In ‘Sustainable products’ Category

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.


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, Also see

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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.


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,,

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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.


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,, Also see

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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.


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,,


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.


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,

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Product profile: Certified electric scooter

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Weve seen a few electric scooters aimed at the daily commuter, and the latest in the pack is the Taiwanese-made SWAP SW2, available through Spruce Electric. The SW2 has been designed specifically for the Australian market and has passed testing to ensure compliance with all relevant Australian Design Rules.


The scooter features a 3.6 kW brushless DC motor coupled to a continuously variable transmission, all powered by a removable 48 V, 45 Ah LiFePO4 or lithium ion battery. Maximum speed is limited to 50 km/h (as it is classed as a scooter), acceleration is quite good, reaching 30 km/h in 3 seconds, and the scooter can handle inclines of around 23 degrees. Brakes are hydraulic disk (front) and drum (rear).

Real-world range is said to be up to 70 km, depending on rider’s weight, riding style and road conditions, and the scooter can handle payloads of up to 150 kg. Scooter weight is 120 kg and it measures 1812 x 850 x 1050 mm.

RRP: $4490 inc GST. Available from Spruce Electric, 25 Vineys Lane, Dural NSW 2158, ph: (02) 8007 4787,,


Product profile: A very portable solar oven

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We have looked at a lot of solar cookers over the years, but the GoSun Stove is the first to be based on an evacuated tube.


The oven consists of a 610 mm long evacuated tube with a 58 mm internal diameter and 76 mm external diameter. Inside this you slide a cooking tray which holds the food to be cooked or liquid to be heated. The tube is mounted between a pair of folding parabolic reflectors that concentrate the sunlight onto the tube, but also fold up to protect the tube when not in use. A carrying handle also doubles as support legs for adjusting the oven to face the sun.

The GoSun can accommodate up to 1.4 kg of food or 1.6 litres of hot beverage. It has an estimated heating capacity of 230 watts and can reach temperatures as high as 371 °C. Meals can be ready to eat in as little as 10 minutes.

There will also be a GoSun Mini, a more compact version for camping and similar uses.
The GoSun Stove comes with a two-year warranty on the tube which covers the cost of a replacement tube regardless of how it gets broken! The other components are guaranteed from manufacturing defects for one year.

RRP: US$279, $129 for the Mini. The GoSun Stoves will be released early 2014, but are available for pre-order now. For more information and to order go to


Product profile: Portable power without the fumes

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The need for a portable power source for off-grid, intermittent use is quite common, but most people resort to a petrol or diesel generator. Aside from the fumes, noise and hassle, gensets are about the most expensive way to generate electricity there is.


The Yeti1250 portable solar-powered generator from Goal Zero is designed to provide power for temporary low-demand applications such as caravans, motorhomes, camping, sheds and shacks.

It consists of an enclosure housing a 100 Ah sealed lead-acid battery, a 12 V 20 A MPPT charge controller and a 1200 W inverter. Included in the package is a roll cart for easy portability, two 30 W solar panels, carry bag and cables. Also available is a second battery kit (including connectors) to double the storage capacity, a solar add-on kit that includes two 30 W panels, carry bag and cables, and a tripod for mounting four panels. Maximum solar array size is 240 watts.

There are two 10 A solar charging ports and a 20 A power socket charging port. Outputs include two 220 VAC power sockets, several different 12 V port options and three USB ports.

RRP: $2200 for the Yeti1250 kit, $620 for the additional solar kit, $417 for the battery kit and $170 for the solar tripod. Available in Australia from Off-grid Energy, ph: 1300 334 839,,

Compulab server

Product profile: Ultra low-power server

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Servers are usually large, ugly computers that suck electricity like there’s no tomorrow. Reliability and processing power is usually prioritised over energy efficiency, but it doesn’t have to be that way.


CompuLab has a reputation for making amazing, tiny computers with very low energy consumption. They have recently expanded their range with the uSVR, a beefy little server suitable for a great many uses.

Features include a completely fanless, all-metal case measuring just 60 x 160 x 260 mm, Celeron or Intel Core-i7 processor, up to 32 GB ECC RAM, four internal 2.5” HDDs in RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 or JBOD configuration, optional mSATA drive up to 480 GB for the operating system, up to six gigabit ethernet ports and various other options. Power consumption is rated at a tiny 8 to 35 watts, depending on system configuration and load.

