Nov 1, 2019: Art Studio Trail This Weekend

As mentioned in last week’s Newsletter, the Greeny Flat will be open this weekend and next weekend from 10am – 5pm for the annual Southern Highlands Art Studio Trail.  In past years we’ve enjoyed traveling around the Highlands and visiting various artists in their studios and this will be our first time opening for this wonderful event. This year…

‘…over 90 artists will be gathering in 46 studios…’ including…’painting, sculpture, pottery, bookbinding, printing, woodwork, jewellery, weaving, textiles, photography, illustration, drawing, botanical art, ceramics and more.’

So there should something for everyone.

You can find more information at the Art Studio Trail website here and we hope to see you over the weekend.

Right now we’re off to the opening party at the Southern Highland Artisan Collective in Robertson which promises to be a fun evening.

Below are a couple of examples of Cintia’s ceramics and a couple of my photos in case you’re interested in what we do when we’re not building or renovating sustainable homes.

Thanks for reading, Andy

Small vase by Cintia Yamane Lemann 2019

Small vase by Cintia Yamane Lemann 2019

Vase by Cintia Yamane Lemann 2019

Photo by Andy Lemann 2019

Photo by Andy Lemann 2019

Photo by Andy Lemann 2019

Photo by Andy Lemann 2019

Oct 18, 2019: Solar Monitoring and Upcoming Events

In our Newsletter on August 30 I wrote that our new solar system had been installed but that we weren’t able to turn it on yet. Well, we’ve had it turned on and operating for about three weeks now and it’s performing brilliantly. I’m very happy with the monitoring system provided by Enphase except for one small issue and one big one. I’ll get into the details in a minute.

Upcoming Events

First a quick bit of shameless self-promotion…

Meet Damon Gameau at the 2040 Regeneration Weekend in Bowral.

I wrote a very positive review of the 2040 Movie by Damon Gameau in our Newsletter back in June.

Now the movie is coming back to Bowral but this time Damon Gameau is coming with it. Here’s an excerpt from the Event Brite page about the event

From 6pm on Friday 25 October 2019, an exclusive screening of the film, 2040 will take place in The Mill’s courtyard and be followed up by a panel discussion including filmmaker, Damon Gameau, Bob Hawke Landcare Award winner, Charlie Arnott, Hamish Mackay Director of Biodynamics2024, Lizzie Buscaino from Piccolo Farm and Joanne Dodd from Quarter Acre Farm.

Then…

On Saturday from 10am until 6pm, The Mill will come alive with more 2040 film screenings, sustainability workshops, expert speakers, local fresh produce for sale as well as artisan stalls to enable locals to be informed and take immediate action.

Which brings me to the self-promotion bit… I have been invited to run one of the ‘Sustainability Workshops’ on Saturday at 2:30pm. The workshop is entitled ‘How to design a house that keeps itself warm in winter and cool in summer’.

The film screenings and workshops are free but apparently registration is essential although I’m not quite sure how you do it. I think this Eventbrite page (click on Register) is supposed to list all of the workshops but mine’s not there yet. But maybe give it a try and hopefully all the workshops will be listed by the time this Newsletter goes out.

2019 Art Studio Trail – Southern Highlands

Cintia and I have decided to open the Greeny Flat this year for the annual Southern Highlands Art Studio Trail over two weekends in November (the 2nd/3rd and the 10th/11th from 10am to 5pm).

With around 100 artists gathering in 46 studios across the region, the Trail offers something for every artistic interest. Don’t miss this once-a-year chance to meet the artists in their studios, see where they create their work and buy direct from the studio door. Painting, sculpture, bookbinding, printing, woodwork, jewellery, textiles, photography, drawing, botanical art, ceramics and more…

Cintia is the real artist in our household and will be showing some of her beautiful, functional ceramic art like this bowl she made recently.

One of Cintia's lovely ceramic creations.

One of Cintia’s lovely ceramic creations.

I also dabble in a bit of photography and will be showing some of my photos as well. Here is a link to a my photography website if you want to see some of my work.

Solar Power System Monitoring

Regular readers will know that I think anyone with a solar power system should have some sort of monitoring to make sure that everything is working properly. It’s also a good idea to monitor the electricity usage in your home to make sure nothing is malfunction and to help you look for ways to save energy.

