Changing your habits can save money on energy bills*

*Your mileage may vary.

A recent study by researchers at the Australian National University showed that behavior has the potential to save 10%-25% on residential energy costs. Saving 10%-25% on energy costs sounds good, especially since the average Massachusetts household spends more than $2,500 on energy costs each year. That means optimizing your energy consumption could reduce your energy bills by $250-$625 per year.

Now, for the bad news. Another equally relevant Israeli study showed that providing people with a lot of personalized energy consumption data had no positive effect on their behavior.

At all.

In fact, study participants who had been given very detailed information about their energy consumption actually used more energy than those who just received general tips on how to reduce their utility bills. Those with the most information about their specific energy habits could have easily spotted costly consumption behaviors. Yet, the exact opposite outcome occurred, even after adjusting for external factors like weather changes and weather extremes.

It’s easy to focus on the “save money on energy bills” part of the headline here (especially when $625 is at stake), but it is harder to succeed at the “changing your habits” stuff. So, if knowledge can’t help you when it comes to changing your energy consumption patterns, is there a strategy that can work?

How to lower your energy bills

“Automating” energy-saving habits is one way to change your actual energy consumption. That would include using a programmable thermostat- which won’t forget to turn the heat or A/C down. Motion-sensing light switches and timers also ensure that the lights get turned off when they’re not in use. Today, lighting won’t account for much of your home’s electric bill, as long as you have switched to LED bulbs. (If you haven’t, switch!)

Another major behavior change involves your buying habits. When you have to replace an appliance, look for EnergyStar-compliant models. Likewise, using WaterSense-compliant faucets, showerheads and appliances can reduce your water consumption significantly. These appliances and fixtures will cost more up-front, but they will quickly repay you in the form of lowered operating costs. You may also need to reconsider replacing appliances that still work well, but consume a lot of energy. This situation can happen easily with freezers and refrigerators. By replacing energy-hogging major appliances even though they may still work, you can reduce your utility bill significantly.

Take the time to seal the drafts and gaps in your home’s “thermal envelope.” Improperly insulated and sealed gaps can leak a lot of air into (and out of) your home. Closing these gaps will reduce your winter heating bill and your summer cooling bill.

Consider using fans to cool your home at night. Typically, the temperature drops after the sun sets. Bringing naturally cooled air into your home with fans can reduce the temperature and save money. But there’s a big caveat here. The humidity is a major factor. If the humidity is high, you’re better off leaving cool-but-wet air outside. You’ll ultimately spend less to cool the drier air that’s already in your home.

Your heating and cooling equipment consume most of your energy

Finally, take the time to understand how much your heating and cooling systems actually cost to operate. It’s very tempting to let an older, less efficient system run. A new, high efficiency replacement could pay for itself in just a few years through sharply reduced operating costs. A newer, high-efficiency system can help you lock in savings, while your older less efficient model locks in your expenses.

If you’d like more information about reducing your heating and cooling costs, give us a call at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to show you how you can take advantage of rebates and tax incentives to lower your energy consumption affordably.

Photo Credit: Nan Palmero, via Flickr

Eliminating water hammer

If you’ve never heard of water hammer, you’ve probably never heard water hammer. Water hammer is your plumbing’s reaction to valves in your system opening and closing quickly. The sound – which can be loud and sometimes scary – is a result of fast-moving water hitting a suddenly closed valve. It’s essentially a type of shock inside your pipes.

Water hammer can be more than an annoyance. It can also cause damage to your pipes and appliances. When a valve is open in your plumbing system, the water – which is still under pressure – is flowing. Some fixtures need to control water flow quickly and precisely. That would include your washing machine, dishwasher, and toilets; you definitely don’t want these devices overflowing! Standard faucets can also trigger water hammer, but because you manually control their shut-off, they’re less likely to cause it.

