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New Lead Free Plumbing Alloy Could Get The Lead Out

Researchers at Purdue University say they’ve developed a new plumbing alloy that can eliminate the use of lead in plumbing fixtures. The alloy is a manganese and copper blend that is stronger and easier to mold than current lead free plumbing alternatives.

One reason the new combination is so interesting is that both copper and manganese solidify at the same temperature. Typically, different metals harden at different temperatures, which can allow the resulting alloy to become porous, and interfere with strength and other properties. Since copper and manganese solidify at the same temperature, they behave more like a pure metal. Initial testing shows that the new alloy does not develop porous qualities like other alloys can.

The idea of using lead free alloys in plumbing is not new. Since the late-70’s, the plumbing industry has made a major effort to reduce or eliminate the use of lead -even in small amounts. Lead-free solder, lead free pipes and lead-free fixtures are standard today, however some lead can still leech into water systems.

Brass – a common plumbing material for fixtures and valves – can contain lead, which can leech into standing water. Old plumbing solder was typically a mixture of tin and lead. As plumbing joints age and deteriorate, lead from old solder can also enter the water supply.

Another exciting property of the new alloy is that it is relatively inexpensive to make. Copper and manganese are both reasonably available materials. In production, the new alloy is comparable (or perhaps a little less expensive) than current lead free alternatives. The Purdue team will now look to scale up its production in test plumbing applications to learn more about it.

Removing lead from your plumbing system is important to your health and the health of your family. Lead is toxic in any quantity, and there is no safe or acceptable level of lead in a water system. Even systems that don’t contain lead pipes can still acquire lead particles – mainly from older fixtures and old, lead-based solder joints.

While it’s hard to believe, some homes also still have a water line that’s made of lead. You can see whether you have a lead line by looking at the pipe that connects your water meter to the municipal water supply. Lead is a soft, dull silver-colored metal. If you have a dull grey or silver colored water line attached to your meter, take a small flat-head screwdriver and try to scratch the surface of the pipe. You could also press the flat blade of the screwdriver into the pipe. If the screwdriver can scratch the pipe or make an impression, your water line is probably made of lead.

If you touch the pipe, wash your hands afterwards. You can only absorb lead by ingestion or inhalation. While you cannot absorb lead through your skin, touching the pipe can deposit lead particles or lead dust on your hands, which you can then ingest accidentally.

Replacing your lead water line with a safer material can remove an immediate health hazard and give you peace of mind. If you would like more information about replacing a lead water line, or removing lead from your home’s plumbing system, please give us a call at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to inspect your home’s plumbing system and identify potential lead hazards.

Photo Credit: Richard King, via Flickr

Plumbing as a career

If you’re looking for a career, a new career or a better career, consider plumbing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the plumbing industry is wide-open. Experts expect employment to grow by 16% 2016-2026. Better still, the median salary for a plumber in 2018 exceeded $25 per hour. Some plumbers even report making six-figure salaries.

Plumbing is a skilled trade, which means that you will spend time working with a licensed master plumber in an apprentice position while you learn. As an apprentice, your ultimate goal is to become a master plumber. That process can take several years because you’ll need to complete both classroom and on-the-job instruction. You’ll work as a journeyman plumber for awhile as you accumulate work experience. Once you’ve completed all of the journeyman training and work requirements, you can become a master plumber.

As a licensed plumber, you can work in a commercial setting, a residential setting or both. In addition to the sink-and-toilet plumbing you know, you could also work in highly specialized commercial settings, like power plants, hospitals, manufacturing facilities and water treatment plants. Plumbers also install gas lines and fire suppression systems.

Every year in Massachusetts, about 75% of high school graduates go on to college. For the other 25%, a plumbing apprenticeship pays you a good salary while you learn on the job. You can also put yourself in a position to have a stable, high-earning, high-demand career within just a few years.

If you’d like more information about how to get into a plumbing apprenticeship program, or you’d simply like more information about plumbing as a career, please give us a call at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to talk to you about job opportunities and the job training requirements for plumbing as a career.

Photo Credit: Natalie Wilkie, via Flickr

Life without indoor plumbing? Is that still a thing?

According to a report earlier this month, nearly 25% of households in Russia lack indoor plumbing. While that’s hard to accept, it’s apparently true. The majority of the affected households are in rural areas. Only about 9% of urban-dwellers in Russia lack indoor sanitation.

It’s at this point we should mention that according to a recent American Communities Survey, 630,000 US households also lack an in-house outhouse. So what gives?

Historically speaking, indoor plumbing is a relatively new thing. By the 1930’s in the United States, new construction included indoor plumbing as a standard design element. Likewise, owners of many older homes retrofitted plumbing into these structures. However, Census data from that time show that in 1950, the indoor plumbing revolution had yet to reach about 25% of US homes.

