When Should You Call A Plumber?

Indoor plumbing is possibly the most influential invention of the modern world, and most of the time, it just works. But your plumbing does require maintenance at times. Many people don’t recognize the signs of a developing plumbing problem and get caught off guard by an unexpected repair. Here are a few trouble signs to look for.

Three reasons to call a plumber

Low water pressure. Low water pressure is a sign that something’s wrong with your water supply. Usually, “city water” arrives at your home under a lot of pressure. Municipal systems need higher pressure to ensure that the water get all the way to everyone’s taps. This means – if anything – that your water pressure should be on the high side.

When your water pressure is low, that’s a sign of trouble. If a nearby municipal supply line breaks, it will affect your water pressure. Contact your local water authority for further directions. The utility may instruct you to turn off your home’s main water valve while they’re repairing the break. Additionally, they may instruct you to boil drinking water to kill any harmful organisms that may have invaded the system. They may also ask you to open all of your taps once they’ve resolved the break to flush the lines.

If the municipal supply lines aren’t broken, then the trouble is in your pipes. Mineralization and corrosion inside your pipes and plumbing fixtures can reduce the overall flow of water to your taps. This is usually a condition that develops over a long period of time. Initially, you might not notice pressure or flow problems at all. If pressure problems affect only one particular tap, simply replace the affected fixture with a new one.

If all taps exhibit low pressure, you could have a major leak or your pipes could be corroding inside. Corrosion and mineral buildup reduce the diameter of the pipe and restrict water flow. These conditions can eventually completely seal a pipe. Mineral deposits can be dissolved, but corrosion is permanent damage, so you should replace the affected pipe.

Drain problems

Drains are a critical part of your plumbing system. A malfunctioning drain can pose a serious health and safety risk. Drains can clog for a number of reasons. Bacteria and organic films grow in your drains. As they accumulate, they can catch hair and other debris. Add a steady flow of soap residue, and you have the makings of a great clog. Chemical drain cleaners may dissolve a clog, but they can also damage your pipes. You can mechanically snake out the drain to remove the clog, or you can use enzymatic drain cleaners. Enzymatic drain cleaners literally eat the clog and clear the drain. You could also perform periodic drain maintenance by dumping a cup of baking soda down your drain, followed by a cup of vinegar. This combination will kill the organic growth in the drain and help keep it flowing freely.

Clogs aren’t the only problem you can encounter with a drain. Leaks (which are always bad), mineralization and corrosion can also slow or stop drains. In addition, chemicals you dispose of down the drain can damage them, and drains can also freeze. Breaks in your main drain can also cause sewage backups and spills, which are never pleasant. Powdered detergents can also reconstitute in drains, causing partial or complete blockages.

Most homeowners are well equipped to deal with a run-of-the-mill clog. Larger drain problems – like leaks, breaks, and non-organic blockages may require more tools and expertise to address!

Wet spots, peeling paint, buckling floors=plumbing leak

Plumbing leaks can occur anywhere, but they’re not always easy to find. Often the first sign of a leak is a water spot that appears on a wall, floor or ceiling. Leaks can be slow and steady, or they can cause floods. Leaking toilets can damage the surrounding floor. You may not notice this until the tile or floor covering gives way. Leaking fixtures in the shower or behind the wall can also cause a steady stream of water to escape. Over time, this water can promote mold growth and rot on walls and floors. Addressing the leak is Job #1. Once you’ve identified the leak and repaired it, cleaning up the damage comes next.

Leaks can be DIY repairs, depending on what’s actually leaking. If you have copper plumbing but you have no experience with soldering, you may want to call a plumber. The fire danger here is very real. The National Fire Prevention Association says that plumbing torches are one of the top ten causes of residential fires every year. In fact, nearly 30% of residential fires between 2010 and 2014 in the United States involved torches. About half of those fires started in the bathroom! Licensed plumbers are trained to solder in tight spaces. We also carry insurance that will protect you and your home from unnecessary risks.

If you’re experiencing any plumbing problems, we’re here to help. Call us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to diagnose and repair your plumbing problems!

