Building Construction, Renovation, Maintenance & Advice

Bigger Is Not Always Better - Do Not Overspecify

"Never Mind The Quality Feel The Width"

I am very well connected you know. I have lots of dear friends in Nigeria, the sons of royal families, bank managers and highly respected civil servants. They are very generous people and send me emails all the time offering to send me large sums of money.

I also get lots of emails telling me that bigger is better and perhaps I need some sort of medication.

But is bigger really better?

Anyone who has tried to crack a walnut when all they had available was a sledge hammer knows that it is not easy, there is a tendency to pulverise the contents.

In the same way if someone puts a huge great water pump on your roof powerful enough to empty the bilges of the Queen Mary in order to push a bit of water to your shower there is a likelihood of removing your skin to say nothing of the risk of drowning. There are other disadvantages. The deep rumble of the pump can be heard 3 miles away, not conducive to a spot of yoga, and the electrical bills become excessive to say the least.

What is not quite so obvious is that, from a technical point of view, a large pump to do a small job has a particular problem – it pumps too much water. It is rather like getting a gorilla to ice a cake, one small squeeze and there is icing all over the cake, the table and the floor.

When you turn on a tap the pump starts but, if the pump is too big, the water can’t get out of the shower head fast enough, the pressure builds up and the pump stops. A split second later the tap has caught up so the pump starts again. And so on ad nauseum. The water coming out of your shower “pulses”. You know what I mean, one minute the water is bouncing off the far wall of your bathroom and the next it is dribbling on the floor.

So this huge great pump is starting and stopping constantly putting an enormous strain on the pump, the pipes and the roof. Pumps like this have a way of getting totally fed up, breaking their anchor bolts and going for a walk and a half ton pump walking off your roof is no joke.

But no one would install such a ridiculously large pump would they?

Well you would think not but the other day I saw such a pump. In fact two pumps.

Why? Who knows.

Perhaps if you are a contractor and you can persuade your client they need a pumping system costing Rp 70 million why sell them one for only Rp 5 million? But then an expatriate designed this system. Perhaps he didn't understand what he was doing and thought he would overengineer “just to make sure”, perhaps he was an enthusiast on pumping systems and got a bit carried away or perhaps he had just received one too many of those emails, his manhood was challenged so he just had to prove that bigger really is better.

Are you looking for a bilge pump for an ocean liner? Perhaps a battleship? I know a nice lady who can help you out.

The same lady has an electrical system in each of her four houses suitable for controlling Blackpool Illuminations. Once again gross over specification. (You haven’t heard of the Famous Blackpool illuminations? Don’t worry you haven’t missed much but did you know that while Bali has a million visitors a year Blackpool gets 6 million?).

The lesson in all this (apart from Bali badly needing kiss me quick hats and some rather puerile lighting) is that if you are having a house built or having equipment installed make sure the specification suits the job in hand. If in doubt look at the price and if it looks on the high side get it checked out.

In my recent article about air conditioners I omitted to include an important point regarding size. While many people get along with air conditioners that are too small for the room they are in some people believe bigger must be better. Be careful, it is not a good thing to install an air conditioner that is too large. If you do, like the waterpump, the air conditioner will keep switching on and off and drive you nuts.

In fact in many cases it may be that using several small units is more advantageous than a single large unit. Let me give you an example. If you go to the Arena Sports Bar in Sanur you will notice that the rooms are cooled by as many as 12 large domestic air conditioners rather than a single “industrial” unit. Domestic units take advantage of the benefits of mass production and are low cost compared to large industrial units. Such a system has great flexibility and should one unit break down the whole system is not put out of action and it is not a serious problem. In addition further down the track you don’t have to replace the whole system at once so upgrading can be done progressively.

If you talk to a salesman trying to make a big sale he may not agree. “Industrially cooled air is far superior to that cheap domestically cooled stuff”.

Years ago I was designing a computer system for managing supplies in a major hospital in Australia. At the time I surprised people by specifying networked desktop PCs. At the same time a neighbouring hospital decided to go for a small mainframe computer which of course cost many times more both in hardware and the special “one off” programs it required. The PCs and their software provided a far cheaper, more flexible and easily upgradable system which eventually was installed in hospitals throughout the state. The mainframe was a disaster. As expected within only a few years desktops had developed to the extent that they had more power than the original mainframe anyway. More to the point you can’t play solitaire or dungeons and dragons on a mainframe.

So what is the relevance of all this? Well if you are installing systems you might consider using small multiple systems rather large individual ones. If you have ten villas with twenty bathrooms it may be advantageous to have individual water heaters for each bathroom, separate pumps for each villa, multiple air conditioners for large spaces. You can always add extra units later to increase capacity and maintenance costs tend to be staggered while a single repair to a large central unit may make you stagger.

Good news! I have just had a call from the Pentagon, they’re looking for a pump for an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.

Copyright © Phil Wilson 2009
This article or any part of it cannot be copied or reproduced without permission from the copyright owner.

8 February 2017 Copyright © Mr Fixit,
Jl Bypass Ngurah Rai, Gg Penyu No 1, Sanur, Bali 80228, Indonesia
Telephone: +62-361-288-789, Fax:+62-361-284-180