Thursday, 21 June 2012

Skylights. Just how good can they look?

Well, skylights come in all shapes and sizes and whilst we don't normally talk about our products directly, we are so excited about the launch of this new product range that we just couldn't help ourselves.

Skylights are obviously designed to transform rooms with sunlight and the right ones do an amazing job of that. However not all tubular skylights look that great as a lighting fixture. But now that has all changed with the launch of the new 'Glass Distractions', designer ceiling fixtures that really bring that 'Wow' factor into any room!

With a whole range to choose from, these stylish glass additions to the Solatube Tubular Daylighting range would suit any homes decor and even the requirements of the most dedicated fashionista among you.

Let us know what you think! Do you have a favourate?

Monday, 18 June 2012

Do Whirlybirds Realy Work?

We get asked this question a lot by consumers looking for a suitable ventilation solution for their home. So we thought put our thoughts down in a blog to help answer some of the most often ask questions when it comes to whirlybird roof ventilation.

Q. Do whirlybirds really work as a form of Roof Ventilation in the Newcastle area?
A. Yes, they have stood the test of time for many years throughout Australia.
Q. How much will a whirlybird cool my house?
A. Newcastle borders on the edge of an oceanic/humid subtropical climate like most of central and northern New South Wales, so summers tend to be warm and winters are usually mild. Rainfall is heaviest in late autumn and early winter, so these are the danger times for mildew build up in roof spaces. So it’s not just cooling that whirlybirds can help with. However, in summer, roof temperatures can soar in Newcastle to over 70 degrees Centigrade, and, boy, that’s hot! Properly installed whirlybirds can bring this down by as much as 20 to 30 degrees, which can really help the load on your air conditioning.
Q: Do whirlybirds only work on windy days?
A: This is a very common misconception, but think about it some more and you will realize that, even in Newcastle, hot air rises! So in completely still conditions the hot air only builds up in a roof space when there is nowhere higher for it to rise to. Edmonds’ whirlybirds are designed with streamlined ventilation gaps in them so you often see the whole thing moving around slowly, simply because the rising air forces it to turn all by itself.
Q. What 'features' should I look for when choosing a whirlybird and why?
A: If you live near the sea, and many people in Newcastle are not that far from it, then coastal stainless steel bearings can be an important factor so that the salt air doesn’t cause corrosion and stop the whirlybirds moving in the long term. We use Edmonds because they have a terrific 15 year warranty and are Australian manufactured.
Q. Is there anything I can do to help improve the performance of my whirlybird?
A: If you have sarking under your tiles, which can be either in the form of boards or roofing felt in Newcastle, and your house has eaves then eave vents can also be installed, usually a pair for each whirlybird. Alternatively, if you have a gable at each end of your house then you can add gable vents. Having vents through to your roof space allows the cool air to be drawn in to circulate the air throughout the roof space.
Q. Do I have to clean the whirlybirds?
A: Usually the occasional rainfall we get in Newcastle helps to keep them clean. Whirlybirds are low maintenance systems so you can just relax and forget about them while they go about doing their job, silently and effortlessly.
Q. How many whirlybirds does an average house need to effectively ventilate the roof space area?
A. Edmonds recommend the rule of thumb that one whirlybird be installed for every 90 square metres of roof space. However, we always suggest we do a thorough investigation of your roof because it really does depend on the design of your roof and the type of venting that would best suit its specific needs.
Q. Is there any type of house/roof they are not suitable for?
A. Whirlybirds have been installed in every type of house or roof that we’ve encountered in Newcastle. Special features might be required for some types of houses. For example, a flatter roof may require overflashing. Also, if your flat roof has skillion or raked ceilings then you could require a vent to be placed through from the ceiling to allow the heat of the house to rise up into the air above.
Q. Can you put in some new roof windows or Solatube's at the same time?
A. As a Solatube Premier Dealer we can provide you with a new Solatube Daylighting System to bring natural light down into your home. Alternatively, if you want to make use of your roof space and be able to look out from a new bedroom onto your garden then we can install regular Roof Window Skylights.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

8 Australian Online Renovation Tools

So your about to embark on some Home Renovation, maybe a bit of DIY, some remodelling or even an extension. But are there any online tools that can help you realise your dream? Oh Yes and we've compiled a list of the best!

Ikea Kitchen Planner

This planner is obviously limited to Ikea's own kitchen stock, however even if you are not planning on buying from them, it still helps you to plan a layout that is likely to suit your home, budget and requirements. It's also a great tool for sharing your ideas with third parties.