One of the best monitoring systems comes included with every Enphase micro-inverter solar system which, as I mentioned above, is what we have recently installed on the house next to the Greeny Flat. Here is a screenshot from the Enphase Enlighten webpage for our system. This is where we can log in to see our daily electricity production and consumption.

191018 Ephase Solar Monitoring

This is the page for yesterday and you can see in the top left that we produced 30.55kWh, we consumed 3.77kWh and we exported 26.73kWh for the day. At the top right you can see the production figure for each solar panel individually. This is the great thing about the Enphase system because, if there is ever a problem with the system, we’ll be able to see immediately which panel is causing the problem. The bottom of the page shows the complete graph for yesterday in 15 minute intervals with solar production in blue and household consumption in orange. The dark blue shows the net production exported to the grid after any daytime consumption is deducted (i.e. the light orange bars deducted from the light blue bars). And the dark orange shows the energy imported from the grid.

This is all great information but, as I mentioned above, there are two problems. The small one is that the graph is in 15 minute intervals so if I want to know how many kW the system was producing at any time I have to take the production figure for that 15 minute period (in the graph above you can see that the bar highlighted was for 1:15pm and the net production was 1,069Wh) and multiply it by 4 to get an idea of the total system production (e.g. 1,069 x 4 = 4.27kW). This is a bit clunky and confusing but we can work with it.

The bigger problem is that the system hasn’t been set up to monitor our off-peak hot water electricity consumption. This means that the consumption figures are missing our single biggest user, the water heater. I have contacted both the installer, Space Solar, and Enphase Australia directly and they both told me that I was the first person to ask to monitor their off-peak hot water system so they aren’t even sure if the system can do it. They think it can but they won’t guarantee it. They’re supposed to be providing me with a price to try and set it up so I’ll have to let you know what happens.

Meanwhile the lesson is, if you already have an Enphase monitoring system be aware that it won’t be monitoring all your electricity usage if you have an off-peak hot water system. Or, if you’re considering getting an Enphase system and you have off-peak, I would suggest that you make it a condition of the contract that they set it up to monitor ALL of your electricity usage, including the off-peak.

Cheers and maybe we’ll see you at The Mill next week for the 2040 Regeneration Weekend.

Oct 11, 2019: Queen St Renovations

We’re now in the thick of the interior renovations to the Queen St house (the original house in front of the Greeny Flat). We started by knocking down the old brick chimney in the kitchen. Luckily there’s a quarry nearby which takes old masonry and concrete, crushes them and recycles them into new road base material so nothing was wasted.

The old brick chimney in the kitchen had served its purpose and was in the way of where we need a new door so out she comes.

The old brick chimney in the kitchen had served its purpose and was in the way of where we need a new door so out she comes.

Mind you this won’t be the kitchen for long as we’re removing one wall of the living room and opening it up to what will become the new kitchen.

The current view from our living room through to where the new kitchen will be.

The current view from our living room through to where the new kitchen will be.

As luck would have it, the wall we need to remove (that’s the brown framing in the photo above) is holding up about half of the roof so we can’t just tear it out. First we have to build temporary support walls (that’s the blue/green framing) on either side of it (only done one side so far) to hold up the ceiling and the roof while we take out the old wall framing and install a beam in its place. It’s an interesting puzzle figuring out how to do that without the roof collapsing in the meantime.

The other interesting piece of this puzzle is how to do all the work without damaging the beautiful cornices in the house. One of the quirky delights of this house is that, while most of it was fairly typical of post-war fibro cottages, they went to the trouble (and probably considerable expense) of installing gorgeous cornices throughout the house. This might be the nerdiest thing you’ll ever read from me but the cornices are actually the highlight of house. The following photo doesn’t do them justice but it might give you a bit of an idea.

Poor detail of the cornice in the living room.

Poor detail of the cornice in the living room.

This is the cornice in the living room and they are different and special in every room. We can’t match them or reproduce them so it’s fun to try to figure out how to remodel the house without damaging them.

I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

Cheers, Andy

Sept 28, 2019: Greta vs Growth

16-year-old sticks it to the UN.

