Monday, November 30, 2015

Water heaters - what are your choices?

Getting heated water to your bathrooms nowadays is easy and affordable, depending on your needs and which method you choose. Most common method is by simply installing a POU (point of use) instant heater and you'll be showering in heated water in no time. However, a POU instant heater can only supply heated water to a specific area (for example the shower area) and you'll need one for each bathroom. If you need heated water from your sink, you'll need a centralised heater as a POU heater cannot perform this function (which will be explained later). You will also need the appropriate piping which can be costly, depending on the type of house you have and of course mixer taps (with hot/cold water inlets) Newer HDB flats where the wiring and piping are concealed already has the necessary piping taken care of. Same goes with most condominiums and landed properties. For older HDB flats however, there are no other options but to lay additional piping for heated water coming from the heater. Unless you are a plumber or have the necessary tools, you'll almost certainly need to call one to do the job. Once the necessary piping is available, all you need to do is to install a centralised heater and you'll have heated water in shower area and from the sink. Contrary to popular belief, there is actually more than one type of central heaters you can opt for. Most commonly used are the storage heaters where it is basically a heater with a tank to hold the heated water. The other type is a tankless instant heater that heats the water up as you use it. If you are wondering if the tankless instant heater is similar to the POU instant heater, you are not far off. The working concept is similar - which is to heat the water as water flows through it. However, you cannot use a POU instant heater as a central one because the POU heater is activated when water flows into the heater while the centralised one is activated when water flows out. That means you will need an on/off tap to supply cold water to the heater while it gets heated up and out from a hose etc. You cannot re route the heated water to another tap as then you will have to turn on two taps which will make it ridiculous So which is a better solution? To tank or not to tank? A storage heater is normally bulky, therefore can be unsightly and is also inefficient as it 1. heats the water up even when not in used to maintain the water temperature. This means you have to turn it on all the time or have it turned on for some time beforehand to allow it to heat the water up. Obviously the latter is not convenient. 2. heats up the whole tank regardless of the amount you actually plan to use. 3. can run out of heated water if the supply in the tank runs low as you are using it. Think of the electric thermos and you’ll get the idea. A tankless heater on the other hand is way smaller, therefore not that unsightly, and more efficient as it is turned on only when being used. This means, you can turn the main switch off when you are not using it and back on when you need to. If you think that it is inconvenient, then you just leave it on and it will only consume energy for the LED indicators which is negligible. There are two types of tankless instant heaters - one is electric and the other is powered by gas. You can install the electric tankless heaters almost anywhere you want but for one powered by gas, it can only be installed in an open area like the service yard. This effectively makes the gas heater not an option if it needs to be installed in the bathroom. Even if it can, having to lay gas piping into the bathroom can be costly and unsightly and even be impossible, due to the location of the gas pipe and the bathroom.

If your service yard adjoins to your bathroom (where the central piping inlet is located), then you can install a gas central heater in the service yard and extend the hot water pipe to bathroom. You have to drill a hole though so be careful that you do not damage any concealed piping as the cost to repair it will be astronomical. You have to also lay gas piping to the service yard. Check out City Gas for their range of gas heaters.

If your service yard is not adjoined to your bathroom, then an electric tankless heaters is your best bet. One such example is the Bennington C600. It is small and considered affordable at approximately $280. 

Take note that a tankless central heater is not a perfect solution and here's why. For one, it is not absolutely instant. Depending on the location of the heater and the length of piping it has to go through before it reaches the outlet, there will be a delay. However, this applies to any centralised heaters as well. So if you have never used a centralised heater before, this is expected. You will also see a drop in the water pressure. For most cases, this should not be an issue as no one uses boiling water in huge flow unless they want to scald themselves. So most likely, after mixing with cold water, the pressure should be just right, at a temperature most people use to shower or wash up. However, if it is an issue for you, it can be easily remedied by changing the shower heads or installing water saving devices onto the tap which will increase the pressure accordingly. Though it may be an inconvenience and even additional investments, the savings (both electricity and water) later on should make up for it. Whichever type of heaters you decide on, you may want to have heated waters in the kitchen or even the service yard since you already have a centralised heater. However, as far as I know, HDB flats with concealed piping do not extend to the kitchen and service yard. In this case you have, again, three ways to go about it. 1. You can extend and lay additional piping from your central water heater to the kitchen. This option saves you the cost of another heater but make sure that
- the piping works does not cost more than the heater 
- piping works are not unsightly. 2. Another way is to install another heater near the outlet to minimise any exposed piping. If you only need heated water for the kitchen sink, you can actually install it under the sink as show below