Water travels in one direction in your plumbing. When a valve closes quickly, the water stops exiting the system instantly – but it’s still being pushed by the municipal supply. When the flowing water hits a closed valve, it does so with a lot of force. The shock of impact transfers to the rest of your system (and all of the attached fixtures), as the system tries to absorb this blow. That’s when you hear the pounding and banging associated with water hammer. This noise may not be a one-time event. It may take the system a few tries to distribute the shock force effectively.

The effects of water hammer

As you might imagine, over time, this kind of abuse takes its toll on your plumbing. Water hammer can damage faucets and fixtures to the point of leaking. It can also damage appliances over time. Finally, if the pressure from the municipal supply is very high, water hammer can cause pipe damage! In short, water hammer is a situation you will have to address, one way or another.

In some plumbing systems, water hammer is all but guaranteed. The longer your supply line from the municipal system, the more likely you are to experience water hammer. Since you’re unlikely to be able to shorten your supply line, you can modify your plumbing to accommodate the shock.

Another component of water hammer is how the offending valve is being closed. Usually, appliances like washing machines and dishwashers have automatic valves. These valves open and close suddenly and precisely because the appliance mechanically controls them. This is another situation that you probably can’t change, but it can cause water hammer.

Also, municipal systems operate under higher pressures because they have to deliver a lot of water to a lot of customers. It’s entirely likely that the pressure from your municipal supply is too high for your plumbing. This also causes water hammer.

Correcting water hammer

Water pressure is actually one element of water hammer you can control. You can place a regulator on your system just after the meter to reduce the incoming water pressure. If you have a serious problem with water hammer, or chronically leaking fixtures, you might want to have your incoming pressure measured and regulated.

The other, more common way to address water hammer is to install air chambers near the offending valves. An air chamber is a closed, vertical add-on to your plumbing system that normally stays empty. When an appliance valve shuts off, the extra pressure compresses the air in the chamber, giving the shock wave somewhere to go.

If you’re experiencing water hammer and you already have air cushions in your system, it’s possible that they’ve just filled with water. To correct this, you can turn off the shut-off valve(s) to that part of your plumbing system, open the closest tap and let the water drain out. This will empty the air cushion(s). Open the shut-off valves again, and the system should operate quietly. You may have to repeat this periodically if your system is prone to water hammer.

If you don’t have air cushions, a plumber can install them. This will reduce the wear and tear on your plumbing and your appliances. It’s a good solution to counteract the causes of water hammer that you can’t control. It will also save you money by eliminating the need for repairs for your fixtures, appliances and plumbing.

If you’re experiencing water hammer and you would like to correct it, please contact us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to help you eliminate water hammer in your home.

Photo Credit: Bill Smith, via Flickr

Why you should fix your leaking faucet

We’ll be the first to admit that in the grand scheme of things, a drop of water isn’t a lot of water. But the water that leaks from a drippy faucet can add up over time. The average drop of water is a mere 0.25 of a milliliter. In other words, it would take more than 15,000 drops added together to come up with a gallon of water.

But before you dismiss your leaking faucet as some other day’s problem, consider this. If your faucet drips once every five seconds, that’s twelve drops per minute. It’s also 720 drops every hour, and 17,280 drops per day. Which adds up to 6,307,200 drops per year. In the bigger picture, that’s more than 400 gallons of water that goes through your meter and right down your drain. If your faucet drips faster than that or you have multiple drippy faucets, you’re losing even more water.

To be fair, a “drop” of water isn’t uniform, so the precise amount of water your leaky faucet is releasing will vary. The US Geological Survey offers a drip calculator to estimate the cost of a broken faucet. Their calculator is also based on assumptions about the size of a drop of water, and the rate of the leak.

In the United States today, leaky plumbing accounts for about one-sixth of our water consumption. You read that correctly; one out of every six ounces of treated water goes down the drain, never having been used. While water is a “renewable” resource – every trip it makes through your meter costs money! A lost drop here or there isn’t enough to impact your water bill, but 400+ gallons per year certainly is.

