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15 January 2009 hits water use out of the park

By johnboy 16 January 2009 57

Water use appeared to be completely off the chain yesterday with ACTEW reporting usage reaching 194ML over the target of 139ML.

It’s forecast to be nearly 10 degrees cooler today. Does Government need to accept that on truly stinking days the water is going to flow freely?

What’s Your opinion?


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15 January 2009 hits water use out of the park
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Gungahlin Al 4:00 pm 30 Jan 09

Aidan:
I meant to mention that the Hebel skin was costed by our builder the same as brick veneer – a big plus in its favour. The dimensions are all the same as a wall of brick too, so standard architraves, window frames etc all fit, so no extra costs there. And rendering Hebel is much the same as rendering brick.

The Building Innovation Centre in Qbyn are the local Hebel suppliers and can no doubt recommend builders experienced in the product. We also sourced posts and Hebel panels from them to build a 6m long wall to enclose our deck/barby, and it was dead easy to build (although hoiking 60kg panels up 2m and positioning them was “challenging”).
Can chat about our builder off line and show you through at some stage if you like.

5 star houses are easy with just uprated glass and insulation. 6 takes it into the realm of needing design and siting attention.

Re: cooling your house down in the morning, you can take advantage of the overnight lower temps to do the same thing – a great advantage of the Canberra inland climate given it is almost always much cooler at night. We designed the house to do just that using two key principles: “that way is north” and “hot air rises”. We can open the inside and outside windows in the loft to allowsimple convection to draw all the hot air out of the place. This is aided by full height doors to prevent hot posckets near ceilings. (The place feels a bit “Land of the Giants”-ish with the high wide doors!)

On downlights, CFL downlights get as bright as halogens, but the warm up time makes them unsuitable for kitchens. Warmer whites are now available, overcoming the horrible blue-white light of earlier ones. We have four LED downlights over our kitchen benchs – they are only 3mm thick and draw just 3W each. And these ones were quite cheap. Limited brightness though – they are shadow fillers rather than primary light sources.

But as you said, there’s nothing wrong with specific purpose use of downlights as long as people understand the impacts. And when they are installed in soffits etc, they don’t have the accompanying air drainage/insulation problems.

Finally “Stops me cutting my fingers off quite so often.” You can only do that so many times I guess…

aidan 3:20 pm 30 Jan 09

Gungahlin Al said :

Aidan, isn’t it ridiculous how hard it is to get a block or house with good orientation? I have had numerous arguments with the LDA, ACTPLA and Andrew Barr about locking in a market mechanism that shepherds developers (LDA included) towards a higher proportion of blocks in each estate with optimal orientation, and then raising the bar on the proportion of blocks that can’t be optimal (as they are currently without any requirements).

Good on ya. I hope you meet with success. Having said that, you can lead a horse to water .. I (used to) cycle past a whole row of houses with lovely north facing windows and 90% of them have their blinds/windows closed in winter. Free heating spurned.

Gungahlin Al said :

I favour a system of mandatory star rating on the blocks themselves to be declared at point of sale or advertising, in the same way as EERs are required for house sales/ads.

Nice idea.

Gungahlin Al said :

The opther thing that will help is that the Greens gained a commitment to bring in a 6-star house EER. It will be very hard to get that without a better block in the first place and careful window placement and sizing.

No doubt it’ll help, but I have been to any number of EER5 show homes that are just awfully sited. They seem to have no problems ticking enough boxes to get 5 stars.

Gungahlin Al said :

But as you found, you can do just about everything to one of the old Canberra brick veneereals (and some of the new ones!) but there’s just no getting past the problem of having all your thermal mass on the outside. Those bricks are out there getting baked by the sun all day during summer, and then they radiate all that absorbed heat through into your house all night long. You get no overnight reprieve, and when you have a few hot days running, the cumulative effect kills you.

