Two mysterious noises have become apparent in the last few months. Both are virtually imperceptable in the daytime, but at night, in my quiet street, I can hear them from my bedroom.
First there was the humming. It started sometime last year. It doesn’t seem to be in the house anywhere – I tried turning off all the power one night at the fuse box, and I could still hear it. No, it’s not coming from the Smart Meter. It might be some way off but resonating with something nearby, as often I can merely tilt my head slightly and I can no longer hear it.
More recently a kind of “gloop” sound has started from somewhere on the bathroom-side of my bedroom. I assume it’s the drains doing something weird, as when it first started occurring, I checked and double checked there were no leaking taps.
Happily neither of these keep me awake at night. But I’m intrigued.
I last did it about 5 years ago, and it seemed to be relatively effective… for a while. But over this past summer, there seems to have been about a cockroach per week popping up, so it was time to get it done again.
I do wonder though if I shouldn’t be investigating (or rather, paying someone else to investigate) where they’re coming from. Is there (for want of a better term) some kind of cockroach nest nearby? Ugh.
In the meantime, I’ve also found for the first time in years that mice are getting into some of the kitchen cupboards. They’ve nibbled away at a packet of flour, and left droppings in one of the drawers. I’ve put down some poison, which they seem to have happily devoured. Again though, I don’t really know where they’re coming from.
On the way back from Walhalla, we decided (at Peter’s suggestion) to go via Yallourn. He said there was a lookout with a good view over the Latrobe Valley, and the power plants, and the road through Yallourn was very close to one of them..
We started off by diverting off the road to a spot called Peterson’s lookout. This turned out to be a long narrow dirt road to a view which, you’d have to say, wasn’t outstanding — but reading up on it now it sounds like we needed to go a little further down the road for the real view.
In any case there was a better more-accessible view a bit further along, on the main road itself. Looking over the Valley, you could see a fair bit of haze, and many smokestacks in various directions.
(Andrew Highriser actually posted just yesterday about who owns which power station.)
We drove on, stopping briefly in the town of Yallourn North, which apparently originally opened as the romantically named “Brown Coal Mine” in 1917, and was renamed in 1947. There’s still a Brown Coal Mine Road leading into the eastern side of town, though the signs seem to have disappeared in favour of the less descriptive C103.
A little further on was the power station itself. It looms, huge, over the road. We stopped off in the viewing area, which has a picnic barbecue, powered by — you guessed it — electricity.
The cooling towers are impressively large.
Of course, they often shows these on the news when talking about carbon emissions, even though (as I understand it) it’s steam that comes out of them, not the smoke from burning coal.
Down the road a bit was an open cut mine viewing area. It’s not hard to see how decades of mining for coal has ravaged the landscape. It ain’t beautiful, that’s for sure.
But one could argue that farms of wind turbines or solar panels or dams aren’t beautiful either. You know, eye of the beholder and all that.
The real problem is the emissions. Yallourn isn’t as dirty as Hazelwood, but as this table notes, coal sits at about 1000 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour over the lifecycle of the generator, compared with about 10 for wind or hydroelectric, or 32 for solar.
In other words, even the cleanest coal is much, much dirtier than renewables.
And while there might be doubts about a single renewable source being able to provide baseload power, other countries such as Germany are using a variety of sources, with a stated aim of 35% renewable electricity by 2020, and 80% by 2050. Impressive stuff, and I bet we get more sun than they do.
Well, I’m getting there.
Last week I had a ceiling fan installed in the livingroom. It’ll help on hot days, and because I have ceiling ducted heating, also helps distribute heat better on cold days as well.
To do this, the old light fitting was removed. I’m hoping it might be worth something — I was never that keen on it, but it does appear to be an original, making it about eighty years old. There appears to be a reasonable market for such things.