A storage heater is too big in this case therefore only tankless heater is possible. Since gas tankless heater cannot be installed in confined spaces like the cabinet under the sink, an electric tankless heater is the only option. In this case, the Bennington C600 will again be suitable. Though it will cost you another initial investment, this can be justified if: 1. Additional piping will cost just as much 2. Additional piping cannot be concealed and will look unsightly. However, do take note that you may need to lay a new wiring to support a higher ampere rating depending on the heater you choose. The Bennington C600 on a 13A socket can only run at mid power (3kW). It runs at a max of 4.5kW and requires a 20A socket. All the above options depends on the cost and aesthetic results. So below is a summary of all the available type of heaters

Heater typeHeatingComments
Point of use (normally called 'instant heater')ElectricalPros: Simple to fix without the need for expensive piping
Cons: Needs one for every outlet
Centralised Storage (normally called 'storage heaters)ElectricalPros: No drop in water pressure
Cons: Bulky, inefficient power usage and not on-demand.
Centralised Tankless (or called multipoint heaters')ElectricalPros: Small, efficient, available on-demand
Cons: Drop in water pressure
Centralised Tankless (normally called 'gas heaters')GasPros: Similar to its electrical cousin.
Cons: Similar to its electrical cousin. May need to connect to an electrical point for ignition. Can only be installed in a non confined space. Additional gas piping required.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fisher-Price, Ferrari and Mothercare car seats - A Re-branded Nania

Fisher-Price, Ferrari and Mothercare brand range of car seats are practically re-branded car seats by Nania. So in terms of functionality and design, they are exactly the same. The difference may be in terms of quality of the fabric.

The above mentioned brands has the exact same complete range of car seats which in my opinion covers your kid right from infancy till they are big enough for just a simple booster seat.

Below are the list of groups of car seat for kids of different sizes. All the car seats in each group are practically similar.

Group 0+

This group of car seats are for infants up to 13 kg. However the new car seat standard is no longer based on weight but the height of the child so as soon as your child outgrows the tallest harness position, it is time to change the car seat to the next group.

The seat is secured to the car with the car's 3 point seat belt and the child is seat secured to the seat with its 3-point harness.

The good thing about this group of car seats is that you can remove the seat from the car while the baby is still in the car seat. However, securing the seat to the car with the car's 3-point seat belt can be a challenge and it increases the possibility of improper installation.

Group 0-1

This group of car seats can be converted from rear facing to front facing when it is appropriate.

It being in the group 0-1 means it is suitable for your child from birth when installed rear facing. When your child is able to lift himself up and has outgrown the lowest harness position, it can then be be installed front facing but it is best to keep the seat rear facing for as long as you possibly can (and if your child is cooperative)

The seat itself is attached to a mounting base that allows the seat to be reclined without having to readjust the car seat belting, which is a good thing. There are other convertibles that requires you to re-belt if adjust the recline angle which is very inconvenient and also increases risk of improper installation.

However, the seat retains its seating position so your child do not actually lean back when the car seat is reclined which is similar to the likes of Maxi Cosi Priori range of car seats. This car seat should last you for quite a while until your child outgrows it.

The seat is secured to the car with the car's adult 3 point retractable seat belt or ISOFIX / Latch Tether combination and the child is seat secured to the seat with its 5-point harness.

Group 1-2-3

This group of car seats are for taller kids that have outgrown the convertibles.

It is practically a booster seat with a high back and 5 point harness for taller kids. The harness and high back can be removed. So if you already have or are going to have this, it will be the last car seat you will ever need for that same child.

