Alan Pears presentation to BBSN 2017 AGM- Australia’s Energy Mess. What can we do?

Click on this link to see Alan’s power point presentation which ranged from energy pricing issues to reducing energy use at home. There are links to very useful websites at the end of the presentation too.  Baw Baw talk Aug 2017

Alan Pears Cropped



Electric vehicle expo report

Les Grosberg discusses the Tesla S with Peter Stansfield of Gippsland Solar

Over 50 people enjoyed a detailed briefing on the present and future of electric vehicles in Warragul recently.

Baw Baw Sustainability Network presented the evening at Warragul RSL and featured vehicles ranging from electric bicycles and motorcycles to the high end BMW and Tesla cars, with presentations from the Alternative Technology Association (ATA) and Gippsland Solar.

Electric vehicles presented a number of advantages with lower fuel costs, much lower maintenance, lower emissions of all sorts and smooth and quiet handling. In many cases electric vehicles now outperformed combustion powered vehicles. Battery life, cost and charging at home and on road had improved markedly in recent times, but different systems used in different vehicles remains a limitation for public charging stations.

Range had been improved with Tesla S achieving 370 – 500 Klms on one charge, depending on driving conditions and style.

Paul Paton from the ATA explained that he had ridden to the talk on his Vectrix motorcycle from Ringwood to Warragul and it would cost him about 90c. He added that the full range of vehicle types were now being produced in electric version, even trucks, which often use hydrogen fuel cells.

“With no gears, clutch, exhaust, or radiator and a brushless motor there is almost nothing to wear out,” he explained, “except maybe some bearings.”

“Range is over 250 klms and torque is nearly double the equivalent combustion engine bike” he said.

“Unlike combustion engine vehicles, electric vehicles have better range in city driving because almost no fuel is used when stationary” said Mr Paton.

Shane Clayton form Gippsland Solar outlined the details of their Tesla S which runs electric motors on front and rear axels giving four wheel drive without drive train limitations, resulting in a very sporty performance.

Sean Holden of Chili Cycles discusses his test ride with Cr Peter Costos


“It included hands free driving, which I must confess I find still a bit disturbing” he said. “It is our standard business car, and is used continually with no problems.”

“We decided to install a Tesla charging station at our Traralgon site, which can charge from empty to full in less than 45 minutes, while guests have a free coffee!” Mr Clayton said. The cost of the power was so low, especially as they have substantial solar panels on their site, that they have offered the service for free. Home charging on off peak rates would cost $15.

“We have found the ongoing cost to us is around $1 per year.”

“We have quite a few weekend tourists coming down to Traralgon to tour around,” Mr Clayton said.

Our future garages will include solar arrays, inverter, batteries and car charging facilities as standard Mr Clayton explained.


10 Energy Habits for Daily Life


Energy costs are rising and the industry is changing rapidly. One thing remains the same- the best way to reduce your bill is to use less electricity and gas. Here are 10 quick tips.

  1. Turn off the lights, the ceiling fan etc if you are leaving the room.
  2. Don’t leave TVs on when nobody is watching them.
  3. Turn off all those energy using appliances at the wall when not in use. If you want to know how much power they use on standby, borrow a powermate through your local library or get an In Home Display that will show your current power use.
  4. Use relaxed set points on your heating and cooling system. That means setting the thermostat at a point that makes the machine work less hard but still reach a comfortable temperature for you ie 25 or 26 deg in summer and 19-20deg in winter.
  5. Replace your shower head with a low flow version so you use less hot water and need to spend less on the energy to heat it. The newer showerheads are much better than the initial offerings so if you were put off them years ago it’s time to try again.
  6. Keep the flick mixer tap set to the cold position when washing hands so you don’t draw water from the hot side which isn’t going to heat up in the time you are there.
  7. Install some kind of adjustable external shading device on your east and west facing windows. Stopping hot summer sun entering the house makes an enormous difference as does allowing the warm winter sun in. North facing windows can have a fixed width eave or shade that will function well if designed correctly.
  8. Check the seals on your fridge and freezer and replace them if faulty. They should have no visible gap and hold a $5 note snugly all the way around.
  9. Replace your heating, cooling, hot water systems with efficient electric heat pump systems (for southern Victoria). Then kick the gas habit completely by replacing gas stoves with induction cooktops. They will save you energy and money with a reasonable pay back time (less than 5 yrs usually) and you no longer need to pay a second supply charge for the gas and you are protected from rising gas prices.
  10. Last but not least- seal up those gaps that are causing too much air leakage.

For a thorough home assessment contact us here.


From hovel to haven- retrofit case #2

burke st unit

This 1980ish 2 bedroom, brick veneer unit has undergone 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 and it was terribly hot in summer and cold in winter.

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 (air changes per hour at 50 pascals) 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.

sprayfoamsprayfoam 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 the most efficient heat pump space heater/ cooler on the market- the Daikin US7.

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. All but 3 windows have been improved with secondary glazing- acrylic sheet held in place with either magnetic strip for the smaller windows or with a timber bead for the larger ones. Three windows were left not done to allow easy cross ventilation. Bedroom and lounge windows had pelmets fitted, made with clear acrylic sheet, held in place with 2 bolts to the existing curtain railing.


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

Below is a list of the costs involved:

Top up ceiling insulation (DIY labour) $1001

Sanden HWS (installed) $4162

Electrical work for new oven/ cooktop, HWS, wall insulation $1769

Weatherstripping materials (DIY labour) $161

Plumbing contractor (removing gas appliances, installing new toilet) $486

Secondary glazing (DIY labour) $1415

Daikin US7 (installed) $4150

Wall insulation $4631

LEDs and new fittings $187

Belling oven / cooktop $1800

Total cost $19,762

The benefits?

Saving on gas supply charges (annual) $291

Expected reduction in annual energy usage bills of $1000

Much greater comfort – priceless!

This Scorecard certificate shows the home now achieves a 10 star rating with a 6 star rating before the improvements were made. More info on the Scorecard tool is available Screen Shot 2018-01-28 at 2.42.41 PMhere. It reflects the expected costs in running a home after assessing the building shell and the fixed appliances used for heating, cooling and hot water. It does not consider the number or behaviour of occupants or other appliances.


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.