Photo Credit: IndyDina with Mr. Wonderful, via Flickr

If your toilet could talk…

Toilets are arguably the most unsung of workhorses around your home. We don’t just expect toilets to work; we need them to work. But sometimes, they don’t work. If only your toilet could talk, what would it tell you about taking care of your toilet?

Taking care of your toilet

We’re pretty sure that taking care of your toilet would be high on your toilet’s list of things to discuss. Taking care of your toilet goes beyond just cleaning it now and then. Here are a few things to consider, if you plan to help your toilet out.

Check for leaks now and then. Toilets can leak in a number of places. A “good” leak is one that allows water from the tank to leak into the bowl. This is a “good” leak because the water doesn’t end up where it’s not supposed to go. Leaking toilets can cost a lot of money over time, however. These kinds of leaks aren’t always obvious, either. If your toilet fills up the tank on its own periodically, you’ve got a leak. If your toilet takes forever to fill, you’ve probably got a leak. If you can hear water draining down into the bowl, or into the soil pipe, your toilet is leaking. You can buy replacement valves for your toilet at your local home improvement store. You can also adjust the amount of water your toilet uses.

A “bad” leak allows water to escape the toilet. A leaking toilet can either flow out the bottom of the tank, or out the bottom of the bowl. Tank leaks are clean. Bowl leaks not so much. If your tank is leaking (and not just sweating), you may have to replace the tank. Check for cracks in the porcelain and look for flimsy gaskets. If water appears on the floor following a flush, remove the toilet and replace the wax ring on the bottom. You may also notice a “sewer” smell when you have a bad wax ring. Wax rings are cheap but they can cause a lot of damage when they give up.

When does your toilet need maintenance?

There’s not much involved in regular maintenance, except for cleaning. Be sure to use cleaning products specifically intended for toilets. Standard household cleaners can stain porcelain and crack the glazing. This will decrease the lifespan of your toilet. If you have hard water, use products to soften the water in your toilet. This will help reduce or eliminate mineralization and staining. Check the filler adjustment now and then to make sure your toilet isn’t consuming too much water. Make sure the seat is tight and fits well. Also check the flange nuts to make sure the toilet doesn’t move when it’s in use.

These items qualify as abuse

Toilets are designed to take a particular kind of abuse, but sometimes people go too far. Here are a few things you should NOT flush down your toilet.

Paper that isn’t toilet paper. Toilet paper dissolves in water, which is why it’s ok to flush it down the sewer. Other kinds of paper – Kleenex, paper towels, etc., – don’t dissolve. If it isn’t toilet paper, don’t flush it.

Disposable … things… Toilets aren’t trashcans, but that doesn’t stop some people from flushing trash. Q-tips, cigarette butts, sanitary products, disposable wipes, condoms, dead goldfish – none of these things are toilet-friendly. They all belong in the trash. If these items make it all the way to the sewer, they need to be separated out before treatment. In most cases though, they don’t make it all the way to the sewer. They sit in your soil pipe or in your sewer lateral. Given the opportunity, they will return to you. Don’t flush these things.

You have been warned.

Grease and food waste. Flushing grease down the toilet is no better than washing it down your sink. In fact, it’s probably worse. Grease can clog your sink drain in no time. If it clogs a kitchen sink, it will do the same thing to a toilet. Don’t put grease down either the toilet or the sink. (But especially not the toilet.)

Hot liquids
Toilets (and bathroom sinks) aren’t tempered. A rapid shift in temperature between the water and the porcelain will crack it. (And things won’t get better from there.) Use the kitchen sink to dispose of hot, non-greasy liquids.

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating is here to help with all of your toilet maintenance needs. We can also recommend and install low-flow toilets to help you save water! Call us at (617) 288-2911 to schedule an appointment.

Photo Credit: Scott Beale, 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

Trick or Treat: Exploding toilets are neither!

Just in time for Halloween, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has a scary story about exploding toilets! Nothing good happens when the words “toilet” and “explosion” find themselves in the same sentence. This is no exception.

