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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

5 tips for maintaining your plumbing fixtures

If you live in the United States, your home has a modern plumbing system, thanks to regularly updated plumbing codes and laws. Without proper maintenance, however, a home’s plumbing system can deteriorate. That can put your family and your home at risk. Here are five tips to keep your plumbing fixtures in good working order. These can also help you spot problems while they’re still manageable.

Keep your drains clear.

Every plumbing system has two sides: the clean side and the dirty side. Drains fall on the “dirty” side of the system, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep them clean. One of the best ways to keep your drains clean is to monitor what goes down them. Soap, hair, food particles, grease and other biological agents can combine to form clogs. Preventing hair, grease and food from making their way down the drains can go a long way toward preventing clogs. If your drains do begin to run slowly, snake them out manually to remove any accumulations. Avoid using chemical drain cleaners. Instead, try an enzymatic drain cleaner like Bio-Clean to keep the drains flowing freely. Some people also swear by a mixture of baking soda and vinegar to kill organic material that may grow in your drains.

At least once every 5 years, have your sewer connection videoscoped. This can help you discover breaks and tree root invasions in your sewer line. While no one wants to see a break in their sewer connection, taking care of the problem outside beats having a sewage backup inside!

Know and test your plumbing system.

On the clean side of things, inspect your pipes annually. Test the local shut-off valves to make sure they still work. Shut-off valves are notoriously cheap, so giving them a little regular exercise will help keep them in good shape. If a shut-off valve self-retired while you weren’t looking, replace it immediately. If you can’t count on it to work in an emergency, it’s not of much use! Also test your main shut-off valve. While this valve is unlikely to break, moving it periodically can help ensure that you won’t need to manhandle it to shut off the water supply in an emergency.

Flush your water heater.

Debris, scale and rust particles can build up at the base of your water heater. Most water heaters have a drain near the bottom that you can open for maintenance. The debris settles at the bottom of the tank, so opening the tank and tapping off a gallon or two can help remove this sediment. Some manufacturers recommend this procedure monthly. Others say it’s ok to do it annually. However often you do it, do it. Also, you can extend the life of your water heater by having the sacrificial anode replaced on schedule. If you don’t, once the sacrificial anode is gone, your tank will begin to rust.

Don’t ignore signs of trouble. Plumbing problems rarely arrive completely unannounced. If you see signs of plumbing problems, act. Symptoms of trouble can include leaks, smells, drips, reduced or increased water flow and damage to surrounding walls, floors and ceilings.

Put a trash can next to your toilet.

You might wonder how putting a trash can next to your toilet can possibly help your plumbing. Some people use their toilets as a substitute trash can. They flush just about everything from cigarette butts to grease down the loo. That’s an excellent recipe for big plumbing problems! The only things that should ever go down your toilet are human waste and toilet paper. Throw everything else – including Kleenex, diapers, tampons, sanitary pads, cigarette butts, “disposable” or “dissolvable” wipes, paper towels and whatever else you can think of – in the handy trash can you’ve placed next to the toilet.

When you run into a plumbing problem that you want help with, contact us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We specialize in both residential and commercial plumbing in the Boston area.

Photo Credit: Bill Wilson, via Flickr

Is a career in plumbing for you?

When you think of the term “plumber,” you might think of someone who fixes water pipes or unclogs drains. Water is a big part of a plumber’s job, but plumbers do a lot more than fix pipes. In this series, we’re going to explore plumbing as a career, what it takes to become a plumber, and what kind of opportunities are available in plumbing and related trades.

Believe it or not, plumbing is one of the key components of any modern society. Plumbers build and maintain systems that bring fresh water into buildings, and remove wastewater safely. Plumbers also work with pipes that carry gases to and from buildings. As such, plumbers often work in both the plumbing and heating/cooling trades.

Plumbing can be specialized

Plumbers can specialize in commercial or residential work, or they can do both. Specialty plumbers include pipelayers, pipefitters, gas fitters and steamfitters. These plumbers work exclusively in specialized commercial and industrial construction and require additional training.

Plumbers work in people’s homes, and in commercial and industrial spaces. They can work exclusively for one employer, or they can work on multiple job sites on short-term assignments. Plumbers may or may not belong to a union. Many master plumbers are self-employed, and provide plumbing and related services to individuals and businesses in their communities.

Because a plumber’s work can affect people’s health and safety, plumbers require special training and licensing to do their jobs. The state licenses plumbers. Each state manages its own licensing program, but all states have similar licensing requirements. The type of license a plumber has determines the kind of supervision he or she works under. To become a licensed plumber, you must complete a training program that combines classroom learning with on-the-job learning. You must also update your license periodically with additional training and education.

Plumbing involves clean water, dirty water and gas

Plumbers can work on any portion of a water system. On the “clean” side, plumbers may install or replace pipes and fixtures, locate and repair leaks, install water heaters, water filters and repair water pressure problems. They can also install gas service lines. In homes, natural gas (or propane) lines are likely to be the only gas lines you might see. In commercial spaces, plumbers may install fire suppression systems, natural gas lines, lines for compressed air, welding gases, or other gases (like anesthesia or oxygen) in medical facilities.

On the “dirty” side, plumbers work on drains, sewers, plumbing ventilation, septic and sump systems. They may also install dry wells or other catchment systems to manage rainwater runoff and “grey water.”

