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

The dark side of energy efficiency

In the middle of the winter, it’s easy to find the drafts in your home. Sealing drafts can improve your energy efficiency, but there are some important considerations to think about. Building contractors talk about the “thermal envelope.” If you haven’t heard the term, it refers to the “tightness” of a building’s enclosure. The tighter the enclosure is, the less air travels between the building’s inside and its outside.

Energy efficiency requires ventilation improvements

Gaps can naturally occur between the foundation and the home’s structure. They also commonly occur in the attic, where the roof joins the walls. Windows, doors, vents and other openings degrade the thermal envelope. These hidden openings enable air to travel freely between the home’s exterior and interior. That means your warm air in the winter, and cool air in the summer will dissipate. This raises the cost of your heating and cooling bill, and admits unwanted moisture into your home.

Conventional wisdom said that these gaps helped to control the growth of mold and mildew. That is true. But it also means that older homes are draftier, leakier and cost more to heat and cool. If you decide to seal drafts in your home (which will decrease your energy usage), test your home’s ventilation! You may need to add supplemental ventilation to avoid moisture build-up and other problems.

Your water heater can’t go it alone

One of the big targets for energy efficiency is upgrading the furnace. Older furnaces aren’t energy efficient, so they consume a lot of fuel. Traditional furnace designs vented the by-products of combustion out the chimney. (“By-products of combustion” = carbon monoxide.) Newer heating equipment may instead vent flue gases out of the side wall of the home. This may have implications for your water heater and you!

A furnace is a big piece of equipment, and it can create a generate a big draft in the chimney. This air movement enables the flue gases to escape the chimney. If you have a gas water heater, it may also vent out the chimney. It probably leans on the furnace to create enough draft to expel its products of combustion safely. If you upgrade your furnace but leave your water heater standing, your water heater may not be able to generate enough draft to clear the chimney of noxious gases.

This can set up a dangerous situation known as back drafting. Back drafting allows the nasty, noxious gases to pool in the chimney, or worse, escape into the house. This can cause carbon monoxide to accumulate in the house. Major danger!

There are a few solutions for discouraging back drafting when your water heater is the last man standing. Your heating and cooling professionals will want to line your chimney when they upgrade your furnace. This reduces the inner size of the chimney and allows the water heater to create a better draft. You could also upgrade your water heater to a “power vent” model. A power-vented water heater mechanically creates draft in the chimney to avoid carbon monoxide buildup.

Heating and cooling professionals can help!

Air sealing, insulating and upgrading your heating and cooling equipment all save money, but they change your home’s environment. It’s very important to avoid the unintended consequences that can come about from tightening your thermal envelope.

At Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating, we can help you choose the most efficient heating and cooling options. We can also help you ensure that your home remains safe and comfortable, while also saving you money!

Call us at (617) 288-2911 to schedule an appointment today!

Photo Credit: David Singleton, via Flickr

Chimney liners – What you need to know

If you’re planning to install a high-efficiency furnace, one likely item on your to-do list will be to line your chimney. Chimney liners aren’t just a good idea – they’re required to help maintain the proper performance of your chimney.

Gas-fired appliances need to vent to the outside to avoid a build-up of carbon monoxide. In the past, gas furnaces and water heaters used the home’s chimney to provide adequate ventilation. Newer, high efficiency furnaces may vent out the side of the home’s foundation rather than up the chimney. If they use the chimney for ventilation, the chimney as built may be too big to work properly with a newer gas furnace.

If you plan to vent any appliances through the chimney, a chimney liner may be in order. There are three good reasons to line an existing chimney. First, unlined chimneys actually constitute a serious fire hazard. Studies have shown that heat moves through (not up) an unlined chimney rapidly. This means the chimney can transfer heat from the masonry to adjacent woodwork inside the home. In National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) tests, an unlined chimney caused adjacent woodwork to ignite in less than 3.5 hours! In fact, the standards folks at NIST called unlined chimneys “little less than criminal.” Those are some pretty harsh words, but they can give you a lot to think about. If your chimney is unlined (which would be common for an older home), you may want to invest in a chimney liner even if you don’t intend to replace the appliances that use your chimney.

