Boxing clever!! Insulating the HWS

This was done a little while ago. A job I had been meaning to do. I know everybody has lots of those right!

Well this was done because winter was coming on and I had a large supply of coreflute real estate signs and some polystyrene sheeting leftover from the large double glazed doors that were delivered for the extension build.

The whole thing as you will see is built from recycled materials. The light wooden frame was old treated pine decking ripped down the middle to make lightweight battens. These were screwed to coreflute plastic realestate signs, polystyrene insulation put in the middle and another layer of coreflute on the top and then lined inside with silver insulating paper

making the panels


inside the box


Finished box

Fitted a digital thermometer inside and watched the readout. First time it appeared to stay approx 15 degrees centigrade above ambient temperature. That was great until I looked inside the box and saw that the sensor had fallen against the copper hot water outlet.

Approx 7-9 degrees above ambient

Second try fixed it to inside wall of box. Now it reads approx 7 – 9 degrees above ambient, keeping it above zero on our cold Tassie nights.

Does it make a difference to power use??? Well I don’t know because our Siddon heat pump is having a de-icing issue and is running for 10 – 15 hrs at a time at night on cold nights. I have spoken to Siddons who have said that there has been a problem with some de-icing units. Apparently it takes warmth from the hot water tank and draws it back through compressor and sometimes the sensor that tells it when to stop fails.

This problem was noticed because of the energy monitoring software. I was looking through the data one morning and noticed how long the unit had been running. Then I could look back at previous data and compare it to temperatures. It is on the list to be fixed, awaiting spare parts.

I will let you know the outcome of the insulating box when it has been fixed.

Monitors and measuring devices part 2

In this update: New energy monitor and great software to measure electricty consumption.

Last time I updated this blog I spoke about HEAT kits, eco switches and LED Mitts. Well the latest new is that the LED Mitts are suitable for a 5 watt led replacement for a halogen globe but not suitable for our 11watt replacements for 50 watt halogen. The reason for this is that although LED’s run cool their electronics give out a bit of heat. Unlike Halogens which actually heat up the globe and are just a heating element in a gas LED’s themselves do not emit heat but the electronics do. If this heat is allowed to build up around the LED unit which is what could happen with the LED Mitt it could drastically shorten the life of the LED’s.

I discovered this after talking to Living Energy Design  who designed and supplied my led Lighting and speaking with the folks at LED Mitts. It is always worth pursuing things a little further if you are not sure. I also checked up on forums such as the Alternative Technology Association to see if I was on the right track. As new technologies become available I will chase them up as I do not like “holes” in my insulation to let cold air down

 Now for some cool pieces of kit. Without a fuel gauge you don’t know when you will run out of fuel. You can guess but that is not too accurate. Well it is the same with energy. If you are trying to save energy in a home it is really difficult if the only monitoring you have is an electricity bill once every three months. It might give a rough idea but really rough. I had looked at several energy monitoring devices but either they were fairly inaccurate or very expensive or hard to retro fit. Then as theswe things do along came a great thing, well two really. I was speaking to a couple of people who are part of KEENER, a sustainability group local to Sheffield, Tasmania. They were organising a group purchase of energy monitors sold by Smart Now They are called EnviR and they wirelessly transmitt data every six seconds from the power box to a display monitor. This tells you what you are currently using. A CT clamp is put around the main power wire in the fuse box. this needs to be done by a licensed electrician.  I also got a second CT clamp and put it around the hot water feed.

Wireless transmitter in fuse box

EnviR set up and working

The device comes with a USB cable to connect to a PC. The really clever part of this whole thing is not the EnviR which while a clever piece of equipment only tells you how it is in real time and shows the sum power being used. (Sum of mains power and hot water) No the really clever part is the software which is supplied by a local Tasmanian software company Go Lime Solutions . This software, called Energy Tracker, takes all the data that is transmitted and shows it on a power meter on your PC as well as storing it all in a database which you can access via a reports page. All the equipment can be purchased from Go Lime Solutions. They have been excellent with after sales service and sorting out a few glitches in my computer system.

The power meter can be a small colour coded meter that is green if you are using power within the parameters that you specify, turning orange as you near capacity and then red when it goes over; and expanded to a full page with a graph of use that goes back quite a few days. This can tell you alot. You will see when a kettle or another large appliance is switched on or how much power is being used with evrything just on standby.

Energy Tracker power meter small on PC

Energy tracker graph

The clever bit is that it seperates out all the information that is fed in to the EnviR and puts it into seperate reports. Now the Envi R can pair up with ten wireless transmitters which can run three CT clamps each which is up to 30 channels. This means that you could monitor multiple power and light feeds if you wished and track down all that power that might be being used and you just don’t know.

