If young people today are so bad then it is because they have us as an example to follow…
The debacle in our Federal Parliament over what is a relatively small number of refugees coming to Australia by boat is just shameful. These people are elected to represent their constituents, sure. That does not mean that they lose all responsibility. The argument that they represent the views of their electorate is a poor one. It is a minority of their electorates who would make the decision themselves to let hundreds of people die when they could save them. But vocal minorities who do not want anyone “to jump queues” get to make the decisions because they get heard in the media. Since when was queue jumping punishable by death?
Rather than find a humane and sensible approach to processing people trying to enter the country illegally, the political parties prefer to allow hundreds of people to die. Why? Sadly it is to score political points and nothing more.
May history condemn you, who by your failure to act humanely, cause others to die.
Well into Winter now and the very short days are here. Paradoxically this is the best time for heating the house from sunshine.
Walking on the slate with bare feet when it is -4 degrees outside and opening curtains to let the sunshine in is a pleasure. With sun coming in to nearly 4 metres almost all the floor is warm now. Late afternoon in the sun is t-shirt weather inside while it is 12 or so degrees outside. This is good and happily the double glazing works very well for the sunny days.
I still think there is some further benefit to be gained from increasing insulation in the roof and walls. That looks feasible before the next summer. Add the increased sunlight from removing shadows cast by the existing pergola and it could add 4 kWh of heating and reduce 12 kWh of cooling (heat leakage) to the daily winter heat budget – when I complete these improvements. With energy costs approaching 15c and 25c for gas and electricity (per kWh) respectively that amounts to over a dollar a day in gas saving. Effectively $150 a year which is significant but secondary to the sheer comfort and joy of being in a warm and sunny place.
Compared with 5 years ago, when I needed to have heating of some sort all of June and July all through the day or be quite cold, the difference is remarkable. 21 degrees inside with no heating on compared to 18-19 with heating on – guilt free .
I used to really like it that parcels delivered to my home would be taken to the local post office where I could pick it up on a Saturday or late afternoon. So why do you now send the parcel off to a depot where they are only open during hours when I normally work (more than an hour’s round trip away too!) and not open at all on the weekend? Do you not understand that delivery is supposed to be a service – a benefit to the consumer?
I am sure that it is convenient for you to have this arrangement but I would not have ordered things to be delivered to me if I had known that you would create rules (without notifying me at that) that prevent me from picking up a parcel for which I have paid for both the contents and the postage. I am the one paying and I am the one being forced to take time off work in order to comply with what you want me to do instead of delivering me a parcel.
Of course I understand that you have to operate efficiently. I can also understand that this kind of arrangement would be ok for a lot of people – especially those not working. The problem is that I am not one of those people and you give me 5 days (working days by your definition) to collect the thing I paid for to be delivered to me or you will return it to the sender. Great service that. The place YOU choose to send the parcel is 8 Km away (and it takes 30-40 minutes in the hours you are open) from where I live and completely out of the way that I would normally travel to anywhere I normally go. My local post office is less than 1 Km away and importantly open on Saturday mornings when I am able to get there.
Now you might want to say that I should have been home to receive the parcel. Well, here we have a small discussion that must be had.
First thing is that the delivery required a signature confirming the delivery. I get that the sender might want this for proof of delivery. I get it that this might slow your delivery contractor down a bit. However, I do not accept it as reasonable that the delivery people might not even ring the doorbell to see if someone is home to accept a parcel. Despite the contractor not putting a time on when they attempted to deliver, I can be fairly sure that someone was home the day that the parcel was supposedly undeliverable. Two people were at the house for all but two hours in the day and that was after normal delivery hours. Your telephone operator became immediately certain (yes certain) that the delivery driver had arrived at my house precisely when it was unoccupied. Well, the likelihood of this story being true is low. Deliveries are almost all in the morning to early afternoon … this is why the failed delivery notice says it can be picked up after 4:30 that day. Nobody was home that day between 4-6 PM and it does not add up.
