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Storm Preparations For the Boston Blizzard

Preparing for a storm can be tough because no one knows exactly what to expect. With regard to the impending Boston blizzard, here are a few ideas to help you stay on top of changing conditions.

Basics matter. In an emergency, you may be coping with a number of tough conditions, including the snow, poor road conditions, power outages, falling temperatures, frozen pipes or broken water mains and other things that are simply out of your control. But the good news is that a little advance planning can help you cope with these things.

• Make sure you have enough food to last 3-5 days. The stores may be open, but the roads may be closed. Having a stash of the basics (which includes food, water, basic first aid supplies and toilet paper) can help keep you safe and sound indoors.

• Plan to have a power outage. The power doesn’t always go out in a major storm, but ice and snow accumulations on overhead wires can cause localized power problems. Large snowfalls can also hamper repairs. Don’t attempt to clear snow or ice off of your home’s service lines, even if the lines are sagging low enough for you to do so. If the lines are very low to the ground, call your local utility company to report the problem.

Along the same lines, consider making an investment in a generator that is large enough to keep your major systems online. “Major systems” minimally include your heating equipment, water heater, refrigeration equipment, and sump pump. If the generator is large enough, you may also consider adding your cooking or other kitchen appliances to the list.

A safety note about generators: they’re strictly outdoor devices. They burn fuel, emit carbon monoxide and must be vented to the outside. Do not run a generator indoors, even for a short period of time. A qualified electrician can help you connect and disconnect a generator, and show you how to operate the device safely. Stock up on spare batteries and light sources, but exercise caution when using or carrying candles or open flames. Do not attempt to use a gas stove or oven as a heat source.

• Don’t forget your car. Sometimes in an emergency, you have to relocate. Make sure your car has a full gas tank and a full wiper fluid reservoir. Stock the car with blankets, a flashlight, a small shovel and non-perishable food for both people and pets. Prepare a gallon or so of fresh water, but don’t store this in the car, since it will freeze. Have it waiting by the door in case you need to move.

Finally, make sure your cell phone has a full charge, and if you don’t already have one, invest in a 12v charger. That will allow you to plug your cell phone into the convenience outlet (or the cigarette lighter) of your car to power your phone if the battery dies.

If you have to leave your home during the storm and you still have power, make sure your thermostat is set to no lower than 60°F to avoid frozen pipes while you are away.

If you encounter any problems with your home heating equipment or your plumbing, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We offer round-the-clock emergency service throughout the Boston area.

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5 Water-Saving Tips to Cut Your Usage

In honor of Water Week, we’d like to offer five suggestions for cutting your residential water use. Boston has an abundance of clean, safe drinking water, but that doesn’t mean that water conservation isn’t necessary. Conserving water can help reduce your water bills and make your home more safe and comfortable.

Eliminate leaks.

Leaks are a substantial source of residential water consumption. By eliminating leaks in your faucets and fixtures, you can reduce your water consumption and prevent health hazards (like mold and structural damage) from becoming a problem in your home. Check your faucets and fixtures for leaks, and replace seals, connectors and broken fixtures right away.

Use water-saving fixtures.

Low flow faucets, showerheads and toilets can significantly reduce your water consumption. In the past, homeowners were reluctant to use some kinds of low-flow fixtures, especially low-flow toilets. Modern toilet designs use less water and clear the bowl as effectively as older designs that use more water. If you need to replace toilet or shower fixtures in your home, low-flow is the way to go!

Don’t use your toilet as a trash can.

Some people flush tissues, cigarette butts, sanitary products and other “household” waste down the toilet. Sewer systems can manage the tissues, but other objects and discards should be thrown away. Toilet paper is designed to dissolve in water. Other household trash items will survive the trip through the sewers and could come back to cause other problems! In addition, each flush will throw as much as 5 gallons (or more) down the toilet. Use the toilet for its intended purposes, but find a more eco-friendly way to dispose of your trash.

Use a shower timer.

The average American shower lasts about eight minutes, but a five-minute shower could cut your water usage by nearly 40%. Buy an inexpensive shower timer – looks like the old fashioned sand timer and fastens to the shower wall with suction cups – to work your shower time down to just five minutes. You’ll reduce your water consumption and your water bill at the same time!

