Posts

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.

Boston Homeowners & Businesses:

Plumbing, Heating or Cooling Problem? We Can Help!

Call Boston Standard Company, The Company You Count On.

Call Now
617-288-2911
BSC Technician Truck

Many Different Kinds Of Pipes In Residential Boston Plumbing

Your home may contain an odd collection of pipes, with some runs being made of one material, and other runs being made of other materials. Often, a mixture of materials can signal problems that may have been addressed by former owners of your home in Boston. Plumbing materials have changed over time, and I thought it might be useful to identify some of the most common plumbing materials.

Copper
Copper is the “gold standard” when it comes to plumbing materials. Copper is typically used on the supply side of the system. That is, copper pipes carry fresh water into your home, to your taps and water-using appliances. Copper is a metal, and has a distinctive orange color. In certain circumstances, copper can change color from orange to green. This usually happens with exposure to air.
Copper pipes can also be used to provide an electrical ground point for your home’s wiring. If you do your own wiring, only use cold water lines to provide an electrical ground. A ground fault that is dissipated through a hot water pipe can set up a galvanic reaction that can destroy the pipe, and leave a steamy mess behind.

Another copper caveat: if the pH of your water is naturally below 6.5, copper can leach out of the pipes into the water at levels that are considered unhealthy. Special filters can remove excess copper. Another approach is to raise the pH of the water at the intake to prevent copper leaching.

Galvanized Pipe
At various times, copper has been in short supply, so other less expensive materials have been used to on the supply side of residential plumbing. Galvanized pipe, which is often black in color, was used heavily in some home construction after World War II, but it is not commonly used today as a “first-choice” material. Galvanized pipe is treated iron pipe that can safely carry fresh water and natural gas.

Because it is made of iron, galvanized pipe can and does rust over time. Smaller diameter fresh water pipes are especially prone to this kind of long-term damage. Rust can build up in a galvanized pipe and is discharged from a faucet when the tap is opened. Over time, the rust can stain sink, tub and toilet fixtures. Many homeowners have chosen to replace galvanized pipe with more expensive copper or less expensive PVC to avoid the side effects of the long-term deterioration of galvanized pipe.

Plastic
There are a number of different plastics that have been (and are) used for residential plumbing. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe is a white plastic material that can be used on both the supply side and the discharge side of a residential plumbing system. Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) is also used, as is flexible plastic supply tubing known as PEX. PEX can be used for short runs, but it can also be used under floors, in crawl spaces and in radiant heat systems. PEX is less prone to freeze damage than other piping materials, and does not require chemical epoxies for joints or connections.

Brass
Brass piping can be used in residential applications, but it tends to be expensive. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. The best grade of brass pipe has about 85% copper and has a distinctive reddish color. The lowest acceptable grade brass pipe has a copper content of about 67%. Generally, the lower the copper content, the more vulnerable the pipe is to deterioration. Using non-brass fittings with brass pipe can also set up a deteriorating reaction.

High quality brass is not affected by water and does not rust. It is a good choice for hot water supply lines and may be a suitable replacement for galvanized pipe. Brass is also widely used in plumbing fixtures, fittings and valves.

Lead
And then there’s lead. Even though the health implications of lead plumbing have been well documented, many older homes had (or still have) lead supply lines that connect the home to the municipal water supply. Lead supplies are easy to identify because they have a distinctive dull gray color, and are soft enough to be scratched by a screwdriver or similar tool.

Municipal water systems typically don’t have any lead supply lines left. If you have a lead water supply line carrying fresh water to your home, or think you may, contact us for advice on replacing your lead supply line with one made from a safer material. Lead should be removed from plumbing systems since it is a known hazard to human health.

If you need help identifying your pipes, or would like an estimate on pipe repairs or replacements, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing at (617) 288-2911 anytime!

Boston Homeowners & Businesses:

Plumbing, Heating or Cooling Problem? We Can Help!

Call Boston Standard Company, The Company You Count On.

Call Now
617-288-2911
BSC Technician Truck

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 Homeowners & Businesses:

Plumbing, Heating or Cooling Problem? We Can Help!