Regular readers of this Newsletter will know that I think the pursuit of perpetual growth is the root of all kinds of evil. But the concept that ‘Growth is Good’ is so deeply ingrained in the global economic, political and social fabric that none of our so-called ‘leaders’ have the brains or the guts to question whether it’s true.

So I was both heartened and dismayed this week when Greta Thunberg included the following phrase in her address to the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York…

We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!’

I was heartened because, finally, someone was smart and brave enough to stand on the biggest international stage and question the holy grail of growth. But I was dismayed that it took a 16-year-old Swedish school student to break the silence. The idea that we can achieve infinite economic growth on a finite planet with finite resources is so ludicrous that it should be ridiculed by every ‘leader’ at every opportunity. However it is so pervasive that it has become invisible and sacred and no political or economic leader will dare to question its sacredness.

Hopefully the scolding they just received from a school girl will wake those ‘leaders’ from their dreams of growth before they sleep-walk us all right off a cliff.

You can read the full transcript of Greta’s speech here.

And the following is a piece about the evils of growth which I wrote in our Newsletter back in November 2015 and which I repeat here because nothing has changed except that now one person has spoken up. Good on you Greta!

Perpetual Growth = Cancer

We are labouring under a global economic system that is founded on the principle that ‘Growth is Good’. This founding principle requires perpetual growth in every measure of economic achievement. There is no question that this philosophy has led to an unprecedented spurt of technological and scientific endeavour, but at what point do we stop to question whether this is beneficial? Has all this economic growth actually made our lives any better? Has it been worth the cost in terms of human suffering and damage to the planet? I wonder what an aboriginal elder would have to say on the subject. Indigenous people all around the world seem to have a deep understanding of the need to nurture the earth that nurtures us. So what do they think about perpetual growth? To me it looks a lot like cancer… it grows and grows, gradually consuming, and eventually killing, its host. Are we on the same path?

When you think it through, the only way we can continue to ‘grow’ the global economy is by encouraging more and more people to consume more and more resources. I think this is why population growth is such a taboo subject… it lies at the heart of a belief that pervades every government, nation, religion and business in the world… the belief that ‘growth is good’. The addiction will only end when the resources run out unless we voluntarily, and globally, decide to break the habit. But right now, like any true addict, we are in complete denial over the cause of our problems.

From ‘Growth’ to ‘Balance’

This economic paradigm of perpetual growth is killing the planet. I strongly believe that we need to change the goal from ‘growth’ to ‘balance’. Can you imagine a global economic system that strives for balance? For a start we would have to figure out how many people the planet can sustainably support. Then we’d have to find a way to more fairly distribute the available, sustainable, renewable resources to ensure that everyone has a decent quality of life. These thoughts would not sit well with the people and institutions that run the current system and who, not coincidentally, gain the most from it. I may well be crucified for uttering such blasphemy in the face of an economic and political system for which growth is god but we have these 7.4 Billion elephants in the room and I think it’s time someone mentioned it.

Of course I’m not the first to do so… there are all sorts of people out on the fringes, shouting from the hills that we have to consider the limits to global growth. But no-one in the middle of things, no-one at the centre of the global stage, seems willing to risk putting their hand up and saying, ‘there is a huge problem looming and we had better take a long, hard look at it.’

 

Sept 6, 2019: Sustainable House Day 2019 next weekend.

Screen Shot 2019-09-06 at 5.06.13 pm

Click on the image above to visit the SHD website.

Just a quick note this week to remind all our readers that Sustainable House Day is here again. This year it’s on Sunday, September 15th. As usual the Greeny Flat will be open from 10am to 4pm. Naturally all our readers are most welcome to come along and say hello. For those who won’t be in our area on the day, you can sign up on the Sustainable House Day website and find out what’s happening in your part of Australia.

Because we usually open the Greeny Flat on Sustainable House Day we never get to go and see the other houses that are open in our area. This quick search on the SHD website shows there are 6 homes open this year within 50km of Mittagong so if you’re planning to visit us, you might like to go along to a few of the others as well.

We hope to see you here and, if not, we hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are.

Cheers, Andy and Cintia

Aug 30, 2019: Solar Installed

In last week’s Newsletter I mentioned that we had ordered the solar power system for the house next to the Greeny Flat. I was expecting it to take a month or so to get it installed. So I was pleasantly surprised to get a call from the installers (Space Solar based in Sydney) yesterday to say that they had a cancellation and they could come today. Naturally I rearranged my schedule so I could be here and told them to go ahead.

