TOP TIPS: Electrifying and reducing powerbills

Highlights from 'The Pathway to Net Zero,' a presentation at the Everything Electric conference from the Good Earth Group's Lorenzo Tassone.

Thousands of people flocked to the Everything Electric show in Sydney over the weekend, the largest electric car and home energy show in the southern hemisphere.

Last year the show debuted in Australia under the name Fully Charged. This year it was held in a bigger venue at the Sydney Showground with twice the number of electric vehicles, and an emphasis on home energy electrification and efficiency.

As well as providing opportunities to test drive electric vehicles and other forms of e-transport, a home energy advice team was on hand to answer questions from the public.

Lorenzo Tassone, the CEO from Good Earth Group, was one of the advisers. He runs a one-stop shop in western Sydney which provides energy efficient solutions that can cut power bills and put people on a path to a net zero future.

And whilst everyone’s situation will be different, and require different solutions, Tassone presentation, 'The Pathway to Net Zero', had some top tips on how to electrify your home and make it more energy efficient which we've summarised here:

1. Install energy efficient appliances not massive solar systems

With a return on investment within 4 or 5 years, solar is a no-brainer for anyone who can afford it. Whilst there are many other energy efficient measures householders can take, solar panels open up other opportunities for energy efficiency.

Opinions vary among energy efficiency experts, but most argue that if you have energy efficient appliances, you don't need a big, huge solar system to cover your energy costs.

However, Tassone says it’s still important to size your system for future needs: Are you looking to invest in a electric car? How do you use that car? Do you work from home? Do you travel to work?

“You don't necessarily need to put a huge extra system on to cover your vehicle load if you're only doing local kilometres or local miles.”

2. Install a home battery, feed back to the grid at night, and pay it off in a few years

Currently the payback on a home battery is around 12 or 13 years, so for many people it doesn't make economic sense to invest in one.

However, if you do have solar panels and a battery, and you've got excess power that you’ve generated during the day, you can now sell that back to the grid in the evenings when the feed-in rate is 50 to 60 cents per kw.

“That's changed the landscape because the batteries typically have a 10-year warranty,” says Tassone.

“Your return on investment comes down to four or five years by trading the excess electricity you don't need, and earning some money to pay back that battery quicker.”

Norman Koslowski from Sky High Energy Control, an independent cleantech energy company, says there’s another reason why householders in NSW and Victoria might not want to put a massive solar array on your roof, unless you have a battery.

“From July 1, if you export your solar between 10am and 3pm, you'll now pay a charge for anything over six kilowatts that you export to the grid,” says Koslowski. “But the [network providers] will give you a feedin credit if you export between 3pm and 8pm during peak period.”

The network providers are basically trying to get us to load shift our excess solar from the middle of the day to when they need the power in the evening.

There are currently around 3.5 million rooftop solar systems in Australia – around 37% of all households – and only 180,000 batteries installed.

Koslowski fears that without the personnel to install millions of batteries, we may have a bottleneck coming. “They're going to incentivize everyone to get a battery because that's what they need but they're going to worry what they wish for.”

Rather than charge householders to export their excess solar during the day, some power companies, especially in South Australia, are now able to shut off your excess solar production and shut down your solar system remotely.

“There's pros and cons to that,” says Tassone. “It’s good for them and for the grid. But it's not good for you if you're trying to keep things going in your house on a 40 degree day.”  

3. Heat pumps are the most efficient heating systems ever invented

“If you've got an electric hot water system and you [replace it with] a heat pump in, you can save about 75% on your power bill straight up,” says Tassone.

Heat pumps use the ambient outdoor temperature to heat water, so they can work all year round in inclement conditions. Unlike the old solar hot water systems which don’t work when it's cloudy and overcast.

However, the quality of heat pump hot water systems vary considerably and there are several things to consider when researching and buying one. There are now several cheap ones on the market with very low warranties.

