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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
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.

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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
General

Coronavirus in Australia – March, 2020

Wow, what a whirlwind time of the month it has been. With the Coronavirus spreading throughout the world and all the anxious and worried people. It is hard to not have a little worry. This month and indeed the months to come will be a period that’ll likely be ingrained into our lives for the rest of our lives.

At the moment in Australia, it still feels relatively safe in a regional City, but for those in capital cities, I do feel for them. It’s really taken off in the capitals such as Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

In recent weeks, I’ve had to step back my consumption of ABC’s News Radio and even the nightly news as too much exposure to what’s going on I felt wasn’t good for my mental health. My strategy to date has been

I feel that I’ve had to take a step back from watching news, sometimes I just switch off and do something else. This strategy for me has been working, I’ve also generally decided not to watch the Coronavirus specials on the TV each night and simply focus on one or two articles from the ABC or check the Queensland Health website to confirm the number of new cases in my region.

So, like with all things in life, we’re all only human and have our limits. I’ve recognised what my limits are and too protect my mental health – I’ve put into place actions that I’m comfortable with.

Categories
General Work / Life

Getting into the swing of 2020

I’m three weeks into work for the new year and it’s going steady so far. I’ve been enjoying my rides into work, despite the terribly hot and stormy weather. Though, I’m very grateful for the rain Townsville has been receiving this past week.

So, a few things have been happening, I’ve serviced my bicycles and have a project that’ll keep me relatively busy most of the first half of 2020.

In the last month, I’ve enjoyed tinkering on the bicycles at home. I’ve successfully learned and subsequently flushed my Trek 6000’s hydraulic brake fluid and replaced the brake pads. This was fun to do as to date, I had put it off probably at least a year too long. Honestly my brakes were fully functional until January when there was no engaging of the front brake. I think, if I was to service my bicycle again, and complete a brake flush, I would be able to get it done in under half-hour.

So, this project that’s going on is we’re getting a shed at home. It’s been well needed with the current shed being a 3x3m lawn looker and it’s looking a bit worse for wear, like it may fall-over in the next cyclone.

It took me about two-months to research the shed companies in and around Townsville. As you can expect Shed quotes can vary in price by several hundred to several thousand. The build quality can also vary tremendously.

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General

Putting my Handy Man skills to work

It’s been almost a month since I last posted here! I do have a reason though! I have been quite busy with Uni. I’ve been completing a 2500 word report for Uni, which I handed in on Friday. So, that’s been a huge burden off my shoulders. Now, I just need to complete a 40-minute online test and then I’ll be finished for the semester.

Other than Uni, I’ve been getting many things done in and around the house. For instance, I’ve fixed up the loose door knobs, mounted shelves, installed a laundry cabinet and fixed my tool bench. Additionally, I’ve installed some built-in wardrobes in the master bedroom and I’ve been hanging some pictures!

I’m now getting to the point, where I can put away most of my tools as I don’t need them every day! There was a point, where I needed tools just about every day back when I needed to put a few flat packs together! I’m actually pretty good at putting together flat-packs, the hard bit for me is they are just boring to do!

Below are a few pictures of what I’ve been up to.

The new laundry bench and cupboards next to our Samsung 7.5kg Washer – It’s black, isn’t it awesome!
Just a picture of one of our internal door knobs that were loose – I think they’ve been loose ever since the house was re-painted by the previous owner before we purchased it.
Our bathroom has a small sink and there wasn’t any space to place our electric toothbrushes – So, I installed one of these shelves – It fits pretty much perfectly in our en-suite.
This is a framed work shirt with some of my marketing materials such as business cards and a key-ring. My family gave this to me as a gift shortly after I finished-up my business.
I was quite happy with this project! I replaced the factory MDF Particle Board with 12mm Playwood! So, the bench is now rock solid and shouldn’t age as quickly as the MDF board did! The last board had badly weathered.
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General

Travelling for Work

So, this week has turned out to be a bit of an adventure. I’ve been working but have been sent off on a conference to Brisbane.

So, I’m writing this post from the Brisbane Domestic Airport in Queensland, Australia.

The conference I attended is one that is for school technician’s in state schools. There were quite a few take-home points, many of which, I cannot share here. Though, I can say, I did learn a few things.

Which is better than nothing at all!

How’s the House Purchase Going?

So, we have passed the date for approval from the bank and my wife and I are both happy with the building and pest reports. Now, we are into the final stages. This week we need to fill in some forms with our solicitor and our bank to make things final before handover – Hopefully, on the Thursday next week, before good Friday!

That’s it for now though.

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General

Back to Uni

Well, it’s well into the year now, almost the end of March and Uni is just about in full-swing for Semester 1, 2019. This semester I was enrolled in two subjects COIT20248 (Professional Skills in Information Communication and Technology) and PPMP2008 (Initiating and Planning Projects).

So, it’s now week 3, and I can say, lots has been going on, both at Uni and away from Uni with work and other events in life presenting themselves.

For instance, with home-life, my wife and I believe we have found the house we would like to purchase. So, we’ve put a contract in and we are currently sorting out the finances for the purchase. So, fingers crossed, we may be moving in the coming month! Hopefully we can arrange for the settlement to be over the Easter 2019, long weekend – which will fit in well with work.

So, as a result of this significant decision, I’m going to drop back to one subject. No doubt, the subjects I’m doing this semester are not the most interesting, though, I have approached both with an open-mind. There are many reasons, I feel like if I was to mention I could get ping-ed for academic related offences. So, I will not mention them here.

So, anyway, long-story short – I’ll be dropping PPMP20008 and looking to enrol during Semester 2 via the Recognition of Prior Learning pathway for COIT20268 – Responsive Web Design. I feel that I should have just enough experience to have a good chance of being awarded my third RPL for my Graduate Diploma of Information Technology.

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General

Internode Website gets a facelift

So, earlier this month, I was visiting my Internet Service Provider’s website – completing my usually bi-weekly check of internet bandwidth usage and to my surprise they have finally rolled out a much needed face-lift for their website.

Below is a screenshot from archive.org of when they first launched the design back in early 2008.

So, they didn’t just leave the website that way until 2019, they did make some minor changes to the theme – The below screenshot is from the 8 February, 2019.

So, above is the last version Archive.org had of the Internode website before their new site which looks to have launched on the 9th/10th of February – Which is a Weekend – So, it makes sense.

The best thing about the new website is it’s clean design and it’s mobile friendly!

So, well done Internode for rolling out a new version of the site. I and I’m sure many other Internoders – Are very happy.

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General

NGINX on Raspberry PI

After self-hosting my websites for about two weeks now. I’ve only got one more site to move across.

Now, I’m contemplating shuffling things around again so that they are all hosted on a Raspberry Pi – which results in a smaller footprint and not being stuck on the limited Synology System. Though, with the Raspberry Pi comes less computing power – which has resulted in me giving NGINX a go.

So far, it’s a bit of a change compared to Apache where things are taken for granted like the ease of setting .htaccess files anywhere you please.

However, I’m documenting my steps as I go and will hopefully put together a guide so should I need to do this again – I know the process and won’t need to spend time searching the Internet.

I’m also finding I have to learn Linux permissions to be an effective NGINX administrator.

PEN Testing