OUR ELECTRIFYING EXPERIENCE
Angus M Robinson from Sydney’s Leafy Suburbia
Saul Griffith’s recent appearance on the ABC TV program, Australian Story has prompted me to reflect on our own experience, 14 years after moving into our current home, during a time that the challenges faced by climate change has been a prompt for all home-owners to consider how we can all reduce our environmental footprint and carbon emissions.
After purchasing our home in 2009, a single storey, full brick spacious residence with a swimming pool, gas central heating, and a well-established garden, we soon realised with some concern that our annual electricity consumption exceeded some 15,000 kWh along with a hefty gas bill. Our first move was to replace the electric how water heater with a solar unit, reducing our annual electricity bill by some 2,000 kWh. Installing a Hills Hoist in the north-facing backyard also meant that there was little need to use the clothes dryer, and we also rid ourselves of the second refrigerator located in the garage. Whilst the house had insulation in the roof, the next move was to install ceiling fans in the three bedrooms and family rooms, followed by the installation of an induction stove during a kitchen renovation.
In early 2014, we decided to invest in an array of 19 solar panels, a move that reduced our annual electricity usage by a further 4,500 kWh, and three years later, invested in a 6 kW spilt air conditioning unit to service the family room, particularly during the winter months, thus reducing our annual gas, central heating bill.
Three years later, we invested in two batteries (each of 2.9 kWh capacity) and in the following year added a third 2.9 kWh battery, with a commensurate reduction in power draw-down from the grid. The solar power system was installed with an internet connection which enabled us to monitor power usage and to gain a better appreciation of how we could best change our usage to maximise the benefits of the installed system. That experience led us to the conclusion that these benefits were being diluted by the power drainage of the two swimming pool pumps and the electrolyser unit, at a time that the swimming pool was not getting much usage – that didn’t make sense, so last year we invested in filling in the pool, and have seen a 20% saving in our power costs. In making this decision, we also realised that we were now free from the monthly cost of energy-intensive, manufactured chemicals (salt, acid, and buffer).
And finally last October, when our gas central heater broke down after many years of usage, we realised the opportunity to remove it and replace it with an electric heat pump system and disconnect entirely from the gas supply network. We complemented this action by replacing all downlights with LEDs both in the kitchen and in recently renovated bathrooms. Our electricians also took the opportunity to optimise performance of the solar hot water service by replacing the thermostat and the heater element after 12 years of usage.
This past summer has seen our main electricity supply (for all the circuits excepting the solar hot water electric booster) operating between 80 and 100% self-sufficiency with the current average grid drawdown of about 1.3 kWh per day, and with a commensurate increase in the feed-in credits, in circumstances where we don’t use the air conditioning units on very hot days.
Having purchased an Australian made Toyota Camry Hybrid in 2013, we don’t need to be convinced about the benefits of electrifying our modes of motor transport, now just waiting for the price to be right and for the availability to trade-in our other (ICE powered Toyota YARIS – local usage only) for an EV to be charged up from our solar panel system. In the meantime, for the past three years, we have also enjoyed the benefit of owning a battery-operated mower – a splendid tool, and the best mower we have ever owned and used, powered by energy from the solar panel system.
In summary, our electrifying experience has shown that the process can be progressive and incremental over a number of years, using every opportunity to electrify, and therefore help make the difference, hoping that others in our Sydney community will follow.
1 March 2023
Angus M Robinson is an exploration geologist by profession. After the past 30 years working in technology and industry development executive roles (including The Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering at The University of Sydney, the Australian Technology Park, and as the former CEO of the Australian Electrical & Electronic Manufacturers’ Association), he is now working in geotourism industry development, and as a longstanding member of the Friends of Ku-ring-gai Environment (FOKE).