In ‘Sustainable products’ Category

ReNew Editor, Robyn Deed

ReNew 138 editorial: Looking up – what’s on your roof?

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WHEN it comes to sustainable building, there’s a lot of material to cover, so we’re making our way around the building process, bit by bit. Having previously looked at ‘what’s in a wall’ (in ReNew 132), this time we’re hitting the roof.

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We delve into the various roofing materials and their sustainability, along with the importance of roof pitch, insulation and colour to a house’s thermal performance. We also look at green roofs, with great resources for finding out more on this home/urban cooling option (with a lovely leafy example featuring on our cover).

With 1.5 million roofs in Australia also housing solar panels, it could be argued that our roofs (and communities) are leading the way in a renewable transition for Australia. But that’s not been without its naysayers and challenges, so ATA expert Andrew Reddaway tackles the issues and solutions needed for a successful shift to 100% renewables. It’s a must-read to correct misconceptions about how renewables work with the grid, particularly given the recent blackout in South Australia and discussions around the closure of Hazelwood.

As well as roofs, we also consider windows—or at least ways to shade them. With a warmer than average summer on the cards, it’s a good time to make sure your home will cope as well as possible in the heat. Keeping the sun off your windows is an important first step, but it’s not always as simple as putting up a blind. In our external shading buyers guide, we look at how to get it right: which windows to shade, how much shade, what materials to use and should shades be fixed, adjustable or even removable to avoid excluding the sun when you need it.

Gardens also provide a cooling benefit, and vertical gardens are a way to get greenery in places where that might not otherwise be feasible. Gardening in pots can be tricky though, so we feature two successful examples, with the message from both being to experiment to get the right plants, and that automatic watering is a must. The other message is that the owners love having herbs and greenery right at the back door!

We hope our article on reusing building materials in the garden will inspire you to find ways to source preloved bricks, concrete tiles or other materials to use for both practical and creative purposes in the garden. The author has been working with high school students to build a permaculture garden from mostly reused materials—and we get to benefit from their ingenuity and enthusiasm with some great examples to copy at home.

Of course, there’s much more besides: an EV owner’s insights into charging, including the knotty issue of kerbside charging for those without driveways, DIY wicking beds using a waste product, an introduction to timber finishes, islands leading the way in sustainability, DIY pressed earth bricks, and much more! We wish you a happy and safe holiday season and look forward to hearing from you in the new year.

Robyn Deed
ReNew Editor

ATA CEO’s Report

IT HAS been a whirlwind past few months, with major shifts in global politics like the recent election of Donald Trump as US president and the Brexit vote causing great uncertainty in the area of climate policy.

Thankfully there was a firm commitment from the countries attending the Marrakech Climate Change Conference in November to show the world that the implementation of the Paris Agreement is underway, and the constructive spirit of multilateral cooperation on climate change continues.

While the Australian Government announced ratification of the treaty at Marrakech, it is still unclear how at a federal level we will achieve our carbon reduction commitments. Several states and territories including the ACT, Vic, SA, Qld and NSW are taking the lead, setting more ambitious targets and other mechanisms to combat emissions.

So much uncertainty and change once again highlights the role the community needs to take in not only advocating for effective government policy but getting on with the job. And we need to make sure everyone in the community comes along on the journey.

There is no better example of practical sustainability than community renewable energy. There are now more than 80 community energy groups and 50 projects up and running across Australia. In February 2017, these groups will be gathering in Melbourne for the second Community Energy Congress to share information, develop skills, foster new networks, celebrate success and plan for action. The ATA is proudly one of the organisers of the conference and we look forward to seeing you there. For more information, go to c4ce.net.au/congress.

Donna Luckman
CEO, ATA

You can purchase ReNew 138 from the ATA webshop.

03 Oil 400px

What’s in a timber finish?

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Choose right, prepare well and work with the timber’s properties: Peter Smyth delves into the issues to consider when selecting and using timber finishes.

What are we talking about when we say we are finishing timber rather than painting it? Perhaps the most fundamental and obvious difference is that we care what the underlying timber looks like. We have gone from regarding the timber purely as a functional substrate to using it for its aesthetic properties.