Indoor plumbing – as defined by the Census Bureau, includes:

  • Toilet
  • Bathtub
  • Running water

If you’ve got at least these three, you’ve got the whole kit. Areas in the US that are still waiting for indoor plumbing include very rural areas, Native American reservations, Appalachia and Southern Texas. Here’s a surprise. According to the American Communities Survey, in 2017 more than 9,000 Massachusetts homes did not have complete plumbing facilities. Nearly 600 of these homes were in Suffolk County.

Most people in the US today take indoor plumbing for granted, but ye Olde Outhouse has not yet been relegated to the history books anywhere in the world. Good sanitation makes for good, healthy communities, so taking care of your plumbing should be a priority.

Tips for taking care of your indoor plumbing

There are some major plumbing repairs that require a trained professional, but you can take a few simple actions to care for your plumbing. Regular maintenance can help limit your exposure to major plumbing failures.

  • Keep your drains running clean and clear.
  • Address leaks when you find them.
  • Check your fixtures regularly (sinks, tubs, toilets, faucets, water heaters) for leaks, cracks and wear
  • In the winter, keep your home’s temperature high enough to discourage frozen pipes
  • Drain your garden hoses and drain the bibs before winter!

When you do need a hand with your plumbing (or if you live in one of the 600 Suffolk County houses without plumbing), give us a call at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to help out!

Photo Credit: Mark Bray, via Flickr

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!

When should you replace your plumbing?

As plumbers, we naturally think that plumbing is a good thing, but all good things must come to an end. We’re not saying that plumbing is going away anytime soon, but the clock is ticking on your pipes. You might not think about it much, but the plumbing in your house wasn’t designed to last forever. How long should your plumbing last and what should you know about failing pipes?

Straight talk about replacing plumbing

The lifespan of your plumbing depends upon your pipes. Here’s a guide to help you think about (and plan for) replacement of your home’s plumbing.

Brass

Brass plumbing has a rated lifespan of 80-100 years. Original brass plumbing in homes built between World War I and World War II is now reaching the end of its useful life. Brass has been used in plumbing fixtures for a long time. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. Varying the amounts of these major components can make the resulting brass harder or softer. Brass can also contain small amounts of other metals like aluminum, lead and arsenic. For plumbing applications, lead is absolutely forbidden, however some lead may still be present in older brass fixtures. Lead plumbing solder was common before 1977, and brass can increase the amount of lead that leaches into the water.

If you have brass plumbing, make sure you have no lead in any fixtures or solder joints. If you do find lead, at the very least, eliminate the offending fixtures. Remove old solder and replace it with lead-free solder designed especially for plumbing applications.

Copper

Copper has a rated lifespan of 70-80 years. Many homes built in the 1960’s and most homes built after 1970 have copper plumbing. Original copper plumbing in homes built around and immediately after World War II is now likely reaching the end its useful life. Copper carries a certain mystique about it. People believe that copper plumbing will last forever. It doesn’t. The actual lifespan of copper may even be significantly less than 70-80 years. In practice, copper plumbing can deteriorate rapidly after just 20 years of service.

Copper plumbing fails for a couple of important reasons. First, the “clean” side of your plumbing is under constant pressure. This constant pressure takes its toll on the joints and connectors in your system. You may begin to see leaks and drips, especially if the pressure from the source is too high. Municipal water transmission systems often have a pressure of 100-150 PSI. The recommended pressure for a residential system is lower – more like 80 psi. The extra pressure can really wreak havoc inside your home. You can reduce the water pressure from the source by installing a pressure regulator. The regulator will help ensure that your pipes and fixtures aren’t overwhelmed by sky-high PSI.

Acidity and copper

Copper can also fail when the pH of the water falls below 6.5. The natural pH of water falls somewhere between 6 and 8.5 depending upon the source. The lower the water’s pH, the more acidic it is. Acidic water can react with copper and deteriorate the pipe. Damaged pipes will shed copper into the water. Your body needs minute amounts of copper to be healthy, but large doses can be toxic.

A healthy body has mechanisms to prevent excessive copper storage, but in some people, these mechanisms may not work properly. Copper toxicity can cause gastrointestinal problems, liver and kidney damage, psychological problems and low blood pressure. In addition, some research shows that people who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease have increased free copper levels in their bloodstreams. This does NOT mean that copper causes Alzheimer’s Disease. (In 2018, the cause of Alzheimer’s Disease remains unknown.) It might just mean that Alzheimer’s Disease damages the body’s mechanism to eliminate excess copper.

