Energy makeover- retrofit case #2


This 2 bedroom unit is undergoing an energy makeover along the lines of a previous post on “energy freedom”. The previous tenant was spending $1300 a year on electricity and gas. We’ll have to wait awhile before we get new figures to compare the before and after effect.

Lights have been changed to LED except in the kitchen where there is a strip fluoro which has been retained, and some rooms that have compact fluoros.

A blower door test prior to any work showed a result of 18ACH50 which is indicative that a lot of energy was being wasted through air leaks. To address this, fixed vents in the ceiling of the kitchen and laundry were removed and the holes repaired, caulking was done around the architraves and windows, draftstoppas were installed over the exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchen, compression seals were fitted to the doors as well as bottom seals and the holes in the walls left over after the removal of gas heaters were filled with expanding foam. A repeat blower door test showed 9ACH50 – half what it was.

The unit is on a concrete slab so no floor insulation was possible. It is a brick veneer with one hardiplank wall in the garage- pictured above. Sprayfoam has been injected into the wall cavity through holes in the brickwork, or after removal of two boards in the garage.

sprayfoam brickwork

The holes are filled with mortar afterwards- seen in the middle of the picture above. The ceiling had existing fibreglass batts which are probably R2 but there were a few areas with no coverage at all. The gaps were filled then another layer of R3.5 earthwool roll was placed over the top, running perpendicular to the batts and covering the ceiling joists.

As mentioned before, an old gas wall furnace that was no longer in use was removed. It was just an eyesore as well as a source of air leaks. The newer gas heater was also removed, as were the gas hot water service that was aged and the gas cooktop and oven unit. With no gas appliances left, the meter was disconnected.

Efficient electric appliances have replaced all those gas ones- a Sanden heat pump HWS, new electric oven with induction cooktop and a heat pump space heater/ cooler.

The unit already had a solar PV system installed some years previously.

The windows are single glazed in cheap, non thermally broken, aluminium frames and are of the sliding type. In other words, they couldn’t be worse from an energy efficiency point of view. They are still in place and the plan for now is to install heavy curtains and pelmets.

The next tenant should notice their energy bills are almost wiped out- but we’ll have to wait and see.

Why we need to act fast on CO2 emissions.


This is a chart showing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere over the last 800,000 years which spans all the time since humans have evolved. It is actually a short video which you can watch hereThe rate of rise in CO2 is showing no sign of slowing. Permafrost is melting which will add more and more methane, a potent greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere. Arctic ice cover is shrinking year on year. Greenland and Antarctic ice is steadily melting. Ocean acidity is rising. Weather patterns are changing and severe storms, bushfires and floods are more frequent. Corals are dying, sea grasses  are dying, habitat ranges are changing and biologists are stating we are in the midst of a huge extinction event.

It is not a pretty picture. How best to respond?

American blackberry harvest time.


Late February and March is the time for harvesting our thornless blackberries. I’m unsure of the exact botanical name but we know them as American blackberries. This particular bramble is a prolific grower and will spread by sending roots down from any cane that touches the ground for long enough. I planted about 5 canes 2 years ago and this year we have a large crop. Not having to avoid prickles makes the work much more pleasant. The timing is good too because our other brambles have come and gone already so the work in picking and processing is spread.

At REstore, we have a table of plants for sale/donation as well as some occasional produce. At times we have had these and other brambles available, including raspberries, boysenberries and youngberries. If you’d like to get some of these canes let us know by commenting here or come and browse at our garden. Our gardening group is almost always there on a Wednesday morning.

Making best use of your rooftop solar PV


It’s 11am which is into the peak generation time for our solar PV and now we (in Victoria) are off the transitional feed in tariff, it makes most sense and cents to use electricity while we are producing it. The photo shows our Watts Clever In Home Display. The top reading is what we are importing from the grid- nothing. The next one is the total we have used today, since midnight- 1.21 Kwh. The bars below that represent the total used each day for the last few days and you can scroll back using the buttons at the bottom. At the moment we have the washing machine going and some berries boiling away on the induction cooktop to make jam so the solar system is producing enough to cover that use and more. Our biggest energy guzzling appliance is our electric car. Prior to December 31st we used to just charge it whenever it suited us but now we try to do it during the day as much as possible.

One disadvantage of the Watts Clever display is that it does not show the solar production. I do like that it is so visible all the time though. Some products rely on opening up the display on your phone or computer which I don’t think is as useful. Energy researchers have found that people who use these IHDs typically reduce their electricity consumption by about 10%, just by being more diligent in turning things off. For most consumers that means a payback time of a year or so.

Another thing to consider is the feed in tariff that your retailer is prepared to pay you and how that relates to the total package of other rates and supply charges. You can compare retail offers at Victorian Energy Compare.

As batteries reduce in price and arrangements to sell your stored energy at times of high wholesale prices emerge, exciting changes in how our electricity market operates are going to happen. Reposit, Greensync, Sonnen and others are worth keeping an eye on.

Community owned energy retailer.


This post is inspired by the community owned energy retailer Enova, from the Northern Rivers area of NSW. Their mission is to empower community, support renewable energy and the transformation of our energy system while providing returns to shareholders and the local economy. They state that it would possible to return $80 million to the local area through profits and operating expenses from a potential revenue of $300 million. Now that’s quite a significant boost to anyone’s local economy.

Let’s look at our part of Gippsland (Baw Baw, Latrobe and Wellington shires)- we have about 66,000 homes and the average Victorian home spends $2,800 per year on gas and electricity. That’s $185 million spent per year with a significant portion of the profit leaving the local area. Is there an appetite to draw some of that back home? Could we put that money to better use- building more local capacity in renewable power or storage systems like massive battery banks and pumped hydro? Building local infrastructure, employing local people in jobs that make a positive difference as opposed to those that worsen health or destroy the environment, maintaining and building our skills and providing hope for our children and grandchildren all seem like worthwhile goals to me.

The Congress for Community Energy gets underway today with a series of workshops over the next 4 days. It is sure to be inspiring and will be the source of more blog posts I’m sure!

If you’re interested in being involved in a local community owned energy retailer or anything else mentioned here, please comment or contact us at BBSN.


Artists in community energy

Yesterday I spent a fascinating afternoon with Creative Carbon Scotland and Land Art Generator Initiative at their Beautiful Renewables event in Edinburgh. The event brought together engineers, planners, community energy groups, artists and architects to develop an understanding of what is involved in the development of an energy generation project and what each of the events participants […]

via Every community energy group should invite an artist onto its board! — power culture

Baw Baw Emissions-Zero project


What would it be like to live in a home that has no energy bills and is more comfortable? What if all your neighbours did the same? And imagine if all business and industry were accessing affordable, reliable renewable energy from their own roof or from a larger local generation facility? What kind of community scale renewable energy is best suited to our area? A core group of locals are pondering these and more questions and we’d love to hear from more people who are keen to get involved.

Baw Baw Sustainability Network based in Yarragon, Beyond Zero Emissions and Baw Baw Shire Council are collaborating on a project aimed at our region of Baw Baw reaching zero carbon emissions from our use of electricity and gas over the next 10 years. This will bring great benefits to the area with many jobs doing useful, beneficial work, reduced power bills, more comfortable buildings as well as showcasing Baw Baw as a leading community, taking action to address pollution.

Our initial steps will be to gather baseline data on the use of gas and electricity in the shire, engage the community in the process and draft an implementation plan for the on the ground works to happen over the coming decade. There’s a lot of work ahead of us and there’s no doubt plenty of hurdles to jump and pot holes to avoid. If you’d like to get involved please make contact with us: