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Converting from oil to natural gas for Earth Day

If you’re looking for a great way to celebrate Earth Day, consider converting your heating oil furnace or boiler to natural gas. Not only will you save money, but you’ll reduce your carbon footprint by nearly 40%. Aside from coal, no other fuel releases more carbon into the atmosphere. In fact, heating oil releases more carbon into the atmosphere than gasoline does!

Replacing heating equipment that uses fuel oil can also save you as much as 50% on your energy expenditures each year. Homeowners can borrow as much as $25,000 in the form of a 7-year, 0% interest loan to finance the cost of replacing a heating system with a new, high-efficiency system. You can finance a fuel conversion with a MassSave loan. This program gives you a great opportunity to make a significant reduction in your home’s carbon emissions, as well as reducing the cost of heating your home in the winter.

If you already have a natural gas furnace or boiler, but it’s an older, less efficient model, there is a different program through MassSave that you can take advantage of. This program, the Early Boiler/Furnace Replacement program, cannot be used to help reduce the cost of a fuel conversion, but it can help reduce the cost of replacing working but inefficient heating equipment.

This program offers rebates of up to $3,500 on the purchase and installation of qualifying heating equipment. For natural gas furnaces that are at least 12 years old but still operational, this program offers a rebate of $1,000 when replaced by a natural gas furnace with an ECM blower and an AFUE (efficiency rating) of at least 95%.

The Early Boiler Replacement program offers rebates of up to $3,000 on a natural gas, forced hot water boiler with an efficiency of at least 90% for owner-occupied properties. The rebate for a rental property is $3,500. Steam boilers with efficiency ratings of at least 82% also qualify for an early replacement rebate of $1,900. With the Early Replacement program, it’s important to remember that your older heating equipment must be in working condition. Working boilers must be at least 30 years old. Working furnaces must be at least 12 years old to qualify for the replacement rebate.

If you’d like more information about converting from heating oil to natural gas, the MassSave 2016 Heat Loan program, or replacing a working furnace or boiler under the MassSave Early Boiler/Furnace Replacement program, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We’ll be happy to conduct the required energy audit and help you choose qualifying, high-efficiency equipment.

Happy Earth Day!

Photo Credit: Sandor Pinter , via FreeImages.com

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Sewer lateral repair options

In the last post, we looked at sewer laterals and why they fail. Few home repairs strike fear into the hearts of homeowners like a sewer lateral repair. They’re expensive and they destroy the outward appearance of your property. Except as a way to avoid having sewage in your house, a sewer lateral repair has very little upside!

Broken sewer laterals often go unnoticed because the break may not completely disrupt the flow of wastewater away from the house. Once a sewer lateral is noticeably impaired, the traditional repair option involves digging up the sewer pipe and replacing it. The process is messy and expensive, and isn’t typically covered by homeowner’s insurance. It can also mean extensive restoration to fix landscaping and paved surfaces around the home. It’s no surprise that a sewer lateral repair is the last thing homeowners want to think about!

There is a relatively new option for rehabilitating broken sewer laterals called sewer lining. The process involves minimal to no digging, so it’s often referred to as “trenchless technology” or “trenchless sewer repair.” The sewer lining process uses the existing broken pipe as a form to line the sewer pipe with an epoxy resin that cures in place and seals leaking sewer pipes. The liner is as strong as PVC and has an estimated lifespan of about 50 years. Sewer lining can’t be done when a lateral has completely collapsed, but it can be used to selectively line small sections of lateral pipe that have been compromised. It can also be used to rehabilitate the entire length of pipe, if desired.

The process can take as little as a few hours to complete, and has been shown to be highly effective at reducing common problems like infiltration and exfiltration. The Environmental Protection Agency has approved sewer lining as an accepted method of sewer lateral repair in neighborhoods that have significant groundwater contamination from failing sewer lines.

Another sewer lateral repair option is called lateral bursting or lateral pipe bursting. Lateral bursting doesn’t completely eliminate trenching, but it reduces the amount of excavation needed by about 85%. Lateral bursting can be used in cases where an existing lateral line has completely collapsed, or in laterals that have to bend at an extreme angle to connect to the main sewer line. It is also a good option to consider for sewer lines that are buried close to the surface.