The seat is secured to the car with the car's adult 3-point retractable seat belt and the child is secured to the seat with its 5-point harness

Group 2-3

These car seats are practically the same as the previous group but without the harness so if you already have one of those and your child has outgrown the tallest harness position, you can remove the harness and buckle and you will have the same thing.

Child is secured to the car with the car's adult 3 point retractable seat belt.

Group 2-3

These seat are practically the same as the previous group but without the back rest. So if you have a seat from any of the two previous groups, you can convert them by removing the harness and/or backrest. 

This car seat is for kids tall enough that the car's 3 point seat belt does touch their cheeks when seated on this booster.

Child is secured to the car with the car adult 3 point retractable seat belt.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dell home support - inefficiency at the customer's expense

I have only good words when it comes to Dell business support and would not hesitate to recommend Dell business products not only because they are good products but because it is backed by good support. However, the same can't be said for their home products not because their products are bad but because the support for home products seriously can piss you off.

I bought an Inspiron Desktop 20 3000 Series All-in-One a few months back and noticed an issue a few days later. So I contacted Dell and after a series of standard email that request me to perform some updates etc, an appointment for an onsite engineer was set as issue was not resolved.

I then received another call from a Dell representative who wants to set an appointment to have some parts sent down. I was confused because I just had an appointment set earlier but was told that this call was from the logistics team and they are only in charge of sending the parts over. I asked if the parts can be sent on the same day but was told that it was not possible and so someone had to be at home on two separate days.

The onsite engineer came clueless as to what the issue was and his instructions was to simply replace the parts. After the replacement was completed, I noticed that the screen was not the right fit and the engineer agreed with me. Although I was not exactly happy with that, I will not mind if the issue is resolved. It was not. So I got him to revert back to the original display which he kindly did.

I then asked him what is to happen to the unused parts and was told that another appointment will be arranged to collect the parts. He said that engineers are on public transport so they are not able to bring parts along.

So Dell home support needs 3 separate appointments if an onsite service requires parts to be replaced in which you will also need to take similar number of days leave.

I do not mind taking a day's leave for the engineer to be onsite but I absolutely find it ridiculous to waste an additional 2 days of leave just to be home to receive the parts and then wait for the parts to be collected on another day. It is even worse when the timing is from 9 am - 5 pm, which practically means the whole day when the process itself probably takes less than a minute.

For my case, the issue is still not resolved and another appointment is being arranged but this time, no way I will waste another 2 days for such an inefficient process.

Dell Inspiron Desktop 20 3000 Series All-in-One LCD Backlight Issue

The Dell Inspiron Desktop 20 3000 Series All-in-One has an issue with the LCD backlight. I captured a video of the issue here.

So what happened was the system instructs the screen to turn off, which it did but then the screen (and not the system) turns back on because it needs to display the message "No input". It then just leave the LCD backlight on perpetually until the system goes to sleep.

This is similar with any other desktop system with a separate display. The AIO is just the system and display built into the same housing.

However, with traditional system, when the system is set to turn the monitor off, it will simply turn off the signal from the video output in which the monitor will detect no input and will display similar "No input" message. The difference however is that the display will normally turn off after a few seconds. In the case of the Dell, it did not.

It is clearly a design flaw which can only be solved with a new firmware for the display and not the system.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Smart TVs - What choices do you have?

What are Smart TVs?

They are basically TVs that has Internet access and can provide online contents like videos through web browsing or applications like YouTube etc.

Every manufacturer has their own offering but more and more are getting on a open platform and the following are the 3 main platform now.


This open source platform is currently being used by LG to replace their NetCast propriety platform. LG first used webOS version 1.3 and has now moved on to version 2.0 which is a marked improvement in terms of speed and features.

FireFox OS

Currently being used by Panasonic to replace their Viera Cast / Connect platforms.

Firefox OS can do more than just TV. It is a platform that is suitable for any screened devices


A successor (though not that successful) to Google TV. Currently being used by Philips, Sharp and Sony and is based on Android 5.0 Lollipop but with a customised UI.

Don't be confused with those Android smart boxes that comes with pretty standard Android OS UI.

Note: Toshiba has a range that comes with Android. However, those are based on Google TV, a predecessor to Android TV


Another open platform based on Linux currently being used by Samsung on their newer range of smart TVs.


