Hot-Water Heating vs Forced-Air Heating

Modern furnaces are forced-air heating systems whereby a fan blows and forces air over the heat exchanger and distributed into the house via the ducts.

Older houses tend to have hot-water heating systems (hydraulic heating) using boilers as an alternative to a furnace. The source of heating comes from piping which leads to a radiator.

While modern times are slowly out-phasing hot-water systems for forced-air systems, it is not a given that the latter is better than the former.

Both of them have their advantages that slightly edges the other. Which one to select for your home is really down to personal preference.

Hot water heating (boiler)

Since this has been around for ages, surely homeowners who prefer to stick to the tried and tested have their reasons?

Less heat loss

Furnaces are much more responsive to temperature settings. Once you turn it off, the air starts to cool down faster compared to a boiler.

The cast iron radiator in a boiler has the effect of better heat retention.

This means that the heat generated by a boiler will be more consistent compared to the dynamic nature of a furnace.

Less space

On the surface, a hot-water heating system will look like it takes up more space than a forced-air system.

That is an illusion.

Because what you don’t see is that the latter requires more space for the ductwork within walls and floors. The former however only requires space for piping which is much less of a hassle compared to ductwork.

Less noise pollution

Baring any defective equipment, water systems tend to be quieter than air systems.

This is because they don’t require ducts that can be noisy from expansion and contraction. And fans that will inevitably make noises while spinning.

No wind

As air systems circulate heat around the house by blowing and pushing warm air about, it can often send warm breezes into rooms and common spaces.

This can be annoying at times.

This is almost a non-issue with water systems.

Easier to upgrade

Because piping is easier to install than ducts, a hot-water system will be easier to extend when the homeowner deems that as necessary.

These circumstances can arise when a decision is made to expand the living space in the house.

Boilers also tend to be able to take on a higher capacity while furnaces might not be able to take on a heavier load.

Longer lifespan

The longevity of heating systems heavily depend on how well maintained they are by homeowners and how they are being used.

But generally speaking, hot-water heating tend to have a longer lifespan than forced-air heating systems.

Air pollution

In the event of malfunction, air systems can potentially pump air pollutants within the equipment and hiding in the ductwork all over the house.

This environmental health hazard is banish with water systems.

Forced-air heating (furnace)

With all the positivity mentioned above about hot-water heating, you might already have your decision made. 😀

But hold your horses!

Do take a look at the advantages of forced-air heating systems too.

More features

One of the main reasons people are switching to air systems is the various functions that come with them.

High end systems can be so versatile that they can not only provide heating, but also cooling, humidifying, dehumidifying, and cleaning as well.

That’s a lot packed under the hood if you ask me.

It makes perfect sense and is a great example of making full use of what is available and set up. It’s like having a television that don’t just receive free-to-air channels and cable, but can also be used as a computer monitor as well.

Lower costs

As you might expect, fabricating and installing ducts is more inexpensive than pipes.

Installation can be less chaotic too. Meaning a lesser possibility of damage during the works.

They also have more affordable maintenance cost compared to hot-water systems.

Installation flexibility

Since we are on the topic of installation, it must be said that in the midst of renovation, changes in setup would be easier to execute.

It will be simpler to relocate ductwork and warm-air registers compared to radiators.

On the other hand relocating and re-configuring piping can mean a lot of extra work. New walls might have to be intruded on while the ones that now have no piping will have to be patched up.

Faster response

Previously, it was presented that temperature can be more erratic with forced-air heating due to it’s high responsiveness.

While this can be a flaw, from another angle, it can be a perk too.

A better responsiveness will translate to faster heating up and cooling down. This can be a priceless feature when you run home one day to escape the cold of winter.

Less space

A hot-water system will require radiators or convectors to be set up on the floor of bedroom and other livable space.

This can be a hindrance when planning an area’s furniture and fittings.

Imagine ordering a dressing table with dimensions that you were careful of keeping within. Then realize that it would not fit into the space you wanted because you forgot to take the radiator into account.

Forced-air systems will definitely take up less space. Especially in the furnace room.

No fear of freezing pipes

One of the biggest blemishes of water systems is it’s potential to have it’s pipes frozen should it break down in winter.

Such an incident can cause homeowners a lot of stress while they are already freezing from the cold.

This is a non-issue with air systems.

With all that being said, the choice of which system to choose is really up to the homeowner to decide after weighing up the pros and cons of both.

It is specifically because not one system can meet the needs of every household, that more innovative systems are introduced into the market. Surely one can work for you.

