Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Solar Stats - June 2012

So...I haven't been very good at checking my solar stats every month. My bad.

Here's some new figures based on the inverter data on the 9th of June:

Stats for months 4 & 5 - 52 days (18 April - 9 June 2012):

Month 4 & 5 export: 183.1 kWh
Month 4 & 5 operational hours: 451 hours
Month 4 & 5 average daily export: 3.52 kWh

The daily export has decreased almost by half - what a different winter makes!

Cumulative total (since installation on 16 December 2011):
Total export: 898.6 kWh
Total operational hours: 1653 hours
Average daily export: 5.91 kW

My electricity bill was much lower than the same quarter last year which was great - exact figures to come.

Excuse the quality of the photo - it's really tricky to get a photo of the readings because the screen cycles through three different sets of data, and I can never actually see what I'm taking a photo of due to the glare on the iPhone screen!

Living room: before and after

I hesitated when naming this a "Before and after" post. There are still a few things I need to do in the living room for it to be truly 'finished', but it's looking pretty good at the moment, and makes for some great before and after photos!

The room originally had these wonderful features:
  • worn, dirty brown and yellow speckled carpet
  • dark wood window frames and door frames
  • dingy walls 

The positives were that under the disgusting carpet were timber floorboards (pine unfortunately, but I'll count that as a win), big windows that let in the light, and a decent sized space.

I had the floors polished and they turned out just gorgeous...at the time I was hoping for something a bit darker but I really do love them. After pulling up that carpet I don't think I'll ever live with carpet ever again. The dust and dirt just gives me the heebie jeebies (spelling?!) and the ease of cleaning up cat vomit from a wooden floor is something to write home about.

Carpet gone!

Newly polished floorboards (excuse the iPhone pic taken at night):

In person the colour is more saturated that this - in the photo above the colour looks really light, but they are a warm medium brown colour.

And now for the "after":

  • Couches - technically a couch and an ottoman, but I added a long body pillow against the wall to make an extra couch. Bought for $100 from a friend who was getting a new couch. I think they were originally from Freedom.
  • Coffee table - from my parents...this was the coffee table in our family room in South Africa. My mom keeps suggesting I paint it white, but I'm quite reluctant to! Ordinarily I'd be the first to suggest a coat of white paint to update wooden furniture.
  • The white box on the right is also a family piece - it's essentially a crate with a hinged lid, apparently originally used as an egg crate (I picture two stacks of the 3-dozen egg trays sitting side by side). We call it the egg box. Creative stuff indeed!
  • The large frame has a poster of a painting depicting Las Ramblas that I bought in Barcelona. 
  • The three smaller frames on the left are three acryclic paintings on canvas that I bought in Nepal, framed in market-bought frames made from reclaimed wood.
  • The lamp on the left is an op shop (charity shop) find - I bought the base and the shade separately (see pic before for a close up)
  • The lamp on the right I found on eBay for less that $20.
  • The basket between the couches has extra blankets for winter, I bought it on eBay for about $10.
  • The newest addition is the rug - it's 100% jute from IKEA (Tarnby). I have been looking at this rug for years, every time I went to IKEA. I was there last week and decided it was actually a bargain ($129 for the 180 x 250cm size) so I finally got it. I think it just finishes off the room, and helps to define the space, as it's shared with the dining table.
On the wall opposite the proper couch is an IKEA Expedit TV Unit that I found on eBay for just under $200. I'll still need to really tackle the styling so I haven't taken any photos yet.

On the right, diagonally opposite the window is this funky chair I found on eBay for less than $20. I love all the textures from the jute and the rattan and the wood tones paired with the crisp white.

Walls are painted with Lexicon quarter white, and the window frames have been painted in semi-gloss.

A few final touches before I deem this room officially finished:
  • remove old flesh-coloured roller blinds and replace with white wooden venetian blinds (already purchased and cut to size, just waiting on my brother to hang them for me!)
  • remove current lace curtains (although they're great for privacy) and replace with IKEA curtain rods and FERLE curtains.
  • remove the old wall heater (the dark blob behind the funky chair) which has been disconnected from the mains electricity, repair hole and touch up paint.
  • style bookshelves and photograph
  • perhaps make the wall above the couch a gallery wall?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bathroom mini-update

My bathroom is original to the house...built in the 70s or early 80s, so it's a lovely combination of brown patterned tiles and beige fixtures. I don't have the cashola to do a full renovation yet, so for the moment I've had to make do with some paint and accessories.

