Saturday, October 29, 2016

Going solar #1

Another draft post that I never quite finished so it was never published. A few tweaks and I'm hitting the publish button! Originally written in 2012.

I have a confession. I am a bit of a greenie at heart. Yes I eat meat, I drive a petrol-guzzling car (well it’s actually really light on fuel to be fair!) and I occasionally forget to switch the light off in a room I’m not using. But on the plus side, I recycle, I don’t just throw stuff away when it’s not working 100% (I take it to my dad and he fixes it for me!) and I don’t use my tumble dryer unless I’m absolutely desperate.

A few months ago I received my winter electricity bill (issued quarterly) and had a nasty shock. This was the first winter electricity bill I’ve ever received, as I was previously living in a share house with gas heating, and if truth be told, I paid very little attention to the bills except to transfer over the required amount of money when asked to.

I bought a 2-bedroom unit in November 2010. The average energy consumption for a single person household in a 2-bedroom unit with no gas (i.e. electric hot water and electric heating) is  11.6kWh per day according to my energy retailer. 

Estimate from

After chatting to neighbours (living in identical unit without gas but with a reverse cycle air conditioner) I surmised that the culprit was definitely heating. I had an old electric wall heater that attempted to blow warm air (not very successfully), didn’t have a thermostat and was most likely installed when the house was built in the early 1980s. Because that was not particularly effective, I was also using an oil-column heater with a thermostat.

As a general rule, any appliance that produces heat (whether it's the main output, such as a heater, or a by-product aka waste heat, such as an incandescent light bulb) will consume more electricity than an appliance that does not produce heat. So if you want to keep your bill out of the heart-attack inducing price range, keep an eye on your heat-producing electricity usage.

Upon receiving my bill I immediately stopped using both heaters, and used the wall heater only for an hour (I set an alarm on my phone) to bring things to a more bearable temperature. I made a conscious effort to add another blanket before turning on the heater, and checked for draughts. Still, this wasn't really a solution as some nights I was really uncomfortably cold unless I cranked up the heater(s).

So I thought about going solar. Given that electricity prices are not dropping any time soon (in fact, they are rising scarily fast), solar is a no-brainer. Of course, it's not quite so simple, but given enough time the system will pay for itself in reduced electricity bills.

I thought I would write a series of posts about my decision to go solar, what I should have known before making that decision, and other ways I have made an effort to save energy in my home.Hopefully someone somewhere will find this information useful, and hopefully it can save them some money and stress too!

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