Going Green, mustbethrifty house

From gas to all-electric to solar

Ripping out the gas meter was logistically unfun. It took many phone calls, emails, and Facebook complaints before my gas provider figured out that I didn’t want to disconnect from the electricity grid (I don’t even have an electricity account with them) and that I just wanted a Victorian Gas Abolishment Form. My gas provider also tried to tell me that meter removal would cost upwards of $500, when, in reality, it cost under $60. I’m not sure why it was so difficult for customer service to action my request. Maybe gas meter removal is still too rare an occurrence? Maybe other folks who switch to all-electric keep their gas meter and continue to pay their service-to-property charges?

Anyway, the gas is gone and good riddance.

gas meter
Our last gas meter reading

Meanwhile, winter has come; we’re cranking up the main split-system in the living areas for a couple of hours on most nights, and sticking to these areas. In the morning, our bedroom split-system turns on briefly to help us get out of bed. It’s really, really cold in the bathroom, now that there’s no ducted heating coming out of the vents. (Note to self: must get onto draft-proofing and double glazing this room.) Cheap Geek has timed the hot water to turn on during the middle of the day, in anticipation of free solar-generated electricity. And I’m getting used to cooking on the induction stovetop.

During this period of all-electric (no gas consumption), we used an average of 9.84 kilowatt-hours per day (20/5/16-5/8/16), compared to last year’s average of 5.63 kilowatt-hours per day (20/5/15-5/8/15) when we were using gas for heating/cooling, stovetop cooking, and hot water.Satellite dish

While waiting for the solar panel install, we had some roof maintenance done. The work is guaranteed for ten years, which hopefully means no solar panels will need to be removed during this period. Cheap Geek and my dad also took away the unused satellite dish that was bolted to the chimney; it would have been extremely hard to remove the dish with solar panels underfoot!

Thirty-two solar panels (Q.PRO-G4 265) were installed over three days. Due to our roof orientation and overshadowing in summer, Cheap Geek opted for microinverters instead of the traditional centralised inverter. There was the option of having a central inverter with power optimisers; these work better at extreme temperatures (i.e. warmer climes) and are the more cost effective option in commercial/larger arrays. However, we live in Melbourne and have a domestic system. Cheap Geek also preferred the safety of AC current running across the roof.

The panels started generating electricity on 6/8/16. So far, they’re pumping out anything between 4.19 to 27.3 kilowatt-hours. We haven’t got batteries yet so we are still drawing power from the grid between dusk and dawn, an average of 5.04 kilowatt-hours which is almost a 50% reduction in grid-electricity consumption. It also brings our grid-electricity consumption below what we were using in 2015, which means that our solar array is offsetting all of our energy needs for heating/cooling, stovetop cooking, and hot water.IMG_0016.JPG

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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

STOVE

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.

Going Green, Thriftster weddings

The cost of acceding to other people’s expectations

001133Cheap Geek and I had initially planned on paperless wedding invites to cut down on financial and environmental costs. We had already secured our domain name, something that was sufficiently geektastic, when I told my parents what we were thinking.

The wedding website didn’t go down well. It wasn’t baby boomer friendly enough: not everyone had access to email. My parents’ concerns were reasonable so we opted for what another thrifster couple did Continue reading

Thrills without frills

Going out basics

Rhonda Perky’s comment ‘no one wants to miss out all the time’ (via ‘Signs your partner/friend is budget fail’) implies that being frugal, by choice or otherwise, is incompatible with having fun. After all, food costs money and so does alcohol, a Wii Fit, and a ticket to Meredith. So how do we enjoy, enrich, and entertain ourselves with little or no money? I thought I’d start a new category, ‘Thrills without frills’, trying to address this question.

Firstly, basics. No matter where we go or what we end up doing, there are a few questions to be considered:

  • Is there a stay-at-home equivalent?

Do you need to go out to a movie, dinner or drinks with the mates or can you invite them over to your place? Arranging a video(games) night or a potluck dinner with BYO goon will usually be cheaper and ensures the evening will not end with middle-aged you in a tarty skirt trying to hustle up a city cab at 3am in the morning. Continue reading

Footnote Frivolity***, Going Green

Easter Island: a cautionary tale

Did anyone watch last night’s Easter Island Underworld on SBS? I did. I endured a whole hour of B-grade horror movie sound effects, recycled footage, and uninspired reenactments because a documentary was preferable to the reality TV rubbish being aired on another channel. Plus who doesn’t get excited about a history lesson that involves claustrophobic caves, cannibalism, and ecocide? Continue reading

Going Green, Second-hand Scavengers

I op[t to] shop

Opportunity shop n. Aust., NZ a shop run by a church, charity, etc., for the sale of second-hand goods, especially clothes. Also, op shop. (via Macquarie Concise Dictionary 4th Edition)

Once the territory of Centrelink/pension cardholders, op shops are now frequented by shoppers on all sorts of budgets. According to The Age, they’ve ‘defied the doom and gloom in the retail sector and experienced a surge in sale. The increase…has been spurred by two things – the mainstream adoption of op-shopping and a reduction in discretionary spending’.

With op-shopping on the rise, op-shop blogs and bloggers have started popping up online. I Op Therefore I Am is one such blog and acts as a communal trophy shelf for treasure-hunting locals. While posting up some finds on the site, I managed to convince bloggers I Love to Op Shop and Lisa@SimplyMe to talk about their love of the humble op shop. Continue reading

Beg or Borrow but Don't Steal, Gardening on a Budget, Going Green

Not so slim pickings

Has anyone seen American Pickers? I don’t watch much reality TV, but voyeuristic bargain-hunting and junk-scavenging never fails to perk me up on a Wednesday night.

Inspired by the show’s Mike and Frank, I’ve been doing some pickin’ of my own in Boroondara. Yep, it’s hard rubbish week once more in the affluent inner east, and whenever I drive through its streets, a fifteen-minute trip turns into a forty-five-minute detour. Continue reading