Ther are a variety of reports including hourly, half hourly, cost comparisons and lots more. Go Lime are soon releasing even more in depth reporting. All the data can be copied into Excel or graphs copied to paste into documents. The system is around $200 for a household size which is really cheap. You should be able to save that very quickly on your power bill by being able to measure your usage.

Hot Water dashboard
Hot Water hourly graph

In our case with the hotwater feed hooked up I have been monitoring when our Siddons heatpump hot water service comes on to reheat. Turns out it likes to come on at night when it is coolest outside. Not the most efficient time for it to come on as it has to work harder with cooler air. We shower in the morning, the HWS heats up water just after showering and then it takes approx 15 hours for it to cool down enough for it to want to heat more water. This is at ambient temps of approx 18C during the day and maybe 8C at night. We may change our water use habits or put a timer on the HWS so it does not come on at night.Hot Water hourly graphI have just built an insulated box around the HWS and will be able to monitor the difference in[power use.

Our other power use is very low as we TURN STUFF OFF AT THE SWITCH NOT THE STAND BY!!

I will monitor our HWS and update it in a few weeks.

Latest news from Westbury: Monitors, measures, and stuff


I am being very slack in keeping this blog upto date and I keep saying such things. The house progresses at its own rate (slowly) and research into such things as decking is happening.

 We have had some very bad luck this week. Our Mini foxy, Tessa who graces the front page of this blog, was run over and killed. She was a fantastic black and white character who gave a lot of love to many people. She travelled in our motorhome right around Australia and made many friends both human and dog. She will be much missed. It was a very quick end to a well lived life.

Tessa April 2009Tessa October 2010

 On other fronts we have had some interesting developments.

In January I borrowed a H.E.A.T kit from our local Council. This stands for Home Energy Audit Toolkit and most councils in Australia should have some to borrow.  Here is an example on Hobart City Council website.

  • It consists of an infrared thermometer which gives an instantaneous read out when you point it at things. Very useful to measure where you might have heat loss or how much ehat is coming from your hot water service or fridge etc.
  • A normal thermometer that is used to measure the temperature in your fridge or freezer. If you have your fridge turned down too cold you may be wasting precious dollars and electricity without knowing.
  • Powermate Lite. This device plugs between an electrical device such as washing machine, tv, fridge etc, and the wall. It gives a read out of wattage, cost per hour, day year etc and much more.
  • Lots of good information on how to use the kit.
  • A stopwatch
  • A compass so you know which way on the block your house is facing.

The results of my quick energy audit are as follws. Please note that there only two adults in the house and our electricity needs are low.

Home energy audit February 2011. 

  •          Fridge Temp                       10 C (needs to be colder) 
  •          Freezer Temp                    – 15 C 
  •          Fridge Power use 1.6kw/h over 24 hours. Hi 85 watts, Low 4.5 watts 15cents per hour 595kw/year, 67.9 watts per hour 
  •          TV power use 90watts 
  •         Laptop power use Standby 1.64 watts. On 35 – 40 watts 
  •         Laser  Printer power use. 14watts switch on, 875 – 1015 watts warm up, 11.5 – 15 watts stand by 
  •          HWS temp on skin. Base 20.5C, mid 21.9C, top 22C. 8.30 am warm day (18.5C). Wall temp behind HWS 19.6C
  •          Radio power use 16 watts 
  •          Led kitchen lights 16watts inc driver

In February we had the priviledge of hosting John Knox from Ride the Talk for a night. John who works for The Alternative Technology Association has ridden his bicycle around Australia to give talks to groups of people about the simple things we can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our home and do our part for global warming.

We had a small but passionate turn out on what was his last night in Tasmania after a gruelling pedal up from the south of Tassie in high winds and heavy rain. His talk covered many different areas including lighting, hot water, curtains and pelmets, and draught proofing. All are things where a small outlay in time, thinking and materials can save electricity, money, and greenhouse gas emissions.

You can find out about Johns travels at his website Ride the Talk and it has lots of links to further your research into the ways we can help negate climate change.

Out of this talk I was introduced to a couple of new products that will help us in the TasGreenReno house. The Eco Switch and the LED Mitt.

The Eco Switch is another product that won a New Inventors award and is simply an extension lead with a switch that turns everything off. The switch has an illuminated rocker that when it is on it glows green and when off it is off. This is designed to plug in between the wall socket and the tangle of power boards that hide behind the TV or computer. You can bring the switch to the front and use that to ensure that all the appliances are well and truly turned OFF. More about Eco Switch here and purchase it from the Alternative Technology Association webshop for the tiny sum of $20.00.