“You get what you pay for,” says Tassone. “Subsidies subsidize the tank up front, but if that tank only lasts a year, you've got to pay full ticket price in 12 months for another one.”

Good Earth claim to be ‘technology agnostic’ and don’t have deals with any specific company, but one of the brands they recommend is Reclaim. “Their tanks are made in Australia, they have a 10-year warranty, the inverters are Japanese and they now have a 7-year warranty on those. So the technology is really good,” says Tassone. “They also use CO2 as a refrigerant and that means the gas has zero global warming potential.”

If you have a resistive electric hot water tank and your power bill is about $1,000 per annum, Tassone estimates it will drop to about $140 for most people after putting a heat pump in.

“You can then drop that another $100 if you've got a solar system because you're running a heat pump during the middle of the day when they’re most efficient, so you will almost be getting free hot water.”

Heat pumps for high rise apartment buildings need a lot of space for the storage tanks so if there's no space, it's not an easy solution to retrofit. However, Tassone says there are solutions.

4. Ask about rebates for heat pump hot water systems

If you’re installing a brand, new heat pump hot water system, you need to check out the rebates being offered in your state.

However, Tassone says there is a lot of misinformation around rebates and what's possible.

“A lot of people aren't aware there are rebates available. A lot of people get them installed, the plumber doesn't know, or doesn't care,” says Tassone. “They just put it in and it's $800 or $900 going begging.”

There are also commercial rebates available if you live in strata, and there's common hot water.

“You can [in some states] get commercial rebates that cover probably 90% of the cost.”

5. Insulate everything

Like all energy efficiency advisers Tassone recommends insulating everything – ceilings, walls, underfloor – and if you can’t afford double glazing on the whole house, “put in double glazing just on the north-west facing windows.”

Alternatively, he suggests outdoor blinds or inflector panels attached to the inside of windows, which can help reduce heat gain and loss by up to 70%.

Tassone says that heat pumps need to be properly insulated. “We insulate all the pipes to the wall that go back into the house, and we do all the internal pipes.”

“We've seen installers not lagging the tanks properly - they're not insulating the pipes,” says Tassone. “If not done correctly a lot of heat can be lost from the pipes. They’re getting in quickly and getting out and not doing a good job.” 

Case Study #1 – Vineyard Hotel

Not all energy efficiency solutions are high tech.

Tassone’s team logged the data before and after they did an energy upgrade on the Vineyard Hotel in North West Sydney last year.

“The hotel was using about two mega watt hours of power per annum in June. We did the installation in July and it dropped instantly,” says Tassone. “For the next couple of months, the new baseline was 25% less.”

However, a lot of tradies were staying in the hotel who were all getting up in the morning and having showers, and the hotel found they were often running out of hot water in the mornings.

So Tassone’s team measured the water flow and discovered they were using about 40 litres of water a minute because they hadn’t installed energy saving showerheads.

After installing new showerheads for $20 each, “we actually got another 8% power saving and a massive water saving.”  

6. Clean your air-conditioner filter

Tassone says there are lots of ways to save money on your power bill and reduce your carbon footprint by managing how you use your air conditioning.

“The simplest thing is to clean your filters. If you open the top of your indoor air conditioner and it looks like a blackcat is in there, you need to wash that thing out and clean it.”

“You can probably get a 10% power saving just from doing a simple thing like that.”

Air conditioner coils are essential components that enable the heat transfer process – they help heat or cool the air passing through the system.

“Anti-microbial cleaners that clean the coils can give a 10 to 15% power saving,” and a thorough clean by a professional can cost around $4-500 “but that that will last for a couple of years.”  

7. Don’t set your air con to 18 degrees

Most air conditioners function best when there's no more than a 15-degree difference between what the air temperature outside is, and the temperature you set inside.

“If it's 35 degrees outside, the best you'll probably be able to get is 20 degrees on the aircon. If it's 40, set it at 25.”

“If you're sitting at 18, it just means the motor is running the whole time really hard to try and get that temperature.”

Tassone also says a one-degree change in temperature on your air means a 10% difference on your power bill.