This video gives a brief comparison between all the platforms.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Buying a private passenger car in Singapore


For new cars, there are two types of dealers - authorised and parallel importers.

Authorised dealers 

ADs have the backing of the car manufacturers therefore in terms of servicing, maintenance, recalls etc, you can have a piece of mind. The catch? They are generally more expensive and they will only bring in models that can sell.

Buying a car from authorised dealers are generally pretty transparent. The advertised prices should include GST, COE, road tax and registration fee but exclude car insurance as that may vary according to drivers. You will have to fork out a 50% deposit and the rest to be serviced by car loans. Don't forget to ask for freebies like window films, petrol vouchers etc.

Parallel importers 

PI can bring in almost any model you fancy and they are generally cheaper. The catch? They may not have the resource in terms of servicing, maintenance and recalls etc therefore if the dealer is no longer around when a recall is made, you have to fix the issue yourself. Choosing the right parallel importers is key because choosing the wrong one may end with endless headaches.

Buying from parallel importers on the other hand may include hidden charges. That is why it is important to list out all the charges on paper as well as what the dealer is expected to provide including freebies etc.


Buying used car on the other hand can be a headache or fun at the same time. Apart from checking for the car condition, you need to be aware of the financial part of it.

There are two types of used car - PARF or COE cars. PARF cars means the cars are less than 10 years old and still has a PARF value while a COE car means it is over 10 years old and no longer has a PARF value.

PARF value is the amount of money you are eligible to when you deregister the car at the end of its COE lifespan which is 10 year. You can choose not to deregister the car but take note of the following:

- if you decide to renew the COE for the car, you will have to forfeit the PARF.
- if you renew the COE for 5 years, you will not be able to renew the COE again at the end of that 5 years.
- if you renew the COE for 10 years, you can renew the COE again at the end of the 10 years at the prevailing PQP, which is the average COE price for the last few months.

For cars registered before March 2008, the PARF value is 55% of the OMV, otherwise it is 50%. OMV can be obtained from the car registration details with LTA which the dealer will provide.

For used car, the depreciation value is the most important factor when it comes to the financial part of the purchase. A depreciation is calculated based by the following formula

Car price - minimum PARF value / 10 - car age = depreciation value


$50,000 - $10,000 / 10 - 5 = $8,000

Obviously, the lower the depreciation value, the better it is. What it simply represents is the amount that your car loses every year in terms of resale value. So if the depreciation value is $12k/year, then it means the car loses $100/month in terms of resale value.

Depreciation value is greatly affected by demand. So the current high COE and MAS car loan regulation, buyers are turning to used car instead and driving prices up.

Used car requires a 40% deposit of the car price. You may try for a lower deposit by applying for car loan with finance houses instead of banks.

In terms of the condition of the car, there are a few areas you can concentrate on

1. Mileage.

Lower should be better but not necessarily.

2. Number of owners.

Lower should be better because a car with too many previous could mean that the car is problematic hence the change of hands. Still, it does not necessarily mean so.

3. Physical outlook

Like body panel, the interior cabin, seats, panels etc.

4. Paint job

Some cars have been involved in an accident and may be repainted. You can check the engine mounting to see if the colours differ.

5. Alignment.

Straighten the wheels and view from the front and back. If the tyres are not aligned visually, it could means serious problems or the car have been involved in an accident.

6. Engine.

Turn the engine on and hold the steering wheel. A car with damaged engine mounting will vibrate.
Open the bonnet and look for loose wiring etc or worn out belts etc and look out for any funny noises.
Turn on the aircon and check that all fans are working.
Let the engine run for a while and check for oil leaks. Best done after a test drive. Oil leaking from the top of the engine are fixable by changing the gasket. Leaks elsewhere could be a crack in the engine housing which could mean serious problems.

7. Tyres.

Check if they are worn out for which you may ask for replacement. Check also that they are worn out evenly. Uneven wear could mean alignment problem which could mean additional cost for it to be fixed, if it is fixable in the first place.

8. Suspension.

Best to bring your family along for a test drive and load the car with maximum passengers and get their feedback on comfort levels.

