Comparing Gas and Electricity

Traditionally gas has been cheaper than electricity but with the price of gas rising this could change.

Actually comparing value for money is quite complicated so I though I would explain how to do the various calculations.

Cubic Metres to Megajoules

Gas is measured at the meter in cubic metres but you pay by the megajoule (MJ) To convert cubic metres of gas to megajoules you have to multiply by

  • The Heating value (*Typically around 38.7)


  • A Pressure Factor (*Typically around 1.01)

*check a recent gas bill for the actual values

The value you have calculated is the Megajoules input into your heating system. The actual output can be quite a lot less.

Gas Efficiency

To find the heat output from your heating unit you need to find the actual efficiency of the unit, which can very considerably.

No gas heater has 100% efficiency as some heat is always lost up the flue.

A basic gas heater (3 Star) may have an efficiency of around 60% while some of the 6 star units have an efficiency closer to 95%.

Once you know the efficiency you can just multiply the Megajoule input by the efficiency to get the Megajoule output/Cubic Metre

Megajoules to Kilowatt Hours

1 MJ = 0.278 kilowatt-hours (kw-hr)

Electrical Efficiency

There are two different ways of using electricity to heat your new home.

Direct, or conventional, heating or using the power to run a Heat Pump, or Reverse cycle air conditioner.

The method you choose can make a dramatic difference to the heating efficiency.

Conventional Electrical Heating

With conventional Electric heating, such as panel heaters or fan heaters things are much more straightforward.

Every kw into your house means one kw output (100% efficiency)

That doesn’t mean that overall electricity is 100% efficient, just the inefficiencies occur before the power goes through the meter.

Heat Pumps and Reverse Cycle Air Conditioning

An advantage of Heat Pumps/Reverse Cycle Air conditioning is they have a positive efficiency, they can put out more kw of Heat than the electricity that goes in.

They do this by extracting the heat out of the outside air.

Pick a good unit and you might find them 2005 or even 300% efficient for heating!




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Will You Be A First Home Buyer In Perth?

Sponsored by First Home Owners Centre

The Department Of Finance has released good news if you are considering becoming a first home buyer, in Perth or anywhere in Western Australia.


Changes in 2013-2014

The adjustment announced last year, in the projected State Budget for 2013-2014, included an increase in the First Home Owner Grant from the previous amount of $7,000 to $10,000. This increase is for any first home buyer in Perth, or elsewhere in Western Australia – constructing or buying a new home.

In addition, it will offer a $3,000 allowance for any first home buyer obtaining an Established Home Commence Operation from September 25, 2013. Essentially, this means that any first home buyer that signs an agreement to build or purchase a new house from that date, or has already begun laying the foundation for the building of a new house, is entitled to the enlarged $10,000 endowment.

If you are a first home buyer signing a new agreement to purchase a previously constructed home from September 25, 2013, you may be qualified for an award of $3,000 towards that purchase.

Duty Liability

As a first home buyer qualified for the First Home Owner Grant, you need to be aware that a percentage rate of transfer duty will apply if the assessment of the property falls below a certain limit. When you apply, the details of this duty will be explained in the documentation.

Other Resources

As a potential first home buyer in Perth, you should look into what other resources might be available to you to assist with your home buying funding. In addition to the funding available from the Department of Finance, there is also grant funding available from the Department of Commerce. Founded under the Real Estate and Business Agents Act, The Home Buyers Assistance Account, offers a support grant of up to $2,000.

For more information on learning how you can become a first home buyer in Perth, visit FHOC.


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Soil Heave – Protecting the Slab

There has been a lot of talk in the Melbourne papers recently about ‘Slab Heave’ when Building on Clay so I thought I would explain how to minimise the risk during construction.

A key issue when building on clay is to avoid any extra moisture getting into the clay under the slab. causing the clay to swell, by keeping the area around the slab well drained.

This is particularly important where part of the slab is below the natural ground level such as when ‘Cut and Fill’ is required to get a level site.

Detail For Protection Against  Soil Heave

The diagram below shows what you should be looking for, during construction, to protect the ground under your slab from gaining moisture.

Protecting slab Stage 1

The key issues are:

  • The excavated surface falls away from the edge of the slab for at least 1m with a minimum drop of 75mm.
  • Where the water will not continue to flow away from the slab an Aggi Drain in a granular back filled trench should be provided. This drain should be a minimum of 100mm below the surface level of the clay and fall to a suitable discharge point.
  • Any trench in the area between the slab and the aggi drain should be topped with well compacted clay to ensure there is no easy passage for water to penetrate under the slab.
  • Roof drainage should be connected to a suitable point of discharge as soon as possible after the roofing material is fixed.

Although the requirement for an aggi drain is not as critical where the ground slopes away from the slab, it is nevertheless good practice to have one.