Best of all it's completely free!

Whilst this website is best known for selling realestate, they have also entered into the Home Improvement market by extending on their core realestate content with a whole section of Home Ideas & Inspiration.

What we liked about this new section of their website is that it's easy to navigate & has a lot of images. This makes it quite easy to quickly find some ideas and inspiration. So you can do plenty of window shopping and check out the latest Australian trends without having to wade through to much text. Great if you only have a few minutes to kill while you're downing your lunch.

The main downside, which we admit is disappointing, is that none of this content is available via either the Realestate iPhone or iPad app.


OK so this one is not 100% Australian, BUT it does offer some great Australian content. This website also to offers a FANTASTIC iPhone & iPad app, which makes it invaluable for collecting ideas whilst you are on the go. As far as consolidating them into manageable collections is concerned, this website is unbeatable in our opinion. These 'IdeaBooks' make it easy to get a sense of how you want a room to look.

Again this website concentrates on Inspiration, Design & Style. So it's not the first place you'd visit on your Renovation journey, but it would definitely be one of the most fun.

Disappointingly they have not yet linked in with the Pintrest Social network, which we would hope should be on their shortlist of 'Things to do' next.


Again not an Australian specific website, but none the less, extremely useful online software for anyone wanting to redesign their home or parts of it.

Create floor plans easily with little or no design experience. Absolutely fantastic for anyone who wants to be able to conceptualise before they start on any project. With the free version you can create one project and if you want to be able to share it online, you only need to pay $14.99 for a whole years subscription.

Dulux - My Colour

Looking to add some sparkle with a new coat of paint? This little application offers consumers the ability to collect colours that they like the most to projects or scrapbooks. You can test to see what different colours look like together and try to find that perfect colour combination for your favourite room.

Dulux also offer a Free App which can be downloaded at the App Store and whilst isn't quite as comprehensive as the website version, still provides consumers with a really useful free tool.

We hope you find this blog useful and please, if you use any websites on a regular basis that we haven't included here. We would love to hear from you.

Reece - Bathroom Planner

Again limited to Reece's own collection of Bathroom goodies, however it is still really useful to conceptualise the space you are working with and understand whether that dream bath will really word besides that amazing basin you've been dreaming of.

Dulux - Paint Calculator 

Another tool provided by Dulux, but can be applied to any paint you want. Extremely usful when creating your budgets so you can get an understanding of how much paint you are going to need for each room.

Nabers - Energy Calculator

Want to ensure your new additions are energy efficient. Use this free calculator to get an idea of how much you'll be consuming. Both now and with any changes you plan to make.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

4 Reasons why you should use Roof Ventilation, even in the Winter

4 Reasons why you should use roof ventilation, even in the winter.

1)    Mould in your home is an unsightly problem, but it thrives in the winter particularly in our roof spaces, because these spaces offer the perfect growth environment cool, damp & dark. Using a roof ventilator during winter helps to remove excess moisture to avoid any initial growth of mould.

2)    With the advent of winter, often comes a variety of health concerns. Germs will grow faster & more easily in a poorly ventilated home. Not to mention the health risks associated with the growth of mould spores, which are also a bi-product of poorly ventilated homes during the colder months.
Mould at home
3)    People are commonly concerned that ventilating their roof space or attic during the winter will remove too much precious heat from their home, as hot air rises. However, if you buy the right roof ventilation solution, they can come with a Thermostat that can turn the unit off when the roof spaces gets below a certain temperature.

4)    In our homes we use extractor fans in our bathrooms & kitchens to remove excess moisture from our rooms. But all these fans do is channel this moisture up into the roof cavity. If left unventilated during the cooler months, this leads to damp and mildew which can then cause deterioration of the building materials within your roof, speeding up corrosion & decay.

