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Things Your Plumber Doesn’t Want You To Do – Boston, Worcester

07 May 2014

You have a clogged toilet again. To help you avoid any future clogs, floods or plumbing problems, we asked plumbers to share their customers’ biggest mistakes—and how they can be avoided.

1. Reach for the Drano.

Forget using chemicals to open or clear drains—they rarely get the job all the way done. Plus, not only are the chemicals very harsh and dangerous for you to handle, they can also ruin drain pipes and the equipment used to clear the stoppage. Hint: To prevent blockages in the first place, keep notorious cloggers like grease and hair out of drains.

2. Use the toilet like a garbage can.

Even if they’re labeled “flushable,” don’t toss feminine hygiene products, personal cleaning wipes, toilet scrubbers, make-up remover pads or cat litter into the toilet. The fact is, they don’t disintegrate quickly enough and can ultimately block the drain pipe.

3. Handle the plumbing problems yourself

Don’t try to diagnose and fix a plumbing problem yourself, or hire a handyman to do plumbing work. Plumbers can find and correct a problem faster than an amateur can, which will save you money in the long run.

4. No idea where the main water valve is.

Don’t be in the dark when it comes to knowing the location of the main water valve and every emergency shut off valve in your house. And while you’re at it, learn how to turn off these valves. It’s easy but if you’d prefer to have pro show you how, many plumbers will check emergency shut-off valves at no charge.

5. Use drop in toilet fresheners.

Ditch the drop-in tank toilet fresheners. You may love the blue water it makes in your toilet bowl, but these tablets often contain chemicals that wear out working parts inside the tank. Plus, as these tablets disintegrate, they can get stuck in the flush valve and prevent the toilet from flushing.

6. Forget to replace the hoses.

Water hoses don’t give any warning before they burst, so avoid a potential flood by changing out rubber hoses on washing machines and dishwashers every five years. When you do replace them, use stainless steel on all water lines, if possible.

7. No leak protection system.

Don’t skimp on water leak protection. It only costs a few hundred dollars to get a water leak protection system that offers both an alarm and a main water shut-off should a leak occur in your water heater, dishwasher, sinks and more.

8. The hot water heater is outdated.

Don’t think your tank water heater will last forever—the average lifespan is 8-12 years. Just like toast tends to fall butter-side down on the floor, your 20-year-old tank will inevitably fail and flood while you are on vacation.

9. Overload the garbage disposal.

Be kind to your garbage disposal: Don’t pour grease into it (the goopy stuff will eventually solidify and clog the drain), and don’t put in fibrous food like celery and artichokes. Also avoid pushing through large amounts of garbage at once. Instead, feed garbage slowly into the disposal with cold running water.

10. Mess with the water heater’s pressure valve.

Don’t try to drain your water heater or test the temperature and pressure valve yourself. These need to be done professionally. If the valve is not properly removed, the pressure from the tank can disperse scalding hot water that could cause serious burns as well as property damage.

For help with plumbing problems, contact Greater Boston Plumbing and Heating.

The Early Heating Equipment Replacement Rebate – Worcester, Boston

30 Apr 2014

For a limited time only, the Mass Save Sponsors are offering great incentives for boilers, and now have incentives for warm air furnaces too!

If you have a functioning boiler (30+ years old) or furnace (12+ years old), your equipment may be eligible for an incredible rebate. Here is additional information about the rebates and eligibility requirements.

In order to take advantage of this limited time offer, schedule a no cost Mass Save site visit by calling 866-527-SAVE (7283). Visits must be completed by September 30th 2014, qualifying installs should be complete by October 31st 2014. If existing equipment meets the requirements, you will receive a rebate form and could be eligible for rebates up to $4,000 on a new efficient boiler, or up to $1,000 on a high efficiency furnace.

Beginning April 15, 2014, The Early Heating Equipment Replacement Rebate will be available for both boilers and furnaces. Mass Save customers can earn rebates by upgrading aging functioning Boilers (30+ years old) or Furnaces (12+ years old).

Note: Fuel conversions or heating distribution changes are not eligible for this offer. Please see incentive details and eligibility requirements below.

