Solar panels are up!

30 08 2013

It took two months from signing the contract to getting our solar panels installed. A lot of stuff happened in between, so it’s not like anyone was slacking off in that time (that’s what you get for government [federal and state] intervention and approvals…). I took some progress photos today as the three guys did the installation. I didn’t think the installation would happen as the weather forecast for today was for storms, heavy rain, and strong — even gale force — winds.

But the guys turned up on time at 8 am (that got them 10 big gold stars from me, right there!) and got straight into the job. They were all done and about to drive out around 2:30 pm just as the storm hit, so they were able to work on the metal roof without having to deal with the slipperiness that rain would have caused. But they did have to deal with the wind, which fortunately was coming from the opposite direction to the side of the shed they were working on.

We have a BIG shed (about 6 m x 12 m), and there’s lots of room inside for things like the inverter. There’s also an electrical sub-board there too, so it was easy peasy for them to install the 20 panels on the shed. They installed them in landscape mode, not portrait like most installations, as the roof space on top of the shed meant they could get the 20 panels installed evenly and neatly that way.

Oh, and they earned another 10 gold stars for cleaning up after themselves (roof, driveway, inside the shed… though they lost a couple for not cleaning up after themselves in the shed’s toilet…), and some more gold stars for being friendly and polite and explaining everything I asked about (and anyone who knows me knows that I would have asked LOTS of questions!). And another set of gold stars for removing an old (unused) TV antenna from the shed that they said would cast a shadow on one panel in summer, reducing its efficiency — so even though removing that antenna wasn’t part of their brief, they did it for me at no extra charge. One final set of gold stars was for them not having to turn the power to the house off at ANY stage of the installation. The only power outage we had during this whole process was for about 10 to 15 minutes some weeks ago when Western Power swapped out the main electricity meter.

Even in the short time between the system being turned on this afternoon and the storm hitting, we were producing more electricity than we were using — and that was on quite an overcast day. Of course, the proof will be in the next couple of electricity bills, which should be substantially less than the current $250 to $300 per month that they are now.

Here are progress photos of the shed before installation, during installation, and when it was all done:


Eastern side of the shed first thing this morning; the main shed roof is the one at the greater angle — the lower sloped roof in front is the roof of the boat/caravan/car bay at the side of the shed


First of the rail holders getting installed. The weather was good then — just windy.


No tradie bum crack! Extra gold stars for that! Note the height of the vent pipe…


German-made Conergy (division of Bosch) solar panels all stacked and ready for us


Initial stage of the inverter installation. First they had to install the board it was mounted on…


Now the rails. I like how they used fluoro coloured string for getting their lines straight – much easier to see than normal white or tan string


Progress inside the shed for the inverter installation





The first nine panels are almost done. Note the threatening sky…


Nine down, eleven to go… Can they get it done before the rain hits?


In this wind, solar panels are like sails…


The boss passing up the panels to the young bucks on the roof. He did all the work inside and kept out of the weather 😉


17 down, 3 to go…


All done!


And here comes the rain… Note the height of that vent pipe now — they cut it down so that it won’t cast a shadow on the panels thus reducing efficiency a tad (more gold stars)

Update (next day): Even with the gloomy, very overcast and stormy weather today, we’re currently producing twice what we’re using. Part of the deal was a ‘tracker’ than lets us know in real-time exactly how much electricity we’re using in the house at any moment, so I know what we’re using and can see on the inverter panel what we’re producing. For example: Usage = 1.4; production = 3.2. Of course, as the days get longer, less cloudy, and there’s more UV radiation, I expect that the production rate will go up even more.

