Heatwave: external blinds under test

Over the weekend Melbourne went through our biggest heatwave so far this summer, and the first real test of my external blinds, which were fitted to the house early this year.

Looking at the two nearest weather stations to me, yesterday the temperature at Melbourne (Olympic Park) peaked at 40.7 at 4:27pm. At Moorabbin Airport it peaked at 41.2 at 3:30pm. Happily by about 6:30pm the temperature had dropped about 10 degrees, but the lowest measurements overnight were in the high-20s.

I was away (in air-conditioned comfort for most of the day), but inside the house on Saturday it got to about 30 degrees. This compares to an inside peak of 33 degrees when I last measured it properly in 2014.

So on the face of it, the external blinds make about 3 degrees difference, which does take the edge of the heat, and combined with plenty of fans can make for a reasonable level of comfort. Fans all night have made sleep perfectly possible, and looking at our power consumption in daytime, keeping the house to 30 degrees while using fans, computers, TVs etc and still only burning 670 kW watts of power doesn’t seem too bad.

Window external blinds

Good roof insulation was installed some years ago, but seems to help more in winter than summer. Other options to explore would include wall insulation and double glazing. (One ceiling fan, suspected to be 15+ years old, also needs repair, as it’s stopped working.)

While they slow down the warming of the house, what the blinds and other passive measures don’t do is completely stop it getting hot, or cool things down. For that I would need actual air-conditioning or a split system, which I’ve tried to avoid, but is an idea I am slowly warming to. (Sorry x 2.) Perhaps to be installed with solar, to assuage guilt about increased energy consumption/emissions. Bear in mind of course the other measures have reduced what any cooling system would need to do.

The Billing Season

Once a year, the planets align, and I get hit by heaps of bills — often all three utilities, plus car rego and home insurance…

It’s pretty much a consequence of having bought a house mid-year (in 2005) and bought a car mid-year (in 2008) as well. Plus other, quarterly, bills seem to arrive around the same time.

Everything arrives around the end of July, and is payable in August or September, then hits the credit card bill in October. Yes, it’s The Billing Season.

Home and contents insurance (for a year) with fairly high excess I may one day live to regret — $639.95

Car registration (a year) — $270.40 registration + $443 TAC charge + $44.30 insurance duty = $757.70, up about $45 from a couple of years ago.

Car insurance (a year) — ye olde 2000 Holden Astra covered for $2900 (hmm, about a third of what I actually paid for it in 2007) plus Third party property damage = $317.02

So rego and insurance together costs $1074, or about $3 a day, even if you drive nowhere (eg excluding fuel and maintenance).

Rates — total this year of $1427.10 (up from $1351.20 last year) thanks in part to the fire services levy — which moved the cost of fire services from insurance to rates… which makes sense; the burden shouldn’t be just on those who bother to insure. First payment of $356.75 due at the end of September.

Electricity — I recently switched to Powershop, which is interesting — you can pay in advance (and choose between different options at different prices) or just pay afterwards like with a conventional provider. It’s quite interesting seeing what specials come up. Anyway it’s currently costing me $3.83 per day, down from $4.82 at this time last year. But they don’t have a fixed rate all year, and costs may rise a bit as summer demand kicks in, though to an extent you can pre-purchase to minimise that. If anybody wants to switch to Powershop, let me know — if I refer you, we both get a $75 credit.

Gas — $464.50 for 61 days = $7.61 per day over the winter, when we use the heating a fair bit, so this should drop off in coming months.

Water — $212.10 for 76 days, but this includes a government rebate of $100. Without this, it would be $4.10 per day. Apparently we’re using an average 247 litres each day. I’m not sure why the rebate has kicked in now… it’s ages since we switched to the efficient shower head, and I don’t recall any more recent changes. Or was that the thing where they overcharged us in the past?

It’s time to buy a new Yearly Myki Pass — the cost these days for the discounted Commuter Club fare is $1395 including PTUA membership — compared to $1501.50 for a retail yearly. Some people saw price cuts in January, but most fares went up by CPI+2.5% (which is a reason to buy your Yearly Pass before December when the old prices stop being offered).

As a bonus, the drains had their biennual(ish) partial blockage, caused by a tree behind my property. The plumbers came and this time recommended a water jet which they say will clear away more of the tree roots. $250 later, the drains are clear again. I’ve got a coupon for a 20% discount next time.

Some costs are more regular: I get monthly bills for my ISP and phones, for instance, mostly processed automatically.

One other trend is obvious: more bills are arriving online than a year ago. It’s not hard to see why Australia Post is in trouble.

I’m not complaining about all the costs above. I do okay in the income stakes. But perhaps I should try to shift things around so they don’t all hit at once.

