Feb 16, 2018: Record Year for Rooftop Solar

Rooftop solar goes gangbusters in 2017. (Source: Domain)

Rooftop solar goes gangbusters in 2017. (Source: Domain)

It’s official, 2017 was a record-breaking year for rooftop solar installations in Australia in spite of our government’s desire to slow renewable energy development and prop up fossil fuel industries as long as possible. It’s no surprise really, given the fact that electricity prices across the nation went up dramatically last year AND solar feed-in-tarrifs (FIT’s) doubled. This means that the financial return on a rooftop solar investment is much better than having money in the bank or even paying down a mortgage. Depending on how much you pay for power, how much you get as a FIT and how much electricity you are able to use during the day directly from your solar system, the basic ROI for most solar home owners is somewhere between 10% and 20%. With banks paying about 2% interest on savings account it’s little wonder that record numbers of Australian homes are putting solar on their roofs.

In fact we recommend that people put as much solar as they can on their home (see our Sept 22 Newsletter for more on this). In most cases this is limited to about 6kW of solar on a 5kW inverter but if you have 3-phase power and lots of roof space it could be as much as three times the size. Even if you end up exporting most of the solar power directly to the grid, with a FIT of 12-13c/kWh you can still get a return in the range of 10-15%.

For small business owners who primarily use electricity during the day the ROI from rooftop solar can be as high as 25-30% meaning that the system will pay for itself in as little as 3-4 years. After that you’ve got many, many more years of free electricity to enjoy. Here’s a case study from Solar Quotes blog to back me up on this.

When you see those sorts of numbers you start to wonder why ANY home or business in Australia DOESN’T have solar on their roof. I think a lot of people have hesitated because they’re waiting for the ‘perfect time’ but meanwhile they’ve missed out on years of financial savings. Another one of the big reasons is that many people don’t own their own home or business premises.

Solar For Landlords

So what about rental properties? How can a landlord and/or a tenant get a financial benefit from putting solar on the roof of an investment property?

The fundamental problem for most landlords is that they own the property but the electricity bill is usually in the name of the tenant. This means that any financial benefit from rooftop solar in the form of reduced daytime electricity use or credit for electricity exported to the grid accrues to the tenant and not the landlord.

A perfect example of this is the house next to the Greeny Flat which we are currently upgrading for improved energy performance. (Click here for more information and videos on that whole process). This is an investment property owned by my mother. She plans to put solar on the roof but she’s not sure when to do it or how to achieve a financial return on that investment.

The simplest way for Mum to recoup the cost of installing a solar system would be to put the rent up. But it’s a competitive market and her tenants may not be prepared to pay extra for a house with solar, even though they will benefit from reduced electricity bills.

Another way to do it would be for Mum to put the electricity bill in her name and for the renters to pay for the power they use plus the daily supply charges. That way Mum would directly get the financial reward for the solar power produced. But it would also complicate the rental agreement because every three months Mum’s property manager would have to figure out how much electricity the renters had used and how much extra they owe. And then what happens if they disagree or refuse to pay? It could create a very sticky situation between Mum and her tenants.

One option that I have just thought of would be for Mum to install the solar on a completely separate meter and simply export all of the electricity to the grid. That way she would get a financial return from the roof space she owns which is currently doing nothing (apart from keeping her tenants dry). But it wouldn’t benefit the tenants at all and the ROI would be less because she’d have to pay a second lot of daily supply charges. Still, I think this is worth looking into along with various programs that have been set up specifically to manage the financial arrangements between tenants and landlords who have rooftop solar systems.

We are currently at the point with our Home Energy Retrofit where we are ready to replace the old tile roof with a new, light-coloured Colorbond roof. In fact that is due to happen next week (no doubt we will manage to break the drought in the process). Once the new roof is on we’ll be ready to seriously consider the Triple-Bottom-Line benefits of putting solar on the roof. I’ll be looking carefully into our options and reporting on the findings over the next few weeks. So stay tuned, especially if you are a landlord or tenant yourself.

Heat-Reflective Paint

Following our recent discussions about the benefits of using light-coloured roofs in a warm climate like Australia a reader sent me a link to the following YouTube video which briefly demonstrates the benefits of heat-reflective paint. Thanks Doug!

Other Things That Caught Our Eye Last Week

This NewAtlas article talks about how sea-level rise appears to be accelerating and may happen much faster than previously predicted. Not a happy thought but a good reminder of why it’s important to reduce our energy use as much, and as quickly, as possible

Pot Power

I won’t presume to know where any of our readers stand on the issue of legalising marijuana but the fact is this is happening at a rapid rate around the world. 10 out of the 50 US states could potentially legalise recreational use in 2018. Personally I don’t have a problem with people smoking dope but I’m starting to get a bit concerned about the climate change implications of increased growing of Cannabis. According to this article from The Guardian

A study by scientist Evan Mills, with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, revealed that legalized indoor marijuana-growing operations account for 1% of total electricity use in the US…In 2012, Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. Two years later, Denver’s 362 marijuana grow facilities consumed more than 2% of the city’s electricity usage. Statewide facilities are behind roughly half of Colorado’s new power demands.

With a whole lot more states set to follow Colorado’s lead in legalising the growing and smoking of pot this could turn into an energy consumption nightmare second only to the processing of Bitcoin transactions.

Feb 9, 2018: Cooking With Compost

In last week’s Newsletter I wrote about some developments in Waste-to-Energy Systems around the world. One of the systems I mentioned is called Home Biogas and, as the name suggests, it is a domestic system that takes organic waste like food scraps and even human waste, and turns it into odourless methane gas which is great for cooking. For a long time I’ve had dreams of building myself a simple system for turning our organic waste into cooking energy so it’s great to know I can go online and buy one for just AUD$520 plus shipping.

The Home Biogas 2.0 system is currently on sale for AUD$520 plus shipping. (Source: Home Biogas)

The Home Biogas 2.0 system is currently on sale for AUD$520 plus shipping. (Source: Home Biogas)

In response I received the following from a reader named Jyoti (who has lived with a Home Biogas system for about a year) which I thought I’d share with you in case you’re interested in getting one for your own place. (Here is another link to The Conversation article she is referring to in case you need a refresher).

