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The dirtiest part of your bathroom

The dirtiest part of your bathroom

Toilets take a lot of abuse, and some people are phobic about touching them – especially those in public restrooms. Your bathroom (heck, any bathroom!) has a bad reputation for being dirty, and frankly, it’s well deserved. Yes, your bathroom is dirty, but it’s not entirely your toilet’s fault! Your bathroom habits can make a bad situation worse. Much worse.

Here’s what’s hanging around in your loo and what you can do about it.

Mold

Ah, mold. No one likes mold. It stinks. It stains. It can make you sick. Some molds can kill you. (On the other hand, penicillin – also a mold – can save your life.) It’s hard to get rid of. There’s not much to like about mold. Mold can thrive on porous surfaces, like grout, wood and plaster.

Mold is a fungus, so it reproduces by way of spores. Spores can remain dormant until they find conditions they like. Because your bathroom is a wet space, your battle with mold will pretty much never end. Ventilation is a good antidote to mold. Mold loves water, so if you can keep your bathroom dry, you can cut down significantly on any mold growth there.

Leaks of any kind will contribute to and support mold growth. Always address leaks immediately, whether they’re from the sink, toilet or bathtub.

If you have carpeting in your bathroom, you’re going to get mold growth there. If possible, remove carpeting and replace it with a hard surface flooring material – preferably a non-porous one. Wash the window curtains, shower curtains and rugs regularly, and use a small amount of bleach in the wash to kill any volunteer growth. At the minimum, clean your bathroom once per week and more frequently if it’s heavily used.

Important side note about mold: Many varieties of mold are black in color, but that doesn’t mean they’re “black mold.” Stachybotrys chartarum is the bad actor known as “black mold.” The black stuff that appears in your bathroom around the shower is probably Alternaria. Alternaria’s not totally harmless, since it can aggravate asthma and cause allergic reactions. The good news is that even though it’s black and it’s mold, it’s not black mold. A mild bleach solution will kill Alternaria. So will vinegar. Drying your bathroom walls and ventilating the bathroom after taking a shower will also discourage Alternaria from growing.

Mildew

Mildew is actually white, so if something is growing in your bathroom that has a color other than white, it’s not mildew. It’s probably a mold of some kind. Mildew is also a fungus, so the same attack strategy for mold will work on mildew.

Yeast

Another member of the fungus crowd. Vinegar or bleach will do the deed on yeast, but so will hot water – 122°F or better. (That’s a scalding temperature, so your water heater might not be of help here.)

Bacteria

Coliforms: Coliforms are fecal bacteria. Yes, they originate in poop. It’s entirely possible that you have more fecal bacteria on your toothbrush holder than you do on your toilet seat. How could that even be?

First, coliforms can’t really survive well outside the human body, so most of the coliforms in your bathroom will be dead. (Good.) Coliform bacteria gets aerosolized and distributed around your bathroom when you flush the toilet with the lid open. Second, it accumulates on your toothbrush holder when you don’t clean that regularly. Quick fix: close the lid when you flush the toilet and clean your toothbrush holder more often.

Staph: Common, and likes to hang out around the toilet and on faucet handles. Your bathroom could also harbor streptococcus, E. coli, Pseudomonas, etc. A disinfectant cleaner like Lysol will kill the overwhelming majority (99.9%) of these lowlifes.

“Pink mold:” “Pink mold” is not mold. It’s actually a bacteria also known as Serratia marcescens. It feeds on soap scum and shampoo residue, which is why it likes your bathtub so much. This bacteria has the chops to make you sick, so getting rid of it is a good idea. Avoid direct contact with it, but a good detergent or spray cleaner should neutralize it. Remove any buildup of soap residues by cleaning the bathtub regularly to inhibit the growth of this bacteria.

As plumbers, we don’t clean bathrooms (except our own), but we can help you address leaks and other plumbing problems. Call the plumbing experts at Boston Standard Plumbing at (617) 288-2911. We’ll help you find and eliminate water leaks and other plumbing problems!

Photo Credit: Tony Webster, via Flickr

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Use a licensed contractor for plumbing repairs

Use a licensed contractor for plumbing repairs

When your home needs plumbing repairs that you can’t (or don’t want to) tackle yourself, you normally hire professional help. Anytime you hire a professional to do plumbing repair service work, it will cost you more than it would if you did the work yourself. That’s a given. But you should verify the qualifications of your plumbing repair professional before you let them in your door.

