Wednesday, 26 October 2011

3 Cool 'Green' Products you probably haven't heard of yet!

Ok, so I'm a bit of a self confessed gadet geek, but I am particularly keen on gadgets that help us to become that little bit greener. So when I came across this on Houze last week, I had to share it.
Electree designed by Vivien Muller  home electronics
Not only is this Electree (designed by Vivien Muller,  - EUR 299.00 [ Visit Store » ]) a masterful piece of artwork, energy produced by the panels during daylight is stored in a base hidden battery. Once charged, this accumulator feeds a USB port. Which can then be used to charge anything via USB! Love it!

I must admit I also love the concept of Sugru. If you haven't ever heard of it, you have to check this stuff out! Sugru is like modeling clay when you take it from its pack. Once it's exposed to air, it cures to a tough flexible silicone overnight using the moisture in the air. You can use it to fix, improve, or 'Hack' as they call it, almost anything!

Now whilst Sugru in itself is not that environmentally friendly (it isn't biodegradable for example)  it does help you to improve the longevity or usefulness of everyday items, so you don't need to throw so much stuff away, reducing waste & pollution in the long run. 

If you've used Sugru before, I'd love to heard what you've 'hacked' and whether you've found it useful.

My 3rd and last 'Cool' product is a simple yet effective item called an EcoSwitch .

If you are anything like me, you probably leave a lot of your electrical items on standby, eating away at your costly electricity.

This little thing makes it easier to turn off those floor switches at the wall and to me, also acts as a reminder to do so. This is probably the biggest selling point for me, as I know I should turn things off standby but it's a case of 'out of sight, out of mind'.

It's not like you couldn't achieve the same effect yourself with a few extension cords and some fiddling around with building a switch, but let's face it, most of us wouldn't & haven't bothered, so why not make it easier and just buy one of these?!

Have you got an EcoSwitch? Do you use it? I'd love to heard your opinions on this product.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Save on Renovating with Skylights

It's the beginning of Spring and judging from the number of people out at our local hardware store this weekend, the 'renovation bug' has well and truly hit the Sunshine Coast.

So for those of you looking to brighten up any dark and dreary areas of your home, the news that Solatube is offering a Nationwide special offer to celebrate 20 years of their tubular skylights, should bring a smile to your face.

Many of us have areas of our homes which are poorly lit or, like a WIR, have no exterior windows. Using a tubular skylight, or Solatube Daylighting System, is a quick and easy way to add natural light to any internal area whilst saving you energy by removing the need for electric lights during daylight hours.

Surprisingly a Solatube Daylighting System can be professionally installed in as little as 2 hrs, with no need for restructuring, rendering or repainting. These unique skylight systems can also be installed up to 21 meters below the roof, so you can even channel light down into ground floor or basement levels! 

So if you have an interior project you'll be tackling at home over the next few weeks and you have been thinking of ways to brighten the space, naturally or otherwise, why not consider installing a Solatube Daylighting System. Not only will it make your room come to life and put the ultimate of finishing touches to your new space, it will save you money of your electricity bills and give you that warm and squidgy feeling inside, knowing you're saving on carbon emissions too!
Examples of Solatube Daylighting Systems installed in homes

Visit our website more information on Solatube Skylights on the Sunshine Coast and Solatubes 20th Year Anniversary Special Offer

Monday, 26 September 2011

Energy & Water Star Ratings - Did you know...

I have been reading up a bit about Appliance Star Ratings recently. You know the ones I mean, you see them everywhere these days, on any almost any white goods, toilets, showerheads and air-conditioners.

They are designed to help consumers differentiate between appliances that are energy or water efficient and ones which are not. As I'm sure you know the higher the number of stars an appliance has been given the better it will perform.

However did you know that as new applicances come onto the market with better technologies, the benchmarks that need to be met to obtain each 'star' become higher and higher. So an Air Conditioning unit that first hit the market in 2009 may have been awarded an Energy Star Rating of 4 stars, but it will not be as energy efficent as a newer model that came out onto the market this year that has also been awarded with 4 stars!*

So if you are considering buying an older model applicance to try and save a few dollars during your renovations, or as an upgrade, remember that the newer ones may have the same number of stars but they will be much more efficient than their older counterparts.

*Source "The CSIRO Home Energy Saving Handbook"

Monday, 29 August 2011

It's Ezy to be Green if you live in South East QLD

Another Energy Saving initiative that is currently being State funded and should be of interest to all SE QLD residents, is the EzyGreen program.