I wanted to share my home biogas experience with you. I started using the same system that Samuel has, about a year ago and I must say it works very well. Gas is not produced under 20 degrees C. In winter supplementary heating is required but since our system is outdoors and we only used it during weekends in the cooler months (too dark by the time we got home in the afternoons on weekdays), it still gave me enough for weekly cooking. Wish I could do something about using solar energy in winter to heat up the system. It can be done but it is too complicated for me.  It is great during these summer days and we cook on it everyday.

We get fertiliser for our garden everyday too. I use kitchen waste from home (and work too when our composting systems there are full!) as input for the biogas system. These days we can go for weeks without putting out our rubbish bin. Like yourself, we had opened our home to demonstrate this for Sustainable house Day:https://sustainablehouseday.com/house/biogas-house/.

Home Biogas has a newer version now, a 2.0 version which is cheaper and simpler to install. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1846577405/homebiogas-20-transforms-your-food-waste-into-clea.

I called up our local council and EPA before I installed our system as I couldn’t find any laws about that but both only mentioned that I should be aware of the Clean Air regulations. Methane by nature is odourless and we burn it during cooking. As Samuel says in The Conversation piece, it is not much different to gas barbeques in backyards. One day I hope to see many more of these installations, may be even community ones that a few households could share and use the energy to light up a barbeque or street light.

Have you seen this article on street lights run by dog poo? https://www.techly.com.au/2018/02/05/poo-power-street-lamp-runs-doggos-dung/

Cheers, Jyoti

I emailed Jyoti back with the following question and comment:

Could you pipe the methane into the house so you could use it to cook inside?

I think it would be fairly simple to build a little solar tent or an insulated box around the digester to keep it warmer in winter.

Is this an insulated solar box built around Samuel's Home Biogas system?

Is this an insulated solar box built around Samuel’s Home Biogas system? I think it might be… (Source: The Conversation)

And this was her reply:

You certainly could pipe the gas indoors. I wasn’t sure if the system would work well and kept it as a standalone system. Lots of people around the world have done some ingenious things like connecting it indoors in such a way that biogas is used first and when that is over, LPG kicks in.

Solar tent or an insulated box (was wondering if that is what Samuel has around his system) sounds like a good idea. The innovator of the home biogas has solar panels installed on top of his system. Mine is not completely in the sun as I have to use my sun spaces for veggies and plants but all in all it works well. I am mechanically challenged and will take a while to work out some solution for winter days.

So there you have it… both Samuel and Jyoti are very happy with their Home Biogas systems and I think they both have the previous version 1.0. So my guess is that the 2.0 system currently available will work even better. I checked the pricing and, as part of a pre-orderdeal, for about AUD$669 you get the Home Biogas 2.0 digester plus:

The Pre-Order Exclusive Deal includes 5 FREE accessories 

  • Single-Burner Biogas Stove
  • Growth Boosting Beads
  • Filter for Fertilizer
  • Filter for Biogas
  • Insulating Foam Sheet

This sounds like a pretty good deal to me and I am seriously considering getting one for the Greeny Flat. I just have to check on the size of the system because we don’t have a lot of extra space around here. Plus, by the sounds of it, we would need to locate it in a sunny spot and build some sort of insulated solar box (like Samuel’s) around it because of our relatively cold winters. I’ll keep you posted.

P.S. I have no affiliation with Home Biogas 2.0, I just think it’s a good idea and I want to encourage others to consider this as an option for reducing their fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Feb 2, 2018: Waste-to-Energy Systems

The Last Word on Tile Roofs

This week I was sent some interesting articles about both industrial and domestic-scale waste-to-energy systems. These outline some very promising developments in the technology needed to convert wastes into usable forms of energy. I’ll get to those in a minute. Firstly I’d like to round out the discussion we’ve had over the last couple of weeks about how inappropriate tile roofs are for Australia climates. In our last three Newsletters (here, here and here) I’ve been banging on about how tile roofs (especially the dark-coloured ones that you see in every new subdivision these days) are a stupid idea in Australia. The truth is they don’t make much sense anywhere unless clay is the only building material you have on hand. But here in Oz, where we have very hot summers and ready access to lots of better materials (like light-coloured Colorbond), a dark-coloured tile roof is completely insane. Anyway, I promise I’ll move on to other subjects but I would just like to share with you an email I received last week from a regular reader named David, which confirms, from first-hand experience, everything I’ve been saying. (This was written in response to last week’s Newsletter entitled ‘Should I Replace My Tile Roof’)

Interesting topic- we have done both, ie: repaint, and reroof.
When we bought our 1974 built house in 1995 in Brisbane, it had a very dark brown tiled roof, and just some ceiling batts. We had it painted with an off white (very light green) heat resistant roof paint in 1996.
The difference was absolutely enormous.
Then by 2012, the light green paint was all flaking off, mostly because the people who applied the coating did a lousy job in preparation. That’s what I was told by experts I called in to look at the problem.  It meant that another repaint would be difficult or impossible owing to flaking paint.
We decided to “bite the bullet” and go with a new “surfmist” (white) colorbond roof plus “anticon” blanket. We also had to have an engineer look at it closely as tie downs on the roof framing were non existent, just a few skew nails, relying on the weight of the tiles to keep the roof on in a blow. (Tieing the whole thing down properly cost approximately another $1500.)
All up the cost was about $30k, not bad considering it’s a very large house. Literally NOTHING beats a white colorbond roof. 
Dark roofs are the dumbest thing anyone could ever consider in our climate. Even with extreme insulation, all that heat goes into the environment, a heat island effect.
Anyway, the transformation was amazing, and the house is sooo much cooler now, and also even much cooler than after the original roof was repainted. We rarely need to use the aircon now even with our Brisbane summer, and when we do, it’s only one small super efficient 2.5 kW unit, used mainly to dehumidify, which draws around 520w max from our 5kW solar system. (6.5kW of panels, 5kW inventer.)
Even with charging our PHEV daily, we export far more power than we consume.
I shudder when I see many of today’s brick boxes, with little or no eaves, and black or dark coloured roof. Total madness! (One of our neighbours has a jet black roof, and the others are all pretty dark.)  There are so many people who just don’t understand even the most basic Physics, (which it just so happens was always my favourite subject at school.)
Today in Brisbane has been a real summer stinker, we reached about 34C here, but we have taken it easy most of the day in our living area with the house well closed up, with just the 2.5 kW Panasonic inverter A/C running. It’s about 27C inside, yet low humidity and extremely comfortable, and meanwhile we have been exporting 4-4.5 kW for most of the day, and even now at 3:30pm we are still exporting 3.85 kW. The aircon is running, but not working hard at all, and probably using 200-300w at the absolute most. (I have a clamp meter on the switchboard so can always keep an eye on things.)
We have also some shade cloth and small trees strategically planted to keep sun off the western walls. We can’t do anything about the lack of wall insulation in our 1970’s house, but were I building from new it would be done PROPERLY with extremely good insulation etc. as you alluded in your newsletter.
P.S. How’s your PHEV going. Both my wife and I absolutely love ours, (it’s white) but will hopefully pass it on to one of our kids when we (hopefully) get a Tesla Model 3 some time next year…. I’ve had my deposit down for a long time. (We actually like the PHEV so much, that if it had more battery range, say another 50klms, I wouldn’t even consider bothering with a Tesla. )
This is clearly a man after my own heart… he even has a PHEV like ours… and his comments about light and dark roofs are right on the money. I’ll leave it at that except to say I’ve received two quotes so far for replacing the tile roof on the house next to the Greeny Flat with ‘Shale Grey’ Colorbond and ‘anticon’ blanket. It looks like it will cost around $20k. I’ll keep you posted.

