Mackies – Hybrid Solar Home

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When designing and building any type of home, it seems like a million choices have to be made. When designing an eco-friendly, sustainable home, even more forward thinking has to take place. February Home of the Month is an exceptional example of this. Chrissy Jones had the pleasure of viewing this hybrid solar home that includes energy efficient battery power – an innovative design.

Ideally situated adjacent to the Manning River and overlooking the Harrington golf course, the two storey home is a stand out in its surrounds with its modern facade and landscaped, water-wise gardens. A wide exposed aggregate drive leads to a double garage with auto panel lift door and also takes you to the entry portico, which is accentuated by timber posts and panelling on the brick fencing encasing the home.
Entry is via a custom made glass and timber entrance door into the expansive tiled foyer. A highlight window placed above the entry adds to the spacious feel of the foyer, which has a void overhead to the second level. Instantly upon entry you are greeted by lovely, cooling breezes that are readily available throughout the home due to the design and incorporation of louvre windows, which allow for control over the available breezes.

GROUND LEVEL

The ground floor is made up of two bedrooms with adjoining bathroom, laundry, home office, kitchen and open plan living, lounge and dining. A sliding wooden cavity door may be closed off to section the living areas from the bedrooms, providing a private entertaining space if required.
An open plan combines lounge, dining, kitchen spaces and incorporates, through stacker glass sliding doors, an outdoor alfresco entertaining area. Ziptrack awnings, from Arrest-a-Lite Blinds & Awnings, allow for the inclusion or exclusion of the elements via innovative screening.
The lounge has louvre windows with insulated, honeycomb pleat block out blinds allowing for directional air flow, ceiling fans, downlighting and tiled flooring with Reece providing underfloor heating. Daikin ducted air-conditioning has been installed in the living areas of the home, as well as stand alone reverse cycle air-conditioning units in some rooms adding individual comfort, with WiFi connectivity to owner’s phone.
A Forest black granite has been used as the kitchen’s island bench. Doubling as a breakfast bar dividing the kitchen from the living area, the island extends out into the alfresco. This adds an outdoor kitchen food prep area with its own sink for easy clean-ups alongside the BBQ.
Viison Kitchens have supplied the kitchen, which is fitted with a Smeg electric oven, induction cook-top, concealed range-hood and soft-close drawers in the cabinetry.
A separate butler’s pantry has a deep, stainless steel sink and an under bench LG Inverter Direct Drive dishwasher incorporated. Custom built overhead shelving and under-bench cabinets are conveniently placed to store all condiments, small appliances and cook books easily at hand.
Behind the butler’s pantry is the centrally located home laundry. The laundry can easily be accessed from both the living areas and the bedrooms, plus has easy access to the drying area in the side yard.
A separate WC and double garage with internal access, complete the ground floor amenities. In the garage, tucked away under the staircase out of sight, but readily accessible if needed, is the hub of the hybrid home – the battery store and Selectronic energy management system.

SECOND LEVEL

A beautifully crafted set of Blackbutt timber stairs with opaque glass balustrade, timber handrail and porthole safety lights, lead to the owners retreat. Boasting stunning river views on one side and golf course views on the other, having its own sitting area, kitchenette, front and rear balcony, master bedroom and en-suite, this is a private oasis.
Blackbutt timber flooring is underfoot and complements the tiled front balcony’s timber framed opaque glass balustrade, blending all together seamlessly through glass sliding doors.
The master bedroom wraps around to the rear of the top level and has an adjoining walk-in robe, ceiling fan and a landscape, highlight window above the bed, allowing in natural light and breezes.
A luxurious en-suite, having both a deep, rectangle bath with a window allowing for golf course views whilst relaxing in the tub, and a glass screened shower cubicle with both a stainless steel rope shower and a ceiling mounted square set shower-rose, has a resort feel. The feature stack stone tile wall behind the wall hung vanity blends with the tiling chosen to encase the bath and is a contrast to the white floor to ceiling tiles.
Outside, through a glass timber framed door is a private rear balcony with a purpose built bar area and seating, which tops off the 2nd level.
Overall the home is a fine example of a spacious, modern, contemporary design. A home that is easy to live in, and has lots of natural light and cross ventilation. With its innovative, energy efficient systems, the hybrid solar home combines the best of both worlds: the convenience and cost savings with battery storage and peace of mind with a grid connected system for those dark winter days without sun.

FROM THE DESIGNER

The brief for the design of this home was quite specific. Essentially the home had to accommodate best practice in both active and passive solar design. A significant area of the roof had to be with a northerly aspect for the extensive installation of photovoltaic panels and Stibel Eltron German heat pump hot water system. The passive part relates more to the orientation of the building, right glazing, insulation, as well as the composition and makeup of the different building components.
While these were essential items to get the technical outcome, the owners had chosen the land for its location and to embrace some water views to the South. There also needed to be a self contained area for their elderly parents.
All aspects of the design were carefully considered and integrated to create a very functional, contemporary home. The building has its private spaces for all occupants, at the same time emerges into a beautiful open space that seamlessly brings in the outside. To the north, in form of a semi enclosed outdoor living space and to the south to enjoy water views from a spacious upstairs balcony in front of the main bedroom and second entertaining area.
An added extra is a compact balcony to the north, where one can sit at the end of the day and enjoy the view over the golf course.
The owners made very informed decisions on the different building components. Their choices are a beautiful aesthetic balance with all materials like brick, weatherboards, tiles, timber floor and the wall colours harmonising well together.
It has been a pleasure to work on the project, a beautiful collaboration of good instruction and giving of creative licence when combining all aspects of design.
If you need any help with your house design, please ring Gisela on 0413 543 714.

