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11 Bathroom Hazards That Harm Your Home and Health

March 29, 2017

New Construction Bath #2

Your bathroom may be your spot to relax in the tub after a long day, but with all that plumbing, humidity, and other business going on in there, the location’s full of unexpected hazards. Read on for the top 10 to look out for—before it’s too late.

By Ayn-Monique Klahre

  • Mold

    With a daily influx of humidity, bathrooms are a prime locale for mold. You can often see it in the grout between tiles or along caulk lines, but it can also grow out-of-sight behind walls and ceilings, under floors, or inside ductwork. Prevent the buildup with proper ventilation, including dehumidifiers, fans, and open windows.

  • Soap Scum

    Neglecting the tub isn’t just unsightly—that slimy buildup can lead to slips and falls while bathing or getting in and out of the tub. The bathroom is the leading location for unintentional injuries, especially for older people, so in addition to keeping the tub or shower floor clean, consider adding non-slip strips to the floor or installing grab bars to decrease the risk of injury.


  • Termites

    If you have kids that are splashing around in the tub, beware that the liquid can get under the flooring and into the structure of the house. Especially on the ground floor, this creates a virtual feeding ground for termites. Prevent an infestation with regular inspections and by sealing any cracks in the flooring to keep the water safely on the surface.

  • Air Fresheners

    Everyone knows what happens in the bathroom—but covering up the scent with an air freshener may do more harm than good. Some sprays contain VOCs and cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde. If it stinks, open a window or turn on a fan.


  • Flexible Vinyl Flooring

    Sure, it’s a quick upgrade, but some vinyl flooring contains phthalates, a volatile compound often used to make plastics more flexible and durable. This chemical releases into the air and household dust, especially in enclosed areas, and high levels of phthalates have been linked to asthma and allergies in children.

  • Bathroom Cleaners

    It’s tempting to use the super-duper strongest cleanser you can find, but some commercial cleaners contain chemicals that can irritate the eyes and skin or emit dangerous fumes. Instead, look for cleansers certified as the Safer Choice by the EPA, or make your own from non-toxic products like vinegar, borax, and baking soda.


  • Hairballs

    Over time, your beauty routine—including all the hair, products, and dirt you wash down the sink—can clog up the pipes. At an inopportune time, a clog can lead to an overflow in the sink or tub that causes water damage through the rest of the room. To prevent it, run a snake through the pipes anytime the draining starts to slow.

  • Antibacterial Soap

    Many soaps marketed as antibacterial or antimicrobial contain additives like triclosan and triclocarban, which have been linked to afflictions from allergies to hormone disruption. And the kicker: They don’t actually get your hands any cleaner than vigorous washing with regular soap and water. Skip ‘em!


  • Lead

    Corroded pipes or ones connected with lead solder can leach this dangerous metal into your water, leading to elevated lead levels in the bloodstream, which is particularly harmful to children and pregnant women. Fortunately, water is heavily regulated by the EPA, so if your home’s plumbing has been updated in the last 30 years, you’re probably in the clear. If there’s any doubt, call your local utility to have it tested.

  • Too-Hot water

    Keeping your water heater set too high can leads to burns and scalding, particularly for children or the elderly, who have slower reaction time when encountering too-hot water. While some tank manufacturers recommend keeping the water set at 140 degrees, the EPA suggests setting it to 120 degrees, which is less of a risk–and can save you up to $61 a year in energy costs, too.


  • Your New Tub

    If you’ve just had your tub refinished, beware! The reglazing process off-gases a chemical called methylene chloride, which can cause minor irritation like dizziness, fatigue and headaches—or at its worst, chemical burns. So if you’re having someone redo your tub, be sure to keep the bathroom well ventilated for a couple of days after it’s done.


Looking to Save Energy? Consider Installing a Tankless Water Heater

March 27, 2017

A tankless water heater not only eliminates the need for a bulky storage tank, it’s a great way to reduce your household energy costs.

By Donna Boyle Schwartz

on demand hot water heater

Eemax Electric Tankless Water Heater from SupplyHouse.com

Everyone is talking about “on demand” these days, but the buzz has moved well beyond movies and videos and into the world of plumbing with the increasing popularity of tankless water heaters. Tankless water heaters provide hot water on an as-needed basis, thereby eliminating bulky and inconvenient storage tanks and saving energy at the same time.

Unlike conventional water heaters, which may hold 40 to 50 gallons of hot water ready at all times, tankless water heaters save energy by producing hot water only when needed. Tankless water heaters can, in fact, be 24 percent to 34 percent more efficient than a traditional tank-style water heater, depending on a home’s daily hot water demand, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Web site.