Call today. This program is only here for a LIMITED TIME! Call 866-527-SAVE (7283)

Required Steps

  1. Contact Mass Save at 866-527-SAVE (7283) to schedule your no cost Mass Save site visit. You must request an assessment between April 15, 2014 and September 30, 2014 in order to be eligible.
  2. An Energy Specialist will evaluate your equipment as part of the assessment and determine eligibility. If eligible, you will receive the Rebate Form at the assessment. If eligibility cannot be determined during the visit the Energy Specialist will follow up with the rebate form by US Mail or email once eligibility is determined. Your plumber will then plan an installation timeline that will meet both the installation and documentation deadline.
  3. Eligible equipment must be installed by October 31, 2014.
  4. You must complete and submit the Rebate Form and other required documentation; postmarked no later than October 31, 2014 to receive the rebate.

For more information, contact Greater Boston Plumbing and Heating.

When is it Time to Replace Your AC? – Boston, Worcester

23 Apr 2014

The warmer weather is fast approaching. It’s hard to believe but it will soon be time to turn on the air conditioner. But is it time to replace the central AC? There are certain signs that indicate it's time to consider replacing your heating and cooling equipment. It may be time to call a professional plumber to help you make a change if:

Your heat pump or air conditioner is more than 10 years old.

Consider replacing it with a unit that has earned the ENERGY STAR label. Installed correctly, these high-efficiency units can save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs.

Your furnace or boiler is more than 15 years old.

Consider replacing with an ENERGY STAR qualified furnace, which is 15% more efficient than a conventional furnace. If you have a boiler, consider replacing with an ENERGY STAR qualified boiler that is 5% more efficient than a new, standard model.

Your AC equipment needs frequent repairs and your energy bills are going up.

Your cooling or heating equipment may have become less efficient.

Some rooms in your home are too hot or too cold.

Improper AC equipment operation, duct problems or inadequate insulation could be the cause.

No one is home for long periods of the day and you do not have a programmable thermostat.

Install a programmable thermostat to start saving energy and money while they're away or sleeping.

Your home has humidity problems.

Poor equipment operation, inadequate equipment, and leaky ductwork can cause the air to be too dry in the winter or too humid in the summer.

Your home has excessive dust.

Leaky ducts can pull particles and air from attics, crawl spaces and basements and distribute them throughout your house. Sealing your ducts may be a solution.

Your heating or cooling system is noisy.

You could have an undersized duct system or a problem with the indoor coil of your cooling equipment.

For more information on having a new AC unit installed, contact Greater Boston Plumbing and Heating.

Energy Star

Smelly Drains: Diagnosing and Fixing Them – Boston, Worcester

16 Apr 2014

Drains can really start to smell, and some of those odors can be pretty bad, including the smell of sewage. Here is what to do -- and what not to do – about it.

Considering what they do, it’s a miracle that drains don’t smell up our homes all the time. What happens when your drain is suddenly smelly? Most likely, it’s one of two things: crud inside the pipe (which may be related to a clog) and sewer gas (which is always present in part of your drain system but isn’t supposed to get into the house). Usually a smelly drain problem is easy to solve.

Which One Stinks

Sometimes it’s hard to know which drain smells, so here’s a simple trick: Cover the suspected smelly drain opening with tape or a plastic bag (or both). Let the room air out for a bit. If the smell is gone, you’ve found the culprit. If not, move the tape or bag to the next likely suspect and test again.

Clogs and Crud

A really dirty drain can smell enough to carry into a room, and there are a couple of good clues that this is the source of your problem. A slow drain is one indication. A partially clogged drain doesn’t get rid of waste effectively, leading to more crud buildup. Ultimately, this may lead to a total clog, but it can take a long time. Meanwhile, the buildup just gets worse. The solution is to clean the drain thoroughly with a snake If you don’t know how or if you don’t know what this means, call a plumber.

The other way to tell if your problem is crud is the smell. A dirty drain smells bad, but there’s nothing like the gaseous pungency of sewage. Sewage smell indicates a different drain problem.

A few drains that are most prone to crud-related smells and their solutions:

  • Bathroom sink: The drain stopper assembly catches hair — then everything else — several inches below the drain opening. Remove the stopper and clean this section of pipe periodically to eliminate odors.
  • Tub/shower drain: Hair clogs lead to soap buildup and badly gunked pipes; clean thoroughly with a snake.
  • Kitchen sink: Garbage disposers are the culprits more often than drains. Freshen inside the disposer with Borax or a commercial disposer cleaner, and clean the gunk from the underside of the rubber baffle around the drain opening (you have to do this by hand, and it’s not pretty, but it works).

