Power Saving Tip, US Dollar, Banks and Solar Power Information Evening

3rd September 2012   9:25PM  
Power Saving Tips, US Dollar, Banks and Solar Power Information Evening
Almost September 2012

In this email:
Power Saving Tips
US Dollar
Solar Power Information Evening

Power Saving Tip:

Wrap Your Home in Insulation – “The More, The Better!”

Insulation is probably the most important factor you can control in creating an energy-efficient home. It's a little more difficult once the home is built but there are still many ways you can stop that little bit of heat escaping.

Someone once said "insulation is like chocolate, the more you have, the better!"

On average, ½ of your home’s heating and cooling will escape through walls (35%), windows (25%), floor (15%) and roof (25%). The first thing you should do is find out where the most heat is escaping. You can scan your home with a thermal radiometer or infrared scanner in order to detect where your home is leaking heat. (You could hire a professional energy auditor to come out and do an infrared scan of your house and produce pretty rainbow color pictures, like the one above, or you could do it yourself with a cheap spot radiometer available from any Bunnings or Mitre10 warehouse. Basic things like keeping doors closed to un-used rooms, closing curtains early and making sure the windows and outside doors are properly insulated will make a huge difference for very little time or cost.

You can probably get a lot of your insulation for free through the ECCA energywise programme.

There are two more power saving tips below...

Smokescreen Smart Meters.
I was having a chat with a  nice chap (with no name) from a retail power company (also with no name) and he told me (off-the-record) that as soon as all their customers have smart meters they will be introducing multi-tarif metering. That's all he said but that was all he had to say. On the surface smart meters seem to be a good thing. Except for the fact that some of the analogue meters they are replacing seem to run slow (perhaps due to age or just good design) and so we hear complaints of huge jumps in apparent power consumption the month after being "upgraded", it makes sense to save the cost of hundreds of meter readers and vehicles and uniforms and doctor's bills from the dog bites. If you can automate you can save the customer money right? Well, yes, if that was the only reason for these new meters. After my conversation with my friend from *pick your favorite* energy company it is obvious that smart meters  are not here to save us money, they are here to mask the introduction of huge power increases.
Multi Tarrif Metering is what happens in the commercial sector all around the world. The earliest domestic example was the ripple relay control for your hot water. You would only get delivered power during off-peak times and  as a result you would get charged less for it. The whole objective of charging more for peak time power usage is to encourage the big industry boys to try and manage their usage and as a result the transmission lines don't get such a hammering.
The problem with bringing multi tarrif metering into the domestic market is that while the Power Companies will tell you that you can "save money by using less power between XX o'clock and XX o'clock" they know full well that is almost impossible for a working-schooling-away-all-day family to change any of their power usage habits, simply because they are either not home or they are asleep during the cheaper "off-peak" power times.
And there it is; the smart meter smoke-screen disguising massive power price increases with the "opportunity to save power by using it at off-peak times"
--- If you would like to know more about how to mitigate against peak tarrif power costs please feel free to contact us. There are ways that some appliances can be automated at very little cost.


We are Strong...

Our farmers never like to hear that the $US has weakened but unfortunately over the last month it has hit and all time low. Not good for exporters but when combined with the lowest PV pricing we have ever seen it makes for a very good time to import Solar Panels. So good in fact that we have customers just importing their panels and storing them until they can save enough to install them or while they wait to finish building or move into a new house they are building.

For more details on our next shipment and our special importing partnership offer please click here:


"I would really LOVE solar panels but we just CAN'T AFFORD them!"

"Can you do finance?"

I have heard this many so times and sometimes I wish I could just install them and let the customer pay them off out of their power savings. The problem is that standard finance options are so expensive that the payback would take too long.

But I think I have found a solution: Put it on the Mortgage. Sounds so simple - and it is - but it's not as well! There is a little more to it behind the scenes. I have been talking to my banking agent about it, looking at things like property values, repayment increases versus power savings etc. and we are currently working through the numbers. So why am I telling you this? Well it looks so good that I just couldn't wait!

Here's an example: For an average mortgage of 200k, with some refinancing and taking into account a few other factors, it looks like you could pay $10-40 per month more for repayments but save $100-$150 per month off your power bill. (That's a positive cashflow of around $80-$140 per month!) The best thing is that the banks are very positive about it because they know that a solar power system will add value to the home and reduce your outgoings that means more lending at less risk - too good to turn down!

So, if things are tight with cashflow and you would like to reduce your outgoings by over $80 per month please call me and we can talk it through some more.

What could you do with $1000 more cash every year? (I know what I'd be doing!)

For years "Putting it on the mortgage" has helped people into cars, holidays, education, twins and all sorts of other wants and needs (and surprises!). Putting Solar Panels on the mortgage could be the best investment out of the lot! (except perhaps the twins!)

So, watch this space. As we come up with some tangible figures I'll let you know!

My passion is to give people as much information about technology (that is relevant) as I can.

So what would normally be a 5 minute introduction phonecall often turns into a half hour chat about all sorts of stuff from solar power, solar hot water, energy saving tips, heating technologies, power companies, how the systems work, latest technologies... the list goes on.
My answer: video. I have noticed that when I send out an informational email the links that get the most clicks are the video links - so I use my massive powers of deduction and conclude that I should make more video.

Some of the videos so far are:

A 5 year old Explains Solar Power

My daughter wanted to come to one of our Solar Power Information Evenings but it was past her bedtime. So we came to a compromise, she made this video explaining how solar power works.