There is no doubt that ventilating your home and roof is as important in the winter as it is in the summer. You will surely save money in the long run from any investments made in a roof ventilation solution that lasts year in year out.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

4 of the Best Australian Energy Saving Products

Australia has some wonderful products that can help us save energy which will of course help our communities because then precious oil reserves can go further. Also, if we can make sure as much of the energy we do use comes from sustainable, clean energy sources like the sun, we will drastically cut the amount of climate-warming gasses released into the atmosphere. Here are some wonderful ideas, found here in Australia, that help us do both.
WHITE This is the easiest way to turn off all your appliances at the wall without crawling around the floor to reach them, it also reminds you to switch them off, so how good is that?!
Power Tech Energy Meter - MS61152: Or, how about the Power Tech Energy Meter that not only tells you how much energy you are using but also exactly how much each appliance costs to run. Within weeks you could have every member of the family aware of exactly how much they are spending when they leave the T.V. on standby, the radio on when no one's listening to it or spend too much daydreaming time under a hot shower.
Product Details
3/ Children's books by Todae: continuing on the theme from our recent blog of teaching young children to be ‘green’, I’ve come across a lovely set of books that teach children to use energy wisely. One is called ‘Let’s Turn It Off’ and the other, ‘Let’s Use It Again’. Both have bright, colourful illustrations to keep young tots interested while they learn to read but also teaches them about saving energy and recycling.
4/ Last but not least; when we’re talking about using clean energy sources, they don’t come much cleaner than sunlight! The Solatube Daylighting System, available all over Australia is a popular and economical way to light those dimly lit areas of your home. No CO2 here, just beautiful bright natural light. We couldn’t leave that one out could we?

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Your Home: leaking cash from every crack or saving you money?

So we’ve dealt with the details of your home, its appliances and how you use them but what about the substance, the very fabric of your home; are you pouring money out of your roof, windows, doors and ducts?
Here’s some tips about what to look out for and how to test for heat leaking from your home:
So much of it is just about insulation and stopping the gaps.

It doesn’t matter how you use your air conditioner or how much heat you use in winter, if  that expensively cooled or heated air is leaking out into the stars you might as well throw your money down the drain. Remember the cost of heating and cooling your home is about 54% of your utility bill.

Your attic, exterior and basement walls, ceilings, floors, and crawl spaces all should be insulated but check with a qualified insulation specialist or builder before insulating unheated spaces as, if not done correctly, this could cause condensation problems.  Roof spaces can also be cooled with automatic cooling systems like Solar Star Roof Ventilation.

 Finding air leaks is not so difficult; on a windy day feeling around the doors and windows on your external walls you will soon feel the cold air getting in. Another easy way is to light an incense stick and hold it to frames to see if the smoke blows inwards instead of rising straight up. Even places where electrical or plumbing fixtures enter the house can need insulating. Fireplaces should also be closed off, if not in use, with chimney balloons and closed dampers.
Apart from around fires, any leaks can be caulked and taped and larger spaces filled with expanding foam.
And while we’re talking air conditioners:

Maintenance of your heating and air conditioning systems will help them run more efficiently so check those filters at the recommended times.

Every day tips
Even when we have cocooned ourselves in a cosy, well-insulated, well ventilated but not draughty, home, we can still be aware of small adjustments that will help keep our homes at an even temperature all year round.

During winter, keep the windows and blinds on your sun-facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter your home and closed at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows. During summer, keep the window coverings closed during the day to block the sun’s heat.

The roof is like an oven in summer

So what can you do about it?Are you lucky enough to have some space outside where you can plant a tree?
The ambient temperature under trees can be as much as 6 degrees cooler than in the sun.

 If you plant tall, deciduous trees on the sides of the house that catch the sun they will make a great contribution to cooling the roofs and walls and therefore help cool the interior of the house. They will then drop their leaves in winter allowing the winter sun to warm what was previously shaded.

Carefully placed trees and shrubs can also be effective wind breaks if you suffer from cold winter or hot summer winds and with the shade they cast in summer, trees and shrubs can save 25% of a typical household bills.

Another option for that too hot roof is to install solar panels to make your own energy but that’s another discussion altogether.

There are many ways to save energy in our homes and remember this not only saves us cash but will help to cut down on the release of gases like CO2 which are helping to cause climate change. So doing your bit for the household budget can be the same as doing your bit for the planet and all completely without pain.