Call Boston Standard Company, The Company You Count On.

Call Now
617-288-2911
BSC Technician Truck

Insulating Boston Plumbing Can Save You Money

If you’re looking for an easy way to save money and improve the performance of your Boston plumbing system, consider insulating your pipes. Insulation is highly cost-effective, easy-to-do and can help your hot water stay hotter and your cold water stay colder. Insulting your pipes also doesn’t take any special equipment or tools and the task can be completed in just a few minutes.

In terms of energy efficiency, a significant portion – as much as 30% – of energy loss occurs in pipe and duct runs. The amount of loss is proportional to the length of the run. To combat energy loss, add specially formed pipe insulation, which can be found at your local home improvement or hardware store. Pipe insulation is pre-formed and should have an R-rating of 3 or more. Using better insulation is especially important if your pipes reside in or near your home’s exterior walls.

You can also use regular fiberglass “batt” insulation (with an R-value of 7 or higher) to wrap around pipes, but you’ll need to use protective equipment for your hands, face, clothing and eyes if you go this route. The preformed pipe insulation is the preferred solution if you have a choice.

To apply pre-formed insulation, simply open the insulation tube along the pre-cut split that runs the length of the tube and wrap it around the pipe, like a cuff. You’ll need to break the insulation around joints and valves. If you’re using the batt type insulation, you’ll need to cut the insulation to length, wrap the pipe and secure the insulation with tape or some other binding.

Any pipe – hot or cold – that runs in or near an exterior wall should be insulated. This includes any pipes that feed outdoor spigots and sprinkler systems. After those pipes are done, the next prime candidates are your hot water pipes. You can reduce energy consumption by insulating these, but you can also realize other benefits by insulating your cold water pipes, too.

When there is a significant difference in temperature between the cold water in the pipe and the surrounding air temperature, your cold water pipes will act like a condenser; it will naturally remove moisture from the air. This phenomenon is known as “sweating” and may cause your cold water pipes to drip this condensed moisture along the horizontal runs.

By insulating your cold water pipes, you can control the condensing action, and keep the standing water in the pipe colder – and more refreshing on a hot day!
If you need plumbing, heating or cooling assistance in your home, call Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating anytime at (617) 288-2911. We provide licensed plumbers and high quality service around the clock!

Boston Homeowners & Businesses:

Plumbing, Heating or Cooling Problem? We Can Help!

Call Boston Standard Company, The Company You Count On.

Call Now
617-288-2911
BSC Technician Truck

Dual Flush Valve Great Plumbing DIY Project

The good news is that I’m not in the shower this week, but I am still in the bathroom. Virtually, that is. A couple of weeks ago, I profiled a couple of low-flow showerheads that are designed to save water. This week, I’m featuring a dual-flush valve kit that can work with any conventional toilet. For homeowners in Boston, plumbing may not be a specialty, but this DIY project can certainly save water (and money) with each flush.

Water-saving toilets will play an increasingly important role in urban water-conservation efforts. If you live in an area where fresh water is relatively plentiful, you may not think much about water conservation. On the other hand, if you live in the desert, your water bill may be as much of a concern to you every month as heating in Boston would be in the winter.

Enter the HydroRight dual flush valve, designed to fit to conventional toilets. The valve replaces your standard flush handle with a two-button control. Use the upper button when you want to flush away liquid and paper only. This empties the holding tank just halfway and still clears the bowl adequately. For clearing solid waste, the lower button provides the standard full flush. Using this approach, you can reduce the water usage of an average toilet by about 30%.

This is the ideal DIY project. Installing the HydroRight valve requires no tools, no tank removal and is a done deal within about ten minutes. It also eliminates the dreaded chain and handle – common failures in standard flush toilets – and replaces the flapper valve – one of the usual suspects when it comes to leaky tanks. You can also find the HydroRight valve at your favorite home improvement stores for about $20. Depending upon how much you flush, you can recover the cost of the dual flush valve in less than a year, and you’ll be doing your part to help the environment, too.

Boston Homeowners & Businesses:

Plumbing, Heating or Cooling Problem? We Can Help!