Update 9 September 2013: So far our system has averaged 21 kWh per day, even though it’s only producing a maximum of about 3.4 (of 5) at the highest point in the day (that’s expected to increase to 5 or more in the next couple of months as the sun’s angle changes and the number of hours of daylight increases). I called the providers of the system and the chap on the phone answered heaps of my questions:

  • Yes, the solar system powers our house while it is producing power; any excess that we don’t use is sent to the grid. At night and when the output is low (overcast, low light), of course, we’re taking from the grid.
  • It’s far better for us to use power during the day when it’s effectively ‘free’ than at night. So, doing laundry, cooking etc. are all better done during the day. And in summer or the depths of winter, it will be better to turn on the air conditioning in the morning to cool/heat the house for ‘free’ and thus not expend as much energy getting hot house cool (or vice versa) later in the day. Working from home helps too, as our computer use will mostly be in daylight hours (though I have a server that’s on 24/7, so only some of its power usage will be ‘free’).
  • Over 12 months, a 5 kW system like ours should average 20 kWh (20 Western Power units) — some months will be much more, some much less, but on average 20 kWh per day is expected to be the average. Based on our pre-solar usage of around 31 to 34 units per day, that means that effectively about 2/3 of our daily power will be produced by the system. We may not use all those 20 units per day, of course, so there will still be a bill, which I was expecting — I knew the 5 kW system would not cover ALL our usage.
  • He also confirmed that hot days don’t equal best production. In fact, on very hot days the system is less efficient than on days around 25C. The system uses UV light, not heat to generate power.
  • Our optimum production time in summer is likely to be around 10 am as our system faces east and is at a low angle. So he encouraged us to do as many powered activities as possible in the mornings, if we could.
  • And no, we shouldn’t feel guilty any more about turning on the air con in summer or winter! That’s not to say we should waste power, but more that we should take advantage of the optimum times to use power so that we use as much as possible that’s ‘free’.

Update 31 August 2015: Two years on…

  • Total kWh produced since installation = 14884, which averages out at 20.36 kWh per day throughout the year — rain, hail, or shine. Right on track with expectations.

Update 30 August 2016: Three years on…

  • Total kWh produced for the past 12 months = 7359, averaging out at 20.1 kWh per day for the past 12 months. Again, on track with the expected average output. And this year, we’ve had quite a wet, cloudy winter — much more so than the past two years, so that may be why the average is down just a tad.
  • Total kWh produced since installation = 22243, averaging out at 20.29 kWh per day since installation.

Update 30 August 2017: Four years on…

  • Total kWh produced for the past 12 months = 7542, averaging out at 20.66 kWh per day for the past 12 months. Again, on track with the expected average output.
  • Total kWh produced = 29785, averaging out at 20.38 kWh per day since installation.

Update 30 August 2018: Five years on…

  • Total kWh produced for the past 12 months = 5748, averaging out at 15.74 kWh per day for the past 12 months. In addition to a wet and quite cloudy winter and a very mild summer, one of the isolators was faulty for up to 8 months, not the couple of months I’d thought. When I checked the electricity bills, the number of renewable units fed back into the grid dropped dramatically around January 2018, which indicated that the system wasn’t producing as expected.
  • Total kWh produced since installation = 35533, averaging out at 19.45 kWh per day since installation, so just a tad under the expected 20 kWh, despite the fairly big drop this year. This should go back to average next year, because the faulty isolator has been replaced and the output from both arrays is now similar.

Update 30 August 2019: Six years on…

  • Total kWh produced for the past 12 months = 7383, averaging out at 20.22 kWh per day for the past 12 months. Again, on track with the expected average output.
  • Total kWh produced = 42916, averaging out at 19.58 kWh per day since installation.

Update 30 August 2020: Seven years on…

  • Total kWh produced for the past 12 months = 7437, averaging out at 20.32 kWh per day for the past 12 months. Again, on track with the expected average output.
  • Total kWh produced = 50353, averaging out at 19.69 kWh per day since installation.

Update 30 August 2020: Eight years on…

  • Total kWh produced for the past 12 months = 7327, averaging out at 20.07 kWh per day for the past 12 months. Again, on track with the expected average output.
  • Total kWh produced = 57680, averaging out at 19.74 kWh per day since installation.

