Monday, June 30, 2014

Okey rides!

Meet Okey. He's the newest member of our family and we already love him to bits!

He is a whippet, but not a pure breed which is fine for us as we will be having his ballies chopped off as soon as we can. And unfortunately he's not a rescue dog. We waited a while for a whippet-ish puppy, but alas, we were just too impatient. We wanted a whippet because they always come highly recommended as lovely chilled out pets. We are just too precious about our garden and our retic to risk a chewy breed. So far Okey has lived up to the chilled out pet description. He doesn't chew much, he has only wee'd inside once, he doesn't pull on the lead, he is gentle and doesn't nip. But he does cry at night a bit. In fact he howls. Ads and I are frantically reading the puppy books from the library!

We have been gently getting him used to the idea of the cargo bike. We've had him sniff around it while constantly feeding him treats, then he got a sit in the box. I assumed he'd freak out and go all shivery but quite the opposite. He just lay down and had a snooze!

So the next day we all went for a ride to the park - Ads riding, me and Okey in the box. It went well, he just lay back and enjoyed the ride! What a good boy! Our next step is to get a bolt in the box where we can clip a short lead so he can ride by himself and not jump out or strangle himself... I can't wait to get fully mobile in the cargo with Okey!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Power year 6 and PV payback times

Our 1.1kW PV system is in its sixth year and still going strong. Power generation dipped slightly and unfortunately our consumption went up a bit. We still use about a third of the WA average though so not too bad.

On the money front we saved nearly $600 off our bill, partly thanks to our low usage and also the fact that we feed in over thirds of our generated power to the grid (the generous feed in tariff helps here).

It's been 6 years now since we installed our solar panels. In that time our PV system has saved us $3,104 off our power bills. That means we're half way to paying off the cost of the system (our 1.1 kW Kaneka/SMA system cost $6,460 after rebates back in 2008). Solar panels are way cheaper nowadays but the rebates and feed in tariffs are less favourable as well. We paid a lot for our system but are lucky enough to be paid 49c per kWh fed to the grid and this is guaranteed to 2020 (if the government keep their promise!). In fact I've just worked out that I'll need to buy more solar panels in 2020 otherwise my bills will go from small to fairly big. The last yearly bill would have been $493 feeding power in at 8.5 cents a kWh instead of $58! Adding more panels will be hard for us since our unshaded roof space is almost full of thin film panels, we may even need to try to sell the panels and get a whole new set of less space hungry panels...

Despite less favourable rebates and feed in tariffs these days PV is still a great investment. The table below shows estimated payback times for people in Western Australia. As you'll see huge savings can be made over 25 years and most PV systems will last up to 40 years. The payback time may be shorter for smaller systems but this is not the whole of the matter. Bills will be less with bigger systems meaning that overall savings are far greater in the long run.

Power prices have almost doubled in the last six years in WA, so now is a great time to buy PV. If you orient some panels to the east, north and west you'll maximise your use of generated power, which is a big plus under current feed in rates (8.5 cents a kWh in WA compared to 27 cents for power bought from the grid).

I'd love to hear from people about their experiences with PV and if anyone has questions on this topic please fire away.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

It pays to read the meter

I read our meters once a week. Now some people (or most?) would think that's obsessive or just plain weird, but it does give me a good idea of when something's not right. For example if I get a spike in power use I think "did I (or Amy, more likely) forget to turn off the hot water booster"? If water use is high I wonder whether the retic settings need adjusting.

My meter reading paid off recently. About a month ago our water use spiked in a big way, using 2,000 litres a day. The mains meter kept spinning despite the rainwater tank being full and it had us stumped for a while. At last we found the leak, a faulty solenoid is causing the retic in a hidden spot to run 24/7. It's fixed now and what a relief.

Most people wouldn't realise until they get the water bill and even then they might not twig. It just goes to show that there's some method in my madness...