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Somerville Residents May Be Eligible For No-Interest Heating Loans

Residents of Somerville may qualify for interest-free loans on replacement heating equipment for their homes. The program provides loans of up to $4,500 for income-qualified residents to replace inefficient or inoperable heating equipment. The loans are also forgivable in certain circumstances.

The Heating System Replacement Program is available only to Somerville residents on a first-come, first-served basis, and provides variable-amount loans for residents who qualify, based on household size and income levels. Using income guidelines developed by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Somerville residents may qualify under the following household size/maximum gross income guidelines:

  • 1 person – $45,500
  • 2 people – $52,000
  • 3 people – $58,500
  • 4 people – $65,000
  • 5 people – $70,200
  • 6 people – $75,400

The loans are available only to homeowners who occupy their property as a primary residence. According to program rules, homeowners who receive one of the loans must retain ownership and occupy the improved property for at least three years following receipt of the loan.

Loan proceeds must be used to replace faulty or inefficient home heating equipment. Homeowners who qualify for the loan assistance can use the loan to perform an oil-to-gas conversion or replace an inefficient gas furnace with a more efficient one.

Loan assistance is limited, so Somerville residents who potentially qualify are urged to contact Walter Whitney, Housing Rehab Program Manager at (617) 625-6600 x2569 or wwhitney@somervillema.gov.

For residents of Boston, home heating replacement loans may also be available through MassSave. Like the loans in Somerville, these loans are also zero-interest loans with terms of up to 7 years, and loan limits of up to $25,000. Restrictions apply, so if you’re considering a replacement heating system for your home, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating for more information on how you may be able to take advantage of these financing options.

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating can address all of your home’s heating and cooling needs. Call us at (617) 288-2911 anytime for a consultation, or assistance with your residential heating, cooling and plumbing needs.

Plan Ahead To Control Boston Home Flooding

It’s hard to think about flooding during the driest part of a Boston summer, but this is actually a great time to protect your home against water damage. Water damage from flooding can occur with little warning, and can be the result of severe storms or plumbing problems within your home. Regardless of the water source, you can take steps to avoid home flooding.

If you have a sump pump in your home, proper maintenance can help ensure that your sump works when you need it to. Sumps come in a variety of designs. Some are designed to sit submerged in a sump well, while others sit on a pedestal above the water line, or to the side of the sump well. Submersible sumps are more expensive, but they’re sealed so they require less maintenance and may even last longer.

Regardless of your pump design, check the inlet valve to make sure that no debris has accumulated at the bottom of the well. Get rid of any debris (dirt, pet hair, lint, etc) that could reduce the flow of water into the pump. If your sump pump has a float-arm actuator, check it to ensure that it turns on properly. Do this by lifting the float arm until the pump turns on. Don’t do this with your bare hands. Use a stick or a scrap piece of wood to lift the float-arm. You can adjust the sensitivity of the sump pump by adjusting the float arm.

Consider installing a water alarm that will sound when the water level in the sump well gets too high. You can also use water alarms to detect leaks in other parts of your plumbing system, or in hidden water lines that feed appliances. These alarms can let you know of a problem immediately so you can limit the damage to walls, floors, cabinets and your personal possessions.

Keep in mind that your main sump pump probably runs on electricity, and won’t work when your power goes out. In other words, a severe storm could leave you without your sump pump just when you need it the most. If your home is susceptible to flooding, consider installing a backup sump pump. Backup systems operate when the primary pump fails and may operate on battery power.

Another popular “unpowered” design uses pressurized clean, flowing water from your municipal supply to create a strong suction in the sump well. The suction draws water up from the well and into a drain. When the water level in the sump well drops sufficiently, a special valve turns the supply line off and breaks the suction.

If you need assistance with installing or maintaining a sump pump, or you would like to install a backup sump pump or water alarms, we’re happy to lend a hand. Contact Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 and we’ll be happy to schedule a visit.

Consider Installing a Frost-free Hose Bibb In Your Boston Home

With the weather warming up, I’ve got the great outdoors on my mind. One project that is relatively easy to complete and will help prevent damage to your home is the addition of frost-free hose bibbs to your plumbing. Boston homeowners who have dealt with frozen hose bibbs, or worse – the damage they leave behind – can attest to the utility of having frost-free hose bibbs.

A frost-free hose bibb operates like an ordinary hose bibb does. You attach a hose to a standard threaded connector, and open and close the valve with a simple twist. The design of the frost-free hose bibb is what gives this addition its value. The frost-free hose bibb helps prevent pipe damage that can be caused when standing water freezes in-line. Often, homeowners don’t find this kind of damage until they try to use a hose and get a stream of water in the basement instead.

In new construction, frost-free hose connections are all but mandatory. In older homes, however, frost or freeze damage to the outside faucets is a real danger, and homeowners can benefit from this addition. Frost-free faucets have a long stem that extends into the home and connects to a shutoff. Once the water supply is shut off, the water that remains in the stem can drain away, leaving the stem empty and free from frost danger. The shutoff valve is located deep enough in the home to eliminate the danger of freezing in the supply pipe.

One word of caution: once your frost-free hose bibbs are installed, be sure to disconnect your hoses and drain the faucets prior to the beginning of the frost season. An attached hose will prevent the faucet from draining properly and you might end up with another damaged outdoor faucet.