Video - Solar Panels making power in the rain

This video shows a Grid Tie solar power system using: 18x 185watt PV panels and a PCM 3kW inverter. Normally the meter is upgraded to a smart meter but this had not yet happened so we thought it was a great opportunity to show you an old school meter actually running backwards.

Radio Ad courtesy of Raglan Community Radio

Thanks for the plug guys - just another reason we LOVE Raglan!

Solar Hot Water Versus Solar PV Power System

If you have been considering getting solar hot water and/or solar PV then this video will help you understand the benefits of each and make a decision on which technology is best suited to you.

What is the Return on Investment now that the Prices have Dropped - Have we reached Grid Parity?


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Solar Power Information Evenings

This could well be the most rewarding part of our business!

You may have already heard of these - perhaps you've even registered - but here's the latest:

Raglan: We hosted an information evening in Raglan at the local bowling club. The Local radio station and the Eco Centre got on board and helped spread the word too. We had about 30 locals (good effort for a cold midweek evening) and we had a great time with some lovely catering from Hazel Hayes cafe', lots of questions and of course lots of great information. My Daughter wanted to come along and share her expertise but it was past her bedtime so I let her do a video that I played on the night, check it out here...

The feedback has been so good that I want to go back and do some more. Probably more specific (and maybe slightly more technical) stuff like how an off-grid system works and how to DIY and still end up with a good reliable system.

Our next evening is in the Waikato in Newall Road at a special customer's premisis on the 20th of September.
The same deal: Free information, Free finger food and a chance to ask questions and meet some like-minded people. We will also have some gear there for you to have a look at.
Power Saving Tip: Measure and Test:

Ever heard of the saying "the blind leading the blind"? I often talk to people over the phone about saving power. The problem is that I can only talk generally or ask heaps of questions, which gets tedious after a while! You might also remember when you were in your high school physics (or psychology) class being told that you can't measure anything without changing it in some way (or something like that!) This little meter is a great device that allows you to do just that: measure and change your power consumption. You may even find it addictive as you go around the house turning things on and off and watch the changes. You can even challenge your kids to find that very last bit of residual power (more difficult than you would imagine!) This meter also gives you a current daily usage and matches that against a daily target. As soon as you get one of these you will start saving power simply due to the increased awareness.

They are just $277 + fitting (by an electrician - it should only take 4 mins to fit). Check the details here

Power Saving Tip: "Cool Fridge" Your fridge/freezer or deep freeze could be a power eating monster - through no fault of it's own. I have seen so many situations where a perfectly good fridge is forced to work full time just because of something easily fixable. The obvious things to check are the seals, but there are a few tricks that you could look at to really help lighten the (electrical) load for your cooling appliance. And right there is the key: We often make the mistake of thinking of our fridges or freezers as "cooling appliances" - they are that but what they are actually doing is not just cooling your food, they are "working to make a difference" (sounds like a cliche' from a life-coach) but that is exactly what is happening with your fridge, it is trying to maintain a difference in temperature from the outside to the inside. To understand this I often ask my customers the question: "If you put your refrigerator outside in an antarctic, would it ever need to turn on?" The answer is as obvious as the example is extreme but it gives us an idea of what the fridge is actually doing. The other end of the scale is to put the fridge in a glasshouse at the equator and watch it work all day long trying to keep itself cool.

I have seen many fridges that have been built into kitchen cabinetry. They look great (well, actually, they don't look at all!) and that's the idea: you can't see them. The problem is that many of these cabinets have cupboards above and beside them and the enclosure that the refrigerator is in is totally sealed up and doesn't allow any air flow, put your hand in there and it feels like a sauna. The poor refrigerator is suffocating in it's own heat and is probably doing about 400% or more work to keep itself cool. Normally a fridge will only cost you around $12-15 per month to run but they can easily waste up to $50 or more if they have to do all that extra work.

We do a lot of off-grid power systems and when it comes to fridges this is a crucial factor. Typically a fridge uses about 1.4 KWH per day, inside a cupboard or with sunshine streaming in through a north facing window it can end up running the batteries flat in a single day (well it would if we just let it alone.) Our solution often is to mount the fridge and freezer in a south part of the house and sometimes even ventilate it with the cool air from under the house up the back and out into the roof space.

Other things to watch for are:
- Make sure your freezer is not in a hot garage with sun shining on the garage door all day.
- Keep your upright refrigerator full (even with empty milk bottles) so that when you open the door there is not as much cold air rushing out (and hot air rushing in that needs re-cooling)
- If your refrigerator is over 10 years old then look at replacing it with a new energy efficient one.
- Check the seals - the easy way is to open the fridge for about 30 seconds then shut it and after 20 seconds see if the door has "sucked" it self closed and is harder to open than at first. If not then the seals may need looking at.
- Make sure the door closes all on it's own. Especially if it is inside a cupboard. Sometimes the linkage between the door and the fridge door can get jammed or the whole thing gets out of alignment and the cupboard door may well close but the fridge door behind it is still slightly open.
- Talk to us about wiring your freezer onto the controlled rate circuit of your electricity supply. Normally this is used for hot water but it is perfectly ok to put any appliance you like onto it - and it's cheaper power!

(picture reference:

Did you know?
Leaky homes cost New Zealand more than the Christchurch earthquakes!
When I heard that I decided to do this...

Thanks again for reading, I hope you enjoy reading these little emails as much as I enjoy writing them.

If you would like me to look at any specific topics for the next one please drop me a line.

Talk again soon.


Ben Stanton