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This has a number of consequences. The first is that how we prepare the timber for the finish is of much greater importance; this includes obvious points such as not filling holes with an undesirable colour, to more subtle concerns such as how we sand the timber. Second, we are often using the finish not just to preserve the timber but also to enhance its look, so the timber and finish must work in a kind of symbiosis. This relationship is at the heart of what we are trying to do when we finish timber and there are a multitude of ways it has been approached over the years.

Timber selection

Not all timber is created equal and through all of what follows it is worth bearing in mind the importance of appropriate timber selection. This is particularly important in outdoor applications, with some species being more susceptible than others to weathering, termites and other forms of ageing and decay. A wealth of information exists in this area; see links at end.

Read the full article in ReNew 138.

metal-roof-master-roofing-aust

A roof over your head

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There are many different roofing materials to choose from, but what are the advantages and disadvantages of each, and how sustainable are they? Lance Turner surveys the market.

IN ReNew 132 we looked at options available for walls when building a home or extension. But of course there’s more to a home than just the walls—roofing is equally important as it not only protects the rest of the building, but also has to withstand the most intense levels of solar radiation of any part of the home, as well as considerable forces from wind, rain and hail.

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The roof must also be able to support added structures such as solar panels and solar hot water systems, satellite dishes, ventilation and air conditioning systems, as well as the weight of people walking on it while installing and maintaining such systems. Plus it’s used to collect rainwater for your home and garden.

There are many different roofing materials available, including corrugated iron and Colorbond steel, concrete, ceramic, metal and composite tiles, slate, shingles and even load-bearing panels such as SIPs (structural insulated panels). Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, each has its own particular look, and each comes in a range of options for that particular material.

Which roofing you go for will depend in part on the materials and the general look of the rest of the home, as well as your personal preference, which may be determined by a number of factors including appearance, the eco-credentials of the material, the range of colours and styles available, the building method (some roofing materials need more structural support than others), the level of maintenance you are willing to give to the roof, the fire resistance level required, and, of course, the location and hence surrounding environment of the home, including heritage or aesthetic requirements of your local council.

The article looks at each material in turn and also considers roof pitch, insulation and keeping your roof cool.

Read the full article in ReNew 138.

vertical-garden

Straight up: vertical garden design

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The last thing you want is to spend a lot of money on a vertical garden system and then have it fail. Jenny and Bevan Bates provide advice and inspiration from their own living walls—five years old and growing strong!

THE inspiration to garden vertically is not new. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, if they are more than legend, may have been an early precursor, built to bring luscious greenery to the ancient city’s terraced buildings. Your grandma’s hanging pots are a more down-to-earth example, as are vines on a trellis.

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More recently, the idea of living walls has become a popular trend, in part in response to higher density living and homes with small gardens. For Jenny and Bevan Bates, their move to a new house with a small courtyard— and a stark black brick wall facing their living area windows—was the reason they started experimenting with gardening on a wall.

“You have to be prepared to experiment,” says Jenny. In fact, their first vertical garden was a failure. “We tried a $100 system, but the pots were too small and it dried out too quickly; it was hard to keep anything alive in it,” she says.

However, they persevered and they now have five vertical gardens providing cooling, colour and herbs, which adds interest to their home. The black brick wall in fact sets off one of the vertical gardens nicely—the colour they didn’t like turned out to be complementary to the planting!

That particular garden was their first success, says Jenny. It’s now five years old and thriving. It’s on a south-facing wall overlooked by the north-facing living area windows—a lovely sight.

They created the garden using Woolly Pockets, a product which at the time they needed to get delivered from the USA (though there are now retailers in Australia).

The pockets are composed of long troughs of recycled polyethylene (PET, from milk bottles for example). That recycled aspect was important to them; “You need to think about the full life cycle; for systems made from virgin plastic, there can be a lot to dispose of at end of life,” says Jenny.

Which plants they use has evolved over time; some plants grew bigger than expected, shaded other plants or didn’t like the position.

Read about their vertical garden in ReNew 138.

replas-brunswick-set

Product profile: Recycled plastic furniture

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REPLAS has been making recycled plastic products for many years, but most of their products are more oriented towards commercial applications.