This is were the evap cooling really comes into it’s own. When we get up in the morning we turn it on to just blow in fresh air (no cooling) and get the house down to a nice 20/21 and shut up shop till after lunch sometime when we turn it on to cooling when the temperature gets too high. We tend to turn it on cooling when the temperature is still comfortable as evap cooling is good at holding the temperature, but at our place it will struggle to pull it down once it has got high.

Gungahlin Al said :

Very happy with the Hebel skin – only 20% the thermal mass of bricks or concrete, and quite sound proof to boot. A bit fragile against hard knocks, but any light weight skin is.

What is the cost of the product (and laying it) compared to brick? Do you mind me asking, who built your place? We’re looking at an extension and I hadn’t considered hebel as an option until now.

Gungahlin Al said :

On downlights, both Project Lighting in Belco and Beacon in Fyshwick have them. They do take maybe 20 seconds to warm up to full brightness though – what I think Aidan was referring too.

No, I was saying that I didn’t think I could get CFL bulbs that would illuminate with the same intensity as dichroic halogen downlights. Ours are in the kitchen and I really like having the work area strongly illuminated. Stops me cutting my fingers off quite so often. I only have them turned when cooking. In some cases halogen may be more efficient than CFL as the light is concentrated into a smaller area:

http://www.lrc.rpi.edu/programs/nlpip/lightingAnswers/mr16/performance.asp

LEDs are a better replacement for halogens. They’re easier to focus like a halogen and even more efficient than CFL, and last longer (typically 50,000 hours). Unfortunately they are expensive at the moment and not quite up to spec. Jaycar have some:

http://jaycar.com.au/productView.asp?ID=ZD0352

but $60 is 2-3x what they should cost, they are about half as bright as typical 50w halogen and Jaycar don’t currently stock warm white which is what most people would want. The cold white tint is too blue for most people’s taste.

ant 10:22 pm 29 Jan 09

I watered my raised veggie patches last night, as usual. I water from teh hose, no spray, and to the base of the plants. Yet this evening, the stuff down the north-eastern end of the eastern-most bed looked like a bomb had fallen on it. the celery was blasted, teh tomatoe limp, the busy cucumber was a mess… I hope it’s not terminal… the 2 jalapenos up that end were crying. I can’t work it out. And as for the okra, jeez.

I use the bore for that garden.

Deckard 9:43 pm 29 Jan 09

imhotep said :

What? This region is surrounded by hills and valleys.
If our water needs are not addressed the day will come when there isn’t enough water in Canberra for even basic services.

We’ll all have to wear still suits and drink our own body fluids.

imhotep 9:07 pm 29 Jan 09

(WMC)“All of you whinging about Rome and ‘modern cities’ seem to miss the point that this isn’t a technological issue. It’s a meteorological and geological issue. There’s a drought.”

And there is likely to be longer and deeper droughts in the future, together with increasing population. All the more reason to take action now.

(WMC) “Its a geological issue…There aren’t any suitable areas to construct new storage.”

What? This region is surrounded by hills and valleys.

Hard decisions need to be made, not dithering, blame shifting and hoping the problem will go away.

Water infrastructure requires long term planning. If our water needs are not addressed the day will come when there isn’t enough water in Canberra for even basic services. Will you still be happy to ‘suck it up’ then Woody?.

sepi 5:48 pm 29 Jan 09

I’d still put the water onto lawn. It is pretty tough, and in this kind of weather any water is better than none.

– I’ll try those shops for the downlights – we were sent to justlite but they had none.

We’re also seeking a cover in the ceiling for a tastic with no luck if anyone knows of any.

Gungahlin Al 5:30 pm 29 Jan 09

Aidan, isn’t it ridiculous how hard it is to get a block or house with good orientation? I have had numerous arguments with the LDA, ACTPLA and Andrew Barr about locking in a market mechanism that shepherds developers (LDA included) towards a higher proportion of blocks in each estate with optimal orientation, and then raising the bar on the proportion of blocks that can’t be optimal (as they are currently without any requirements).

