Should I Buy a Solar Battery?

If you’re looking to save more on your energy bill, then a solar battery probably seems like the next most logical decision. While solar batteries are great for maximising your solar system and becoming more self-sufficient, there are a few important things to consider before taking the leap.

How much energy am I exporting?

Most people think that now they have solar they should get a battery, but the first thing you need to look at is how much energy you are exporting to the grid. A solar battery is charged by the excess energy that your solar system produces, and you don’t use. If you’re someone that uses very little power during the day, then you’re likely exporting a lot of your solar and a battery storage system might be a great solution for you.

However, if you’re home all day and you export very little of your solar energy back to the grid, then a battery will be of very little use to you. Look on the second page of your electricity bill and look at how many kWhs of solar you are exporting every month. You should be exporting enough energy to the grid to power the battery. For example, if you’re thinking about purchasing a 7kWh battery, you should be exporting a minimum of 7kWhs a day to the grid. It is possible to charge your battery with power from the grid however you’ll see more savings if you avoid this.

How much is your Feed-in Tariff?

If you’re on a high feed-in tariff (FiT) and you’re exporting a lot of your solar energy, then a battery likely won’t be a good choice for you. Depending on how high your FiT is, you will likely save more exporting the energy to the grid than storing it to use at night. A good rule of thumb is that if your FiT is higher than what you are paying for grid power, you should export it back to the grid to get the FiT. If it is under, which it is in most cases today, a battery could be a good option.

How does the return on investment look?

Like any investment, it’s important to analyse your return. Sit down and work out much you’ll save against how much you’ll spend and determine how long it will take you to recoup your money. It’s also important to take into consideration how you’re going to pay for it. If you’ve got the money sitting in the bank, then it might be more viable than taking out a loan and paying interest.

Can I get a battery rebate?

Another important factor to consider is if you’re eligible for any rebates or incentives. There are currently four battery rebates available in Australia.

Victoria

VIC Solar Rebate

The VIC Solar rebate enables eligible homeowners to receive a rebate of up to $4,838 to add a new battery onto an existing solar system. This rebate is currently in the trial phase and there are only 1000 rebates available. It is also means tested and there are a number of eligibility requirements. You can read them and apply here.

Origin Virtual Power Plant

The Origin Energy Virtual Power Plant (VPP) enables homeowners to purchase a heavily discounted battery. Origin Energy was awarded a $4.5 million grant by the Victorian Government to create a Virtual Power Plant. This is not means tested and can be purchased in a solar and battery package or battery alone. You could get a 7kWh battery for as little as $3,945. You can read more about it and apply here.

South Australia

South Australia’s Home Battery Scheme

The South Australia Home Battery Scheme enables eligible homeowners to receive battery rebates of up to $4,000 for the installation of a new battery storage system. All South Australian homeowners are eligible for this subsidy however, concession card holders are entitled to a larger subsidy. The scheme offers a grant of $300 per kWh and $400 per kWh for concession card holders and interest free loans to pay the remainder of the costs. You can read more and apply here.

New South Wales

Empowering Homes Program

The Empowering Homes Program is an initiative by the NSW Government that enables eligible homeowners to receive interest free loans for solar and battery packages and battery installation. Eligible homeowners can receive an interest free loan of up to $14,000 for solar and battery packages or $9,000 to add a battery storage system onto an existing solar system. You can read more and apply here.

Does it have back-up functionality?

While it’s most common for people to install batteries for the extra savings, a lot of people purchase them because they live in an area with grid instability. It’s important to do your research and ensure your battery has back up functionality. Some battery storage systems only work while connected to power so it’s important to be aware of this when making the switch.

Just like going solar, purchasing a battery storage system should be well thought out. It’s important to do your research and make sure that it’s the right choice and the right time for you to make the switch. Battery storage systems are still out of reach for a lot of people but just like we saw with solar panels, the price will eventually drop making it more accessible to the greater population.

Top 3 Things I Learnt From The Barefoot Investor

When my friends first started telling me about the barefoot investor my daily expenses accounted for most of my wage and I couldn’t see how I could stretch my money any further. I desperately wanted to save more money, but I was convinced I didn’t have anything left to spare.

Switch banks

Even if you haven’t read the Barefoot Investor, I think the one thing everyone knows from the book is the Orange ING card. There are a lot of skeptics out there about the bank without a branch and some people are just too set in their ways to change. Although for me and many of my friends, it was one of the best financial choices we made. This is why you should too.

No account fees

As long as your deposit $1,000 a month into your ING account, you’ll never be charged any account keeping fees. Now don’t freak out, this is easily covered by your wage going into your account. Now, you’re probably thinking that account fees don’t cost you that much, what’s the big deal? If you’re like me you probably don’t have one account, you might have several. Let’s say you have three accounts and your account fee is $4 a month. That’s $144 a year just to keep your accounts open. I don’t know about you but I’d rather that be going ono to my car loan.

