I was interviewed on Monday by a researcher from the University of Wollongong about my experiences with installing solar hot water at our old house. They’re looking into why people choose solar, how they choose the system and supplier, what their experience has been, etc.
Sitting in on the interview was an interesting guy from CSIRO named Peter.
We got chatting about hot water and home energy usage, and I mentioned something from the book I’m reading at the moment – The CSIRO Home Energy Saving Handbook. “Oh,” said Peter, “that’s my book.”
Turns out he’s Peter Osman, one of the authors! How often is it you’re chatting to someone and they turn out to be the author of the book you’re currently reading?!
We had a great talk, and Peter was very interested in the playing around I’d done with the solar hot water system. Things like turning off the electric boost through summer and setting the thermostat on the system lower. I’d been keeping almost-daily electricity meter readings as well, and he’s keen to get that data.
One of the things Peter is looking at is how to make solar hot water systems more efficient with a “smart” off-peak boost controller. A big problem with the current setup is that many households use most of their hot water in the afternoon/evening, then the off-peak electric boost heats the water in the tank overnight, so by the time the sun comes up the next day the water is hot and there’s very little work for the sun to do other than merely maintain the temperature. A smart booster could use things like weather forecasts, hot water usage patterns, time of year, etc to decide when and how much to heat the water using electricity, so that the maximum benefit possible is gained from the sun and electricity use is minimised.
We also talked about general home energy savings, and he really liked the concept of the chest fridge I built. It’s still working wonderfully, by the way.
You can read more about Peter’s research into climate change, energy use and sustainability at his web site, EnergyClimate.com.
And definitely check out the CSIRO Home Energy Saving Handbook – it’s available from Kiama Library, among other places. Don’t forget to visit the Handbook web site to get copies of the worksheets, too.