Renovation and Home Design

Bottled Gas – Cooking

Photo from wickipedia

Photo from wickipedia

Many people building a new house like cooking on gas, but may find that their area doesn’t have a mains supply.

The question then becomes “Should you go for bottled gas, or go all electric?”

Energy Cost

To compare energy costs you first need to understand how much energy there is in bottled gas.

  • 45kg bottle of gas holds the equivalent of 611 kw hours
  • 9kg bottle of gas holds the equivalent of 115 kw hours


Current prices Victoria July 2015 are:

  • 45kg is $114.00 – Equivalent to $0.18 per kw hour
  • 9kg (Swap and Go)  is $23.00 – Equivalent to $0.20 per kw hour

For the 45 kg bottles you would need to add rental for 2 bottles at around $40 each/year

With the 9kg bottles you need to consider the purchase price for  the initial bottle, plus a couple of dollars for fuel every couple of months to  swap bottles.


There is no star rating for cooktops, but I did find the following, typical, comparison figures on the Consumer Energy Center Website:

  • Standard Gas Burner – 55%
  • Standard Electric Hotplate – 65%
  • Induction Element – 90%

The reason for the difference is that the standard cook tops radiate a sizable amount of heat into the air; while the induction element makes the bottom of the pan the heating element, putting more heat into the food.


I much prefer cooking on gas to using a standard electric hotplate. (In case you are wondering I probably cook 75% of family meals and we rarely get takeaway food) . . .However people do tell me that induction element are pretty close to the  ease of gas.

One issue with induction elements is they don’t work with aluminium or copper pans, just Stainless Steel and Cast Iron, so it might be time for some new pans!


If I was building in an area without mains gas I think I would go for an Induction Cooktop for the following reasons:

  • Cost – When the  additional costs are added to the base cost and with the lower efficiency the final cost is around around $0.35-$0.40.  Electricity is going to be cheaper especially if you have got solar power.
  • Simplicity – One bill for all fuel use and no need to bother about changing bottles.


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Tropical Temple? or House?

temple house

I would certainly describe this property as eye catching!

Although it does look like a Temple to me, its actually a three bedroom house.

Rather than the tropics it’s in a small street in the Melbourne Suburb of Cairnlea.


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


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Concrete – Importance of Vibration

honeycomb concrete
Have you ever seen concrete that looks like this on a vertical face?

Its called ‘Honey combed’

Sometimes its in large areas like this, sometimes in smaller patches.

This concrete is obviously weaker and more porous than dense concrete.

The odd small hole isn’t a problem but when it gets like this it is a sign of poor laying practices.

What Went Wrong

As concrete comes out of the mixing truck/pump it traps bubbles of air within it.

Similarly as the concrete is placed against vertical forms air is trapped between the form and the wet concrete.

This trapped air prevents the cement paste flowing completly around the aggregate in the mix

Some dodgy concretors will add water to the concrete to make it easier to lay and finish without vibration, but that will make the risk of ‘honey combing’ greater.


US Naval Mobile Construction Unit 4

US Naval Mobile Construction Unit 4

To get a strong dense mix it is necessary to get the air out of the mix and allow the cement paste to fill the voids between the stone.

On site the normal method is to use a vibrating poker as in this photograph.

This should be slowly lowered into the concrete and then lifted out.

Each insertion is typically around 300 – 400mm apart.

Extra care is needed against forms with one method being to hold the vibrating poker against the outside of the form.



If you are having some concreting done make sure that you tell the concretor you will expect to see proper poker vibration of the concrete to full depth.



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What Does The Energy Rating Mean?

The ratings are calculated by a NatHERS (Nationwide Housing Energy Rating Scheme) computer simulation of an individual house design to estimate the thermal comfort.

The calculations are based on 69 different ‘Climate Zones” and allows comparison of different properties in the same climate zone.

The following table shows the Energy Load for various capital cities for each of the star rating band.

  6 Star 7 Star 8 Star 9 Star 10 Star
Adelaide 27 19 13 6 1
Brisbane 12 10 7 5 3
Hobart 43 31 20 9 0
Melbourne 32 23 15 7 1
Perth 19 14 9 5 1
Sydney 11 8 6 4 2

The values are in kilo watt hours/m2/annum.

I haven’t shown less than 6 stars as that is the minimum for new houses.

As you can see if you go all the way to 10 stars the energy load will be virtually nil.


If you are building a 200m2 house in Melbourne at the minimum 6 Star Rating your annual energy load will be:

200 x 32 = 6,400 kilo watt hours

By increasing the rating to 8 star the calculation becomes:

200 x 15 = 3,000 kilo watt hours

a significant reduction of more than 50%!


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Tumbledown Barn

alchemy Architect Barn House

At first glance this really does look like a Tumbledown Barn.

In reality it is actually a modern house by Alchemy Architecture an American practice that are very involved  in designs that utilise recycled materals.

Follows the following link to see the interior and other interesting projects: Blair Barnhouse.

The front wall would be great for providing shade to the west side of a house!


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



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The Joys of Moving Houses (No Sarcasm Intended)

Guest post by Hubert Dwight

joy of moving houseIf someone were to say that there are joys in moving houses, many people would consider the person speaking to be a bit bonkers.

It is a natural reaction because we humans tend to focus on the negative experiences rather than the positive.

The fact is, moving into your new home can create a lot of joy during the moving process and for the future that you are planning to build.

The team from Interior Secrets are experts in creating those positive experiences with their interior design range of furniture and home furnishings.

They’ve seen both sides of the coin when it comes to moving house and share the following tips for people that are moving houses.


Keep your eye on the goal that you are working towards.

It is easy to get caught up in the negative aspects when moving house.

There is quite a lot of planning involved and it uses a lot of your mental and physical energy.