Replacing a leaking faucet is easy

There is no way to overstate the importance of clean water. As our population grows and our infrastructure ages, it becomes more expensive to treat and deliver healthy, safe and clean drinking water. By repairing or replacing dripping faucets, you can not only reduce your water consumption (and your water bill), but also ease the burden of treating and delivering clean water in our area.

If you have a lot of dripping faucets in your home, you may be experiencing an over-pressure issue. The municipal water supply operates at a certain pressure to ensure that everyone always gets all of the water they need. That pressure is generally too high for residential plumbing. Over time, this high-pressure condition can deteriorate the water valves in your system. As the valves deteriorate, leaks develop. It is possible to reduce the pressure inside your home by adding a special regulator to your pipes. The regulator will throttle back the municipal water pressure to better match the capabilities of your plumbing fixtures. Over time, this can reduce the wear on your plumbing fixtures and delay or eliminate the development of leaks.

If you’d like help with fixing a leaking faucet or reducing the water pressure in your home, please give us a call at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to set up an appointment.

Photo Credit: Denise Rowlands, via Flickr

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 repair 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 contractor

Massachusetts requires any person performing plumbing repairs for compensation to have a current license and insurance. Professional plumbers 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 or heating and cooling repair in your home, contact us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’re licensed, bonded and insured and we’re happy to help!

Thawing frozen pipes

Like just about everything else, there’s a right way and a wrong way to thaw frozen pipes. Here are a few tips to keep your pipes from freezing in the first place. We also have some advice for thawing a pipe that’s already frozen.

Keep your pipes from freezing

The best way to deal with frozen pipes is to avoid them altogether. Heating your home can be expensive, and it’s tempting to “dial down” at night and when you’re not around. When the air temperature is super-cold (below freezing), your pipes can be at risk.

Pipes break when the water inside them freezes. Most plumbing is rigid, so the pipes are full of standing water when the taps are closed. This is good because a pipe that’s full of water doesn’t have any air. Air in the system could allow bacteria to thrive, and it could also change the water pressure.

Unfortunately, water expands when it freezes. In an open container, the freezing water has “head space” – room to expand. In a water pipe, there is no room for expansion. An ice blockage forms somewhere in your pipe and begins to exert enormous pressure – as high as 2,000 PSI – on the unfrozen water between the blockage and the tap. Traditional plumbing does not have enough material strength to hold back this unrelenting pressure. As the blockage grows, the pressure increases. Because the pipe is rigid, it cannot expand enough, and it will deform and split somewhere to relieve the pressure.

The first thing you can do to avoid frozen pipes is to keep your pipes warm! Insulate them to prevent cold air intrusions from affecting your pipes. Open sink cabinet and vanity doors to allow warmer air to circulate around your pipes. Open heat registers in the basement (if your pipes are below-grade) to let more warm air circulate around them.

Don’t turn the heat down when it’s super-cold outside. Yes, your utility bill will go up, but a higher heating bill beats flooding, water damage and mold.

Managing a frozen pipe

If a pipe freezes and it’s accessible, open the tap immediately to drain any water from the pipe. This may relieve some of the pressure, but you’re not out of the woods yet. Start warming the pipe from the tap and work your way toward the blockage. A good safe heat source is an incandescent light bulb. A hair dryer may also help loosen up a frozen pipe. Be especially careful if you use “heat tape.” Used incorrectly, it can cause a fire!

DO NOT USE AN OPEN FLAME TO THAW A FROZEN PIPE! That includes welding and soldering torches, cigarette lighters, charcoal lighters, tiki torches, candles or anything else fiery. Open flames caused 30% of house fires in 2017. It’s just not a good idea!

You may not initially know that a pipe has frozen, but lack of water should set off alarm bells! If you get no water from a tap, or a water appliance stops working, If you open a tap and get just a trickle of water – your pipe is in the process of freezing. Act fast to relieve the pressure and correct the problem.

On the other hand, you may know your pipe has frozen because it has already split and there’s water everywhere! In this case, turn off the water to that segment of pipe and begin the process of thawing. Start drying out anything that’s gotten wet. You may have to remove drywall, plaster, carpeting or flooring. You won’t be able to turn the water back on until the pipe is repaired, but at least you can limit the water damage.