Part of our solar system being installed on the West side of the roof.

Part of our solar system being installed on the West side of the roof.

A couple of very nice fellas showed up this morning (almost on time) and proceeded to install our system with a minimum of trouble. Of course it helped that we had planned for it in our previous renovations on the exterior of the house including leaving an accessible pathway to get wires down from the roof to the meter box.

 

A very tidy installation.

A very tidy installation (note the ‘chase’ next to the meter box for running wires).

Last week I listed the main reasons why we chose an Enphase microinverter system including improved performance, exceptional monitoring and better safety. But one advantage I hadn’t considered was that, because there is no need for a large inverter box next to the electricity meter box, the installation is very neat, tidy and unobtrusive. This is particularly good for this house because the meter box is right next to the front door.

Microinverters are located in small boxes under each panel.

Microinverters are located in small boxes under each panel.

The photo above shows the rack-mounting system ready for the panels to be attached with one microinverter located under each solar panel.

All told I was very happy with the installers and the job they did… except for one thing… and this is a BIG pet peave of mine. Where they had to run wires through the roof space of the house, they moved some insulation out of the way and they weren’t careful enough about putting it back properly.

This photo shows where insulation was moved to allow wires to be installed and then wasn't put back.... bloody typical!

This photo shows where insulation was moved to allow wires to be installed and then wasn’t put back…. bloody typical!

The sad fact is that these blokes were MUCH better than most tradies who do work in attics. In my work as an energy auditor and energy -efficiency consultant I have had the opportunity to inspect a LOT of attics and roof spaces and I can honestly say that I have hardly ever been in a roof space where the insulation had NOT been stuffed up by an electrician, a plumber, an antenna guy or a heating/cooling installer. In most cases I find insulation thrown all over the place as if the tradie in question was really annoyed that someone had been so rude as to put some stupid fluffy stuff in the way of his (or her, but usually his) crucial job. At least our guys made a reasonable effort to put the insulation back where it belongs. Most tradies just chuck it out of the way and leave it there with great, gaping holes in the thermal boundary of the home.

So my stern advice to you is… don’t pay any tradesman (or woman) who has been in your attic or roof space until you have carefully inspected to make sure that they have put the insulation back where it belongs.

I’m afraid this is just another symptom of a pervasive attitude in the Australian building industry that insulation is not important and is just an inconvenience and an unnecessary expense.

Anyway, we sorted it out and our attic is now properly insulated again and we have a shiny new solar system on our roof.

The completed part of our solar system on the East side of the roof.

The completed part of our solar system on the East side of the roof.

Unfortunately we can’t turn it on yet (apart from checking that it is working today) because we have to wait for a new smart meter to be installed and configured to allow for our solar to be exported to the grid and earn us a Feed-In Tariff. If we were to turn on the solar now we would actually be charged for the power we sent out to the grid as well as for the power we take from the grid.  So we won’t be doing that. It should take about two to three weeks for the new meter to be installed then we can start enjoying the benefits of our new solar system.

Finally I want to give full credit to my mother who owns this property as an investment. Not many landlords are prepared to install solar on the roof of a rental house because typically, the landlord bears all of the cost while the tenant gets all of the benefit in the form of lower electricity bills. But Mum was willing to take a bit of a gamble because a) it seems like the right thing to do and b) we think we will be able to recoup the cost of the solar over the next ten years via an additional charge of about $12-13 per week on top of the normal rent. This shouldn’t be too hard to sell to tenants given that they are likely to save at least $30 per week on their power bills from to the solar on the roof. And it would still give Mum a 10% return on her investment. And that’s without factoring in depreciation or the potential increased value of the property. Not as good as the 18-20% return most home-owners can expect from putting solar on their roof but much better than you can get from a bank and much safer than the stock market.

I’ll let you know how it all pans out.

Cheers, Andy

Aug 23rd, 2019: Solar System Ordered and Other Notable Stuff

As mentioned in last week’s Newsletter, we’ve now moved into the main house next to the Greeny Flat in order to complete the interior renovations. Long-time readers will know that we’ve been working on all the exterior energy retrofit work for nearly three years now in between other projects. Here’s a link to a series of videos we made of that process. I still have a few to add but these cover most of it. The next step will be to install a solar power system on the roof.