From the builder

Tell us a bit about your business – how long have you been operating?
I have always loved working with timber, so I became apprenticed as a carpenter and joiner to my father, Don. I became a licensed builder after completing the Building Foreman / Clerk of Works in 1990, so I’m a second generation builder.
I specialise in extensions, renovations and new homes but have also been involved in many commercial construction projects. I enjoy detailed joinery work like bookcases, built in cupboards, timber staircases etc. I can turn my hand to just about anything that a client requires.

Did the owners have any specific requirements when they approached you to build? If so, how were these met in the design?
The home generally had to be well insulated and has a unique aspect with internal brickwork and external timber frame and cladding. The brickwork acts as a heat / cool storage bank, keeping the home at an even temperature.
What are some of the featured design elements of this home?
The main indoor / outdoor living areas are orientated north and along with the roof design, allow sunlight to flood in during winter thus heating the large tiled areas. In summer, with the higher sun angle, the sun penetration is minimal.

How do we go about commissioning you to build for us?
Simply phone me on 0407 937 023 or email cjhintenhomes@gmail.com and we go from there.
What sort of solar system is installed?
A grid-connected solar system but with battery storage, commonly known as a “hybrid” system has been installed in the home. It works the same as a normal grid-connected system but has the ability to store excess power generated by the LG solar panels and use it back at a later time, therefore maximising self-consumption of renewable energy and decreasing reliance on the grid.

How does a “hybrid” system work?
Power is generated by the solar array, and this energy is firstly utilised by the loads in the house (fridge, lights etc). If the energy produced from the array is more than the house is using, it will be fed into the battery bank and it’s only when both the house and batteries are satisfied it will export power to the grid.
Once the sun goes down, power will start to be drawn from the batteries to supply the house. If the demand from the house is really high or the batteries are flat, power will then be drawn from the grid to satisfy the house. Only renewable energy is used to charge the battery, reducing consumption from the grid.

How much power does it generate?
The home has 26 x LG 260 watt solar panels (6.76 kw) which will average approx. 27 kwh per day and due to the large battery bank, the home can store about half of this green energy and use it back at night time or if cloud cover comes over.

Will this system reduce my bill more than a standard solar system?
YES, currently with a standard NET metered solar system any excess power is sold back to the grid for around 6-8 cents, but if this energy can be stored in the batteries and used back at a later time, it will save you buying the energy for around 36 cents! That’s a massive 500% improvement, reducing your power bill dramatically.
This system will isolate itself from the grid and work as a stand-alone system. The management system is clever enough to turn off large loads like hot water and air-conditioning to conserve energy and keep important loads like the fridge, lighting and TV working until the grid is repaired.
If the blackout occurs during daylight hours, power will still be used and stored from the panels supplying the home.

What type of energy management system did you use?
We generally use the Selectronic SP Pro which is an Australian made inverter/charger (made in Melbourne for over 60 years) and comes complete with a seven year warranty if installed by our Selectronic accredited technician.
The Selectronic SP Pro is the brains of the system and makes all the decisions including whether to put power into the batteries or pull it out, turn on or off various loads and whether to buy or sell energy to and from the grid. These systems can be remotely monitored and programming alterations made if required, along with detailed data logging to see your consumption habits and system performance.

What type of batteries do you use?
We use German made sealed 2-volt GEL batteries generally configured into a 24-volt battery bank for medium size systems and 48-volt for the larger systems. These batteries are as the name implies “sealed”, which means they don’t need to be filled up with water, no handling of dangerous acid and don’t emit toxic fumes. We program the management system to only use a maximum 60% of the batteries’ capacity daily ensuring a long lifespan, but in the event of a blackout, 100% of the batteries’ capacity can be utilised.

Will a “hybrid” system eliminate my power bill?
Typically NO, a hybrid system will reduce your power bill dramatically, but each billing period there will be bad weather that will require you to consume power from the grid, along with changes in habits such as family staying over or extremely hot weather, which means high demand appliances like air-conditioning will require some power to be used from the grid.
You are also charged a “service availability” fee each quarter of around $130, therefore the only way to offset these costs is to export heaps of power for 6 cents? It is not practical to install a system big enough to offset all of your bill, but the correct sized system will put a hefty dent in it!

One of your staff, Mark Hardy, recently won apprentice of the year; can you tell us about that?
Mark Hardy, an adult apprentice having completed electronics with a former employee, joined Mackies in 2010. Mark completed electrical and refrigeration trades with us; he was promoted through TAFE to go for the Apprentice of the Year Awards at state level, where he was the winner. He then went on to national level to achieve runner up.

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