Lemons to lemonade

25 08 2013

I bought a Sony Xperia tablet a few weeks ago, but as it’s so new, there aren’t many (any!) covers for it in Australian stores yet (and the Sony brand cover is really expensive). So I found something on Amazon, but Amazon wouldn’t send it to me as I live in Australia and they class these types of accessories as ‘electronic’ goods. What the…? Off to eBay where I found the same stuff from the same supplier as on Amazon and ordered it just fine. But based on my recent experiences with getting stuff from the US, I doubt the cover will be here by the time I go to Bali next month. What to do?

Make my own, of course! And even if I get the cover for the tablet in time for my Bali trip, I needed something that would hold the charger and cords too, so I really needed a protective padded clutch or sleeve of some sort. And what better way to use some gorgeous fabric I bought in Bali last September.

I didn’t use a pattern as I’ve made clutches before.

I measured twice and cut once, but my first effort was way too short! D’oh! What a waste of perfectly good fabric, though I thought I’d be able to make a standard clutch for my Etsy store out of it later. Fortunately, I had a couple of metres of this fabric so I started again, this time making it longer and slightly wider. I had a bit of left over fabric from the first attempt, so figured I’d make some pockets to go inside the clutch for the charger accessories. And then I had a brainwave! Why not use the first failed attempt as an inner pocket (giving me two BIG pockets and providing even more padding)? When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!

I sewed the little pockets onto the failed attempt, then sewed the whole piece inside the new main piece, then added some Velcro closures to those large pockets to prevent anything falling out when the clutch is open, and sewed the whole thing together. Finally I added a cute matching button and piece of ribbon for the main closure (I didn’t want Velcro here because if I’m on a long flight to the US, I don’t want to disturb others ripping open a Velcro closure — I’m considerate like that ;-))

Every seam in this clutch is completely enclosed (even the little pockets are fully enclosed!) and I used a fusible Pellon batting, so the clutch shouldn’t generate any dust that might get into the tablet. And I made sure the tablet would be well-covered by the double layer of padding — it only just pokes its head out. I now have a clutch that can fit my tablet, two small (about 4×4 inch) pockets, and two large pockets for the accessories, boarding pass, pen, passport, credit card, banknotes, etc.

I was quite pleased with the outcome! (The photos aren’t as good as I hoped — it’s hard holding a pocket open while trying to take a photo one-handed with your phone!)

Update: I never did use this clutch, so it’s now available for sale from my Etsy store:





Tablet snuggled in:



Pockets galore!:






Community Quilt 103

18 08 2013

This was a fairly ‘busy’ scrappy quilt, with an equally ‘busy’ border fabric.

I decided to quilt it in feathers, starting from the centre and working out along the diagonals and from the centre to the mid-point of the sides, with a few extra stems added so that no feather was super large. In each feather, I also stitched a centre spine to reduce the puffiness.

I used a variegated thread in red, blue, purple, green and orange for the feathers and the same thread for the flames in the border fabric.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)


quilt103_03 quilt103_02




Threads used:

  • Top:  Superior Rainbows ‘Carnival’ (40 wt, trilobal polyester; colour #821)
  • Bobbin: Wonderfil Deco-Bob (80wt, colour DB 414)


Community Quilt 102

18 08 2013

This was a BIG quilt — at a guess, it was about 50 x 80 inches. It took me about 6 hours to quilt.

Initially, I thought I’d outline the coloured shapes and echo that in the white, then do some other stuff with rulers. But after doing the first one of MANY coloured ‘diamonds’, I decided that would take way too long, so instead I decided to do an all-over, continuous line design in a cubed meander. It still took 6 hours; had I done what my first thought was, it would have taken well over 12 hours to quilt this quilt.