Turn the water off when you …

…brush your teeth or shave. You can also turn the water off when you’re preparing food in the kitchen. If you wash your dishes by hand, install a double-bowl sink and use a standing rinse to remove soap from the dishes rather than running water from the tap.

Enjoy Water Week and set a goal to save water this summer. If you would like professional assistance to install water-saving fixtures or toilets in your home, call us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 to set up an appointment. We can recommend a wide range of affordable, water-conserving products for your home. Visit Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook!

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You Can Participate In The Boston Marathon!

There’s still time to donate to Team MR8, a select group of runners, chosen to honor the memory of Martin Richard, an 8-year-old boy who was killed in the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. On April 21, Team MR8 will run the Marathon to raise funds for the Martin W. Richard Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established by Martin Richard’s family, and dedicated to promoting peace through investments in education, athletics and community.

Lisa Jackson is a friend of the Richard family, and is one member of Team MR8. Boston Standard Company is proud to support Lisa, Team MR8 and the Martin W. Richard Charitable Foundation in their collective pursuit of this worthy cause. Lisa was chosen from among nearly 300 applicants to run for Team MR8 in this year’s Boston Marathon. Lisa eclipsed her initial goal of raising $9,500 for the Foundation. She adjusted her goal to $16,000 and is close to reaching that milestone.

We invite you to assist Lisa in her fundraising efforts. If you would like to help Lisa honor the memory of Martin Richard, and support the work of the Martin W. Richard Charitable Foundation, please take a moment to make a donation of any amount.

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Fix A Leak Week: Is Your Home Under Water?

This week is designated as “Fix a Leak Week” and is a good reminder to check your household fixtures for plumbing leaks. With this winter having been a hard one, a really good place to start your inspection is, of course, your outside spigots and lawn irrigation lines. If you didn’t remember to close and drain your hose connections, you could be looking at cracked or broken valves and water lines. Any major leak of this type is one you’ll want to fix immediately, because as the weather warms, you’ll run an increased risk of mold growth in indoor areas, and loss of performance and other damage in outdoor systems.

According to the EPA, water leaks in the average American household can waste more than 10,000 gallons of water each year. Nationally, the agency estimates that leaks consume more than a trillion gallons of water annually. That’s enough water to serve 11 million households. If you think this number sounds high, keep in mind that 10 percent of homes that have water leaks waste more than 90 gallons each day.

Sometimes it can be tough to confirm that you have a water leak. Dripping faucets and leaking connections are easy to see, but other fixtures like your toilets, showers and appliances may hide evidence of their sneaky water consumption. Use your water meter during a short period – say 2 hours – of “water inactivity” in your home to help you determine whether or not your fixtures are secretly consuming water.

You can test toilets for leaks by putting some food coloring in the toilet tank. If the colored water in the tank shows up in the bowl within 15 minutes, your toilet is leaking water. Most often, leaks from the toilet come from a failed or failing flapper valve. Alternately, the tank can fill too much when the toilet is flushed. If you dye your tank water and no colored water shows up in the tank within the test period, flush the toilet to clear out the colored water.

If your toilet doesn’t pass the colored water test, change the flapper valve at the bottom of the tank. This is very easy to do, and it’s a simple, cheap repair. If your toilet tank overfills, you can adjust the refill shut-off point by adjusting the refill valve. Usually, the optimal fill point is marked on the overflow tube in the tank. Try to adjust the refill to shut off at or near this point.

Dripping showers, faucets and connections are also signs of water leaks. Sometimes, simply tightening the connections around these fixtures can eliminate drips, but be careful not to overtighten the connections. Mineralization and debris from the water system can foul valves, making them difficult to close completely. Sometimes, just taking the valve apart and cleaning it or using Teflon tape around the connections can restore proper, drip-free operation.

If that doesn’t eliminate the drip in your faucet, you may need to replace a washer or ceramic disk. In some sealed faucets, these may not be replaceable. In this case, you’ll replace the entire faucet instead.

Outdoor irrigation systems can be a source of significant water waste. Even a very small leak or crack in an irrigation system hose can waste more than 6,000 gallons of water per month. It pays to inspect your outdoor watering system (or have a professional inspect it) every year before you begin outdoor watering.

If you have a major break in your water line or you know that you have a leak but just can’t find it, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating for immediate repair services. We offer true 24/7 emergency assistance for all of your plumbing, heating and cooling needs. Call us at (617) 288-2911 anytime. Don’t forget to like Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook, and enjoy a leak-free summer!

