“It’s about lifestyle” Nick Thorburn has a lovely knack of bringing a complex issue like energy efficiency to its purest essence. Nick and his partner Kate Bourne, moved down to their seaside shack from Melbourne during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020. It was love at first vibe - within 3 weeks they had changed their licence , as they embraced Apollo Bay for their new lifestyle setting.
Like the typical Apollo Bay home, their house was designed more for part time living and the warm summer months, rather than our southern winter. Originally a kit home that was trans-located from the Marengo caravan park, the building has no insulation other than in one bedroom wall (apparently providing some privacy from the ‘honeymoon suite’ purpose it once served). But sitting interviewing Nick and enjoying the morning sun flooding in through the generous north facing lounge windows, I couldn’t help thinking they had it better than many of us. A row of deciduous Silver Birches, planted by an astute former owner, protect the living space from the direct summer heat and turn our winds into a relaxing entertainment.
With a challenging cavity access issues, insulating either the ceiling or walls is not practical for the time being. However, underfloor insulation has been ordered and the approaching winter offers all the motivation for Nick to install at the earliest opportunity. As Nick said, anyone who’s done some winter camping knows the value of a warm floor underneath. Quotes have been sought for double glazing but there’s uncertainty over the value for money if the walls remain uninsulated . Heating is via a split system, an efficient combustion heater and direct solar gain through the north facing windows. Nick finds that generally, the split system is only needed on the overcast days while the wood burner warms the evening.
With work commitments requiring 2-3 days/week in Melbourne, the lifestyle benefits of any efficiency investments are effectively halved. Nevertheless, one of the first changes during the lockdown was to install a PV solar system.
Given the challenges in making the home energy efficient, Nick and Kate have a pragmatic approach to keeping bills low and staying warm. Simple and small changes in behaviour are cost free and highly effective. Keeping busy and active helps reduce the need for heating and when they are stationary for work or similar, they heat the immediate space they occupy rather than the whole house. Their dishwasher & washing machine will only go on when the sun’s bearing down on their solar panels. “The solar power is free and good for the planet” says Nick “... so we get double the hit of pleasure.” “One day we hope to share the surplus solar with the rest of the community through a local micro-grid – that would be a real buzz.”
Come and hear what the efficiency experts would recommend for the average Apollo Bay House at the:
Free Public Forum on Home Energy Efficiency
Wednesday 19 May, 7.00 – 9.00PM
Senior Citizens Centre
4 Whelan Street