Certain (mostly) commercial toilets that use a pressure-assisted flush unit are at risk of explosion. The Sloan Series 501-B Flushmate II pressure assisted flushing system could rupture, causing damage to the toilet and user injury. Sloan, the manufacturer, recalled a similar device – The Series 503 Flushmate III – in 2012, 2014 and 2016.

Flushmate II products manufactured from Sept. 3, 1996 to Dec. 7, 2013 are on the CPSC’s no-flush list. The manufacturer says it has received notice of nearly 1,500 incidents of the device bursting while in use. 23 people have sustained largely non-serious injuries, although one person required surgery on their foot. In addition to the recall of US units, the company is also recalling Canadian units for the same issue.

The failure occurs at the time of flushing. A weld seam can burst while the unit is at full pressure. This can cause the tank lid to lift, dislodge and shatter. Consumers have reported both impact and shatter injuries related to the failure.

Consumers may have purchased the affected units between 1996 and 2015 at Home Depot, Lowe’s, online or through national retailers. The units were also pre-installed in toilets made by American Standard, Corona, Crane, Kohler and Mansfield.

In the meantime, don’t use a toilet equipped with an affected system. Read the complete Flushmate II recall notice, and contact the manufacturer for a replacement.

Seriously, there’s (probably) no reason to be afraid of your toilet. If it bothers you though, call us at Boston Standard Plumbing at (617) 288-2911. We service all commercial and residential toilets.

Even ones that explode.

Happy Halloween!

Photo Credit: Phil Kalina, 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

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

Facial recognition technology foils toilet paper bandits

Visitors to the Temple Haven Park in Beijing are being looked at more closely – by the toilet paper dispensers. The dispensers use facial recognition technology to determine who gets toilet paper and who doesn’t.

Park officials installed the dispensers to curb rampant toilet paper thefts at the popular tourist site. The dispensers, which activate when a person stares into them for three seconds, rip off a precisely two-foot piece of paper. Thanks to the dispenser, a bathroom visitor can only get a new stash of TP once every nine minutes. Need more? Out of luck.

Visitors to the park aren’t particularly pleased with the high-tech TP guardians. Some think that the dispensers are a little too stingy with the paper; others lament the fact that the dispensers are even necessary.

Park officials found that locals, rather than visitors, were making off with the toilet paper in the park’s restrooms. To combat the thefts, they strategized about ways to discourage the bandits. Ultimately, they settled on facial recognition technology because it doesn’t require the user to touch the machine. Other rejected solutions used fingerprint readers and infrared scanners.

The dispensers cost northward of $700 each, but park officials believe that they’ll cut down on paper waste and paper theft. The restrooms at the park are somewhat of an oddity in China; most public restrooms don’t supply toilet paper in the first place. The Temple Haven Park has provided complementary wipes for about 10 years, but was being overwhelmed by the demand.

Some park visitors say that the toilet paper problem exemplifies the impact of poverty on ordinary Chinese citizens. In a country where the “squat toilet” is still the king of the hill, toilet paper is something of a rare commodity. Foreign visitors are advised to carry their own toilet paper when sightseeing, and putting the paper in the bowl when you’re finished is frowned upon. That’s because the plumbing in China often isn’t big enough to accommodate toilet paper.

Visitors who can’t bear the thought of using a public restroom in China are often advised to seek out a local McDonald’s or a western-style hotel, where flush toilets (and presumably free toilet paper) are standard.

Sometimes, even in the good, old US of A, your plumbing may not be up to the task. Objects that weren’t intended to be flushed can clog a pipe. Minerals and other deposits can also reduce water flow in the system. We’re always here to help with the most unpleasant problems that can crop up with your favorite flusher. Give us a call at (617) 288-2911. We don’t provide free toilet paper, but we’ll make sure your toilet is up to whatever you can throw at it!

Photo Credit: Simon Schoeters, via Flickr

Toilet Tidbits To Start The Week

At Boston Standard Plumbing, we spend a lot of time thinking about toilets. In case you missed it, here are a few current potty tales that caught our attention.