In contrast, I really like all the other (antique) lights in the house — except for the kitchen. Of course, now I’m realising that I should have arranged for the kitchen to have a ceiling fan installed as well. And while I was at it, I could have got them to install the heat guards for the down lights in there. They were switched from halogen to LEDs, so not as warm, but still worthwhile to assist with the insulation.
Speaking of insulation, that got done yesterday morning. The old loose stuff had been removed last year. The very hot day or two last week was unbearable. Winter last year wasn’t much fun either. My estimate is that in a weatherboard house with no roof insulation, the temperature would drop by at least a degree per hour if it was cold outside, which made a big difference to the gas heating bill.
So I finally got around to booking insulation back. This document from the Victorian Department of Sustainability reckons the recommended level of insulation for ceilings in Melbourne is R2.5, but I decided to go for R4. (Confusingly, I subsequently found this Federal government web page which recommends R4.1. Hmmm.
The material they used was something called “earthwool” — which unlike conventional glasswool doesn’t cause irritation if handled without gloves.
The installers appear to have done a good quick job, but it was a tad irritating that they’d booked in for 7:30am (necessitating everybody being awake and dressed early) but didn’t show until 10am. Not to worry; I think it’s already made a difference… after they’d finished, I turned the heat on (damn it was cold yesterday).
Gaps were left around the down lights, with spare earthwool to fill in the gaps once I’ve had the electricians back in to install the heat guards.
So, hopefully having insulation back in the roof will make a big difference, and it means the various housey things I’ve been meaning to get done are progressing.
Other projects in progress:
- Sort out the spare room for Jeremy’s use, once the drainage issue at the back of the house is solved (water leaks in the window during very heavy downfall)
- Solar panels on the roof (I already have solar water… hopefully there’s enough north-facing roof space for PV panels as well)
- Fix the rattling laundry window
- A nicer, heavier rug for the livingroom
- Consider external blinds for some north/west-facing rooms to further reduce heat
- The constant tidying and reduction in clutter… have made good progress over the break, but there’s still a lot to do
Memo to self:
- Light globe for ceiling fan: GE Tiny Spiral, 15 watt CFL (75 watt equivalent) x 2, E27 screw
Things I learnt when we lost power:
Take-away pizza by torchlight a bad way to have dinner.
A Smart Meter won’t keep the juice flowing if there’s problems in the local distribution network.
I don’t have enough torches. At least one per person would be good.
The Dolphin mini LED torch I got recently is really good. Will get a couple more of these I think.
Thank goodness for mobile internet, and having a phone that still has a charge in it.
If you’re not sure who your electricity distribution company is, try the list here.
The United Energy Distribution web site is quite good, and accessible via a Smart phone. It shows you maps of the affected area and so on, but is not to be trusted entirely — our area vanished off the list when their estimated recovery time of 8pm passed.
The UED phone service was more candid, with a more up-to-date (?) estimate of after midnight.
The early night didn’t do us any harm. I was glad to get the extra sleep.
Questions I still have:
If the power was off from about 4pm, until sometime overnight (perhaps up to 12 hours)… is the stuff that was in the fridge still okay? The milk seems to be all right (as far as I can smell), but what about frozen food?
PS. Jeremy noticed that some ice that had been loose in a container was still frozen and loose; eg it hadn’t even melted enough to stick together, let alone into water and then frozen again. Which to me suggests all the food should be fine, as (in the freezer especially) the temperature never got very high.
In October 2007 I switched to a fixed interest rate of 7.85% for five years.
It turned out to be a terrible punt. The Global Financial Crisis hit the following year, with interest rates dipping to record lows. I shudder to think how much money I might have saved if at that point I’d locked in a low fixed rate. Maybe there’s an alternative universe version of me who held off in 2007, and took advantage of that.
Even now, my bank’s variable rate is 7.80%.
It wasn’t one of those much-criticised allegedly-defective Smart Meters though — oh no, it was an Advanced Meter. So much better.
Will be interested to see what effect it has on the next power bill.