Lateral bursting can also allow the homeowner to increase the size of the connection to the main sewer. Typically lateral lines are about 4″ in diameter, but can range between 2″ and 6″. In cases where “upsizing” a connection is desirable, lateral bursting can lay new, larger-diameter pipe without significant trenching. Lateral bursting is fast – some lateral burst devices can lay pipe at a rate of about 12 feet per minute – and can limit the potential for damage to trees and landscaping around the affected pipe.

Both lateral lining and lateral bursting are less expensive per foot sewer lateral repair options than open trench replacement of failing or failed sewer lines. If you’d like more information about maintenance, repair or replacement of your sewer lateral, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to discuss your options.

Photo Credit: Guido Ric, via FreeImages.com

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Your sewer lateral: Something you’d rather not think about

If you have a home in an urban area, it’s probably connected to the city sewer system by a pipe, commonly called a “sewer lateral” or a lateral connection. As much as you don’t want to think about your sewer lateral, it’s one place you should probably visit at least once in awhile.

Your sewer lateral carries all of the waste water from your home to the sewer. That includes whatever you flush down your toilets and wash down your sinks. You assume (and hope) that the waste water from your home takes a one-way trip elsewhere, but where the waste water goes depends heavily on the condition of your sewer lateral.

The uncomfortable news for homeowners is that they own their sewer laterals. That means the homeowner is responsible for the maintenance and condition of the vast majority of their home’s connection to the city sewer. Unless you have the right equipment, sewer lateral maintenance really isn’t a DIY job. Nor do you want it to be.

The city sewer is a pretty inhospitable place and decidedly hazardous to human health. Sewer connections are typically buried, so it’s easy to assume that all’s well as long as you don’t have sewage in your basement. That’s a dangerous assumption, especially for older homes.

Many sewer laterals are made from materials that don’t last forever, like clay, cement and galvanized iron pipe. Some homes have sewer laterals made of a material called “Orangeburg” pipe, bituminous fiber pipe, or Bermico pipe. This pipe was made of wood pulp and pine pitch, and was manufactured between the 1860’s and 1970’s. The first known use of Orangeburg pipe was in the Boston area, but it typically wasn’t used for sewers. Instead, it was used as a conduit for electrical wiring and other dry applications. Following World War II, builders began to use Orangeburg pipe for sewer laterals. Under ideal conditions, Orangeburg pipe had a life expectancy of about 50 years, but because of its organic nature, Orangeburg pipe could fail in as little as 10 years. And it did – in big ways!

Other common materials like clay and cement don’t fare much better, though they may last longer. Clay and cement are both porous and fragile. They can be broken by tree root invasions, compression from heavy equipment, seismic activity and the frost/thaw cycle. Galvanized iron pipes corrode and rust over time, leading to weakness and eventual failure.

Sewer laterals are not very large, so even small bends and obstructions can cause big problems. Small cracks and breaks in the pipe can lead to sewage overflows into the surrounding ground, and can also allow rainwater intrusion into the sewer system. Water leaking from a broken sewer pipe can wash away the dirt around the pipe. This can cause support problems (like sinkholes) for the pipe and the ground around the pipe.

Sewer inflows and outflows can throw off the sanitation of an entire area. An exposed sewer pipe can lead to dangerous E. coli blooms and fecal contamination of groundwater, so addressing aging sewer laterals is important.

My next post will cover some interesting options for repairing or rehabilitating old or failing sewer laterals. These options are often faster and less expensive than replacing a failed sewer lateral. In the mean time, if you have problems with sewer backups, or need an assessment of your sewer line, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to show you what’s going on in your sewer lateral!

Photo Credit: Marcelo Terazza, via FreeImages.com

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Choosing home improvement contractors carefully

Last week, Next Step Living (NSL), a former MassSave contractor was forced to close its doors amid a cash crisis and mounting questions about its business practices. Some of the company’s former customers have flooded the Massachusetts State Attorney General’s Office with complaints about the company’s work and resulting damages to private homes.

At one time, the company had about 800 employees and annual revenues that exceeded $100M annually. In its last incarnation, NSL provided home energy audits and insulation installment in local homes as a MassSave contractor. According to the estimates from participating utilities and MassSave, the closure has left about 2,000 customers who had scheduled work (or have work in progress) wondering what will happen to their homes.

The incident has called into question the amount of contractor oversight in the MassSave program. MassSave is a cooperative effort of the state’s public utilities, and the utilities actually manage the program. The program generally monitors the work of contractors, and local building inspectors are responsible for permitting and inspecting the work.

