Jan 6, 2017: Starfish and the Cost of Australia’s Poor Quality Houses

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a relaxing break. Cintia and I had an amazing four days PHEV-camping down near Ulladulla which included getting soaked in the best thunderstorm I’ve seen for years; a night out on a boat on a lake under a spectacular moonless, starry sky; a ruined trailer tyre with no spare; some fun surfing, sailing and snorkelling; and a wonderful day spent photographing patterns in the rocks and sand as well as some gorgeous starfish in the rock pools.

Kindred Spirits - star fish in a rock pool with a glass pendant by Absaroka Glass.

Kindred Spirits – star fish in a rock pool with a glass pendant by Absaroka Glass.

The man-made object in there with them is a glass pendant made by my very talented son, Sam, in Montana. If you’re interested in his work you can see lots more of it on Instagram at Absaroka Glass.

Home Energy Retrofit Progress

Over Christmas we took a bit of a break from the renovations of the old cottage next to the Greeny Flat but we’re starting to get back into it now. In our last Newsletter before Christmas we presented Episode 9 in our series of little videos about the energy retrofit process. In that episode I explained what a Trombe Wall is and how we are using the old brick chimney in the cottage to create one. In our next couple of episodes I’ll be showing how we transform the entire north wall of the cottage into a solar air heating panel to help warm the house and provide fresh air in winter. If you’d like to do a bit of homework in the meantime you might want to review a couple of previous Newsletter from May 2015 in which we describe the solar air heater prototype we built as an experiment on the Greeny Flat.

In this Newsletter from May 17, 2015 we explain what a solar air heater is and how we built ours.

Finished prototype

Our completed solar air heater prototype

And in this Newsletter from the following week we showed how effective it proved to be at heating the fresh air coming in to the house.

Temperature at inlet from solar preheater and temperature outside (circled)

The solar air heater was blowing 42degC air into the house on a 13degC day!

This experiment has proven to be so successful that we are planning to make the panel (pictured above) a permanent fixture on the Greeny Flat and properly duct the air through to the back bedroom. But on the cottage we’re planning to go a few steps further and turn the whole north wall into an air heater. We’ll do this be creating a space behind the corrugated iron on the north wall, collecting the warm air from this space and ducting it right through the attic to the three bedrooms on the south side of the cottage. This will not only help to warm these rooms that don’t get any sun, it will also bring in plenty of fresh air to help control humidity and maintain good indoor air quality in winter. We’ll get into the details of how we do this over the next few weeks so stay tuned.

We’re All Paying the Price for Australia’s Poor Quality Homes

Last week a few readers sent me links to an excellent article from ABC News about one of my pet subjects, namely the fact that Australian building standards are really poor, especially regarding energy efficiency. We all end up paying the price for this through higher electricity charges and the very high cost of having to go back and try to retrofit our existing homes up to a decent energy performance standard.

Photo from the ABC News article about poor building standards in Australia

(Photo from the ABC News article about poor building standards in Australia)

I particularly appreciated this email from Theo. I welcome all reader contributions and feedback. Thanks, Theo, for a great message.

Hi Andy,

I thought of the Greeny Flat when I saw this opinion piece on the ABC news website.

##  Why bad housing design pumps up prices for everyone  ##


Did you know that relying on air conditioners to stay cool on hot summer days affects the price of electricity for everyone, all year round?

I especially appreciated the following link from your e-newsletter 16 Dec 2016.

##  The Myth of Renewable Energy  ##


We all need to use less of everything!

I ponder on how much carbon dioxide one person is responsible for today compared to one hundred years ago. In my working life I may have driven a couple of million kilometres by car, generating much much more CO2 than my forebears. I now choose to not own a car. The car is a health hazard (as well as a wealth hazard) in that you don’t get enough exercise, quite apart from being a health hazard to the planet.

We all need to reassess our basic human needs, and recognise the difference between desires and needs.

I don’t have PV panels at present. My electricity usage over the last four years has been 4 to 5 kwh per day. My most recent bill was my best at 2.4 kwh per day. My water usage is 100 to 200 litres per day. I don’t want a medal, I just want everyone to think about how to use less!

Best Wishes for 2017

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