The glow of a golden throne. If you’re planning a trip to New York City soon, stop by the Guggenheim Museum and check out their newest exhibit entitled “America.” It’s a fully functional replica of a Kohler toilet cast in 18-karat gold by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan. According to Cattelan, the toilet, which is installed in a private unisex bathroom that also features a sink and mirror, is only art when someone is “answering nature’s call.” Catellan came out of a 5-year retirement to design “America,” which allows the public to interact with a “luxury product” that would appeal to the 1%. The exhibit was supposed to open during the first week of May, but the museum encountered “technical difficulty” that has delayed the grand unveiling. As of this writing, the exhibit is still listed as “upcoming.”

This throne also glows, but for different reasons. Dave Reynolds, the designer of Night Glow Seats hopes that his product appeals to the other 99%. It’s not actually a toilet; it’s just a toilet seat, but as the name suggests, it glows in the dark. Reynolds, who formerly worked for Virgin Records, conceived and designed the green- or blue-glowing seats after he fell off the toilet one night in the dark. Night Glow Seats are made from photoluminescent plastic, fit either round or elongated bowls, and retain their charge for at least 8 hours from any light source, but work best under UV-light. The seats can be cleaned with standard cleaning products, and can last up to 10 years.

Only a no-account varmint would do this. Police in Columbus just arrested a man for dismantling public toilets and stealing the plumbing parts. Gilbert Duwayne Courts was arrested and charged with 12 counts each of burglary and vandalism. According to police, Courts targeted bathrooms in local restaurants, a hospital and a K Mart store, and sold the purloined pipes to support his drug habit. Police distributed surveillance photos of Courts, and tips from the public helped to flush him out.

At Boston Standard Plumbing, we can do a lot of things, but we probably can’t get an Italian artist to create a solid gold toilet for you. However, if you can get your hands on one, you can avoid “technical difficulties” by allowing the pros at Boston Standard Plumbing to install it! We can also save the day if some dirty, rotten scoundrel makes off with your potty parts. Give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing at (617) 288-2911 anytime!

Photo Credit: Night Glow Seats

Water Efficiency: The Averages v The Ideals

If you plan to watch the Super Bowl this weekend, you’re likely to see a little water efficiency activism, thanks to Colgate-Palmolive. The Fortune-500 superbrand is using its Super Bowl spot to remind people to turn off the water when they brush.

Leaving the water running can send as much as 4 gallons of fresh water down the drain. The ad reminds viewers that those 4 wasted gallons are more fresh water than some people around the world get in an entire week.

Turning off the water while you brush you teeth can save about $40 per year. If you’re looking for some big savings, think about this: the three biggest water consumers in your home are your toilets, your washing machine and your shower. Let’s look at two typical Boston families (four people each) – the Average family and the Ideal family – and how their relative water efficiency shows up on their water bills.

The Bathroom
Each member of the Average household flushes the toilet about 5 times per day, so the Average family uses more than 25,500 gallons per year just to clear the bowl. Toilet usage accounts for nearly one-third of the Averages’ water bill.

The Ideal family installed new water-saving toilets in their home. Each member of the Ideal family also flushes the toilet 5 times, but since their toilets only consume 1.25 gallons per flush, the Ideals use only about 9,000 gallons of water per year on flushing.

If the retail rate for water and sewer services is $0.015 per gallon in their town, the Averages will spend about $380 per year to flush their toilets, while the Ideals will spend just $135. By switching to a new toilet (or even a high-efficiency toilet using just 1.25 gallons per flush), the Averages can reduce their water use by 16,500 gallons per year and save about $250 per year!

The Laundry Room
The Averages have an older washing machine that uses 32 gallons of water per load. The Averages do 12 loads of laundry each week, so they use about 20,000 gallons of water for laundering in a year.
The Ideals have a new high-efficiency washing machine that uses 13 gallons of water per load. They also do 12 loads of laundry each week, but their washer uses only about 8,100 gallons of water each year. Using the same retail rate for water and sewer services, the Averages will spend about $300 each year on laundry, while the Ideals will spend just $122, a savings of $178 annually.