The final chapter of the NSL story hasn’t been written yet, but the incidents raise some good points about contractor selection and how consumers can protect themselves and their homes. For the most part, MassSave contractors do their own promotion and recruiting. Consumers select a contractor from the program’s list of participating firms.

Consumers should always check any contractor’s credentials, including licensing, insurance and references, before allowing a contractor to perform work on their homes. Some helpful local resources include:
• the State Attorney General’s Office (complaints and criminal investigations)
• the local building inspector (permits, building code requirements, complaints)
license lookups (trade license verification)

You can also check online reviews, but remember that online reviews aren’t always accurate, verified or trustworthy.

Make sure all of the paperwork is in order. Paperwork includes:
• building permits
• insurance certificate
• proof of licensure
• the contract

A building permit is a physical piece of paper that contains specific information about the work to be performed at your house. Your local building department issues it, and many municipalities require the permit to be displayed in plain view (e.g., on the door or a street-facing window) while work is ongoing. Most municipalities need a day or two to issue a building permit, so if your contractor shows up without one, do not let him or her start the job.

An overwhelming majority of home improvement projects require a building permit. If a contractor tells you that your job doesn’t require one, contact your local building department to verify that before you allow a contractor to begin to work on your home.

Do not seek a building permit on behalf of a contractor! The person (or company’s) name on the permit is responsible for the quality of the work. If your name is on the permit, you will be responsible for the cost of addressing any code violations created by a contractor’s work.

Once the project is finished, a building inspector must visit your home personally and sign off on the contractor’s work. Usually (but not always), the contractor who performed the work is also present. The inspector will give you a receipt, showing that the work was either approved, or if violations are found, what must be corrected before the permit can be closed.

When it comes to home improvements, ultimately you are your own best friend. Major home improvement projects have the ability to increase the value and enjoyment of your home, but poor quality work can lead to additional expenses and compromise the safety of your home and family. Taking some time to verify the qualifications of home improvement contractors will always pay big dividends.

Photo Credit: Marc Dorsett, via FreeImages.com

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5 Top Water Stories on World Water Day

As we celebrate World Water Day, we’re taking a look at the 5 top water stories that have broken in the past year. While World Water Day is meant to highlight the fact that many of the world’s people don’t have clean, fresh drinking water, these stories also remind us that we can’t take our water resources for granted.

Lead in the water
It’s hard to believe that in 2016, a major American city is dealing with lead, copper and iron contamination in the water supply, but that’s just what’s happening in Flint, MI. Flint failed to add anti-corrosion measures to its water when it switched water sources in 2013, and destroyed the city’s fresh water infrastructure in the process. Cities around the nation are watching Flint and Michigan to see how they’ll deal with the looming self-inflicted public health crisis.

Drought
While we remain relatively wet in the Northeast, much of the country is suffering from drought conditions. California is entering its second year of restricted water use as nearly 100% of the state copes with severe drought. Some experts predict that the drought pattern will last as many as 25 years, and Western states are scrambling to enact water conservation measures.

Microbeads
One of President Obama’s last acts of 2015 was to ban microbeads in consumer products. A microbead is any solid plastic particle that is less than 5 millimeters, and you can find them in cleansers, toothpaste, shampoos and soaps. They’re meant to scrub, clean and exfoliate, but they’re accumulating in alarming numbers in the nation’s lakes and rivers. They’re also accumulating in fish and other marine life. As it turns out, we’re not really sure what their cumulative effect is on the ecosystem. Companies have until July 1, 2017 to get the beads out of their products.

Water quality
Flint’s misfortune has caused cities around the country, including Boston, to redouble their efforts to test water quality in the homes still served by lead water lines and ultimately replace those pipes. The MWRA has established a $100M fund to help homeowners in their service area replace their lead water lines via zero-interest loans.

Algae blooms
In 2014, Toledo and surrounding communities famously dealt with a toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie that shut down the city’s municipal water supply for several days. Agricultural runoff was targeted as the cause of the algae bloom, but Toledo isn’t the only city doing battle with algae. The EPA has indicated that it will order communities along the Charles River to adopt sweeping changes designed to inhibit the toxic algae blooms that have affected the area annually for the past decade. The measures are expected to boost some local water bills by as much as $25 per month and require communities to treat more water to make sure enough is available to meet demand. The new regulations will require communities to remove at least 54% of all phosphorus that currently enters the Charles River. The major sources of phosphorus are agricultural and include animal waste and fertilizers. Auto exhaust is also a major contributor to phosphorus contamination.

At Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating, we strive to provide clean safe water to homes and businesses in the Boston area. While we don’t treat the water, we can make sure that your home’s water infrastructure is in excellent condition! Give us a call at (617) 288-2911 any time of the day or night and let us take care of your plumbing, heating and cooling needs!

Photo Credit: Johanna Ljungblom, via FreeImages.com

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Beverly Hills Shines Light On Urban Water Consumption

California has been devastated by a prolonged drought, causing Governor Jerry Brown to declare a statewide water emergency. That action, taken last June, implemented a mandatory 25% reduction in urban water consumption. Some of the state’s A-listers apparently missed the memo on the new water regulations, and that put the City of Beverly Hills in a bind.

To meet the state-mandated urban water consumption requirements, Beverly Hills implemented restrictions on outdoor watering, car washing and swimming pool usage.

Nothing.

The city sent letters to dozens of over-users. The letter included a request to reduce water consumption and a warning that future bills would begin accumulating punitive surcharges.

Still nothing.

The city was flooded with complaints that its residents were ignoring the watering restrictions. The State of California penalized Beverly Hills by assessing a $61,000 fine for its failure to meet water consumption targets, even though it recognized that the City was doing everything right in its bid to reduce water consumption.

In November 2015, the City sent letters to its highest water consumers, using data from its June to August billing cycle. The letters went to some of the city’s most expensive homes. The water bills in question ranged from $2,500 to more than $31,000.

The worst offender? Recording mogul David Geffen, whose 10-acre Warner Estate swallowed more than 1 million gallons of water in just two months. Geffen said that he’s been trying to get permission from the City to drill a well on his property to tap into groundwater for use around his property.

Other offenders include comedian Amy Poehler, developer Geoff Palmer, directors Brett Ratner and Max Mutchnick. Some of overusage has been attributed to leaking water lines, and the offenders have vowed to have them fixed. Others maintained that they had no previous knowledge that their water consumption was that high.

Despite the city’s get-tough approach to water usage, and its recent progress on curbing urban water consumption, it’s still falling short of the state mandated conservation targets. Officials acknowledge that the city may get fined again for missing the mark.

Prior to the water restrictions, the typical urban water consumption rate for the average Los Angeles resident was about 77 gallons per day. As of January, the average Los Angeles resident consumed 59 gallons of water – 2 gallons shy of the city’s reduction target.

Los Angeles has undertaken some significant conservation measures, including offering rebates of $3 per square foot for turf removal and replacement with drought-tolerant plants. Water conservation is something everyone can do, regardless of where you live in the country. If you’d like more information about water conservation strategies that you can employ here in Boston, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to show you how you can reduce water consumption in and around your home.

Photo Credit: Alejandro Basso, via FreeImages.com

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2016 Heating Equipment Replacement Rebates

MassSave has announced its 2016 Early Heating and Cooling Equipment Replacement rebates! This program provides a rebate incentive to replace WORKING but inefficient residential heating and cooling equipment. Non-working equipment is not eligible for rebates under this program.

To qualify for rebates under this program, a homeowner or landlord must replace a working boiler that is at least 30 years old or a working furnace that is at least 12 years old. Rental properties with up to 4 units qualify for this rebate. Properties with more than 4 units are not eligible to participate.

The rebate program is limited to customers of Berkshire Gas, Blackstone Gas Company, Cape Light Compact, Columbia Gas of MA, Eversource, Liberty Utilities, National Grid and Unitil. Eligible installation dates vary by utility, but most installations must be completed and rebates must be requested by December 31, 2016. Rebates through some utilities expire on October 31, 2016.

The rebate program is not available to customers who want to switch fuel sources. For example, you cannot receive a rebate if you intend to switch from an oil furnace to a natural gas furnace.

Heating oil: Rebates of between $750 and $1,900 are available for the replacement of oil furnaces and boilers, provided the new equipment’s AFUE rating is 86% or higher for furnaces with an ECM blower and forced hot water boilers, and 84% for a steam boiler.

