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General

Choosing a Solar installer

Earlier this year I was watching a new documentary from Craig Reucassel, The Fight for Planet A: The Climate Challenge. Now, as I’ve had time to think in more recent years the climate has been something I’ve thought about – more since it’s big on the political agenda in Australia of late. I seem to be thinking it’s a bit short sighted to only be investing in coal fired power stations and to not invest in more renewable energy or sustainable solutions such as a wind and solar – which can be a 24/7 power source or even implementing a alternate to coal power systems such as gas – which could do the heavy lifting. Aside from the environmental considerations, I felt it was a good decision to make in choosing to go solar for not only the environmental benefit, but, the financial incentives there are in generating your own power during the day.

In generating our own solar power during the day we find it extremely helpful in being able to run items that draw large amounts of electricity such as our pool pump and air-conditioners without having to pay the utility company.

Last year in September we had solar installed from a well-known and long running company in Townsville, True North Solar. I did investigate about six alternate solar installers and True North came out on top.

In choosing to go solar, I found the advice from solarquotes.com.au extremely helpful and YouTube channel’s like – Undecided with Matt Ferrell.

The checklist provided by SolarQuotes was essentially the tool I used to narrow down the provider I was happy to go with – Solar Checklist (Excel Format)

In searching for a Solar Quote

I knew from my research that I didn’t want a cheap Chinese panel system. I had heard about how in the earlier days of solar rebates and the feed-in tariff in Australia there was a huge amount of unregulated and cheap chinese panels being installed. Some of which I had read about and found could catch on fire or even have cheap or unregulated isolation switches installed that could catch fire if overloaded.

I found that after you start looking for quotes, occasionally you’ll see an offer for say a $4000 system. Which, if you’ve been in business before – You’ll know that it must be an awfully cheap system to be $4000 installed. Because, from that you would have at least two installers (say at $450 each the day) an inverter $500-$1200, panels ($1000), marketing expenses and miscellaneous costs and profit would be the remainder. So, those kinds of quotes, rang alarm bells with me and should with many of you if you’re reading this. I’m talking about companies like Arise Solar for instance, the ones you see advertised on the TV.

Well, once I knew to rule those out, I knew I wanted a good price, so I looked around for electrical only companies that also had a solar arm, because, being a local to Townsville, I wanted to make sure I supported local where I could.

From the onset with my dealing with companies, I asked for a quality system. To which, many only gave me a quote for a JA Solar system or a Canadian Solar system. Which, don’t get me wrong, aren’t bad but I was looking for more a Q-Cell, Panasonic or LG system. Though, most did provide the inverter I was after a Fronius.

The companies I sought quotes from included, Barra Electrical which I almost went with because they offered Q-Cells which have a similar warranty system to LG panels (25 Years worth of warranty, but LG also cover the labour). Barra Electrical installed the solar at our neighbours property and I quite liked the workmanship and quality of the install.

I did have a competitive quote from Central Solar Services as well but in the end I decided to go with True North Solar. I did seek quotes from other local electrical companies but many only provided quotes on cheap solar panels and inverters – Which isn’t what I asked for in my dealings with the companies.

Why I choose True North Solar

Out of all the companies in Townsville, I knew True North Solar had been around for quite some years. I also knew they did LG Solar which I found through the LG Solar website (If you mention their add on the LG Solar website you’ll get 5% off).

The things about LG Solar that stood out to me was the 25 Year Warranty for on modules (parts and labour). This means that if there’s an issue with a panel – LG will pay for the replacement panel and labour.

The Company – True North Solar also went above the usual level a solar installed would do and recommend that all circuits in the house be put on an RCD (great for your safety) and hot water be installed on a timer.