Waste-To-Energy Systems

As I mentioned at the start, I’ve been sent a number of articles this week about waste-to-energy systems. What we do with our food waste and other organic solids is a subject that people don’t always want to talk about but it’s very important. Our poo and our kitchen scraps have the potential to generate a LOT of methane. If this is just allowed to escape into the atmosphere it is a very potent greenhouse gas (about nine times worse than CO2). But if we capture it we have a renewable energy source. And while it’s true that when we burn it we get CO2, it is still much better than either letting methane escape or burning fossil fuels.

Generating Biogas can be done on a domestic or an industrial scale and, if you’re interested, here are some articles to read.

This article from The Conversation talks about the Home Biogas system described in the video above. It is currently available in Australia for about $1000. My brother is thinking about getting one and, if he does, I’ll be sure to let you know how well it works. For more information about the system you can visit the Home Biogas website here.

This article from New Atlas describes a larger system called NEWgenerator which can recover (N)utrients, (E)nergy and (W)ater from sewage. This system has been specifically designed for use in developing countries where clean water, energy and fertiliser can be in short supply and human waste can be a health and environmental disaster.

Finally this other New Atlas article is about the ‘World’s Largest Waste to Energy Plant’ which is due to be completed in Dubai in 2020. This huge power-plant will theoretically deal with 60% of Dubai’s garbage and produce enough energy to power 120,000 homes. I think we’d have to call that a win-win and I think there is a bright future for these kinds of technologies that can convert environmental problems into energy solutions.

A rendering of the Dubai waste-to-energy proposal (Source: New Atlas)

A rendering of the Dubai waste-to-energy proposal (Source: New Atlas)

Jan 16, 2018: Should I Replace My Tile Roof

In our last two Newsletters I’ve talked about why brick veneer houses with tile roofs are such a bad choice for Australia’s climate. To reinforce that point, here’s quote from Harry Seidler (‘famous’ Australian architect) which was written in 1954 and sent to me yesterday by one of our readers.

‘…topping it all there is that inevitable huge and expensive pitched roof structure covered with Marseilles tiles which has absolutely no justification for its existence in this climate. Without insulation, the large body of air above such buildings will heat up in summer and produce highly undesirable conditions inside… Such roofs put all their weight onto the exterior walls and require excessive support. They are wasteful in labour and material…

No clue is given by the exterior of the building as to the local climate. With their complete lack of integrated outdoor living facilities, these buildings are utterly alien to a country with a climate of such small temperature variations as those prevailing in the southeastern part of Australia; a climate which is comparable to that of some Mediterranean countries or of California.’


What's wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with this picture? (Image Source: Trip Advisor)

Now I’m no fan of Harry Seidler, in fact I detest most of his work especially the Blues Point Tower which I think ruins the view up Sydney Harbour past the gorgeous curves of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. In the photo above look how the Blues Point Tower seems to be supporting the roadway of the Harbour Bridge. This is one of the most iconic and photographed views in the world and the Blues Point Tower stuffs it up (a bit). Compare the photo above to the photo below where I have (gleefully) taken out the Blues Point Tower.

Isn't that much better?

Isn’t that much better?

Unfortunately here in Australia we have an obsession with ‘Heritage Conservation’ which causes us to preserve things simply because they’re old (or designed by a starchitect with a big name like Harry Seidler) regardless of whether they were ever any good or not. So I doubt we’ll ever be able to enjoy the Opera House and Harbour Bridge without the blight of the Blues Point Tower but I live in hope… and I digress.

The point is that even an architect as egotistical an insensitive as Harry Seidler could tell that tile roofs didn’t make any sense in Australia’s climate, yet today, 64 years after he wrote the quote above, it is still the most common way to roof homes, at least in the southeast. The only difference is that now most new roofs seem to be using very dark or even black tiles which is even more insane because they will absorb even more heat in summer. So we’re going backwards.

As far as I’m concerned, the only roofing material that makes sense for our climate is a light coloured Colorbond like the ‘Shale Grey’ roof we have on the Greeny Flat (as you can see in the photo at the top of this page). But wait, we’re doing a complete energy retrofit of the house next to the Greeny Flat (click here to learn more about that) and it has a dark tile roof…. so what’s the story?

180116 Queen St Roof

Dark tile roof on the house next to the Greeny Flat.

The story is that we are planning to remove all the tiles and replace them with a ‘Shale Grey’ Colorbond roof to match the Greeny Flat and then install solar panels on the new roof. We just haven’t got to that stage of the project yet but here’s a 3D image of how it might look when it’s finished.

180116 New Queen St Roof

3D model of the finished house.

So Should I Replace My Tile Roof?

About a year ago I did an Energy Assessment for a family in Sydney who were having overheating issues in their house. Yesterday I received the following email from Margaret after she had read my last couple of Newsletters.

‘You’ll be pleased to hear that we bought a “new” PHEV towards the end of last year so we are now in the process of getting solar panels installed. We’ve gone with a Space Solar 5.5kW system with micro-inverters. As usual with this type of thing it also raises questions, so we were wondering what your thoughts are on whether our 60 year old terracotta tiles will cope with the mounting of the solar panels. We have factored in that the panels have a 25+ year life so do we bite the bullet now and change to light-coloured colorbond with anticon (ceiling cavity is already insulated to R3.5) to match the back of the house. Have you had any experiences with this type of scenario? The installer says that they check the roof before installing but the last thing we want is to have the roof leak in the future.’