So, if I might have a problem with delivery what should I do? Have it delivered to a post office close to where I work so lunchtime pickup is feasible? Sadly if you pay with PayPal you have little choice where the delivery must go. It must go to the place identified in your PayPal account. Seems like a catch 22 situation here. My helpful person on the other end of the telephone advised me that if I lived in a different city then I might be able to pay for a special mailbox or get a special service that allows for a parcel to be picked up at any hour. Clearly the capital city is not a worthy place to have such services!
Australia Post you are doing your best to ruin the business model for online ordering and selling in Australia because you seem unable to understand that things have changed and you are not operating in the 1960s where someone is almost always at home and the postal service delivered letters with a whistle so that the home owner knew that they had mail that day. Please enter the 21st century and operate as if you understand that people work and that your business model needs to change!
It is pleasant to report that over the past five days I have not needed to use any heating at all in a Canberra May!
Sunlight has been enough to keep the house very warm. This may change after the colder weather expected this weekend but it is promising.
A rough calculation shows that I grew around 30% of the food I ate in the warmer 8 months of the past year.
Most of that was from vegetables grown in Summer and then stored one way or another. I am still eating zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant and chilli from before the frosts. Raspberry jam from two weekends ago should last about a year. There is a kilo or more corn in the freezer and I made tomato puree that will do for a few weeks.
If I am lucky I might be able to increase this percentage for next year with more garden beds and a better approach to growing corn and capsicum.
What I cannot grow myself is dairy foods, cooking oil and most grains. So for the next two years I will experiment with:
- Nut trees/bushes. Hazelnut and walnut seem appropriate for this climate
- A small amount of grain crop – yet to be determined
- Starting capsicum seedlings early in the glasshouse and transplanting in October
- Starting tomatoes from seed and transplanting in November (glasshouse again)
- Growing more basil and coriander in a mini greenhouse and/or inside
- Add another 3 sq metres of garden bed for more vegetables
- Better distribution of plants so that they get more light and are less crowded
- Plan my corn two per week over 8-12 weeks so I get more over a longer period (and dont have to pick and freeze)
Slightly exciting to plan this.
Not much really but I used 5.2 MWh of electricity in a year and generated 3.4 MWh from the PV panels. Predicted generation was 2.6 MWh from the supplier so all seems good to me.
Getting the electricity usage lower is going to be hard because of an electric oven and running a lot of electrical equipment. Still I think I can get below 5MWh per annum easily and perhaps to 4 if I replace some appliances and/or install some building automation to control some things.
Having a look at some of the oil exploration figures and pricing for electricity last weekend, I thought I might see how much the cost of oil might need to be before it is more economic to run cars and other transport on electricity. With the sun shining brightly and lots of electricity going into the grid from my PV panels, I started to think of how far away it might be before we are living in a very different world. A world as different as it was when my father was born into a world where private transport was by horse or walking, telephones were rarely in private homes and electricity was only just becoming commonplace for lighting.
As any reader (there are some of you) would know by now, I am firmly of the opinion that the most reliable and economic way to supply the energy needed for a fair and equitable world (this means a roughly even standard of energy consumption globally that matches the middle ranks of OECD countries) is to generate electricity from solar thermal power plants and take advantage of geothermal energy source. The impediments to these technologies are industrial inertia (because the dominant paradigm is to dig up and burn coal) and the relative cost differential for solar generated electricity vs fossil fuels. The cost differential is often quoted as the reason for not building geothermal and solar thermal generation but is that still true? When will the equation change?
Some rough calculations suggest that an increase in oil prices of 50% will be enough to make it more economic to drive electrically powered cars in cities (practical issues of how to do this aside for the moment). That of course is likely to increase the cost of electricity and that would at first glance seem like it would work against the changeover to electric vehicles, however once you factor in the economics of renewable energy it is likely to result in a fairly stable price for electricity one the cost has reached somewhere around 35-40 cents per kWh. Around this point it is economically viable to provide electricity from thermal solar plants and geothermal sources from a cost of generation perspective. Capital costs involved in is in the same order as coal fired power generation (once environmental costs are factored in)and “fuel” price will be very stable – unlike limited resources such as oil and to a lesser extent coal.
