The moral of yesterday…

…is never wear your gardening clothes when people are coming.

Unbelievably, over 100 people turned up yesterday to the Sustainable House Open Day here at the Off Grid Solar House.  I had anticipated a quiet day, sipping tea and pulling a few weeds, which was why I had my daggy jeans and ‘yee-haw’ checked shirt on.  In fact, I didn’t even get time to change into something a little smarter when the Geelong Addy turned up for a few snaps.

We had young families building their first home, uni students studying environmental science, retired couples looking to reduce energy bills and a wide range of enthusiastic stickybeaks from all walks of life.  We like stickybeaks.  Thanks to you all, I’m just sorry I couldn’t spend more time answering all the questions.

Thanks especially our volunteers Lee, Viv, Jane and Quentin who were invaluable.  And well done Phil from Radiant Energy Systems who answered all the technical questions I had no idea about.

Geelong Addy

Geelong Addy

Open day this Sunday

We’re opening the doors of The Off Grid Solar House this Sunday 14th September for the national Sustainable House Day.  Don’t come any earlier than 10am as I may still be in my PJs.  Chuck out is at 4pm.  In the middle you can meet moi, Phil Hapgood from Radiant Energy and some other lovely volunteers who are helping me wrangle the hoards of people desperate to get a glimpse at the lifestyles of the off-grid and famous (although it’s only my kelpie who jumps up and down with excitement when I wear my sunglasses at night).  Actually, it’ll be more like a handful of peeps who make the trek out to say a relaxed g’day.

So, all welcome.  According to my insurer, I’m not allowed to provide a cuppa to ‘members of the public’, but if you promise not to sue me for minor burns sustained from a hot English Breakfast we should be OK.  Our battery bank, panels and living areas will be open for inspection, but not the bedrooms, as I can’t be bothered picking up all the dirty clothes from the floor.

And the address…20 Devines Road, Little River – about 30-40 minutes west of Melbourne on the Geelong road.  Apparently there will be some bali flags, but just look for the place that looks like this:

photo-19

In addition, should you be so inclined, I’ll be giving a presentation about climate change at the GPAC (Geelong Performing Arts Centre) on Saturday 13th at 1pm with two of my Climate Reality Project colleagues.  We could probably do with extra audience members, so drop in if you have the time.

Have a great weekend.

Old farts and truck batteries

So, strictly speaking, Brian isn’t quite an off-gridder (but lets not split hairs!)

For Perth dwellers Brian and his wife, living (almost) off-grid started after his quest to find fossil-free transport, in his words “for when all the oil runs out”.

Describe your place.Off girder Brian

Our place was build in 1970 and is a double brick and tile 3 bed 1 bath, facing close to North, set on 2,000 sqm and on a slopinghilly block. We have an original 43 year old solar hot water system with electric booster on timer, mains gas for cooking and strictly limited heating.  We also have a slow cumbustion wood heater (yes, the CO2 is ‘closed loop’, not fossil), single inverter reverse cycle air conditioning in the kitchen and ceiling fans elsewhere. I highly recommend people treat their roof with ‘Insulpaint’ as we’ve found it effective.  The grid-connect panels are on the house roof, which has a pitch of about 32 degrees, which I was told was close to optimal average for the year for Perth.  It’s a perfect permanent home for two old farts!

Specs of your system?

We have two systems – the first is a grid connect which started as 1.72kW in 2008, with Fronius 5kW inverter.  I added a 3.8kW in 2010 (when WA introduced 40c feed-in-tariff), all the house roof.  During the 2013-14 financial year, our average daily production was 22.3Kwhrs, while our consumption was 20kWhrs (i.e net export of 2.3kWhrs).

Off gridder BrianThe second is a hybrid off-grid, which was installed in July 2014.  I added 5.88kW which were mounted on the garage roof and connected to a Kaco 6002 5kW inverter and Selectronic SP Pro 481 Controller / inverter; it’s a 48v system.  Our batteries are 8 x 12 volt truck batteries and I have short term plans to add another 8.  In 3 to 5 years I’ll look to purchase better cheaper batteries.

Just a note on my battery cost / source.  I have a mate in the truck business. Big trucks run on 24 volts from 2 x 12 volt batteries. When one fails, they don’t mess about, they replace both. This can mean that the non-failed one still has ‘life’ in it. So being a kind-hearted person, I give these a home! Cost?  Zilch, other than the odd Corona.  In the long term, I will be looking for Lithium battery packs from battery electric vehicles that are below par for a moving vehicle, but this would not matter for a stationary application such as ours.

Has going (almost) off-grid compromised your lifestyle?

Off gridder BrianMy renewables adventure started in 2007 when I was looking for fossil-free power (both vehicle and energy supply) to use when oil runs out.  I started with an all-electric motor bike, and a 1.72kW solar system on house. It’s just kind of snowballed from there!  The bike now has 65,000 kms on the clock, all powered by solar and in 2012 I bought the all-electric Nissan LEAF, to replace my wife’s old clunker.  This has now done 15,000 km, again all powered by solar.  As age pensioners, we no longer have electricity or petrol / fuel bills…and we love that.