This is an iPhone photo taken during an inspection:

Here's a wider angle - a screen grab of the photos on www.realestate.com.au. Gotta love the professional photos, the bathroom actually looks quite nice!

Since then I've painted the window frame white, painted the walls (Lexington Quarter White) and added a basket of towels. I also changed the taps by the basin - just simple chrome taps instead of those big brown plastic monstrosities. I must remember to get another two sets for the bath and shower (I bought them for about $3 at the Reject Shop, hopefully they still have them!). A huge improvement in person, although it's hard to photograph.

I'm debating whether to paint the tile...I'm worried that will enhance the beige bath and basin, and gold shower, and make the room feel really cold. On the other hand, it could make the room full much lighter and bigger once all that brown is gone. I'll probably end up doing it, since eventually there will be a full bathroom renovation. Nothing to lose!

Last but not least, my lovely brother installed these Lillholmen hooks on the back of the door.

Next up...living room progress.

House progress

So...it's been a while. No excuses...

Anyway, I had a week off work and lucky for me my mom came to stay. Otherwise I may have spent the whole week being lazy and eating chocolate! But instead we tackled quite a few projects:
  • cleared the back garden of weeks (again!) and this time laid down weed mat
  • planted basil, chives, chillies and spring onions 
  • planted some liriope in the back garden
  • planted petunias, lobelia and white daisies in the front garden
  • scored a bargain outdoor table at Bunnings
  • finished painting the kitchen cupboards
  • patched and painted most of the holes in door frames leftover from having wall light switches installed (and removing the architrave switches)
  • painted the door frame leading from the kitchen to the laundry
  • laid down my new rug in the living room
  • put up curtains in my room and the spare bedroom
  • donated a bunch of clothes, books and bits and pieces to the op shop
 Still to do:
  • paint the wardrobe doors in the spare bedroom
  • paint the door frame and door in the hallway 
  • paint the back door and door frame
  • paint the laundry window frame
  • touch up areas where I've patched walls
  • keep plugging away at removing the wallpaper in the hallway
 Next up...some "after" photos.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Monthly solar stats: 20 Feb - 16 April 2012

I know this isn't exactly a month's calculation, but my solar PV system was switched off for 3 weeks from when my bi-directional meter was installed to when Jemena finally got around to configuring it.

The bi-directional meter was installed on 29 February and my solar PV system was off from 29 February - 21 March. During that time my electric hot water system was on a peak rate.

Stats for month 3 (36 days: 20 February - 17 April, not including 29 February - 21 March):

Month 3 export: 225.6kWh
Month 3 operational hours: 395 hours
Month 3 average daily export: 6.27kWh

The daily export has decreased slightly which would be due to the change in weather - winter is on the way!

Cumulative total (since installation on 16 December 2011):
Total export: 715.5kWh
Total operational hours: 1202 hours
Average daily export: 7.16kW

So far I am really happy with the output. It will be interesting to see how the system performs in winter - since the last measurement the weather has been inconsistent - we've had some lovely sunny days but also quite a few overcast rainy days.

What I was not happy about was having my solar off for 3 weeks AND having my hot water usage charged at peak rates during that time. Jemena said it would take 1-2 weeks for the meter to be remotely programmed before I could turn my system back on, and in the end it took 3 weeks after me calling twice and emailing to follow up.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Excited about an electricity bill....seriously!

I've been waiting with bated breadth for my electricity bill - not because I'm dreading it, but because I hadn't yet received one since having my solar panels installed in December 2011.

Today was the day!! Never have I been so nervous to open a bill - to see whether all the money and hassle paid off.

A few notes...

  • The bill is for 17 Nov 2011 - 14 Feb 2012. I had my panels installed in 16 December so there was electricity being produced for two of the three months
  • I hadn't yet had a bi-directional meter installed, so there is no calculation of how much electricity the panels produced except the readings I take from my inverter, on the 17th of every month, if I remember! Also, technically I am not getting paid for electricity I produce - the meter was spinning backwards when there was electricity being fed back into the grid, which is equivalent of a Standard Feed-in Tariff (more on that soon).

My Nov 2010-Feb 2011 bill was $207, and my Nov 2011-Feb 2012 bill was $67! Note that the $207 bill included a $35 re-energisation fee which I think is just the connection fee - it was my first bill. So not counting that one-off fee, that's a saving of $105 or 61%.

I had my bi-directional meter installed at the end of February, and my solar panels were switched off for three weeks whilst the meter was being programmed. The bi-directional smart meter replaced my old two-rate peak and off-peak meter. The off-peak meter was only connected to my electric hot water system, which used as many kWh as all my other electricity usage combined, on a typical bill.

