Operation Household Energy Reduction: Part 12 - Power from the Sun

Our moves into solar power generation were more opportunistic than scientifically precise. We saw what we thought seemed a "good deal" and decided on the basis of the price and the quality componentry involved that here was a chance to "get our hands dirty" and see whether what options existed for future expansion. Some points:

1) the deal we took up had both a (small) photo-voltaic cells (PVC) component to produce grid-connected power AND a gas boosted solar hot water component.
2) It was a good deal financially and the components were of recognised quality.
3) The business through which we bought the package used external contractors for installation effort. The contractors for the gas boosted hot water were a named local outfit who did an excellent installation job and have explained and supported the system as needed. The PVC work was done by done by an outfit who were much less easy to identify, and did an extremely questionable job on the installation (which I only found out some months hence when investigating the roof structure around the installation). This is part of the peril of using non-local firms which use contract installers - a risk we were aware of and yet one which we took in this circumstance (which will lead to more vigilance in future).
4) We have been highly impressed with the performance ("solar gain") of our hot water system and while the PVC system is small (IKW) we can clearly see the impact it is making.
5) The main issues around PVC performance have not been with the system at all, but getting our chose electricity utility to bill us correctly. This took one year to achieve.
6) The one thing for which we didn't employ enough foresight was setting up the inverter - connected to the PVCs - for future growth. It was a small oversight, but will be slightly costly if we decide further PVC electricity production is for us. 

Here are those caveats again that I've added throughout the series:

Now, those caveats to all of this work – from previous posts - again….

1) whilst there are technical fixes that can contribute to energy reduction, we wanted to make sure that we didn’t concentrate exclusively on them. My gadget-attracted persona is fascinated with new photo-voltaic cell technology or the latest approach to circulating filtered warm ceiling air into the house. We have considered or are considering all of these approaches but prioritised actions according to the most significant thermal performance improvements for the lowest cost, specific to our home.

2) Related to this point, we are aware of the relative economic capacity we enjoy that allows us to make some of these changes simply.

3) So we want to avoid seeing this as a way we can “proof” our little home against the rest of the world. 90000 litres of localised water storage might be fine if it makes sense in the context of your local rainfall and reasonable water usage. It doesn’t make much sense if it is to safeguard your lifestyle while the rest of the world runs out of water.

4) And part of the reason for adding these thoughts to this blog is to add to the conversation about what is possible and keep us all thinking about ways we can contribute to this kind of work for ALL dwellings, regardless of personal economic capacity.

5) Our efforts are not necessarily particularly remarkable in the scheme of things, but its fun to tell the story, to be encouraged in what you are doing and to encourage others.


  1. Hi there, just found your blog via the sustainable house site and I am looking forward to reading more at leisure in the coming days. Reading your experiences of solar power and hot water mirrors my own experience exactly, from the difference between the 2 installers to the time it took you to get the billing right. I suspect we used the same energy company...
    Thanks for your blog, Kirsten

  2. Thanks so much Kirsten for your comments. We had a ball recently opening our house to 130 people as part of Sustainable House Day....and talking about retrofitting. A movement is forming....! Take care,