At time of writing we hadn’t found any retailers of this amazing little server and so it is only available from CompuLab directly. Wholesale price for 1000+ quantities start at US$ 556 and the one-off price is 20% higher, or US$ 667. An evaluation kit is also available. Note that there are minimum purchase quantity restrictions for non-standard configurations.

For more information or to purchase, contact CompuLab Ltd, PO Box 687, Yokneam Elite, Israel 20692, ph: +972 4 829 0111,,


Product profile: Benchtops from paper

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Australian-made Paperock is a high-strength building material made from multiple layers of 60% recycled or sustainably sourced paper (not certified) which can be used for benchtops. It is bonded with phenolic resin and heat, and pressure cured to form an extremely strong material.


It is virtually impervious to water, highly stain resistant, can be worked like hardwood and is available in a number of colours: black, sand, brown, green, a black and brown sandwich and a black and sand sandwich.

Because of its high strength, benchtops made from Paperock need not be as thick as with other materials, saving weight and cost. Paperock produces no VOC emissions and is heat resistant to 180 °C.

Paperock is made to order and is available in 3, 6, 10, 18, 25 and 32 mm thicknesses, with 50 mm on special order. Standard sheet sizes are 2.44 x 1.22 m or 2.85 x 1.35 m sheets. Maximum sheet size is 2.85 x 1.35 m.

Paperock also supply a similar US-made material, PaperStone, made from FSC-certified recycled paper and bonded with phenolic resins made from natural materials like cashew nut shells.

For more information, contact Paperock, 21 Hill St, Leichhardt NSW 2040, ph: (02) 9518 0520,,


Product profile: Gleaming hot water

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Continuous flow or instantaneous hot water systems are usually gas powered, but there’s an ever-increasing range of electric units on the market. These are suitable when there is no mains gas available (running water heaters on LPG can be expensive) and, being electric, there is no wastage due to continuously running pilot lights.


The range of electric instantaneous hot water systems from Gleamous solve the problem of no gas availability and can provide hot water without the water wastage of running hot water from storage tank systems. The smaller units are ideal where hot water is needed a long way from the hot water system, such as a second bathroom, shed or workshop. The larger unit can provide hot water to an entire home without the standing losses of a storage type system, or the accompanying maintenance, such as replacing PTR valves and sacrificial anodes every few years.

There are three models in the range, two of which have no storage (the 3.3 kW, single-phase DSK-45EP and the 14 kW, three-phase GL5) and one which stores five litres of water at the point of use (the DSL-30N).

For more information and to buy online, contact Gleamous Australia, PO Box 611, Round Corner, NSW 2158, ph: 1300 550 490,,

Leaf safe guttering

Product profile: Finally, a leaf guard that works?

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While leaf guard systems for gutters sound like a great idea, the reality is that almost all of them suffer from problems of clogging—especially when gumnuts are involved. Leaf Safe Guttering is a new gutter system designed to eliminate the problems found with previous leaf guard systems.


The Leaf Safe Guttering system sits below the outer edge of the roof and is completely enclosed on top by a sloping lid that prevents leaves and debris falling into the gutter. Rainwater flows over an outer vertical gutter face that has two staggered sets of perforations which still have the upper flaps attached and turned inside the gutter. The flaps guide the water flowing over the vertical edge of the gutter into the gutter trough, while the leaves and other debris continue to flow downward and off the outside of the gutter.

Leaf Safe Guttering is made from Colorbond steel and is available in the full range of Colorbond colours. The guttering can be made to size and shipped anywhere in Australia to be fitted by local guttering installers.

For more information contact Leaf Safe Guttering, PO Box 189, Aldgate SA 5154, ph: (08) 8339 3480,,


Product profile: Low power consumption, lots of grunt

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The options for low-power computing just keep expanding. Xi3 Corporation recently released several new low-power consumption computers which are designed to provide plenty of computing power while also being easily upgradeable.