Following up on a frozen pipe

Maybe you were able to get your pipe thawed out before it split. That’s a lucky break, but your pipe is probably still damaged. The pressure can weaken and deform your pipe – and maybe not in the place(s) you’d expect. Remember, 2,000 PSI is about 20 times the pressure your pipes are designed to handle.

Inspect your pipes for deformed joints, bulges, discolorations, little drips or anything generally weird-looking. Formerly frozen pipes that “burst” usually have a little slit someplace, often somewhere other than where the blockage formed. It will look like someone took a box cutter and made a slice in the pipe. (You’ll be able to find these more easily, because water will be spraying all over the place!)

Don’t forget to check any PEX hoses that supply water to toilets, sinks and appliances. These can freeze too! PEX resists freezing, but the fittings can get damaged. If you find a frozen PEX hose, take comfort in the fact that they’re cheap to replace.

If you’ve experienced a frozen pipe, or need help repairing freeze-damaged plumbing, contact us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to help!

Photo Credit: Cynthia Closkey, via Flickr

Brown Friday: Tales from the Thanksgiving front

Believe it or not, the day after Thanksgiving (known as Brown Friday in plumbing circles) is one of the busiest plumbing days of the year. While that’s good for us, it’s not good for you. Who wants to deal with plumbing problems on Thanksgiving? In most cases, you can avoid inviting us to your home for the holiday by observing a few simple rules.

Preparing your toilet for holiday gatherings

Most holiday plumbing problems involve either the toilet or a drain – sometimes both. Let’s start with the toilet. If your toilet isn’t in great shape to begin with, adding 20 relatives to your bathroom isn’t going to help much. Your toilet might not be in great shape if you use the toilet as a water-driven garbage can. The only things that should find their way into your toilet are human waste and toilet paper. Don’t flush anything else – grease, cigarette butts, “flushable wipes,” sanitary products, diapers or even Kleenex down the toilet. Throw these items in the trash, and encourage your guests to do the same.

Check the toilet for leaks BEFORE your guests arrive. Toilets can leak from the tank into the bowl, or from the bowl onto the floor. (Yuck!) If your toilet is leaking from the tank to the bowl, you’ll want to fix this, but it’s probably not an urgent repair. You can get a flapper valve kit for the toilet at any home improvement store. They’re not hard to replace, and they can stop a running toilet in its tracks. Also, if the flush handle is loose, tighten it.

If your toilet is leaking from the bowl onto the floor, that requires attention immediately. The most likely cause of this kind of leak is the wax ring that seals the toilet to the soil pipe. If your toilet leaks when you flush it, or you notice unpleasant smells in the bathroom, you may need to replace the wax ring. Fix this kind of problem before your guests arrive.

Have a plunger on hand in every bathroom in your home.

Keep an eye on the kids to make sure they’re not sending Aquaman out on a reconnaissance mission.

Clear off the tank lids for quick access, just in case. Also test the shut-off valves for each toilet. If they work, great! If they don’t, replace them! They’re cheap, which is both why you’ll have to replace them periodically and also why you can afford to replace them when they break.

Keep your drains running clear

The first rule of having a plumber-free holiday is don’t dump the turkey grease down the drain. If you’ve ever let turkey (or chicken) drippings get cold in the pan, you’ll notice that poultry forms a gelatinous goo. This goo formation isn’t limited to your pans. It actually happens in your drains, too. It’s pretty effective at sealing off a drain, which can lead to backups and other problems. You may be thinking that hot water will help you. It will not. Hot water cools off as it moves through the drain. Your gooey turkey grease might melt in one spot, only to reconstitute farther down the drain, where the hot water can’t reach it. Hot water won’t solve your problem; it will only move it out of reach.