The second reason to line a chimney is to protect it from your appliances. Combustion is a messy process. It can leave behind some caustic by-products that won’t do your chimney any favors. Over time, these caustic chemicals can eat away at the brick, as well as the mortar that holds your chimney together. Which brings us right back to Reason #1 to line your chimney. If the mortar inside your chimney deteriorates, the chimney will become even better at transferring heat to the surrounding structures. This naturally increases the risk of fire. A liner can both slow and reduce the transfer of heat to nearby structures, decreasing the risk of fire.

The third reason to line your chimney is to ensure that it drafts properly. A chimney is like a big straw that draws exhaust gas from your home. It also drafts air into your home, which your gas-fired appliances need. Big chimneys don’t draft well. A chimney that’s exceptionally large might draft either ineffectively or perhaps not at all. That could cause carbon monoxide to build up in your home. A chimney liner can help size your chimney properly for your appliances and help ensure that your home and appliances are vented properly.

Most chimney liners are made from one of three materials: clay, metal or resin. Clay tiles are the most common type of chimney liner. While they’re the least expensive way to line a chimney, they may not perform well in adverse conditions. (“Adverse conditions” = chimney fire.) They also might not work well with new, high-efficiency gas fired equipment.

Metal liners are usually made from stainless steel or aluminum. Aluminum liners don’t perform as well as stainless steel liners do. In fact, they’re not recommended for high-efficiency applications. Stainless steel performs very well, but it can be expensive. Finally, you can choose a custom-fit resin liner for your chimney. A resin liner is “built in place” and form fits to your chimney. It is lightweight, resist etching and reduce heat transfer. They can also help improve the structural integrity of your existing chimney. Resin liners are permanent and they work well with all fuel types.

An alternative to lining your chimney is to vent your furnace, water heater, boiler and other appliances directly through the foundation wall of your home. This strategy will enable you to abandon your chimney altogether. You can leave an abandoned chimney in place, provided that you cap the holes previously used by your equipment. You may also want to cap the chimney at the top to prevent water, animals and other undesirables from entering the chimney. Before you abandon your chimney, you may want to have it inspected by a professional. If your chimney is in dangerous condition, it may be worth your while to either stabilize it or deconstruct it altogether.

While we don’t do chimney lining, we can recommend chimney professionals as part of a heating or water heater replacement project. Give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to set up a consultation!

Photo Credit: Ben Freeman, via Flickr.com

Water Heater Maintenance Tips

If you have a tank water heater in your home, chances are good that your only genuine contact with it is your daily shower. Most people don’t realize that water heaters require regular maintenance. Performing regular maintenance on your water heater can not only extend the life of the tank, but also ensure that you have trouble-free operation for years.

You might think of your water heater as being a giant kettle that sits in your basement or in a utility closet. The water inside never heats up enough to boil (hopefully), but the tank always keeps heated water ready to go. Your water heater is a little more complicated than that, which is why it requires regular maintenance.

If you have a conventional tank water heater, you’ll want to become familiar with the maintenance routine for your tank. If you have an older tank in service, and you’ve never performed routine maintenance on it, beginning a maintenance routine may not get you very much. The trick to prolonging the life of a hot water tank is to begin maintenance on the tank when it is brand new and continue the routine throughout the tank’s life. Knowing how a water tank operates will show you why this is the case.

A conventional water tank has an energy source – either electricity or natural gas. (Water heaters can also operate on propane or fuel oil.) It has a water inlet for the cold water supply, and a water outlet for the heated water. The tank also has a thermostat to control the water temperature, and a pressure relief valve. A gas water heater will have an exhaust vent at or near the top of the tank and a gas burner at the bottom (outside) of the tank. An electric water heater will have one or two heating elements inside the tank. The tank itself is lined with glass. There’s a drain valve at the bottom of the tank, and the tank is insulated to improve energy efficiency.

Tanks also have a “sacrificial anode” which is a magnesium rod that sits in the water and controls the rate of corrosion in the tank. If the magnesium rod weren’t there, the tank itself would begin to corrode immediately. Because its job is to corrode, the rod deteriorates over time. Once the rod has deteriorated, the tank will begin to corrode rapidly. Replacing the sacrificial rod periodically will extend the life of your tank. The tank warranty provides a good rule of thumb for changing the anode in the tank. If your tank has a 6-year warranty, change the rod every 5-6 years. If it has a 9 year warranty, change it every 7-9 years. With a 12-year warranty, change the rods every 10-12 years.