The extra mile the company went in suggesting to put all circuits on an RCD (Something, I had been wanting done) and installing a timer was enough for me to know this company was the one. The 5 per cent discount was also a great incentive which basically meant I got the inverters for free (or what I would have paid for the solar system alone)

The main thing to consider that I choose an LG system for was the knowledge that we will likely be the residents of our current property for some years yet – We don’t intend on moving anytime soon – Which should mean our payback for the solar system (which is about six years) is acceptable for the investment that solar takes. Because, as much as one might think solar adds value to your house, it really doesn’t but with LG you can also transfer your warranty to the new owners – So, it kind of does but it’s not going to add $1000s to your property value.

The solar system itself cost about $7000 which is to be expected and on the cheaper side when looking at quality system (according to solarquotes.com.au).

The installation

The communication from the company was excellent and it was installed within a number of hours (About 4-5 hours). True North had about 6 crew working on the install, which if you know how much labour costs, that’s allot of crew to have at one job on a residential property.

After the install, one of the installers led me through the inverter, including showing how to shut the system down safely and power it back on. They also connected the cloud part of the system for monitoring and checked the meter for showing usage was also communicating with the inverter.

After the installation within about a week, I received a 25MB zip file with all images of the panels and their serials along with a copy of the invoice, warranty certificates, manuals and a recommended maintenance and inspection schedule. Which I intend on following as close as possible.

As a customer I felt well looked after and setup for solar success.

I would highly recommend True North Solar for their Solar system and their parent company KDP Electrical.

Categories
Projects

Tinting a Window

The other week the security screen arrived for the shed window. So, while installing it I thought I might put the extra effort in and also install some tinting to help control the temperature.

The budget for this project was $50.

As I’m new to tinting I of course watched many YouTube video detailing the process. I determined after watching that yes of course, I’ll need a squeegee, a soapy water solution and a blade.

So, as you can see from the above video, it’s possible to do if you haven’t done it before and as it’s a shed, I knew I wouldn’t mind if there was a minor imperfection in my tinting application.

The tinting I got was 20VTL (Dark Smoke) that I purchased from Supercheap Auto on Special for about $40.

I purchased the spray bottle and squeegee from Woolworths.

The process.

So, the tinting is 3m x 50cm which was plenty for my window which was about 30cm wide for each panel by about 50cm tall. I of course failed with my first cut of tint before even applying it as I made the mistake of not spraying the tint enough – so, it stuck to itself like a huge piece of tape. Not a pretty site.

I didn’t mind failing on my first go, as I still had another 2m to go.

My go at applying the tint – it went down alright – but I removed the tint thinking I had sprayed too much solution – As the tint just kept sliding – Stupidly it would have actually been okay – I just needed to cut it and keep pushing the solution out.

Anyhow, by this point in time – I was down to my last 2 piece of tint. Which I successfully managed to apply with minimal errors in the application.

The end result is below – But, it was well worth-it compared with getting a professional out to do it at the cost of approximately $200.

Before.

Before tinting the shed window

The finished product.

Categories
General

Setting up the new Shed

So, it’s been quite a quick week for me! As I go into the show holiday weekend I know it’s coming at a convenient time. You see this last week the shed has been finished, all rectification works have been completed and I’m currently just awaiting the final paperwork before paying the final invoice (as it was paid in stages).

So, I started on about Tuesday wiring up what I needed with the alarm system and network connection. I installed an AP on Tuesday and a Security Camera on Wednesday. I’m quite pleased with how well and easily the network was able to be deployed to the shed. As I’m running OM3 Multi Mode fibre to the switch back in the house. Don’t worry, I did run two backup Cat5e cables.

But, since I’ve done that I’ve started moving shed items back in – You know such as the typical mower, shovels, paint brushes and power tools that one tends to acquire after completing work around the home for a few years.

You can see my progress below.

Setting up the Shed Creates Cleaning Opportunities.

Setting up the shed has reminded me that I need to try and not keep things indefinitely, but from experience I know that I’ve sometimes thrown things out and then realised a few months later if only I didn’t throw something out. But, now I believe is a good time to cut back on some of the gear I’ve acquired over the years.