“Tankless hot water heaters offer consistency and energy savings,” explains Daniel O’Brian, a technical expert from online retailer SupplyHouse.com, which offers a wide variety of both conventional and tankless hot water heating systems. “While they are generally not the best for peak hot water demands, they can still offer hundreds of gallons of hot water over the course of an hour. These units only heat water when you need it, so you don’t waste gas or electricity idly on keeping a huge tank warm.”

According to the U.S. Energy Star program, “Energy Star-certified tankless water heaters save the typical family more than $80 per year, or $1,700 over the lifetime of the water heater, on gas bills compared to a standard storage model. Gas tankless models are a great choice for new construction and major remodeling, but they are also becoming popular as a replacement for gas storage water heaters.”

Installing a Tankless Water Heater - Takagi

Takagi Tankless Water Heater from SupplyHouse.com

There are many different sizes and styles of tankless water heaters, including electric, natural gas, and propane, in single-room or whole-house sizes. Generally, you can replace an existing conventional water heater with a similarly powered tankless unit, although there are a few considerations depending on the power source: For electric systems, you will need to address the additional voltage and amperage requirements of a tankless heater; for gas systems, there must be proper ventilation.

Before purchasing a tankless water heater, you will need to determine your hot water usage, which is measured in gallons per minute (GPM), and figure out your maximum hot water demand. A typical shower requires about 2.5 GPM; dishwashers, washing machines, and other appliances all place additional demands on hot water production. Therefore, if you have multiple people showering or multiple appliances using hot water at the same time, you will need a larger water heater that delivers more gallons per minute.

Tankless water heaters are typically more expensive than conventional models, with prices ranging from $600 to $2,000, plus installation; in comparison, a standard water heater runs between $300 and $1,000. However, a tankless water heater will last an estimated 20 years, versus a conventional water heater that will last 10 to 15 years. The average energy savings and additional lifespan make tankless heaters a viable option for many homes. In addition, many state and local utilities offer rebates and incentives for converting to energy-saving appliances, which can help mitigate the cost of installing a tankless system.

Ready to update your hot water heater to tankless/on demand? Contact us today!

Jim Lavallee Plumbing
Serving Eastern Massachusetts and the Boston area
Phone: Toll-free (888) 884-4122

Tankless Hot Water Heaters: Should I or Shouldn’t I?

March 22, 2017


Photo: rinnai.com

Whether you are building a new home or retrofiiting an older one (like me), take time to evaluate the hot water system. After all, estimates say that as much as 30% of a home’s energy budget is consumed by heating water.

My new “old house” came complete with an old and rusted gas-fueled tank-style water heater in the attic that was dying… well, dead. The question was not “should it be replaced?” but rather, “should it be replaced with a similar model or a new tankless system?”

A traditional water heater continuously heats water in the tank, regardless of whether it is being used. By comparison, the newer tankless designs heat water only when there is demand for it. Less stored water to heat means less cost—and let’s not forget, a more compact, wall-mounted design.

I did some research on water heating in general and tankless hot water heaters specifically, and here is what I learned:

Size Matters: Tankless hot water heaters are available in room or whole-house sizes. Calculate how many appliances or fixtures need hot water in order to determine the best size unit for your home. For me, a whole-house system was needed.

Gas-Operated Tankless Water Heater Diagram

Gas-operated tankless hot water heater diagram.

Fuel Type: Hot water heaters are available in either electric or gas (natural and propane) models. If you are considering electric, check for voltage and amperage requirements. The gas version will need some electric to operate, but venting will be the bigger issue.

Location: If you live further north, your ground water will be colder than if you reside in the southern or western part of the country. The temperature of the water will affect the speed and flow.

Know the Flow: If you think you will need to run the dishwasher while someone else is showering, assume a larger gallons-per-minute (GPM) rate will be on order to meet your overall water needs. Take into account water usage, too: A bathroom needs less water than a kitchen, a dishwasher less than a shower, and so on.

Look into Rebates: Many utility companies offer incentives, and you may benefit from state tax credits as well. Investigate both to ensure that you’re eligible and if so, that you reap the full benefits.

Understand the Payback: In general, a tankless hot water heater will cost you more upfront—between $800 to $1,150 (plus installation)—compared to a traditional tank water heaters at $450 to $750 (plus installation).

Balance the cost of your unit with your ongoing operating costs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website, tankless water heaters can be 24 to 34 percent more efficient than a traditional tank-style water heater, depending on a home’s daily demand for hot water.

Ready to update your hot water heater to tankless/on demand? Contact us today!

Jim Lavallee Plumbing
Serving Eastern Massachusetts and the Boston area
Phone: Toll-free (888) 884-4122

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