Computer rendering of the completed house showing solar panels on the East roof.

Computer rendering of the completed house showing solar panels on the East roof.

For a couple of reasons we’ve decided to go with an ‘Enphase’ micro-inverter system. Due to a ruling by Council’s heritage advisor we were unable to put the panels on the North-facing roof. So we’re putting them on the East and West sides instead. This is a good way to get more generation in the early morning and late afternoon and micro-inverters help to maximise the panel production at low sun angles. They are also essential if you have partial shading of the roof which is not an issue for us. More importantly, however, the Enphase system provides excellent monitoring of the system including keeping track of the production from each panel individually. This means that if there is ever a problem with the system we will know exactly which panel is the culprit. Personally, I think good monitoring is the most important part of any solar power system. Also, with micro-inverters, if one panel has a problem, e.g. has a big bird poo on it or is really dirty, it won’t take down the production of all the other panels as it would in a ‘string’ inverter system. Finally, microinverters convert the DC power from the panels straight into 240V AC which is much safer. They are quite a bit more expensive but I believe they will more than pay for themselves over the life of the system.

I’ll post some photos once the system is installed. Meanwhile here are a couple of articles about solar power systems that you might find useful and/or interesting.

What’s The Best Energy Retailer For Solar Owners?

According to this article from Solar Quotes, currently the cheapest energy retailer for solar owners in NSW is Origin Energy. But does that make them the best choice? Personally I think there are other considerations, at least as important as cost, to take into account when making the decision. I like and use Energy Locals because of their stated goals of ‘Cheaper Energy, Great Service, Carbon Offsets and Zero Hassle’. I have been with them for a couple of years now and I have found them to be great to deal with, fairly priced and they supply 100% carbon offsets (Green Power). So for me they tick all three of the triple-bottom-line boxes… they are ethically, economically and environmentally friendly. They might not be the very cheapest but they suit me just fine and I highly recommend them. I would much rather pay my hard-earned money to them than to one of Australia’s biggest polluters (e.g. Origin or AGL).

Batteries Still Don’t Pay For Themselves

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… a solar power system is a great investment for any homeowner but batteries are not. In case you’ve been caught up in the hype around home batteries, here’s another article for you to read that confirms that solar is great, solar + batteries is not.

Battery Electric Vehicles Are Coming… Fast!…

Image source: elektrek.co

Image source: elektrek.co

Batteries might not be the best addition to a home just yet but they are proving to be perfect for cars. Sales of BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles) are ramping up quickly, in fact according to this article the Tesla Model 3 is already outselling all of its petrol-powered equivalents combined! That’s pretty impressive given that it’s only been on the market for two years. But then, according to this other article from cleantechnica.com, the Model 3 is ‘the Ultimate Driving Machine’.  Here’s a quote…

‘It’s hard to comprehend that a single car can excel in so many ways. It’s the ultimate driving machine, it’s the safest car you can buy, it has the best infotainment tech, and it has a total cost of ownership more similar to a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry than a BMW 3 Series. But that’s the story.’

… and Driverless!

The driverless RACQ Smart Shuttle... coming to an island near us.

The driverless, electric RACQ Smart Shuttle… coming to an island near us.

I was surprised to read this week that the first trial of a driverless electric bus in Queensland will be running for six months starting in November on Karragarra Island. Karragarra is right next to Russell Island where we have been building our house. In many ways it’s the perfect place to test a driverless bus. It only has a few roads, not many cars or pedestrians and no public transport apart from the ferry to get you to and from the mainland. I hope we get a chance to try it out next time we’re up that way.

I expect it won’t be too long before we’re all so used to riding in driverless electric vehicles it will be as normal as using a smart phone.

Thanks for reading.

Aug 16, 2019: Two Projects Finished and Sustainable House Day Coming Up.

It’s been an intensely busy few weeks for us both here at the Greeny Flat and up in Queensland. A week ago today we put the finishing touches on the house we’ve been building on Russell Island. Then we jumped in the PHEV and headed south again to finish some upgrades to the interior of the Greeny Flat.