The program offers residents, both renting & owner occupiers, multiple opportunities to save money & reduce their energy consumption long term. The State has partnered with several well known organisations and companies to offer discounted consumer goods, solar power, solar hot water & financial support.

It's a simple program, with a simple aim, to help Queenslanders become more energy efficient. So to see what is on offer to you, just visit their EzyGreen website, enter in your postcode and away you go.

Saving Bundles with ClimateSmart

If you live in Queensland and have been watching TV in the evenings over the last few weeks, it would be hard to miss the latest 'Saving Bundles' advertising adorning our screens.

The latest in a series of Government initiatives for Queenslanders to cut their energy usage, it's a no brainer as far as we are concerned and would certainly recommend to take them up on the offer to help reduce our bills while it is still available.

Here is a caption taken from their website to show you what you'll get if you sign up for one of their ClimateSmart Home Service's.

With similar wireless power monitors retailing at around $100 alone and so many other immediate savings to be had, if you haven't already booked your in home service, what are you waiting for? Call them today on 133 600!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Home Renovation Lighting Options - The 5 most important things to consider

When you've chosen to spend time & energy renovating your home, you want to get that 'perfect' look. From the right paint or wall paper, to your flooring and the choice of fabrics for your cushions. Everything has been or will be painstakingly chosen for their colour, their texture or fit with the overall scheme.

So when it comes to choosing the right lighting for your room or home, you will want to make sure that what ever solution you choose, it works for you to highlight all of your choices and ensures that everything looks the same, if not better than it looked in the shop/photo online.

So here are some of the most important things to take into consideration when looking at your options:

1) Functionality - What do you need the lighting to do? For example will it be to provide task lighting over small areas, or does it need to generate enough light to fill a whole room? Or a mixture of both

2) Colour Rendition - Is it important to you or your scheme for the colours you've chosen to be lit as closely to their natural colour as possible? In other words, that beautiful pillar box red sofa actually looks pillar box red, rather than a dark red or Burgundy.  If it is important you will want to be using as much natural light as possible during daylight hours, as the majority of electric lights fail miserably in this arena.

3) Energy Efficiency - Is it important to you to use as little energy as possible? If so, again maximising your natural light in any room will help reduce your dependance on lights during the day. However at night when the lights will need to be used ensure you have chosen lighting that will take low energy light bulbs.

4) Glare - If you are going to be using TV/Computer screens of any kind in your room, then you'll want to consider how much glare your lighting generates and choose their positions carefully within the room so as to minimise the potential for glare. Likewise if you are going to have huge floor to ceiling glass doors/windows backing onto beautiful scenery. You'll want to ensure that any additional light used within the room itself doesn't cause glare on the glass and stop you from being able to enjoy you're views!

5) Cost - Don't make the mistake of buying a bargain light only to find out it won't take energy efficient bulbs or will need additional wires or cabling. Take all of your costs into account before making any purchases and that includes, installation, additional cabling, restructuring work, replacement parts and running costs.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Natural Lighting for Aquariums

We have had loads of people talk to us about using our Skylight Systems to light their Aquariums, not to mention the many forum posts worldwide on the subject. 
So why is daylight so important for your aquarium and why are our Solatube systems such a good solution?
  1. The colour. Natural sunlight has plenty of light in all spectrums, and is not only extremely important for the health of your tank, but will make the many colours in your tank "pop".  Tank owners invest a great deal of money on "Full Spectrum" lighting solutions for their tanks. However these solutions are still not 'natural' and don't emulate a naturally lit enviroment. Sun light has a natural cycle, with highs and lows and cloudy periods. This can only be duplicated by a natural lighting system.
  2. Any Aquarium owner knows that they must keep their tanks lit all day, but electric lighting for your tank is not only expensive to install but extremely expensive to run. Not only this, but the heat generated by electric lights often means you then need to spend money cooling the tank down again. A proper daylighting solution will not only reproduce perfect daylight into your tank without costing a cent to run, but our Solatube solution is also energy tested and produces very little additional heat, meaning you don't have to spend anywhere near the normal amount on cooling either! This has already equated to literally thousands of dollars saved per year for several of our existing clients!
  3. You will also save money by reducing the replacement cost of artificial lighting and the costs associated with replacing the lamp bulbs, as these won't need to be used any where near as often, prolonging the life cycle of each bulb considerably!
Now for the fun part. Some pics & videos of tanks that use Solatubes for natural sunlight!