For the three weeks that the bi-directional meter was not fully programmed (to Time-of-Use metering), my electricity usage for heating water was being charged at peak rates, as there was only one meter.

I'll explain the whole meter story in another post, should I ever get around to it! (I have three draft posts err...drafted... to explain my solar experience...)

Anyway, that's part of the reason why I didn't do a monthly solar stats post for March - my system was off at the time so I couldn't check the stats...I will do one in April and will just have to factor in the three weeks it was off.

Now that the weather is changing and we have less sunny days and less hours in the day, the electricity production will reduce, but I still expect there will be a decent effect on my winter bill, especially as it was extremely high last year. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Getting organised

A few weeks ago I was wandering around one of those $2 shops - you know the kind that stocks just about anything, and hardly anything is actually $2?

I wasn't looking for anything in particular, but realised it had the perfect 'equipment' to help me get organised in the kitchen. So I spent about $50 on various containers and baskets to get my pantry under control.

To get warmed up, I started with my second kitchen drawer - you know the one that has all the random utensils: scissors, measuring cups and measuring spoons, spatulas, can opener etc. It took about 5 minutes to organise and every time I open that drawer I feel happy.


Yes - nothing to be proud of - but you know what they say: the worse the before picture, the better the after picture is! Ok I just made that up, but it's true, don't you think? And please keep your jealousy of my stunning yellow linoleum kitchen floor to yourself - I know it's super stylish, it's the highlight of my kitchen - really! :P

Now for the after...drum roll please! The two blue plastic containers cost less that $1 each, and were perfect for the job:

I've done the pantry too, but only remember to take after photos at night - I'll aim to get some on Saturday when I'm home during daylight hours!

Hopefully this is step one in a big journey of decluttering, sorting, organising and generally turning my home into the kind of place that makes me feel calm, cool and collected rather than tripping over stuff on the floor, searching all over because I can't find things, and generally feeling like it's all too messy to deal with.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Monthly solar stats: 19 Jan - 19 February 2012

Month two of having my solar panels producing electricity. Things are still looking good although production is a little lower that month 1.

Stats for month 2 (32 days: 19 January - 19 February):

Month 2 export: 238.7kWh
Month 2 operational hours: 392 hours
Month 2 average daily export: 7.46kWh

Cumulative total (since installation on 16 December 2011):
Total export: 489.9kWh
Total operational hours: 807 hours
Average daily export: 7.65kW

Currently still waiting for the bi-directional meter to be installed so that I can start receiving the Transitional Feed in Tariff for excess electricity produced. My quarterly electricity bill should arrive any day now, so it will be interesting to see the results!

If you'd like to read more about my journey with solar:
Monthly solar stats: 16 December 2011 - 18 January 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Goodbye Oliver

Yesterday I had some sad news - our family cat Oliver was found dead by our neighbours, presumably hit by a car. I hope he didn't suffer.

We got Oliver from the RSPCA, and he was a feisty little kitten. Actually I'd describe him as quite crazy - he never stopped moving and playing even when all the other kittens were asleep. We got him in 2006 - here's a rare moment when he actually stopped for a minute! (The green ear is from the ear tattoo to indicate the animal has been desexed.

Ollie was a big cat, all male. He walked like a lion and his nose scrinched up when you tickled him under the chin. He had super soft ears speckled with individual white hairs, and hated having his stomach touched - if you went near it his back legs would come up ready to disembowel you at any moment!

Oliver playing with Tilly through the window

When he was younger he was absolutely obsessed with getting into containers - empty boxes, shopping bags, the laundry basket. Put a container down and he'd be in it before you could blink. Here he's taken up residence in the Trivial Pursuit box - not that he would have fitted into it once he was fully grown!

Love this picture sent to my by my mom - Oliver and Tilly hanging out on the bed. Too cute.

When Oliver was only a few months old he went missing for two nights. We eventually discovered him at the top of a tree in our neighbour's back garden, 20 feet up. He'd been up there for three days and two nights, and couldn't get down. The fire brigade said their ladders weren't long enough, so I called the SES and left a message without much hope. I was at work and living out of home but got a text from my mom saying the SES had arrived with a long ladder and had rescued Ollie. We're not sure who was more relieved - us or him!

 Oliver Hoare, 2006-2012

You will be sorely missed and I hope you're in kitty nirvana, where you can stay out all night, eat as much food as you like whenever you want it, and get scratched under your chin whenever you need some love.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monthly solar stats: 16 Dec 2011 - 18 Jan 2012

So I've had my solar panels installed for just over a month now. We've had many sunny days in Melbourne so they've been going gangbusters, and I can't wait to see my next electricity bill (due end of Feb).