Recently, a property owner in Connecticut contacted a home warranty company to perform covered repairs on a leaking water valve. The company provided a contractor, who came to the property and performed the repair.

Unfortunately, the contractor wasn’t licensed to perform plumbing repairs, and his work resulted in a small house fire. Molten solder ignited some debris under the home’s boiler, which was next to the washing machine with the faulty valve.

The home didn’t burn down, and no one was injured, but the home required significant repairs as a result of the fire. Fire officials investigating the blaze determined that the contractor had no current licenses. Further, they found that the state had revoked his previous licenses in 2006.

Checking up on your plumbing contractor

Massachusetts requires any person performing plumbing repairs for compensation to have a current license and insurance. A professional plumber in Boston must undergo extensive training that includes both classroom education and on-the-job training before they can be licensed. Plumbers in training must work under the license and supervision of a master plumber. In addition, they must carry special insurance to provide plumbing services.

Massachusetts makes it easy to check the credentials of any person who provides plumbing services. If you have a plumbing problem and want to hire a plumber, please take the time to verify the person’s professional license status.

This tool enables you to select the type of professional license you want to verify. In the case of plumbers, we are certified by the Board of State Examiners of Plumbers and Gas Fitters. (Second from the bottom on the pull-down list.) Enter the contractor’s name and the system will verify that the professional is currently licensed. You can select the licensed professional from the list and see the status of the person’s license. In addition, in the Public Documents section below the individual’s record, you can check for any negative actions.

The price of a repair shouldn’t be your only consideration. To protect the safety and well-being of your home and family, check a contractor’s credentials!

If you need help with a plumbing repair, heating repair or AC repair in your home or business, contact Boston’s Trusted Service Company, Boston Standard Company, at (617) 288-2911. We’re licensed, bonded and insured and we’re happy to help!

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If your toilet could talk…

If your toilet could talk…

Toilets are arguably the most unsung of workhorses around your home. We don’t just expect toilets to work; we need them to work. But sometimes, they don’t work. If only your toilet could talk, what would it tell you about taking care of your toilet?

Taking care of your toilet

We’re pretty sure that taking care of your toilet would be high on your toilet’s list of things to discuss. Taking care of your toilet goes beyond just cleaning it now and then. Here are a few things to consider, if you plan to help your toilet out.

Check for leaks now and then. Toilets can leak in a number of places. A “good” leak is one that allows water from the tank to leak into the bowl. This is a “good” leak because the water doesn’t end up where it’s not supposed to go. Leaking toilets can cost a lot of money over time, however. These kinds of leaks aren’t always obvious, either. If your toilet fills up the tank on its own periodically, you’ve got a leak. If your toilet takes forever to fill, you’ve probably got a leak. If you can hear water draining down into the bowl, or into the soil pipe, your toilet is leaking. You can buy replacement valves for your toilet at your local home improvement store. You can also adjust the amount of water your toilet uses.

A “bad” leak allows water to escape the toilet. A leaking toilet can either flow out the bottom of the tank, or out the bottom of the bowl. Tank leaks are clean. Bowl leaks not so much. If your tank is leaking (and not just sweating), you may have to replace the tank. Check for cracks in the porcelain and look for flimsy gaskets. If water appears on the floor following a flush, remove the toilet and replace the wax ring on the bottom. You may also notice a “sewer” smell when you have a bad wax ring. Wax rings are cheap but they can cause a lot of damage when they give up.

When does your toilet need maintenance?

There’s not much involved in regular maintenance, except for cleaning. Be sure to use cleaning products specifically intended for toilets. Standard household cleaners can stain porcelain and crack the glazing. This will decrease the lifespan of your toilet. If you have hard water, use products to soften the water in your toilet. This will help reduce or eliminate mineralization and staining. Check the filler adjustment now and then to make sure your toilet isn’t consuming too much water. Make sure the seat is tight and fits well. Also check the flange nuts to make sure the toilet doesn’t move when it’s in use.

These items qualify as abuse

Toilets are designed to take a particular kind of abuse, but sometimes people go too far. Here are a few things you should NOT flush down your toilet.

Paper that isn’t toilet paper. Toilet paper dissolves in water, which is why it’s ok to flush it down the sewer. Other kinds of paper – Kleenex, paper towels, etc., – don’t dissolve. If it isn’t toilet paper, don’t flush it.

