CoolComfort Tips

Hi [[firstname]],
Welcome to this edition of 'CoolComfort Tips'.

A short newsletter giving practical advice on minimising your energy for heating and cooling focusing on low cost easily implemented ideas.

If buying a refrigerative air conditioner don't forget to check the size required by using a SureCool Air Conditioner Selector


How can you find inexpensive curtains?

The cheapest curtains can be found at Goodwill and other charity shops. They tend to go quickly so you may need to drop in regularly until you find something suitable. (A friend found enough curtains to do 7 metres of window for $100!) The other source worth checking is E-bay. You will need to exercise due care, to make sure you get what you want and you may need to set a search and wait. Remember to check size, colour, whether they are lined, whether they will suit your curtain rods if you already have them, etc. When searching I suggest you search for "[your preferred colour] curtains -shower". for example 'cream curtains -shower'. The -shower will save you being deluged with 100's of shower curtains.

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Let's bust some myths about energy use.

Before I get into the topic of this newsletter, I am pleased to announce that a number of ideas previously mentioned in this newsletter have finally entered the mainstream media. The March 3 Weekend Australian Magazine published quite a good article entitled 'Power Players'. The article discusses carbon taxes (also called, carbon credits or carbon trading) This has been in the mainstream media previously but is now supported by a large number of big businesses. I think some form of carbon tax may come in fairly soon. This will be a significant boost to both renewable energy like solar and wind, and will help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a much lower cost than arbitrary limits on emissions.

The article continues pointing out one big advantage of solar is that it is (generally) a distributed power source. In other words it is generated where it is used which means no extra unsightly transmission lines are required. In fact it is particularly advantageous in those old but wealthy suburbs which are having air conditioners installed left right and center causing power blackouts because the transformers have insufficient capacity. In fact a study by the CSIRO has estimated that each new air conditioner on average costs $13,000 for the additional electrical generating and distribution infrastructure. (This is consistent with figures previously quoted in this newsletter).

South Australia's Premier Mike Rann has foreshadowed legislation to double the credit that people get for solar power. As previously pointed out in this newsletter, solar power peaks at the same time as summer demand peaks. This means the retailers are paying top dollar (up to $10.00 per kWhr) to the gas and coal fired generators on a hot afternoon, but currently they are paying less than 20 cents per kWhr for the solar power supplied. This proposed change will halve the payback for solar power, and start to make it very attractive to people on a fixed income.

Moving on to the main topic of this newsletter: I was very disappointed to read recently two articles in an air conditioning journal (Climate Control News, March 2007) that at best show sloppy journalism but at worst suggest sloppy thinking. The main issues are myths about air conditioning's contribution to energy use. When thinking about air conditioning energy use, we need to bear the following points in mind:

The above can be summarised to 'air conditioners currently are a major problem for peak electrical demand, and if their growth continues unchecked they will become a major contributor to total greenhouse gas production'.

Another common misunderstanding is around the topic of 'base load electricity requirements'. I have touched on this issue previously, but from what I am reading in the mainstream media, I need to explain the issue in more detail. Renewables are criticised for not contributing to 'base load requirements'. It is implied that providing base load power is the holy grail for a generating plant. If the concept of base load was ever meaningful, it certainly isn't any more.

A better way of looking at electricity generation is to consider how closely the power source can match the electrical demand. In fact the power sources that most closely matches electrical demand are gas fired turbines, and to some extent dam based hydro power. Coal and nuclear power plants which are touted as 'base load' power plants can't readily rapidly ramp up or down in electrical output. This means that they match those energy users that have a constant demand 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However they are way too expensive in capital cost to be used to provide the power required for air conditioners on a hot day. In fact Solar power matches electrical demand better than coal or nuclear and the combination of solar and wind does even better. Whether using coal, nuclear, solar or wind you need gas to provide top up power, when your primary power source hasn't got enough capacity to meet total demand.

Because a large part of Australia's electrical power comes from coal, the electricity generators have gone looking for artificial base loads. One electrical load that doesn't mind when it is activated is hot water. Electricity suppliers introduced night tariffs for off-peak electric hot water systems to try and use up some of the surplus generating capacity they have at night. (This energy use is normally included in 'base load' figures, but clearly it is a misnomer to call it base load demand.) Given that we have smarter electronics available today, a more logical approach would be to heat your hot water (if you must have electric hot water) and any other discretionary load (eg swimming pool pump, battery charger etc.) whenever there is surplus power, (preferably green power) regardless of time of day.

One group that is working along these lines is GoZero who are working on a demonstration project at Mawson Lakes in South Australia.

In summary lets talk about how closely supply matches demand and forget this mythical 'base load demand'!

If you have any comments please contact us.

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Time to think about what to do to keep your house warm this winter.

It is time to winterise your home. Along with cleaning the gutters, have a think about how you are going to keep the warmth in. If you haven't done the following, then a rough order of priority for improvements are:

  1. Insulate the ceiling or roof
  2. Weatherstrip doors and windows
  3. Curtains on windows (or upgrade to high performance curtains)
  4. Doors to allow you to close off unused rooms
  5. Insulate the walls if it is possible (not usually practical)
  6. Double glaze or use an insulating glass if replacing windows

There are other things that can be done if building a new home or extension, see

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