Factors other than the passage of time can affect how rapidly the sacrificial anode deteriorates. Inspecting the rod annually can better help you determine when to replace your tank’s rod.

As a side note, the deterioration of the sacrificial anode is the reason you should never consume hot water from the tap. The water becomes contaminated by the water heater and is no longer fit for consumption.

Over time, debris from the anode, minerals and corrosion build up at the bottom of the tank. If you don’t drain the debris out periodically, it will form a “blanket” at the bottom of the tank and decrease the tank’s heating efficiency. The sediment can also escape the tank and collect in your water fixtures. Draining the tank from the bottom periodically will remove the sediment. Some people prefer to run a gallon or two of heated water from the bottom of the tank regularly to keep the sediment level in check.

Your water heater also has a temperature and pressure relief valve. This valve will open if the temperature or the pressure in the tank becomes too high. You can test the valve by pulling the trip lever on it. If the valve is operating correctly, it should relieve a little water or water vapor from the tank. You may also hear a little rush of air escaping the valve. If none of these things happen, the temperature and pressure valve may have gone bad. It’s important to replace the T&P valve. Without it, your tank could experience a dangerous increase in pressure, which could lead to an explosion.

If you’d like more information about water heater maintenance, or if you would like to replace your existing water heater, please call us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911.

Photo Credit: Cole Camplese, via Flickr

Heating, Cooling and Plumbing Product Recalls You Should Know About

Product recalls are a fact of life. There are a few residential heating, cooling and plumbing products that currently make the list. Product recalls can be voluntary on the part of the manufacturer. Additionally, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has the power to issue mandatory recalls. Typically, products make this list because they’re defective, mislabeled, or prone to dangerous misbehavior. If you have one of these products in your home, stop using them immediately!

Heating and Cooling recalls

Goodman Packaged Terminal Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps. Goodman Packaged Terminal Air Conditioners (PTAC) are marketed under the Amana brand name. The company recalled these air conditioning and heat pump units due to a fire hazard. The outdoor fan unit can overheat, leading to a fire.

According to the recall notice, affected models include those beginning with EKTC15, EKTH15, PMC15, PMH12, PMH15, PTC15, PTH12, PTH15, UCYB15, and UCYH15. The recall affects only units with the first four digits of the serial numbers in the range between 1001 and 1709.You can find the model number and serial number on a label behind the front cover of the unit. The company reports that there have been nine fires in affected units to date, and one case of smoke inhalation. The company sold the affected units between January 2010 and January 2018.

3.5KW and 5.0KW models of the same product were also recalled in 2013 for defective power cords.

General Electric PTAC and dehumidifier units. General Electric has issued recall notices for several PTAC and dehumidifier units. The recall notices date back to 2011-2016 and affect several products. The recall notices provide specific information for identifying affected products.

E-Heat Envi Wall Heaters. E-Heat issued a product recall for a small number of wall mounted heating units in March 2018. The company sold the affected units between July 2015 and August 2016. The affected units may have defective wiring that can cause the unit to overheat, smoke or melt. If you have an affected unit, the company advises you to stop using it immediately and contact them for repair or replacement instructions.

Water Heater and Boiler Recalls

American Standard Water Heaters. A small number of American Standard GSN and GN model water heaters may have a manufacturing defect that improperly seals the flange between the combustion chamber and the burner. The defect could allow outside air into the combustion chamber and poses a fire hazard. Affected GN model units have serial numbers beginning with: F15 / G15 / H15 / J15 / K15 / L15 / M15 / A16 / B16. Affected GSN model numbers have serial numbers beginning with: E15 / F15 / G15 / H15 / J15 / K15 / L15 / M15 / A16 / B16 .

If you have an affected product, please stop using the water heater immediately. Move all flammable materials away from the water heater and call the company at (888) 883-0788 for further instructions.

