Science and the power machine are exalting home life. Today motors trap house dust in a vacuum, take the effort out of sewing, clean our clothes and dishes, and in summer cool our food, and make breezes to refresh us. Science is behind many such services. At a motion of the hand a vibrant world of melody and knowledge invades our living room. Seated at ease we may converse with others across a continent or an ocean. We turn night to day with a tungsten thread. These and a score of Aladdin-like miracles we perform. With Science and technics we may make our own home environment what we will, giving the household the best conditions for perfect life.
That our yard, pound, and gallon come from our national standards at the Bureau of Standards is well known. It is not so well known that scores of other kinds of measurement rest on new types of standards or instruments. We rate electrical power in watts; electrical pressure in volts; light in candlepower, and food energy and heat we rate in calories. For these and many similar measures the Bureau must today have standards, units, instruments, and methods.
Measurements are everywhere needed to locate the home and to design, build, equip, and maintain it. This brings us many contacts on fundamentals. The use of such measures calls for researches and tests. The ideal standards of quality, performance, and practice must be measured ideals, for in the home technologies of today guesswork must no longer serve. Service must be built into the machines and structures to give predictable results.
This article tells of some ways in which the Bureau aids the activities and welfare of the home.1
The Bureau's experimental research on plumbing - so vital to household health - is credited as the most scientific treatment ever made. The published results aid home-builders in providing adequate, safe, economical plumbing facilities. Bureau researches and tests help to improve home-building materials through quality and service studies on cement, brick, tile, lime and lime plaster, stucco, paint, roofing, tiling, lightning rods, fabric, wall boards, and the like. The practice of plastering, stucco application, painting, and the installation of plumbing, gas service, electric service, and house construction have received careful experimental study.....
1 The Division of Building and Housing, an outstanding Division of the Bureau of Standards, is discussed in the next article.
To aid the household to protect the home from wear, weather, fire, lightning, noise, and other things, many researches and investigations have been undertaken by the Bureau. A popular 127-page publication on "Safety for the Household" deals with safety precautions to protect the home from electrical, lightning, gas, and fire hazards, and the dangers from chemicals and accidents. It was "designed to present the subject to adults and thus aid the growing movement for safeguarding life and property from avoidable accidents."
The Bureau's publication "Protection of Life and Property against Lightning" describes the history and technique of adequate protection against lightning, which causes many fires, especially of farm buildings. The damage to such property by lightning exceeds $20,000,000 annually. The Bureau of Standards points out how such losses can largely be prevented by the use of lightning rods properly installed, but that rods improperly mounted or without suitable ground connections are useless. The value of such protection for farm buildings having typical exposure was emphasized. One interest ng discovery was published on the proper grounding of wire fences to reduce the losses of livestock in open fields.
To safeguard the home from fire, the Bureau's researches on fire hazard contribute new data on the nature, causes, and avoidance of fires in homes. Actual conflagrations are studied for various purposes. The Bureau has a furnace in which can be burnt to destruction specimen house walls of most varied design and material - to perfect our knowledge of how to build homes with minimum fire hazards.
A special brick building is used at the Bureau to test the destructive effects on various kinds of equipment. In Washington, a large brick building and a smaller one next door were about to be dismantled to allow Government building operations. The Bureau, under close observation and measurement of temperatures throughout, burned them to complete destruction. Resulting data on the failure of the tin roof, brick walls, and floors enter into building practice to help perfect the design of houses. A construction such as a wall is rated on its ability to satisfactorily hold back fire and prevent ignition of combustible materials in contact with the side away from the fire. The length of time the wall affords this protection is determined in a standard furnace test.
The fire resistance of building materials and construction is determined by subjecting them to a test fire, the intensity of which is regulated so that given temperatures in the furnace obtain at stated times after the fire is started. Even the garage - now often built in or attached to the house itself - was not overlooked, and the standard of "one-hour fire resistance" was suggested by the Bureau of Standards to assure adequate safety.
Compiled data on seasonal variations in fires, on fire resistance in dwellings, and on the fire hazard from discarded cigarettes, cigars, and matches were published with suggestions for reducing such hazards. Many researches are conducted which sooner or later are reflected in technical details of home construction. In the experimental fires, for example, the Bureau has studied the hazard of shingles, how roofing fails, how embers are formed and carried by the wind, the temperatures of fires, and a score of subjects vital to home safety and economy. Such data find their way through building codes into practice, or through the designers of equipment, or the architects of dwellings.
On the roof of the Bureau's chemistry laboratory sheets of various colors are exposed to natural weather day by day, month by month. Paints are having their fortunes told, for some will live or die commercially by these tests. Inside the same laboratory "accelerated tests" of similar paints are in progress. Weather affects coated surfaces - a vital problem in the life of structures. Among materials tried out as protective coatings are oil paints, enamel paints, lacquers, bituminous saturated felts, and bituminous roofing materials. The accelerated weathering test is similar to and more rapid than actual weather exposure. Artificial rainfalls on the specimens followed by artificial sunlight rich in ultraviolet simulate the destructive forces of weather and play in repeated sequence on the painted specimens. Outdoor exposure tests and indoor "accelerated tests" thus tell pertinent factors as to how paints hold up under weathering. Such new facts for the paint industry eventually help the household more effectively and durably "to save the surface" and thus add longer life to the home.
