News, opinions and activism regarding our energy future, and local solutions for Perth, Western Australia.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

New House Head Buzz

As I mentioned in my previous post, my wife and I have just bought a house near the coast in Perth's Northern Suburbs. We won't be able to move in for at least a month, but already my head is buzzing with ideas - not all of which will be feasible of course. To the right are some photos of the current state of the house. I plan to investigate the costs, benefits and options avaialble for all my ideas and publish results on this website. It might not be possible to implement all the ideas immediately due to budgetary constraints but I hope to implement the most practicable of them in a reasonable time frame.

The ideas that have been kicking around in my head, in approximate priority for implementation are:
  1. Composting.
    From the time we move in, all organic waste will be composted for recycling onto the garden. Method is yet to be determined - either an open pile or some type of bin/tumbler. The local council authority, City of Joondalup does not seem to offer any advice or assistance in this area, in contrast to the neighbouring City of Wanneroo at which it was easy to find information and an assistance phone number regarding Compost and Worms.
  2. Solar Hot Water.
    My point of view is, the sooner a Solar Hot Water system is installed, the greater our overall monetary and environmental savings will be. The Sustainable Energy Developement Office of the Government of Western Australia lists savings as "1 tonne of CO2 and $250 per year saving compared to reticulated, natural gas". The state government offers a $500 rebate for installation of natural gas-boosted solar water heaters. The decision to install seems straightforward - the only question is which model/manufacturer is technically/economically superior.
  3. Pool Cover.
    The pool will obviously be subject to evaporation and require topping up from Perth's scarce fresh water supply. Therefore I'd like to investigate getting a pool cover for it to prevent evaporation. Question is, can I sell it to the Mrs? Will it look good, and will it pay for itself in terms of the water we would save (considering water costs and the rate of evaporation). Also it may be practically difficult due to the non-rectangular shape of the pool.
  4. Fruit and Vegies.
    I've got plenty of ideas here. I've always enjoyed pottering in the garden and the opportunity to grow our own food is exciting. It will be nice to have fresh produce for which we know exactly what chemicals have been added. (Some chemical fertilisers will be required initially I am sure but the long term goal is improve the soil by use of compost and crop rotation with lupins and other nitrogen fixers such that chemical fertiliser would not be necessary. Also, the beach is near so we will be able to collect and make seaweed fertiliser). At the moment there is no laid out vegetable patch or obvious area for one so that will take some thought. Fruit trees are planned to go all around the inside fence, avocado, grapefruit, lemon, pistachio, macadamia, orange, etc. A good article by Malcom Campbell lists the most appropriate fruit & nut trees for a Mediterranean climate such as Perth's. I would like to plant Olive Trees on the verge, but the Council's regulations regarding this are unclear at the moment.
  5. Rain Water Tank.
    I have heard anecdotally that there is a rebate for installing a rain water tank. I plan to investigate the costs and options for rain water tanks for garden irrigation.
  6. Home Brew.
    The *ahem* environmental benefits of home brewed beer are obvious. I have brewed in the past from malt syrup kits (with some innovations such as mixing ale with a ginger-beer recipe) but I would like to take my brewing to the next level and start from the raw materials of barley and hops. In Scotland I developed even more of a taste for Scotch whisky so a home still would also be fun.
  7. Alternative Energy.
    Perth is one of the windiest cities in the world, hence the kiteboarding hobby. However my ideas for a home wind turbine were, well, scotched by the wife due to concerns that the (future) kids would get bullied for being different. We shall see. Solar electricity at least would not carry any social stigma, and I plan to investigate its (and wind power's) economics.
  8. Grey Water.
    I was in Bunnings the other day and noticed a $15 grey water recyling kit, which consisted of a foam bung to block your laundry/shower grey water pipe, and a roll of lay-flat hose which you could extend into your garden and poke holes in so the water could escape. I would like to look at recycling grey water into the garden but in a slightly more engineered fashion than this.
  9. Insulation.
    I'm sure the house already has insulation, but if it doesn't I'll be installing it, and as a much higher priority than this.

Thats all I can think of for now, but if you have any suggestions please email me! A previous commentor has recommended Nylex rainwater tanks and Solazone grid connected solar power systems. I'll be updating this list with links to any posts I make as I investigate the various topics.


Anonymous Technofreak said...

Welcome back matey ;)
Got your email, thanks for the heads up. Always keen to read and learn and I am very keen to see how your plans go.
I have nothing really constructive to add at this time, further than what I mentioned before anyway. I sort of hit a brick wall with it all. I think Australia is a little bit slow with the technology at the moment. There are some good things coming out of California but it hasnt reached here yet as far as I know (in relation to Solar energy).
I think it would be wise to wait a little while before jumping on solar as the technology is in a state of growth with lots of new innovations coming onto the market that provide increased efficiency and lower costs. Also the cost is high at the moment due to silicone shortages so it would be wise to wait for the shortages to be corrected.
As you are aware by now I wouldnt rely on councils to be anywhere near ready for supporting any sort of renewable or green solutions. My father will testify to that with his continual battle over the years just to get them to understand the concept of rainwater tanks. If only they had listened 15 years ago....
At this stage it is wise to do it yourself and wait for them to catch up. Though I wouldnt be surprized if you hit some building code snags with them when it comes to modifications of your home etc.

Best thing to do would be to assess your homes energy efficiency and improve it first. All little things add up to one big thing in the end. Heating and cooling are the major things to tackle. Fans are always better than a split-cycle power-muncher. House design in general is of very poor energy efficiency in Australia and so there is nothing that can be done to some places to improve this aspect.

The pool cover is a tricky one. They do work by reducing evaporation but also reduce the energy needs required for cleaning etc. Not everyone likes the look of them but they are practical.

21/1/07 08:55

Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey mike,

great to find your blog after seeing your comment on TOD. i've just spent five years with Shell in Aberdeen and now moved back home to Melbourne. have been active in ASPO-Oz since arriving back in August 06.

i'm doing a presentation to Society of Petroleum Engineers here on Tuesday. Would be great to see your HL analysis for Australia if you ever got that completed.

you can get me at 'mail at philhart dot com', or through my out-of-date website:


21/1/07 12:07

Anonymous Monica said...

Great to see you are back online Mike - congrats on getting the new house and I look forward to hearing about how you manage to get it into environmental shape. Had a laugh imagining you two discussing the teasing of future children re wind turbines!

We are going to get a worm farm for our balcony to get rid of all our food scraps and feed our potplants. Should be fun!

See you in Perth!

29/1/07 11:09

Anonymous Christine said...

Hello Mike, I am German and found my home in Queensland 11 years ago. I could not believe how slow people adopt ideas from Europe concerning solar energy, water conservation, recycling, reducing your carbon foot print and so on.

We have renovated our home - a lovely Queenslander - with shading and utilizing the breeze that we do not need any air conditioning or fans. We planted fruit trees and a vegie patch and we use 6 big tanks on the property to become more independent of town water.

Recently we got 24 solar panels installed. Please head over and have a look at my blog, there is a photo of the installation and the tanks:

I would love to share ideas concernig a more sustainalbe living in Australia.


22/12/10 10:39

Anonymous Pool Equipment Sunshine Coast said...

it is a very nice post

16/4/11 08:08


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