Call Boston Standard Company, The Company You Count On.

Call Now
617-288-2911
BSC Technician Truck

Thinking About A Low-Flow Shower Head?

Last week, I wrote about a nice little safety valve that will throttle your hot water supply in the shower if the temperature exceeds 115°F. The device is designed to protect people from a sudden increase in hot water temperature. This week, I’m still in the shower, but I’m thinking about water saving showerheads. Boston homeowners who are hoping to save a little money on the water bill may be considering a low-flow showerhead.

Most homes have a showerhead that was manufactured after 1992, when federal regulations concerning showerheads changed. The 1992 regulations prohibited the manufacture of showerheads that delivered more than 2.5 gallons per minute as part of a regulatory effort to conserve fresh water. Prior to 1992, showerheads could deliver about 5 gpm.

Today, low-flow showerheads on the market deliver between 1.5 and 2 gpm. Water-saving superstars may deliver as little as one-half gallon per minute. Some models have multiple spray patterns and adjustable flow controls. You can also find low-cost, single-spray heads relatively inexpensively.

When manufacturers first started marketing low-flow showerheads – fixtures that delivered less than the standard 2.5 gpm, consumers were less than enthusiastic. The reduced water stream made rinsing extremely difficult in some cases. Other complaints were based on the supply water pressure. Low flow shower heads that had a supply water pressure of less than 50 psi may not operate at all, while supplies that delivered more than 80 psi might cause low flow shower heads to operate erratically. Typically, water pressure in a shower supply is delivered at about 60 psi, but every house is different and actual water pressure may significantly exceed the standard.

Aside from operational complaints, low-flow showerheads vary widely in cost and can be thrown off their game by the gradual accumulation of debris and mineralization in the head. Additionally, low flow showerheads compensate for the reduced amount of water by increasing the pressure of the spray. This increased pressure can lead to early fixture failure, so you may find yourself replacing your low-flow showerheads more frequently. Some users also complain that their hot water supply isn’t delivered as hot as it was using a showerhead with a higher flow.

One option may be a device called a shower tower. Depending upon the model you choose, a shower tower may not be a DIY project. A shower tower consists of a combination of a showerhead and water jets that spray water from a vertical column that is installed on the shower wall. In addition, it’s tough to consider the shower tower a water-saving device, since you can use up to 5 gallons per minute when both the shower head and the jets at the same time!

If you are considering a low-flow showerhead and would like a recommendation, or would like to get a quote on professional installation for a shower tower or other shower fixtures, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating, at (617) 288-2911 and we’ll be happy to help.

Boston Homeowners & Businesses:

Plumbing, Heating or Cooling Problem? We Can Help!

Call Boston Standard Company, The Company You Count On.

Call Now
617-288-2911
BSC Technician Truck

Add A Temperature-Activated Flow Reducer To Your Older Shower

Here’s a great idea that may add a bit of safety to an older home in Boston. Plumbing in newer homes is usually designed to help prevent hot water scalding. Often, newer plumbing designs include a pressure balance (to prevent the cold water from dropping out) or an anti-scalding device to regulate the flow of hot water. Single control shower fixtures also can also balance the hot and cold water feeds to help prevent injuries.

In older homes and apartment buildings, the plumbing may not have been modified. If this describes your home or building, for safety reasons, you should consider adding a temperature-activated flow reduction device.

This device is threaded and sits inline with the showerhead on a two-handled shower – those showers that have independently controlled hot and cold water feeds. This valve includes a bi-metal regulator (much like a thermostat) that reduces the water flow to a drip if the water temperature exceeds about 115°F. This flow reducer doesn’t completely shut down the hot water flow. Instead it reduces it to about ¼ gallon per minute, which will give the person in the shower time to readjust the water balance without losing the hot water altogether.

If you live in an older home or apartment building, and your shower has independent hot-and-cold-water feeds, you’ll want to have this device installed, especially if you have young children or older adults in the home. The device is relatively inexpensive for the protection it offers and is designed to fit standard ½” supply pipes.

