Battles saluted as 'Green Plumber of the Year'
BY MELANIE HIRSHBERG Bill Battles felt it was only natural to evolve his plumbing business in the early 1990s to include high efficiency water heating systems. Now, 20 years later, Mr. Battles has been recognized as the Green Plumbers’ Northern Region Green Plumber of the Year for his work in and around Westport. “Everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon ... but he was doing this long before it became a tag word,” said Mr. Battle’s wife, Sherri Mahoney-Battles. His small company, Village Plumbing, on Pine Hill Road, has had some big projects recently. The six-man crew recently put in a solar water heating system at the Fall River Boys and Girls Club. At the National Marine Life Center in Bourne, they installed all efficient plumbing, including life support tanks for the creatures that reside there. In Dartmouth, they also put in the plumbing and heating on a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum Certified house — the highest LEED rating. Mr. Battles, who became an accredited green plumber through Green Plumbers USA less than five years ago, was excited to find out he was nominated for the award in August. All of the nominees are accredited through the organization, which means that they have attended several mandatory green plumbing educational courses and are members in good standing. It wasn’t until the organization’s annual convention with the EPA’s WaterSense program, that he was announced as one of four regional winners. An Arizona plumber won the nationwide title. “It was pretty cool,” he said. “It validates the work that we’re doing.” Though his company’s services include everything from traditional plumbing to installing radiant floor heat and low flow fixtures, it was his solar work that earned him the award, he said. Solar panel thermal water heaters for domestic use are also his most common request these days, he said. The price tag on these systems, much more than their “conventional” counterparts, can be a little daunting, he said, but with federal and state tax credits and rebates, the purchase can be cut by up to 50 percent. “There are cool rebates out there, you just have to know to look for them,” he said. Other credit and rebate eligible products include another popular item, tankless water heaters, which do not heat water until it is needed. East Coast green economics Green Plumbers USA was created from Australia’s Green Plumbers organization. Australia is hard hit for fresh water and when the group leaped across the Pacific, it landed in California, another limited water supply area. From there, the organization spread across the country, but the focus of each region’s plumbers vary depending on the area’s needs, he said. On the West Coast, green plumbing is more about conserving water with low flow fixtures and other water-saving techniques, he said. While Village Plumbing offers low-flow equipment (and Massachusetts’ plumbing code requires low flow toilets in new constructions among other efficiency regulations), “we have tons of water here,” he said. However, “our energy costs are a lot higher, so on the green side that’s what we focus on,” he said. So while some, but not all, green systems may cost more to install than conventional systems, many will pay themselves off within a few years. “A 40 gallon natural gas water heater has an energy factor of about 62,” Mr. Battles said of conventional heaters. That means that it is 62 percent energy efficient, or that it’s about 40 percent inefficient — “about 40 cents goes right up the chimney” for every dollar spent to run it, he said. Some “green options” can be up to 95 percent efficient, he said. Green life for a green plumber In the Green Plumbers announcement of the Plumbers of the Year, it said that “For Bill, green plumbing is not only the way he does business, but it’s also the way he lives his life.” At their farm, also on Pine Hill Road, Ms. Mahoney-Battles said that they have installed many of the products that Mr. Battles offers in his business. A wind turbine has not been as efficient as they had hoped, she said, but their solar panel thermal water heater works well for the family of four, two dogs, and a horse. “We’ve never had a problem with hot water,” she said. Even in the dead of winter, they can get water temperatures of up to 160 degrees from sunny days, she said. And if it’s cloudy for a few days, a backup conventional heater is hooked up and ready to take over.