The Hobans Story

Our own decarbonising experience – Tony and Cheryl Hoban

We built our current home in Mount Martha in 1999 – 2000, to a solar passive standard that existed then. Unfortunately, at the time there was no discussion about the benefits of double glazing.

In 2008, we installed our first 1Kw solar system and an evacuated tube solar water heating system with gas backup as well as approximately 10,000 litres of tank water storage for the vegetable garden. In 2018 we installed a second  3.64Kw solar system. Unfortunately, we made a very bad decision with our installer who massively overcharged us and was out of business within 18 months after court action via Consumer Affairs Victoria.

This year our hot water system gave up the ghost and we had to make a quick decision on a replacement. Our research led us to replace it with a heat pump. We quickly churned through four local plumbers to whom such a system was a challenge as they had limited experience and they were put off by the fact other trades, an electrician and refrigeration specialists were required for maintenance. They were all really nice guys but we seemed to be a bit ahead of the curve for their experience. We were quoted $3520 for a basic electric unit, $6820 for a Stieble heat pump, $7370 for a Rheem heat pump and $8360 for a Rinnai replacement evacuated tube system still with gas backup. All included installation.

In the research we did, the Earthworker Manufacturing Co-operative in the La Trobe Valley made up of workers moving on from electricity generation were constructing tanks to be matched with Reclaim heat pumps. We couldn’t get a response from them unfortunately but were very taken with the specifications of the Reclaim unit which was 10 dBa quieter than all the others we looked at and had a coefficient of performance of 6+ which meant the 0.86 Kw of power it required was converted into 5.6 Kw of water heating. It also had a control unit with five options to select the time when the water was heated allowing it to match the solar input or off peak rates.

We found an installer in the Eastern Suburbs who was highly rated by Finn Peacock at Solar Quotes and had them install the unit for $4750.We then decided that as our gas cooktop at  more than 22 years old needed replacement and while we had a plumber and electrician here we would ask them to install an induction cooktop. Following the advice of Choice reviews we chose a highly recommended IKEA unit which cost less than the hard wiring to the meter box to install it (total cost $1550). While installing it they found our old gas cooktop had been leaking gas for quite a while so the changeover was quite timely.

So after six weeks with no hot water, we had the luxury of an excellent new and very cheap (to run) hot water system and induction cooktop. With the rebate for the hot water system, the only cheaper alternative on the market was a standard electric only replacement.

While waiting for this work to be done we considered our now quite old gas ducted heating should be replaced so we could become a total electric house. We sought advice and quotes from three installers – two were locals. We chose a 12.5 Kw split system ducted heating/cooling system combined with a stand alone 3.5 Kw unit at the other end of the house which are now in operation and quite effective. Unfortunately rebates for these replacements are only available from a few selected installers and most we spoke to found the paperwork required to become a recommended installer too onerous.

We found our electricity usage increased substantially but the cost compared to gas was less than half. We did however decide to replace our old 1 Kw system with a new 6.64 Kw system following a selection process using Solar Quotes and now have 10.28 Kw on our roof. We also installed the Solar Analytics Monitoring system. Our winter quarter power bill was just $200, last year with gas was $585. Cutting off the gas and removing the meter cost $118.80

We recommend reading Finn Peacock’s The Good Solar Guide and using his Solar Quotes website for your research and Dr Saul Griffith’s The Big Switch. CHOICE ’s reviews of appliances are also most valuable.