Archive for the ‘Home Improvement’ Category

How many gates are enough?

December 29, 2010

I counted the gates on our block today. How many would be enough? Well. I guess you need one for each hole in a fence you don’t want chickens or dogs to go through, but you need to go through yourself at some time. The current count is 15.

Some are commercial gates, unaltered since we moved in. Some are commercial gates fitted, or modified to suit our needs. Some are manufactured on site from scrounged materials. Others are “bush gates”, made in existing fences from the fence itself.

Here’s the tour;

How many gates is enough? 15, until we need another one!


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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 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.



Grid connect solar installation

March 30, 2010

Yes, it has started!

The panels are here, the inverter is on the wall and the local electricity authority is due in two days.

12 solar panels waiting in the rain

"Sunnyboy" inverter. Stupid name but it looks the part.

The rain is holding up the process a little. Seems the installer doesn’t like slipping off wet tiles!

We’ve also ordered an energy monitor to track our power usage. This should be useful in raising our awareness of what we are using and how much it is costing. The meter connects to the mains switch board and has a remote display panel which shows current usage and cost, as well as use over selected periods for comparison purposes. The weather is holding that one up too however. The warehouse in Perth was hit with the recent storms and delivery has been delayed.

We’ll have a month or so until we get the solar hot water service installed, so we can get an idea of the difference that makes in our energy consumption. Should be an eye opener, I think.

All being well, the Grid connect system panels will be up and connected in the next day, ready for the authority inspection.

The contract for the premium feed-in tariff has been sent off too, so we should soon be making almost as much as we are using, at least in monetary terms, if not in actual kilowatt hours. This is why I’ve posted this entry in the investment category too. It should have paid for itself in about 6 years and be making the premium tariff for the next 14 years after that. It is approximately a 15% return on initial investment, and although the system will be slowly depreciating, the extended income period should make up for this.

I’m also expecting some technology advancements which in 10 years or so could allow for an expansion of the system out to 4KWhrs at a reasonable cost which would begin to make the household self sufficient in actual usage terms. We’ll see how that pans out.

More pics to come once it’s all up, as well as some feedback on our usage via the energy meter, once that arrives.