Propane and Natural Gas: Rebates of between $1,000 and $3,500 are available for the replacement of propane or natural gas furnaces and boilers, provided the new equipment’s AFUE rating is 95% or higher for furnaces with an ECM blower, 90% for forced hot water boilers in rental units and owner-occupied single-family residences, and 82% for steam boilers. Fuel source conversions are not eligible.

Electric: Homeowners can take advantage of rebates of between $750 and $1,000 on early replacements for central air conditioners and heat pumps of any age, as long as the replacement central air conditioner is rated with a SEER of at least 16 and an EER of at least 13. Central heat pumps of any age are eligible for a $750 rebate, as long as the replacement heat pump is rated with a SEER of at least 16 and a HSPF of at least 8.5. Central heat pumps of any age are eligible for a $1,000 rebate, as long as the replacement equipment is rated with a SEER of at least 18 and a HSPF of at least 9.6.

If you have older, inefficient but working heating and cooling equipment in your home, the 2016 Early Heating Equipment Replacement rebates offer a great opportunity to replace your system(s) with more efficient ones. You’ll recover the cost of the upgrade more quickly through reduced operating costs, and you’ll be doing your part to help the environment.

If you would like more information about the MassSave Early Heating and Cooling Equipment Rebate program, or would like to schedule a visit, please call us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911.

Photo Credit: Nerijus J., via FreeImages.com

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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

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Lead water lines and Boston water

You may have heard or read a lot about the municipal water crisis in Flint, MI, and wonder if the same thing could happen in Boston. We tend to take clean water for granted because we always seem to have it. The clean, safe water that comes out of our taps is the end result of the efforts of a lot of people who are dedicated to keeping our water safe and healthy.

What happened in Flint?
Flint, MI is an industrial city about 65 miles northwest of Detroit. Flint used to get its water from the City of Detroit, but decided to switch to its backup source – the Flint River. Following the switch, residents began complaining about foul-smelling, foul-tasting and visibly “dirty” tap water. Hospitals and businesses stopped using city water. Even General Motors stopped using city water in its Flint manufacturing plants because the water was damaging the company’s auto parts.

Doctors noticed an alarming spike in the number of young children testing positive for lead poisoning and tried to sound the alarm. The State of Michigan denied there was a problem with Flint’s water, and claimed that the water met all federal acceptable clean water standards.

After more than a year of complaints by Flint residents, the State of Michigan finally acknowledged the problem. The state had failed to require the addition of an anti-corrosive agent to the treated water after switching the city’s water supply. “Pure” water is naturally slightly acidic or neutral, but this pH level can corrode and deteriorate the plumbing infrastructure. It is common for water treatment plants to add agents to counteract this.

Over the course of 17 months, Flint did not take steps to counteract its “acidic” water. In addition to damaging its own pipes, the fresh (but still corrosive) water damaged all of the privately owned supply pipes from the city’s water mains to all the way to the taps in homes and businesses throughout Flint.

The fallout
Anti-corrosive agents protect pipes of all kinds – copper, galvanized iron and even lead. It’s not uncommon to find lead supply lines bringing water from a city’s infrastructure into an older home or building. Further, older buildings with copper pipes can have lead solder in pipe joints. Older brass fixtures may also contain lead. Lead can leach out of pipes, joints and fixtures if the supplier does not adjust water’s natural pH.

Lead isn’t the only potentially dangerous material used in plumbing. Under the right conditions galvanized iron and copper pipes can release large quantities of iron and copper into the water. Both of these metals are poisonous in large amounts and can cause short-term and long-term health problems.

Lead poisoning causes permanent damage to humans, especially young children. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that there is no “safe” level of lead exposure. Even small amounts of lead can do a lot of damage. The human body doesn’t distinguish between calcium, iron, zinc and lead very well, and it stores lead just like it stores these other desirable elements. That’s one reason lead is so hard to get rid of once it’s been ingested. In Flint, public health officials now believe that all of the city’s nearly 10,000 children have varying degrees of lead poisoning.

At Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating, we take our plumbing seriously, and our team is committed to creating the healthiest, safest environment in terms of plumbing, heating and cooling. In my next post, I’ll discuss what the MWRA is doing (and what you can do) to avoid accidental exposure to lead. Meanwhile, if you have questions about lead plumbing or lead water line replacement, please call us at Boston Standard Plumbing at (617) 288-2911 to discuss your options.

Photo Credit: Carlos Sillero, via FreeImages.com

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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