I favour a system of mandatory star rating on the blocks themselves to be declared at point of sale or advertising, in the same way as EERs are required for house sales/ads.

The opther thing that will help is that the Greens gained a commitment to bring in a 6-star house EER. It will be very hard to get that without a better block in the first place and careful window placement and sizing.

But as you found, you can do just about everything to one of the old Canberra brick veneereals (and some of the new ones!) but there’s just no getting past the problem of having all your thermal mass on the outside. Those bricks are out there getting baked by the sun all day during summer, and then they radiate all that absorbed heat through into your house all night long. You get no overnight reprieve, and when you have a few hot days running, the cumulative effect kills you. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of people running for the discount stores for a/c by the end of this week…

Very happy with the Hebel skin – only 20% the thermal mass of bricks or concrete, and quite sound proof to boot. A bit fragile against hard knocks, but any light weight skin is.

Solar hydronic heating is expensive, and you can only really do it when you are building for in-slab. The pipes are too thick for on-slab installs. Wall panels are an option though, but not as evenly distributed as floor heating. You can run hydronics off gas – the boiler is about microwave oven sized. The main thing is to avoid inslab electronic heating – bad news for electricity and GHG. (And some would say EMR)

On downlights, both Project Lighting in Belco and Beacon in Fyshwick have them. They do take maybe 20 seconds to warm up to full brightness though – what I think Aidan was referring too.

Fair point on the salt Chewy. Thought about mentioning that but thought maybe getting in a bit deep. Likely supplementary watering would dilute the effect somewhat though.

VY it comes from the whole area once being under the ocean. The Murrumbidgee River carries around 1100 tonnes of salt past Wagga Wagga every day. Don’t know what the numbers are for the ACT end – they’ll be a lot more dilute, but still there.

chewy14 4:35 pm 29 Jan 09

Because you are evaporating the water in the cooler, the concentration of natural minerals and salts present in the water increases the longer the cooler is used.
If the cooler did not purge this water periodically, the salt would eventually precipitate out of solution onto the cooling pads or filters.
Our water is relatively clean so this doesn’t have to occur too often.

Where do the salts come from?

chewy14 2:26 pm 29 Jan 09

Gungahlin Al,

I wouldnt use the water from an evaporative cooler purge for watering plants. The purged water is high in salts. This is the reason the water is changed, because the concentration of salt has reached a set limit in the cooler. The water shouldnt be used on plants as it can be very harmful.

sepi 2:01 pm 29 Jan 09

PS – we tried to get something to replace halogen downlights, but couldn’t find the replace ments anywhere in Canberra.

sepi 2:00 pm 29 Jan 09

We did external blinds and internal blockout blinds, insulation and new internal doors (previously open plan style). Our place still got almost as hot as outside. (Before that it got as hot or hotter than outside). We then installed evaporative cooling.

We’ve since moved to a better house. Some houses are just not going to be good no matter what you do.

aidan 1:27 pm 29 Jan 09

Al,

We spent 3 months looking for a house with a long east-west axis and decent northern sun. It took that long to find. As it is we’ve ended up with bedrooms on the northern side rather than living areas. We always intended to renovate and move the living areas to the north side (this is in the planning stage) but this is an expensive option.

We have no significant westerly glazing to shade, and the afore-mentioned orientation means the eaves do all the shading we need on the northern glazing.

We’ve already spent $4k on blow-in cavity wall insulation and topped up the existing insulation in the roof. I’ve installed a draft-stoppa thingo for the bathroom fan. I have also thoroughly draft stopped the windows and doors. We have so much movement in the house that it was almost impossible to draft stop the doors. I ended up nailing 5mm quad on the frame for the door to put up against and installed draft stop on the inside edge of the quad.

We don’t have RFL in the roof, but when we extend the house I’ll get that put in too.

We have four halogen downlights. I have installed the special heat-proof caps in the roofspace (that was a bastard of a job!) and put the insulation up to the recommended height around the caps. I intend to install LED downlights once the price comes down a bit. The fluoros don’t cut it for us in that application. We have compact fluoros in all other light fittings.