The device isn’t designed to correct pressure problems, such as what happens when the cold water drops out after a toilet flush, or if someone else in the house opens up a cold water tap. If this happens to your plumbing, you’ll want to consider having a pressure balance installed to prevent this from occurring.

This is a great DIY project that doesn’t require much knowledge about plumbing, or any special tools. With the valve itself and a little Teflon tape, you can add a measure of protection to your home. If, for some reason, you don’t want to install this valve yourself, or you want more information about correcting pressure problems in your plumbing, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 and we’ll be happy to lend a hand.

Boston Homeowners & Businesses:

Plumbing, Heating or Cooling Problem? We Can Help!

Call Boston Standard Company, The Company You Count On.

Call Now
617-288-2911
BSC Technician Truck

Will A Tankless Water Heater Fit In Your Boston Home? (Part 3)

For the last two weeks, I’ve examined the perspective of cost and operational efficiency of tankless hot water systems. Boston homeowners may not find the savings they were looking for from tankless hot water, but there are benefits other than those you can measure in out-of-pocket terms.

Tankless hot water systems are more efficient than conventional hot water heaters. American homeowners could aggregately reduce carbon emissions by more than 90 million tons annually, just by using tankless hot water systems. If reducing your carbon footprint is important to you, and the cost of a hot water system is the same over 15 years whether you go tank or tankless, this might be enough of an incentive to make the switch.

Tankless hot water systems take up less space in your home. If your basement or utility space is already crowded, a tankless system may help you reclaim some valuable real estate. In the process, you may be able to reduce the risk of water damage to nearby personal property if a water tank fails. Most homeowners insurance doesn’t cover “clean water” damage – that is, damage that’s caused by plumbing failures in the home. A tankless hot water system eliminates the danger of having a 40- 50-gallon instant spill.

Hot water tanks can’t be recycled effectively, so they tend to end up in landfills. By reducing the number of tanks that are discarded each year, Americans could significantly reduce the amount of landfill space required to dispose of their trash. Like reducing your carbon footprint, if reducing your waste stream is important, going tankless may help you do your part.

No matter what you decide, Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating can help. We do hot water heating system installations of all kinds, and we’re always ready to help. Whether you need emergency assistance, routine maintenance or a new installation, call us at (617) 288-2911 anytime!

Boston Homeowners & Businesses:

Plumbing, Heating or Cooling Problem? We Can Help!

Call Boston Standard Company, The Company You Count On.

Call Now
617-288-2911
BSC Technician Truck

Will A Tankless Water Heater Fit In Your Boston Home? (Part 2)

Last week, I started a discussion about tankless water heaters. Boston homeowners are beginning to consider tankless water heaters as a green replacement for their conventional hot water systems. In last week’s post, I covered the issue of cost, since this is one of the biggest considerations for homeowners. This week, I’ll tackle energy efficiency.

The second question most homeowners have about tankless water heaters relates to the system’s efficiency. Tankless water heaters take the prize in this category; the most efficient conventional hot water heaters operate at about 60% efficiency. Tankless systems have an efficiency rating of about 80%. The story goes deeper than ratings, though. A hot water tank will lose efficiency over time because sediment, minerals, and deterioration by-products from the sacrificial anode all work to reduce the efficiency of a hot water tank. Tankless systems maintain their efficiency over time because they’re not subject to these problems.

You can save money on operational costs with a tankless water heater because you only pay for hot water when you need it, as opposed to keeping water on “hot standby.” Generally, a tankless hot water system will save between 30% and 60% over conventional hot water system operating costs. That savings may not be enough to justify the added expense of the system.

Exactly how much savings are we talking about? Your costs to operate a conventional hot water heating system will depend, of course, on how big your tank is and where you live. A good estimate for natural gas-powered 40-gallon tanks is about $350 per year. If you use propane, your 40-gallon hot water tank may take $500 out of your pocketbook annually. In comparison, a tankless hot water system that uses natural gas may cost $250-$300 to operate, meaning that you could save $50-$100 per year as long as your hot water usage doesn’t change much.