To get rid of turkey grease, pour it into a container with a lid and toss it in the trash. Old soda bottles, Gatorade bottles, milk jugs, etc., work fine for this. Some people reserve the turkey stock by refrigerating it. This causes the fat to rise and congeal. Skim the fat off the top and use the stock for soups or gravy. You can store stock in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can also freeze it and use it whenever you want.

Be very selective about what you put down your garbage disposal. Certain foods – like celery, eggshells, coffee ground sand vegetable peels don’t do well in the disposal. Worse, they don’t do well in your drains. (Especially when they combine with turkey grease.) Also avoid sending pasta, potatoes, flour and rice down the drain. They can reconstitute in a cement-like way in your drains. Also, when you run the disposal, give it some extra water to make sure your food scraps make it all the way out to the street.

Clear your drains before your guests arrive. If your kitchen or bathroom drains are already running slow, don’t borrow trouble. Clear your drains using a healthy shot of baking soda with an equally healthy vinegar chaser. This combo will kill any organics that are growing in your drain, allowing other debris to move along. You can also use an enzymatic drain cleaner overnight to accomplish the same thing. If your drains are super-slow, you may have to manually clear them with a snake to get the water moving again.

If you run into big trouble, we do offer on-call service contracts for all of your plumbing and heating needs. Give us a call at (617) 288-2911 and we’ll be happy to help.

Photo Credit: Mr. TinDC, via Flickr.com

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 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 unit from performing at its peak.

Our 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 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.

Photo Credit: Terry Ross, via Flickr

6 ways to stop your toilet from sweating and 1 tip that won’t help

A sweating toilet is more than a nuisance. Water from the toilet drips onto the floor and can ruin a bathroom floor in short order. Why does your toilet sweat in the first place, and what can you do to stop it?

The water that collects on your toilet tank is condensation – moisture that’s been pulled out of air in your bathroom. As it turns out, your toilet is a natural dehumidifier. The moisture forms on the surface of the tank because the tank water is colder than the surrounding air temperature. The difference in temperature causes the air to release water and voilà, one sweaty, drippy toilet!

Changing the environment in your bathroom to discourage this process can reduce or eliminate a sweaty toilet. It can also help preserve the condition of your bathroom floor. So what exactly can you do?

How to stop your toilet from sweating

Get rid of the water in your bathroom. First, you can take steps to ensure that the air in your bathroom doesn’t have a whole lot of water in it.

  • Install (or use) an exhaust fan when you take a shower.
  • Take shorter, cooler showers to discourage the migration of water into the air.
  • Dry the shower walls after you’ve taken a shower.
  • Open the door to the bathroom when you finish your shower.
  • Use a portable dehumidifier to dry out the bathroom after a shower.
  • Consider installing a whole-house dehumidifier to keep your entire house comfortable.
  • Don’t open the bathroom window if it’s humid outside. Letting humid air in just makes matters worse.
  • An air conditioner is a great dehumidifier. If you have air conditioning, use it.

Warm up your toilet. Not kidding here! Insulating your toilet tank can prevent water from condensing on the surface. You can line the tank with an insulating kit, or you can cover the entire outside of the tank with a tank cover. If you can prevent the cooler tank from meeting up with the warmer air, condensation won’t occur. If you’re willing to spend a little extra, you can also purchase a new, insulated tank for your toilet.

Warm up the water in the tank. Also not kidding. You can install an anti-sweat valve that mixes a little warm water in with the cold when the tank refills. As long as the water temperature gets close to the air temperature in the room, no sweat!

Reduce the amount of water in the tank. The less water you have in the tank, the less the tank will sweat. Installing a low-flow toilet not only saves water, but also reduces the amount of condensation a tank can generate. If you can combine a low-flow toilet with an insulated tank, your bathroom floor will stay drier.

Get rid of the tank. Some manufacturers make tankless residential toilets. They’re not cheap, and they typically use an electric pump to move water in and out of the toilet. (Pro tip: during a power outage, a tankless electric toilet won’t work.) If you can’t get rid of the tank, consider using a low-profile toilet. The closer your toilet tank is to the floor, the cooler the surrounding air is. (Remember, heat rises.) Keeping your toilet tank on the down-low can help reduce big differences between the bathroom’s air temperature and the toilet tank’s water temperature.

