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!

How To Drain Your Water Heater

Water heaters can give you years of trouble-free service, but a little water heater maintenance can help extend the life of your tank beyond its minimum rated service period. Many water tanks suffer from lack of maintenance, which can deteriorate the tank and cause it to fail prematurely.

To help keep your hot water tank operating properly, make a maintenance plan that includes draining the tank annually. This will discourage the build-up of sediment in the tank and will help extend the tank’s life. To drain the tank, you’ll need a standard garden hose and a safe place to put 40 gallons or more of hot water.

If your water heater is electric, cut the power to the tank at the breaker box before you do anything else. If your tank uses natural gas, turn the temperature control to the “pilot” setting, or to “off” depending upon how the control is marked.

Once the power/fuel is cut, attach the hose to the tank’s drain valve. The drain valve looks like a hose spigot, may be made of plastic or metal, and is threaded to accept a standard garden hose. Don’t open the drain valve yet – just get the hose attached to the valve.

Run the hose to a working floor drain, sump well or to the outside, if the tank is on the first floor of your home. Remember, the water that drains from the tank will be hot, so be sure to dispose of it safely!

Turn off the cold water supply to the tank, and open a hot water tap on one of your faucets. This will allow air to enter the tank and push the water out through the drain. Finally, open the drain valve on your hot water tank. Monitor the tank as it drains to prevent accidental flooding and to verify that the tank is draining.
When the tank is drained, open the cold water supply and begin refilling the tank. Don’t close the drain valve; the goal here is to flush any accumulated sediment out of the bottom of the tank.

When the water runs clear from the drain hose, close the open hot water tap and the drain valve. Allow the tank to refill. Once the tank is refilled, reapply power or re-ignite the gas and allow the tank to begin heating again.

Next week, I’ll discuss the pressure relief valve on your hot water heater, and show you how to test the valve for proper operation. In the mean time, if you have trouble with your water heater, or would like Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating to perform maintenance on it, please give us a call anytime at (617) 288-2911.

New Water Heater? Boston Homeowners Get A Tax Credit For That

As I mentioned last week, the federal government has extended the tax credit available for the installation of non-solar water heaters in Boston homes. The credit, which applies only to certain high-efficiency water heaters will put as much as $300 back in your pocket, if you claim the credit by December 31, 2011. What qualifies? Any gas, propane, or oil-fired water heater with an energy factor of at least .82 or a thermal efficiency of at least 90% (including tankless models) qualifies for the break. Electric heat pump water heaters with an energy factor of at least 2.0 also qualify. This program falls under the federal cap of $500 for energy efficient improvements made between 2006 and 2011, so if you’ve already claimed certain expenses under this program, your credit may be reduced or eliminated.

Note that standard electric water heaters and solar water heaters are specifically excluded from this program, so check the rules at before you buy. As with last year’s tax credit program, even highly efficient electric water heaters don’t generate enough energy savings to qualify for the credit. Solar water heaters are also exempt for the same reason, but if you want to install a solar water heater and you can go without the tax credit, contact us and we’ll be happy to talk about your options.

To claim your credit, you’ll need to put the device in service in 2011 in your primary residence. New construction, rental properties and second homes don’t qualify. You’ll also need to file IRS Form 5695 when you prepare your taxes next April. Don’t forget to save your receipt(s) and the Manufacturers’ Certification Statement with your records!

If you’re ready for more tax-friendly home improvements, consider adding a natural gas, propane or oil furnace. You can claim a tax credit of $150 if the furnace you install has an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating of 95 or better. If your home uses a boiler, you can get the same $150 credit for any gas, propane or oil boiler with an AFUE rating of 95 or better.

Of course, the experts at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating are ready to help with any repair, installation or maintenance issues you may encounter with your home heating, cooling or plumbing systems. Whether you need an emergency repair or just some good advice, contact us at (617) 288-2911 and we’ll be happy to help.

Boston Water Heater Replacement Can Earn You A Tax Federal Credit

Right now, the federal government is offering homeowners a federal tax credit on the installation of new, high-efficiency gas, oil, propane and electric heat pump water heaters. Not all water heaters qualify for the credit, but if you’re considering updating a home in Boston, water heater replacement can save you money both up-front and over the life of the appliance.

To claim the credit, which amounts to 30% of your cost up to $1,500, you’ll need to install a water heater with an energy factor of at least .82 or a thermal efficiency of at least 90%. The tax credit will cover installation costs in addition to the cost of the water heater. This credit is significant because a hot water heater can account for between 15% and 25% of your total energy expenditures each year. Reducing energy consumption for hot water heating will produce a noticeable change in your monthly heating bills. This credit expires on December 31, 2010, so time is of the essence if you’re planning to upgrade your hot water heater.

Hot water heaters don’t have an indefinite life span. If your hot water heater is making noise (like crackling sounds), has aged beyond its original warranty, is not performing as expected, shows outward signs of rust, produces hot water with a foul odor, or releases white particles when you open the drain valve at the bottom of the tank, you may want to consider replacing your hot water heating system.

At Boston Standard Plumbing, we can perform hot water heater maintenance, and evaluate the condition of your hot water tank. We can also install a tankless hot water heat system that integrates with your existing boiler, or operates independently and provides unlimited, instant hot water for your home and appliances.

Contact Boston Standard Plumbing today at (617) 288-2911 for more information about this tax credit and how you may be able to take advantage of it.