Fatherhood, Solutions

Alternate way to cure asthmatic cough or bronchitis

Coughing kids are no fun

Many parents will go through this stage of their toddler having wheezing/asthmatic cough, which develops into bronchitis, causing sleepless nights for both parent(s) & child. The toddler may also lose appetite, requiring additional medication to boost appetite and/or immune system or to protect the lungs.

Clogged airways when the Bronchi is infected.

As a last resort, pediatrician may even prescribe antibiotics together with steroids which must be delivered directly to the bronchi through a nebulizer. Keeping the mask on the toddler is another adventure altogether! Steroids retard growth in toddlers so it’s only prescribed where absolutely necessary.

We bought this Omron Nebulizer NE-C801 for our boy.

Each course of treatment cost around SGD$300 & it’s no guarantee that it’ll cure the child immediately. We went back to the same pediatrician twice because he’s highly recommended but the medication only lessen the phlegm & cough but it never cure our 2 year old boy.

Sure looks easy doesn’t it? First thing a toddler do is claw at the mask!

Within 60 days, we burnt through $800 trying to cure our boy, including doctor visits, cost of the nebulizer + the 2 visits to the pediatrician. And our boy has hardly improved since day 1! Argh!

The Environment has no effect

While all the treatment is ongoing, we also tried ways & means to ensure a clean environment for him. We tried to purify the air in the room with our Delphin vacuum cleaner, use the 3M air-con filter with carbon, adjust the humidity & temperature (28C/26C) in the room, put special essential oils that supposedly helps with sinus problem & change his bed sheet every week. We even tried to open the windows + fan with ionizer.

Well, nothing really helps.

An Epiphany

We were about to bring our boy to an Ear Nose Throat (ENT) specialist, Dr Brian Heng, who cured my wife’s bronchitis & my client’s prolonged dry cough due to smoking, when I had an epiphany!

30+ years ago, my parents spent hundreds if not a thousand dollar trying to cure my childhood asthma. I even went for weekly swimming lessons to build my lungs to reduce my wheezing cough. Eventually, after a few visits to Dr William Heng, who’s Dr Brian Heng’s late father and a pioneer of ENT in Singapore, I was cured.

Unfortunately, it came back a year or so later and I had to go through the same treatment. However this time, the durian was in season & my dad bought a big bunch of durian home. I really loved durian & without thinking how it’ll affect my cough, I just ate a huge amount of durian!

(I seem to remember some old folks saying durian is heaty so you can’t eat it while having a cough.)

(We didn’t see Dr Brian Heng initially because we’re not sure if he can see a toddler. But we also didn’t call and ask.)

The Cure!

Yup! The king of fruits!

Disclaimer: This “cure” only works when the child has green phlegm or what Chinese call winter cough.

After taking the durian, I realize the next day that most of my phlegm has cleared & I only had a bit of itchiness in my throat. After taking a bit more of the cough syrup, I was completely cured!

I discovered early on that when I had “heaty” cough with yellow phlegm or just itchy throat, the durian actually makes things worse. So durian is not a cure-all.

So I did the next logical thing for my boy. I bought durian & made my boy eat as much as he wants. The next day, his phlegm was mostly cleared. I let him continue the cough syrup, stopped nebulizing, steroids, ventolin, etc., until he’s cured within a few days.

So now, every time he coughs with (usually green) phlegm, we’ll let him have the usual expectorant and ventolin for a few days, then finish it off with a round of Durian! 😀

Did it work for you or your child? Comments are welcome!

BTW, this works for adults as well! 😉

Health, Reviews, Solutions

How to cheaply convert your air-con into an air purifier

Beating the Haze!

By now, the world has once again heard about Singapore & mistaken us as some China state. Hint to these people, Google ASEAN or South-East Asia. Some people are still hazy about who we are (pun intended.)

But I digress. There are many ways for people to beat the haze but the best is to stay indoors with the air-con on and all doors & windows closed as tightly as possible. If you have put off installing an air-con in the house, please consider doing so now, as the haze will be with us for many more weeks. Look at my post here on how to choose an air-con suitable to your house in Singapore.

Offices are usually the best as the air-cons are maintained by professionals regularly. The air-cons at home, may not be maintained as regularly so do clean them today if you haven’t done so in the last 3 months. I just cleaned mine today & there’re a lot of grey ash on it.

