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.

Argh.

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.