In the planning of the construction of the small house, the architect has many problems of selection, such as the choosing of this brand of roofing material from among many makes or the specifying of this type of furnace from among many patterns, and, in fact, the selection of the best type and the best materials which the market affords in all branches of structural and mechanical devices. If he does not specify any one brand, but merely states that the contractor shall use an approved make of paint or an acceptable brand of hydrated lime, he has merely deferred his ultimate choice in the matter to a later date, for in the end he must decide whether the particular make or brand is acceptable, and in order to do this he must know enough about the various makes and brands on the market to judge wisely and in a fair spirit, for the chief motive in back of the contractor's choice will be rather one of money than quality.
The problem, therefore, which confronts the architect in acting as judge of materials and brands as to their quality is very serious and extremely full of pitfalls, and outside of his personal experience and that of his friends, the choice must be made upon the claims of the manufacturers as presented in advertisements. Now, of course, the difficulties which advertising literature presents are the overstatements which are found in them and the suppression of facts which appear to the makers as derogatory of their product. But if the circulars of information and advertising statements are collected for any one type of mechanism or any one type of material or system of construction, it will be found that the truth of the matter will be implanted in the accumulated statements of the various concerns manufacturing these mechanisms or materials. What one manufacturer does not say another will, and very often a rival firm will reveal the defects of its competitor's products by its advertisements. In fact, if you want to find out what is the "nigger in the wood-pile," read the advertisements of a rival manufacturer. Of course it is not good taste in advertising to knock the other fellow's products, but general statements are made which are enough to enlighten the alert reader as to what should be the good points to look for.
For example, suppose the architect knew little or nothing about what should be the good qualities of a hot-air furnace of the pipeless type, but had before him the advertisements of various makers which we will designate as A, B, C, D, and E, although the quotations which are given are accurately taken from real advertisements of well-known firms, the identity of which we have purposely concealed under the assumed titles of the letters of the alphabet.
Let us pick up advertisement of (A) manufacturer, and select what appear to be the important statements which occur in it. We read: "The grate is slightly cone-shaped, which breaks up all clinkers and makes the fuel roll toward the wall of the fire-pot, where air is mixed with the gas. This generates a much greater degree of heat than it is possible to obtain with the old duplex and flat grates, and clinkers that would form and be wasted in other furnaces are thereby consumed." From this the architect has learned to consider the question of the grate, and certainly he has definitely found out what is the disadvantage of the furnaces which use the old duplex or flat grates. It ought to be his aim to ask the manufacturer of furnaces using these types of grates what they have to say in defense of this indictment.
But let us continue to read: "The ash-pit is large and roomy on the inside, and is provided with a very large door, which makes it convenient for the removal of ashes." It is evident from this that there are furnaces on the market which have this defect of too small an ash-pit and door. The architect can then mentally pigeonhole this as a point to be considered in examining a furnace.
Continuing our reading we come across this statement: "The (A) radiator is cast in one piece, with no joints to be cemented or bolted together." This is evidently a reflection upon the weaknesses of other makes which have radiators that are bolted and cemented together, and on investigation we soon learn that furnaces often have leaky radiators which permit the coal-gas to escape into the warm air delivered through the house. Here is a definite defect to be remembered.
Suppose we turn now to advertisement (B), and here we read the following: "Insulating air-chamber acts as a positive division between the bodies of warm and return air." This is certainly a hint of a possible defect in a furnace. Perhaps not all of the furnaces are adequately insulated at this division between the bodies of returning cold air and the outgoing warm air, with the resulting loss of efficiency and sluggishness of circulation.
Reading on in the same advertisement we find the following: "The (B) smoke-plate is an added precaution against the leakage of smoke and gas." Evidently there is some possibility of smoke leaking into the warm air, or else this device would not have been suggested, and probably there are some furnaces where this is a very serious objection.
Turning to the next advertisement, (C), we read: "Only the best grade of iron goes into the casting." This is another consideration; for evidently, from the following, certain types of furnaces do not use the best castings, and give trouble. "Breakdowns and imperfections are reduced to a minimum. The endless series of treatments and repairs is never required."
A further reading tells us that "the humidifier is ample capacity," which statement suggests the possibility that not all humidifiers are large enough.
But look what advertisement (D) informs us: "No heat lost by being radiated through casing into cellar." This is certainly an interesting point to consider. And reading on we learn: "Long fire-travel in radiator insures a cool smoke-pipe and there is no fuel wasted." This is surely a matter of design that ought to be observed in good furnaces.