That suggests that we are at a kind of tipping point where in only a few years the economics of energy will change – for the foreseeable future. When you combine this structural shift in energy provision with the changes that will come from mass production and economies of scale when electric vehicles will drop in price, improve performance and reliability and generally life will be more liveable (think of the reductions in noise, exhaust fumes, pollution haze in big cities and all the transport and refining of fuel oils). Of course the challenges are significant. Electricity distribution systems were built by organisations that believed that the generate and distribution models that they were part of were the only model that mattered. Transition to a flexible grid with multiple inputs of energy that are more variable and diverse will require a rethink of electricity pricing (is electricity consumed between 9PM and 6AM really worth only 9c a kWh compared to 21c during the day?) and supply policy. Storage of energy becomes far more important and awareness of what you consume might be a step above complaining about how much the electricity bill costs each quarter.
Another factor that is important is at least 30% savings on wasted energy through inefficient housing and appliances. Reduce the need to burn coal to generate electricity to heat an uninsulated house with a two bar radiator and the benefits start to multiply (it will take a decade or two for this to happen). There are many other examples of how we can use energy more effectively.
There will still be a need for oil and coal but not as much of it and probably not anywhere as much for just burning to heat houses and move cars. I think the one inescapable feature of the near future is that our energy economy will be driven by electricity as the single most flexible and effective way to provide our private and public transport (air travel is an interesting exception, perhaps?), support our lifestyle ambitions (home entertainment and living) and power our productivity at work.
Looking forward to seeing what really happens.
Looking at some of the available products for heating and cooling a home sustainably and comparing with the home appliance industry (airconditioners, water heaters etc) it is somewhat depressing. The large electronics manufacturers have all the boxes ticked when it comes to features and installation aids. There are whole industries devoted to installing and selling their products. Water heaters are similar but really a captive market for plumbers who driver what consumers by from their recommendations or what they are prepared to install. Sharp intake of breath when you want something they don’t like usually means that they are going to charge a price that makes it uneconomical.
You can buy an airconditioner that does a decent job of heating or cooling for not much more than $1300 and installation costs around $500. For a solar heating panel that can be fitted to a wall (ideally North facing) the cost is not much higher at $1500 but the installation cost is nearly $900. You might think the installation is more complex but it is not in any way. The solar panel has self contained PV driven fans that mean no electrical wiring and the plumbing is a matter of a hole in a wall and sealing that up again. The Airconditioner has electricity and plumbing requirements that are fairly stringent as well as needing special certifications for handling compressant. There are three trades involved for airconditioning and one for the solar panel. The solar panel installation is more like a cottage industry and the number of installers with experience to do the job is usually low – often only the supplier knows how to install it.
The difference in price is mostly down to the volume and knowledge required to complete the installation and there is an argument that the quality control on airconditioning installs is not that great because they want to finish several a day. Noneltheless there is a high cost to the installation for the sustainable option.
Looking at the manufactured part – the airconditioning has a mass of mechanical and electronic components that are priced relatively low because of mass production. The price is not much more than the cost of raw materials and construction. By comparison the solar panels are almost hand made and cost much more than the raw materials that go into them. If there was the same volume of production for the solar heating panels then the price should be a third the price.
All that is what we would expect from standard economics of supply and demand as well as economy of scale. However the sustainable industries can do so much better.
One thing they could do is to move on from the past where the only people who bought sustainable products were enthusiasts who:
- Wanted to do it themselves
- Prefer a technical approach
- Would prefer to cobble together and installation from available materials than buy and install kit
- Would take a long time to make a decision to buy a product
- Rarely considered appearance or usability/convenience (often preferring a lot of hands on adjustment or fine tuning)
- Highly customised for specific customer needs
If sustainable products are to be viable alternatives for more than a fraction of a percentage of the total home market then the products need to be designed to:
- Be produced in volume
- To be installed by moderately skilled standard trades
- Usable and functional for clearly identified needs (ie use adaptors rather than different products)
- Have a balance of technical and user documentation pre-sales
- Not rely on “you can save the world by buying this product” advertising! Make the case for how my life will be improved
These changes are almost essential if the cost of sustainable products is to be competitive with high energy consumption traditional appliances.
