Monday, September 23, 2013

HDB Energy Saving: West facing Apartment? Beat the Heat!

In sunny Singapore, the west facing apartments will always face the brunt of the setting sun. Our HDB apartment happen to be one of those.
HDB Flats in Sunny Singapore

In our experience, the late afternoon sun approximately 4pm to 5pm has the biggest influence on the residents' thermal comfort. The discomfort and inconvenience is 2 tiered.

Firstly, the indoor ambient temperature 4-5pm can sometimes can be unbearable and be as high as 35 Deg Celcius. 

Secondly, at about 5-8pm, the wet facing wall would have absorbed sufficient radiation from the sun and starts to emit heat into the room. This is also known as a "hot wall" effect. Air-conditioning cost will increase to cool the "hot wall" down.

What can we do about this?

Creative Passive Solutions:
1.  If you are lucky to have the laundry drying area facing the west, dry your laundry on the west facing side. Although I was told by many seniors citizens that it is better to dry wet clothes in the morning sun. I wonder why this is so... Please share if you happen to know.
HDB Laundry scene

2.  Beat the 4-5pm heat by going to the National Library to enjoy free air conditioning.
National Library of Singapore, Courtesy of nlb

3.  Chill out in a swimming pool 4-5pm for less than 2 dollars at the neighborhood SSC swimming pool.
Chilll out at the Swimming Pool, courtesy of SDSC

4.  Stay on the rooms on the east side.
Now that you have loosened up..... here is the real stuff.

Active Solutions:

1.  On the west facing wall, close all windows, day curtains, curtains to provide maximum insulation against radiation penetration. This was the first thing we did, unfortunately, our curtains were not thick enough to black out the evening sun. The indoor temperature was could be as high as 33 Deg Celcius. Looks like we need to spend some moola to get some comfort. 

2.  Convince HDB to use "cool paint" to repel radiation. 
There are products available in the market to help improve our lives. Can we use it? Are developers looking into this or they are just considering mass production? Check our solacoat, a water based acrylic coating with membrane additive which helps to reflect solar rays. This option is a long shot.... I can't do it alone.

3.  Hang blinds on the west facing windows.
I would have pushed for this if we are allowed to hand the blinds outside the window pane. The blind gets in the way of the curtains which also serves a value aesthetically. 

4.  Apply Solar films on the west facing windows.
High reflective solar films was initially my favorite choice. Until I learnt that HDB has a 20% cap on the reflectance for solar films that can be applied on HDBs. If so, what is the point of applying the solar film??
An associate who applied the solar films on her windows advised us against the solar film as she claims that the film will deteriorate after 2-5 years, turning the window into an unsightly bubble pop. In turn, it was a nightmare to remove the "melted" film which has bonded tightly to the window pane under extreme temperatures.

5.  Apply Black-out curtains on west facing windows.
Surprisingly, these are not common in Singapore, given the all year round summer. This was our eventual solution. The details are coming up in the next posting!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Choosing Ceiling LED Lighting (How to check and ask for quality)

With the emergence of a large variety of products from the "emerging" economies, (no pun intended) it is sometimes difficult to tell good value for money.

In my context,
Good value for money = fair price + good quality
Fair value for money = high price + high quality OR fair price + fair quality OR cheap price + cheap quality
Poor value for money = fair price + poor quality OR high price + fair quality
In short, you pay for what you get.

After some investigation, we would like to share our 2 cents worth with all the readers.
HDB renovation 2009- Ceiling Light before installation

1. Look for thick plastic

HDB renovation 2009- Ceiling Light, thicker plastic is better

2. Look for Metal hinges (plastic ones will crack after 2 years when you try to remove cover for bulb changing)

HDB renovation 2009- Ceiling Light- ask for metal hinges
3. LED ( aka Light emitting Diodes) are the latest trend in the market. They are energy efficient, requires lasts much longer but are more expensive. We will not cover the details of LED here. But in short, the LED must work with a driver (which converts Singapore Power's AC current to Direct current) The drivers usually fails before the LEDs.

So the trick is to ask for 2 sets of LED with their independent Drivers. If 1 driver fails pre-maturely, the other set is running, so you will not experience a total blackout.
This is of course on top of the warranty!

HDB renovation 2009- In 1 Ceiling light fixture, 2 independent sets of LED (Small squares arranged in a circular fashion) and drivers (the white boxes)

Also read:
Shopping for Lights
Problems with False Ceiling and Lightings
Lighting- cost savings
Lighting Concept

Ceiling Fan Installation (Part 1)

We have shared the benefits of having a ceiling fan in a HDB flat and the choice of ceiling fans was also explained for the readers' benefit. To complete the story on this topic, this post covers the ceiling fan installation process.

1. Preparation and Delivery
a.   Clear a working area below the designated ceiling fan area.
b.   If there is an existing installation to be displaced or removed, plan in advance.
c.   Standby a home ladder if you have one
d.  On the arrival of the fan installer, explain what needs to be done.
e.  Check the delivered items against your order form.
HDB renovation- Ceiling Fan and Ceiling Light delivery

HDB renovation- Check the delivery item to your order document

f.   Prepare some refreshment for the installer. Helps increase the quality of work!

2. Removal of existing installation (if any)
a. Plan beforehand if this installation (eg lighting or old ceiling fan) is going to be used else where or to be disposed of.
HDB renovation- Removal of Existing Lighting

b. By briefing the installer when he arrives, he can plan his sequence of works effectively. You can also negotiate for disposal into your purchase.

HDB renovation- Preparing the Lighting for disposal

3. Anchor Bolt
a.   Check the instruction manual for the recommended number of bolts required
b.   Most ceiling fans will recommended at least 3 to 4 secure bolts per fan. Note that the bolt is only considered secured if the bolt-nut can be tightened with increasing resistance.
HDB renovation- Installing the Anchor Bolts for the Ceiling Fan

c.   There is also a minimum spacing between all bolts, including those from the previous installation.
d.   Most experienced installers will know how to reduce dust using paper and plastic bags. However, it cannot be 100%.

4. Assembly and installation (Ceiling fan and Ceiling lights)
a.   Take the chance to check that the parts are new and in good condition.

HDB renovation- Ceiling Fan Assembly

HDB renovation- Ceiling Fan Assembly, LED light kit add-on

b.   Most fans would include a safety lock mechanism that would prevent the fan from falling in case of failure and would stop the motor spinning.
HDB renovation- Ceiling Fan mounting onto the bracket (in black)

5. Testing
a.   Try out all the fan speeds, light kits and remote controls.
b.   Go through and clarify the warranty card as required.
c.   Ask the technician for his name and direct contact number. In case of any troubleshooting, at least you will be talking to the same guy.

In case anyone is interested, we bought our ceiling fan and ceiling lights from, drop me an email.
Service was good and prompt.

Also read:
How to Choose a Ceiling Fan
Ceiling Fan Comparison Chart
Advantages of a Ceiling Fan
Shopping for Lightings