Starting at under $500, the X3A modular computer is an entry-level desktop designed for most home and office applications. It features a dual-core 64-bit 1.65 GHz processor and 4 GB of DDR3 RAM. It comes standard with 32 GB of solid-state storage (upgradeable to 1 TB), can support two high-definition displays simultaneously, and has two USB 3.0 ports, four eSATAp ports, four USB 2.0 ports and a gigabit ethernet port.

Rated energy consumption is just 18 watts.

The X3A’s much more powerful cousin, the X7A, is powered by a quad-core processor running at up to 3.2 GHz, integrated graphics with up to 384 shader cores and 4 GB or 8 GB of DDR3 RAM. The X7A handles graphics-intensive tasks such as image and movie editing and, of course, games. The X7A can run three high-definition monitors simultaneously, has four USB 3.0 ports, four eSATAp ports, four USB 2.0 ports, a gigabit ethernet port and up to 1 TB of solid-state storage. Rated power consumption is 40 watts.

RRP: Starting at under US$500 for the X3A and under $1000 for the X7A. For more information go to

See the complete list of new products in ReNew 124


Product profile: German-made inverters

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There are many grid-interactive inverters on the market, but a lot of them are now low cost ‘transformerless’ units. Although that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as they can have some advantages, many people still prefer devices made with fully isolated low-frequency transformers.


The Platinum S series of German-made Diehl AKO inverters is just such a range. They are designed to handle pretty much any environment, with a maximum ambient rating of 45°C and IP54 sealing. Being fully isolated they can be earthed on either the positive or negative side of the solar array.

They also feature wide input voltage ranges, earth fault monitoring, reverse voltage protection and efficiencies of up to around 95%. They come with a full graphical LCD (pictured) and inbuilt datalogging with enough storage to store up to 30 years worth of data.

There are eight models in the range, from 2300W to 5100W peak input. They all measure 720 x 320 x 250mm and weigh from 30 to 43kg. They come with a 10-year warranty.

For more information contact Solar Farm Kits, ph:1300 695 928,, Also see

trex deck

Product profile: No maintenance decking

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We’ve looked at a number of composite timber replacement materials over the years, but arguably the most realistic looking materials are Trex Transcend and Trex Accent.


Available in a range of colours and numerous decking and cladding profiles, as well as posts and rails, they feature woodgrain texture and darker highlights to imitate the look of wood as closely as possible.

Trex decking is made from 95% recycled content, including wood recovered from used palettes and sawmills and recycled plastic from many common household items including sandwich bags, newspaper wrap and grocery bags. Trex, a US-based company, recycles almost 300,000 tonnes of material each year, preventing this vast quantity from entering landfills, although they are American landfills, not Australian ones!

The decking won’t rot, warp, crack or splinter and requires no sanding, staining or painting. Spills wash off easily with just soap and water.

Available through Woodhouse Timbers in Victoria, ph:(03) 9761 6464,, and WCT Distributors in Western Australia, ph:(08) 9240 7343,,

Rok coffee press

Product profile: Great coffee, less energy use

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Home espresso machines have become more popular in recent years. But while they can allow you to make a real coffee at home, they use a lot of energy per cup, take up bench space and, like many home appliances, contain a lot of materials for the simple job they do.


The ROK Espresso Maker from Presso Ltd is a compact espresso maker that is almost completely human powered. The only energy input is to make a small amount of boiling water—the rest is done using elbow grease.

The unit is made almost entirely from high-grade metal, making it almost completely recyclable, and being far smaller than an electric coffee machine, it is ideal for homes with limited space and for people on the move.

The ROK comes in a reusable metal storage tin and includes all needed accessories: Portafilter, stainless steel milk frother, single espresso splitter, tamp/spoon and instruction booklet. It comes with a ten-year warranty.

RRP:$250, although at time of writing it was on sale for $187. Made by Presso Ltd, and available in Australia from Espresso Unplugged, PO Box 724, Mullumbimby NSW 2482, ph:(02) 6684 9400,,

Sanden heatpump

Product profile: Using CO2 to save energy

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Carbon dioxide is normally considered an environmentally damaging gas, being the main greenhouse gas causing climate change. However, it also has its good sides—it makes a great refrigerant.


Sanden has used this property in their new heat pump water heater to produce what is arguably the most efficient water heater available in Australia.