Disposable … things… Toilets aren’t trashcans, but that doesn’t stop some people from flushing trash. Q-tips, cigarette butts, sanitary products, disposable wipes, condoms, dead goldfish – none of these things are toilet-friendly. They all belong in the trash. If these items make it all the way to the sewer, they need to be separated out before treatment. In most cases though, they don’t make it all the way to the sewer. They sit in your soil pipe or in your sewer lateral. Given the opportunity, they will return to you. Don’t flush these things.

You have been warned.

Grease and food waste. Flushing grease down the toilet is no better than washing it down your sink. In fact, it’s probably worse. Grease can clog your sink drain in no time. If it clogs a kitchen sink, it will do the same thing to a toilet. Don’t put grease down either the toilet or the sink. (But especially not the toilet.)

Hot liquids
Toilets (and bathroom sinks) aren’t tempered. A rapid shift in temperature between the water and the porcelain will crack it. (And things won’t get better from there.) Use the kitchen sink to dispose of hot, non-greasy liquids.

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating is here to help with all of your toilet maintenance needs. We can also recommend and install low-flow toilets to help you save water! Call us at (617) 288-2911 to schedule an appointment.

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Water Heater Maintenance Tips

Water Heater Maintenance Tips

If you have a tank water heater in your home, chances are good that your only genuine contact with it is your daily shower. Most people don’t realize that water heaters require regular maintenance. Performing regular maintenance on your water heater can not only extend the life of the tank, but also ensure that you have trouble-free operation for years.

You might think of your water heater as being a giant kettle that sits in your basement or in a utility closet. The water inside never heats up enough to boil (hopefully), but the tank always keeps heated water ready to go. Your water heater is a little more complicated than that, which is why it requires regular maintenance.

If you have a conventional tank water heater, you’ll want to become familiar with the maintenance routine for your tank. If you have an older tank in service, and you’ve never performed routine maintenance on it, beginning a maintenance routine may not get you very much. The trick to prolonging the life of a hot water tank is to begin maintenance on the tank when it is brand new and continue the routine throughout the tank’s life. Knowing how a water tank operates will show you why this is the case.

A conventional water tank has an energy source – either electricity or natural gas. (Water heaters can also operate on propane or fuel oil.) It has a water inlet for the cold water supply, and a water outlet for the heated water. The tank also has a thermostat to control the water temperature, and a pressure relief valve. A gas water heater will have an exhaust vent at or near the top of the tank and a gas burner at the bottom (outside) of the tank. An electric water heater will have one or two heating elements inside the tank. The tank itself is lined with glass. There’s a drain valve at the bottom of the tank, and the tank is insulated to improve energy efficiency.

Tanks also have a “sacrificial anode” which is a magnesium rod that sits in the water and controls the rate of corrosion in the tank. If the magnesium rod weren’t there, the tank itself would begin to corrode immediately. Because its job is to corrode, the rod deteriorates over time. Once the rod has deteriorated, the tank will begin to corrode rapidly. Replacing the sacrificial rod periodically will extend the life of your tank. The tank warranty provides a good rule of thumb for changing the anode in the tank. If your tank has a 6-year warranty, change the rod every 5-6 years. If it has a 9 year warranty, change it every 7-9 years. With a 12-year warranty, change the rods every 10-12 years.

Factors other than the passage of time can affect how rapidly the sacrificial anode deteriorates. Inspecting the rod annually can better help you determine when to replace your tank’s rod.

As a side note, the deterioration of the sacrificial anode is the reason you should never consume hot water from the tap. The water becomes contaminated by the water heater and is no longer fit for consumption.

Over time, debris from the anode, minerals and corrosion build up at the bottom of the tank. If you don’t drain the debris out periodically, it will form a “blanket” at the bottom of the tank and decrease the tank’s heating efficiency. The sediment can also escape the tank and collect in your water fixtures. Draining the tank from the bottom periodically will remove the sediment. Some people prefer to run a gallon or two of heated water from the bottom of the tank regularly to keep the sediment level in check.

Your water heater also has a temperature and pressure relief valve. This valve will open if the temperature or the pressure in the tank becomes too high. You can test the valve by pulling the trip lever on it. If the valve is operating correctly, it should relieve a little water or water vapor from the tank. You may also hear a little rush of air escaping the valve. If none of these things happen, the temperature and pressure valve may have gone bad. It’s important to replace the T&P valve. Without it, your tank could experience a dangerous increase in pressure, which could lead to an explosion.