No ATM fees

I feel like this is something that people really discredit but it’s personally one of my favourite things. ING will reimburse you for ALL ATM fees. The way I look at it is that 5% of time I’m withdrawing money at the bank for a specific reason and the other 95% I’m doing it at a 7/11 or in a club when the ATM fee could be upwards of $5. Never having to worry about how much the ATM fee was enough to make me change.

High Interest Rates  

When it comes to savings interest rates, it’s worth looking around for the best deal. The Barefoot Investor suggest ING as their interest rate is 0.25% above most other banks. If long-term savings is your goal, this could make a big difference to you at the end of the day.

60/20/10/10

By far the best thing I learnt from the Barefoot Investor was how separate my money to make it go further. Scott suggests setting up four accounts and distributing your wage following these percentages and categories.

Daily Expenses (DE) 60%

You daily expenses should covered just that, your daily expenses. One thing I think most people forget here is to accurately work out their expenses. You should be considering healthcare, insurances, gym memberships, if you get your hair done once a month you should account for this too. The Barefoot Investor states that if you DE is more than 60% then you need to cut something out.

Fire Extinguisher (FE) 20%

Fire extinguisher is there to put out financial fires. If something goes wrong, this is your safety net. You can also use this money to quickly pay off your debts.

Splurge 10%

Your splurge account is for you week to week splurges. If you want to go to the movies or out for dinner or buy that new top, this is where you take the cash from. This is one of the hardest lessons for me to learn because I felt like it wasn’t enough money. Maybe it doesn’t leave you with a lot to spurge on either but if the aim is to get ahead then you should follow it.

Smile 10%

Your smile account is for your longer-term things you want. It might be your next holiday or your wedding. The smile account is for that thing in the future that makes you smile.

Change your super and consolidate your super accounts

Before I started on my Barefoot Investor journey, I think I had 5 different super accounts all with a few thousand dollars in them. I had no idea how much I actually had in my super because it wasn’t in one place. I quickly consolidated them all and it made me start to think about my future more realistically.

Being in my 20s I never took my super fund into consideration. I ended up with multiple accounts because I always just signed up for a new one when I changed employers and I didn’t consider which one offered the best rates. While you might be a little more clued on than me, it could be worth comparing your super fund to others to make sure you’re not paying more than you need to me. The Barefoot Investor recommends Hostplus as they generally have the lowest fess but you can compare the market here.

If you’re looking to get ahead financially, purchasing the Barefoot Investor might be one of the best choices you ever make. I know it has been a blessing for myself and so many of my friends. Even if it doesn’t work out for you, I can think of plenty of worse ways you could have spent $20. You can purchase a copy of the book from Big W or online from Booktopia.

Time, Money & COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed our lives as we know it. Only the conspiracy theorists could have seen this coming. Many people have had their worlds turned upside down and have been laid off from their jobs. Thankfully, our government seems to be coming to the party and making it manageable for Australian families to keep going.

For those of us still working, we’re most likely doing it from home. If you’re like me than you probably thought, what a treat! I’ve always wanted to work from home. Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long, and the adjustment was harder than I imagined. While this is a difficult time, I think there are few things we can learn from COVID-19 about our habits.

Were you wasting your time?

Do you suddenly have so much time on your hands? The days seem longer when you don’t have anywhere to go but how much time have you really gained? Before I was forced into isolation, I did a lot but, I wasn’t completely run off my feet. Your schedule might normally be completely packed and you barely have time to take off your shoes before getting into bed, but I’m guessing that’s not the case for most of us.

I think so many of us fall into the habit of telling ourselves that we’re ‘so busy’ that we believe it no matter what. Right now is the perfect time to assess how you spend your time. I saw something the other day that said “If you don’t come out of isolation with a new skill or your side hustle started then it wasn’t time you lacked; it was discipline.”

Maybe you were overspending

My biggest weakness is buying food. Some people have loads of shoes or dresses; I eat out all the time. One thing that being in isolation has taught me is how much money I was wasting. It’s easy to fall into the habit of buying a coffee a few times a week, buying lunch or even just picking up a few things at the shops every day. Right now, we are being faced with the harsh reality that none of it is necessary. Mum was right, there really is food at home.

Coming out of this, I think we’re all going to look at our impulsive buying habits a little differently. I think this is the kick that some of us really needed to look at our spending and saving without rose coloured glasses on. This is the perfect time to reassess your budget. Think seriously about how you allocate your money and if it isn’t important now, maybe it never was.