Smells like Sewage

If your drain smells like sewage, most likely it is sewage or sewer gas. Every drain in your house has a trap — a U-shaped piece of pipe that holds a small amount of water at all times. The water serves as a plug to keep sewer gas from rising up the drain. This works beautifully unless one of the following happens:

  • The original plumber or remodeler failed to install a trap, in which case you’d probably smell gas all the time.
  • The drain isn’t properly vented, and a suction effect in the system siphons the trap dry. The same thing can happen if the vent is blocked (from tree leaves, bird nests, snow, etc.).
  • The fixture served by the drain is too close to other fixtures, such as a toilet drain that’s too close to a sink drain; the force of the toilet flush can siphon the sink trap dry.

If you suspect a dry trap, run water in the fixture slowly for a few minutes, then shut it off This should fill the trap and stop the sewer smell. This can help diagnose the problem but not solve it. However, most venting problems can be remedied by installing an Air Admittance Valve (AAV), a pipe-less air vent that can go almost anywhere along a drain line. A plumber can help with this.

For more help, contact Greater Boston Plumbing and Heating.


Stop Using Drain Cleaners in Your Clogged Drains – Boston, Worcester

10 Apr 2014

While most people turn to strong drain cleaners when they have a clogged shower or clogged sink, the effects of these overpowering chemicals can damage both pipes and the environment.

Instead of turning to drain cleaning products, call a plumber. A plumber can professionally and safely unclog pipes without using dangerous and destructive chemicals.

Here are a few of the negative effects of over-using drain cleaners.

Where the Drain Cleaners Go

Although using a drain cleaner sparingly is just fine, many people turn to drain cleaners for all of the plumbing problems that they experience. Many people don’t realize what happens to the drain cleaners after they’ve left the pipes. The acid and alkaline from the drain cleaners are treated at the local sewage plant, and then liquidated back into the water supply. As you can see, frequent use of drain cleaners becomes not only harmful to the pipes that they pass through, but to the local environment, as well. A safe alternative to this would be to call Greater Boston Plumbing and Heating to have your pipes and drains professional cleaned. It’s a much safer and more effective option.

Mixing Drain Cleaners with Other Chemicals

When a drain cleaner gets poured down a shower or kitchen sink drain, it comes into contact with previous chemicals such as shampoo, soap, bleach, and an array of other substances. This can be particularly dangerous. When the chemicals break down, they form unnatural substances that can be toxic. You can avoid creating potentially toxic substances by reducing how often you use drain cleaners in your home. If you have been using a drain cleaner on the same drain for a long period of time, you need to have it looked at by a plumber. There is probably a serious problem going on with your pipes that powerful drain cleaners won’t fix. Continuing to use strong drain cleaners will rapidly deteriorate your pipes, leaving you with a multitude of problems.

For more information or for assistance with a clogged drain, contact Greater Boston Plumbing and Heating.

Plumbing For An Outdoor Kitchen – Boston, Worcester

02 Apr 2014

Outdoor kitchens are becoming very popular. The allow you to relax and enjoy your backyard better than ever before, and they increase the value of your home when it comes time to sell. Most people want a gas grill on their deck or patio, but an outdoor kitchen creates an outdoor living space.

Adding an outdoor sink next to the grill helps with food preparation and reduces trips in and out of the house. Plus, a gas grill that's built into a tiled countertop gives you, as the chef, plenty of convenient cooking and prep space.

Remember your cabinets and countertops need to resist all kinds of weather. Providing an awning or some other shelter from rain and sun is also helpful, so the outdoor kitchen is at least partially protected.

Because water lines will freeze in the winter, the plumber will install pipes and plumbing that can be drained in the fall. The drain line can run to a simple dry well and needs no venting. This is acceptable for the graywater that a prep sink produces.

Your plumber can easily install water lines for an outdoor kitchen sink. And, while he is there, your professional plumber can install you gas lines, so your grill can run from the natural gas lines that run to your home. This way you never have to worry about filling propane tanks.