If you’d like more information about water heater maintenance, or if you would like to replace your existing water heater, we can help! Boston Standard Company offers water heater installation and repair services in Boston. Just give us a call at (617) 288-2911.

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Why it's not too late for cooling system maintenance

Why it's not too late for cooling system maintenance

Summer is already more than one-third over, but it’s not too late to perform cooling system maintenance. Ideally, you perform AC maintenance before the summer season begins, so you can maximize the efficiency of your cooling unit. If summer’s gotten ahead of you, it doesn’t mean that you have to sit this season out.

Cooling units can lose efficiency quickly when they become dirty. They can also lose efficiency when their moving parts become worn. Keeping the air filter in your unit clean is one easy way to help your cooling unit work more efficiently. Having a trained technician inspect, clean and rehab your cooling system is another way to maximize your savings.

Cooling system maintenance special offer

Boston Standard Company is offering a $159 precision AC tune-up until August 15, 2018. This is a great opportunity to catch up on cooling system maintenance issues that may prevent your AC unit from performing at its peak.

Our AC tune-up special includes a complete system cleaning. This helps ensure that your cooling unit provides superior cooling at the lowest possible cost. We’ll also evaluate the coolant in the system. That means checking for leaks and making sure that your coolant still delivers high-quality cooling as it ages.

Our tune up also includes a complete inspection of your unit’s electrical system. This helps to avoid any nasty surprises that could arise following a Boston winter. We’ll also evaluate the blower motor and belt to ensure trouble-free use during the season.

It’s never too late to start saving money. Even if you didn’t get a pre-season AC maintenance check done before the warm weather arrived, we can still help! The sooner you commit to a cooling system maintenance plan, the sooner you can start saving.

A high efficiency cooling system will do more for you than keep your home comfortable. Cooling systems will also keep your home drier. That will be a plus this summer; forecasters are predicting a wet second half of the summer for Boston. Keeping your home drier will help avoid conditions that support mold and mildew growth.

A professional AC tune up will help save money, no matter when you choose to have it done. If you would like to take advantage of our $159 AC Tune-Up special, call us at (617) 288-2911 to schedule a visit. Mention HEAT2018 to claim this special price.

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Don't Miss This DIY Plumbing and Heating Workshop

Boston DIY Plumbing Workshop

Plumbing and heating are two of your home’s most important systems. When they don’t work correctly, they can jeopardize the comfort and safety of your home. The good news is that homeowners can manage many common problems that can arise with heating and plumbing systems, thanks to an excellent DIY plumbing workshop coming up this weekend.

Plumbing and Heating Workshop


Joseph Wood, owner of Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating will be on hand to deliver a great classroom-style DIY plumbing workshop designed just for homeowners who want to know how to maintain and repair issues like plumbing leaks and drain clogs, and perform routine maintenance on heating systems.

In addition to repair and maintenance tips, Joseph will share advice for homeowners who want to reduce their water consumption without sacrificing performance. He will also address questions and concerns about pipes and pipe replacement, heating and cooling system replacement, rebates and incentives for system improvements, and offer preventative maintenance strategies. Joseph will also show attendees how to spot more serious plumbing and heating issues that require professional attention.

The DIY plumbing workshop is also a great opportunity for anyone who’s considering a career in plumbing or heating and cooling. The next decade will see tremendous growth in employment for trained, licensed plumbers and heating and cooling professionals. As an apprentice, you’ll begin working immediately and developing the skills you’ll need to earn your plumbing license.

Joseph has been working in plumbing, heating and cooling for more than 20 years, and owns Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating in Dorchester. Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating has been recognized annually since 2010 with an Angie’s List Super Service Award. Boston Standard has also been recognized by the Better Business Bureau and the Best of Boston for its outstanding service.

The DIY plumbing workshop takes place Saturday, November 5 from 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM at Boston Building Resources, 100 Terrace Street in Boston. Please visit the Boston Building Resources website to register for this workshop. The registration cost is $25. We hope to see you there!

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Happy World Toilet Day! You're pooping wrong

An Israeli study from 2003, which looked at the way adults poop, found that pooping from a sitting position really isn’t the best way to do it. The researchers asked adult participants to poop from a seated position using a standard height toilet and a low toilet. They also asked the participants to poop from a squatting position – the position we’d naturally use if we were… you know … natural.

