Footnote Frivolity***, Going Green, mustbethrifty house, Reviews, Uncategorized

Goodbye gas, we’re NOT going to miss you (part 1)

Over the Christmas break, Cheap Geek spent a lot of time crunching numbers. He downloaded a year’s worth of electricity usage data from the power company, poured over utilities bills, and trawled through solar panel specs in an attempt to determine the whens and hows of breaking even with solar panel technology. At the end of it, he figured that

  • it would take us 9.5 to 10 years to recoup the initial estimated outlay*;
  • based on our consumption patterns, we could only achieve this if we also installed battery technology; and
  • getting rid of gas would effectively pay for 80% of the solar panels within ten years.

This project was of immense interest to him, so much so that he spent much of the next few months telling everyone and anyone about the financial merits of switching over to solar power. He even convinced my dad, a big Liberal, no-Greens-hogwash supporter, that solar power plus batteries was the way to go.

As of this Thursday, we are officially gas appliance free. These last couple of months have been a frenetic mess of tradesmen replacing gas hot water, gas ducted heating, and gas stove with reverse-cycle heating and cooling, induction stove, and hot water heat pump. Apart from reverse-cycle cooling, most of these technologies are still as fresh as the fresh air fanned out of a heat pump (brrrrr), and the average John Smith/Jane Doe might feel uncomfortable adopting them. Ripping out the gas stove sounded particularly traumatic to some of our acquaintances (especially the wok-loving ones)**.

So the rest of this post will be about my thoughts on changing over from various gas to electric appliances, starting with the


Disconnected gas stove

Before: Bosch gas cooktop

After: AEG induction cooktop

Tradie costs: $165 (plumber) and $370 (electrician)

As per above, switching over from gas cooking to induction is the greatest mental hurdle. Cooking is so very personal and seeing flames lick the sides of a pot must fulfil some Neanderthal need within us. I’ve even had greenies ask me whether I miss my stovetop or not.

FYI: I don’t use a wok much as it is not conducive to batch cooking. I usually cook casserole-style dishes, soups, and roasts. I’ve just newly discovered pressure cooking, which really suits my one-pot mindset (less pots to clean) and doesn’t even require a stove. When  I do use the induction stove, I use it to make sauces, soups, stews. I fry eggs sunny side up, make an omelet, boil water/stock, cook meat.

What I love about the induction stove is the evenness and control. It is superior to gas when needing to cook food at low temperatures: heating milk, cooking eggs and fish. Sausages also cook more evenly.

The AEG stove that we bought also has some fancy eco functions. For instance, it will tell you if you can use the residual heat on the stove as a ‘keep warm’ function, and it can turn off power to an element just before the end of a timed cook, using the residual heat to continue cooking the food.

What I find hard to adjust to is the speed in which a pan will heat up. You can’t leave an empty pan heating on the stove (I manage to burn butter for the first time by heating up an empty saucepan and then dropping the butter into it). This could be overcome by using a heavy cast iron pot; these take much longer to heat up than my Baccarat Bio+***.

There also is a lot more steam produced; you can’t cook without turning on the exhaust fan. And you need to hold onto your lightweight pans when stirring the pot, so that the pans don’t move around, scratching the cooktop surface. Regular cleaning is also important: the bases of pots and pans need to be properly cleaned of grime/residue and the cooktop needs to be wiped down with a soft, damp cloth after each use.

In the next post, I’ll talk about our experience with reverse-cycle heating and cooling, and hot water heat pumps.

*This estimated outlay included new energy-efficient electric appliances, solar panels, batteries, electrical work to get solar power ready, plumber work needed for the removal of all gas appliances, and various installation costs.

**It didn’t take too long for me to find a new home for the gas stove, whereas the gas hot water and gas ducted heating seem destined for the scrap heap.

***You may need to upgrade your pots/pans if you don’t already own induction-compatible ones.

Footnote Frivolity***, Going Green, Reviews

Sustainable and legal? Sustainable House and Sustainable Food

Michael Mobbs' Sustainable HouseA couple of decades ago, former environmental lawyer Michael Mobbs set about turning his inner Sydney home into a sustainable oasis*: the mains water was disconnected, the solar panels got put in, and a waste facility was buried in the backyard. In 1998, Mobbs wrote Sustainable House, detailing his experience.

