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Copper in Boston Plumbing Still A Target Of Thieves

Copper theft is on the rise and Boston has seen a rash of thefts involving copper plumbing. Boston Housing Authority employees are facing a Civil Service Hearing related to accusations that they illegally removed copper plumbing from a public housing complex in Roslindale.

Last month, two men were arrested in New Hampshire in connection with the theft of copper from National Grid in North Andover in two separate incidents. Police estimate that the National Grid copper was worth more than $30,000. Later in the month, National Grid also reported the theft of about $6,000 worth of copper from a power plant in Whitman.

Copper theft isn’t limited to commercial properties, though. Last month, a New Hampshire man was arrested after attempting to steal copper plumbing from a home for sale in Manchester. In that theft, the combined damage total from the copper theft and leaking water was estimated at $3,000.

Scrap copper is worth about $2.50-$3.00 per pound, and the cost of copper is rising slightly. That puts homeowners with copper plumbing at an increased risk of copper theft. Exposed copper connections on central air conditioning units are also becoming a favorite target of thieves.
What can you do to protect yourself? We recommend that you sheathe any exposed (outdoor) copper pipe with flexible conduit to shield the copper from view. That’s not going to stop a determined thief, but out-of-sight, out-of-mind sometimes works.

Empty residential buildings are at the greatest risk of theft. Removing copper does take a bit of time, so thieves will be looking for opportunities to work undisturbed. Motion alarms, burglar alarms and observant neighbors may deter some thieves, but few things will dissuade a determined thief from getting in.

One approach to consider when a home is empty is turning off the water at the main and draining the plumbing system. That won’t prevent copper theft, but it can prevent resulting water damage to your unoccupied home. Maintain your insurance coverage on the structure, and your loss will be limited to the value of your deductible.

Draining the plumbing in an empty home isn’t a bad strategy, even if copper theft isn’t on your mind. When your pipes are empty and the water is turned off, you avoid pipe damage that might occur during an extended power loss. If you know you’ll be gone for an extended period of time and you would like help draining your plumbing or your boiler, contact Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to drain your pipes and winterize your boiler. Upon your return, we’ll repressurize the systems, and bleed residual air from radiators and plumbing lines.

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Winterizing Your Boston Home Can Save Money, Time

As the fall temperatures turn colder, most Boston homeowners are thinking about winterizing their homes. This post has a few tips for helping to reduce heating costs by winterizing your Boston home. In future posts, I’ll help you winterize a home that is (or will be) vacant during the winter months.

The first step in getting your home ready for the winter is to take a good look at it, from both the inside and the outside. From the outside, you want to spot areas where cold air, snow, ice or water can enter your home. Damaged vents, cracked windows or windows that don’t fit well in their frames, leaks or holes in the roof can all cause your heating system to work harder than it needs to. Fix any damaged vents, but don’t cover them completely. The purpose of the vent is to remove moisture from your home. Sealing a vent will trap moisture in your home and cause mold and other air quality problems in your living space.

Check the vent stacks that exit your home through the roof or walls. Make sure the vent lines for your plumbing and heating systems are open and completely free of debris. High-efficiency heating units rely on outdoor ventilation to operate properly. Some vent stacks have mesh caps that prevent small animals, and debris from accumulating in the vent stack. If you have stack covers, make sure they’re in good shape.

As long as you have the ladder out, clear out the gutters and downspouts. This will help melting snow drain away from your home’s roof and foundation, and can help prevent leaks, ice damming and other water problems throughout the winter. It will also discourage the collection of moisture in or near the foundation of your home, which can lengthen the life of your heating and cooling equipment, your plumbing and your water heater.

If you have a central air conditioner unit, remove any leaves or other organic debris around the unit. Most central A/C units are designed to stand up to the cold weather, but keeping debris and drain lines clear can never hurt. If you have window air conditioners, remove them if you can. You can purchase covers for the units to keep snow and ice out, but for the sake of energy efficiency, the units should be removed, cleaned and stored for the winter.

Winterize your outdoor faucets. To do this, close the shutoff valve, usually located inside the home, near the spot where the faucet line exits the home. Disconnect the hose, if one is attached. Drain the hose and stow it away for the winter. Open the faucet valve from the outside and let any remaining water drain away. If the faucet handle is detachable, you may want to remove the key and store this for the winter, too. If you have a water supply line for an outdoor pool, shut this off at the valve and drain it by opening the faucet to let standing water escape.

If you have underground sprinklers, shut the water off at the inside valve and drain the system. You may have to blow air through the system to remove the water and dry the lines out. Do not leave standing water in your sprinkler system over the winter. You can damage the lines and heads if you do.

If you have storm drains on your property, keep them free of leaves and other organic matter that may accumulate in the fall. This will help melting snow drain away when the weather warms.

In the next post, I’ll give some suggestions for winterizing the inside of your home. In the mean time, if you have any questions or concerns about your plumbing, or need repair work done in advance of the colder weather, please contact us at (617) 288-2911.

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.