Latest from the garden – Corn that is so sweet and tasty that I think I could make myself sick on it. Tomatoes that are ripening well despite the lack of sunshine. Chillies that are hot and full of that tang you never get from a shop. Raspberries are finished for now but I put nearly 3 kg in the freezer for ice cream. Early autumn is the next crop.
Occupancy Agreement for front room
“I” or “me” means the owner of the property ____________. “The occupant” or “you” means ___________. The room is my son’s room and available while he is overseas. His return date is not certain but is possible in July 2012.
The room is provided to you “as is” with furnishing and partial use of the wardrobe space that allows for storage of materials and a suitcase as can be viewed. Effectively greater than 70% of the wardrobe space is available for use by the occupant.
The general principles of shared living apply with the House Rules intended to clarify these principles. Housework is to be considered a shared task that is proportionate to the number of people in the house and usage of facilities. I am not solely responsible for cleaning and maintenance and in most cases will be responsible for no more than 50% of the work. Some specifics of the occupancy are identified here:
- You must vacate the room if my son returns from overseas and wants to stay here (30% chance I think). I will give you as much notice as possible and this is likely to be one month and at least one week.
- There is no parking provided. You may get booked by a ranger if you park on the road verge but this is unlikely. Nothing can be done to provide you with parking on the block. Bicycles are easily accommodated.
- This house is a passive solar design and has limited heating capacity. If managed adequately, the comfort level in this house is higher than in most conventional houses. Curtains and blinds are provided for privacy and to keep warmth in and heat out as needed. You are asked to ensure that curtains and blinds in the shared areas of the house are opened to let warmth in during cold months and closed when the sun is not shining. If this is not done you may experience discomfort.
- Electricity is provided in the room and the occupant is responsible for safety and consumption. Because of the electricity generator on the roof and other specialised uninterruptable mains electricity you should never attempt to undertake any electrical work or assume that a power point is not live even if you believe all switches are turned off. This may be a matter of life and death.
- Gas is used for cooking, hot water and heating. Water is exclusively used for domestic use and tank water is used for garden watering (with occasional supplementation from watering by hand in hot/dry weather). Utility bills are low in this house and you are encouraged to reduce consumption as far as possible. The basis for sharing electricity bills is proportional to the occupants (ie 1 occupant = 50% of the bills and 2 occupants = 66% of the bills). Average bills are around $1200 a quarter with two people in the house.
- Internet and telephone sharing is available at a cost of $25 a month plus any additional charges (total cumulative) for telephone calls over $2 (many local calls are free).
- The letterbox is locked and there is no spare key so I am the only one who can open it. I will pass on any letters for you.
- All furnishings are in excellent, undamaged condition and therefore any damage is your responsibility to make good. The bed, mattress, curtains, bookcase, two chairs and desk are included furnishings. You may provide a sealed and jointly signed envelope with before pictures of furnishings to help with verification of the initial state of the furnishings, if you wish.
- You should seek advice about your insurance policy because of the value of equipment and furnishings in the house.
- Your rental covers less than 20% of the cost of running the house so your say in the way things are done is in approximately that proportion.
- If you prefer to not do your share of housework we can organise for a paid cleaner at your expense.
Rental for the room is $140 per week which is a low rental compared to usual rates. In return there are some limitations as outlined above. Rent is required two weeks in advance with the proviso that any failure to pay the rent at least a week in advance will mean that I will withdraw an equivalent amount from the bond. If rental is in arrears then you may asked to leave within 14 days. A receipt will be provided for payments on request. Otherwise a table of payments will be kept. By preference payment directly to my bank account is the preferred option so there are no disputes.