We’ve already posted a video of the finished interior of the Russell Island house. You can find that here. A lot of the work we did on the last trip was on the exterior. Things like building fences, driveways and garden beds along with some finishing touches to the interior like putting in shelves and shower screens. I’ve just uploaded another short video to YouTube showing the finished exterior and you can find it below.

Meanwhile, back in Mittagong,  the tenants have just moved out of the main house next to the Greeny Flat so we will taking the opportunity to complete the renovations to the interior of that house. There are plenty of videos on YouTube showing the Energy Retrofit work that we have already done on the exterior of the house and I will be posting some more as we progress with the interior.

While we’re doing that some friends will be renting the Greeny Flat so this week we’ve been pushing to complete some upgrades to the interior and get the place ready to rent. There are plenty of photos of the exterior on this website already and I’ve also just uploaded a short video showing the finished interior which you can find below.

We’re really happy with how it has turned out and if you would like to come and see it for yourself we’ll be open again for Sustainable House Day on Sunday, September 15th from 10am-4pm.

Hope to see you there.

July 12, 2019: The Beauty of Bamboo

This week Cintia and I have been putting the finishing touches on the house we’re building on Russell Island. It’s great fun seeing it all come together after so much planning and hard work. We’re particularly happy with our choice of colours and materials… I say colours but basically everything is white with wood accents.

On the outside we used ‘Surfmist’ coloured steel and FSC certified Merbau wood. On the inside we used low-VOC paints by Taubmans with no tint at all, just the ‘Brilliant White’ that comes straight out of the can, along with bamboo floors, counters and shelving. One of the advantages of using this ‘colour’ is that it should be easy to match in the future if we need to do touch-ups or repaint anything.

This week we’ve been installing laminated bamboo panels for all the shelves in the closets and we’re really happy with how it looks. These are the same bamboo panels we used for the kitchen countertops.

Our kitchen completed

Our kitchen complete with laminated bamboo countertops.

On our first trip up here to start the building, almost exactly a year ago, we found these panels on special at Bunnings for $79 for a 600mm x 2200mm panel. So we bought as many as the PHEV could carry. Bamboo is a wonderful material. It grows very quickly and can be harvested without killing the plant so it is more sustainable than a lot of timber. The downside of this is that most of the bamboo available for sale in Australia is grown in either China or Vietnam and has to be transported a long way. As with every decision on a building project, there are compromises to be made, but this material is strong and durable, cost-effective, renewable and we love the way it looks so we’re happy with the choice.

Laminated bamboo panels used for shelving in our hall closet

Laminated bamboo panels used for shelving in our hall closet.

The cross-laminated panels are made from small strips of bamboo glued together with the grain in the surface running perpendicular to the grain in the middle. This makes for a very strong sheet of ‘wood’ with a beautiful pattern on the edges.

We’ve used the same panels in every room in the house for shelves and built-in desk tops and it looks fantastic with the white walls and ceilings and the bamboo floor. It’s a very clean, simple and cohesive combination. Here’s how the walk-in wardrobe in the master bedroom turned out.

The same bamboo panels used for shelving the walk-in wardrobe.

The same bamboo panels used for shelving in the walk-in wardrobe.

It’s great to be living in the house and getting to know what works and what doesn’t. So far there are very few things that we think we would change if we were starting again. We have a couple more days of work on the inside then we’ll start on the fences, driveway and landscaping outside. We’ll keep you posted.

The Year of Less

One of the email newsletter I receive mentioned a book called ‘The Year of Less’ which sounded interesting so I have ordered it from the Russell Island library. I’ll write more about it after I have read it but here is the summary on Amazon in case you’re interested…

In her late twenties, Cait Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips so many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, rinse, repeat. Even after she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, her old habits took hold again. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy–only keeping her from meeting her goals–she decided to set herself a challenge: she would not shop for an entire year.

The Year of Less documents Cait’s life for twelve months during which she bought only consumables: groceries, toiletries, gas for her car. Along the way, she challenged herself to consume less of many other things besides shopping. She de-cluttered her apartment and got rid of 70 percent of her belongings; learned how to fix things rather than throw them away; researched the zero-waste movement; and completed a television ban. At every stage, she learned that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt.