I have a 1.52kW system which means in theory that it can produce 1.52kW each hour of operation. However no system is ever 100% efficient and I've read that 80% efficiency is a good rule of thumb. The output will also depend on the number of hours of sunshine, the temperature, the angle that the sun is hitting your panels at, and whether there is any cloud cover or shadow on the panels. 

Here are the stats for month 1 (32 days: 16 December - 17 January):

Total export: 251.2kWh
Total operational hours: 415 hours
Average daily export: 7.85kWh

That might all seem a bit useless if you don't understand what a kilowatt (kW) or kilowatt hour (kWh) is.

A kilowatt, or 1,000 watts and is a measure of power. A solar power system is rated according to the number of watts it can produce under standardised conditions.
A kilowatt hour is a measure of energy. If you ran a 1 kW electric appliance  for one hour, it would use 1 kWh of energy. Your electricity retailer will bill you at rate per kWh used.

Needless to say I am very happy with the rate of production. We haven't had many cloudy days although there were a few here or there, and we had a major storm on Christmas day which would have affected the output. So overall I think my system is doing great.

At the moment I have yet to sign a solar contract with my retailer (more on that later) which means I am not receiving a Feed in Tariff for excess electricity put back into the grid. However, since I have the old-school spinning disc meter, it actually spins backwards when export > consumption, which is like being on a Standard Feed in Tariff (where the rate per kWh you are paid for the electricity you export is the same as the rate you pay for electricity consumed). I'll go onto a solar contract soon which means I will go onto the Transitional Feed-in Tariff, which ranges from 25-33c/kWh, so if that's higher than the rate I pay for electricity consumed, then I will actually be making a slight profit. I don't expect to receive I 'negative' bill since I have such a small system, but it will definitely help to offset the charges incurred.

I am planning a series of posts about my experience with going solar, and I will so do a regular post showing my monthly stats - I think it will be very interesting to track over the course of the year.

Image sources 1 / 2

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Brown paper packages tied up with string

One of the best things about buying online is the feeling you get when the package arrives - it's like getting a present knowing that it's exactly what you wanted!

I recently stumbled across a website packed with gorgeous goodies - I kept putting things in my shopping basket and then taking them out (I'm really trying to be more strict with by budget this year). Nevertheless I couldn't help myself and besides, things were on sale!

So here's my loot, photos courtesy my D-Lite Hipstamatic Disposable Camera app:

A butter-yellow leather travel set with travel wallet with passport cover and luggage tags - only $35...now if only I had an international trip planned to put it through it's paces! And  it looks like I got the last one, as the website says it's currently out of stock! However I did see lots of other gorgeous colours so take your pick.

Two basic singlets for $10 each - I would have gotten a third colour combo if they'd had it in stock.

And lastly an interesting looking top that doesn't photograph well - best to take a look on the Ciao Bella website. The colour is a bit darker in real life but I love the shape so will definitely be wearing it just as soon as I've gotten the wrinkles out.

Last but not least they threw in another cute luggage tag - plus if you sign up as a member you get a 5% discount at the checkout. Now that's what I call customer service!

And now no more shopping for me for a while! Go take a look at the Ciao Bella website - but don't blame me if you can't leave without buying a little something.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Green thumbs up

Yesterday I posted about the changes in my front and back garden since I moved in just over a year ago - today here is some more detail about the herbs and veggies I have planted.

I have yet to actually harvest any of the veggies but I have high hopes! I have been using the herbs here and there, and I love being able to run outside and grab a few leaves - I don't have to remember to buy them, I don't have to pay for them, and I don't have to throw out half of the bought bunch (how often do you use the whole bunch from the supermarket?) And at about $3 a bunch, it's not a bad way to save a few bucks.

Panoramic view - amateur Photoshop stitching effort (when I took the pictures it hadn't occured to me to do a panorama - next time I will take them with the same f-stop and aperture and angle!)

On Sunday I dropped in to Bunnings to get a few more pots, potting soil and replacement herbs (my coriander seedlings didn't make it, and my rocket sprouts disappeared overnight due to a worm attack!). I also picked up this sweet plant - there were two colour varieties in the same pot for under $5. I repotted them and put them into my IKEA planters, and they are currently brightening up my kitchen windowsill.

It's called the Polka Dot Plant or Hypoestes phyllostachya.

Hopefully the herbs and veggies survive - can't wait to try my first home-grown cucumber!