US Boiler residential boilers. US Boiler issued a product recall for three specific residential boiler models in 2014. The affected boilers could produce excessive carbon monoxide emissions under certain conditions. No injuries have been reported to date. The affected boiler models begin with ESC, SCG or PVG. If you believe you have an affected boiler, please contact the company for further instructions. The company also advises that you install a working carbon monoxide detector near all sleeping areas in your home.

Thermostat recall

White-Rodgers Thermostats. White-Rodgers recalled about 750,000 thermostats manufactured between 2006 and 2013 under a variety of brand names, including: COMFORTSENTRY, DICO, Emerson, Frigidaire, GemStat, Geocomfort, Hydron, Maytag, Module, Nutone, Partners Choice, Rheem, Ruud, Sears, Tetco, Unico, Water Furnace, Westinghouse, White-Rodgers or Zonefirst. Consumers may have purchased the thermostats from hardware or home improvement stores. Additionally, the thermostats may have been installed by heating and cooling contractors as part of a system replacement or upgrade. Alkaline batteries included with the thermostat could leak and damage the unit, leading to a fire. The company has received seven reports of burn damage to the unit, with no injuries reported.

It’s important to act on product recalls as quickly as possible to protect yourself and your family from injury or loss. If you’d like more information on heating and cooling products, water heaters or boilers, please contact us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to discuss a range of options for your home.

Photo Credit: Goodman

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

Tankless water heaters v. Storage tank water heaters

In the United States, most homes have storage tank water heaters. The tank typically stores between 30 and 50 gallons, but you can find larger or smaller tanks, depending on your application. Storage tank water heaters are responsible for about 17% of a home’s annual energy usage. In terms of energy consumption, it’s one of the major players in your home.

For years, statistics showed that heating comprised the majority –more than half – of a home’s annual energy usage. With the move toward high efficiency, heating now consumes about 40% of a home’s annual energy consumption. Appliances, water heaters and air conditioning combined have become the major consumers.

Targeting older appliances and fixtures will help reduce your energy costs, and the water heater is a pretty juicy target. But should you go for a tankless water heater? Can you still save money with a tank?

The pros and cons of tankless water heaters

A tankless water heater provides instant hot water, if you can be a little flexible about your definition of “instant.” Instead of storing pre-heated water for use “on-demand,” a tankless water heater creates hot water only when you need it. Some “tankless” water heaters have a tiny tank that holds a small amount of pre-heated water to minimize the “cold water sandwich.” Many tankless water heaters, however, just heat water when you open a hot water tap. The cold water that remains in the pipe is flushed out and soon enough, you’re getting “endless” hot water.

The rating for a tankless water heater shows the number of gallons per minute the water heater can provide. Higher capacity tankless heaters can supply 9 or more gallons per minute of hot water. That’s clearly enough for a shower – which might only take 2.5 gallons per minute of hot-and-cold water mixed. If your shower routinely competes with a dishwasher, a washing machine or another bathroom, the higher capacity water heater may be needed.

The bottom line on tankless water heaters

If you use less than 40 gallons of hot water per day, you can save money with a tankless water heater, but there are some conditions involved! Tankless water heaters are more expensive to buy than a conventional storage tank water heater is – by about a factor of two. You’ll pay twice as much for a tankless water heater, and the installation costs will be higher. Tankless water heaters require a larger gas (or electric) service, so you may need to do some retrofitting of your existing gas or electricity service to supply a tankless water heater.

The good news is that a tankless water heater will last about two to two-and-a-half times as long as a storage tank water heater. Since they’re wall-mounted, you’ll recover the space that your storage tank water heater currently takes up. Another potential positive – they can be mounted on the outside wall of the home.

In terms of operating costs, a tankless water heater can save you between one-quarter and one-third of what you’d spend on keeping stored water hot. Your savings would depend on how much hot water you use in a day. The more hot water you use daily, the less you’ll save. If your household consumes a lot of hot water every day -60 to 80 gallons – you would reduce your savings to 10%-15%.

The pros and cons of storage tank water heaters

Storage tank water heaters aren’t particularly efficient. The tank loses heat in a number of ways. Combustion losses can reduce your tank’s efficiency by 15% or more. Standby losses – heat escaping through the tank walls – reduces efficiency by 30% or more. Transmission losses – heat escaping through the pipes –may reduce your efficiency by another 10%. By the time your hot water exits a tap, you might get only 40%-50% of what you paid for.

