I live in a three-bedroom house in Fitzroy, which was designed by Kennedy Nolan, and built around eight years ago. I must admit, at the time of building, I wasn’t anywhere near as conscious of sustainable design as I am now.
At the time, the architects did recommend installing solar on our roof — but as is so often the case, this was one of the first elements we scrapped in a bid to get the build over the line within budget.
So, fast forward to 2023, and it’s finally time to revisit the solar power question.
I started the journey by researching solar providers. I’ve got to say, there are some cowboys out there! As a general rule, I’d say go with a solar provider who is personally recommended by someone you know. In my case, I reached out to architect Jeremy McLeod (of Nightingale / Breathe Architecture) and he was unequivocal in his advice — ‘You need to speak to BREC‘.
BREC is a small-ish Melbourne based solar provider, who are really passionate about what they do. I got in touch via email, and we organised a time for solar specialist Luke Serdar to come out to my place and suss my rooftop.
First though, Luke asked me for a bit of data. In order to do his homework before our first meeting, he wanted to see 12 months of our household electricity bills, so he could get a really good picture of our energy usage across different seasons. These bills were easy to download from my energy provider’s website.
Luke also asked to see our ‘interval data’ which was a little harder to get. This is a more detailed report (it looks like a crazy excel spreadsheet) and I had to specifically request it from my energy provider. Luke needed this data to get a really detailed picture of our energy use across a typical 24 hour period. This, I learnt, is important — because to get the most about of any solar system, ideally you want your power to be generated at the exact time of day that you need to use it.
I collected and passed on all the data Luke needed, and a couple of weeks later, he came round for a chat!
Luke knows a LOT about solar. Meeting him was like a crash-course in renewable energy! After analysing our power bills, he had a good understanding of how much power our home needed to run, both in summer and winter. He showed me some graphs of our energy consumption and I was quietly pretty chuffed to learn that our household energy use is quite low for a family of three! This is because our house has good natural light, and is pretty well orientated and insulated, so we’re pretty frugal in our use of heating and cooling.
Luke also showed us a graph of a ‘typical day’ of energy use at our place. It was interesting to see how our energy use spikes from about 7am to 9am when we all wake up and get ready for school and work, then we have very minimal energy needs during the middle of the day (unfortunately that’s exactly when the sun is shining!) and it all gears back up again from 6pm to about 11pm when we’re at home using lights and cooking dinner. It was really useful to start to understand this, because this is what informs Luke’s recommendation for our solar system — including the type and quantity of panels we will need, and what direction/s they should ideally face to maximise the energy captured, at the times we need it.
After one meeting with Luke I definitely felt a lot more informed and more aware of the actual energy my household needs, and what I can realistically expect from solar. In a few weeks, Luke will share a proposal with me and some quotes, and we’ll get started installing solar on my roof — stay tuned!
Inspired to join me on your own Green Energy Journey? If you want to play along at home (and I hope you do!) I’ve put together a to-do list for you! Simply get these tasks done over the next four weeks, and stay tuned for my next instalment, where we review solar quotes, decide on the right system and start the installation process!
Green Energy Journey, Stage 1 : To-Do List
1. Download 12 months of electricity bills
2. Contact your energy provider and request your electricity ‘interval data’ (this may take a week or so for them to provide)
3. Contact a solar provider, and request a meeting or phone conversation to get the process started!
Not ready for solar? You can still play your part in building Australia’s renewable future, by choosing renewable energy, wherever you can.
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