Go back to basics

One thing this pandemic is teaching us is that we need to learn to make do with what we’ve got. We don’t need to go to the shops every day when we have a freezer full of food. We don’t need to buy a box cake mix when we have flour, eggs and sugar in the cupboard. Often we find it so easy to opt for what we think is easier or faster, that we spend money we don’t have, and we miss moments we can’t get back.

We have an opportunity right now to put value back into the little things in life. Instead of opting for the package foods, take the time to make things from scratch. Everything will taste better; you’ll feel better and you can use this as an opportunity to do something with your kids or partner. We need to stop telling ourselves that these it’s more expensive or it takes too much time. Trying to make pasta sauce from scratch with three kids under five might be difficult but they will appreciate it so much more than you can imagine.

You don’t have to spend money to have fun

I don’t think a lot of us have used our imagination like this since we were in primary school. While half the population are complaining about being bored, the other half are finding new ways to entertain themselves and their families every day. I think we get so focused on what we’re going to do or where we’re going to go, that we forget how simple it can be. Children are the best example of this. Remember when you were young and you found ways to entertain yourself without the need for going out or having a computer at your fingertips?

By the time this storm has passed, I think most of us will be accustomed to our new way of life and we’ll find great joy in the little things. Whether it’s doing a jigsaw puzzle, playing boardgames or learning a new skill. For many of us we needed this to show us we don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars every weekend to have a good time.

You don’t have to try so hard to see your friends

How many times have you said to yourself ‘yeah I really need to catch up with them’ but you don’t do it because life gets in the way and you’re too busy? I think we forget that catching up is as easy as picking up the phone. Everyone feels so disconnected right now that we’re finally trying to reconnect with the people we love.

People are checking up on each other now more than ever and it’s sad that it took a global pandemic for people to check in on their friends. Let’s not make this something we just do during COVID-19. Let’s remain connected when this is all over. Call your friends when you’re bored. FaceTime someone you haven’t seen in a while. Stop making catching up seem like a chore and take time for yourself and the people you love.

I don’t think anyone is going to come out of this pandemic the same person they went in. Our lives are changed as we know it, but hopefully they change for the better. There’s no denying this is difficult and if you don’t have a newfound urge to do everything you’ve been putting off, that’s okay. But I think we can all learn to appreciate our lives a little more. To appreciate each other, to make time for each other and to stop being so wasteful.

Give your Business a COVID-19 Health Check

COVID-19 has changed our day-to-day lives. If you work in an office, chances are you’re now doing it from home. The adjustment is difficult and there are a lot of negative consequences that have come from this. However, there are positives too. Now is the perfect time to reassess your processes and make your business more efficient. It’s also a great time to do all the little things that always end up on the bottom of your list. Here are a few things you can do to pass the time and make your business the best it can be when the pandemic is over.

Clean up your documents

If your company is very structured there are probably folders labelled perfectly. However, chances are, this isn’t what the ‘my documents’ section of your computer looks like. This is the perfect time to go through all your documents and file everything correctly or delete everything you don’t need. I’m talking about the 57 screenshots that you don’t remember taking. If you haven’t already, create clear folders for all your documents. Try to keep things as simple as possible. Arrange your folders as if you were doing it for someone brand new coming into the company, you never know when that might happen.

Move documents to SharePoint

We are all guilty of saving to our desktop. When I first started, I was the only one in my department and it didn’t seem to matter. As my team grew and I started to do more for other people in the business, I was forced to stop clicking save to desktop. Move everything now and get in the habit of automatically saving to SharePoint. Your desktop will look cleaner, you’ll save time emailing files and you’ll be protected if your computer crashes.

Research new programs

Do you ever think, there must be an easier way to do this? Well guess what, there probably is. Chances are, if you’ve thought about something, it has already been invented. There are so many software programs out there that can make your job so much easier. Now is the perfect time to research ways to make your business more efficient. Write down your top 10 problems, or 10 things you wish could be done quicker and start Googling. Here are a few examples of software we use that makes life so much easier:

  • Zapier – Zapier is an automation software that integrates with hundreds of different programs. You can automate emails to customers, automate moving data across platforms and so much more. If your staff spend a lot of time inputting data or sending generic emails, automation software could be just what you need.
  • Asana – Asana is an online project tool for teams. You can map out projects, assign roles, set deadlines and manage workloads. If you’re constantly sending emails asking for updates from your team, this could be a great tool for you.
  • Smartsheet – Smartsheet is like the online version of excel. It allows you to store data, create spreadsheets, create reports and follow leads in real time. Smartsheet enables the entire organisation to view and update the same sheets live.