The Bureau has studied means for cleaning marble, and how to minimize disfigurement of the exterior of the house. Soluble salts in masonry materials often disfigure walls by efflorescence. Efflorescence is often attended by disintegration of material, particularly mortar. It was found that moisture in the wall is the immediate cause, and that moisture penetration can be lessened by proper design, construction, and maintenance. If may appear and disappear for a few seasons, but with each successive appearance gradually diminishes in extent until finally it never again becomes noticeable.
Quiet - the laudable goal of modern anti-noise crusades - is essential to restful home life. The Bureau has helped fundamentally by measuring the sound transmission properties of some 26 kinds of wall and floor of various materials and internal design. This research gave new light on how to minimize the invasion of noise through walls and floors of rooms. Ways are now known for making practically sound-proof walls and floors, and home and apartment house designers are furnished data needed for building quiet into the structure as effectively as we build strength. Further research will add new data on this subject.
In the course of the experiments silver tarnish, identified as silver sulphide, was made in quantity, made up into wire and found to possess interesting electrical properties. The Bureau later has jointly with other agencies helped to produce a tarnish-resistant silver - a practical step toward a non-tarnishing silver. Again the Bureau, upon request, aided the makers of enamelled-metal kitchen ware by finding the cause and cure for the chipping or flaking which marred the ware and actually threatened the industry. Research on the relative expansion of the metal and the enamel disclosed that unequal expansion caused the "fish-scaling" as it was called. New technique in cleaning and applying the enamel and a new formula for the enamel were developed in experiments in which forty thousand specimens were produced and studied. The housewife using enameled metal ware will be interested to recall that science and technics at the Bureau of Standards helped perfect the art of making such ware.
The household draws to its service many arts and sciences, and such services will multiply as we intelligently use all means now so available and so potent for human well-being. The era of artificial refrigeration actively began coincidently with the completion of the Bureau's precise determination of the properties of refrigeration materials - data essential to and underlying scientific refrigeration, and the design and construction and operation of refrigerating devices. Today, with two thousand new refrigerating devices each day entering American homes, machine-made cold has become a household product. It is now possible to install in the home scientifically designed power-driven cold-producing machines. The Bureau of Standards' series of classic researches on the refrigerating properties of materials has contributed in no small measure to this end. Active years of research yielded accurate technical data unsurpassed elsewhere by any similar research in other branches of engineering..
As early as 1904, the Bureau controlled the humidity of its electrical laboratories, blowing the air against radiators cooled below the freezing point of water by calcium chloride brine. This froze the water out of the air, thus drying it. Many inquiries were answered concerning this Bureau provision of air-moisture control - then a laboratory necessity, now an industrial service, an aid to health and comfort in our great theaters, and slowly coming into the home, to add comfort for the family.
Perhaps dust-free air, of optimum temperature, humidity, and motion, may eventually be supplied as every-day practice in the home for the sake of the household, as is already done in scores of industrial operations for the sake of the material products. In the control of air conditions for research in many lines, e.g. in its paper testing and textile testing laboratory, altitude chamber for simulating high altitude condition, and elsewhere, the Bureau has helped show that air control is feasible. Controlled climate indoors will doubtless become as much an object of home technology as house heating in winter.
Again, if roofs were white outside and aluminum painted inside, attics would be cooler in summer and warmer in winter. This was discovered by the Bureau of Standards from measurements of the radiative and reflective properties of materials. Attics cool in summer and warm in winter may add a fifth to the habitable space of the home. If suitable heat insulation is applied under the roof, such livable attics could more easily be attained.
The. walls of the home are built to keep out wind, rain, and snow. Summer heat and winter cold still force their way in, bearing bodily discomfort and ills. The Bureau is helping toward a more ideal indoor weather by measuring accurately the heat transmissive quality of various materials. A useful letter-circular gives the results and has been distributed by thousands to aid home-makers and house designers to build temperate conditions into the home. With these data artificial heat can be kept indoors and summer heat kept outdoors more effectively. Economy is the welcome partner of comfort from heat-insulating walls since coal bills may often be cut down one-third if recommended precautions are taken.
All households in America are daily buyers of industrial products. They are America's largest buying group but lack expert knowledge of what they buy and of how to buy wisely. The national Government is the next largest buying unit. The seventy-two technical committees of its Federal Specifications Board formulate quality-describing specifications, to govern federal purchases. Its 584 Government master specifications cover some 4000 items, hundreds of which are of direct interest to the buying household. The Bureau has put successfully into effect its famous "certification plan" to aid household buying. Under this plan the Bureau publishes a "willing-to-certify" list of firms willing, when requested, to deliver goods certified to conform to the U.S. Government master specifications. Over a thousand firms have registered for this list. This gives the benefit of the Government's specifications to all who wish to use specifications. To this plan is added the system of "self-identifying quality-guaranteeing labels" under which the products and their sale are brought within the purview of the agencies which safeguard the buying public from misbranding and mislabeling commodities.