To give you a picture of what I had, I had numerous spare ‘jug’ leads for powering desktops and monitors. Numerous cheap ‘Sricam’ IP Cameras that I used before my HiLook/Hikvision system. I also had some old Wireless N routers straight out of 2010! One was a Linksys/Cisco which I think was one of their first consumer revisions.

The Shelving

You’ll notice in the images that I’ve got some really nice shelves setup. I purchased them from a Brisbane based supplier who was able to ship 2 x 2m shelves with a load rating of 150kg a shelf and a workbench (2m long as well) for just under $700. Which, I found to be about a third of what any local supplier was going to offer me on price.

I’m very pleased with the shelving which appears to be of a commercial grade. There’s not one bolt just a safety pin and everything just clips together. So, designed to be quick to setup.

I opted for metal shelving as most of the items we’ll be storing in the shed will all be in plastic storage tubs. So, I’m not concerned about damaging the protective paint coating. If I do find I need to be storing too many metal items on the shelf I’ll likely lay a barrier such as a non-slip mat to protect the surface and help to prevent rust.

If you’re interested in acquiring garage shelving like the ones I’ve got here or the workbench and you’re in one of Australia’s Eastern or Central states – I would encourage you to check out Superrack.com.au.

Categories
Projects

Raspberry PI 12V Alarm System

So, I believe I’ve finally finished our Home Alarm System. I haven’t went for an off the shelf cheap solution. Rather, I’ve opted for a fully cabled and customizable setup using a Raspberry Pi and a PiFace Digital 2.

Hopefully at some point in the future, I will publish a YouTube video on the system so that others could implement it.

Here’s an image of the system.

A Raspberry Pi Alarm System is installed within this box. It’s a 5-zone, networked alarm system with pushover and email notifications.
Above is a basic guide to how the system is configured and wired.

Categories
Work / Life

The Toyota Service Difference – Free Coffee!

So with my work I’ve got a Toyota Rav4 (2018) model that I drive within the region. This vehicle, I’m also responsible for ensuring it’s taken in for a service at the dealer when it’s due (Every 6 months). Which, after going to a few times, I’ve come to enjoy it and wish I could bring the vehicle in for a service even more regularly! Maybe every 3 months as you can get a barista made Coffee and Arnott’s Biscuits! How awesome is that.

It’s made me consider purchasing a Toyota as our next family vehicle.

Getting my free coffee and biscuits while getting the work car serviced.

Categories
Projects

Sealing a concrete shed slab

So, as part of the shed building process the first step was in getting a slab prepared and laid. The concreter, Darren that our shed company had organised us did a great job at preparing the site and was careful around all the irrigation pipes and pool pipies that came pretty close to the slab.

Form work for a 6×4 m Shed

By the time it came to the pouring day temperatures were beautiful – a pleasant 25 degrees each day. Very pleasant but the winds were a bit high – Which meant unfortunately the slab started to dry a bit to quickly by the time the slab had been completed and had started the curing process.

I called the concreter in the afternoon after realising it had started to crack. He said he would be around soon to cover the slab with a tarp and water it down. He came around and wet it down and tarped it. Thankfully, this prevented further hairline cracks from forming.

After discussing the cracking with knowledgeable persons within building industry I learned it’s a pretty common occurrence – even in new slabs. Whether it could have had water put down on it earlier or not it could have prevented them from forming – But, to be honest, they were only small cracks.

On talking with the concreter after he came to remove his form-work, it’s thought the cracking was the result of win drying the top to fast. Which is the most likely case, it was a windy day.

So, that started the conversation with Darren on what can we do to help the slab look new. Darren recommended sealing the slab with an acrylic/oil-based sealant.

So, after agreeing he would repair the cracks on the slab, I would then pay him for some sealant, that I would later apply.

So, on the weekend, I finally got around to sealing the slab after the shed was all but nearly finished – Currently, just a few minor things need to be repaired before the building inspector will sign-off on it. So, as all the major works have been completed, I sealed the slab over the weekend.