Do a policy audit

If you haven’t updated your company policies in a while now is a good time to give them a refresher. Your business has likely made a lot of changes and it’s important to ensure that your policies reflect these changes. Make sure you also set a reminder to update the polices every 12 months. Set a reoccurring calendar so you don’t forget. If you don’t have policies created, now is a good time create them. If you have changed company policies, don’t forget to get employees to sign off on them so they are aware of the changes. I’d recommend starting with a privacy policy, this is very important and should be available on your website.

This is a difficult time but it’s also an opportunity to improve ourselves and our businesses. In times of hardship, we have two roads to choose from. We can sit and wallow or we can adapt. This is the time to adapt. Be creative, reinvent your business, do all the things you’ve been saying you would do. Use your extra free time to educate yourself on ways to improve your business and work on self-development. Listen to a podcast, do an online course, research new strategies and programs. Do whatever you need to do to come out of this better than you were when it started.

COVID-19 Business Update

Dear valued customers,

We have undertaken measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety of out staff and customers. At this point in time, we have very limited staff members working in our head office and all other staff are working from home. Our office is closed to the public until further notice.

Our install teams are still working on the field to ensure our installations and repairs are completed. For scheduling and new work enquires, we ask that you phone us on 0439 779 410

New sales enquiries and quotes will be done over the phone. For all new sales or general enquires, please continue on phone us on 1300 467 262

As there are limited people in our office, we kindly ask you to please email info@horanandbird.com.au or Facebook message us if possible to limit the number of incoming calls to our office.

We thank you for your patience and understanding during this time.

COVID-19: How to Adjust to Working From Home

COVID-19 is an unprecedented pandemic that none of us saw coming. For many of us, we have never seen an event like this before and it can be difficult for us to grasp. Last night the Prime Minister announced that all licensed venues will be closed for up to six months. This is a massive blow to our hospitality industry and has left many Australian’s unemployed. For many of us we are still lucky to have our jobs, but we are now doing it from home. While we seem like the lucky ones here, adjusting to working from home and dealing with self-isolation can be difficult. Here are some tips for making the adjustment a little easier.

Act as if you’re going to work

Routine is very important to many of us. It’s important that during this time, we don’t lose that. Wake up each day and treat it as if you were going to work. Do your workout at home instead of going to the gym, get dressed and start your day like it were any other. Yesterday while I was doing my regular Sunday chores, I wondered if I should still meal prep even though I wasn’t leaving the house. I decided that if I wanted to remain as normal as possible, it was important to keep everything the same. Today I walked downstairs in my uniform and my Dad laughed at me, but it made me feel more ready for the day.

Set up your office space

If it is possible for you, dedicate an area in your house to be your ‘office’. It will be pretty hard to get motivated if you’re on the couch with your laptop and the TV on in the background. Try and create a space that feels as much like your workspace as possible. Take over the dining room table if you have to. Tell your family they aren’t allowed in that area. Do what you can to create a space for yourself. This will also make it easier when you need a break or finish work. Make sure that when you’re finished for the day, you turn off your computer and walk away. Try not to lose your work-life balance because it’s meshing into one.

Utilise video chat

There are so many ways we can stay connected through video nowadays. Utilise services like Zoom or Microsoft Teams to stay connected with your colleagues. Whether you’re getting together for team meetings, or just calling at 2PM for an afternoon chat, don’t be afraid to give someone a call. We spend hours of our day talking to others in the office without even realising it, and suddenly being alone can feel quite deafening.

Take care of your mental health

Isolation can be extremely difficult. Some of us might have others at home during the day but for many of us working from home means working alone. It’s important now more than ever to ensure you’re thinking of your mental health.

  1. Stay active. Just because the gyms are closed, doesn’t mean you can’t workout. There are plenty of online workout tutorials that you can do in your backyard or even your lounge room. It’s likely that your local gym has created a home workout package during this time as well. Utilise these resources and don’t let yourself fall into a slump.
  2. Stay connected. While it’s important to practice social distancing, it doesn’t mean you can’t see your friends and family. Make an effort to give at least one person a call every day and have a chat.
  3. Talk to someone if you need to. This can be a difficult time for many people. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, utilise resources like Headspace or Lifeline. It’s completely normal to feel anxious but it’s important to seek support if you need it. You are not alone.

Be adaptable

Adaptability is one of the most important employability skills. Our world is ever changing, and we are constantly being forced to adapt to change. Right now, we are living through something most of us could never have imagined. Adaptability and innovation are paramount right now. Now is the time to be open and creative. Think outside the box and work out how your business can prosper through this. If you have an idea about how your workplace can adapt to this new environment, speak up. Businesses across the country have already shown us that despite their hardship, they have pulled together a strategy to keep fighting another day.

COVID-19 is an unprecedented event. We could have never seen this coming. I know that so many of us are scared right now but we need to keep fighting. We are Australians and that’s what we do. We need to do what we can right now for our friends, our family and our economy. Stay connected, stay strong, be creative, help your neighbours and local businesses and of course, wash your hands.