I would not be too concerned with the ability of the old tiles to ‘cope with’ the solar panels. Solar systems are installed on tile roofs all the time. But should they replace their tiles with Colorbond? This is a very good question and they are asking it at the right time (i.e. BEFORE they install solar on their roof). Personally I would be inclined to do what they suggest and replace the tile roof with a light-coloured Colorbond over an anticon blanket. Anticon stands for ‘anti-condensation’ and is a foil-faced sarking product lined with R1.5 fibreglass insulation. It is installed insulation-side up so that the insulation is in contact with the underside of the corrugated metal. This prevents condensation forming (hence the name) and also greatly reduces the amount of heat transfer from the metal into the roof cavity. If they were building a new house I would say there is no question… this is the way to go (if they have an attic but if it’s a raked (cathedral) ceiling then I’d recommend SIPS panels. Click here to read why.)

However on an old house there are other things to consider. The main one is cost. While the Colorbond+anticon is the ideal solution it is a very expensive change to make to a house. We are going to do it on the house next door and we expect it to last for the next 75-100 years so we think it’s worth it. But it’s a hard pill to swallow when the tile roof we have is functioning reasonably well, it keeps the rain out and, in our cooler climate, we don’t have an overheating issue. In Margaret’s case there is an even stronger argument for replacing the roof because they live in a hotter place and they do have an overheating problem. But there are a few other things to consider.

  1. Ventilation – the better ventilated the roof cavity, the cooler it will stay in summer and the dryer it will stay in winter. Attic ventilation is extremely important regardless of the type of roof you have. Older tile roofs typically don’t have sarking under the tiles so they tend to be pretty well ventilated via all the holes between the tiles. Both tile and Colorbond roofs with sarking tend to be poorly ventilated and so do hip roofs, i.e. sloping up on all sides like a pyramid, (e.g. the house in the image above) which is why we have installed a lot of vents in the eaves of the house we’re retrofitting (click here for more on that). Whirlybirds or solar-powered fans are good ways to add ventilation to roof cavities. So, whether you can afford to replace your tiles with Colorbond or not, adding more ventilation to the attic space is a good way to help keep it cool and is very important for keeping it dry and free from mould or rot.
  2. Roof Paint – If you can’t afford to install a light-coloured Colorbond roof another option is to apply a light-coloured paint to your existing tile roof. This is a much less expensive option that can significantly reduce the heat gain through the roof. There are even specially formulated ‘Cool Roof’ paints that have heat-reflective properties which can make dramatic reductions to heat buildup in roof cavities.
  3. Shading from solar panels – another thing to keep in mind is that, if you are planning to install a large array of solar panels on your roof (which Margaret is), those solar panels will actually shade a fair portion of your roof and help to keep the roof cavity cooler as well.

So, the answer to Margaret’s question is, if they can afford it and you want to do the best job for the long term, I would recommend replacing the tile roof with light-coloured Colorbond + anticon. If not then look into having the tile roof painted with a light-coloured ‘Cool Roof’ paint before installing the solar panels and the panels will also help to shade the roof and keep the house cool. But either way remember that good attic ventilation is extremely important.

Dec 12, 2018: More About Keeping Cool

In last week’s Newsletter we critiqued an article from Domain.com.au about ‘Tips and Tricks to Keep Your House Cool the Natural Way’ and we offered a few suggestions of our own. In response I received the following comments from a long-time reader and valued supporter named Marcus who wrote:

Dear Andy,

A good summary of much that can help in the heat, but a painful reminder of the fact that many of our houses are just not built ‘the right way’.
I have a few points.

1. Blinds – Not everyone would like the double cell ones, and I find that single ones with light coloured curtains closed behind are quite effective. Like you we choose not to live in the dark.
2. uPVC window frames. I think the evidence from other (sunny) countries is pretty convincing. uPVC is very stable in the long term and beats thermal break aluminium – looks good as you can get it in white and wood effect and is easy to clean, unlike aluminium which tends to look dull and ‘pitted’ with time. My only issue is that the frames tend to be thicker, which means less glass area.
3. Fans. We use fans to remove hot air from the apex of our living room and first floor landing (Both can get very hot as the roofs are not well insulated). This hot air is delivered to the ‘whirly gig’ attic fans and thence to atmosphere. This would probably be even more effective if we had powered (solar or mains) fans in the roof.
4. Roof insulation. Obviously you can add more insulation material to attic floors. Our problem is the ‘cathedral’ ceiling, which suffers from being under quite dark tiles and not much insulation. I don’t have an IR camera, but I expect it would be a horrifying as your photo. You could add thick insulation between the trusses, but this would destroy the look of the room. Do you know of any materials which offer significant insulation, but would leave the trusses exposed?

Keep up the good work.

Marcus makes some good points and is absolutely right that many Australian homes are not built the ‘right way’ for our hot and sunny climate. As I mentioned in last week’s article, a brick veneer house with a dark tile roof is about the most inappropriate way to build for Australian conditions and yet that is exactly how the majority of new homes are still being built. Heavy masonry materials like brick and tile soak up heat throughout the day, store that heat around the outside of the home and then radiate the heat into the house until long into the night. This causes the house to stay hot and the a/c to work overtime. Combine this with your typically awful Australian insulation job (and the fact that no thought is given to air sealing) and you get a house that either gets unbearably hot (and stays hot for most of the night) or uses a heap of electricity to run the air-conditioning far more than is necessary.

I would just like to add a couple of things to go along with Marcus’s comments.

On the subject of uPVC windows, I know some people (like Marcus) who are very happy with their uPVC windows. But I also know an equal number of people who are not so happy. I think the key with uPVC is to keep the size of each pane of glass relatively small. I’ve seen brand new, imported, European uPVC frames that have sagged in the middle when they have particularly wide, horizontal sashes. I’ve also seen uPVC soften slightly in extreme heat causing frames to sag, usually when the sashes are large and heavy. Marcus is right that uPVC will transfer much less heat in and out of the building than aluminium so their energy performance is better, I just suggest that if you use them you keep your window sash sizes smaller to hopefully avoid the sagging issues.

