Archive for April, 2010

Espalier olives

April 25, 2010

Something a little more organic this time, to relieve the technology based posts of late.

After seeing some espalier olives in the local nursery the other week I decided that the north wall of our sunroom would be a good place for some of our own. There’s something I like about trained bushes and trees, like Bonsai for example. The application of this to a fruit tree seemed like a good idea here. The space is very narrow and would normally not be suitable for any plants really, unless they were very small, so the espalier should work well.

I love olives too of course, but I’m not holding out for a harvest. I have read up a little on pickling olives and it is clearly a long and tricky process. If we get a good harvest in few years time I may give it a go. I’ll make a post or two here if i do.

The soil was added to with our latest compost mix from pile number 1 (of 6, watch for a post on the compost system!) and mounded up to give the new trees a good chance of getting going. It’s been a warm, wet autumn but it is getting a bit late to be planting new trees. The mound was covered over with chicken wire to keep it together, and, I thought, to keep the chooks off. However, Sheryl recommended that I put up another fence to keep them out as they would get in there despite the cover wire.

olives behind the chook proof fence

The frame for the espalier is just a couple of star pickets and old wire strung at close intervals between.

Materials here show off our scrounging skills well. Long star pickets @ $1 each from the local dump shop, tie wire left over from other jobs, dog fence wire and short picket picked up off the side of the road, having been dumped illegally by someone just past the nursery where we bought the olive trees. We couldn’t make use of the old couch, so had to leave that for someone else to clean up!

espalier frame for olives

The frame reaches reasonably high, but may need extending if the trees grow to my planned 6 foot height, just below the sunroom windows. It’s sort of like living art to fill a blank canvas. Hope they last the hot summers.

sunroom wall for olive espalier


Solar Hot Water Installation

April 23, 2010

The house was more than busy yesterday. As well as the 7 kids on school holiday camp-out at our place, we had three plumbers and an electrician all competing for driveway and backyard space.

The solar hot water was up and in-place and working, mostly, by early afternoon.

It’s like the Monier roofing ad now, I walk out in to the backyard and have to look up to the roof and check out the PV system, then walk around the clothes line and look up to the HWS collectors.

30 evacuated tube collectors

There is still a timer for the electric booster on the tank, which will be installed next week. Til then we can turn it on or off manually at the switch board, or just let it decide for itself, which could mean inefficient use of the booster. I don’t mind putting up with this after several days of no hot water at all however.

I'm sure that wiring will get a tidy up soon!

I think I will make a screen enclosure to go around the tank and hide all those pipes and wires from view, and small curious fingers. The wires will probably get my cable tie and wrap attention soon too.

Seemed like the old electric tank knew we were getting rid of it and decided to go out in style. Finally giving up the ghost while we we were away camping for the weekend, and emptying it’s contents through the floor, creating a mud field under the house!


Solar PV installation ON!

April 20, 2010

Approved and ready to go, our solar grid connect system is now turned on and generating power back to the grid!

Once the local authority had done their inspection it was just a matter of flicking a couple of switches and things have started happening.

The control panel on the inverter shows the daily and total power produced as well as the instantaneous output at any given moment.

control panel for inverter

instantaneous power output – showing 1540 watts

The feed-in tariff has yet to be officially confirmed as being approved but it is in process.

Next on the list is the solar hot water service. Just in time too, as the electric water heater just sprung a leak! But that’s another story.


ENVI Energy Monitor

April 7, 2010

The energy monitor arrived today!

I resisted installing it straight away and sat and worked it out over a cup of tea. I even read the instruction manual!

Interestingly, it described in detail what to get the qualified electrician to do in order to install the sending device on the mains power cable in the switch board. So much so in fact that the qualified electrician seemed a little redundant!

Once installed it appears to be all in order and telling us we are using way too much power. I can’t work out how to change the rate per KWHr for the the actual cost calculations, but I’m sure the suppliers will provide some instruction there.

ENVI energy monitor

Transmitter in-place in the meter box

It will be interesting to compare the difference once the solar hot water system is installed next month. Stay tuned.


Solar Grid Connect system nearing completion

April 3, 2010

More progress this week.

How cool! Two power supplies to the house.

The panels are up on the roof and the local electricity authority have changed over the meter.

Looks like most of this half of the roof is full from this angle

A different angle. The novelty will wear off soon enough!

The application for feed-in tariff is being processed and we are now just waiting for the planning and land authority to approve the installation.

Not sure on what their involvement is to be honest. They seem to have their fingers in every pie around. I assume they are the owners of the grid infrastructure, so their approval is required. We’re just doing what has to be done to get it up and running now. It’s rather expensive bling for the house at the moment!

I recon that the lower vent chimney will shade a part of the lower panel in winter sun so the plan is to cut it down to minimal size soon. The installers didn’t say anything but I think it is worth doing to be sure.

I’m also trying to work out the information the new meter is giving me. It cycles through a number of screens with digital readout of various types in each screen. Presumably, one is for power used and one is for power returned to the grid, but there is no manual or other explanation available, so it’s trial and guess.

It's getting messy in the meterbox now!

Here’s hoping it is all functional and earning it’s keep by next week.