I have done all this and the place still drops to 12-13 deg overnight on a cold winter night and would get to 30deg inside in the current weather if not for the evap cooler.

I’ve looked into retrofitting solar hydronic heating but the cost is prohibitive.

We have a 4800L tank that catches 80% of the rain that falls on our roof and the evap cooler runoff and which is used to flush the toilet for 75% of the year saving the best part of 50kL.

Your place sounds great, and I’d love to come and take a look around sometime, as I have an idea I’d like to build a solar passive place myself. My experience is that it is quite difficult and expensive to retrofit 35 year old brick veneer houses and the result is just not that great.

Gungahlin Al 1:02 pm 29 Jan 09

OK. As I said, I haven’t had one, but was aware some dewgree of window opening is required to allow air movement, which is after all how they work. Hence my careful wording above about degrees of same.

Sepi – 12L for a loo flush? Time to update your cistern dear. Ours is 3 or 4 litres depending on button used, but that low requires special bowl/rim design, but after market cisterns can give you 3/6 with simple changes.

Aidan, I agree that evap coolers are better options then refrigerated A/C for dry inland areas. But window shading – both internal (blinds/curtains) and external (awnings/trees) – (and insulation as you’ve mentioned) should be up the list of priorities.

Sealing up drafts around windows, doors and skirting boards will have a surprising impact. Sealing a door up will cost about $10 for edge strip and $20 for a flap on the bottom. Hardware shops have Draft-Stoppers for about $30, which sit over your exhaust fan to kill off that MAJOR heat entry.

Do you have downlights? Change the halogen globes for compact fluoros then the lower heat generated means you can place these little plastic caps over them to stop the draft (and you can stuff insulation right up to the cap instead of leaving a foot square gap around every light!). And save heaps on the juice they chew through to boot…

A bit further up the cost scale, Adapt 2 at Mitchell have an aftermarket product to convert your existing windows into sort-of double-glazed. The glazing is perspex, and the frames have magnetic strips that stick to other strips that you stick onto your existing frames. They look good and are dead easy to install. Not always practical, but worth considering.

Remember that all of these solutions have double benefit because they help you in winter too.

Then you can start thinking about other heat sources – reflected heat off paved areas is a big issue. Can you shade that concrete on the west outside the windows?

And if you have a cooler, then think about capturing the water they purge. For instance, if you do have a tank fed by part of your roof, does the purge run to that downpipe? If not, a pipe stuck on the end could allow you to some part of your garden nice and green…

aidan 11:20 am 29 Jan 09

Al

As sepi said, you have to have the windows open for them to work. The installers of the unit told us that the wider you have them open the more cooling effect you will get (within reason and the ability of the unit to push the air out). We were told we could have different cooling in different rooms depending on how open the windows were. I don’t think it is quite as straightforward as that, but it works to a degree.

The unit doesn’t dump the water when turned off. It has a sensor which determines the levels of salts and dumps the water when it exceeds some limit. At a guess it does this every few days, but I honestly don’t know how often. It will also dump the water if it hasn’t been turned on for a number of days, but I don’t know how often that is.

In Canberra’s climate, short of knocking down and building lovely solar passive designs like yours Al, Evap cooling is the best retro-fit option for shitty little brick veneer boxes like mine. (I also have ceiling and wall insulation).

Woody Mann-Caruso 11:13 am 29 Jan 09

All of you whinging about Rome and ‘modern cities’ seem to miss the point that this isn’t a technological issue. It’s a meteorological and geological issue. There’s a drought. When the rain falls, it doesn’t fall in catchment areas. There aren’t any suitable areas to construct new storage. Come back when you’ve sorted these out – or suck it up and be prepared to use less, pay more or recycle.

sepi 11:05 am 29 Jan 09

ps – you have to leave windows op for them to function, it isn’t a choice.

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