Full weight and measure in marketing concerns every householder. Accurate deliveries over the counter depend on the National Bureau of Standards along four principal lines: First, through its standardization of the shop standards by which trade measures are made; second, through its standardization of the State standards with which local "sealers" standards are inspected and verified; third, through annual conferences of State and national officials, encouraging the adoption of the model State law, standard tolerances, and adequate local inspection; and fourth, by information to the household and the inspectors. These four activities have since 1901 steadily developed what is now a nation-wide interest in full weight and measure in the markets in the interest of the buyer. As aids, the Bureau has published and widely distributed for the use of the household: "Buying Commodities by Weight and Measure," "Measurements for the Household," and a kitchen card. The first helps the household in methods of buying with special regard to quantity measurements. The Bureau's kitchen card for the household gives tables of weights and measures, equivalents of the units of measurement used in cooking, standard heights and weights of children at each age, and other facts. The Bureau's hand-book for sealers is the reference work for the local inspectors throughout the country.
Practically everything used by the household calls for measurements, and accuracy is essential to fair dealing, and oftentimes to utility. All of us as buyers pay the last cent due in a purchase, so equally the last ounce due should be assured to the purchaser. Large buyers check the weight and measure of all deliveries. Households rarely do so but rely on the sealer and tradesman for correct measure over the counter. The Bureau's nation-wide campaign for honest weight and measure is saving buyers millions of dollars formerly lost through short measure. State laws and local inspection services are now general and the household is freer from preventable injustice.
The Bureau's simplified practice division aids the household by stimulating the industries to simplify sizes and varieties of many household articles - beds, springs, mattresses, sheets, bed blankets, table chinaware, and others. Here the more acceptable sizes (as reflected in the sales) were retained on the manufacturers' schedules. A notable success was in simplifying and standardizing builders' hardware, latches, bolts, locks and keys, knobs, sash pulleys, brackets, umbrella holders, chest handles, and so on. Through the efforts of the simplified practice unit of the Bureau the industry has reduced the sizes and varieties of brick from 66 to 5 in the nation-wide elimination of waste activity of the Department of Commerce. Simplification has been attained even in such details as the milk and cream bottles (now reduced to four kinds) and bottle caps (now of one size).
Clay products from bricks to chinaware, from terra cotta drain pipes to the beautiful tile of the bathroom, are of concern to the household. White glazed tile and unglazed ceramic mosaic were simplified, terms defined, and form of certification was agreed upon. Sets of chinaware for hospital and hotel use have been selected so as to give a simplified set of general service utility. Weights, widths, and lengths of bedsteads and bed linen have been concurrently simplified to promote economy in production and sale.....In all, some 86 commodities are now simplified as to size, grade, and variety. Such simplifications effect many economies, facilitate replacement, and assure benefits such as come from even partial standardization.
The Bureau has designed and built an apparatus to simulate the wear of carpet in service. Two leather-faced abrading wheels give the stress and a vacuum-cleaner picks up the abraded material which is a measure of the wear.
The code of gas practice has given basic data to local governments for effective and safe control of gas service. The Bureau has made experimental and field studies of gas hazards and the efficiency of gas appliances. The consumers and the manufacturers have shown interest in this work and felt the stimulus to design more efficient appliances. In household practice the Bureau's circular on "How To Get Better Service with Less Natural Gas in Domestic Gas Appliances" showed that two-thirds of the natural gas then used in the home could be saved by using the type of burner devised and recommended by the Bureau for the purpose. The burner was found to have an efficiency several times that of the type in common use. The saving made possible (at replacement value) was estimated as $250,000 a day, when the Bureau's suggestions are adopted. The effects of changes in the heating value of gas furnished to the home were described in another published paper. Optimal conditions for efficiency, capacity, and safety of burners were designed for the domestic use of two of the newer fuels known as propane and butane. A study was also made of the efficiency and safety of acetylene burners. At one of the national conventions of the American Gas Association the Bureau exhibited methods of utilizing natural gas and the best types of burners to use. The serious hazard from the presence of carbon monoxide in the air was made the basis of extended experiments and data for municipal regulations concerning the inspection and safety of gas appliances in the home. .... Engineers of State Utility Commissions [have] met at the Bureau to discuss problems of residential use of gas and electricity. The Bureau's service of standardization for water, gas, and electric meters has brought uniformity and helped to maintain accuracy in the measured service of electricity, gas, and water - satisfying both to the household and to those who furnish such service - minimizing disputes, complaints, and promoting good will in the assurance of full measure to the home. The Bureau's work on meters for electricity, gas, and water is chiefly in certifying the standards or standard instruments used to control the accuracy of manufacture and adjustment.
We have completed our survey and seen some of the ways in which the National Bureau of Standards aids the home. Its 60 or more specialized lines of research of interest to the household could not be fully told here. The examples described may give an idea of what the two cents per capita spent for our National Bureau of Standards is doing for American homes - one, not the least, of the many beneficiaries of its research activities.