For more information on plumbing services for outdoor kitchens, contact Greater Boston Plumbing and Heating.

Stupid Things that Ruin Plumbing – Worcester, Boston

25 Mar 2014

We will always need plumbing, or more specifically, working plumbing, but unfortunately people will always do stupid things that causes plumbing problems and stops it from working. Here are the top 10 stupid things that people do to ruin their plumbing.

1: Leaving hoses connected during winter.

This is a classic plumbing error that one must assume is caused most often by extreme laziness. Hoses can cause damage when left out all year: they can lead to freezing of the outdoor faucet or its water supply pipe. It’s terrible for your hose, too.

2: Using vent pipes for anything other than venting.

There are reports of homeowners running things like TV cables down the plumbing vent pipes that come up through their roofs. Seems like a tempting solution to getting into the house, but vent pipes aren’t just there for their bad looks. They not only provide air to drains inside the house, to prevent a suction effect that inhibits drainage; they also get rid of sewer gases that come up from the city’s sewer main. If you cut a hole in your vent inside the house to run a cable through, you’re tapping into an endless supply of your neighborhood’s sewer air.

3. Using too much drain cleaner.

When used judiciously and as directed on the right kind of clog, drain cleaners can be effective and relatively safe for drains. When used with abandon, they can corrode some drain materials, and they can actually make clogs worse. It’s also not very nice for the plumber who eventually comes out to clear that clog.

4. Pouring chemicals (and other bad stuff) into a septic system.

If you’re used to living with a “private” sewage system, you probably know how to take care of it. But if you just bought a house with septic you might not think twice about using chemicals like drain cleaner, chlorine bleach, paint and even anti-bacterial soaps. These chemicals kill the essential waste-eating bacteria in the septic tank, and you can guess the result.

5: Screwing, nailing or cutting into a wall with hidden plumbing pipes.

This kind of speaks for itself.

6: Joining two different metals in piping.

DIY plumbers beware: When dissimilar metals, such as copper and steel, are touching, a process called galvanic action leads to corrosion. Corrosion leads to leaking pipes. Such joints must be made with a dielectric union or other approved fitting.

7: Pouring grease down the kitchen drain.

If you’re in the habit of pouring bacon grease down the kitchen-sink drain, you might as well try to stuff the whole pig down there. Grease is one of the best things for clogging drains.

8: Putting everything else down the kitchen drain.

A garbage disposal does very little to stop the following from clogging your drain: flour, rice, potato peels (and some other veggie peels) and many fibrous foods such as asparagus and chard.

9: Removing a sink drain.

This is not a common stupid mistake, but it warrants mention here. Some very well-meaning folks who want to green their everyday lives have been known to remove the P-trap and other drain parts underneath their bathroom sink so that the wastewater could be collected in a bucket and used to water plants outdoors. While the use of gray water is the jurisdiction of the local health department, the issue in this humble missive is the 1 1/2-INCH HOLE PUMPING SEWER GAS INTO THE BATHROOM. You have to plug that drain pipe.

10: Using the toilet as a trash can.

It’s as though, at the back of our minds, each of us believes that if we can just get it to flush away, it will be magically out of our lives forever. Unfortunately, the toilet leads to a 3-inch drain pipe that leads into another drain pipe, which is THE drain pipe to your entire house. In other words, flushing one improper item down the toilet ultimately can stop up everything in the house. The bottom line is, if it isn’t toilet paper or waste, don’t flush it.

For plumbing help, contact Greater Boston Plumbing and Heating.

Leaking Plumbing Costs Money, Fix it Fast – Worcester, Boston

20 Mar 2014

Leaking plumbing can wreak havoc on your wallet. Next time you get your water bill, take a look at your usage. If it’s more than 12,000 gallons a month for a family of four, you’ve got some leaks. That means you’re paying for water that’s going right down the drain. The EPA recommends checking your home for the most common causes of leaks. Here are some tips.

Before checking for individual leaks, check your overall water usage by monitoring your water meter over a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter keeps inching up, you probably have a leak. The good news is that many common leaks are easy and inexpensive to fix.