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Plumbing Fun For the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

With the 2014 Winter Olympics poised to start, the assembled media have displayed their fascination with what appears to be some questionable, unsafe and potentially downright unsanitary plumbing available to the athletes and guests of the Winter Games.

Double takes for double toilets

One item that has received a lot of airplay is the presence of double commodes, double urinals and community bathrooms in Sochi. Now, it’s not uncommon to enter a men’s restroom and find a bank of urinals on the wall – with or without privacy partitions. But it’s almost unheard of in the West to find toilets out in the open. So what’s up with that? No plausible official explanation has been offered, but the double/communal toilets have put in appearances at a number of Olympic venues. Popular local theories attribute the phenomenon to waste, fraud, and incompetence, but visitors are finding a number of examples of multiple toilets in buildings not specifically built for the Olympics.

Don’t flush the paper

Reports have also surfaced in Sochi that athletes and visitors are being asked not to flush toilet paper down the loos there. Instead, signs caution the guests to deposit used toilet paper into waste bins in the bathrooms. Though it seems odd to our Western sensibilities, many places around the world don’t have plumbing robust enough to manage lots of toilet paper, and not flushing TP is a common solution.

Don’t drink the water

One Chicago Tribune journalist tweeted a picture of tap water drawn from her hotel bathroom, and let’s just say it’s not pretty. The journalist also reports that she was cautioned not to let the water make skin contact either, which – if you think about it – probably pretty much defeats the purpose of having running water. Horror stories abound about non-working showers, non-working hot water, electrical cords attached to shower fixtures, and missing amenities like shower curtains.

No plumbing at all

Some visitors have noted that some of the urinals in their hotel don’t appear to have plumbing. While the photo evidence suggests this to be the case, waterless, flushless urinals do exist. Waterless, no-flush urinals have been on the market for about 20 years, and resemble conventional urinals, but self-drain through an internal 2″ gravity drain. These urinals eliminate the need for flush valves and water supply lines. Instead, these fixtures use replaceable cartridges that filter tiny solids in urine, block the emission of sewer gases through the fixture and eliminate urine odor. (But we need to point out that the urinals in the picture are the standard, flushable kind.)

Needless to say, plumbing has taken the center stage ahead of the tens of thousands of 2014 Olympic Games visitors.

If you weren’t able to make it to the Sochi games, don’t worry, you’re in good company. We didn’t make the trip either! Our helpful, friendly and knowledgeable Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating staff is ready to make sure your water runs clear, your hot water works, and your plumbing can manage toilet paper like a pro. Plus, you have our word that we’ve never purposely (or inadvertently) installed side-by-side toilets.

Visit Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook, and if you’re in Sochi, send us pictures of your best plumbing finds!

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Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating Supports Team MR8!

On April 21, 2014, our good friend Lisa Jackson will be running in the Boston Marathon as part of Team MR8. Team MR8, a select group of runners, will honor the memory of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy who was killed in the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

Team MR8 is raising funds in support of the Martin W. Richard Charitable Foundation, a non-profit organization established by Martin’s parents following his death. The purpose of the foundation is to promote peace through investments in education, athletics and community. The Martin W. Richard Charitable Foundation is in the process of seeking a 501 (c)(3) designation by the Internal Revenue Service.

Lisa was selected to run for the Foundation from among a group of more than 250 applicants. Her goal is to raise $9,500 for the foundation, and at this time, she’s about halfway there. We congratulate Lisa and would like to invite all of our friends to consider making a donation (no matter how big or small) to help Lisa achieve her goal and to support Martin’s dream of making the world a better, more peaceful place.

If you would like to support Lisa’s run, please visit Lisa Jackson’s FirstGiving page for more information about this special event, and the opportunity to make a donation to the Martin W. Richard Charitable Foundation in advance of this year’s Boston Marathon.

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Forecast for Boston: Turn up the heat!

Weather forecasters are predicting that 2014 will be the coldest winter nationwide in three years. For homeowners in Boston, heating will become a high priority! Here are a few tips to help maintain your heating equipment, stay warm and save money at the same time!