There is no known health reason to remove copper pipes in good condition from your home. You should replace any copper pipe that is showing signs of damage or deterioration, regardless of its age. If your water is chronically acidic, copper piping might not be the best choice for your home. Water that normally has a pH greater than 6.5 won’t deteriorate your copper pipes.

Galvanized steel

Galvanized steel has a rated lifespan of 80-100 years. Original galvanized plumbing in homes built between World War I and World War II is now reaching the end of its useful life. Galvanized steel pipes (also known as “galvanized” pipes) are zinc-coated steel pipes. The zinc coating helps to prevent the pipe from deteriorating. This kind of pipe is commonly found in homes built before 1960.

The zinc coating on galvanized steel doesn’t last forever. After decades of exposure to water, the coating will fail and the pipes will begin to rust. As the pipe deteriorates, its inner diameter reduces, and rust may flake off. Rust particles can end up in the water, or they can clog faucet filters. They can also leave rust stains on toilets, sinks and tubs. The narrowing diameter of the pipe can also cause water flow and water pressure problems for attached fixtures.

A potentially larger issue is that the zinc coating on galvanized pipes made between 1880 and 1960 contained impurities including lead. It is possible to find lead in the water carried by galvanized pipe, even when there’s no other lead source in the system. In systems where lead pipe or lead-containing fixtures were attached to galvanized pipe, the galvanized pipe may have caught and retained lead particles. Deterioration of the pipe eventually releases these lead particles and the water can test positive for lead contamination. Given enough time, a deteriorating galvanized pipe will rust through and require replacement.

PVC pipe

The rated lifespan of PVC pipe is 50-70 years. Some testing shows that PVC pipes could potentially last 100 years or more. Although PVC pipe seems like it’s “new,” PVC was actually first used in Germany in 1932. It arrived in US homes in 1952, so PVC pipe that pre-dates 1968 is approaching the end of its useful life. True PVC pipe is rated for safe use only with cold water. CPVC pipe, a chemically similar cousin, is rated for use with both hot and cold water service. Some PVC pipe made before 1977 could potentially leach harmful chemicals into fresh water. PEX pipe – which is a flexible plastic hose – can also be used to connect fixtures to plumbing systems. Plastic pipes of any kind (PVC, CPVC, PEX) that are labeled “NSF-61” or “NSF-PW” have been certified as safe for carrying drinking water.

Lead

There are no safe ways to use lead in plumbing. Lead poses a serious human health hazard and can cause permanent damage and death. Lead should be removed from plumbing systems immediately, regardless of its age or condition.

(That’s all we have to say about lead.)

Ultimately, no plumbing lasts forever! If you’re considering replacing your plumbing, or you’re beginning to see signs of deterioration in your plumbing, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to evaluate your plumbing and make recommendations about repairs or replacement.

Photo Credit: Patrick FInnegan, 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

Thinking about a pot filler for Christmas?

A pot-filler is a luxury item that you can find in a higher-end kitchen. A pot filler is a swinging, articulated faucet that sits above your stove. Because it’s articulated, it can reach virtually any burner, and can help you fill a pot of water quickly. It also eliminates the need to carry a full pot of water from the sink to the stove.

Depending upon the design of your kitchen, the trip between the sink and stove might not be a big deal. But if you cook a lot, or use large pots while you’re cooking, a pot-filler can be indispensable. You can use the pot filler for more than filling pots, too. Some pot fillers have a flow rate of up to 4 gallons per minute. You can use it to water large houseplants, fill water bottles and other awkward containers (think portable humidifiers). When you’re not using the pot filler, it rests neatly against the wall.

To add a pot filler, you’ll need to add some plumbing. (Most kitchen designs don’t run water near the stove.) Once the plumbing is in place, adding a pot filler is as simple as adding a faucet. The pot filler is a cold-water-only fixture and you don’t need a drain, so the setup is simple.

A second water source in a busy kitchen can make a lot of sense. When you’re cooking, the sink tends to fill up with dirty dishes and food scraps. As you approach showtime, it can be difficult to get near the faucet! A pot filler can save the day, allowing you to get water, even when the sink says “No!”

Pot fillers are also handy for outdoor cooking areas. If you have a professional-grade outdoor kitchen, a pot filler can save trips back to the indoor kitchen. It’s also a great source of drinking water for your outdoor gatherings.

The fixtures range in price from about $150 to over $1,000. That doesn’t include the cost of the plumbing, but once you put a pot filler in your kitchen, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without one!

If you’d like more information about adding a pot filler to your kitchen, or you’re planning a remodeling project and you want to include a pot filler, give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing at (617) 288-2911 to set up a consultation.

Photo Credit: mel0808johnson , via Flickr.com