There are risks with losing and breaking items as well.

However, we shouldn’t lose focus of our ultimate goal.

Once everything has been moved into the new house, you will be able to build a new environment to your liking and customize it to make it the home that you always wanted it to be.

In a way, it is as though you have to take a few steps back; but in the end, you will be moving forward by leaps and bounds.


Enjoy the thrill of creation.

Moving into your new home, you will be starting from a clean slate.

You have the opportunity to create your new story on a fresh canvas.

How will you build the illustrative environment for your new life in your new home?

Customise your place the way that you want it to be.

It is the perfect opportunity for you to modernise your home with more artistic and creative flair.

Highlight this with rugs, photo frames, wall units, dining and lounge sets, curtains and shutters, just to name a few.

You can even get creative with the walls with wallpaper or wall paint options.

Remember to enjoy the feeling of redecorating and building your new abode.


Enjoy your new sanctuary.

Ultimately, you need to enjoy your new environment.

The aesthetics should compliment your emotions and tap into the five senses.

Create a space that will provide you with a brighter ambiance, enhancing scents, nice views and the furnishings that you love.


Build bonds with the local community.

When moving into your new place, you have the opportunity to forge new friendships with neighbours in your new community.

While you may start off as neighbours, over the years your relationship can build into a strong friendship.

It will give you ‘peace of mind’ to know that there are others in your community that you can trust to look out for your home, and that will add to the positive experience of living in your new neighbourhood.


Remember, this is a spring-cleaning session towards your new life!

When moving houses, you tend to come across a lot of items that have been building up in your home over the years.

We tend not to throw things away, even if we haven’t used them in a while, as we tend to hold onto them for some intrinsic or sentimental value.

Moving into your new home is the perfect opportunity to get rid of unwanted or unnecessary items from your old life.

The author ‘The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up’  Marie Kondo, offers a simple solution towards decluttering, simplifying, organising and storing.

She says that the key to success in tidying is to keep those items that give you joy.

If they don’t, then throw it away in the bin or consider selling or donating your items.

These are a few tips that can be used easily by anyone who is moving home, regardless of whether they are moving from a room, an apartment, a house or a mansion.

Focus on the positive aspects that your new home can offer and create the space to become the one youn always desired!

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Solar Panel Alignment (Revised 2015)

The suns position in the sky varies throughout the year and over each day.

The ideal situation is when the sun is hitting the panels closest to a perfectly perpendicular angle (90°).

So in Australia, what angle and orientation are best?……….. Well when mounting solar panels there are two elements of the alignment that affect the final efficiency of the panels.


Orientation – the compass direction the panel faces

Ideally in the southern Hemisphere solar panels should be facing as close to true North as possible to reduce the impact that the Winter seasons have on efficiency. Once the angle is above 30 degrees from North the efficiency really starts to drop away.


Tilt – the angle from the horizontal

The tilt is the angle that the panels are facing up into the sky. On a flat roof, the tilt is 0°, whereas if the panels were on a wall, it would be 90°.

The best tilt angle for more even efficiency throughout the year is generally the same angle as the degree of latitude of the site. Best for if your only power supply is solar.

Flatter tilt angles increase the power generated during summer, but reduce the winter power generation. If you have a system connected to the grid then you can go 15 degrees flatter than the degree of latitude without losing annual efficiency. (It can even help if your roof doesn’t face directly North)


Alignment Efficiency Table

The  table below provides an indication of the approximate solar panel efficiency levels for Melbourne for various alignments.



15 degrees flatter

Angle of latitude

15 degrees steeper





30 from North




60 from North




90 from North




The following site will carry out calculations for sites around the world:

2015 Update

I first wrote this post in 2012 but since then a fair bit has changed.

Off Grid

If you are going to be ‘Off Grid’ its still best to have panels at the optimum alignment.

Grid Connected

If you are still connected to the grid the ‘Feed In Tariffs’ are now that low that there are real advantage in a more westerly alignment.

This means you are generating more power in the late afternoon-evening when you are most likely to be home and using it.

As the cost of panels has gone down it can also be more economical to have a couple of extra panels; rather than pay for angled mounting brackets.

For more Green Ideas see Sustainability

For problems see Reasons For Low Output


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Regulations Failing Public

Over the last couple of months there have been a couple of separate News Items which are really connected.

Excavation Collapse Puts House On Edge!

Excavation Collapse Waverley

The photo shows a house hanging over the edge of an excavation in a Melbourne suburb.

This in spite of the builders excavation proposals being approved by a Building Surveyor.

How Did This Happen?

Well you don’t need to do much more than read the following summary of the Auditor General’s Report on Victoria’s Consumer Protection Framework for Building Construction published in May this year.

This audit examined the performance of the Victorian Building Authority, the Building Practitioners Board, Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) and the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority as they provide functions key to building regulation and to the consumer protection framework in domestic building.

I found that the existing framework does not adequately protect consumers and that there is a pressing need to improve consumer understanding of the system.

The registration system does not ensure that the only practitioners who are registered are qualified, competent and of good character and the disciplinary system is not protecting consumers, as current sanctions are ineffective in deterring practitioner misconduct.

CAV’s conciliation and dispute resolution functions provide only limited consumer protection because it cannot compel parties to conciliate or enforce compliance with conciliation outcomes.

Domestic building insurance is widely misunderstood, provides only limited protection for consumers and is significantly more costly than it needs to be.

The Italics are a direct quote, although I have underlined some of the more significant parts.

If you want to read the whole report use this link: Auditor General’s Report

Other States

Don’t think because you live in other states you are going to be safe. The customer protection isn’t too different around Australia.


One of the best protections, to quote the report is for you “to improve (your) consumer understanding of the system”.



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