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The Brunswick outdoor chair and table set is just as suited to domestic uses, and is available with bar stools, bar seats, plus a table which can be freestanding or fixed. The furniture is available in five colours for both slats and frame—black, brown, grey, blue and green—so you can specify them to your preferred colours. The slats are a solid 40 x 65 mm profile, making the furniture very robust. The setting is easy to clean and virtually maintenance-free and should basically last forever.

The stool/seat height is 740 mm while the table stands 1040 mm high. Weight is 20, 25 and 45 kg for the stool, seat and table respectively.

Another neat piece is the Laguna outdoor lounge, which features a galvanised and black powder-coated steel or stainless steel frame and recycled plastic slats (40 x 65 mm) in brown, grey, blue or green.

The Laguna is 1800 mm long and weighs a hefty 80 kg, so it isn’t going to blow away easily and can simply be left in place.

RRP: POA. For more information go to www.replas.com.au

Read more product profiles in ReNew 138.

product-laptop

Product profile: The laptop that never needs upgrading

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Many people have both a smartphone and laptop, and both devices get upgraded regularly when more powerful versions come along.

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The Superbook aims to eliminate upgrading your laptop altogether. While it looks like a laptop, it is actually just a terminal for your smartphone. You download the phone app, plug your phone into the Superbook, and the Superbook becomes your screen, keyboard and trackpad. The app even creates a proper desktop-type environment from the phone, so that it feels like you are using a real laptop.

The great thing is that every time you upgrade your phone, you get a laptop upgrade in the process, without creating the e-waste of the old laptop. Just plug your new upgraded phone into the Superbook and you have an upgraded laptop!

The Superbook also works with Windows tablets, laptops and PC sticks, along with Macs to provide an instant dual-screen laptop.

Basic specs on the Superbook are an 11.6” 720p display (a combined 1080p display and backlit keys upgrade is an option for US$55 extra), 8+ hours of battery life, the ability to charge your phone while working, multi-touch trackpad and keyboard with Android navigation keys, and an optional universal side mount to attach your phone to the Superbook.

RRP: starting at US$99. For more information go to www.getsuperbook.com

Read more product profiles in ReNew 137.

carnegie

Still a clever country

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Energy efficiency consultant Geoff Andrews admires Australian innovation, but, as has often been noted, finds the next step—commercialisation—is lacking. Collaboration, governments and risk-taking could all improve that, he suggests.

I view innovation as change for good, so change which improves sustainability clearly qualifies. Most readers of ReNew would agree that we have to improve the sustainability of our society, so we must innovate. But, how do we do that, and what lessons can we draw from Australia’s sustainability innovation performance to date?

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There is no question that Australia has provided the world with more than its share of innovations, including in sustainability. In renewable energy alone, Australia has led the world in PV efficiency for decades, pioneered many improvements in solar water heaters, and is now developing wave energy. We’ve been first or early implementers of two flow battery technologies (vanadium redox by Maria Skyllas-Kazaco at UNSW in 1980 and zinc bromine by RedFlow). Scottish-born James Harrison built one of the first working refrigerators for making ice in Geelong in 1851 (before that, ice was imported from Canada),and we invented wave-piercing catamarans and the Pritchard steam car. We even had manned (unpowered) flight by heavier-thanair craft a decade before the Wright brothers with Lawrence Hargrave’s box-kite biplane.

Of course, Australian innovations are prevalent in many other sustainability areas including medicine, construction, agriculture and fisheries, but space is limited here. What we could have done a lot better is commercialising those innovations in Australia. Imagine if Australia led the world in the manufacture of solar panels, refrigerators, air conditioners, wi-fi devices and evacuated tube heat exchangers, the way we do with wave-piercing catamarans and bionic ears.

Improving commercialisation would provide funds to improve our budget bottomline and allow us to do even more innovation and more commercialisation. To achieve this, I think we need to do several things.

Read the full article in ReNew 136.

cupolex

Product profile: Reducing concrete use

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Wafflepod slab construction reduces concrete use and helps insulate the slab from the ground, but wafflepods are made from one of the most environmentally damaging plastics known—polystyrene foam. The foam is not easily recycled, especially when contaminated with concrete, so it usually just goes to landfill at the end of the building’s life.

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The Cupolex Building System from Australian Urethane and Styrene consists of polypropylene domes that link together to form the base for concrete slabs. They displace a great deal of concrete that would otherwise be needed, as well as base fill—one pallet of Cupolex units eliminates the need for three to four truckloads of fill.

The system also isolates the slab from the ground, eliminating moisture ingress into the slab from the ground, as well as providing a level of thermal insulation. Less reinforcing material (rebar) is needed for a slab as well.

Being polypropylene, the Cupolex units are fully recyclable at the end of the building’s life, further reducing the environmental footprint. The Cupolex domes are available in a range of heights, although only the Australian-manufactured 260 and 350 mm domes are kept in stock by the supplier—other sizes can be imported on a project-by-project basis.

For more information, contact Australian Urethane and Styrene, ph: (02) 9676 8444, info@cupolex.com.au, www.cupolex.net.au

Read more product profiles in ReNew 136.

Tap aerators and flow restrictors

Wise water ways: At home with water efficiency

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Eva Matthews looks at the gadgets, habits and tools that can help you make the most of our precious H2O.

THE water account for 2013–14 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals some useful facts about our water use at home. Household water consumption for the year totalled 1872 GL—equivalent to just under four Sydney Harbours. And the Sydney Harbour analogy is particularly relevant, as NSW was the highest-using of the states and territories by almost double that of the next-highest, partly because of its larger population. Per capita usage was highest in WA (361 kL) and NT (416 kL) per person per day; Victoria was the lowest at 175 kL and NSW, ACT, SA, Tasmania and Queensland were all in the range 200 to 220 kL.

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In the same time period, this water use cost households around $5 billion, and prices are rising (up around 25% on the previous year in NSW and Vic). And then there’s the fact that, despite Australia’s average rainfall being well below the global average and likely to remain so, we are the greatest per capita consumers of water, not even including the water embodied in the production of the food and products we consume. These stats make it pretty obvious that we are not, as a nation, living sustainably or smartly enough when it comes to this precious natural resource.

So what can we do to improve this situation? Primarily, use less water and make the most of the water we have! There are also national and state/territory-based rebates and incentive schemes (such as showerhead swaps, rainwater tank and greywater system rebates, appliance upgrades, toilet replacement and leak fixing services) to help people become better water savers. Check out www.yourenergysavings.gov.au/rebates for basic info and useful links.

Read the full article in ReNew 135.

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Wicking beds: Irrigation from the ground up

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Seven years ago, when permaculture design consultancy Very Edible Gardens began, they had no idea what a wicking bed was. After repeated queries from clients, they started to research and experiment. Dan Palmer, co-founder of VEG, shares the fruits of their labour.

Prior to our foray into wicking beds, all of our raised vegie beds were either unirrigated or set up with drip irrigation. But then someone whispered these words to us: “Wicking beds… We want wicking beds.” So we started setting up wicking beds in old bathtubs, and using plastic liner in standard raised beds. We set out to learn by doing, our initial intention to prove to ourselves that wicking beds didn’t work. We gave it a pretty good shot, learned a lot in the process and refined how we went about them—a good example of iterative design, where you keep doing what’s working and improve what isn’t, then repeat.

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What is a wicking bed?

Invented by Australian Colin Austin, the wicking bed idea involves the prevention of water loss from your garden bed through the use of a waterproof liner or layer. This creates a reservoir of water beneath the soil and means that, instead of watering from above via drip irrigation, a hose or a watering can, the water wicks up into the soil from below.

This keeps the soil nice and moist. You prevent the weight of the soil from squashing all the water out by having the water sit in a layer of small stones, sand or similar, which can accommodate the water while bearing the weight of the soil. You prevent the soil from dropping down into gaps between the stones or sand particles with a layer of something that lets water wick up, but stops soil moving down. The last essential piece of the wicking bed puzzle is that you need a designated overflow point so that the soil layer doesn’t get flooded and kill the soil life and plants by rotting their roots.

Read the full article in ReNew 135.

A fairer phone

Product profile: A fairer phone

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The original Fairphone was released to address the ethical issues in the supply chain of electronic products like mobile phones. Materials used in many phones can come from questionable sources (known as conflict minerals as mining them finances conflicts in the Congo), but the Fairphone 2 is made from FairTrade-certified materials, making it the most ethical phone out there.