This is clearly an extreme case of uPVC window sagging but it shows what can happen.

This is clearly an extreme case of uPVC window sagging but it shows what can happen.

Regarding the use of exhaust fans to cool your house… yes Marcus is right that they can be very effective at expelling hot air but it is very important to know what the temperature both inside and outside the house is when you turn them on. Whenever you blow air out of a house, you suck an equal amount of air in from outside. So if the outside air is hotter than inside, you will simply be sucking in hotter air than what you are blowing out. This is why I think it is essential for every house to have an indoor and outdoor thermometer so you know when to turn on fans and open windows (i.e. when the outside air is cooler than inside) and when to leave them off or closed (i.e. when the outside air is hotter than inside). In fact I wrote a Newsletter article about this exact subject back in February last year titled ‘Every Home Needs This‘.

And finally, to answer Marcus’s question about improving roof insulation in a cathedral (sloped or raked) ceiling…

Cathedral ceilings are extremely difficult to build well and to insulate properly and even more difficult to retrofit to a high performance standard. As Marcus points out, he could add a lot of insulation to the underside of the existing ceiling but it would ruin the look of the exposed ‘trusses’. So the answer would be to try to add the most insulation between the rafters with the least amount of depth. The two insulation products that have the highest R-value per inch (25mm) are two kinds of rigid foam. One is called Extruded Polystyrene and the other is called Polyisocyanurate. With both of these products you get about R2.4 insulation in only 50mm of foam (as opposed to about 100mm of fibreglass batt). So Marcus, if there’s room to add 50mm of depth to your ceiling this would be the way to go however then you’ve got the problem of having to cover the underside of the insulation with gyprock or T&G or some other product and this can turn a ceiling insulation job into a major construction project.

This is one of the reasons why I generally prefer a trussed roof with a flat ceiling and an attic space rather than a cathedral ceiling. When you have an roof space you have the ability to get up there in the future and make changes to things like the insulation or the electrical wiring which you can’t do with a cathedral ceiling.

Thanks Marcus for adding those thoughts. We always welcome any feedback and comments.

Jan 5, 2018: Keeping Your Cool

Thank you very much to all of you who sent such nice thoughts to Cintia and I for our marriage and for the New Year. We’ve had a nice break and a bit of time at the beach. Now we’re ready to get back into the swing of things for 2018.

This coming Sunday is forecast to be scorching hot so I thought we’d start the year with some thoughts on how to keep your house cool during the summer. A good place to start is this article from Domain.com.au

(Source: Domain)

(Source: Domain)

The article lists nine ‘Tips and Tricks to Keep Your House Cool the Natural Way’. I’ll let you read it for yourself but I’d like to add the following comments and qualifications to what the author wrote.

Item 1: Create Shade

The more you can shade the paved areas around your house the cooler you’ll be. Heavy materials like paving, concrete, bitumen and stone will soak up heat from the sun during the day and stay warm long into the night. This is true of brick walls and tile roofs too (which is why I don’t use them). The more you can keep these areas cool during the day, the more you’ll stay comfortable through the night. Personally I prefer to use shade cloths, awnings and blinds rather than relying on deciduous trees or vines for shading for two reasons. It gives me more control over when I let heat into the house and when I keep it out. Also, in winter, even though the vines or trees might have lost their leaves, the bare branches can still provide a significant amount of shade that reduces the amount of solar heat gain when you need it most. If you live in a really hot climate this is not really a problem and deciduous trees can be an excellent option because they can shade the roof and walls of the house too (especially on the west). A light-coloured Colorbond roof also really helps to reflect a lot of the heat from the sun and won’t get nearly as hot as a dark-coloured roof. If your house has a dark-coloured roof you will find it much harder to keep it cool inside.

Item 2: Improve Your Eaves

Having the right amount of roof overhang on the north side of your home is a vital part of good Passive Solar Design however, it is important to understand that correct eave overhang sizing is only effective at controlling summer sun on the north side of the house. It can help a bit on the east and west but won’t stop the low morning and afternoon sun from making things pretty toasty. That is why a good Passive Solar Home will be oriented with the long side of the house facing north. This provides maximum shading in summer, maximum solar gain in winter and minimum exposure to the hot, low afternoon sun from the west.

Item 3: Let it in/Shut it out

The article correctly says… ‘On hot summer days, get into the habit of shutting up during the day – all doors, blinds, curtains – and then opening everything up in the evening to vent the house with evening breezes.’ This is exactly how we operate the Greeny Flat in summer with the help of our indoor and outdoor thermometer. As soon as the outdoor temperature drops below the indoor temperature we know it’s time to open up and start cooling her down. BUT there is one very important exception to this rule. It will only work if your house is reasonably well insulated (and air-sealed) and has the right shading on the windows, otherwise, when you close everything up during the heat of the day, the house could easily get hotter than the outdoors. If you have poor insulation or big windows with no shading the heat from outside will build up inside until it becomes unbearably hot and stuffy.

Item 4: Create Flow

Good cross-flow ventilation is very important for cooling the house down once you do open it up (or if you live near the coast you might keep it open during the day to catch the cooling sea breezes). This can be tricky in existing houses, especially in bedrooms that only have one window. The difficult thing with bedrooms is that, if there are more than one or two people in the house, you are likely to keep the bedroom doors closed throughout the night. This can block any sort of cross-ventilation if the bedroom only has one window. Ideally each bedroom should have two windows located as far from each other as possible and near opposite corners. This allows for good cross-ventilation, even if the door is closed. The following diagram shows how we planned for cross-ventilation in the Greeny Flat.

Natural cross ventilation in summer.

Note how the bedrooms have two windows near opposite corners of the rooms.

Item 5: Go for glazing

Here the article talks about the benefit of double-glazing for reducing heat gain. When it says ‘check the rating’ it’s referring to the U-value and the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC). The lower the U-value, the better the window will be at insulating the house from summer heat. And the lower the SHGC, the better the windows will be at reflecting heat away from the house.

What the article doesn’t mention is Low-E coatings on the glass. Low-E coatings help reduce summer heat gain by reducing the U-value and lowering the SHGC. This is great for east, west and south-facing windows and for poorly shaded north-facing windows (or all windows if you live in a really hot climate). HOWEVER, if you live in a cool-to-cold climate and you have the right amount of roof overhang then you don’t want Low-E coatings on your north-facing windows because they will limit the amount of heat gain you get from the low-angled sun in winter. (Read through our Passive Solar Design guidelines for more information).

