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A Garden Make-over

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Our house is below road level, being on the low side of the gully we live in (with a creek at the back). The slope down to the front of the house was originally a mess of cement over chicken wire made to look like rock, and filled with venomous looking succulents (with a real bite, as I found out when I attacked them 28 years ago with a steel cutter on the end of a petrol powered trimmer - the sap that sprayed me burnt my skin and sent me howling to the shower, and left a red rash). I cut up the cement with a grinder and finally got the bank cleared, and planted some ground covers (juniper, prostrate grevillea and prostrate cotoneaster). These did well for many years, but buffalo grass finally invaded and various saplings self-seeded and sprang up, obscuring the magnificent eucalypt on the corner of the block. You can see the mess in the following picture: MORE...

A Passive Solar Addition to my Home

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Fortunately our house was built with a good north-facing aspect for good winter solar energy gain (I'm in the southern hemisphere; south-facing for you northerners). There is a storm-water easement running diagonally across the block, which restricted the orientation of the house, otherwise I suspect the original owners would have had it turned 90 degrees to face the street. As our kids grew we found the small house (about 10 squares, or 100 square metres) getting smaller, and in 1988 I started on designing an addition. I had done a lot of reading about passive solar design, and had done a fair bit of airconditioning design work in my job, so was very familiar with thermal flow concepts. I determined that the addition to the house would be a passive solar design, to get the maximum benefit from the winter sun and still moderate the fierce heat of summer. Where I live in Australia we can hit 40 degrees Celsius in summer, and high thirties are common. In winter it can get down near freezing. MORE...

Heat-pump Hot Water - another green step

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A number of things have changed the equation in the last 20 years:-

Home Temperature Monitoring Using Maxim-Dallas DS18S20 1-Wire Sensors

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Being a retired engineer with a long interest in matters scientific and in low energy housing, I have finally begun what I long wanted to do, to set up a temperature monitoing system in my house. This is a temporary arrangement till I find time for more sensors, and a permanent interface to my server PC. MORE...

Jacking Up A Sagging Timber Deck

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No, not the deck on a boat, but a timber deck on the back of my house. As you can see the deck has sagged badly - about 40mm, where one of the timber posts has subsided. The concrete pad on which the post rests has sunk into the soft ground. MORE...

My House Monitor

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The web page auto-refreshes. Below is a non-refreshing reproduction of the summary page, to give the flavour. MORE...

Our Domestic Rainwater Tanks

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We installed our rain water tanks in 2008, during a time of drought here in Australia, with sever water restrictions. Sydney Water were offering $500 to home owners who installed tanks, and another $500 if you then connected them to either your washing machine or your toilet cistern. $1500 all up if you connect to both. I discovered that plastic (polyethylene) tanks are about the same price as Colorbond steel tanks, so went with them. I also discovered that circular tanks are much cheaper than oval and other compact shaped tanks for the same capacity, and that one big tanks is a lot cheaper than several small ones. MORE...

Our Domestic Rainwater Tanks - Lifting the Bigger Tanks

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Getting the two larger tanks in place was a minor challenge, as the corner of the deck at the rear of the house comes very close to the drop into the gully of the creek we overlook. There was just no way to roll or carry the tanks around the corner, and only a 900mm access down the other side of the house. With the aid of my son and a neighbour we rigged up a rough "crane" and lifted them around easily and safely. MORE...

Our Domestic Rainwater Tanks - Modified Float Valve

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which was designed for keeping an animal drinking trough full. Water under pressure is admitted in the bottom port of the valve, and leaves the outlet into the trough. The valve is intended to be mounted through the wall of the trough. When the water level is sufficiently high, the float pulls the cord attached to the bell-crank and stops the flow. MORE...

Rear Garden - Stage 1, Taming the Slope

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August 2011: The rear of our property drops sharply into a gully, at a slope of about 45 degrees, and is quite loose as well. It's been an eye-sore for years, and a menace to keep clear of weeds. Several efforts to get pleasant plants to grow came to nothing, so since the landscapers did such a good job on the front we got them to do something with the back. They had never done anything as steep as this, but the results are excellent. Terraced 600mm walls of treated pine sleepers, fill, jute matting as a weed barrier, a thick layer of shredded eucalyptus mulch, and plantings of Grevillea "Honey Dew", which grows to about 3m high and 3m wide. Hopefully this will form a dense thicket of vegetation. It is also very easy now to get around to do spot weed-spraying. Here are some photos, before and after. MORE...

Solar Voltaic Power for my House

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I've long been fascinated by the idea of having photo-voltaic panels on our roof so that we can generate our own power. The economics were not very attractive for along time. MORE...

The Kitchen to end all Kitchens

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At least the last we will probably ever have built - after all I am 60 in a few weeks, and the last kitchen lasted nearly 30 years. Our old kitchen was put in when our son was 8 months old and he has now passed his 30th birthday, so it did well. When we bought the house it had a kitchen just 2.7 metres square (9 ft square) with 2 doorways which robbed it of about a third of its space. MORE...

The Kitchen to end all Kitchens - Construction Photos

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Here the old kitchen has been gutted and one and a bit walls removed Builder's assistant (and soon to be father-in-law) eyeing off the tough task of scraping off the old vinyl floor tiles - cemented down with some black adhesive 44 years ago MORE...

Zero-Energy Rainy Weather Clothes Drier

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Years ago I created this drier for my wife, as a wet weather alternative to the clothes-line and the electric tumble drier. It works very well, even in wet weather, as long as the air is not too close to saturation, and has reduced our need for the tumble drier greatly. All it is is a light frame slung beneath the carport roof. A cheap boat trailer winch, cord and pulleys allow it to be hoisted up out of the wind-blown rain, and lowered to add or remove the clothes. MORE...


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