To install a frost-free hose bibb, you’ll need a frost-free hose bibb and some common plumbing tools like a pipe cutter, and brazing equipment to make the new joints. If you would like to add frost-free hose bibbs to your home but don’t have the equipment, skill or experience, the plumbing professionals at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating can help. We’ll add frost-free hose bibbs to your outdoor plumbing setup and show you how to maintain them correctly and enjoy years of trouble-free use. If you’d like more information about adding a frost-free hose bibb to your home, call us at (617) 288-2911 and we’ll schedule a visit!
Next week, I’ll discuss adding hot water to your outdoor faucets.

Macerating Toilet May Be Ideal Boston Plumbing Solution

If you want to add a new toilet, but shrink at the thought of adding plumbing, Boston homeowners rejoice! A macerating toilet may be just what you’ve been looking for. Before you break any concrete or open up a floor, consider this elegant solution that will allow you to add a toilet in any room of your home without adding any significant plumbing.

Adding fresh water lines to a room in your home is easy. Adding a waste line… not so much. Adding a toilet in the basement can be a major hassle because it normally requires you to break the concrete foundation and add a waste pipe under your home. Don’t forget the vent stack! On upper levels, a traditional toilet requires a hole in the floor for waste disposal, a new soil pipe, (which could be hard to disguise on the lower floor(s), a new vent stack and a fresh water supply.

A macerating toilet can be installed just about anywhere, even in tight spaces like attics and closets, or under a stairwell. They’re the ideal solution for adding a toilet to a basement, where you have good access to your home’s fresh and waste water lines. Macerating toilets are relatively quiet and use less water than a conventional toilet does. (Most macerating toilets use about 1 US gallon per flush.) They’re also 100-percent safe for septic systems.

Macerating toilets don’t work quite the same way conventional gravity-fed toilets do. A macerating fixture operates much like a garbage disposal does. While some units still have the fresh water supply at the back of the toilet to flush out the waste and clear the bowl, a box at the base of the toilet catches the waste and grinds it into a liquid slurry. A pump forces the waste liquid into your existing soil pipe via a small-diameter pipe that can be concealed easily in a wall, or in the case of a basement, run overhead. Some models conceal the macerating unit behind an access panel in the wall; other designs incorporate the pump and allow direct access to the mechanical unit. You can even find one-piece (tankless) designs that attach directly to the wall, like a commercial toilet would.

A macerating toilet is more expensive than a conventional toilet, but if you’re planning to add a bathroom to your home, the savings you’ll see from avoiding extensive plumbing rework will more than make up for the cost of the fixture. Generally, you can expect to pay anywhere between $700 and $1,000 for a macerating toilet fixture, but when you compare this to the increased plumbing costs associated with adding a conventional toilet, the macerating toilet turns out to be a really fast and economical way to increase the number of toilets in your home.

If you’re interested in adding a macerating toilet, or just want more information about the process, call us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to help you choose and install the right macerating fixture.

Replacing The Wax Ring On Your Toilet (Buy Two)

Removing and replacing the toilet sounds easy enough, but homeowners often have difficulty getting the wax ring properly seated. A bad seal is a disaster, so this part of the repair has to be right!

Toilets can be very heavy and difficult to maneuver. You won’t be able to see the soil pipe while you’re moving the toilet and may not know exactly where to put the toilet down. In short, it doesn’t take much to goof up the wax ring when you’re trying to reseat the stool. That being said, my great DIY tip for replacing the wax ring is “buy two.” If the flange bolts on your toilet were rusty or you had to cut them to get the toilet away from the floor, buy a new set when you buy the wax ring(s). (They’re standard and they’re inexpensive.)

The wax ring goes on the toilet. (Don’t try to seat the wax ring in the soil pipe and then set the toilet on top of it.) Press the wax ring in place with the neoprene funnel pointing toward you.

Put the new flange bolts in place. You’ll find slots in the flange where the bolt heads should slip in. Use the plastic “washers” that come with the bolts to hold them in place while you position the toilet.

The base of the toilet is heavy (50 pounds or more) and it helps to have a second person around to guide you while you position the toilet on top of the new bolts. If you don’t have a helper, use some kind of indicator on the floor to help you see the flange bolts. The indicators could be string, screwdrivers, chalk marks, pencils … just something to point the way. Line your markets up exactly where the flange bolts exit the flange, but far enough away from the flange to stay out of the way. If you’ve capped the soil pipe with a rag or other cover, remove it at this point.

Maneuver the toilet into place. Do not set the toilet down anywhere but on the flange bolts. The wax on the ring is exceptionally soft. If you set the toilet down for any reason or you miss your mark, you’ll goof up the wax ring and you’ll need to start over. (Remember: “buy two.”)

Once you have the toilet in place and on the flange bolts, carefully sit on the toilet. Your body weight will press the wax ring around the flange. Shift your weight carefully to ensure a good wax seal around the flange.

Tighten the nuts around the flange bolts slowly and carefully. Work on both sides of the toilet by tightening one nut gently on one side, then shifting to the other side to tighten the other nut a little bit. Alternate sides until the fixture is securely bolted to the floor on both sides. There’s no need for power here so take your time and tighten the nuts gently.

Flange bolts are much longer than they need to be. Use your hacksaw to cut off the unneeded length of the bolt. You may need to check the nuts after you’ve sawn through the bolts to verify that they’re still tight. Put the plastic bolt caps back on.

Reconnect the tank and the water supply, check for leaks and fill the tank. Flush the toilet and check again for leaks around the floor. If you have none, you’re done!

You can apply bathroom caulk around the base of the toilet, but don’t completely seal the base. Leave a little discreet opening somewhere. This will allow any leaking water to escape and reveal itself before significant damage occurs.