9. Aircon.

Ensure it is working and cold enough.

10. Lights

Ensure all are working including the indicators.

11. Stereo

Ensure all the functions like disc playing and all speakers are working.

Should any of these are not working, try to get the dealer to agree to fix it or come to a compromise. Else, look elsewhere.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Masbro Village Malacca

We stayed at one of the units in late October 2015.

Located at Taman Paya Rumput Indah, Malacca, Masbro Village boasts some A Frame houses within a gated area.

Direction to the location is easy as it is very near a highway exit though you may miss it like I did due to it being assimilated to its surrounding which is absolutely not touristy at all. Google Maps does the job so once you exit the highway and turned right, go slow and look out for colourful houses with sharp pointy roofs on your left.

Parking is limited so should there be no parking lots available, you may have to park outside.

There are 8 units in total but only 6 for rent while the other two are used by the owners as their own residence as well as their office.

Each unit looks nice from the outside with its pebble roads and landscaping.

The lower floor consists of a living area with a small TV, a dining set, a kitchen and a bathroom. There was a good selection of TV channels and of HD quality too.

Some houses are connected with a small additional area in the middle for families to mingle, else it will just be left unused which is kind of a waste.

It is not elderly friendly as the stairs are too steep making the huge sleeping area upstairs inaccessible to the elderly and even small children. As I have two young kids, we have to keep an eye on them almost all the time.

There are two queen size bed upstairs but only a sofa bed for the lower floor. Maximum occupancy is 6 pax but only 4 pillows are provided. We didn't ask for additional pillows so we are not sure if it can be requested.

There is another bathroom on the upper floor with a water heater unlike the one below.  Both are cramped due to its design.

There are no food stalls let alone restaurants in the village but there is one just a short walk outside. I didn't know there's one so did not get the chance to try the food. I drove instead a few kilometers away and had take away. Apart from that the only nearby shopping mall is Tesco.

So, will I visit again? Maybe as a stopover but there is nothing much to warrant a repeated visit so it will be a one off for me.


Good TV channels
Nice host.


Not anywhere near tourist attraction.
Need to drive to have access to food and rations etc.
Not elderly or small kids friendly

Straits Hotel and Suites Melaka

We stayed for a night in a suite and a connecting deluxe room in late October 2015.

The hotel is owned by the same owner of Novotel Hotel which is just next door but managed by a different management team hence the reason why both hotels shares the same car park.

The hotel is very new. Located very near to malls and major attractions, you can practically venture by foot if you are adventurous enough.

Lobby is really small, if that matters to you but service staff was awesome.

The suite is huge. Easily the size of deluxe 2 rooms. The bathroom comes with a huge tub and a separate shower area as well.

There's a comfortable sofa and an armchair in the living area but a small TV with limited channels available and poor signal quality. I didn't bother watching anything.

In the suite's bedroom there was also a long study table and a huge closet space.

The deluxe room is bigger than normal hotel rooms and comes with a kitchen as well.

Both rooms comes with a balcony but it is locked for safety reasons which is a shame but as a parent I kind of understand the need for it.

WiFi is provided and it is really fast with good coverage throughout the whole hotel.

I find it strange that a normal aircon indoor unit is installed instead of the normal vent type but that's hardly a deal breaker.

Rooms either faces the sea or the town so do not forget to request for one facing the sea.

There is an infinity pool on the 23rd floor which we were not able to use as it was drizzling then for safety reasons. There is no other pool for kids etc though.

Other facilities includes a sauna and a gym which we didn't manage to use due to time constraints. The official site states that there's BBQ and Kids zone area but I am pretty sure those are not yet ready when we were there hence no pictures as well on the site.

The breakfast is something you can forget about. As the occupancy is low, the variety follows suit. There are plenty of good food just around the hotel.

Currently on promotion, RM242 for a suite and RM188 for a deluxe room, the price is worth it.


Bigger than normal rooms
Fast free WiFi
Deluxe room comes with a kitchen
Near to shopping malls and attractions
Plenty of eatery around
Some rooms has the view of the sea


No pool for kids hence not for families with kids
Abysmal breakfast buffet
Small lobby
Poor TV channels and signal quality