Residential storage tank water heaters have a rated life of between 6 and 12 years. You’ll replace your storage tank water heater twice during the lifetime of a tankless water heater. That gives the tankless heater a cost advantage over a storage tank water heater.

Another negative for storage tank water heaters is that they don’t “fail pretty.” Mineral deposits inside the tank can cause uneven heating, overheating, smelly water and noisy operation. A failing hot water tank can discharge rusty water or leak. Any of these signs indicates an impending tank failure. Don’t ignore them!

On the positive side, a storage tank water heater is the cheapest way to provide a source of heated water in terms of immediate, out-of-pocket costs. 40-gallon storage tank water heaters are widely available, relatively inexpensive and can be installed in a day with limited need to modify an existing gas or electrical service. Your operating costs will be higher and your tank may have a shortened life cycle, but if you need hot water today – a storage tank water heater is still a respectable option.

If you’d like more information about tankless water heaters, storage tank water heaters or other water heating options, please give us a call at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911 and we can help you choose the best option for your home.

Photo Credit: Alan Levine, via Flickr.com

Heat Pump Water Heater Rebates and Credits

If you’re thinking about replacing your electric water heater, now is a great time to take advantage of an excellent rebate opportunity from MassSave. If you install a qualifying heat pump water heater and you receive your electrical service from a MassSave program sponsor, you can take advantage of a $750 rebate.

Until December 31, 2016, you can also take advantage of a federal income tax credit of $300 on your heat pump water heater purchase. That means you can reduce the cost of installation of a heat pump water heater by $1,000 just by acting right now.

Heat pump water heaters keep saving

The savings don’t stop there. A heat pump water heater can reduce your annual energy spending by more than $300! There’s no reason not to take advantage of this exceptional rebate-and-credit offer.

Heat pump water heaters aren’t appropriate for every space because they extract heat from the surrounding air. Heat pump water heaters work best in spaces that remain at a temperature of 50° F or higher. They also need about 750 square feet of space to work. Heat pump water heaters aren’t approved for use in utility closets, even if the closet has a louvered door.

Worried about not having enough hot water on a cold winter morning? Most heat pump water heaters are hybrid devices. They work first as a heat pump, but have an electric backup system to ensure that your hot water is always hot!

If you’d like more information about heat pump water heaters, this excellent rebate opportunity through MassSave, or you’re trying to figure out whether a heat pump water heater is a good choice for your home, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 to schedule a consultation. This rebate program and the associated tax credit are both time limited offers, so don’t wait!

Photo Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, via Flickr.com

Air Source Heat Pumps Can Save Money

You might be tempted to think about heat pumps as “new” technology. They’re not. The concept of a heat pump was actually described in 1852 by Lord Kelvin, and even that was a refinement of a demonstration of artificial refrigeration – one that took place in 1748! Robert C. Webber developed the idea (and a working prototype) for a ground source heat pump in the late 1940’s, with a little help from his water heater and an accidental encounter with the business end of his freezer. (He burned himself by touching the freezer’s refrigeration line – which was hot!) After re-routing the refrigerant line through his water heater as a test, he built a full-sized heat pump that served his entire home.

There are many different heat pump designs, but they all do the same basic thing – they move heat from one place to another using refrigerants. Although they may have operated on the same basic principles, those basic heat pumps are a far cry from today’s air-source heat pumps. If you have dismissed heat pumps as being too expensive to operate, or not robust enough to make it through a Boston winter, keep reading.

In very basic terms, a heat pump is an air conditioner that operates in reverse, generating heat instead of cool air. A mini-split or ductless system is a reversible system, so it can generate both hot and cold air. When refrigerants are compressed, they heat up. When they’re expanded, they get very cold. By circulating uncompressed (cold) gases, the system can make the refrigerants “absorb” heat. When the system forces the gas to expand, the refrigerant dumps heat.

Early heat pumps used the ground as a heat source, so refrigerant loops were buried in the ground around a house or building. Advances in technology have made air-source heat pumps more efficient and less expensive to install and operate. Today’s heat pumps aren’t like heat pumps that were installed even 10 years ago. New refrigerants are exceptionally efficient because they can compress and decompress much better than older refrigerants. This “supercompression” allows the refrigerants to absorb and transport heat from the air much more readily than ever before.