How long does a dishwasher last?

Just on five years ago my dishwasher door spring broke. In that instance a secondary fault also affected the actual washing of dishes.

Now another door spring has broken. It hasn’t affected the washing – it’s just the door is heavy, and needs to be opened very carefully.

Dishwasher

Repair from Fisher And Paykel is expected to cost $135 for a call-out fee, excluding parts. I actually have the second spring from the pack from last time. I had a look at instructions on the internet to do it myself, and got through the first stage, but after that it looks too hard; I’d risk rendering the machine inoperable.

Given this unit is probably at least 15 years old (I moved in 10 years ago, and the kitchen renovation looks to have been a few years before that, though the house also had some renovation in 1995), I’m wondering what the typical life of a dish washer typically would be.

$135 to repair (if I don’t want a heavy door), or perhaps $900ish for a decent, brand new unit? (I’ve had good luck with Bosch products, and they have several models in that range). Hmmm.

How hard is it to install a dishwasher, anyway? Just connect up power and a couple of pipes? Sounds like it may be worth paying a little extra for installation.

On the other hand, the current one works fine, and it would seem to be a waste to scrap it in favour of a new one.

Future triffid in the garden?

I got my hot water heater replaced with a solar boosted unit 7 years ago when the old one died.

The tank includes an overflow pipe, out of which small amounts of water sometimes drop.

Because it’s only a small amount of water, I made no special arrangements for it. It drops straight onto part of the side footpath and (theoretically at least) drains away.

After a little while, I noticed some moss had started to grow on that section of footpath.

Triffid in the garden?

Fast-forward to 2015, and the moss has grown and been joined by who knows what from who knows where… it’s now a proper little garden — probably of horrible weeds, but still.

I could cut it all back, but I’m intrigued to see how much it grows from here.

If my blog goes silent, you’ll know it really was a triffid.

House prices in Bentleigh top $1 million – I couldn’t afford it here now

I mentioned the other day that it’s coming up on ten years since I bought my house in Bentleigh (hence the flurry of maintenance).

In that time, the prices here have gone through the figurative roof.

Median house prices: Bentleigh vs metro Melbourne
(Source: RealEstateView)

I didn’t think to save the data at the time, but this document tracks median house prices around Victoria from 1998 to 2008.

In 2005, the median in Bentleigh was $501,000. By 2007, it had shot up to $713,750.

There’s a gap in my info for a couple of years, but it got to about $910,000 by June 2010, before rising and dipping and dropping back to about $765,000 in December 2011.

As you can see from the graph, since then it’s climbed steadily: Figures in The Age recently indicate 14.4% growth in the past year, to a dizzying $1,003,000.

So not only has the median price now gone up about a million dollars, but it’s also doubled in the not-quite-ten-years since I bought.

I should note that although I own a house, it’s on a half-block of land, having been subdivided about ten years before I bought it. The rear garden is a mere courtyard, and it’s really only two-and-a-half bedrooms — all of which means I paid less than the median price.

The increase since means I lucked out on a good investment. Not that I’m planning to sell.

But it also means if I were house-hunting now, I’d be priced out of the suburb I’ve come to know and love.

And with my kids almost grown, I really wonder what the implications are for them and their peers.

Will the next generation be stuck as renters? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s nice to have the option to buy.

The alternative is to buy much, much further out, in suburbs with less amenity and walkability.

Bentleigh East is more affordable than Bentleigh, but is less walkable. Although the street layout is pretty good, access to amenities is reduced: Walkscore says 59 in BE vs 75 in B. And BE is mostly well beyond walking distance to the train network. Even then it’s not much more affordable — only about 10% cheaper, with a median price still over $900,000.

As others have pointed out, the capped public transport fares mean that if train/city access is your priority, it’s now better to look down the line than across from it. Think about travel time, rather than distance as the crow flies.

How long to the city? Metropolitan Town Planning Commission map circa 1920.
How long to the city? Metropolitan Town Planning Commission map circa 1920 — See blog post

For instance, along the Frankston line, spend another 10 minutes on the train (instead of fighting your way into the station car park every morning, or battling with hopeless feeder buses or facing a long walk) and you can be in somewhere like Edithvale, Chelsea or Carrum, at a cost of about 40% less than Bentleigh.

I’m sure it’s similar on other lines — though beware of train service frequency. For instance, out from Sunshine is quite good towards Sydenham, but the trains to Deer Park are hopelessly infrequent.

Of course there are other factors such as proximity to friends and family, crime levels, access to schools and shops and parkland.

And it’s still expensive of course. If you’re house hunting, or will be in the future, I wish you the very best of luck.