 

How to be a Cool Parent in 2020

Generation Z are by far the most political generation we have seen yet. Thanks to the internet, they’re more informed then any generation before them and they’re not letting go of what they know. A lot of people from preceding generations are quick to judge and assume they’re too young to know what’s best. Assuming that their actions come from a place of entitlement won’t change their mind and it certainly won’t help us move forward as a collective.

This is an important time to listen to what our children are saying and not dismiss them. If you listen closely, and put aside your judgement, I think you’ll find that their panic isn’t coming from a place of entitlement. They are concerned about their future. Here are some tips if you want to be able to connect with your kids and understand what they find ‘cool’.

Be more sustainable

Climate change is one of the biggest topics at the moment that fills our newsfeed and drives our conversations. We are becoming more aware of our impact on the planet and so are our children. Most of us can agree that large scale changing like reducing investment in new coal are going to make the biggest difference. However, it doesn’t mean we should discredit the small environmental changes we can make as individuals.

Generation Z have an advantage on the rest of us. They are growing up in a time where plastic bags have been banned and most people carry a keep cup. There’s no denying that its easier for them to implement these habits as they’re not reversing years of learned behaviour. But this shouldn’t excuse us from continuing to make choices that we know are detrimental to our planet.

If you want to be in with the ‘cool kids’, you should actively be trying to decrease your environmental footprint. I’m not suggesting you stop driving your car and make your own cleaning products. Just start thinking about the small ways you can be more sustainable. For some easy tips, check out our blog 5 Ways to be More Sustainable Right Now.

Keep up with technology trends

Keeping up with technology trends can seem like an impossible task. If you feel like there’s a new trend or technology every week, you’re not alone. On average, 6,140 new apps are released every day.[i] Now, I’m not suggesting you look on the app store in ‘new releases’ every day to keep up, but it might pay to know the ones your kids are likely to be on. It’s important to remember that there are multiple different apps that do the same thing and your kids could be on one or all of them. Here’s a quick breakdown of the most common apps and categories used by kids in 2019:

Messaging Apps (WhatsApp, Kik, WeChat, Viber, GroupMe, Jott, Tango, Facebook Messenger)

The days of text messaging are over. People don’t even exchange numbers anymore, they just add each other on Facebook or one of the above apps. These apps enable messaging, group chats and video calling.

Photo Sharing (Instagram, SnapChat)

We live in a world where young people seem to document everything. They take pictures of their lunch; their outfits and they watch entire concerts from behind their phone. Instagram is the most popular photo sharing app which works a lot like Facebook. SnapChat is the one you might not be familiar with. SnapChat is a self-destructing photo sharing app. Meaning that you can send photos and messages to people and they will automatically delete, never to be viewed again.

Video Apps (TikTok)

TikTok is probably the biggest new app for young people. However, this app is not new. TikTok was formally Musicly and allows people to upload self-made music videos. I’ll be honest, I’m out of my depth with TikTok, it’s probably the first app or trend that has come along that has made me think “I don’t get it.” Essentially, people create videos which trend and then others recreate them. The kids say it’s “fun.”

Reassess your political views

We are in a completely different political space then what we were 20 years ago. Kids are very political these days and they have good reason to be. They’re living through climate strikes, Me Too, Trump’s impeachment and a refugee crisis. With the click of a finger they have access to unlimited information about any political issue. The biggest issues facing young people are mental health, the environment and equity and discrimination.

Millennials and Gen Z are often labelled ‘Snowflakes’. They’re made fun of for being sensitive and always needing an award for everything. What we’re forgetting is that these kids are the future and the world we’re creating now is the world they’re going to live in. Change is difficult but sometimes it’s for the better. I think it’s time for us to admit that living with sexism, racism and discrimination wasn’t an ideal world and we shouldn’t shame our children for wanting a future free from it.

They don’t teach us about politics in school and I think what most of us did was follow suit. Our parents were liberals, so we voted liberals. Kids these days don’t just do what their parents do. They research and find out who will stand up for what they believe in. I think we can learn something from them and instead of ticking the same box we always do; we should really think about what we value.

Kmart is cool now

Kmart has certainly boomed in the last few years with people young and old flocking for the bargain prices and ridiculous variety. I remember being a teenager and being very dramatically devastated by the thought of having to buy anything from Overflow. As much as I was being a drama queen, the variety of discount stores back then is not comparable to what’s on offer at Kmart and Big W now. I think kids these days are much more willing to buy almost anything from Kmart. Whether its clothes, toys or accessories, it’s not “shame” to shop at Kmart.