The Sanden Eco has a rated coefficient of performance of 4.5, meaning that it uses as little as 22% of the energy of a regular electric element heater. It also features a fast recovery time of four hours when heating water from 17 °C to 65 °C.

The Eco comes with a 315 litre stainless steel tank and has an operating temperature range of -10 °C to +43 °C, making it suitable for use in frost-prone areas. Noise levels are rated at 38 dB. The system comes with a three-year warranty and the tank has a huge 15-year warranty.

Other features include a split system design, so that the heat pump and tank can be up to four metres apart and the option of two different tank shapes to suit the available space—tall with a reduced diameter or short with an increased diameter.

For more information and to find your closest installer, contact Sanden International (Australia) Pty Ltd, ph:(02) 9791 0999,,


Product profile: See the MidNite Lite

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The MidNite Solar Classic range of MPPT solar regulators are quite popular, but they are not the lowest cost regulators on the market. To address this, MidNite Solar has released a somewhat lower cost Lite version.


The Classic-Lite version includes almost all the features of the regular model, except for the LCD and arc fault detection.
Features include up to 250 V input, current controlling capacity of up to 96 A of solar, wind or hydro on a 12 V battery (or up to 5 kW on a 48 V battery), ethernet port and 380 days of data logging.

By dropping the LCD and arc fault detection, the cost of each model has been reduced by around $150 over the equivalent full Classic model.

Simple programming is done via DIP switches and more complex programming via the ethernet port and the included free PC software. User feedback is via LEDs and a manual equalise button (auto-equalise can be programmed via a PC).

The new Classic-Lite allows relatively inexpensive grid-connect type solar panels to be used on any independent power system where high levels of user information are not needed, such as on mobile and marine systems or weekenders.

RRP: $849 (inc GST) for the 150 V model. For more information and to buy, contact DC Solutions Australia, ph:(03) 9482 7744,,

Core power

Product profile: Who needs petrol!

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Until the advent of high capacity lithium batteries, attempts by makers of power garden tools to create alternatives to petrol-powered machines had been lacklustre at best. Nowadays, in the realm of weed trimmers, the best readily available in Australia appears to be the Stihl FSA85. But at $349 plus around another $400 for the battery and charger, it is expensive.


As an alternative, the CGT400 trimmer from Core Outdoor Power in the USA uses Core Power’s new motor design that has no wire windings at all. Its pancake motor uses high powered magnets on the rotor and a heavy duty circuit board as the stator. The result is a very compact, very efficient motor with enormous torque.

There are two settings, the 5000 rpm ‘torque’ setting and the 7000 rpm ‘speed’ setting. The motor has a rated life of 10,000 hours and run time is up to 70 minutes. The CGT400 features a dual 2.4 mm line bump-feed head and comes with battery and three-hour charger (120 volt only, so you will need a step-down transformer).

Having used the CGT400, we can say it is by far the most powerful rechargeable trimmer we’ve come across and is very quiet.

RRP: US$299 including battery and charger. Ours cost US$259 from (currently $279) and around $300 to ship to Australia. For more information go to

Aeratron black

Product profile: Super low energy ceiling fans

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Ceiling fans are one of the most efficient methods of providing a cooling effect, but many are noisy, they wobble and they still use a lot more energy than they should for the job they do.
Aeratron fans have been designed not only to look great, but also to use very little energy while helping to keep you cool. They are available in two-blade (e502) and three-blade (e503) versions, in white, black and silver finishes.


Rated power consumption of their DC motors is less than four watts on the lowest of the six speed settings, while maximum speed uses just 18 watts. Regular fans of this size can use 60 watts or more, so there’s no doubt the Aeratrons have been designed for high efficiency.

Fan rotor diameter for both models is 1260 mm and the six-speed controller also has a reverse function for pushing warm air from the ceiling down to floor level during winter.
To improve the fans’ eco-credentials further, Aeratron has worked to reduce waste during production, the fans are supplied in ‘eco-packaging’, and carbon offsets are used to reduce their carbon footprint.

RRP: $367.50 for the e502 and $389.50 for the e503. Available directly from Aeratron, ph:(02) 9365 6470,, or Lighting Illusions,

Read about more products in ReNew 122.