Toilets. Typically, toilets begin leaking when the toilet flapper or valve seal becomes old or worn out. A good way to check is to put some food coloring in the toilet tank and wait 15 minutes to see if it color shows up in the toilet bowl. If it does, you’ll need to fix the leaky toilet.

Faucets. Old and worn washers and gaskets are frequently the cause of faucet leaks. If you attempt to fix this leak yourself, remember to turn the water off under the sink before you start. You should also close the drain and cover the bottom of the sink or bathtub with a cloth so you don’t lose any of the small parts. If you have no plumbing experience, you may be better off calling a licensed plumber.

Showerheads. Some leaky showerheads are easy to fix while others may need professional attention. Make sure there is a tight connection between the showerhead and pipe stem. The washer may also need to be replaced.  If you suspect a valve leak, that’s the time to call the plumber.

Outdoor faucets. Check your garden hose for leaks at the connection to the spigot. If it leaks, try replacing the washer to ensure a tight connection to the spigot. You can also use pipe tape and a wrench. If you have in-ground irrigation, you should to check to make sure it wasn’t damaged by frost or freezing during winter. If it leaks, you most likely need help from a professional plumber.

Top-rated replacement fixtures

If these simple fixes don’t work, it may be time to replace your toilet, faucet, or showerhead. Replacing your old fixtures with WaterSense models not only saves water but money too. WaterSense models, including toilets from American Standard, AquaSource, Toto, and Kohler. Check these out and get a toilet that will save you water for years to come.

Recommend models for low-flow showerheads from Moen, American Standard, and Waterpik  have very good or better shower feel and hot water delivery.

For more information on fixing leaky plumbing, contact Greater Boston Plumbing and Heating.

Consumer Reports

Gas Water Heater Repairs – Boston, Worcester

12 Mar 2014

Home plumbing systems need maintenance, repairs and upgrades periodically. This is less challenging than a bathroom or kitchen upgrade, but in many cases, these types of jobs often require a plumber.

Most repairs to a gas water heater are made at the burner control. If your heater leaks, the tank is rusted through and the entire unit must be replaced. Call a plumber to replace a gas water heater.

Below is a quick troubleshooting guide to gas water heater problems:

  • If the unit suddenly stops heating water, try relighting the pilot. If it does not stay lit, the thermocouple probably needs to be replaced. If that does not solve the problem, you may need to clean the burner.
  • If the flame is mostly yellow rather than mostly blue, clean the burner.
  • If water isn't heating sufficiently even though the thermostat is turned up and the flames are blue, drain the tank and refill it.
  • If you have hard water, unscrew and remove the anode rod once a year. Look for a 1-inch nut in the top of the heater. Loosen the nut; the anode rod will be attached. If it's encrusted with minerals, replace it to get more efficient operation.

Pressure-Relief Valve

A temperature- and pressure-relief (TPR) valve is a safety device that provides an outlet for water in case the unit overheats. To test that it's working, pull up on the little lever; water should flow out. If not, or if water drips from the valve, the temperature- and pressure-relief valve needs to be replaced. .

For any of the above tasks, if you are uncomfortable, contact Greater Boston Plumbing and Heating.

Bathroom Remodels with Licensed Plumbers Save You Time and Money – Boston, Worcester

05 Mar 2014

It is finally time to remodel the bathroom! Whether you want more space or you want to stop looking at outdated tiles and fixtures, bathroom remodeling can give you a great ROI when you sell your home.

But, hiring a professional plumber for a bathroom remodeling project is a must. They can handle all of the needs associated with remodeling your bathroom. It does not matter if you  are merely upgrading the fixtures, or doing a full bathroom remodel.

While DIYers may help you save money on labor, plumbing companies with professional designers and licensed plumbers will be able to better help you maximize your space and stay on budget. Ultimately, hiring professionals may save you time and money.

Greater Boston Plumbing & Heating can help you with custom designs and we will always provide a full detailed estimate as part of our bid process. We will also help you select any new fixtures like faucets, sinks, showers, doors, tubs, etc.

We have experienced bathroom remodeling experts with the product knowledge and design ideas you are looking for in order to upgrade your bathroom. If you want help designing and remodeling your bathrooms, contact Greater Boston Plumbing & Heating. We are happy to provide any references.

We look forward to making your dream bathroom come to life in your home!


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