Not surprisingly, the researchers found that pooping from a seated position (whether higher or lower) requires more effort and more time than pooping while squatting. Over time, researchers say that our unnatural pooping position can cause digestive problems and other physical maladies, like hemorrhoids.

Don’t get rid of the flush toilet yet, though! There are a lot of things to like about our porcelain thrones, but their ergonomics isn’t one of them. Coming to our rescue is a number of designers, who are bringing a number of friendly alternatives to the bathroom.

In fact, the University of the Arts in London held a contest to design a human-friendly toilet that was based on the idea of squatting rather than sitting and the results were not only artistic, but practical.

If you’re ready to go beyond concepts, for as little as $35, you could try the Squatty Potty, which isn’t really a potty at all. It’s a little step that elevates your feet and legs when you sit on a conventional toilet. The positional aid helps you to achieve a better, more natural posture during elimination.

If you are looking for something a little more hard-core, try the Lillipad Toilet Squatting Platform from New Zealand, which fits around your toilet and lets you squat on top of it. The Lillipad comes in two different heights and will set you back about $160, including shipping. You can also find other foldable or collapsible toilet platforms that range in price from about $80 to $160 that will also allow you to poop while squatting.

Squatting may seem unnatural to us, but two-thirds of the world’s population poops from a squatting position, and sitting while pooping has only been around for about 150 years. Just something to think about on World Toilet Day.

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Sexist or Practical? The Two-Person Sales Pitch

A newspaper columnist in Detroit recently raised a question about a particular kind of sales pitch that initially seemed sexist. The writer was looking for a quote for home improvements, specifically window replacements. Each window company she called said they would only send a salesperson if her husband were also present at the appointment. “Single” appointments were available, but only at inconvenient times (mid-afternoon) that would require her to take time from work.

After doing a little more research, she found that other consumers had the same experience – but not just women. Men had also been told that sales appointments could only be set if their wives would be present. And the practice wasn’t limited to windows. Consumers also identified roofing companies, heating and cooling companies and other home improvement contractors that use the practice. The columnist’s view on the matter changed from being a “sexist” sales practice, to being a high-pressure pitch.

The window companies that would comment on the columnist’s sales experiences insisted that their approach was not sexist, but simply practical. Many homeowners will listen to a sales pitch, only to defer the decision to an absent spouse. (“Well, I’ll talk to my husband/wife about it and get back to you.”) To avoid that, the companies would only offer the sales pitch if both decision-makers were present.

While the tactic isn’t sexist, it’s designed to put the buyers in an awkward spot. This approach is likely to trigger uncomfortable discussions between the buyers, pit the buyers against each other, or force the buyers to reveal information that they don’t want to disclose. And in the end, it puts pressure on the buyers to make an immediate decision without considering other options.

At Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating, we offer our product information to anyone who is interested! We understand that sometimes, it’s more convenient for one homeowner to hear the sales presentation and relay the information to their spouse or another decision-maker. We also know that replacement of a major heating, cooling or plumbing system in a home or business sometimes can’t wait, and that’s enough pressure to make a purchase decision! When a new system is a choice, every available option deserves some careful consideration.

Don’t get us wrong: we’ll always take an immediate answer, but we don’t expect one right away! We’re homeowners, just like our customers are. We don’t like being on the receiving end of high-pressure sales pitches, so we don’t treat our customers like that.

If you’re looking for information about replacement options for your heating, cooling or plumbing systems, but don’t want a high-pressure sales pitch, give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll lay out your options, costs and provide information about financing, rebates and tax credits that may be available to you.

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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.

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Fight Cancer At The 119th Boston Marathon

The Boston Standard Company is proud to support Rachel Wolfberg and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute marathon team in tomorrow’s 119th Boston Marathon. One person can run a marathon, but it takes an immeasurable number of people and a lot of financial support to hit cancer where it lives.

By supporting runners like Rachel and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute team, we can all do our part to fight this disease, which will impact more than 1.6 million people in the US for the first time in 2015 alone. Each year, more than one-half million people in the US lose their battle with cancer, but research into the disease and strategies to fight it are producing exceptional results.

Breast cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer alone will account for more than 40% of new cancer diagnoses in 2015, so finding new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat this disease is critical. Your support of people like Rachel Wolfberg and the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge can help achieve this goal.

If you would like to support Rachel, please visit:
Rachel’s donation page to make your pledge. Any amount – big or small – can help us all in the fight against cancer!

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