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Of course, with so much competition, it also needs to perform, and the new Fairphone 2’s specifications allow it to compete in the mid-range phone arena quite well. Running on Android 5.1 Lollipop, the Fairphone 2 is powered by a 2.3 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, with 2 GB RAM and 32 GB internal storage, plus a microSD slot. The 5-inch LCD has 1920 x 1080 resolution (441 ppi), 4G, wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and dual SIM card slots.

Another interesting and ethical aspect of the Fairphone 2 is that it is designed to be modular. The individual components are easily replaced by the user, allowing it to be repaired or upgraded instead of being discarded.

While not the fastest phone out there, it is certainly the most environmentally sound and ethical smartphone we’ve seen. Note that the Fairphone 2 is currently only available in European countries, although it is expected to be available outside Europe this year.

RRP: €525. For more information and to buy, go to www.fairphone.com.

Read more product profiles in ReNew 135.

134_enphase_ac_battery

Product profile: AC batteries finally available

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We looked at the AC battery system from Enphase some time back; it has been a while actually coming to market, but should be available in Australia and New Zealand by the middle of 2016.

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What’s an AC battery? Basically it’s a regular DC battery in a case with a battery charger and a small grid-interactive inverter that allows you to simply plug it into your mains wirings to add battery storage to existing solar energy systems for load shifting and the like.

The Enphase AC Battery is a modular 1.2 kWh lithium iron phosphate battery based unit with a rated round trip efficiency of 96% and a maximum depth of discharge of over 95%. Peak output power is 270 VA per unit, so for larger loads you would need a number of batteries, but being a modular system, you just install as many units as are required for the energy storage and/or power output required.

The AC Battery is combined with the Enphase Envoy data gateway and apps for your favourite mobile device to allow control and monitoring of the batteries. If you have an existing Enphase microinverter solar system then the Envoy may already be installed.

RRP: TBA. For more information, contact Enphase Energy, ph: (03) 8669 1679 or go to www.enphase.com/en-au/products-and-services/ac-battery

For more product profiles, buy ReNew 134.

Post-Petroleum Design

Book review: Post-petroleum design

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by George Elvin
Routledge, May 2015
$39.99 (USD)
ISBN 978-1-138-85390-4 (print)

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The author of Post-Petroleum Design was halfway through designing an iPad case when the news broke about the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosions. The oil disaster prompted an epiphany, “How could I put more petroleum-based plastics into this world? … I made up my mind then and there that if I was going to bring a new product into the world, I was going to make it plastic-free.” After developing a wool iPad case, Elvin’s commitment to post-petroleum design escalated. He founded Gone Studio, a design company which pioneers zero-plastic, zero-waste and zero-electricity manufacturing.

Post-Petroleum Design caters to the booming demand for plastic-free products and projects. It brings together case studies of 40 of the world’s leading post-petroleum designers, working across architecture, industrial design, transportation, packaging, electronics, clothing, furnishings and more.

This book is highly readable and is solutions-based. It opens with a historical perspective on oil and plastics, and explains the principles and actions required to move beyond them. It profiles such innovations as bamboo keyboards, buildings and packaging made from mushroom mycelium, electricity-free manufacturing, bridges constructed from 100% recycled plastics and open-source ecology.

“When it comes to architecture, alternatives to plastic abound.” This book will appeal to ReNew readers as it goes into technical details about plastic-free building materials such as algae roofing, bioplastics, insulation made of recycled denim jeans, and hemp. An inspiring resource for design professionals and a soothing read for the plastic-ravaged soul.

Review by Sarah Coles
This book is available for order at
www.routledge.com/products/9781138853904

For more book reviews, buy ReNew 133.

Fonzarelli scooter

Product profile: Sit on it!

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EVs are cool, being clean, quiet and efficient, but the Fonzarelli 125 from Fonzarelli Electric Moto has that extra bit of cool.

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The scooter has a top speed of 65 km/h, or 75 km/h when you press the ‘F’, or Forzo, button (a short-term boost button). The 3 kW electric motor pushes the scooter to 60 km/h in six seconds, and range on a single battery can reach up to 75 km (the average is around 50 km), or twice that using two batteries.

With the battery being easily removable, there’s no need for a charging station or power outlet where you park your scooter—just take the battery with you indoors and charge it there—this also prevents anyone stealing your scooter, or at least riding off on it.

