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Oil-to-Gas Conversion Can Save In Many Ways

According to the Energy Information Administration in Washington, DC, homeowners who use liquid fuels (heating oil, kerosene and propane) as well as homeowners who heat with electricity can spend as much as four times more than those who heat with natural gas. Boston homeowners who use these fuels really miss the opportunity to save on home heating costs!

Naturally, homeowners are wary of the cost of switching from fuel oil (or electricity) to natural gas, but MassSave offers a number of ways to reduce the initial cost of switching. In addition, by reducing the operating cost of a furnace or heater by as much as 75% per year, homeowners can realize the return on investment of switching in as little as two years!

Right now, Boston area homeowners can take advantage of rebates on the purchase and installation of high-efficiency furnaces and boilers through MassSave. The program provides rebates of up to $450 on qualifying warm-air furnaces, and rebates of up to $1,500 on qualifying forced hot-water boilers. In addition to these rebate programs, which will reduce the initial investment in new heating equipment, MassSave also offers a 0%, 7-year financing program to qualified homeowners.

The deal gets better for homeowners who itemize their federal taxes. Through December 31, 2013, homeowners may be able to claim tax credits of $150 on the purchase and installation of qualified natural gas furnaces and boilers. Qualified products include those with efficiency ratings of 95% or higher.

These programs reduce your initial investment in new home heating equipment, but year after year, the reduced operational costs during the heating season will really add up. The current price of natural gas makes it the most cost-effective way to heat a home. In addition, natural gas supplemental heating is also both highly efficient and cost-effective.

In comparison, the average cost of home heating oil right now in Massachusetts is about $3.80 per gallon, according to the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources. While this price is slightly lower than the average price for a gallon of heating oil was at this time last year, the savings are not expected to make a significant difference in the cost of heating a home this winter.

As an added benefit, an oil-to-gas conversion can eliminate the health hazards associated with home heating oil. Home heating oil is toxic, and exposures can cause serious irritations and illnesses. An oil-to-gas conversion will also eliminate the risk of hazards related to oil spills in or around the home.

For more information about MassSave programs, oil-to-gas conversions, home heating tax credits and ways to save money on heating your Boston home this winter, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We can provide up-to-date information on programs, qualifying products and help you see how affordable switching from oil to natural gas heat can be.

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NStar Proposes Lower Rates For Natural Gas

NStar has submitted a revised rate proposal for the cost of natural gas. The new rates, if approved, would mean that homeowners use natural gas heat in Boston would pay about $15 less per month than they did in 2011. Over the course of the winter, that would amount to an average savings of about $100. The average anticipated expenditure for heating this winter, using the proposed rates, would be about $145 per month. Over the 6-month heating season (between November and May), the total average cost to heat a home among NStar’s residential customers would be about $870.

The new rates reflect the abundant supply of natural gas in the United States right now and offer some homeowners a chance to stabilize their winter fuel costs. While the cost of natural gas is dropping and the supply is substantial, the cost of residential heating oil is rising again, according to the Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs. In a monthly survey released on September 11, the Department said that the average cost of a gallon of heating oil was $3.75 in August and had crept to $3.84 the day of the survey release. According to the survey, the high price for heating oil among those providers surveyed was $4.50 per gallon and the low was $3.40. Average peak price during the 2011-12 heating season was $3.91 across all providers.

The average annual fuel oil consumption for a home in the United States is about 730 gallons. That doesn’t take into account location, climate or energy efficiency. Using the current average price for heating oil in Massachusetts and assuming an overall consumption of 600 gallons of fuel oil, residential heating oil customers can expect to pay more than $2,300 for fuel this winter. If the winter is severe, fuel oil prices rise significantly, or homeowners lose heat due to inefficiencies, the cost of a fuel-oil heating system could be much higher.

In addition, the danger of a fuel oil spill is significant. Even a relatively small spill can contaminate water and sewer systems, the interior of a home, or the exterior soil, depending upon where the storage tank resides. Fuel oil spills can also result from improper filling. Spills that involve more than a gallon of fuel oil must be professionally remediated, which can be expensive. Fuel oil is also a known carcinogen, creates toxic vapors and can cause significant irritations when it comes into contact with unprotected skin.

Oil-to-gas conversions make a lot of sense, both from a financial perspective and a safety perspective. If you have an oil-fired boiler that is more than 30 years old in your home heating system, you may also qualify for significant rebates of between $,1900 and $3,500 to help cover the cost of boiler replacement.

If you want more information regarding oil-to-gas conversions, the boiler replacement program or other information about saving money on heating costs this season, please contact Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We can consult with you to help you find ways to reduce your heating costs and your overall fuel consumption. Visit Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook!

In-Register Products May Help With Zone Climate Control

If you have a ducted heating and cooling system, you know that depending upon the physical layout of your ductwork, some areas of your home may be much colder or much warmer than others. To correct this, ducted systems usually come with adjustable covers that you can manually adjust to limit or increase the amount of air that flows through the register. You may also have in-duct dampers that will accomplish the same thing.

Even when you adjust the dampers to accommodate awkward system design, you may end up with cold- and hot-spots in your heating and cooling system. This has less to do with the equipment you use and more to do with the design of the heating and cooling system in the home. Often, big errors (like a single heating and cooling zone for an entire house), can’t be corrected with manual damper adjustments alone. The result is that areas of the house are chronically too hot or too cold to be comfortable.