Also see Agricultural Drains


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Stuck on Brick – Fail

Not a new house but this amused me when I saw it.
silly brick

I have never been a fan of stuck on bricks as they never look real to me. . . . . . but these have been fixed (not very securely) over a perfectly good brick chimney!


For more Unusual House Photos, Wins, and Fails, have a look at: What the………………….?

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Danger of Under Insuring

In a New House Insurance post I explained how easy it is to under insure a property so here is an explanation of what can happen with an under insured property.

Let’s you insure your new house for what you paid the builder, say $200,000.

Total Loss

In the case of a total loss, yes, you get $200,000, but you will need to meet demolition costs and all the other issues mentioned in New House Insurance say $300,000.

Partial Loss

But what about if  part of your home is damaged?

Say it would cost $100,000 to repair the damage, but the insurer isn’t going to pay $100,000 to repair the house, – they’ll calculate that you were only 66% insured, and only pay out $66,000. Leaving you to find $34,000.

What can make this worse is that insurers aren’t obliged to pay out the cash! . . .  they may embargo the $66,000 until you’ve come up with the rest of the money.

Major Under Insurance

If you are really under insured there is a risk that the insurer will argue that you’ve deliberately under-insured and your policy is void.


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Stormwater Discharge Point

Heavy rain

One check that is often forgotten when buying a block in an established suburb is how storm water is removed from the site.

Fifty, or more, years ago when land was cheaper it was not unusual for blocks to be quite large compared with the size of the house.

Disposing of storm water by allowing it to soak into the garden in the garden was acceptable. (This is still effective in sandy areas such as much of Western Australia)

As a result many properties were built without connection to a surface water sewer.

Modern Small Block Problems

If you buy block  in an older suburb with the intention of subdividing, or demolishing and building a bigger house, you could have problems if you haven’t got access to a storm water sewer.

Disposal to a much smaller garden area probably won’t work.

In order to protect adjoining properties from overflows from your property the council are likely to make discharge to an approved point conditional on any development approval.

Dealing with the attendant problems if you plan to extend or subdivide a block without a stormwater discharge point can add thousands of dollars to your costs.


Possible options are:

    1. Soakwells If you are lucky enough to have a sandy block soakwells may be a solution. Low cost.
    2. Pipe to existing surface water sewer. This may involve negotiating with adjacent property owners. Very difficult to achieve unless the affected neighbours also want to subdivide. Very expensive.
    3. Discharge to Street
      Stormwater Outlet - kerbCheck with your council to see if this is permitted. A typical street connection will look something like this kerb outlet. Can be a reasonable cost if the block is above the road, or very expensive if the block is below road level (Pumps and Detention Tank will be needed.)


See Guide to Buying a Block for more information


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Inside or Outside Bedrooms

Movable bedrooms

A colleague of mine once spent a year camping around Africa. Afterwards she said it was hard to get used to sleeping inside a house.

Perhaps she needed a house like this. . . . those box like things on the patio are movable bedrooms which can be pushed outside on pleasant nights.

If you wanted to do something like this in Australia you would need to add flyscreens!

This house was designed by the French design studio Raum (If you follow the link you will find more photographs)

For more Unusual House Photos, Wins, and Fails, have a look at: What the………………….?

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Solar is Winning


Electricity demand has dropped so much that Australia currently has at least 3 major coal fired power stations more than it needs! (This year the surplus capacity at peak demand is estimated to be around 8,000 megawatts)

In early July this year there was actually zero demand for power station generation in Queensland, mainly due to an estimated power output of 600 megawatts from rooftop solar.

A report by the Australian Energy Market Operator have warned that the electricity generation market is close to breaking point.

Electricity demand, which has been dropping since 2009, will continue to drop for at least the next three years. The closure of major industries such as aluminium smelting and car manufacture is only likely to further decrease demand.

Why Aren’t Power Prices Dropping?

In most ‘Free’ markets when demand drops so do prices.

While demand has been over the past few years electricity prices have doubled . . . . and don’t think that’s mainly the Carbon Tax!

Over 51% of your bill is for Network costs (Federal Treasury Estimates)

When the Goverments’ privatised electricity they allowed the Power Companies to recoup their investment in network upgrades by increasing their charges.

The networks have spent over $45,000,000,000 in the last five years to meet an ‘Increasing Demand’ which we are all now paying for in our bills.

The ‘Joke’ in all this is by increasing their prices the electricity companies have made their ‘Main Competion’, Roof Top Solar, more attractive!

What Now

So after 5 years of getting everything wrong are the power companies interested in doing the right thing? . . . . Like investing in generating power from renewable resources that work when the sun isn’t shining?

No they are lobbying the government to wind back the renewable energy target!

It’s no wonder that some people with solar panels are talking about disconnecting from the grid!

For more informaton click on this link from the ABC: The Price of Power



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