Charge time is around three to five hours, and an 80% charge of the 72 V, 24 Ah lithium ion battery can be had in just one hour.
The scooter features regenerative braking, both when coasting and actively braking. It comes with a 24-month battery and major component parts warranty and 12-month warranty for other parts.

RRP: $4490 inc GST. For more information contact Electric Moto, L4, 53-55 Liverpool St, Sydney NSW 2000, ph: (02) 8283 5467, electric@fonzarelli.co, www.fonzarelli.co. Also available from Positronic Solar, 2/214 Leitchs Road ​Brendale QLD 4500, ph: (07) 3103 6018, admin@positronicsolar.com.au, www.positronicsolar.com.

For more product profiles, buy ReNew 133.

Hydrotherm heat pump

Product profile: Low-cost stainless steel heat pump

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Heat pumps are the most efficient form of mains-powered electric water heating, but even after STCs they can be out of reach for many people.

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Hydrotherm has a range of lower cost heat pump water heaters using Panasonic rotary compressors to provide a CoP (coefficient of performance) of over 4, so you can reduce your electricity use by over 75% compared to a resistive element hot water system.

There are models available with either 150 or 275 litre tanks. To work out which model you need you can simply use the online system selector by choosing the number of bedrooms and bathrooms your home has and your hot water usage needs.

The systems come with a 2 mm thick 304 grade stainless steel tank with a huge 15-year warranty, with a five-year warranty on the rest of the system. Operating ambient temperature range is -5 °C to 45 °C.

One drawback we can see with these units is that, being a Queensland company, the systems are not available everywhere in Australia. The refrigerant R417a also has a relatively high global warming potential.

The units start at around $995 after STCs are deducted. For more information and to buy, contact Aquatech Solar Technologies Pty Ltd, 94-96 Kortum Drive, Burleigh Heads QLD 4220, ph: 1300 769 904, info@hydrothermhotwatersystems.com.au, www.hydrothermhotwatersystems.com.au

For more product profiles, buy ReNew 132.

Trimetric display

Product profile: Advanced battery monitoring

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If you have a battery-based renewable energy system then adequate battery monitoring is important. Just reading battery voltage isn’t enough to tell you what is happening to the battery through each charge/discharge cycle.

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The Trimetric TM-2030-A battery system monitor from Bogart Engineering provides important information on your battery bank condition, including battery capacity remaining, displayed as a percentage (based on amp-hour monitoring, not battery voltage).

Other information displayed includes battery charging or discharging (displayed in amps or watts), battery voltage (the meter can handle voltages from 9 to 75 V and capacities from 10 to 10,000 Ah), the days since the batteries were last fully charged and the days since the batteries were last fully equalised.

Another interesting function is the replaced percentage of charge display, which shows how much energy the battery has received compared to the most recent discharge, so you can ensure the battery bank is receiving appropriate levels of input.

There is also an audible low battery alarm, based on volts and the capacity monitoring, which can be silenced. The unit also logs data for the last five charge/discharge cycles to allow easier diagnosis of system problems.

Available from Australian Solar Industries, PO Box 21, Laidley QLD 4341, ph: (07) 5465 2218, www.australiansolar.com.au. Also see www.bogartengineering.com/content/trimetrics.

For more product profiles, buy ReNew 132.

Red-circle-SHW

Product profile: Heat exchange SHW systems

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Because the potable water is stored directly in the main tank, most solar hot water systems have to be regularly boosted to high temperatures to eliminate any possible legionella threat. This wastes energy and can mean that, in cooler climes, you have a solar-boosted electric system rather than electric-boosted solar.

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Red Circle Solar’s range of evacuated tube solar water heaters use open-vented (unpressurised) storage tanks with a copper heat exchange coil inside. This enables mains-pressure potable water to be heated as it passes through the heat exchange coil without any possibility of legionella contamination, eliminating the need for regular boosting.

The systems come with 200 or 250 litre stainless steel tanks and 24 or 30 evacuated tubes respectively. Being close-coupled systems, they work on thermosiphon, so there are no pumps required, simplifying the system and reducing costs and maintenance.