If a conventional 40- or 50-gallon tank system costs $1,000 to install and $350 per year to operate for 15 years (and you had to replace the tank once during that time), your total out of pocket expense would be $7,250. In comparison, if you spent $3,500 on a tankless hot water system with an annual operational cost of $250, your total out of pocket expense for the tankless hot water system would be (ta da!) $7,250… exactly the same.

If you’re looking to replace a larger tank – a 75-gallon model – the installed cost may be more like $1,500. If you need to replace the tank once during our theoretical 15-year period, you’ll spend $3,000 on the hardware and another $6,000 on operational costs. Your total out of pocket expense would be $9,000. If you installed a high-volume tankless system for $5,000, you’ll spend an added $3,750 on operational costs. Your total out-of-pocket expense would be $8,750 – a savings of $250 over the conventional option.

At this rate, you can see why your savings may not justify the added initial cost of the system if you don’t need a heavy-duty hot water system.

Next week, I’ll close out this series on tankless water heaters. Boston homeowners may find reasons other than cost to go tankless after all! In the mean time, if you have questions about water heating, or a problem with your water heater, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We offer 24-hour emergency service for all plumbing, heating and cooling needs.

Boston Homeowners & Businesses:

Plumbing, Heating or Cooling Problem? We Can Help!

Call Boston Standard Company, The Company You Count On.

Call Now
617-288-2911
BSC Technician Truck

Will A Tankless Water Heater Fit In Your Boston Home? (Part 1)

Many homeowners are looking for ways to conserve energy and reduce their “carbon footprint.” One idea that has been gaining traction is the tankless water heater. Boston homeowners who are considering the move to a tankless hot water system should consider the move carefully before they make the decision to throw out the old hot water tank.

The first question most homeowners have about tankless systems is the cost. A tankless system does cost more than a conventional hot water heater, but the tradeoff is that the system lasts longer. A conventional residential hot water heating system will last between 6 and 12 years. Tankless hot water systems last about twice as long. Even so, the up-front cost of a tankless water heating system may leave you with a case of sticker shock! Generally, the system (with installation) will run between about $2,000 and $5,000, depending upon the system you choose.

If you have natural gas or propane in your home already, you’re in good shape for a tankless water heating system. If you need to bring gas or propane in, you’ll need to factor this additional cost into your calculations.

You can find electric tankless water heating systems. They’re generally less expensive to purchase and install, and their efficiency is higher, too. The problem is one of cost. Natural gas costs less per BTU than electricity does. In areas where both energy sources are readily available, you’ll spend 10%-15% less on a gas-fired tankless water system.

Here’s another consideration for electric tankless water systems; your house will likely require a 200-amp, 220V electrical service. Some electric tankless systems operate on smaller services, but you may incur additional expense if you have to upgrade your household electrical system to accommodate a tankless electric water heater.

With a conventional system, you’ll pay your equipment costs over time, in the form of tank replacement and tank maintenance, whereas with a tankless system, you’ll pay all system costs up front. The big question for most homeowners is (and will continue to be): “Can I recover the cost of the system?” Depending upon your hot water usage, you may not be able to recover the cost through normal operation, but your house may command a better price on the market if you have a tankless system installed.

Don’t fall for the myth that the tankless hot water system provides an infinite supply of hot water. Depending upon the size of the system you buy, a tankless system may be able to handle 1-2 showers simultaneously or a combination of a shower and a hot-water appliance, like a dishwasher or washing machine. Also, don’t plan on having “instant” hot water. The system will still require a little time to heat the water and deliver it to your tap.

Finally, if you use a significant amount of hot water (in other words, you have a 60-80 gallon tank), you may come out ahead on a tankless water heating system. I’ll show you why next week. If you get by just fine with a 40- or 50-gallon tank, I’ll show you why going the tankless route may come down to a coin toss.

If you have questions about water heaters, Boston Standard Plumbing has the answers. We offer 24-hour emergency service for all plumbing, heating and cooling systems. Contact us at (617) 288-2911.

Boston Homeowners & Businesses:

Plumbing, Heating or Cooling Problem? We Can Help!

Call Boston Standard Company, The Company You Count On.

Call Now
617-288-2911
BSC Technician Truck
© 2021 Boston Standard Plumbing | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use