I ran out of the 1000 m spool of pale blue variegated cotton thread I was using so had to finish the edge blocks in a pale blue rayon thread. I had a hard time figuring out where one thread started and the other finished, so hopefully the recipient will never know 😉

I was pleased with my choice of all-over motif — I think it fits well with the ‘masculine’ nature of the pieced fabrics and the back. I suspect this is one of the quilts the ladies have made that will go to St Barts, a facility for the homeless.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)








Threads used:

  • Top: Wonderfil Tutti variegated pale blue (cotton, 50 wt, colour TU210; Robison-Anton ‘Paris blue’ (rayon, 40 wt, colour 2283)
  • Bobbin: Bobbinfil (white, 70 wt, cotton)


Community Quilt 101

16 08 2013

I wasn’t sure about this quilt — there was something about those bunnies that was scary! 😉 Maybe it was the clown colours or the upright ears, but these rabbits just didn’t seem very friendly.

Anyhoo… My job wasn’t to wonder about scary or friendly bunnies — it was to quilt the quilt that someone had spent hours making.

My first step was to outline and stabilise all the appliqued rabbit features in invisible thread. Once that was done, I just did a simple meandering stipple in a variegated pastel thread over all the other parts of the quilt, letting the bunnies take centre stage. I hadn’t seen or touched pique (?) fabric in YEARS, so it was quite nice handling the pale blue fabric.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)




Threads used:

  • Top: Fil-Tec Harmony ‘Spring’ (variegated cotton [pink, yellow, blue, green pastels], 40 wt, colour 14062)
  • Bobbin: Bobbinfil (white, 70 wt, cotton)



Dam little water

15 08 2013

A couple of weeks ago, we took a drive inland and into the hills and visited a few dams that supply drinking and irrigation water to this fair state. I knew the dams were pretty low last summer, but as we’ve had quite a bit of winter rain, I had expected that their levels by the end of July would be well on the way up. Not so. Most were in an awful state.

We’ve since had quite a bit more rain, but I don’t know if it’s been getting into the dams. If we didn’t have two desal plants operating, I suspect the Perth metro area would have run dry long before now. Not a pleasant thought.

Other than the parlous state of the water supply, it was a gorgeous day for a drive — cool and sunny for the most part, green pasture everywhere, a lot of the early wattles were blooming, and very few people were out and about being tourists like we were. But then, it was a Monday outside school holidays and in the middle of winter 😉 And of course, on such a winter’s day, what else to do but stop and have a nice hot pie for lunch!

Harvey Dam:




Logue Brook Dam (Cookernup):




Waroona Dam:



Community Quilt 100

5 08 2013

Whoopee! I’ve now quilted 100 quilts for the Community Quilts program. Others make the tops, yet others sandwich the tops, batting, and backing together and pin baste them ready for me to quilt, then when I’m finished the quilting (i.e. stitching the three layers together with some fancy threadwork ;-)), still more people sew on the binding before these quilts are donated to charitable organisations. I donate my time, my expertise, and my thread.

I wanted the 100th quilt to be a bit special, so I chose this stunning red, black, and white one from the most recent bundle. I decided to ‘custom’ quilt it, with different motifs in each block, different colours, various ruler work, etc. It took me about 12 hours to quilt this quilt from beginning to end.

I started by stitching in the ditch around all the blocks (what fun — NOT! — but it had to be done), then around all the centre pieces of each block to hold everything down and stabilise the quilt for quilting. Then I did all the stitching in red, followed by all the stitching in black, then finally all the white stitching, before finishing with a charcoal grey thread in the sashing strips and the large borders.

Deciding how to quilt each block was the hardest bit. Some designs immediately sprang  out, but others I agonised over for a while — I even read and reviewed two books while waiting for the inspiration to come for these blocks 😉 I was pleased with all the blocks, but some more than others. And if I did something similar again, I’d stabilise the borders with a light basting stitch fairly early on as the heavy stitching in the blocks meant that the borders got a bit puffy and unmanageable.