The systems can be connected to a wood heater for backup, but also have a 2.4 kW electric booster element should it be needed. Warranties are 10 years on tank, manifold, evacuated tubes and frame and two years on all electronic components and float valves.

RRP: $1749 for the 200 litre model, $1999 for the 250 litre unit, plus delivery. For more information, contact Red Circle Solar, Victoria, info@redcirclesolar.com.au, www.redcirclesolar.com.au

For more product profiles, buy ReNew 131.

Sol laptop open

Product profile: a real solar laptop

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We have seen a number of half-hearted attempts to make portable solar computing devices, but most of them have solar panels that are a token effort at best.

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The Sol laptop takes solar power a little more seriously, with a solar panel that can charge the laptop in around 2.5 hours in ideal conditions (expect longer in actual use). The detachable panel folds up into a hard shell cover that is part of the laptop’s screen, so the whole unit is self-contained.

The Sol is available in three models—Sol, Sol M, and the Sol S, also known as the SuperSol due to the higher specifications. All models are available in a range of colours.
Each model has different specifications and differing options, such as RAM and hard drive upgrades. CPUs range from the dual-core, 1.86 GHz Intel Atom D2500 through to the dual-core, 2.39 GHz Celeron N2820. Memory ranges from 2 GB to 8 GB, depending on model and options, and the hard drive is 320 or 500 GB.

The laptops come with several operating system options—Ubuntu Linux, Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Other features include all the usual ports, camera, HDMI out, 3G/4G modem, GPS, wi-fi and Bluetooth, with graphics set at 1366 x 768 on the 13.3” LCD.

Available from G-Layer, PO Box 187, Byron Bay NSW 2481, ph: 1800 181 565, info@g-layer.com.au, www.g-layer.com.au. Also see www.solaptop.com

For more product profiles, buy ReNew 130

P-series-inverter

Product profile: new grid-interactive inverter range

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It seems that there’s a vast range of grid-interactive inverters to choose from nowadays, and that range just increased with the P series inverters from SolarMax.

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The range consists of five new models—2000P, 3000P, 4000P, 4600P and 5000P, all of which have a 120 to 600 VDC input voltage range. The transformerless inverters have been optimised to deliver maximum energy efficiencies of up to 98%. The three largest models have dual maximum power point tracking inputs that can be operated in either dual or single tracker mode, making the inverters suitable for split solar arrays with different orientations.

The inverters use passive cooling, so there are no fans to worry about, and owners can monitor the performance of their PV system using the web- and app-based application MaxView by simply connecting the inverter to any standard internet router using an ethernet interface.

All SolarMax P series inverters are battery ready and may be upgraded at a later stage with the addition of the P-Battery upgrade kit. This offers owners the ability to incorporate storage systems without the need to replace the inverter itself.

RRP: POA. For more information contact Sputnik Engineering Australia & NZ, Level 13/Office 1329, 167 Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000, ph: (02) 8667 3168, info-au@solarmax.com, www.solarmax.com/au/en/

Ecoboxx

Product profile: Portable solar generators

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When most people think of portable power supplies, they think of a genset. But gensets require maintenance and fuel, and are quite polluting, especially when run at low loads, as most are for a large percentage of their runtime.

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Ecoboxx provide a great alternative with their portable solar power systems. Just set up the panel, connect it to the main Ecoboxx unit and you are done.

There are three models—the 160, 600 (to be released in August) and the 1500. They feature 100, 600 and 1500 watt inverters respectively, with the two larger models having sinewave outputs. Storage capacities are 13 Ah and 45 Ah at 12 V for the 160 and 600 respectively using sealed AGM batteries. The Ecoboxx 1500 can use batteries from 100 Ah to 300 Ah, but it is supplied without a battery as standard. To make the most of the solar panels, the Ecoboxx 1500 also features a MPPT solar charge controller.

The solar panels for each unit are rated at 20, 80 and 130 watts respectively (the 1500 can handle up to 300 watts in total) and each Ecoboxx comes with a 3W LED bulb and lead set, and an AC charger, for when you need to charge the unit from mains power.

RRP: $299 for the Ecoboxx 160 and $1299 for the Ecoboxx 1500. The 600 will be priced around $800 when released. For more information and to find your closest dealer, contact Ecoboxx, ph: (02) 9724 3344, info@ecoboxx.com.au

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