Many people are also turning to air purifiers to help clean the air in their home or office and while many of the good ones are effective, they also tend to be noisy ( >60dB on high setting), not to mention they cost many thousands of dollars.

Let’s take a look at some that I’ve come across.

Air Purifier

Air purifiers work by pushing & pulling air through multiple membrane filters. Due to the resistive nature of membrane, the fan motor must be very powerful in order to move enough air to be effective. Hence, you have 2 types of noise, mechanical noise from the motor & wind noise. The situation is worst in air purifiers with HEPA filters because those are so restrictive to air flow, hence some makers like Rainbow & Delphin use water as the main filter + a “L-Lamella” separator cone to reject fine dust.

Click to expand
I bought this German made Delphin Vacuum system 10 years ago & it’s still working. However, I rarely use it for air purifying because the wind noise is annoying.

Rainbow still include a HEPA filter but this results in the motor having to work very hard & it’s really loud when vacuuming. When purifying air, it’s not as annoying but still noisy. The air flow also doesn’t seem as high as the Delphin.

Rainbow Vacuum with HEPA filter.

The advantage of water-based system are they’re less restrictive to air flow and thus saves energy + can recycle the air faster. Even if they can’t filter the same amount of dust in 1 cycle, the amount of air they can process in the same amount of time makes up for their lower efficiency. This is especially true for the Delphin system which doesn’t have any membrane filter at all!

Water is also able to dissolve much of the harmful chemicals & odour in the air that membrane filters are not able to remove. This is why many air-purifiers also include a charcoal (or activated carbon) filter which adds to the cost of purchase and maintenance.

OK fine, I just want to know the cheapest & fastest way to purify my air!

Why I’m glad you asked. If you’ve skip the above explanation, that’s fine. I recommend using the air-con as your MAIN air purifier for 2 simple reasons. It’s the most efficient and fastest mover of air in the house, and it’s also very quiet (typically 25dB on Auto).

BUT, obviously the filters in your air-con are not actually very good. Some air-cons have UV and Plasma technology. UV kills virus & bacteria so it only sterilize the air, not filter dust.

Cold Plasma technology is basically air-ionization, which introduce an electrical charge to dust particles so they can stick to another charged surface. However, this introduce a small amount of ozone which is unhealthy with prolonged inhalation. The charged dust particle must still stick to another opposite charged surface before it’s removed from the air so its efficiency is not consistent in every environment.

SO, the best solution is to introduce another filter behind your air-con filter.

I recommend the 3M Filtrete Room Air Cleaning Filter with Carbon.

I bought the blue box Filtrete at a DIY shop for less than $30.
I bought the blue box Filtrete at a DIY shop for less than $30.

It’s an electrically-charged membrane filter with carbon so it’s able to filter particle down to 0.3 micron + the carbon will help to absorb harmful chemicals & odour. It’s not as efficient as a HEPA filter but because the air-con is pushing so much more air through the filter per minute, the result is still very good with noticeably cleaner & neutral smelling air in 10 minutes.

The black mesh is the carbon & the membrane filter is behind it. Just stick it or place it behind the normal air-con filter, then reinstall your air-con filter.
The black mesh is the carbon & the membrane filter is behind it. Just cut it to size & stick it or place it behind the normal air-con filter, then reinstall your air-con filter.

It’s recommended to cover up to 70% of the air-con filter to allow good air-flow so the air-con cooling power is not compromised. Don’t worry, after 1 month, the membrane will turn a icky grey to let you know the filter IS working. The filter is rated to work for 2 months but with this haze, I recommend changing it sooner, when the filter turns completely grey.

I install the 3M Filtrete behind the normal air-con filter to prolong its life-span.

Each box contains 2 pieces of 60 x 30cm filter, which is enough to last an air-con blower unit 18 months if you change it every 2 months.

For less than $30 per air-con unit per year, I’d say that’s VERY cheap!

Lastly, for you people who are lazy, you can install the 3M filter OVER the air-con filter so you don’t even need to wash the filter in future. Obviously, the 3M filter will get dirty faster but since the haze wouldn’t last forever, it’s completely fine. 😉


All about Air Conditioning

OK, maybe not ALL about it since I’m only talking about the cooling part. In this post, I’m just going to talk about how to choose an air-conditioner and how to maximize its usage while minimizing energy consumption.