A bond of $600 is required and this will be lodged in a separately identified account by me and refunded on satisfactory termination of the agreement. The bond will be used to make good any damage done to the house by You. Any shortfall of rental will also be taken from the bond at any time there are arrears. A Key bond of $120 is required as well. Those things are expensive.
I may terminate the occupancy agreement on 14 days notice if this is necessary but will do my best to give longer notice if this is possible. The most likely cause of giving notice is my son’s return home. You may also terminate the occupancy on 14 days notice.
Please raise any concerns you have with me. I will do the same with you. None of this is intended to be a cause of trouble.
These rules may seem to be a bit picky. Sorry about that but in some cases simple courtesy and good behaviour need to be stated as rules. The golden rule holds. Then, it is also my house and I paid for everything in it with my money and am entitled to ask others to look after it.
- Tolerance of others and their approach to life is the way to live. Therefore no specific expectations on how others live there life are to be made by any party except as outlined here, intended to ensure that the house is well maintained and safe.
- There may be no smoking at all. This is a requirement for my personal health and of the insurance. If you need to smoke then you should not live here.
- No pets. None at all. Not even a small one. None at all. No pets.
- I am a vegetarian. Please be considerate. If you are too then we will get along nicely.
- All House Rules apply to visitors as well as you.
- If you have more than one person staying in the room then additional rental should be charged because there is additional wear and tear.
- Shared areas of the house are available to use but with care and this does not mean the contents are yours to do what you wish. As is usual, you need to ask before using anything that does not belong to you.
- The house has automated lighting that turns on and off in shared areas. This cannot be controlled by any occupant. Lights controlled by switches are free to be used as needed.
- The main door, security system and video camera surveillance are completely automatic and no surveillance is installed in private areas (your room, toilet and bathroom). Surveillance recordings are kept off site and will only be viewed if this is needed. If you have a concern with this please raise the matter with me. There is no scope for removing any of the surveillance equipment because it is part of the security system and terms and conditions of the household Insurance Policy require a security system.
- Bathroom and toilet are provided on the basis of shared cleaning and a general principle that “you make the mess you clean it”. Weekly cleaning is needed as a standard and this is to be shared on a proportionate basis.
- Kitchen cleaning is on the basis of you make the mess you clean it. This includes use of oven and the gas cooktop. Benches, surrounds and the sink must be kept hygienic and clean of any surface dirt.
- Floors and shared areas need to be maintained in reasonably clean condition with weekly cleaning.
- Solid timber furnishings and sensitive equipment require extreme care when using them and avoiding damage that could cost many thousands of dollars to repair. You are free to use the living area equipment on the basis of any damage beyond normal wear and tear will be made good. Similarly the appliances in the kitchen and laundry are high quality and need care.
- Books, CDs and video libraries are available for your use, however no item may be removed from the house nor may any illegal copying be done.
- NEVER touch any of the mains electrical system, especially the switchbox. NEVER believe that a power point may be safe because a mains switch is off. Contact me to arrange any electrical repairs with a qualified and knowledgeable electrician.
- This is a professional household. That means early mornings and early evenings on work days and work days can extend to the weekend.
- Bathroom access is shared and cleaning should be on an as needed basis. Clean basin, shower and bath is the minimum standard. Toiletries need to be personal and no sharing is permitted.
- Dishes must be cleaned to a high degree of hygiene by whoever used them. Use the dishwasher. Cooking equipment must be returned to a state better or the same as it was before it was used and finishes preserved (non-stick, spotless glass, shiny stainless steel and seasoned steel). Equipment must be used for its intended purpose and never damaged by using it incorrectly or it must be replaced with a new item. Anything used needs to be put away after cleaning and use.
- Breakages, of course must be paid for.
- By agreement food sharing is encouraged. Details can be agreed. Given the large amount of food kept here, it will be necessary to agree what should be done about replacing stored food and condiments etc prior to using them.
- Harvest of garden produce is encouraged. So is sharing the gardening. Proportion and understanding who paid for the garden applies again.
- Refrigerator space is to be proportional as well. There is not unlimited space and it needs to be sensibly shared.