More simple steps to saving energy

An energy-efficient home will keep your family comfortable while saving you money. Whether you take simple steps or make larger investments to make your home more efficient, you’ll see lower energy bills. Over time, these savings may even cover the cost of more extensive home improvements and if you’re thinking of selling, all of these improvements will make your home more attractive to buyers.
Meanwhile, these are some of the easiest ways to save money on your energy bills:
Lights help us see but can we see what they cost?
There is a wide selection of light fittings available, all of which seem to require different light bulbs but the most important consideration for anyone trying to save money is how much energy they use and how long they last. Though electric light is absolutely necessary, Solatube Daylighting Systems help you use natural light where possible  thereby cutting down on unecessary lighting costs.
But be canny when choosing light fittings and make sure there is an energy saving bulb to fit it. The most popular light bulbs available are halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Though slightly more costly than traditional bulbs  the savings are huge; lighting our homes can take up 6% of our energy bills but LEDs, for instance, use 20% less energy and last 25 times longer.
Then there are your household appliances; have you thought of how much energy they use? If you are at the stage of buying new, then obviously you would buy the most energy efficient white goods available as they account for around 13% of your energy costs!
Dishwashers may save your hands but they don’t save money.
Have you still got the manual? Then check the manufacturers recommended water temperature, some models allow you to set it lower at say, 120°F.
If you’re thinking low energy use, how you use you dishwasher is also important: You can scrape the large pieces of food off the plates without rinsing (also saving water) and wait until you have a full load before starting the machine. If you then turn it off before the dry cycle and open the door for the dishes to air-dry, over a few months you will certainly notice the difference.
It’s worth considering air drying your clothes as well, as tumble dryers are real energy guzzlers.
How cold is cold enough?
Keeping food cool is an energy intense business (unless you live in the arctic circle of course). Freezers should be kept at 0°F for  long term storage whereas the small freezer compartment at the top of a refrigerator should be 5°F while 37-50°F is fine for the fresh food sections of the fridge.
Did you know that uncovered food makes your fridge work harder? It’s true. And make sure that door is closed tight; check the seals are still good and remind the next child that stands with the fridge door open,  that it might be an idea for them to hand back some of their pocket money to pay for the extra electricity used!
A little maintenance also goes a long way towards saving cash so regularly defrost freezers and refrigerators if they don’t defrost automatically.
Last but not least
If you turn off kitchen, bath, and other exhaust fans within 20 minutes after you have finished cooking or bathing that will save unnecessary costs. And when you’re in the kitchen use a kettle or covered pan to heat food as it’s quicker and uses less fuel.
So remember: everything you use in the house can be turned from an energy guzzling monster into something amenable and inexpensive by keeping up basic maintenance and turning things off when not in use.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

5 easy ways your kids can save you money!

No matter how young they are, it's never too soon to start teaching your children about the importance of saving energy and getting them involved in 'being green'.  

Helping them understand the basics while they are young will not only keep you in control of your bills today, but will allow you to develop these skills further as the kids grow and become more aware of the concept of saving energy tomorrow.

1) Close the door behind you
OK so this might not always be practical depending on how old they are, but the concept is important. Especially when the air-con is on, so start with the front door; closing from the inside it is easier for little ones to push to close rather than needing to reach for the handle to pull it closed. Just watch for their little fingers.

2) Use Draft Excluders on external doors
You may not already have these, but they are a fun addition that can teach children about heat loss in or out of the home. They can often be bought made in the shape of a snake but can be made at home with your child as a great art activity either out of an old stocking or even an old pillow filling with some buttons added for eyes. Each night before they go to bed, get into a routine of 'Putting the snakes to bed' in their home by the door. 

3) If it's cold outside, wear more clothes.
It often surprises me when my adult friends wonder around their homes wearing T-Shirts and Shorts in the winter while having their air conditioning or heaters cranked right up. It's so unnecessary when another layer of clothes could be all they need! Get your children used to putting on more clothes during the winter months. Teach them that Winter is the season for 'Warm Clothes' and get them to dress their teddies or dolls (depending on their age) in winter outfits too. Getting them used to this concept when young might stop them from grabbing for the air-con remote quite as quickly as they get older!

4) Spot the Light Left On!
No matter what time of year it is, it's easy to forget to turn your lights off when you're in a rush to get to work and get your kids to school, especially if you don't use skylights. Younger children may not all be able to reach for the switch themselves, but that doesn't mean they can't be encouraged to spot any lights left on. If necessary give them a lift up to help them switch off the light themselves, or have a stool handy for the more independent ones. 

5) Dancing in the rain? Then wear your rubber boots & raincoat! 
Not only is this common sense because it keeps them warmer
 but, even on summer days it helps protect any other clothes they may be wearing; why wash a load of clothes if you don't need to?! And if they're wearing more clothes due to the cold weather, that's double the amount of clothes that needs to be washed & dried! All kids love to play in the mud & puddles, but if we can encourage them to be better equipped for this type of play then it really will save time & money when it comes to cleaning up after them.

These are just some ideas of course, I'm sure you could come up with more interesting suggestions for how children can help save energy every day. We'd love to hear from you if you have found something that has really worked in your home!