Michael’s Story

We bought our house in Arthurs Seat about seven years ago as a holiday house. Having to move out of our house in Melbourne temporarily we relocated to Arthurs Seat and have never looked back. We enjoyed living here so much that we decided to stay. However, the little fibro house built in the early 80’s is un-insulated, thermally transparent, and we decided five years ago to rebuild it. With delays in getting a planning approval and the impact on consultants and builders from COVID-19, it’s been a five-year project.

We are beginning construction of the new house this week; it starts with demolition of the existing house. While waiting to rebuild, we have been making changes to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to the house there is an existing studio with a kitchen and bathroom that we will be living in during construction.

The first thing we built a couple years ago was a new garage and workshop which includes an office. This included solar panels to the roof. This was followed by the replacement of existing electric hot water heaters for the house and studio with new heat pump hot water heaters. In the studio we removed the existing gas cooktop and put in a new induction cooktop, which we really enjoy using!

The old house had a gas cooktop and gas space heating, so when we moved out of the old house preparing for demolition, we were able to finally remove the four gas bottles and return them to the distributor. We now no longer use gas. The new house will be heated and cooled with reverse cycle air conditioning, and we will relocate the heat pump hot water heater from the old house.

The new house will be highly insulated and sealed, along the lines of the passive house standard. We will be using the Pro Clima products for weather proofing and sealing of the building envelope. We are using very high standard European aluminium thermally-broken double-glazed doors and windows. Most rooms will be fitted with ceiling fans and ample ventilation openings to remain comfortable without cooling during most of the summer. We also expect to install heat recovery ventilation units, to keep ventilation rates reasonable while retaining heat in the winter.

Currently we have a six kilowatt solar panel installation, and with the new building we expect to triple or quadruple that amount. We recently installed a Tesla Powerwall 2 battery, primarily as a backup system during power outages. With the new solar panels, we expect to add more batteries. However, the additional batteries will depend on analysis of the environment at the time we’re finished building, which is to say the state of community batteries, the cost of electricity and the feed in tariffs, and of course the cost of batteries at that time.

Since this house has been a project for the last five years, some of these features, such as the batteries and the induction cooktops, have been added to the design. We look forward to this project being finished, it has taken far longer than we expected. We hope to be able to move into the new house before Christmas 2025.

In terms of garden maintenance, we have an electric leaf blower, and we recently purchased an electric hand mower. I’ll be replacing the petrol ride-on mower with an electric version once the house is finished.

However, our biggest greenhouse gas reduction has come with the purchase of an electric car. This is true of most households, the biggest greenhouse gas contributor is transport. We’ll be keeping the diesel ute, mainly for use during construction, but we also use it for regional travel, because we go to places that are not yet well serviced by EV chargers. But we’ll keep the use of the ute to a minimum and use the electric car most of the time.

Michael – Red Hill