As a partner with local real estate agency Cunninghams, Georgi Bates is often asked for advice on house builds, layouts and renovations. Should we put on solar? Should we have a battery? Do they affect the value of our home?
When I drop by to talk about sustainability trends in real estate, the answers are clear. From the street, Matt and Georgi Bates’ house looks much like its neighbours: a weatherboard cottage with a picket fence and a bullnose verandah. But walk out the back and it’s all happening. There’s a new garage going up on the back boundary, complete with solar panels to heat the new pool. There’s an electric car charger, batteries and a green wall, ready to plant.
“We’re pretty much off the grid,” says Matt. “The oven’s running off the battery and we’re feeding to the grid. We have about 6kW [of panels] on the roof, providing about 5.5kW per hour. We realistically only need about 3kW per hour for our charging and usage.
“We’ve got a Tesla [car]. We’re putting in a pool, and that’s going to have heating costs, but we’re not going to run it on gas. We’re putting more solar and another battery on. We’re going to run it on the sun and the battery.”
Matt and Georgi’s top TV tips: Ewen McGregor’s Long Way Up, a rollicking adventure through South America on *electric* Harley-Davidsons!
A self-confessed sustainability nerd, Matt has driven the research and design of their renovation. Georgi, meanwhile, has driven the Tesla.
“I’m not a car person. But particularly during Covid, working from home, the Tesla is another office, another workspace. I recently got into a petrol car and it felt like a dinosaur. It was a nice car, but it’s amazing the difference of the sound and fuel compared to battery operated.”
Beyond their own home, Georgi is seeing interest in solar power, sustainable building and energy efficient housing growing.
“It starts with someone [putting on solar] in the street then everyone is curious. They all speak to Matt and ask about the benefits. And I’m starting to see more of a shift with people wanting to put green gardens on their garage roofs, or looking into rooftop gardens.”
This trend is set to strengthen with recent developments in the building codes. At the moment the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme – aka NatHERS — requires new houses to score at least 6 out of 10 for energy efficiency. In 2021, NatHERS is set to be extended to existing homes, so that when you buy or sell, just like household appliances, each property will come with an energy efficiency star rating. At which point it’s not just about saving money on a power bill: it directly affects the value of your house. So Matt and Georgi are not just champions for sustainability: they’re smart investors.
“I think sustainability is the future of real estate. It will become one of the must haves.”
Georgi Bates is a partner at Cunninghams Real Estate. Whether you are looking to buy or sell, or just to find out more about the market, she’s happy to hear from you.
It was one of those lightbulb moments. Ursula Hogben, founding member of Zero Emissions Sydney North (ZESN) was filling up her car at the local petrol station when, chatting to her kids, she said, ‘it’ll seem really strange to you in the future that we all put petrol in our cars and all drove around burning fossil fuels.’ Her son’s reply pulled her up short.
“Mummy, it seems really strange now. Why wouldn’t you just have a battery and fill the battery up from the sun?”
Yes. Of course. Why wouldn’t you? It was the starting point for the next Zero Emissions Sydney North program, Zero Emissions Vehicles.
“If you’re trying to make a difference it feels really incongruous to then be filling your car up with fossil fuels each week and emitting greenhouse gases as you drive around,’ says Ursula. “We want to help people move away from fossil fuels and be part of industry level change. Supporting active transport, E bikes and EVs gives everyone low emissions choices.”
Electric cars — EVs, as they’re known in the business — are the exception in Australia, but that’s changing as manufacturers and consumers rush to catch-up with the worldwide shift to low-emissions transport. Elon Musk’s high performance Tesla has made electric cars desirable, and now other manufacturers, along with government incentives in some countries, are making them affordable. But what’s available? How do they work? Where do you get them? What do they cost?
ZESN’s Electric Transport working group has been doing the research and finding out answers to these and many more questions. Next week, Ursula will host the first of ZESN’s regular events to share what they have learnt. Accelerating your transition covers why people are buying EVs, how EVs perform, the financial savings (and the environmental benefits), and features guest speakers who will be more than happy to answer questions.
“We want to help make EVs more accessible. We looked at options and we’re glad to partner with Good Car Co a Tasmanian-based company pioneering the import of low mileage, reasonably priced (from $19,000!) second hand electric cars with a guarantee and user support. We’ve also done a research review of Councils installing EV chargers to help people who can’t charge at home. We’re very excited that Mosman Council is installing an ultra-fast charger soon!”
If you’re even slightly curious about electric cars, don’t miss Accelerating your transition. Our events are informal with plenty of time for questions, and Covid-safe online for the moment, so you can join the conversation from home. EV owners will be there to share their stories, and we’ll be taking registrations from interested parties so we can make a Good Car Company bulk buy a reality.
Maybe you’ll be driving an electric car sooner than you think.
I have discovered a secret weapon in my quest to persuade people to make the switch to renewable energy. It’s called GADGETS!
We’ve had solar panels for nearly ten years now. 18 months ago we bought a Tesla 2 battery for $11,500 (which, as I now realise, was quite a bargain since prices have gone up this year). The installer, who did a great job, showed me how the app tells you exactly how much electricity you are consuming at any moment, and where that electricity is coming from.
I didn’t realise at the time how powerful that insight could be. Three pictures
A sunny day in November 2019
The big yellow mountain is solar energy, collected from our rooftop panels. The jagged line is our household energy consumption. (You can see that I made a cup of tea just before 8 a.m., and I ran the dishwasher and the washing machine in the morning.) Below the horizontal axis shows how the battery works: when the sun comes up excess solar energy feeds into the battery. It’s full by noon, so the grey area is excess energy flowing back to the grid (and earning a feed-in tariff). And you can see that, on this day, the battery powered the house right through till sunrise, so we were 100% self-powered. ☺
Of course, the sun doesn’t always shine
But this screen shot shows that across 2019 we offset our usage — 8166 kWh — with 5473 kWh solar power from our roof. So a 67% reduction in our electricity bill and a 67% reduction in our carbon emissions. The retail price in NSW per kWh is 33c. So *furrows brow, doing sums* that’s $1806.09 in savings in 2019. Nice.
What’s happening here?
This is a screenshot from March 2020 showing where our power is coming from. We’re in the middle of a powercut. The Tesla battery automatically takes over, so that the house can be independent of the grid, using power from the solar panels and, if needed, from the battery. WFH with no grid? No problem.
We love checking on the app to see how much we are saving. But above all, this funky little app, with its visual representation of real time household electricity usage, is an amazing communications tool. Household power bills aren’t sexy but gadgets totally are. Therefore, my husband, even though he is not involved in environmental campaigning, gets a real kick out of showing his friends how we are helping ourselves to free energy (and helping the environment at the same time).
Do you have a battery? Do you have a story to tell about your journey towards zero emissions? Let us know by [best way to connect]