(Click on a photo to view it larger; note: it was a windy day when I took these photos AND I was using the camera on my new tablet, which means that some photos are not as crisp as I would’ve liked)











Borders and sashing — large and small spirals joined by a single centreline stitch:



Threads used:

  • Top: Red: Robison-Anton ‘Tuxedo Red’ (rayon, 40 wt, colour 2420); Black: Robison-Anton ‘Jet Black’ (rayon, 40 wt, colour 2632); White: Fil-Tec Glide ‘White’ (trilobal polyester, 40 wt, colour 10000); Charcoal: Floriani (rayon?, 40 wt, colour PF488)
  • Bobbin: Bobbinfil (white and black, 70 wt, cotton)


Community Quilt 99

5 08 2013

This quilt was very dark and sombre, so I sparked it up a little by stitching it with a variegated thread in blue, green, purple, and yellow. I used an all-over continuous line quilting design — the squared-off variation of the headband motif I use a lot.

There was only one problem with this quilt — I don’t think the navy backing fabric had been pre-washed, as I got all sorts of staining over my Sweet Sixteen table overlay. It is particularly bad where pins have lightly scratched the overlay as the staining is in those grooves. I’ve tried a couple of cleaning options with no effect as yet….

(Click on a photo to view it larger; note: photos not super clear — I’m still trying to get used to the camera on my new tablet)





Threads used:

  • Top: Superior King Tut ‘Cairo’ (40 wt, cotton, colour #932)
  • Bobbin: Bobbinfil (black, 70 wt, cotton)


Community Quilt 98

5 08 2013

I had to put my new ruler skills into practice, so I quilted this colourful quilt with wonky stars in a variegated pink/purple thread. After doing the plain blocks, I then did the same with the multi-coloured blocks, then added a little centre flower to each of the blocks to beat the puffiness and lumps into submission.

I sewed free motion stars in a light mauve thread in the border, and did a little bit of scallop work in the sashing border, with a little flame coming out of the dip.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)




Threads used:

  • Top: Superior King Tut ‘Egyptian Princess’ (40 wt, cotton, colour #947); Isacord (40 wt, trilobal polyester, colour Fb 3040)
  • Bobbin: Bobbinfil (white, 70 wt)


Yummy frypan vegetarian ‘lasagne’

4 08 2013

I would have linked to this recipe from Kirsty Carre had I been able to find it on, but it wasn’t there. It was published in ‘Eating In’ section of The West on Thursday 1 August, and I made it on Friday night. There was WAY more than the two of us could eat (I noticed it ‘Serves 6’ later…), so I packaged some up into takeaway containers and froze it for future ready-to-heat meals. As per usual, I adapted the recipe a bit 😉

I’d like to thank Kirsty for this recipe — it’s a winner and SO easy to make. And it tastes darned good too! And no fiddling about with lasagne sheets and layers 😉

Serves 6

  • 1 x 250 g frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2 cups ricotta, drained (you could get away with 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 500 g spinach and ricotta ravioli (I substituted spinach and ricotta agnolotti and it was fine)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (I just used a tiny squirt)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped (we don’t eat garlic, so I added 3 chopped dried chillis instead)
  • 700 g bottle tomato passata
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella
  1. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible from the thawed spinach and set aside in a small bowl. In another bowl, mix the ricotta and parmesan together; if it’s too thick, add a splash of milk to thin it a little. It should be like a paste, NOT runny.
  2. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add the pasta and cook for the required time.
  3. Gently heat the oil in a deep-sided frypan (one with a heatproof handle if you decide to put this under the grill). Add the garlic (and/or chilli), then the tomato passata. Stir.
  4. Drain the pasta, scatter it over the sauce and lightly stir it through the sauce.
  5. Top with the spinach, then the ricotta/parmesan mix, then the mozzarella.
  6. EITHER: put the lid on the frypan, turn the heat down to low and cook until the cheese melts on top; OR place the frypan under the grill for a few minutes to melt and lightly brown the mozzarella.