I have no doubt that kids still obsess over label brands. I’m sure at least one person that reads this will have a teenager that won’t accept anything less than a backpack from City Beach. But I do believe kids are more willing to buy discount products. I especially think this is true when they start working and spending their own money.

Let’s be honest, if you’re the parent of a teenager, you’ll unlikely be the coolest person in their eyes. Teenagers are mini adults, rushing with hormones just trying not to explode. The best thing you can do is just try and connect with them. Learn about what they care about and try to work out their why. If all else fails, you can always just be the goofy parent that they find embarrassing and all their friends find hilarious.

 

[i] https://www.statista.com/statistics/276703/android-app-releases-worldwide/

Are You Getting The Most Out of Your Solar System?

From time to time we get enquires from customers that have had solar installed and aren’t seeing a change in their bills. While solar systems can fault and we take these enquires seriously, a lot of the time this is due to a usage issue. There are a few things you should remember after your solar is installed. Solar is a marvelous thing but it’s not always as simple is putting it on the roof and forgetting about it.

Are you following the Feed-in tariff rules?

The first and probably most important thing is understanding your feed-in tariff (FiT). Depending on where you live and who your energy provider is, your FiT will vary. If your solar was installed before 2013 and your FiT is 44c/kWh or above, then you should export your solar energy. Customers with significantly high FiTs like these are better off using all their power at night and exporting their energy because they receive more in credit than what they would save.

If your system was installed after 2013, then your FiT will be somewhere between 7c/kWh – 20c/kWh. If this is the case for you then you need to be using as much of your solar as possible. That’s because what you could save by using the solar (between 25c/kWh – 50c/kWh) is more than the credit you would receive for exporting the energy.

The variance between your electricity rate and FiT are different across locations but the general rule of thumb is DO NOT EXPORT. Remember that for every kWh you export, the difference between the grid rate and FiT is what you are losing. Let’s look at some examples:

Location Electricity Rate Feed-in tariff rate Difference
Regional Queensland 28c/kWh 7c/kWh -21c/kWh
South East Queensland 25c/kWh 10c/kWh -15c/kWh
Adelaide 34c/kWh 12ckWh -22ckWh
Melbourne 28c/kWh 12ckWh -16ck/kWh

 

Are you using Timers?

Most new appliances have inbuilt timers. This means you can set your dishwasher, washing machine and dryer to run in the middle of the day while you’re at work and your solar production is at its peak. If you’re not at home during the day then this is one of the best things you can do to maximise your solar.

If you have electric hot water, when you purchased your solar system, your sales representative should have suggested you purchase a hot water timer. This marvelous little device will use your solar to heat your hot water system which can account for 30% of your energy bill.[i] If you don’t have a hot water timer, I recommend contacting your local Master Electrician to purchase one and have it installed. Remember, this is a large part of your energy bill! To learn how to change your hot water timer, click here.

If you have a pool, then you know your pool pump is also a huge energy user. The average swimming pool costs between $800 and $1,200 a year to run and can account for 17% of your electricity bill.[ii] If you haven’t already, you need to purchase a timer for your pool pump so that you can set it to run when your solar is at it’s peak.

If you have electric hot water and a pool, you could be covering up to 47% of your total electricity costs with your solar by using timers. That’s not including timers on your appliances or the energy you might be using in the morning and afternoon.

Did you double your energy usage after install?

A common thing that people do after installing solar is start using their energy like there is no tomorrow. Just because you have solar doesn’t mean you can run every light, appliance, fan and air conditioner 24 hours a day. Your system would have been sized to suit your usage so remember that unless you opted for a larger system, your system capacity is paired to your current usage. It’s also important to remember that your solar won’t work at night. Having solar installed isn’t going to help the four air conditioners you’re running at 19 degrees from 8PM – 5AM every morning.

Is your system clean and free of shade?

Like your car, your solar system needs to be cleaned. Debris on your solar system affects its production. For peak performance, we recommend having your solar system checked an cleaned every 12 months. It’s important to remember that debris on one panel will affect the production of all the panels on that string. That means that if one of your panels is shaded or covered in bird droppings, it will affect the production of all the panels in that string. You should also be vigilant of shading. Remember that trees grow and while your system may not have been shaded when it was installed, it could be now. Make sure you’re trimming trees around the home which might affect your solar production.

Solar is one of the best investments you’ll ever make. It not only saves you money but also reduces your carbon footprint. But it’s important to remember that its’s not a magic wand that will make you energy bill disappear. Like anything good in life, it requires a little work. The more proactive and conscious about your usage you are, the better your results will be.

[i] How much of your Electricity Bill is for Hot Water?