10 Steps To Take To Ensure The Stairs Are Baby-Safe

Babies are naturally curious and ever-ready to explore the world. Just bring them out of the crib and you will find them crawling about to anything that catches their attention.

While this can be cute and adorable, it can be hazardous too.

Even if you will never leave your baby unattended to at home, there can still be instances where you have eyes glued on the TV for a minute too long or distracted by the oven by a extra minute. Leaving the baby to roam the nursery or the entire house unsupervised.

And one of the places at home that can be dangerous for babies is the stairway.

Adults can often grab on to the railings in the event of a loss of balance. But a baby don’t know any better. Should an accident happen, they can get a ways with a scratch and bruise if lucky.

In worse cases… well let’s not talk about that.

When you are carrying a baby up or down the stairs, you can also get distracted and lose your balance. And with your arms holding the baby, you’d have little time to react.

As a parent, it is only a given that you’d want to minimize the risks of accidents happening to the baby on the stairs. And here are some steps you can take to make that possibility of an accident as small as possible.

1) Light up the stairway

One of the most basic and simplest ways to increase the safety of the stairs is to install lighting.

This is a home improvement that benefits every family member.

Climbing up and down stairways in darkness can be simple enough for most people as they have grown accustomed to the flow of it after using it for years.

But accidents do happen. And it can be a little more complicated when you have a baby in your arms.

Being able to see each step more clearly can make all the difference in safety. And in terms of stairs, a small mistake can sometimes mean a big consequence.

Get light switches installed at both the top and bottom of the stairs too.

2) Backup lighting

As safety is a serious matter, consider installing backup lights too in case of power failure.

Get those battery powered night lights. These are like regular night lights except that they only turn on as emergency lights in the event of power failure.

They are convenient and inexpensive. Set them up at the top and bottom too for good measure. And if you want, get them for different areas of the house too.

I know of people paranoid enough to have backups for backup lighting.

3) Night light safety

If you are getting those night lights as mentioned, then please take into account the safety of these devices as well.

They can be pretty and attract a baby like moth to a flame.

So do set them up in sockets that are out of reach of a baby.

Manufacturers are aware of the demand of baby-safe night lights. Therefore, many have introduced night lights with child-safety features into the market.

These light basically encloses the bulb completely and have safety tabs that impedes a child’s act of removing them from electrical outlets.

4) Remove clutter

Ever found yourself losing balance while trying to negotiate a route around or through clutter at home?

I have.

While we might find it humorous after incidents like these, it is definitely not something to laugh at should it happen on a stairway.

Even the smallest items on the floor can cause trips of devastating impact.

The bigger they are the harder they fall.

A baby probably is not going to trip unless he or she is already walking. But what if you are the one who trips while carrying your child.

It might be excusable to have clutter in the bedroom or garage. But never within the space in and around the stairs.

It’s just too hazardous.

5) Stairway surface finishing

Some homeowners like to make their homes look as grand and posh as possible. And the stairs is no exception when class is concerned.

So they sometimes listen to contractors about smooth, glossy, and beautiful finishes that can be applied to the stairway, including the railings, risers and balusters.

If you have babies around the house or expecting to have, using glossy finishes is very bad practice.

You are not giving the dangers of the stairway enough respect.

Even puppies and adult dogs with 4 legs can fall down the stairs. What makes you think you won’t.

6) Safety gates

As soon as your baby becomes mobile, whether on fours or twos, safety gates should be erected on the top and bottom of staircases.

If you are installing the fixture yourself, take note that pressure gates should never be installed at the top of a staircase. This is because a baby’s weight can cause it to give way when leaned on.

When buying hardware mounted gates, those secured with screws and bolts, they can be installed on both the top and bottom. Do ensure that there are no exposed screws or nails so as to prevent scratches.

And keep this in mind – The top gate should only swing in one direction away from the stairs. Never into the stairs.

To ensure that your baby do not climb over or squeeze through the gates, get one that is high enough and with vertical slats that are no wider than 2 3/8 inches apart.

8) Rugs

For decorative and practical reasons, we like to leave rug on the top and bottom of stairs.

But this not practical when there is a little kid in the house who is getting to grips with how the world and physics work.

Rugs can cause people to slip. So keep them away until your child is old enough to walk and navigate around the house safely one his or her own.

9) Space between slats

Once a child is able to move about on his or her own, make a judgment of whether the safety gates can be removed.

The concern now is focused on accidents that can happen when he or she is using the stairs himself or herself.