A new line of in-register devices may allow your home heating and cooling systems to deliver a more consistent comfort level throughout your home, and reduce your energy consumption at the same time. Wireless, battery-controlled in-register dampers can automatically open and close the registers and prevent air leakage to achieve a pre-programmed comfort level. These devices can automatically restrict airflow in areas of the home that are too hot or too cold, and direct more heated/cooled air to areas of the home where additional airflow is needed to achieve your preferred comfort level.

In most homes, between 20%-40% of the rooms are either much warmer or much colder than the thermostat’s set point. This means that you use more energy you need to, and spend fruitless time trying to balance out the airflow in your living space. It also means that you may be heating or cooling areas of your home that you don’t use regularly or that don’t need precise heating and cooling to keep you comfortable.

In-register systems contain a thermostat control unit and electronically controlled register covers that open and close based on the way the thermostat control is programmed. Generally, no modifications are needed for existing ductwork, and no additional wiring is needed to make the system work. The thermostat control unit can control registers within a 20-ft radius, and the register covers are paintable, so you can match them to your existing décor.

These systems offer the benefit of more precise comfort control and a reduction in energy usage. On average, homeowners can expect to reduce their energy consumption by as much as 5% per room when they use electronic dampers to control airflow in their homes.

If you would like more information about in-register dampers and to learn whether this approach may solve your home’s uneven climate control issues, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We’ll be happy to schedule a consultation! Don’t forget to like Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook!

World Plumbing Day: A Time To Think

World Plumbing Day – March 11 – is just about a month away, and although it may seem like an odd celebration, it offers us an opportunity to think about something we don’t usually spend a lot of time on: clean water and sanitation. In Boston, plumbing is something we take for granted. Every house has it; every commercial building has it. But there are a lot of places in the world where clean water and sanitation aren’t readily available.

More than 3 million people each year die as the result of preventable diseases and conditions related to inferior water quality and poor sanitation. The majority of deaths occur in children under five years of age. By itself, that’s a lot to think about – especially when you consider that you can go to just about any tap that’s connected to a municipal water supply, and get safe, clean, drinkable water from it 24/7/365, year after year in this country.

Despite our access to clean water and sanitation, water-borne illnesses can still affect us. Relatively recent outbreaks of the SARS virus and Legionnaires’ Disease come to mind as proof that improper plumbing and air-handling can serve as a breeding ground for major threats to public health.

Aside from thinking about the role of clean water and sanitation, it’s also good to think about the role that plumbers play in modern society. Plumbing may not seem like a glamorous job, and it’s not. But according to the World Health Organization, competent plumbers are responsible for a lot:

  • Installing and maintaining safe water distribution and sanitation systems
  • Managing the risks associated with plumbing and sanitation systems
  • Water conservation
  • Plumbing is a trade, but it’s one that evolves over time. In some cases, modern plumbing codes are responses to changes in the way people live, the applications of new technologies and materials, and our impact on the areas in which we live. In other cases, plumbing codes are the products of the knowledge and experience plumbers gain when they handle both clean and dirty water. In still other cases, our plumbing reflects what we’ve learned about diseases, and how they spread in urban areas.

    So, as World Plumbing Day approaches, spend some time thinking about the role of clean water and sanitation, and how much of a difference it makes in the lives of the 7 billion people we share our planet with.

    If you have any questions or concerns about your plumbing, heating or cooling systems, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We’re always available to help! Friend Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook and don’t forget to celebrate World Plumbing Day on March 11.

    High-Efficiency Furnace Tune Up Time

    Now is a great time to get your high-efficiency furnace tuned up for winter heating. Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating offers these tips to help you get ready for the colder fall weather.

    High efficiency furnaces typically take in fresh air and exhaust to the outside. High efficiency furnaces can be vented through pipes at or near the foundation level of your home. If your furnace vents horizontally through the foundation wall of your home, it’s very important to keep these pipes clear of any debris that may have accumulated during the summer or early fall. This can include spider webs or other small nests, leaves and other organic matter.

    When you attempt to remove debris, be sure you don’t accidentally push the material further into the pipe! Most organic materials can be removed manually. Dry organics like leaves and webs can also be removed with a shop vacuum. Remove any weeds, branches or overgrowth within several feet of either port to ensure proper airflow to and from the furnace. Don’t cover the ports or store any materials around them, either. Stored materials can trap leaves and promote the collection of snow and ice around the intake and exhaust ports.

    Furnace exhaust gases can be corrosive. Examine the wall space around a horizontal exhaust pipe for signs of damage, which might include discoloration or surface pitting. This kind of damage may indicate that your furnace isn’t venting properly, and it is important to remedy this immediately. Consult with Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating , and we can replace your existing vent or revent your furnace if necessary.

    During the heating cycle, some moisture will condense inside the pipes and on the heat exchanger. The intake and exhaust ports are constructed to allow this water to run back to the furnace to drain. It’s possible for condensate to freeze in long pipe runs, potentially damaging the exhaust port pipe and enabling carbon monoxide and other harmful gases to enter the home. Insulating the pipes can provide some additional thermal protection, but even pipes that have been insulated should be inspected for cracks or other signs of damage.

    The condensate runs to a household drain through a special drainpipe, which can also freeze. If the condensate drainpipe freezes, your furnace will shut down. Check your condensate drain to ensure that it is free flowing. If the drain appears to be clogged, contact Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating and we’ll clear the condensate drain. If your furnace operates in an unheated space, you may want to insulate the condensate drainpipe to ensure uninterrupted operation.

    Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating offers heating inspections and tune-ups. Contact us at (617) 288-2911 to schedule your appointment.