The central heating stopped working

As you can see, I just love getting up in the roof and having to try and get the heater working.

Delighted as always to be up in the roof messing with the heater

Not that it happens often, but yesterday the heater stopped going. Following the relighting instructions, the pilot will light, but after waiting the specified minute to switch it to full On mode, goes out again.


Waking this morning, the house had cooled to 11 degrees overnight. Some people on the Interwebs with this problem suggested trying again after it’d been off for a few hours, but doing so this morning was not successful.

So I’ll be calling in the service people.

The heater is the wonderfully named Brivis Wombat 92. I assume that means it’s a 1992 model, probably installed in the house when it was renovated around 1995. Hopefully it’s just a minor issue for a service person to get it going again. Would rather not be without it for too long.

Update: via Service Central (a suggestion from Kev on Twitter) I found a repair bloke who could come out today. They replaced the injector and the thermo-whatsit, and the beast works again. Total cost including parts about $320 – which sounds like a lot, but apparently it would have cost even more to call out Brivis to do it.

Going solar – when should I jump, and how many panels?

Pondering adding to the solar hot water on my roof with PV panels for electricity generation.

My last electricity bill says I used up 659 kWh in 92 days, costing $187.61 (only including the cost for power and the 100% GreenPower surcharge; excluding the $76.41 service charge which I’d incur no matter how much power used)… that adds up to 2614 kWh in a year costing $744.32, or about 28.5 cents per kWh.

According to Origin Energy’s online quote (which I’m using as a rough measure, because I use them at the moment and they have a 2-years interest-free deal — obviously other companies may have better offers):

  • a 1.5 kW system costing $2315 will generate about 1971 kWh in a year
  • a 2.07 kW system costing $4315 (which includes a $250 discount because I got the solar hot water through them) will generate 2628 kWh in a year
  • a 2.76 kW system costing $5815 (ditto on the $250 discount) will generate 3626 kWh in a year

Leaving aside feed-in tariffs, and assuming for a moment that every kWh generated I actually use (which wouldn’t be the case), theoretically the 1.5 system would save me $562 per year, taking about 4 years to pay off.

The 2.07 system would pretty much save me the full cost of power every year, but take almost 6 years to pay off.

The 2.76 system would give me an excess of about 1000 kWh of power each year. The feed-in tariff is only 8 cents per kWh these days, so I’d be saving $744 plus another $80 or so, so it’d take about 7 years to pay off.

Some factors to consider:

If I cave and get some kind of cooling system, then my energy consumption will of course go up.

From what I understand, PV panels are dropping in price pretty fast. The longer I wait, the cheaper they’ll be (which is why I’m a little cynical about the ads you see on the telly implying if you don’t get in and order quickly, you’ll end up paying more).

Meanwhile, electricity prices are expected to rise only moderately in the next few years.

The bigger the system, once paid off, the greater potential in future years to make more money back from the feed-in tariff.

But I also need to check how much space I actually have left on the north and northwest-facing sides of my roof, given the solar water panel already up there.

And of course, once I jump in and switch to solar, I’ll be markedly reducing my personal emissions, which will be good!

The noise

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.

They’re not Smart Meters anymore, they’re Advanced Meters

Advanced MeterThey finally installed a new electricity meter at my house. This was after receiving three sets of letters saying “we’re about to install it”.

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.

Plumbing mishap

I thought I’d be clever and change all the washers in the bath, and show the kids how it’s done at the same time. The shower ones were okay, but when we tried to take off the bath hot, it broke away.

Result: nothing to grip onto. I assume the whole bit will have to be replaced, but how do I get it out, given the only thing I can grip onto just broke off? There is a hexagonal section, but it’s beyond the level of the tiles, and inaccessible, at least with any spanner I own.

Plumbing mishap

Ideas welcome!

5:20pm: Have got the hexagonal bit that can grip onto it, but it’s not budging. Have called for reinforcements.

Also got a replacement part, which may or may not match the other one precisely, though functionally I expect it to work — as the lady in Bunnings said, “they’re pretty much universal.”