The challenge became a lifeline when, in the course of the year, Cait found herself in situations that turned her life upside down. In the face of hardship, she realized why she had always turned to shopping, alcohol, and food–and what it had cost her. Unable to reach for any of her usual vices, she changed habits she’d spent years perfecting and discovered what truly mattered to her.

I find it interesting that I came across this book just shortly after I had been invited to write an article for the Southern Highland News which included the following suggestions for things we can all do to help create a better future…

Less is more – the easiest thing we can all do is simply to consume less. I know this goes against the global mantra of growth, Growth, GROWTH!, but isn’t that what got us into this mess in the first place? For example we can:

  • Find ways to use less energy (there are lots of tips on the internet);
  • Make our homes more energy efficient or, better yet, downsize to a smaller one;
  • Drive less (walk or bike more and enjoy the benefits of being outside getting exercise);
  • Travel less (we live in a wonderful part of the world, do we really need to be constantly taking trips to other places?);
  • Eat less (and maybe get healthier in the process);
  • Buy less new stuff, send less old stuff to landfill.
  • Turn off our TVs and devices and have positive interactions with the people and the world around us.

It sounds like Cait Flanders has done exactly what I was suggesting and found that life was much more fulfilling and enriching in the process. So I’m keen to read her story and I’ll report back when I have.

Thanks for reading… cheers, Andy

July 5, 2019: Back To Russell Island

Anyone who’s been following our Newsletter for more than six months will know that Cintia and I have been building a house on Russell Island in Queensland. It was the price of land and the proximity to Brisbane that led us here in the first place and we’ve found it to be a peaceful and laid-back place to live over the last year-and-a-half that we’ve been working (on and off) on this project.

For new readers you can catch up on the progress by reviewing our past Newsletters here (scroll down to view all our previous Newsletters in full or use the headings down the RHS to choose the ones you want to read) and you can find a quick video tour of the house here. That video was taken back in February when we had just completed our final inspection. Since then we’ve been off on various other adventures and have only just made it back to Russell Island to put the finishing touches on the house.

We got back last night and were a bit surprised to find one of the panes of our sliding glass door had been smashed. Our first thought was ‘AHHG, WE’VE BEEN ROBBED!!!’

Not exactly the view you want to come home to.

Not exactly the view you want to come home to.

But, on closer inspection, it turned out that a rock from the neighbour’s lawnmower had done the job and nothing was disturbed or missing in the house. PHEW!… These things can be a bit of a nuisance when you live on an island that’s only accessible by boat but luckily we had left the PHEV on the mainland with a plan to return today to pick up the materials we need to build our fence. So I was able to take the door frame (minus the broken glass) over on the passenger ferry this morning, get the glass fixed, load up with fence materials this afternoon and bring everything back on the car ferry this evening (along with plenty of groceries for the next couple of weeks).

 

Our PHEV loaded up and working hard.

Our PHEV loaded up and working hard.

As I write this I’m sitting in the PHEV on the car barge on the way back to Russell Island. The house is basically finished but there are a few details left to take care of such as the fence, the driveway, insect screens, blinds, closet shelves, etc. So we’ll have plenty of work to do for the next few weeks. I’ll keep you posted on how it all goes.

Batteries Don’t Make Economic Sense

Meanwhile, here’s a reminder from a recent Solar Quotes article for anyone thinking about buying a battery to go with their solar power system that batteries are not a good investment. Solar is… batteries aren’t. Here’s a quote from the article

‘I have pointed out…

.. and in plenty of other articles that batteries won’t save any normal household money unless they are in South Australia with that state’s huge subsidy — and even then the circumstances have to be right for a household to come out ahead.

I have also mentioned here home batteries don’t yet provide an environmental benefit, so unless there are special circumstances (like our friends who run their pottery kiln on solar and battery power) you are not being green by getting one.’

There are other reasons why you might want to buy a home battery but be VERY careful and do some thorough research if you want your battery to:

  1. Save you money,
  2. Reduce your environmental footprint or
  3. Give you backup power if there’s a blackout (some will but most won’t).

The time will come when solar batteries offer an excellent ROI, a true environmental benefit and exceptional backup power and you can be sure that both the Greeny Flat and Solar Quotes teams when shout it from the rooftops when that time comes. For now it’s generally best to stick with solar and forget the battery.

Thanks for reading.

Andy