Monday, 27 June 2011

Energy Efficent Skylights - Why is this important?

When people look for skylights to install into their home, we often find their main focus is of course to add more light into the room and often the only area of concern is whether the product will be leak proof. Whilst understandable, the truth is, these days most of the well known skylight or roof window products are about as leak proof as you can get. So as long as you stick with the well known brands, your unlikely to have any problems.

But often homeowners forget to consider the importance of installing a product that has also been rated as energy efficent.

So what do we mean by 'energy efficent' when it comes to a skylight? There are two main areas to consider when installing any product that means introducing a penetration into your roof and through to your house.

Firstly, as it is Winter, heat loss. We all know heat rises, so as soon as you introduce a way for heat to escape through your ceiling space you risk loosing all of that wonderful heat generated by your fire, heaters or air-con up into your roof space and out into the open air. Of course, this makes it more difficult to keep your home warm and you can end up spending more money generating the heat to replace that which is lost. Not very energy efficient or financially sound.

The industry measurement designed to provide a guideline for heat loss performance for all window & skylight products is called a U-Factor and is judged in units of 2-10, the lower the number the better the performance against heat loss.

Secondly, because skylights filter sunlight into our homes, there can be an additional heat load placed on that room and generally the bigger the skylight or roof window the more heat is transferred. This not only makes your room more uncomfortable but also increases the need for air conditioning or other cooling measures. Especially during the warmer summer months when the sun is at its hottest.

Again there is an industry measurement that helps homeowners compare the heat gain performance of skylights & roof windows they are considering purchasing and this is known as the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient or SHGC for short. This is measured in terms of 0-1, but this time the higher the value the better the performance against heat gain.

Unfortunately Skylights in Australia are not required to undergo the necessary testing to assess their SHGC performance. This means that as a consumer, it makes it difficult to compare most Australian Skylight products effectiveness against heat gain.

However it's worth asking the question before commiting to a purchase and where ever possible, choose a product (like our Solatube Skylight System) that has been tested and can prove it isn't going to increase your energy consumption after it has been installed.

What are you looking for in a Skylight System? What questions do you ask and have you found it easy to get energy test results from suppliers? We'd love to hear from you! 

Monday, 13 June 2011

5 Things to Teach your Kids about Saving Energy this winter

As the weather cools down, it's worth considering that whilst you might be well aware of all the tricks to keep your house nice and warm, your children might be throwing all your hard work out the window! Causing your heating or electricity bills to sky rocket.

No matter how young they are, it's never too soon to start teaching them about how to conserve energy and getting them involved in 'helping Mummy & Daddy save energy'.  Getting to grips with the basics early will not only help keep you stay in control of your bills today, but will allow you to develop these skills further as the children grow and become more aware of the concept of saving energy.

1) Close the door behind you
OK so this isn't always practical depending on how old they are, but the concept is important, especially this time of year. Start with the front door, which often closes from the inside, so it's easier to push closed rather than needing to reach the handle. Just watch for tiny fingers.

2) Use Draft Excluders on external doors
You may not already have these, but they are a fun addition that can teach children about drafts. They are often in the shape of a snake and even if you don't want to buy them, they can be made with your child as a fun activity out of an old stocking, old pillow filling and some buttons for eyes. Each night before they go to bed, get into a routine of 'Putting the snakes to bed' in their home by the door.

Courtesy of
3) Wrapping up in warm clothes
It often surprises me when I come across my adult friends wondering around in their homes wearing T-Shirts and Shorts in the winter, but have their air con or heaters cranked up heating the house. It seems so
un-necessary when a few layers of clothes could be all they need! Get your kids used to wrapping up well during the winter months. Teach them that Winter is for 'Warm Clothes' and get them to dress their teddies or dolls (depending on their age) in warm outfits during winter too. Getting them used to this concept now might stop them from grabbing for the
air-con remote quite so quickly as they get older!

4) Spot the Light Left On!
Ok so this isn't just something to consider during winter, but with shorter days we do tend to use our lights more often during the day & into the night. Younger children may not all be able to reach for the switch themselves, but that doesn't mean they can't be taught to keep an eye out for lights left on. Encourage them to spot any lights left on and if necessary give them a lift up to help them switch off the light themselves. It will help them to learn the difference between a light left on in an empty room and a light left on when someone is using it (which is obviously ok and doesn't need to be turned off, or your could think about installing a Skylight System instead ;-)

5) Wear your rubber boots & raincoat if playing outside after rain 
Not only is this common sense from a 'keeping them warm' point of view, especially if it's been raining. But if they are wearing more clothes due to the cold weather and they all get muddy and filthy, then thats double the amount of clothes that need to be washed & dried! All kids love to play in the mud & puddles, but we can encourage them to be better equipped for this type of play then it really will save time & money when it comes time to cleaning up after them.