The learning process

So, I read the instructions on the side of the sealer, a sealer by Concrete Colour Systems. It recommended a well cleaned slab – I used my Gerni for this. Though, if you have an existing slab you’ll want to complete further cleaning then just a pressure sprayer as you may have oil or grease marks that’ll require the appropriate chemicals/soaps to clean the surface.

If you have the option, give it an acid wash with Hyrdochloric acid, as this will help to remove and allow the sealer to bond with the pores of the concrete. Then water the slab down well to neutralise the PH of the cement.

The application process was rather straight forward, first coat water the sealant down with some solvent – For a 6 x 4 shed slab it was about 4 litres for the first coat with a mixture of solvent (10%). The second coat was just re-applying the sealant in it’s full strength. I used a further 5 litres for the second coat.

So, what’s the end product, well I added a sealant tint – Storm Grey – Basically a dark gray colour – must like the colour of freshly poured conrete. What’s it feat like under the feet – Quite nice, it feels like a lino surface and smoothed out the broom finish – So much so, you hardly notice the broom finish – I’m yet to test the floors after it’s been wet – But, from the small amounts of water I’ve had on the slab since sealing it – It’s pretty grippy on a broomed – finished slab.

Tips:

  • Prepare all your painting products and buy a quality roller with an extension arm.
  • Wear some old socks instead of shoes.
  • Apply the second coat at a right angle to the first.
  • Complete the sealing on a pleasant day – 60% – 70 humidity and a temperature of about 26-28 degrees. High humidity can be problematic with causing bubbling within the sealant as it’s drying.

The finished product with the added 2 Litre Storm Grey Tint.

Categories
General

Tanglewood Acoustic Guitar Repair

So, the other month I pulled out my Tanglewood acoustic to give it a strum. Occasionally I like to plug it into my FX pedal to see what interesting sounds I can get out of it – But, it didn’t work! After doing some basic checks on my lead and the battery voltage I then became a bit more concerned.

So, I thought, well it’s pretty dire, there’s no lights on the guitar’s amp and the tuner isn’t working – Perhaps it’s the 9V battery connection – So, I switched it over to some new contacts – But, it didn’t work. After realising it does appear to be the pick-up issue – I got researching on an acoustic guitar pick-up.

Now the pick-up that it came with is a B-Band Acoustic Guitar Pickup System A3TX (Below). Which I could make out from reading the guitar’s pick-up details. So, after doing some googling I found that I could find it on eBay. Beauty, now I just need to get it shipped and at a $145 AUD it was worth the effort as my Acoustic isn’t exactly a cheap shop guitar.

The supplier I found on eBay was deng8718 who seemed to have a large quantity in stock (at least 20, so it seemed legit). So, I placed the order on the 14th of May and it was shipped on the 15th from SHANGHAI. It arrived in North Queensland on the 29th of May. Not bad considering the reduced amount of international flights to and from Australia during COVID19.

The Repair

Now, I knew I wouldn’t have the skill to install this system without the risk of making an error. So, I asked around with the musically inclined friends I have and was directed towards a man who fixes guitar and used to work at the local music store.

The guy I found to complete my repair was Shaun Ryan a talented musician and repair technician.

When I took in my guitar too him he started taking a look at it as I turned up. Which, I admired the willingness to do so. Within a minute he had the guitar un-stringed and had picked-up on the fact my guitar’s bridge was missing. Which I hadn’t even noticed!

He thought this initially may have been the issue but after installing a spare he had found in his parts tray, it turned out it wasn’t the fix either.

So, it was a good thing I brought the pick-up. After negotiating how long he would need the guitar for a fix, I said I could pick it up the following weekend to which he agreed. He did say he could fix it that weekend if I wanted it back urgently.

The bottom line with this story was I was impressed with the service Shaun offered and the quality of his workmanship. I would highly recommend Shaun for any Townsville, stringed instrument repairs.