Regarding window frame materials, other factors to consider are:

  • With timber windows there are ongoing maintenance requirements plus the possibility of the frames warping or shrinking which can create air leaks.
  • With PVC windows there are longevity and durability concerns in my opinion (fibreglass is a much more durable option).
  • As the article says, you can get ‘Thermally Broken’ Aluminium frames but they are likely to be very expensive and watch out for companies that simply coat the inside of the frame with PVC and call it ‘Thermally Broken’… it’s not.

For all those reasons we decided to go with standard aluminium frames but double-glazed windows for the Greeny Flat. We knew we were compromising on the energy performance but we really wanted the low-maintenance, longevity and cost-effectiveness that aluminium provides. And we’re very happy with the result.

Item 6: Treat Windows Well

For window treatments at the Greeny Flat we chose double-cell cellular blinds from Kresta. These are not full block-out blinds as suggested in the article but we like the filtered light that comes through them, especially since we generally keep the blinds closed during the day in summer and the house would be very dark if we had block-out blinds.

Insulating cellular blinds with top-down-bottom-up feature.

Our insulating cellular blinds with top-down-bottom-up feature are very good for controlling sun, light, views and privacy.

The article suggests external blinds and these can be a very effective way of keeping heat out in summer but they tend to be very expensive and they don’t generally do much for keeping heat in in the winter time.

Item 7: Think Thermal Mass

The article is correct that Thermal Mass can be very effective at helping to keep a home cool in summer. HOWEVER it fails to explain some VERY important points about how to make this work.

The first is that, in order to be effective at helping to maintain a comfortable temperature inside a house both summer and winter, Thermal Mass MUST BE INSIDE THE INSULATION LAYER! This is why brick veneer walls and tiles roofs are SUCH a bad idea. They put Thermal Mass in the wrong place where it will soak up heat all day long and then hold that heat and radiate it in towards the interior for most of the night. This is why we used light-coloured corrugated metal for the roof and wall cladding on the Greeny Flat. The light colour helps to reflect the heat and the light-weight (opposite of Thermal Mass) means that, as soon as the sun stops shining on it, it cools down. I would go so far as to say that a brick veneer house with a dark tile roof (like almost all new homes I see in greenfield subdivisions these days) are about the worst thing you could do in our hot, sunny climate.

Instead the Thermal Mass should be inside the building. For us it takes the form of our concrete floor slab but it doesn’t just work magically by itself. We have to operate the house correctly to take advantage of it. In summer this means that we have to open the house up at night in order to let the floor slab cool down. Then it can help to maintain a cool temperature during the day. If we didn’t do that the house would just continue to get a bit warmer every day until it was unbearable. So it is very important that Thermal Mass is a) in the right place and b) operated effectively otherwise it can’t do its job correctly.

Item 8: Be Fan Savvy

Using ceiling fans is not exactly a ‘natural’ method of keeping cool but it certainly uses MUCH less energy than running an air-conditioner. Just bear in mind that a ceiling fan doesn’t actually lower the air temperature, it just makes you feel cooler by moving air across your skin which helps your sweat to evaporate more effectively.

Item 9: Insulate Well

I would have listed insulation as item 3, right after orienting your house correctly and providing the right amount of roof overhang but, obviously, good insulation is essential for keeping out summer heat as well as keeping in winter heat. I looked at a house which had no insulation in the ceiling with my infrared camera just a few days ago and the whole ceiling was glowing like a radiator and sitting at about 42degC. In fact, an uninsulated ceiling is exactly like a huge radiator beaming heat into your house all day long.

An uninsulated ceiling glowing like a radiator.

An uninsulated ceiling glowing like a radiator.

Other Items

The article contains a pretty good list and here are a few other things to consider:

  1. Solar panels on your roof can actually help keep the building cool by shading the roof.
  2. A solar power system also gives you the option to run a high-efficiency reverse cycle air-conditioning system during the day (when it will be using power directly from the solar system) to pre-cool the house (or pre-cool it in winter). That way the house is already cool when you come home and you don’t have to run the a/c at peak times (i.e. in the evening) when it will cost you a lot more and put extra strain on the grid.
  3. Also think about when and where you run electrical or gas appliances. Lights, fridges, computers, TV’s, microwaves, stoves, and cooktops all give off heat into your house. On really hot summer days we try to do all our cooking outdoors and run other appliances as little as possible in order to help keep the house cool.
  4. We also limit our use of kitchen or bathroom exhaust fans which blow air out of the house and, in the process, suck hot outside air in through leaks in the building fabric. Remember too that a dryer (assuming it is properly ducted to the outdoors) also acts like an exhaust fan blowing air out of the house and therefore sucking hot air in.
  5. You can use evaporation to help cool the area around your house in the evening. If you wait until the sun goes down and then water the grass and plants around your home (it also helps to spray a bit on any paved areas that might have been in the sun) the natural effect of that water evaporating will cool the air around your house but obviously you need to be conscious about not wasting water. We only use this technique on the very hottest days and we’re very careful about how much water we use.

Thanks for reading. Stay cool. More next week.

Dec 29, 2017: Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all our readers and thanks a million for your support and encouragement over the last 12 months. It makes all our efforts worthwhile.

A lot has happened here but the big news for the year was that Cintia and I got hitched.

Our perfect wedding on the beach at Port Macquarie

Our humble little wedding on the beach at Port Macquarie

I’m very lucky and deeply honoured that Cintia has chosen to share her life with me.

So Happy New Year from us both and here’s hoping that 2018 brings justice, peace, prosperity and sustainability to the world we live in. We’ll be trying to do our part to help make that happen and we hope you’ll join us.

Best wishes from Andy and Cintia.

Dec 22, 2017: Upside-down Season

Screen Shot 2017-12-15 at 18.48.58

Happy Summer Solstice everyone… except, of course, our readers in the Northern Hemisphere who are celebrating their Winter Solstice today.

Winter Solstice seems like more of a reason to celebrate. It is the shortest day and the darkest time of the year. After the Winter Solstice the days start to get longer and there’s warmth and light ahead. As you probably know, the whole celebration of Christmas is built on a pagan ritual of sun worship. Three days after the shortest day of the year (when the sun is lowest in the sky) it starts to rise again and a new year is born. For ancient people huddling through a European winter, this was a very significant time of the year and a great cause for celebration.