Check the flapper valve. If your flapper valve at the bottom of the tank is leaking, the toilet will regularly take on a lot of fresh, cold water to replace the water that leaked out. If you stop the leak, the water in the tank can reach room temperature.

Use a drip tray. This is the one tip that will do absolutely nothing to prevent your toilet tank from sweating. You can put a drip tray down on the bathroom floor behind the toilet. Your toilet will still sweat like crazy, but the condensation won’t ruin the floor. You’ll have to empty the tray regularly, but we think that beats replacing the floor.

If you would like more information about installing a low-flow toilet, a tankless toilet or an insulated toilet tank, Boston Standard Company can help. We can also help with leaking toilets, and whole house cooling and dehumidifying solutions. (We don’t empty drip trays, though.) Give us a call at (617) 288-2911 to schedule a consultation.

Photo Credit: Edward Dick, via Flickr

Preparing for the worst from hurricane season

Hurricane season typically runs from June 1 to November 1 each year. Hurricanes can form anytime the conditions are right, but summer and fall are considered “prime time” for superstorms. Although many hurricanes fall to the southeast and through the Gulf of Mexico, New England isn’t immune from them. If a hurricane strikes, what should you do to protect your plumbing?

What to do before a hurricane

Shut off the water! If you evacuate, take a moment to shut off the main water valve to your home. You can also open your taps to help drain the pipes. If the storm damages pipes in your home, you can at least minimize any fresh-water flooding.

Check your sump pump. Your sump pump could save your home from serious flooding. Or not. An electric sump pump can’t bail you out if you lose power. If you have a generator, make sure your sump pump makes the list of must-have services. Some sump pumps can work without electricity. If flooding is a serious concern, or you often lose power during storms, consider installing a non-electric sump pump to keep the water moving.

Clear drains. If you have storm drains on or near your property, make sure they’re clear before the storm hits. The storm will bring a lot of debris along with it, and the drains may clog quickly and often. Starting with a clear drain, however, may help clear some early runoff and lessen flooding around your home.

What to do after a hurricane

Check your sump pump! After a storm, make sure your sump pump is still on duty. If it failed, get it replaced as quickly as possible.

Clear debris from storm drains. Keep storm drains clear on and around your property. This allows water to abate more quickly and lessens the likelihood of post-storm flooding. You may have to clear the drains several times following the storm.

Don’t turn your water on immediately. The storm may not have affected your plumbing directly, but the municipal water supply may have been contaminated. Wait until the water authority gives the all-clear to begin using your taps again.

Have your plumbing inspected. Major storms can cause the ground to shift, uproot trees and damage foundations. The added weight of the water also puts enormous pressure on underground pipes. This can cause severe problems for the plumbing inside and outside of your home. Following a hurricane, have your sewer pipe inspected for cracks, breaks and collapses. Also, look for signs of water leaks outside your home, including sinking ground, persistent puddles, and unusual “soft” spots. Leaks can also cause a loss of water pressure, the sound of running water, and cracks in driveways and foundations. New problems with dampness, mildew and mold growth, and high water bills are also symptoms of plumbing damage.

Look for toilet troubles. Hurricanes can dump a lot of dirt and debris into the sewer system, which can cause plumbing performance problems. If your toilets don’t flush as well as they did pre-storm, your sewer connection could be in trouble. The storm could have damaged the municipal sewers, which can set you up for backups and sanitary sewer overflows. If a sewer inspection of your pipes is clear, notify the municipality of your troubles.

One last piece of hurricane advice

Be patient! Plumbers are in high demand following major storms and hurricanes. It’s common for plumbers to be booked 24/7 in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane. Consider signing up for an emergency services contract. This agreement can ensure that you have preferred access to plumbing, heating, and cooling services around the clock.

