Over the past four weeks I have had a lot of work done around the house. The kitchen was refurbished last weekend. Double glazing was done. Skylights were installed in the large room and kitchen. New refrigerator and dishwasher, sink etc. Old curtains replaced with blinds. Finally, a solar powered heating system for the house. All this will make the house much more energy efficient. It should save at least 25% of the energy use in the house. How?

  1. The heating will keep the house at about 20 degrees during the day across Winter. That on its own will save quite a bit of energy for heating the house up. Overall, the house is warmed already so that when the gas heater (a small “room heater”) comes on it has much less to heat.
  2. The skylights reduce the amount of time that I will need to use electric lighting. Previously, I needed to have the lights on most mornings because of the house design blocking direct sunlight from the East. Later in the day the same thing would happen. In the kitchen, I needed a light to see properly during the day because it is on the South and with plants close to the window. Curtains over the windows meant that less light came in even when the curtains were opened.
  3. Double glazing means that far less heat is lost through the windows. This house has a lot of windows. On the South side heat gain and loss through the windows could only be stopped by closing curtains. That meant running lights… and a less pleasant lifestyle, unconnected to the outside. Now, I can have the blinds open and feel like I am in the open. -3 degrees outside and 18 degrees inside and no feeling of cold at all in the morning.
  4. Kitchen appliances were a problem. The refrigerator was too big and that meant it was always turning on and off. A smaller one with a higher efficiency rating means that I will use 200kWh less electricity a year. The dishwasher I had could only be connected to a cold water tap. The one I have now can be connected to hot water. This means that the old one heated the water with an electric element slowing the wash and also using more energy than desirable. When I install the solar hot water later this year, the benefit will be even greater because the water is heated by the sun rather than fossil fuels.
  5. With heavy curtains on windows the house could be kept quite warm in Winter and cool in Summer. However, the curtains still blocked 20% of the light and heat when I opened them on a Winter day to let the sunlight in. This is overcome completely with the blinds I now have that let the light in and only need to provide privacy and/or light control for me rather than holding the heat in or out.
  6. In the main room (dining and lounge/living) the new skylight (called a roof window by some) lets more sun in during the winter and can regulate the amount of light in the Summer. It also opens so that I can use it to vent hot air through the cathedral ceiling and get a flow through that is called a thermal vent. In Canberra the overnight temperature gets down around 15 degrees overnight even when it is 35 during the day, due to being inland and over 600m above sea level.. The cooling effect that this has should make it much more comfortable and the need for any cooling rare. This is especially so because of the double glazing.

All this is good but there are more things to do. Four more windows need to be double glazed. I hope to have solar hot water will be installed in around October to November. I will be installing a type of awning over the narrow Westerly windows to keep the heat out in Summer (they will be open in the cooler months). The awnings will be a type that is easily raised and lowered and looks nicer than the normal open awnings. I will also be putting a similar thing on the North facing pergola to act as extended eaves. This will provide a blockout for Summer so that there is no heat in the house while allowing the heat in fully when I want it. Right now, I have the pergola covered with Wisteria and grapevines. I will remove the wisteria which will mean that there will be less damage to the gutters and pergola as well as better sunlight in April/May each year when the wisteria still has leaves but the house needs the sun. I might write a bit more about the work later this week. Right now, I will just enjoy it all.


Robert Harris
Historical fiction

This is another good book from Robert Harris. It is focussed on the life of Cicero in his time as a public figure. While Cicero is interesting for achieving high office without a power base, the descriptions of Roman life and politics are what I like the most. Narrated from the perspective of an elite slave, it shows how little things have changed in politics. It shows how much has changed socially. Then there is that broad canvass of the Roman Empire and just how civilised they were at one level and yet savage at another. The treatment of Roman citizenship was the first time it became clear to me how much this concept meant at the time. I was reminded of my reading of Gibbon and how the Enlightenment sparked a renewed interest in the Greek and Roman concepts of Republic and citizenship. How all that resulted in The Terror and Napoleon. I was also reminded of how excess wealth gets used to create power. That power can be used for many purposes and those are not much different today to 2000 years ago. The writing is again something that made me read until far too late at night. I read this reasonably large book over two nights and an afternoon. It left me wanting more.