Here in Australia though, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s usually hot as hell at this time of year, yet those of us with a European background try to celebrate Christmas as though we were still living in Europe. Our homes and streets are decorated with plastic ‘snowflakes’, flashing ‘icicles’  and inflatable ‘snowmen’. We grow pine trees in plantations (because they don’t grow here naturally) and then cut them down for the sole purpose of hanging Christmas decorations on them. And how about the songs??? They’re all about dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh with Frosty the Snowman walking in a winter wonderland and dreaming of a White Christmas.

Is this mass delusion or collective denial?

A few days ago Cintia and I were in an open-air shopping mall in Batemans Bay. Everyone was walking around in t-shirts and thongs (‘flip-flops’ for our American readers not what you think of as a ‘thong’) and chatting about how warm it was. Then I noticed what looked like snow falling into the courtyard of the mall. This took me by surprise so I investigated and discovered that there was a machine on the roof grinding up ice and blowing tiny flakes of ‘snow’ down onto the scantily-clad consumers below. But the ones I really feel sorry for during an Aussie Christmas are the old guys dressed up as Santa Clause. Can you imagine how hot they must be? Generally they’re a little overweight to start with and then they dress up in fur-lined jackets with extra padding, don thick beards and warm winter hats before parading around the shopping centres carrying a sack full of goodies and stopping to let a bunch of sweaty kids sit on their laps while photographers aim studio lights at them. It’s amazing they don’t all pass out from heat exhaustion.

How does this make sense? (Image source: Mashable)

How does this make sense? (Image source: Mashable)

Yep, its a strange time of year down under… and we don’t even have the Winter Solstice as an underlying reason to celebrate. Here it’s Summer Solstice which means the days now start to get shorter and darker… in the words of John Snow… ‘Winter is coming!’

Still, no-one’s complaining, it’s warm and sunny, our beaches are beautiful and we’re incredibly luckily to live in this wonderful part of the world. Thankfully my own family got over the European Christmas thing many years ago. These days we like to get together, eat salad and summer pudding, drink chilled wine and laze around in the shade. The cultural cringe going on around us might be a bit surreal but I’ll take this over a White Christmas any day.

World’s First Solar Train Comes to Byron Bay

The Byron Bay Railroad Company's new Solar Train (Source: New Atlas)

The Byron Bay Railroad Company’s new Solar Train (Source: New Atlas)

Here’s a nice holiday article from New Atlas about the world’s first solar-powered train. ‘With enough capacity for 100 seated passengers, the train shuttles passengers between two newly constructed stations connecting the CBD of coastal town Byron Bay with a nearby arts precinct and luxury resort.’

‘The train rooftops have been fitted with custom-built curved solar panels to charge the onboard batteries, which also draw on a regenerative braking system said to recapture around 25 percent of energy the train uses to accelerate. The batteries can also be charged at the platform thanks to a large rooftop solar array on the storage shed. Failing that, it can draw power from the grid, which the company says is sourced from a local green energy provider.’

Now doesn’t that seem like the way of the future? And perhaps the coolest thing about the train is that ‘the two railcars used in the innovative rail service were originally constructed in 1949 … with the same aluminum fuselage construction used for aircraft bombers, making them lighter than what we today consider ‘light rail’.’

So here we have a business venture that combines modern technology, creative repurposing and historical preservation in a way that improves it’s community and is easy on the environment. What’s not to love about that?

Happy Holidays everyone, whatever the temperature and however you choose to celebrate.

Dec 8, 2017: Bitcoin Climate Disruption

Is Bitcoin adding to Global Warming? (Image Source: news.bitcoin.com

Is Bitcoin adding to Global Warming? (Image Source: news.bitcoin.com)

In last week’s Newsletter I mentioned a Guardian article which claims that processing of Bitcoin transactions now requires more energy than the entire country of Ireland. My friend Kevin responded with a link to this article from Grist which makes the following predictions (emphasis mine)…

‘…at bitcoin’s current growth rate, the electricity demanded by the cryptocurrency network will start to outstrip what’s available, requiring new energy-generating plants. And with the climate conscious racing to replace fossil fuel-base plants with renewable energy sources, new stress on the grid means more facilities using dirty technologies. By July 2019, the bitcoin network will require more electricity than the entire United States currently uses. By February 2020, it will use as much electricity as the entire world does today.

This is an unsustainable trajectory. It simply can’t continue.’

Now there’s an understatement for you… to suggest that doubling the world’s energy use in the next two years is unsustainable… how dare they?

But wait, as usual it seems the issue is much more complicated than that. According to this article from Mashable

‘…things aren’t that simple. We don’t know, exactly, how power-hungry Bitcoin really is. And whatever the figure is, Bitcoin certainly doesn’t need that much energy to run. Furthermore, energy consumption issues can potentially be fixed with a future upgrade of the Bitcoin software, which is easier than, say, reducing the energy footprint of Ireland. Finally, there are other cryptocurrencies out there working on a solution to this problem.’

The article goes on the state that… ‘Bitcoin isn’t exactly doing its job the way its creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, had intended. Due to its price rise, not many owners actually use their bitcoins to purchase goods; instead, everyone is either hoarding it or speculating with it

 This means that talking about the energy cost of one Bitcoin transaction is misleading…. In fact, you could theoretically run Bitcoin’s entire network on a dozen 10-year old PCs.’

According to this article, Bitcoin will have to adapt or die as other cryptocurrencies are developed that don’t require so much energy to process transactions… ‘Ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency right now… uses roughly three times less energy than Bitcoin; and yet there are twice as many transactions per day on Ethereum’s network.’

Another of our readers, Nick, posted the following comment… ‘Don’t confuse the mining of bitcoins with the transactions of them. Mining a bit coin is computationally expensive because it creates a new bitcoin (i.e. like making gold with a computer program) but the transactions are simple and cheap – if you think about it, no one would spend millions of dollars on a ten thousand dollar transaction’. So Nick, I guess I am confusing the two because, as I understand it, Bitcoin ‘miners’ receive Bitcoin as payment for using their vast computing power to process Bitcoin transactions, so it seems to me that the two are inseparable in terms of the energy they require. Perhaps you can explain it to me if that is incorrect.