Upon pickup of my guitar, he mentioned he re-enforced the area where my lead plugs in with some wood at the back as he found it too be quite weak. I said, great, as I had noticed that when I had unscrewed it in the previous weeks when I was testing the pick-up.

Did I mention, as a customer of his, I also received free pick! Which I’ve been putting to good use this last week.

The installed pick-up

Categories
Projects

Installed Dead Bolt and Door Lock

So, I finally got around to replacing the inside of this door’s key barrel. I went to my local locksmith in Townsville that I use for all my lock needs. I’ve always found them to offer great service and it’s also good knowing I can support local.

The locksmith I use is Jim Roberts who charge reasonable prices for re-keying a lock to suit my key.

Pretty soon, I’ll use them to change the barrels on my shed currently being built.

This deadlock so I’m told is good quality deadlock.
Categories
Projects

SR Suntour Forks – Changing Bicycle Forks on a Trek Bicycle

So, earlier in the year I was riding my Cross Country Trek Mountain Bike and noticed the forks gave way. This mean that I could no longer lock my suspension out or actually use suspension the way it’s meant to be – like reducing road and track vibration and generally absorbing shocks.

So, I took to searching online to find a supplier for the forks.

After inspecting the forks I found one of the names on it was, “SR” and “Suntour.” Knowing that, in terms of MTB forks, there’s really not that many brands that I know of besides Fox. So, I figured it must be a brand name.

After researching, I found Suntour appears to be a Japanese bicycle component manufacturer. Great, now I just needed to find the fork I needed.

SR Suntour Website

So, the SR Suntour website has a great product selector filter – So, I simply found I needed to select my wheel size and my bicycle’s intended use – And it returned my exact forks – Just minus the Trek OEM branding.

So, go figure, Trek and as I found out later, pretty much every sub-$600-$800 bicycle in Australia appears to also use the same brand of forks.

Great, so, I found the fork I need, now I just need to work out how I replace my forks. After watching a handful of videos on YouTube I figured I would be capable of replacing the forks if I get the right tools and support aids – Such as a stem cutting tube guide, new start insert, hacksaw and the appropriate tool for inserting the start nut and crown. Have I missed anything?

If you want a good video to watch, I found this one pretty helpful.

Ordering the Parts

So, I found Cycling Deal seemed to supply a fair few Suntour products and they had good access to the parts I needed – So, I’ll paste in my shopping list below. Thankfully, all this happened before COVID19 so when I was ordering the world wasn’t in shutdown mode.

Did I mention I had a budget also? Yes, bascially it was fix the bike so I can get a few more years life out of it – Hopefully another 4-5 years – As it’s already about 7 years old. I’m pretty good at maintaining my collection of bicycles.

So, the shopping list:

All the components I needed came in at approximately $200AUD

I purchased what I needed from Cycling Deal:

Tools I needed to complete the work was was a caliper, a small toolkit with sockets and allan keys – The type that you can normally pick up from SuperCheap Auto or Repco for about $80. I just use my car’s service tookit.

Mechpro Socket & Tool Set 74pc – MP201K-1

So, how did the install go, it went great – I got the swap over of the forks done in about 1 hour and finished within an hour and a half.

Some images of the service are below:

  • Servicing the MTB on the Bike Stand
  • Cutting the steering tube with saw guide
  • MTB forks mounted in the vice with some fabric to protect the paint
  • The old forks

Would I recommend to the backyard bicycle mechanic or budding mechanical engineer to complete a fork change – Of course, just take it slow and do your research and you’ll get through it.

Categories
Work / Life

The May50k

I am running to leave MS behind! Please support my goal to reach $500 by donating here.

Support my challenge to leave MS behind!

I’m taking part in The May 50K. I will be running 100km throughout May and leaving my limits behind to raise funds for life-changing research into multiple sclerosis! 

There are over 25,600 Australians living with MS and I need your help to leave MS where it belongs, behind us. 

And research is the key to changing the future of MS, so I’ve accepted The May 50K challenge to change lives.

Please make a donation to support my challenge.

Thank you so much!