One common freak accident is getting caught in between the balusters of a staircase. So you need to make sure that the space between them is no more than 3 1/2 inches apart.

10) Education

Spend some time coaching your child how to move up and down the stairs. After teaching, let the child practice it under your supervision.

The simplest tips can make all the difference.

And I wouldn’t fault you if you give the kids a tongue-lashing when catching them playing on the stairs.

7 Common Contaminants In Water And Home Remedies To Treat Them

Water is one of those things that are taken for granted each and every day.

Next time you leave a tap running for no apparent reason, remember that some families in the world get their water from muddy well which they have to carry by the bucket home.

While technology has enabled developed countries to get access to water from the comfort of home, it is not always safe for consumption.

Even if the best professionals undertook the best setup possible for a water distribution system, there will always be a chance that contaminants can still get into the water and make everyone sick.

We will first take a look at the common contaminants found in water and how they got in there in the first place, then briefly discuss DIY remedies often used at home, after which describe which remedies are used to remove which contaminants.

Common water contaminants

The following are often found in high levels when water is contaminated.

1) Asbestos

Ever since links have been found between asbestos and high cancer rate, it has become one of the things that every homeowner need to take note of.

This is because they were commonly used in construction of houses after World War 2 and before 1980. That’s quite a huge time period to account for.

Asbestos is a natural carcinogen and usually made it’s way into the water supply via asbestos cement used on plumbing pipes.

2) Bacteria and parasites

Non lethal chemicals have been added to water for as long as we can remember to remove the risks of germs and bacteria from household water.

Chlorine is one example is commonly used as a disinfectant to kill these pathogens including viruses.

But despite all the efforts being put in by the authorities and the general public, we can never eliminate it completely from the water supply.

This is because contaminating organisms originate from animal and human waste. And they have a way of finding their way into groundwater.

Bacteria-laden water can cause various types of diseases.

Failed pipes can also be a source of contamination. So is water back-siphoning.

3) Lead

Water is a major source of our exposure to lead. They can cause serious health conditions that you don’t even want to read about.

Lead gets into the water system via corroded faucets, lead-based solder, and aged plumbing pipes.

Which every individual can suffer from lead poisoning, pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable.

4) Soft metals

By soft metals, I am referring to copper, aluminum, chromium and lead.

The most common medical condition that you’ve probably heard about is kidney problems.

Water don’t usually contain high amounts of metals. But they are able to accumulate in human tissue over time.

5) Nitrates

Water in agricultural areas are more prone to nitrate contamination than other urban areas.

This is because the biggest source of nitrate contamination is via nitrogen fertilizer runoff. Back siphoning at home can also cause nitrate into the water system.

6) Pesticides

You should be able to guess that the main source of pesticides come from industrial farms.

That’s why anyone should be particularly careful when consuming water in these areas. This is even more critical if the main water source is a well.

7) Radon

Radon is a hazardous substance that is more likely absorbed by humans through the air than water.

Nevertheless, when it gets into the water supply, people can still be affected when showering and washing.

They are usually cause by the house being in a area that is already experiencing high levels of radon.

Home treatment

While the following are remedies that homeowners often take to treat water, there will always be a risk of you doing everything wrong.

For example, installing a filter would be pointless if you don’t install it properly.

1) Adsorption

This method uses a filter cartridge that water has to pass through. The filter would then… as you expect… remove impurities from the water.

Popular types of filters used in households include:

  • Activated alumina
  • Synthetic fiber
  • Granular activated carbon (GAC)
  • Solid block carbon
  • etc

No one filter will be able to remove everything. So you need to choose what you want removed from the water at home before deciding on what types of filters to buy.

If you intend to use a pitcher and faucet filter, do remember to change them regularly as recommended in the product descriptions.

2) Distillation

Distillation is probably the closest way consumers can consume water in it’s purest form.

This is basically a process where water is heated up into vapor leaving behind all impurities. The vapor is then put through a process of condensation to produce liquid.

While this sound really cool and really healthy, it requires a huge amount of energy to produce sufficient drinking water for an average sized household.

Because of this, families who install equipment like these usually do it for one specific purpose or for a specific person who is already sick and need to drink cleaner water.

3) Disinfection

Disinfecting water basically refers to the use of chemicals to eliminate harmful bacteria from water.

Most, if not all, public water systems are required to disinfect water before pumping into homes of the general public. But families who depend on well water will have to disinfect their own water.

4) Reverse osmosis

This is a more high tech system to install at home.