Resources on sustainable retrofitting tend be brainstormers or how-tos with a focus on design, construction or behaviour modification. For instance, lists ‘six ways to minimise water use’ and discusses rain tank considerations. Mobbs’ book is more of a how-to on getting around bureaucratic naysayers. When told that inner Sydney rainwater was unsafe to drink, he took his own samples every fortnight, over eighteen months, and had them tested at a laboratory. Continue reading

Clever Cooks, Glut(tony), Reviews

Relaxed cooking on a budget: Save with Jamie

Save with JamieI’ve collected a few Jamie Oliver titles over the years; none of them get used very much. Jamie’s Kitchen horrified me with its egg-laden Baileys and Banana Bread and Butter PuddingJamie’s 15 Minute Meals and 30-Minute Meals demanded too much multitasking for me to really stuck into them. Still, I’m a sucker for budget cookbooks, so when I found a discounted copy of Save with Jamie, I had to have it.

This time round, Jamie Oliver focuses on ‘delicious, exciting food that’s not hard on your wallet’. He’s also enlisted the aid of nutritionists, giving his recipes a transparency that’s sometimes missing from similar titles. Continue reading

Gardening on a Budget, Gen DIY-er, Going Green, Reviews, Second-hand Scavengers

Localism’s the new black: Millie Ross’ The Thrifty Gardener

Millie Ross' The Thrifty GardenerGardening books are either aspirational or educational. With its brightly coloured pages and photos, Millie Ross’ The Thrifty Gardener comes across as aspirational but unlike other aspirational gardening books, striking architectural plants and stunning aspects do not feature. Instead, The Thrifty Gardener’s aesthetics lean towards the ‘nanna-chic garden’: there’s fruit and vegetables amongst the flowers and the structural elements of the garden such as walls, paths and water features are DIY-ed from salvaged items.

Aimed at the beginner to intermediate gardener, the book starts with planning and design, before moving into specific tutorials that range from propagation to small and large projects such as newspaper pots and clay fire pits. Continue reading

Gen DIY-er, Reviews, Thriftster weddings

Ahead of its time: The DIY Wedding

The DIY Wedding: Celebrate Your Day Your WayThere’s something contradictory about a generic instruction manual espousing ‘celebrat[ing]…your day your way’. Nevertheless, props must be given to a DIY wedding how-to that was published ahead of its time in 2007, before the global financial meltdown turned thrifster DIY into hipster cool*. Props must also be given to the author, Kelly Bare, and her publisher, Chronicle Books, for creating a wedding book that has yet to date. This is achieved in part by a lack of photos (though the website references and pink, blue and cream colour scheme will eventually need a refresh) and a back-to-basics approach. Continue reading

Reviews, Thriftster weddings

Let’s make it personal: Offbeat Bride (2nd edition)

Most how-tos read like recipes, deconstructing the Heston’s Feast that is a wedding into the main ingredients, dumbing it down for homely brides-to-be who just want to recreate a traditional dish. Catherine Yarnovich Risling’s Pretty Weddings for Practically Pennies is one such book: a series of craft projects, including place-card holders, boutonnieres, and confetti cones. Kelly Bare’s The DIY Wedding: Celebrate Your Day Your Way is another, giving lip-service to the personal touch with little personality between its covers.

Attempting to ‘encourage contemporary brides to feel good about their less-than-traditional wedding choices’, Ariel Meadow Stallings’ Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides, on the other hand, is autobiographical. Continue reading

Money Matters, Reviews

Subverting Cosmo: The Savvy Girls’ Money Book (1st edition)

The Savvy Girls’ Money Book by Emily Chantiri offers financial self-help for the likes of Carrie Bradshaw, the kind of ‘girl who thought she could never get her head around money issues’.

Such girls are expected to able to get their heads around Cosmopolitan, however. Chapters from The Savvy Girls’ Money Book read like women’s magazine articles: ‘The Cinderella Conspiracy’, ‘The Sealed Section’, and ‘Keeping Up With the Hiltons’. Kylie Minogue and Delta Goodrem’s battles with breast cancer get a mention and so does Princess Mary. There’s even a horoscope section Continue reading