As an added bonus, air-source heat pumps (think mini-split ductless systems) can operate in both directions. The refrigerant flow is reversible, so when the refrigerant moves in one direction, it delivers heat into a home. Reverse the flow of refrigerant and the refrigerant will absorb heat from the home and dissipate it outdoors.

Air-source heat pumps are electric, so when you install one, your electric bill will rise, but because air source heat pumps are so efficient, the rise in your electric bill will offset the cost of heating your home using another fuel. As an added advantage, you get both heating and cooling in one package without the need to install ductwork – a major source of inefficiency. They’re also incredibly quiet. When they’re operating, the indoor units are acoustically no louder than a whisper.

If you’d like more information about using an air-source heat pump or a ductless mini-split heating and cooling system, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We can schedule a visit and show you how an air-source heat pump can heat and cool your home.

Photo Credit: Stig-Espen Soleng, via FreeImages.com

Tank v Tankless: Water Heaters Come Full Circle

If you’re like most people, you only think about hot water when you want it and don’t have it. On-demand hot water has only been around for about 120 years. Before that, people didn’t shower much; they bathed – and they didn’t bathe often. When they did, they brought heated water to the tub and then added cold water to get the right temperature.

During the 20th century, domestic hot water became a standard, and that’s pretty much where we are. Today, debates about hot water ask the question, “Tank or tankless?” The vast majority of domestic hot water today comes from a tank storage system, but the earliest water heaters were invariably tankless. (In fact, some were even portable!) So we’ve come full-circle on domestic hot water, and we’re still asking, “Tank or tankless?”

Team Tank
Storage tank water heaters are relatively cheap, easy to find and relatively easy to install or fix. Compared to other water heating techniques (like electricity), gas water heaters are also reasonably efficient. The design of a water tank hasn’t changed much, but newer tanks have more insulation and safety features like pressure relief valves. Storage tank water heaters can discharge about 7-10 gallons per minute of hot water, so you can shower, launder and wash your dishes simultaneously.

On the minus side, water tank storage systems use a lot of energy, and their efficiency is limited by design. Once the tank is empty, you’ll need to wait as long as an hour for more hot water.

Worse, the tanks themselves are pretty much designed to fail every 6-10 years. Some early storage water heaters had replaceable tanks. Others were made of non-corroding alloys. (75 years later, a few of these tanks are still in service.) If you’re on Team Tank you’ll be buying a new one about once every decade.

Team Tankless
Tankless water heaters have more recently made their grand return to the market. They eliminate many of the storage water tank’s faults. Some gas models are up to 98% efficient, and they’re designed to last for about 25 years. You can take advantage of tax credits and rebates that storage tank water systems don’t qualify for, and a tankless hot water system may even help sell your home!

As long as you are scrupulously honest with yourself about your hot water needs, you can have “endless” hot water. Good tankless water heaters can crank out about 4-5 gallons per minute of hot water. That’s enough for a shower, but you won’t also be able to do the dishes and the laundry at the same time. You may have to choose how and when you use hot water. (The prospect of a cold shower should make the choice easy.)

On Team Tankless, your hot water can be “endless” as long as the electricity stays on. The cold truth about tankless hot water systems is that even the gas-fired ones use some electricity. When your power goes out, your hot water goes out with it. You’ll also pay more up front for a tankless system.

So again, which is it – tank or tankless? If you need an instant solution because your tank is broken, Team Tank is calling. They’re fast, relatively cheap and you can have them in a couple of hours.

If you can replace your hot water system on your schedule and you can afford to get a system that’s large enough to accommodate your hot water demands, you should at least consider a tankless system. They’re more energy-efficient, last 2-3 times longer than a tank, take up less room, and cost less to operate over their lifetimes. In the long run, the additional money you spend up front on a tankless system (and then some) will come back to you in the form of lower energy bills.

If you’d like more information about water heaters or tankless hot water systems, give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We can help you figure out which option is best for you!

Photo Credit: Svilen Milev, via FreeImages.com