Water is made to pass through semi-permeable membranes and carbon filters to sieve out all types of lighter pollutants that the regular filters can’t.

As this is a complex system, it is best to hire a professional to have it installed and properly setup.

5) Ion exchange

Also known as water softeners, ion exchange systems replace magnesium and calcium in water with potassium and sodium.

While I cannot quite understand how this is supposed to be more healthy as sodium is not exactly a healthy substance, many household are using them at home.

6) Bottled water

What better way to remove all your fear surrounding consuming water from the pipes than to get water properly bottled specifically for human consumption.

However, before going this route, remember that even though there are strict regulations regarding the production of bottled water, enforcing them is another issue altogether.

So do a check with how credible a supplier is and how their water is processed before buying them by the truckloads.

Remedies for water contaminants

Now that we have a general picture of the common contaminants found in water at home and the remedies often used, here is a breakdown of which is used for what.

 Contaminant Remedy
Asbestos Adsorption, Reverse osmosis
Bacteria Reverse osmosis, disinfection
Lead Adsorption, distillation, reverse osmosis
Soft Metals Adsorption, distillation, reverse osmosis
Nitrates Reverse osmosis
Pesticides Adsorption
Radon Adsorption

There is some research conducted that claims development of sanitary water systems in the last century has increased the average life expectancy by decades.

Remember that if you are going to treat your water in a DIY manner, there will always be the risk that you might do something wrong.

So unless you know exactly what you are doing or there is someone who do to guide you, it’s better to leave this to the professionals.

The last thing you want is to go through with hassle of self-installation and still end up at the starting point. It would be even worse to consume water thinking that it is pollutant free when in fact it is not.

Manage The Risks Of Formaldehyde Exposure From Pressed Wood

Formaldehyde is a substance contained in the adhesives used to glue materials (usually wood) together. The end product are common home furniture we buy from the store without a care in the world.

This include the things we take for granted all over the place like the sofa set, coffee table, book cabinets, armchairs, etc.

Health

Exposure the fumes of formaldehyde can cause a variety of health issues like:

  • Nausea
  • Throat irritation
  • Wheezing
  • Rashes
  • Cancer in severe cases
  • etc

It’s a shame that back in the old days before we started to kill ourselves with man-made chemicals, furniture were made the traditional way.

They used solid pieces of wood cut out from trees and assembled with good-old trusty woodworking joints that can last for generations.

These days, with corporations ever so intent to manufacture cheaper and more affordable products in a shorter time, wooden products are seldom fabricated the conventional ways anymore.

Pressed wood

This is why pressed wood came into the picture.

Sometimes also called medium density fiberboard or particle board, they are made by “pressing” tiny bits of wood together into shape. Then mixed with adhesives full of chemicals to create sheets of wood that look natural.

While these breakthroughs in technology has allowed every homeowner to have affordable posh looking furniture at home, it can have adverse effects on health due to formaldehyde contained in them.

Formaldehyde is a concern as they have the characteristic of off-gassing into the air, that is in turn consumed by us via breathing just like any air pollutant.

On top of that, this off-gassing process is not a just a matter of days.

A new piece of furniture made with pressed wood containing formaldehyde can continue to release it’s harmful air particles for several years.

It is important to note though, that the period when it off-gas at it’s highest concentration is when the product is new.

The workmanship of the furniture or the humidity levels at home can speed up the release of formaldehyde.

This means that if a new house is furnished with a lot of pressed wood furniture, you are going to get the most exposure if you move into it as soon as possible.

Managing the problem of formaldehyde

Some homes have been found with 3 times the levels of formaldehyde that is considered safe to human beings.

Other than to replace furniture containing formaldehyde with ones that don’t there is really nothing much you can do other than to wait it out.

However, you can still take precautions so that you don’t get too much exposure to it.

If returning or condemning the item is a non-question, then please enhance the air circulation in the house.

Keep windows and doors open as much as possible. You can install screens if there is a security or pest concern.

Then try to maintain the temperature and humidity at home to lower levels so as to prevent formaldehyde from off-gassing at a faster pace.

If you have just found out that the dining table you have used for 10 years contains adhesive filled with formaldehyde, don’t panic.

When furniture are aged, formaldehyde contained in them have probably exhausted themselves from off-gassing for years.

And the next time you buy wooden furniture, solid wood would be a healthier choice. Unfinished wood would be even better as surface finishes can contain harmful chemicals as well.

If only finished wood is available, at least get one that is nontoxic and free of formaldehyde.