Using fans in conjunction with an air conditioner can also help maintain a room at a comfortable temperature. “Fans are really low cost to run, and often have little DC motors.”

8. Use simple tech to improve electrical appliances

A simple WiFi control for around $90, attached to on an old air conditioner, allows you to pre-cool your house remotely.

“It allows you to turn that aircon off remotely through your phone, so as you drive home it turns on and allows you to reduce costs instead of running the aircon 24/7.”

Tassone has also been trialling a small AI device called CTECH with the Queensland Government, which can be installed into an air conditioning system to measure the outdoor and indoor temperatures.

“It cuts the motor in and out to maintain a good temperature inside, instead of the motor running the whole time.”

The data they’ve logged so far shows a 25 - 30% power saving on those air conditioners.

It’s also possible to use tech to divert excess solar into an electric vehicle, or into a hot water heat pump.

“You just need the right little devices on your board and your equipment so they can communicate to each other to allow that to happen.”

9. Running costs on 5 Star air-conditioners are much lower

NSW and Victoria now offer rebates between $250 and up to $1500 for installing 5-star air conditioners, depending on where you live and the size of the system. Most of the main brands now offer 5-star models as part of their premium products.

“The idea is to push you into buying a five star because the long-term running costs are so much lower, and they're a lot more efficient.”

“The latest tech is where the energy savings can be gained,” says Tassone. “If you have something that's 20 years old, it's got old refrigerants in it, and it doesn't have variable speed drives.”

10. Big savings can be made from installing solar air conditioning

It's no possible to directly connect your solar panels straight into the outdoor unit of a solar air conditioner.

“You can run your aircon from as little as a three and a half kilowatt system – about four panels,” says Tassone. “And if you have a blackout you've still got the air conditioning running.”

Tassone has conducted studies on both businesses and homes that run 24/7 with solar air conditioners installed, which on average have reduced their overall air conditioning load by 57%.

But for businesses that are just operating nine to five during sunlight hours there was an 87% power reduction on the air conditioning from using solar. “The 13% that we didn't cover were just the cloudy, overcast days.”

Solar air conditioning also has additional features “like AC limiting, which means you can actually say I only want to use 300 watts per hour, and that machine will only use that much.” 

11. Bring back the pelmet

Unfortunately, contemporary interior home design has resulted in most of us taking the pelmets off our windows. Pelmets are narrow borders of cloth or wood that are fitted across the top of a door or window to conceal the curtain fittings.

“Pelmets had a job and that was to stop the cool or the heat running down the glass and losing 80% of your energy straight out the window.”  

Case study #2 – Great Lakes Women's Shelter
(Image: Net Zero Carbon & Energy)

Tassone has been working on retrofitting several buildings to net zero. He recently fitted out the Great Lakes Women's Shelter in Foster on the North Coast of NSW, where they installed solar, batteries, solar air conditioning, hot water heat pumps, and destratification fans. Destratification fans mix warm and cold air together continuously by circulating a column of air from the ceiling to the floor.

“Eight families are living in this women's shelter and their daily power usage is now only around one kilowatt.”

20KW of Solar Edge PVP and 39.9 KW of Tesla batteries was installed (Image: Net Zero Carbon & Energy)

The heat pumps are timed to charge with the solar and have saved 70% on conventional hot water. The solar and batteries have led to an 89% reduction in power costs annually, and the Solar ACDC air conditioners have avoided 90% of previous air conditioning costs.

In December last year, the site produced more energy than it used.

“That means they can spend their money on things that are really important, like food and shelter, not worrying about trying to pay power bills,” says Tassone.

Anne Delaney
SwitchedOn Editor
May 26, 2024
Trending Post
No items found.
SwitchedOn Australia Podcast
Bjorn Sturmberg
Why we need to expand our imaginations so we can have energy equity for everyone
Found this useful?
Share it!

Related posts.

Subscribe to the SwitchedOn weekly newsletter!