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems often require plumbing and ventilation, so it is common to find plumbers working in HVAC operations. In addition to installation of furnaces, boilers, chillers and cooling systems, plumbers perform scheduled and emergency HVAC maintenance.

Plumbing can be a 24-hour job

As a profession, plumbing requires some level of physical fitness because the job often involves climbing, crawling, lifting, working with your arms over your head and in small spaces. In addition to the physical demands of the job, plumbers are problem-solvers. The most successful plumbers can diagnose and repair existing systems, and develop creative, individualized solutions for difficult situations.

Some plumbers work exclusively during the day, but most residential plumbing services offer some type of 24-hour service. Plumbing emergencies are just that – emergencies! They must be addressed immediately because plumbing problems can put people’s health and safety at risk. The same is true with heating and cooling problems. Additionally, some commercial work may only be done when the business is closed. As a result, plumbing isn’t considered a traditional “9-to-5” job.

If you’re considering a career in plumbing or HVAC, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to discuss your career options and let you know how you can get started in the trade.

Photo Credit: Duncan c, via Flickr.com

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

Roman plumbing wasn’t all that

History books make much about the fact that the Romans had plumbing and public toilets, but you might be surprised to learn that Roman cities weren’t really all that sanitary. For all that the Romans did to promote public sanitation – baths, public toilets, sewers, waste removal and running water – these civic improvements didn’t really live up to the promise of a good, old-fashioned public works project. And they certainly didn’t improve the health and well-being of John Q. Publicus.

The Romans had the right idea, but they went about public sanitation in the wrong way, say researchers at the University of Cambridge, who actually spent some good quality time at the bottom of ancient Roman latrines. The evidence they uncovered strongly suggests that Romans had just as many human-unfriendly parasites as less fastidious civilizations that came before and after them.

Researchers found evidence of whipworm, roundworm and amoebic dysentery in about the same concentrations in ancient Rome as they found in earlier Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements. They also found these parasites in similar concentrations in settlements from the Middle Ages, well after the fall of the Roman Empire. Layer on the presence of pests like lice and fleas in ancient Roman baths, and the overall evidence implies that Roman sanitation practices weren’t really effective against some of the most significant health hazards of the time.

Where did the Romans go wrong? While some health issues can be traced to Roman hygiene practices – not changing out bathwater regularly and keeping the water steamy warm – a bigger part of the problem had nothing to do with their sanitation practices, but rather, their agricultural ones. Romans used human excrement as a fertilizer. This isn’t much different than us using cow manure as a fertilizer, but today’s manure fertilizer doesn’t come straight from the source, so to speak. An aging process kills the bacteria in the manure, rendering it safe (and sanitary) for use on food crops. Romans weren’t patient people, it seems. They didn’t age their fertilizer, which allowed disease-causing parasites and parasite eggs to survive and enter the Roman food supply over and over again.

We have a decided advantage over ancient Rome when it comes to understanding germs and germ theory, and we’re better equipped to keep germs and pests out of our homes and public spaces, but the ancient Romans also remind us about the narrow difference between what seems sanitary and what actually is.

PhC Klaus Sandrini, via FreeImages.com

World Plumbing Day: A Time To Think

World Plumbing Day: A Time To Think

World Plumbing Day: A Time To Think

World Plumbing Day – March 11 – is just about a month away, and although it may seem like an odd celebration, it offers us an opportunity to think about something we don’t usually spend a lot of time on: clean water and sanitation. In Boston, plumbing is something we take for granted. Every house has it; every commercial building has it. But there are a lot of places in the world where clean water and sanitation aren’t readily available.

More than 3 million people each year die as the result of preventable diseases and conditions related to inferior water quality and poor sanitation. The majority of deaths occur in children under five years of age. By itself, that’s a lot to think about – especially when you consider that you can go to just about any tap that’s connected to a municipal water supply, and get safe, clean, drinkable water from it 24/7/365, year after year in this country.

Despite our access to clean water and sanitation, water-borne illnesses can still affect us. Relatively recent outbreaks of the SARS virus and Legionnaires’ Disease come to mind as proof that improper plumbing and air-handling can serve as a breeding ground for major threats to public health.

Aside from thinking about the role of clean water and sanitation, it’s also good to think about the role that plumbers play in modern society. Plumbing may not seem like a glamorous job, and it’s not. But according to the World Health Organization, competent plumbers are responsible for a lot:

  • Installing and maintaining safe water distribution and sanitation systems
  • Managing the risks associated with plumbing and sanitation systems
  • Water conservation
  • Plumbing is a trade, but it’s one that evolves over time. In some cases, modern plumbing codes are responses to changes in the way people live, the applications of new technologies and materials, and our impact on the areas in which we live. In other cases, plumbing codes are the products of the knowledge and experience plumbers gain when they handle both clean and dirty water. In still other cases, our plumbing reflects what we’ve learned about diseases, and how they spread in urban areas.

    So, as World Plumbing Day approaches, spend some time thinking about the role of clean water and sanitation, and how much of a difference it makes in the lives of the 7 billion people we share our planet with.

    If you have any questions or concerns about your plumbing, heating or cooling systems, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We’re always available to help! Friend Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook and don’t forget to celebrate World Plumbing Day on March 11.

    Photo Credit: Julien Harneis, via Flickr