Turn down your thermostat – to a point.
You’ve heard the advice – “Turn down your thermostat while you’re away.” – and if you do it right, it’s a good tip. You can save money by not keeping your home heated to your preferred temperature when you’re at work or gone for long periods of time. That doesn’t mean that you should let the temperature free-fall in your home, though. You’ll actually spend more money returning your home to your preferred temperature if you turn your thermostat down too far, or turn it off altogether. A good rule of thumb is to let the temperature in your home fall by no more than about 5°F. Beyond that, your furnace will be working harder and consuming more energy to warm your home on your return.

Your high efficiency furnace needs your help!
High-efficiency furnaces start out saving you a lot of money on operational costs, but if you don’t maintain them properly, they won’t work at peak performance. High efficiency furnaces should be cleaned, inspected and maintained by a professional at least once per year, and filters should be changed every month on a regular schedule. Thinking about skipping the maintenance? Don’t! High-efficiency furnaces can lose as much as 10%-15% in operational performance each year they’re not maintained. Not performing maintenance can also shorten the lifespan of critical components and the high-efficiency unit in general.

Watch snow and ice buildup around your high-efficiency exhaust ports.
If you have a high-efficiency furnace and your intake and exhaust ports exit the home through the foundation wall, make certain that your ports don’t become clogged with snow, frost or ice during the winter. Never allow the fresh-air intake port to become blocked by anything. (Your furnace will quit working!) Don’t store anything in front of the ports and don’t allow vegetation to grow or accumulate near these ports during the summer. Completely clear all snow within a 3-foot radius from around the ports.

Consider an oil-to-gas conversion.
If you use fuel oil to heat your home, your return on investment from switching to natural gas will be almost immediate. You’ll improve the efficiency of your heating equipment and significantly reduce the cost of heating your home in the winter. You’ll improve the safety of your home by eliminating the possibility of toxic oil spills in or around your living space. (You may also reduce your homeowner’s insurance bill by switching!) You’ll also avoid the risk of running low on fuel during a cold spell, or having to pay a large oil bill midway through the heating season.

If you would like more information about saving money on heating your home this winter, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 for a consultation. We can provide information about programs you may be eligible for to reduce your heating bills, making low-cost improvements to your heating and cooling equipment and keeping your home safe this winter.

Don’t forget to visit Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook and have a Happy New Year!

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Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating Wins 2013 Angie's List Super Service Award

For the fourth consecutive year, Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating has received the Super Service Award from Angie’s List. The Super Service Award is given to the top 5% of service providers as ranked by Angie’s List members. This is a great honor for us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating!

Customer service is at the core of everything we do, and the staff at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating will go the extra mile to make sure that you get the service and support you need to make your home safe and comfortable. The Super Service Award from Angie’s list is given annually to service businesses like ours, and is based on the number of member reviews Angie’s List has received, the ratings given by list members, and the recipients’ ability to follow Angie’s List operational guidelines.

As a member-only organization, Angie’s List does not solicit feedback and does not accept non-member reviews. That way, you as a consumer, can be sure that the ratings and recommendations come from real people describing the real experiences they’ve had with Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating.

Our staff of fully trained, licensed and insured professionals can address all of your heating, cooling and plumbing needs. We are an authorized Trane dealer, but can service most heating, cooling and plumbing products. We can also help you save money on your heating and cooling expenses, take advantage of rebates and special financing, and make your home more comfortable and efficient.

We keep our fleet of trucks stocked with even hard-to-find parts, so we can respond immediately to your heating, cooling and plumbing emergencies with one visit. We also provide true 24-hour emergency service. Your after-hours call will be answered by a Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating staff member. (Most “24-hour” service providers turn their phones over to an answering service.) At Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating, you’ll always talk to a licensed professional who can answer your questions and respond to your emergencies immediately.

Whenever you need plumbing, heating or cooling assistance in Boston, call Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating at (617) 288-2911. Whether your needs are planned or unexpected, the professionals at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating can help!

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2013 Boston Heating and Cooling Rebate Programs

Want to reduce the cost of heating? Boston homeowners can still take advantage of a number of programs designed to reduce the cost of making energy-efficient improvements around your home. Here are a few of the programs that can reduce the cost of purchasing and installing new heating equipment, and can also help you save money on operating costs throughout the year!

Early Boiler Replacement Program Boston homeowners still have a little time to take advantage of the Early Boiler Replacement Program offered by National Grid. If your home has a working boiler that is at least 30 years of age, you may qualify for a rebate of between $1,750 and $4,000, depending upon the type of boiler you have installed right now. Qualified homeowners must begin the boiler replacement process before September 30 to take advantage of these generous rebates. Installation of the new equipment must be completed by November 1.