The Shower
Each member of the Average family spends more than 8 minutes in the shower, which uses about 20 gallons of water per shower at a cost of about $0.30 per shower. In a year, the Averages use more than 29,000 gallons of water for showering. The Ideal family installed a WaterSense showerhead, which reduced their shower usage to about 16 gallons per shower at a cost of about $0.24 per shower. They reduced their consumption to about 23,360 gallons per year. The Averages spend about $438 annually on showering, while the Ideal family spends just $350.

In terms of water, the Averages consume nearly 75,000 gallons of water each year, while the Ideals use about 40,000 gallons per year on the same activities. In all, the Averages spend $1,118 on water and sewer, while the Ideals spend about $600.

If you’d like more information about water-efficiency, and how you can make your home more water efficient, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’d be happy to help you select and install water saving fixtures around your home!

Photo Credit: Bob Smith, via FreeImages.com

Water Efficiency: Steps You Can Take

Water efficiency may not be a familiar concept, but it’s one that you’ll be hearing about a lot in the near future. The term “water efficiency” describes a “right-sizing” approach to the amount of water you use for a particular purpose. Using the right amount of water, rather than using less water, is the goal of becoming more water efficient.

Naturally, the biggest consumers of water around your home include the washing machine, the dishwasher, the shower and the toilets. You may also have some “jumbo” consumers if you have a swimming pool or lawn irrigation system. If you’re serious about improving your home’s water efficiency, here are a few steps you can take.

The biggest consumers of water may not be the biggest water wasters. Before you get started on water efficiency, make sure you’re not wasting water needlessly. Dripping faucets, run-on toilets, plumbing leaks and broken shower diverters all send water down the drain before it can fulfill its intended purpose. These sneaky losers do nothing except raise your water bill.

A dripping faucet may need a new washer or gasket, but more often than not, newer fixtures are sealed, making a repair impossible. If that’s the case, plan to replace the fixture. It’s usually a simple matter of “out with the old, in with the new.” This kind of project typically doesn’t take more than a few minutes and common hand tools. In addition to getting a new fixture, you may want to invest in some Teflon tape to discourage leaks along the fixture threads.

Repairing a leaking toilet often involves replacing the flapper valve at the bottom of the toilet tank. Over time, this valve can crack, causing water to enter the bowl. Your bowl won’t overflow; instead, once the water reaches a certain level in the bowl, it will drain on its own. You can get standard replacement parts for toilets at your favorite hardware or home improvement store.

Plumbing leaks should be addressed immediately. A leak may happen at a weak joint, or could be caused by over-pressure or damage to the plumbing. Whether the leak is out in the open or enclosed in a wall, getting the leak repaired is Job Number 1. Leaking water can cause damage to floors and walls, and can promote the growth of mold and mildew.

A diverter is part of your bathtub/shower fixture. When you use it, you close off the tub spout to force the running water through the showerhead instead. A broken diverter can cause a loss of water pressure or weak water flow at the showerhead or throw off the balance of hot and cold water flow to the shower. If it’s not working at all, it will route water out through the tub faucet and straight down the drain. Broken diverters can also be very noisy!

Some shower fixtures use a diverter cartridge, which can be taken out and replaced. Others have a mechanical diverter that’s part of the spout. You can usually find standard cartridge-style replacements at the hardware or home improvement stores, but you may need to order one directly from the manufacturer. If you have a spout-mounted diverter, you can remove the entire spout and replace it. Tub spouts are either mounted with a setscrew or just thread directly on to the pipe. In either case, you’ll notice the difference on your water bill once you address this problem!

In my next post, I’ll talk about some other ways you can right-size your water-using appliances and fixtures. In the mean time, if you have a plumbing leak or problem that you want us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating to address, give us a call anytime at (617) 288-2911. We offer true, 24-hour emergency plumbing service, and we’re happy to lend a hand.

Photo Credit: Zhang Jing, via FreeImages.com