As any parent knows, making something like this into a game can really help to get the child's buy in and cooperation. So depending on the age of the child, you could put a board up in your kitchen, with each of the 5 areas listed above, along the top and each child's name down the side. Then award the kids a star each time they do one of these tasks.

A Gold star perhaps, for completing a task automatically (without having to be asked) and maybe a Silver star for doing something after they have been asked.  If they are slightly older with younger siblings you could even award a different colour star for encouraging a younger sibling to complete a task. This is just one idea of course, I'm sure you could come up with more interesting suggestions. We'd love to hear from you if you have found something that has really worked in your family!

Monday, 30 May 2011

Solatube® v 2010 Building Code of Australia

Solatube® Daylight Design: 2010 Building Code of Australia and the 6 Star Ene...: "With the introduction of the new Solatube E-Choice, Solatube Australia is pleased to assist when selecting a daylight solution to meet th..."

Although a little dry on the technical front, this blog post taken from the official Solatube Australia blog, does outline how the Solatube Skylight Products meet and indeed exceed the Australian Building Code & it's 6 Star Energy Rating Requirements. 
Energy Testing Results

If your in the market for an energy efficient skylight or are considering ways to introduce more natural light into your home without increasing heat load. Then this article explains why the Solatube Daylighting System has all the boxes ticked.

Skylights - To Add Natural Light or not to Add Natural Light?

So you have a dark room or area of your home where you spend most of the day either with the lights on, or trying to make do with what little light you are getting.

Most of us have an area like that. Mine is the bathroom. I spent years trying to put my make up on with just a single 60 watt light bulb on.

So what are the options?
  • You could install more electric lights or add some down lights for specific task areas (such as the bathroom mirror or kitchen bench). But this requires hiring an electrician, adding more cables, not to mention the guilt of increasing an ever expanding power bill even further.
  • You could add a floor lamp, desk lamp or temporary electric lighting solution of some kind. But they tend to get in the way and take up space, whilst also drawing more power.
  • You could add a skylight - Wait a skylight? Aren't they hideously expensive and require loads of building work?
Well that really depends on the type of skylight you get. Roof Windows obviously need to be placed in rooms that have direct access to the roof line. They look great, but the installation & restructuring costs can really add up. 

An alternative type of skylight is called a Tubular Skylight or Daylighting Device. These systems channel light down from a roof top dome, through a reflective tube and  into your room via a ceiling fitting that looks just like a flush electric light fitting.

The advantage of these types of systems is that they can be installed by qualified installers or expert DIYers in around 2-4hrs with no building or restructuring work. Also, depending on the quality of the tubing material, they can travel metres in your roof space without any light loss to provide natural light to rooms away from the roof line and even on lower building levels.

There are a lot of different makes and models of tubular skylights on the market these days. So here are a few questions to be sure to ask before you go parting with any hard earned cash:

  • Has the product has been awarded an 'Energy Star' for it's energy efficiency?
  • How reflective is the material used in the tubing, since the more reflective it is the more light you'll get into your room?  
  • How does the dome capture light throughout the day from dawn to dusk? Or will it just capture light during the main daylight hours?
  • Does the product have a roof flashing that has been designed specifically to fit onto your specific roofing material? i.e. Colourbond, Concrete Tile, Terracota Tile etc - A better fitted flashing will ensure against leak problems in the future
  • What kind of Warranty is provided with the product?
  • What kind of Warranty is provided on the installation?
  • What kind of ceiling diffusers are offered with the product & do they have an option to suit your rooms decor?

The 'Energy Star' bit is important since adding more sunlight into a room on summer days can add a great deal more heat if the product hasn't been developed & tested to avoid this. You can also risk loosing heat out of the system during the winter, so it's definitely worth asking the question before you buy.

If this type of product sounds like it may solve some lighting issues in your home, why not contact us to find out a bit more? We can come out to your home at a time that suits you & provide you with a no obligation quote for you to ponder over. You never know, you and your home could be bathing in glorious natural light in just a few days! Problem solved.

Got any questions? Fire away.

What is more important to you?