency response services is just one of the many reasons our customers recommend us. Whether you need assistance with regular heating, cooling and plumbing maintenance, or you need a professional emergency response, you can rely on Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating. Call us anytime at (617) 288-2911 and let us show you why we’re one among the best in Boston.

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Sewer Lateral Financial Assistance Program May Fix Boston Sewer Problems

If you own a home in Boston, sewer problems can do more than make a mess. They can also be expensive to fix! There is a program you should know about that may help relieve the cost of fixing problems that arise with your lateral sewer connection. The lateral sewer connection is the pipe that carries wastewater and materials from your home to the sanitary sewer system.

Not every break in a lateral sewer will qualify for financial assistance from the Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC), but the repair costs for some breaks may be partially or fully covered by a $3,000 grant from BWSC. Breaks that qualify for financial assistance are those where:

  • The lateral sewer or drain is partially or completely collapsed
  • The collapse or blockage is located in the public right-of-way

The homeowner’s account with BWSC must be current. Buildings that have previously received grants to repair blocked or collapsed sewers are not eligible for additional assistance.

The first step in diagnosing and correcting the problem is to call a licensed Boston plumber, like Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating. If we cannot clear the blockage, BWSC will come out to verify the blockage or collapse and determine where the problem occurred. If the problem is in the right-of-way, BWSC will provide eligible homeowners with additional information to get the blockage repaired under the program. Once the work is completed, BWSC must come back out to your property to inspect the repairs.

Under this program, the property owner is responsible for paying for the repairs, but BWSC will issue a check for the cost of the repair or $3,000, whichever is less. It’s important to follow all of the program rules to ensure that you receive any reimbursement you’re eligible for.

If you think you have a qualifying collapse or sewer blockage, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating. Call (617) 288-2911 anytime. We’ll attempt to clear your lateral connection, provide you with advice and help you contact BWSC if we believe you’re dealing with a serious sewer blockage or collapse.

Common Toilet Problems, Part 2

Last week, I talked about a common plumbing problem Boston homeowners may face, the venerable clog. Most clogs are caused by attempting to flush too much material through the trapway. These kinds of clogs can be relieved with plunging. In other cases, an object becomes lodged in the trapway and can cause problems with slow flushing and clogging.

Today, I’ll talk about another common problem that can cause poor flushing performance: mineralization. If you’ve ever looked at the inside of a toilet (and most people haven’t) you’d see small openings around the top rim, along with one larger opening near the front of the bowl. This opening is also under the rim and isn’t very visible if you simply look in the toilet while standing over it.
These outlet ports, along with the larger rim hole allow the fresh water from the tank to drain into the bowl during the flush cycle. The ports are small to ensure that fresh water flows all the way around the toilet bowl throughout the flush cycle.

Normally, the ports are pretty effective, but mineralization, a build-up of naturally occurring calcium and lime in the water, can clog them. The result is a slow, ineffective flush. Regular cleaning under the rim can prevent the outlet ports from becoming clogged, but occasionally the ports will clog no matter what you do.

Cleaning the rim hole and outlet ports will often restore the quality of the flush. You can do this mechanically with a stiff brush. Mineralization build-up is hard so you may need to work at it a bit to dislodge it. You can use a wire brush, but be careful, since the wire can damage the porcelain.

Other “home” remedies can also remove mineralization but they don’t tend to work well in the toilet. You can make a thick paste using baking soda and a little water. Apply the paste under the rim to the outlet ports and let it sit for a few minutes. Flush to clear the outlet ports. You can also rescrub the outlet ports to see if the mineral build-up has softened at all. Vinegar is also good at dissolving mineral build-up, but it takes longer to work (15-30 minutes) and holding vinegar in the rim for that long is an unlikely proposition.

Some people suggest using muriatic acid to clear the ports, but this isn’t a safe prospect. Muriatic acid is very strong, it can burn your skin and the vapors are harmful to your lungs. You’d need a significant amount of protective gear, including clothing and hand protection, safety goggles and a respirator mask to work with this solution in a small space. You’re better off scrubbing.

If you’re having problems with a toilet and can’t seem to get to the bottom of it, contact us as Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating anytime at (617) 288-2911.

In my next post, I’ll talk about piping materials that you may find around your home.

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.