Nevertheless, as I’m writing this I see that Bitcoin today passed US$20,000 per ‘coin’. Is it just me or does this strike anyone else as completely INSANE! Bitcoin has no use and no yield. It can’t be used to buy anything and it doesn’t pay any interest or rent or dividend. The only way to make a return on your investment is to buy it and hope that the price goes up when more people buy it. That seems like the classic definition of a Ponzi scheme to me where… ‘the operator generates returns for older investors through revenue paid by new investors, rather than from legitimate business activities’.

The fact is that, currently there isn’t much you can do with a Bitcoin. According to this article from The Telegraph‘Bitcoin has proven itself to be a completely useless currency’Bitcoin propoennts counter this by saying that the mainstream press, governments and big financial institutions are opposed to cryptocurrencies because of their power to disrupt the status quo. Personally I think these advocates are living in la-la land. They claim that the great benefit of ‘cryptos’ is that governments can’t control them and you can make your financial transactions in private without requiring a big bank to process them. If they seriously think banks and governments the world over are going to allow that situation to continue then they need their heads examined. Instead I predict that, as soon as the technology is developed to the point of being actually useful, the banks and bureaucrats will take it over and ban any transactions outside of a system that they control.

Meanwhile people the world over are investing huge sums of money and vast amounts of energy into something that is almost completely useless (a bit like our state government proposing to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on new sports stadia… click here if you would like to sign a petition opposing this). I suppose, in that sense, Bitcoin is the perfect sign of the times.

Image source: zero hedge.com

Image source: zerohedge.com

Dec 1, 2017: The Coming Disruption

When you have an hour to spare I strongly encourage you to watch the following video presented by Stanford University Futurist, Tony Seba, about the impending disruption of the transport and energy sectors. Here are just some of the information it presents:

  • Electric Vehicles (EV’s) have 100X fewer parts than Infernal Combustion Engine Vehicles (ICEV’s)
  • EV’s can last 5 to 10 times longer than ICEV’s (e.g. Tesla is saying they will put a 1 million mile warranty on their new electric truck)
  • By 2025 every new vehicle will be electric (for purely economic reasons)
  • EV’s will reach Level 5 Autonomy (i.e. requiring no human input) by 2019
  • By 2021 it will be 10X cheaper to use an autonomous ride-share EV than to own a car
  • This means that used ICEV’s will likely have negative value (i.e. you’ll have to pay someone to take it off your hands)
  • By 2030, 95% of passenger miles will be by autonomous ride-share EV’s
  • This means there will be 80% fewer cars on the road and no need for parking lots
  • The parking space that will be freed up in Los Angeles alone is enough to build 3 new San Fransisco’s
  • And by 2030 solar will account for 100% of the world’s energy generation. To back up that last point, Seba notes that Tucson Electric has recently signed a PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) for electricity from a utility-scale solar plus battery storage system for 4.5c/kWh which is cheaper than any other form of energy.

I have no idea if Tony Seba will be proven right but he makes a very compelling (and entertaining) argument that is based entirely on economics… not politics or environmentalism or climate change or anything other than economic rationalism. Whether his predictions prove accurate or not, it’s worth watching just to start thinking about how quickly things might be changing. Have a look and leave a comment to let us know what you think about the future he is predicting.

Bitcoin Energy Nightmare

Bitcoin is a MASSIVE energy consumer (source BTC Manager)

Bitcoin is a MASSIVE energy consumer (source BTC Manager)

Speaking of disruptions, I expect you’re all aware of Bitcoin by now. It has gone from under US$1000 at the start of the year to over US$10,000 a few days ago. This has created a huge amount of hype over cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.

What you may not have read is this article from Yahoo Finance which claims that Bitcoin ‘Mining’ (the business of processing all the data required for Bitcoin transactions) uses more power than 159 countries. Or this article from The Guardian that says Bitcoin transactions consumed ‘more electricity in a year than the whole of Ireland’. In other words ‘each individual bitcoin transaction uses almost 300KWh of electricity’. That’s enough electricity to power the Greeny Flat for about two months from one, single Bitcoin transaction.

These are shocking statistics, especially because Bitcoin is still very new and can’t actually be used for anything yet. Plus it is just one of thousands of so-called ‘Cryptocurrencies’ and thousands more ‘Blockchain Technologies’ that are being developed around the world. I haven’t seen any figures on what the total energy consumption for all this number-crunching amounts to but you can rest assured (or more likely lie awake in fear) that whatever it is now will be nothing compared to what it’s going to be in the future.

I wonder if Tony Seba’s prediction of 100% solar energy by 2030 will hold true if global electricity consumption doubles simply due to processing blockchain calculations?

I also wonder (and I’ve mentioned this before) what sort of mess we’ll be in if we do go 100% solar and then suffer a massive volcanic eruption that blankets the world in ash for a year or two… ahhh! More sleepless nights!

One Promising Australian Blockchain Technology

According to this article from Energy Matters‘The Australian Government and industry partners will contribute $8.26 million to a project trialing the use of blockchain-powered renewable energy and water systems in the City of Fremantle.’

The ‘Blockchain’ part of this trial is from an Australian startup called Power Ledger which is a peer-to-peer, blockchain-based energy trading platform, where renewable energy can be sold between buyers and sellers without a middleman.

This article from Huffington Post gives a more detailed explanation of how it all works. Let’s just hope that it encourages more renewable energy development than it requires to process its own transactions.

Suncrowd Update

In last week’s Newsletter I gave a scathing review of the Suncrowd Solar Bulk Buy program along with an apology for my part in helping persuade people to join it. I requested that anyone else who had problems with either Suncrowd or Sunny Afternoons leave a comment so that all know how many others are in the same boat.

Well I did receive one comment from a customer in Berrima who had a nasty experience and one email from a friend on the coast. So it seems that, for most Suncrowd customers (at least the ones who read this Newsletter), the lengthy delays and lame excuses are not too much of a concern. If that’s true then I’m gad that most people are satisfied. If not, please go to last week’s Newsletter and leave a comment to let me and other readers know how the experience has been for you.

For anyone interested, I just received the latest update from Sunny Afternoons which claims that 71% of the approximately 320 installs have been completed which means there are still 92 systems left to be installed a full year after most people paid their initial deposit. This still looks like a very dismal performance to me but they seem happy with it. Here’s a link to the update in case you haven’t seen it.