Sunday, October 30, 2016

Going solar #2

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.

The five most common ways your home loses heat are:

  • Ceilings (10%)
  • Walls (12-14%)
  • Floors and below grade space (15-18%)
  • Windows and doors (18-20%)
  • Infiltration (air leakage) (35%)

Here are some of the issues and solutions when it comes to my house. Some of these solutions I implemented before the big electricity bill, but thought I’d list them all the same.

  • I know I have ceiling insulation (not sure what the quality/efficiency is like – presumably it was installed when the home was built).
  • I pulled up all the original carpets before moving in and had the pine floor boards polished, but recognise that in terms of insulation, this was not a good idea (however it looks fantastic!). The only thing between the crawl space and the interior of my house is the pine floorboards – not ideal, but not much I can do about it right now unless I install a new layer of floorboards over the top of the pine. I might look at this one day when I’m in a position to renovate the kitchen and bathroom, which will involve some walls being removed. Pine is not ideal as a floor as it is a soft wood that can easily be marked by wearing stilettos or a stone caught in the tread of your shoe.
  • Windows and doors:
    • I have a 5-pane fixed louvre window with a pane missing in my toilet. Due to the fact that it can’t be closed (and the missing pane didn’t help at all), there was a considerable draft coming through the window. To reduce the amount of air that could pass through the window, I cut a piece of clear plastic (the type you would use to cover your school books) to match the size of the window and held it in place with Blu-tak. Then I replaced the fly-screen which helps to anchor the plastic. There is a small gap (about 5cm) where the plastic is a little too small so there is still an opportunity for warm air to leak out, so I keep the door closed at all times.
    • I had a noticeable gap under my front door which was originally covered by a roller attached to the back of the door. It made a horrible noise whenever I opened the door (it was probably quite stiff and rusty), it was covered in brown fabric (a sort of faux-sheepskin) and looked pretty tacky. So that went into the bin pretty quickly and was replaced with a draught excluder from Bunnings . Despite appearances it wasn’t the easiest thing to install – definitely needed a little help from dad with that one.
    • I have gaps under all my interior doors because the floors originally had carpet, so they would have been at least 2.5cm closer to the underside of the door than with just the pine floorboards. So I bought two stick-on draught excluders for the toilet door and the bathroom door.
    • I don’t think that my windows are particularly well sealed so that’s something to tackle in the future.

Anyway, all of the above is a bit of background as to why I thought about installing solar panels. Electricity prices are never going to come down, and with a huge winter electricity bill I couldn’t afford for it to be any higher.

I spoke to friends and colleagues, did a bit of googling and felt pretty despondent – solar systems can be incredibly expensive to insall! When looking at what size system I needed for my consumption, of course I was using my last (huge) electricity bill as a benchmark for my daily average consumption. The bad news was that the 3.0kW system would cost $7500 and that I didn’t have a big enough roof space for all the panels anyway. I couldn’t catch a break!

I left it for a few months but continued to receive regular news emails from the company I had originally enquired with. One day I saw they were having a fantastic sale for 1.5kW systems for $1,999. Now this was an amount I could afford, so I called up straight away to see if my roof space would be suitable.

In hindsight I probably made the decision to go ahead without having all the facts, but in my defence I was on a deadline (the sale price was only valid for a week, and it was about 50% of the standard price so it was a significant saving). I don’t have any regrets but faced a steep learning curve when it came to understanding all the implications of going solar.

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