Contact us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911 for your plumbing, heating, and cooling needs. We offer emergency service contracts for plumbing, heating, and cooling.

Photo Credit: Adam Pieniazek, via Flickr

Eco-friendly residential plumbing solutions

More homeowners have made caring for the environment a priority. Growing evidence suggests that what we put down the drain and how we consume water have a noticeable impact on future water quality. Just over a year ago, for example, the federal government banned the use of microbeads in products that get washed down the drain. Microbeads are tiny plastic fragments that used in personal care products like shampoos, lotions, and soaps. Manufacturers also used them in whitening toothpaste products. Microbeads pose an environmental hazard for fish and other aquatic life.

While federal and state governments work to preserve or improve water quality, you can also protect your local water supply. Here are a few ways to incorporate eco-friendly residential plumbing solutions and habits into your daily routine. Besides protecting the environment, these ideas can also help you lower your water bill!

Environmentally friendly drain care


Drain cleaners. To be frank, drains are gross. They typically contain a soup of water, soap, organic materials, and organisms that thrive in your dark, wet drains. Clogs occur when these items combine and prevent water from moving freely through the drain. It’s tempting to pour boiling water down the drain or use a harsh drain cleaner to burn out the clog. Drain cleaners aren’t eco-friendly! In addition to burning out the clog, they kill helpful bacteria and pollute the water. They can also damage your drains, leading to expensive repairs. Worse, they can deliver serious chemical burns if gas in the drain forces the drain cleaner backwards in the pipe.

Eco-friendly drain cleaners like BioClean use enzymes to eat the material that grows in your drains. These enzymes are highly effective at removing clogs, clearing drains, and cleaning up natural organic growth. They don’t damage your pipes and won’t burn you if they contact your skin. They also won’t harm the environment, contaminate the water supply, or reduce water quality. They’re easy to use, too. Simply pour the cleaner into the drain and let it work overnight. In the morning, you’ll have a clog-free drain. You can also clear a drain mechanically, using a plumbing snake or plunger. Be aware, however, that a plunger might simply push the clog further down the line.

Soap. Phosphates, a common ingredient in soaps, can damage the environment and reduce water quality. Look for phosphate-free soaps to ensure that your wastewater doesn’t damage the environment. If you use powdered soap, consider switching to a liquid version. Powdered soaps dissolve easily in water, but they can reconstitute in a rock-hard form deep in your drains. The accumulated hardened residue can cause a nasty, whole-house backup if it closes off your main drain.

Environmentally friendly water fixtures


Reducing your water consumption is probably the best way to save the environment. Here are a few ways to tame a wild water bill.

Laundry. Older top-load washers use about 50 gallons per load. Switch to a water-saving front-loader and reduce your laundry water usage by about 75%. Using less water deals double-damage to the water bill because water usage often determines sewer charges. Your new washer will pay for itself in about two years.

Low-flow shower heads. A low-flow shower head can limit your water usage to 1.75 gallons per minute or less. Some shower heads also come with a button that cuts flow to a trickle while you’re soaping up. Combine a low-flow shower head with a shower timer to maximize your water savings.

Low flow faucets. Kitchen and bathroom faucets that restrict water flow to 1.5 gallons-per-minute can also help you chop down an overgrown water bill. Faucets account for about 15% of your home’s water usage, so they offer another opportunity to save. If new faucets aren’t in the budget, spend a couple of bucks to add an aerator to your existing fixture. These little attachments screw on to the threaded end of your faucet and cut consumption by about half! That’s a pretty good return for pocket-change.

Low-flow toilets. Low-flow toilet technology is constantly evolving, and the latest models offer excellent performance and deliver on savings. You’ll spend more up-front to acquire a low-flow toilet, but you’ll recover your investment each time you pay your water bill!

If you’d like more information about water-saving fixtures or environmentally friendly plumbing products, contact us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to discuss your options and recommend eco-friendly and water-saving products.

Photo Credit: Steven Depolo, via Flickr