[ii] Swimming pool electricity usage explained

[iii] Solar Feed-in Tariff com

Natural Product Alternatives for Families

Most people these days have an increased curiosity surrounding climate change and sustainability. It’s something that feeds the media on the daily and an issue we can no longer avoid. One thing that comes along with learning about what is good and bad for the environment, is learning what’s good and bad for us too.

We have started to become more aware of how actions impact our environment, how plastic pollution in the ocean is polluting our food and how many harmful ingredients are in the products we use every day. There is not a lot of evidence about how some of these ingredients may affect us in the long run, but I think it’s best not to find out. Here are some you should avoid.

Toothpaste

Toothpaste is a very necessary part of our daily routine. Majority of people wouldn’t think that toothpaste could contain harmful chemicals, but unfortunately some of them do. One of the chemicals that is in some toothpastes is Triclosan. Triclosan helps to prevent bacterial contamination and gingivitis. While Triclosan may prevent swollen gums, it has been linked to antibiotic resistance and endocrine disruption.[i]

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you need to start making your own toothpaste from bicarb soda. Many people can vouch for the homemade toothpaste, but there are a number of natural toothpastes on the market if you’re looking for a little more convenience.

What’s the alternative?

My top tick for a natural toothpaste is Grants. Grants is known as ‘Australia’s Original Natural Toothpaste’ and was established in 1984. They have a wide variety of products including children’s, whitening and sensitive toothpastes. You can purchase Grants from Coles or Woolworths or directly from their website here.

Deodorant

Another can’t go without item in our daily routine is deodorant. Most popular antiperspirants contain aluminum. This is something I didn’t know until about a year ago and I was shocked. The aluminum is used to ‘plug’ your sweat glands and give you a dry feel all day long. But at what cost? Aluminum can cause an increase in the tenancy of our cells to mutate. Mutations can increase the chance of tumor growth. [ii] Like many of these harmful chemicals, we don’t know a lot of the long-term risks associated but it’s probably best not to find out.

What’s the alternative?

The increase of knowledge around the affects of aluminum has results in an influx of new natural alternative deodorants. While everyone is different and what works for me might not work for you, my personal favourite is No Pong.

A few of my colleagues are advocates for No Pong and introduced me to it last year. This deodorant is a little different as it’s a paste and it does not work as an antiperspirant. Sweating like a normal person instead of clogging your pores with aluminum takes some getting used to but it well worth it. I will never go back to a traditional antiperspirant spray. No Pong keeps me fresh all day long and keeps the chemicals out of my body.

Lip Balm

Lip balm isn’t something that every person uses everyday, but as we move into the cold or dry months you might find yourself needing it. Unfortunately, a lot of common lip balms can contain harmful ingredients. One of the most common ingredients found in lip balms and lipsticks is Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA).

BHA is a preservative used in many cosmetic products to increase the shelf life and kill bacteria. It might enable you to keep your lip balm until next winter but it could have some nasty side effects. BHA has been proven in test animals to have carcinogenic effects. This is in trials where animals are fed high doses and low levels in humans show no increased risk of cancer. However, for me, I’m not too thrilled about putting something on my skin that has been labelled carcinogenic.

What’s the alternative?

There are plenty of natural lip balm alternatives on the market that don’t contain harmful chemicals. Burt’s Bee’s is a popular natural alternative that can be found at your local chemist, but if you look online you can source numerous products that you might prefer. Nourished Life if a good place to start is you’re looking to upgrade your cosmetics to natural alternatives.

Sunscreen

Sunscreen is probably the one thing most people think is safe. We need to believe it is because the alternative is going in the sun without protection or avoiding it altogether. While there is certainly a place for sunscreen and it’s something that some people can definitely not avoid, it’s important to know some of the effects it can have. One of the most concerning chemical present in popular sunscreens is Oxybenzone. Oxybenzone helps to protect your skin from UV rays but it could also have harmful effects.

Oxybenzone has been identified as a potential hormone disruptor. The full effects of Oxybenzone are still unknown, but studies have found it remains in our bloodstream for quite some time. The FDA are currently undertaking studies on Oxybenzone to determine if it could in fact cause issues with metabolism, growth and development, sexual function and reproduction, thyroid function, and more.[iii] In the meantime, I am going to avoid it.

What’s the alternative?

A few natural sunscreens have surfaced in recent years but it’s important to remember to find one that is SPF35+. I haven’t had any experience with natural sunscreens, but you can find a large variety on Nourished Life.

Like changing your habits to decrease your environmental footprint, making the switch to natural products should be done one step at a time. It can be very daunting if you think about all the different chemicals that could be sitting on your bathroom sink. My recommendation is to start with one thing at a time. Switching up your cosmetics is always a process.