6:50pm: Reinforcements (my highly talented brother-in-law Adrian) arrived, and with the aid of a longer lever than is supplied with the hexagonal sockets, managed to get the thingo out. We’ve replaced it with the new one, which as expected doesn’t quite match the old one; the thread where the cover thingy is meant to go doesn’t match… but it’ll do the job.

Tap is fixed (thanks Adrian)

Adrian also noted that it’s better when changing a washer to use the hexagonal socket at the base of the shaft thingy rather than a conventional spanner at the top; less risk of breakage.

If you don’t have a highly talented brother-in-law called Adrian to help you with plumbing and other household mishaps, I highly recommend getting one. A highly-talented step-father called Peter would also be able to do the job… but mine is in America at the moment.

Also thanks to Dean from the Twittersphere, for the tip on getting the hexagonal sockets. (Three cheers for the #LazyWeb!)

PS. Adrian also told me something I’ve believed for ages: don’t tighten a tap too much. Tighten it just enough to stop the water. Beyond that is bad for the washer; it’ll just wear it out quicker.

The Radiant soap powder advert they filmed in my street

I was at home one day in March when a bus kept driving past every few minutes.

Bus going past my house

They hadn’t opened Melbourne’s most frequent bus route in my street — they were filming an advert for Radiant soap.

Now the advert has been launched.

(via Mumbrella)

I might try it at some stage, but Omomatic has been working well for me — and I just bought two huge boxes of it on sale.

Renovating the roof

Got an attic ladder put in a while back. The bloke did a lot of chopping and cutting, and an electrician moved one of the lights to make way for it. The result is very pleasing, and it makes a real difference to getting up into the roof space.

Attic ladderStage 2 was getting some of the crap cleared out of there, including an old water tank.

Yesterday some insulation removal people came to take out the old loose insulation. It goes everywhere, is not as effective as batts, and is a potential fire risk, so my aim is to replace it with batts. I wonder how hard they are to install oneself?

I need to get the carpenter bloke to take a look at the cornice in the livingroom at the very front of the house. Something’s causing it to bow.

Also up there will be replacement of the current halogen kitchen downlights, perhaps with LEDs — these StarLux LEDs look pretty good, though it’ll cost 6 x $44.95 = $270. Will shop around. Eventually the longer life of the LEDs plus the much lower power (almost 90% less) would help reduce the overall cost. Doing that would allow me to get rid of an extraneous light in the kitchen, as well.

Wondering as well about getting the heating serviced. It’s apparent that there are some holes in some of the ducts that could do with patching, and I wonder how old the heater is (a Brivis “VR800A 1160″).

Anyway, once the roof is sorted out, storage space will be available up there to clear out the back room and turn it into a (smallish) bedroom for Jeremy. Which was the plan all along. Hopefully now it’s actually starting to happen.

PS. Here’s the truck they use to suck out the old loose insulation. Basically a big vacuum cleaner.

Big vaccuum cleaner (insulation removal truck)


Flooded railway near ToorakTrip home last night in the pouring rain was interesting. Train was very slow going between Hawksburn and Malvern, as much of the rail line in the cutting was underwater.

As the train departed Ormond, we saw the subway was flooded. On arriving at Bentleigh we waited about 20 minutes for the rain to subside. The exit itself had a minor flood (a couple of inches) but thankfully the rain had virtually stopped for the walk home, so all that got wet was my shoes and feet.

A short time later the whole Frankston line was suspended, so we may have caught one of the last trains out of the city. At one stage 9 out of 16 lines were suspended, and there were widespread disruptions to the tram network (yet almost no information about which lines were affected… grrr).

Getting home, the neighbours said they had a blocked gutter causing drips in the livingroom. Then we discovered a similar story at my place in the small back (spare for now) room — looked like the gutter above the back porch had overflowed. I got up on the roof this morning to check… the gunk in there may have contributed, along with the drains.

Gully trap almost fullIt appears that the heavy rain the drains backed-up. The gully trap is certainly close to full, and another neighbour says it used to occasionally happen 20ish years ago, so she reckons if it doesn’t rain heavily again today it’ll clear.

Given the disruptions, I’m waiting for someone to proclaim this is another one of those “once in 100 years” storms we’ve been having recently.