Programmable Thermostats. You can save money on your heating and cooling bills simply by installing a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats can help you save as much as 10% on your heating and cooling costs throughout the year, and help maintain the comfort level of your home year-round. Right now, you can collect a $25 mail-in rebate on the purchase of one programmable thermostat, or $50 on the purchase of two programmable thermostats.

Residential High-Efficiency Heating Equipment Rebate Program Boston homeowners can collect rebates of between $25 and $1,500 on the purchase of high-efficiency home heating equipment, including programmable thermostats, Wi-Fi thermostats, warm-air furnaces, forced hot water boilers, integrated water heater/condensing boiler units, outdoor boiler reset controls, heat recovery ventilators and a variety of water heating equipment, including both tankless and conventional water heaters.

Mass Save HEAT Loan 0% Interest Financing for 2013 Mass Save offers 0% financing on qualified energy-efficient home improvements including high efficiency heating systems, central air conditioning/ air source heat pumps, ductless mini split heat pumps, high efficiency domestic hot water systems, solar hot water systems and 7-day digital & Wi Fi thermostats. HEAT Loans are a great way to reduce the cost of replacing your heating and cooling equipment and allow you to take advantage of the savings that high-efficiency equipment can offer.

Heat Pump Water Heater Rebate Boston homeowners can take advantage of this rebate when they replace an existing electric water heater storage tank with a qualifying electric heat pump water heater, or install an electric heat pump water heater in new construction.

Now is a great time to replace older, less efficient equipment, save money immediately on the purchase and installation of new equipment, and save money on operational costs over the lifetime of your high efficiency equipment.

For more information about these programs or to learn about how you can take advantage of these rebates and special financing programs, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing at (617) 288-2911 to set up an in-home site visit or consultation. We’ll be happy to help you make the most of these exceptional, money-saving programs.

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3 tips to find and eliminate plumbing leaks

You may not realize that you have a plumbing leak until you receive an unusually high water bill. When you think of plumbing leaks, you think of the unexpected flood that deposits a lot of water on your floor or damages your walls. In reality, a lot of plumbing leaks aren’t actually detected by the homeowner. Sometimes, you can determine whether a leak is present, but finding the damage might require more detective work!

Finding a plumbing leak. Plumbing leaks can be stealthy. One good way to determine whether you have a leak is to turn off all of the supply-side water valves in your home. You should have a supply-side shutoff valve at each water-using fixture. It’s good to test these valves once in awhile anyway, so this exercise may help you kill two birds with one stone. Once all of the fixture valves have been closed, check the water meter. If the meter is still running, you may have a leak. During this test, if you find a shut-off valve that is stuck or broken, replace it.

If you do find that your system is still drawing water, you’ll need test each segment of the system to find out which one is affected. This can be time-consuming, but it’s the best way to locate the source of a leak.

Testing your water pressure. Don’t skip this step in the hunt for leaks! You need to know what the water pressure is in your system. Here’s why:

The municipality needs to pump water at a high pressure to ensure that water is delivered correctly and safely to homes and businesses. Often, however, the pressure in the municipal supply is about three to four times higher than what residential systems are designed to operate at! Residential plumbing components aren’t designed to take high pressure for long periods of time, and will wear out early and often! Once a component begins to fail, a leak is the natural result.

You can buy an inexpensive in-line water pressure gauge at your local hardware store that can measure the water pressure at a faucet. If your water pressure is significantly higher than 55 PSI, a regulating valve located near the meter will help ensure that your system maintains a correct and safe water pressure. These regulating valves are adjustable, so if you find that 55 PSI doesn’t meet your needs, you can turn the pressure up.

Check your appliances. Don’t automatically assume that the valves in your water-using appliances are in good working order. They’re under the same pressure that the rest of your system is. Check the valves of your laundry, refrigeration and dishwashing equipment regularly for leaks and deterioration around the seals. Inspect the hoses and replace them every five years. These valves and hoses are inexpensive and are readily available from appliance repair stores.

If you need help with locating a leak in your plumbing, testing your water pressure or installing a regulating valve on your plumbing system, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to test your system, locate hidden leaks and help you protect your water-using appliances.

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