I started with deodorant, moved to toothpaste and it flowed on from there. Don’t overwhelm yourself and go and tip everything into the bin. Next time something runs out, opt for replacing it with a natural alternative. Then you’ll wake up one day and realise everything in your bathroom is derived from natural ingredients.

 

[i] https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/09/09/toxic-toothpaste-ingredients.aspx

[ii] https://www.madesafe.org/education/whats-in-that/deodorant/

[iii] https://www.prevention.com/health/a27556739/oxybenzone-sunscreen-safety/

Why Solar Still Works for Full-Time Workers

There is a common misconception that solar is only good for people who are home during the day. Don’t get me wrong, people with home businesses or people that stay at home with their children definitely see the most benefit from having solar installed. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to work for you because you’re working 9-5.

Timers

Most people quickly discredit the wonderful bits of technology that our new appliances contain. Most new appliances have in-built timers that allow us to set them to run during the day. This means that you can have your pool pump, dishwasher and washing machine running while you’re at work and your solar is at it’s peak. You can also purchase a hot water timer so that your hot water system heats with free energy from the sun.

Let’s have a look at how much these timers could save if you installed a 6kW solar system. Let’s assume that your electricity bill is $1,000 a quarter and your home uses 44kWs of electricity per day.[i] We’re going to assume you are using your timers and you use approximately 15kWs of your solar electricity throughout the day. Saving you $3.75 per day and $1,368.75 per year.[ii]

Weekends

We easily forget the weekends and think that the five days a week that we’re at work outweigh the two we’re at home. There are 52 weekends in a year, that’s 104 days a year that your family is likely at home with the air-conditioner or heater and electronics running. Sticking with the example above, let’s assume that your weekend daytime load is 22kWh and you pay $0.25c/kWh. After solar, that’s $572 a year you could save just on weekends.[iii]

School holidays

There are 12 weeks of school holidays a year and while you might spend some of those weeks on holidays, it’s likely that the majority of the time the kids will be at home cranking up the power bill. Let’s say you take two weeks of holidays per year but for the other 10 the kids are at home with the air-conditioner running all day.

We’ll keep our same example from before and assume you’re using 22kWhs a day. That’s another $385 you could be saving during the holiday periods.[iv] Plus, you can worry a little less about the kids leaving every light, fan and appliance on as it won’t increase your bill as much.

Feed-In Tariff

Unfortunately, the days of significantly high feed-in tariffs (FiT) are gone but it doesn’t mean you don’t receive anything. The FiT changes regularly and varies depending on your location and energy retailer so we will look at two examples.

We mentioned earlier that during a work day your home would use approximately 15kWh of your solar energy during the day. Your 6kW solar system will produce 24kWhs per day so the remaining 9kWh will be exported to the grid and you will receive a solar FiT.

7c/kWh FiT

If you receive a FiT of 7c/kWh and you’re exporting 9kWhs per day than you will receive $0.63 per day in Feed-in Tariff credits.[v] Now let’s exclude your 104 days of weekends and 70 days of school holidays as we know you won’t export as much. That leaves us with 191 days at $0.63 a day is $120.33 in solar credits for the year.

15c/kWh FiT

Now let’s look at the same example with a slightly higher Feed-in Tariff. You’re still exporting 9kWhs per day but now you’re receiving $0.15kWh, that’s $1.35 per day.[vi] Totaling $429.75 per year in solar FiT credits.

Let’s have a look at how these examples weigh up. Remember, for this exercise we were assuming a pre-solar bill of $1,000 per quarter.

Potential Total Savings with 7c FiT
Per Quarter Per year
Weekend Savings $143 $572
School Holiday Savings $96.25 $385
Feed-in Tariff Credits $30.08 $120.33
Work Day Savings $342.18 $1,368.75
Potential Total Savings $611.52 $2,446.08

 

Potential Total Savings with 15c FiT
Per Quarter Per year
Weekend Savings $143 $572
School Holiday Savings $96.25 $385
Feed-in Tariff Credits $107.43 $429.75
Work Day Savings $342.18 $1,368.75
Potential Total Savings $688.87 $2,755.50

 

When deciding to make the switch to solar it’s important to look at all the contributing factors. Like any big decision in our lives, it’s not always black and white. Assuming that solar won’t work for your because you’re not home during the day but continuing to pay $4,000 a year for electricity just doesn’t make sense.

 

[i] $1,000 electricity bill / 90 days = $11 per day / $0.25c/kWh = 44kWh

[ii] 15kW * $0.25 = $3.75 per day * 365 days = $1,368.75

[iii] 22kWh per day * 104 days * $0.25c/kWh = $572

[iv] 22kWh per day * 70 days * $0.25c/kWh = $385

[v] 9kW x $0.07 = $0.63 * 365 days = $120.33

[vi]  9kW x $0.15 = $1.35 * 365 days = $429.75