There are a few things that affect how cold aircon feel so take note of these points when buying your next air-con.

1. Blower speed – The higher the better to circulate the air & draw out the heat & humidity. Setting your blower speed to AUTO is the best. When you first switch on the aircon, the blower will be high but as the temperature approach the set temperature, the blower will slow down. If you use a fan to circulate the air, it’ll work even better! But after the walls & furniture cool down, the fan should be switched off because fan/blower noise is irritating & distracting especially when watching a movie.

* Remember, the aircon will cool the walls/floor/ceiling first due to larger surface area.

2. Temperature (inside the room, outside the compressor) – Inside the room, depends on what you’re cooling. If you always have party with many people + you have a big amplifier, set lower (see heat capacity). The thermostat will try to increase cooling power (for inverter) and turn the blower on ‘high’ longer. I set mine to 27’C when watching a movie on my home theatre & it’s cool enough if the blower is directed at the sofa.

Outside the compressor, if the weather is really hot, the compressor need to turn on the fan higher to exchange heat more efficiently and this increases power consumption. My compressor is facing the evening sun so I got 2 compressors that can handle 100% of the BTU load.

3. Humidity – this is the reason we feel stuffy, high humidity reduces our skin ability to cool down from evaporation and makes our lungs work harder to extract oxygen from the air. A good aircon can extract an insane amount of water from the air. My aircon can probably fill a bucket in an hour.

4. Direction of flow – self-explanatory. Want to feel COLD NOW? Stand in front of the aircon blower. Ladies should stand aside to avoid the cold air and dry skin.

5. Blower heat capacity (also compressor wattage for multi-split) – calculate the amount of heat (in BTU) that you expect the blower to extract. This depends on room volume. Budget in extra 10% in Singapore for hi-res HDB/Condo, or 20% if there’re many windows. Budget in 30% if you always have parties. People generate a huge amount of heat.

For compressor, it depends on how many blowers you have. With 3 blowers or more, always go for inverter. I used to have a non-invertor System3 for my old 3-room HDB, it seriously uses tons of energy but it was cheap. Now I have 1 System3 + 1 System2 to cool 5 rooms. Both are invertor systems and even though my room size has doubled, my current air-con actually uses LESS power on average! Based on this calculation, I should breakeven in 5 years.

Correct calculation of heat capacity will ensure you feel cool & save power since the compressor don’t have to struggle to exchange heat. For compressor, ensure you have at least 80% of the wattage required for extracting the Total BTU the blowers can sustain. This is because for invertor system, most of the time, it wouldn’t be operating at max capacity (if you do your math right).

For non-invertor multi-split, when any blower is on & temperature is above thermostat setting, the compressor is also ON FULL. On a hot day, the compressor is always on, maxing out on exchanging heat even though my 1 blower isn’t able to extract that much BTU. So to save some energy, buy up to 80%. Your room wouldn’t cool as fast when ALL blowers are on but it wouldn’t cost so much money to operate.

6. Room size/shape – depending on room size & shape, placement of the blower should be as near to where the people will be as possible. If you have odd shape room like an L-shape or has different segments, consider a blower in each segment. My living room is conjoin to my dining room so I have a 12000BTU blower for the living room & a 9000BTU for the dining room.

To calculate your BTU budget, use this calculator.

7. Room insulation & how many windows – make sure your doors have as little gap as possible to reduce air movement. Large windows are nice but also allow more sun in and trap the IR inside the room. If you don’t have IR film on your windows, increase your BTU budget, especially if you have evening sun. Curtains & blinds will help by reflecting some of the IR back outside the house and create an air buffer.

8. Coolant & Drainage piping – This is usually neglected but making sure the refrigerant flows smoothly to/from the compressor to the blowers without leaking and without choking at the bends is very important.

Just as important is making sure the drainage pipes for the water extracted from the air is piped out without leaking & causing a mess especially if everything is buried in walls & ceilings.

Make sure you have a reputable contractor to install these pipes! Some brands insist on using their contractor, like Fujitsu Singapore. Go for it! Make sure your interior designer or renovation contractor can work well with the aircon contractor. This will ensure a good installation, an efficient aircon & no trouble in the future.

I hope this has helped you in choosing the correct aircon. If you have any comments or suggestions on what to add in this article, please comment below.