Heat busters

Cameron the Handyman summer cooling solutions
image: Kim V. Goldsmith

Summer in Central NSW is most certainly making its presence felt this year. We’re even heading for 44 degrees by the end of the next week.

When you have several consecutive days over 40 degrees Celsius, there’s very little reprieve no matter how well planned your house and energy use. I’ve been trying to stick to inside jobs over the past few weeks, preferably where there’s air conditioning. But with late afternoon and evening temperatures being so high, it’s nice to know I’m coming home to a cool house even if I have been working inside most of the day.

We’re lucky we live in a passive solar house that was ahead of its time when it was built during the mid-1980s. On top of its north orientation, some of the features allowing us to minimise the use of the air-con even during the hotter weeks of summer include:

  • a 2.5m verandah around the entire house shades the slab, windows and walls from direct sun, with the addition of a well-watered trellised vine/shrub buffer and pergola on the south-west/western side of the house ensuring there’s no direct heat on the western side. It’s where the dogs like to hang out on hot mornings.
  • large trees on the outer edges of the house yard shade big areas of the garden;
  • the light coloured roof reflects heat;
  • small areas of lawn planted close to the house are watered most nights (using dam or recycled grey water);
  • the benefits of cross-ventilation are utilised by opening the house up at night to capture cooler evening breezes when they’re around, circulated through the house with the help of ceiling fans;
  • and the key feature – a long central hallway with a high ceiling and three roof-mounted whirly birds drawing cool air through the centre of the house. Vents and high, open windows in rooms either side of the hallway draw hot air into the hallway and out through the roof. The whirly birds, vents and windows can all be closed up in winter.

Despite this, we’ve still had to resort to using our air-conditioner more this summer than we’ve had to previously. With the exception of a few nights when it’s been 30 degrees plus at 10pm and minimums haven’t dropped much below 25 or 26 degrees, we often don’t turn the cooling on until mid to late afternoon, turning it off again at bedtime.

I work in all types of homes across Dubbo and some are better designed than others when it comes to cooling and heating. Yet, there are some very basic things we can all do in our homes to ensure we minimise the cost of air-conditioning.

  • Use ceiling fans where possible to create air flow;
  • Service your air-conditioner to ensure it’s working well;
  • Ensure you have adequate insulation and roof ventilation;
  • Shade windows and western walls with window coverings (awnings and curtains) and outside plantings;
  • Close up the house before things heat up in the mornings and open it up again at night;
  • Cool yourself down before you decide to cool down your house – it’ll hopefully delay the need to turn on the air-conditioner.

If you need a hand with installing whirly birds, insulation, awnings or window coverings, planting lawn, shrubs or vines give me a call. I even build pergolas. Call a sparky to install ceiling fans or to install or service your air-conditioner.

For more information on passive cooling check out this site.

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Take time to plan

Cameron the Handyman buildingAnother summer has passed, although the heat is hanging around. If you’re now thinking of doing some major improvements in time for next summer, the coming months are the ideal time to do your planning, get quotes and then book the job early enough to ensure you enjoy the finished work.

When it comes time to get a quote, here are a few things you need to make sure you cover when talking to your trades.

  • Dimensions of the structure, the area to be made over, or the size of the room;
  • Details of any particular features you want included – a plan or sketch up can help;
  • Materials you want to use, any preferences, particularly finishes;
  • A budget if you have one;
  • Decide if you want to manage your own tradies (if more than one is required) OR if you’d prefer us to subcontract the trades within the one job.

We provide obligation free quotes after looking at prospective jobs, where I talk to you about your needs. Sometimes it’ll take a little bit of time to get all the information together to provide a comprehensive quote for you, but we’re very aware that timing is everything.

The countdown to Christmas

Deck_gardenDare I say that at the time of writing this there are less than 12 weeks until Christmas. I won’t bother calculating the days, but you get it? The shops have already started flogging their Christmas decorations and it won’t be long before the big items purchased as presents will be picked up and ‘hidden’ in cupboards and sheds across the country, with the expectation that the rest of Christmas Day won’t be spent with a bag of allen keys and a set of bad instructions trying to put the damn thing together – it will have already been assembled, probably by me.

At this time of year, on top of keeping my regular clients happy and getting the bigger paying commercial call outs, there are the requests to put together cubby houses, flat packed outdoor and indoor furniture, patching, painting and paving, and lots of quotes to get done on small jobs that I may or may not get. It’s that time of year when everyone wants their renovations and garden maintenance “done by Christmas”. That includes assembling stuff, patching, painting, paving, cleaning gutters, renovating decks, pruning and mulching, and the like. It’s great to make hay while the sun shines (and boy, does it shine), but by Christmas Day I feel like I’ve earned that beer we left out for Santa. In fact, I’ve played Santa several times over by then.

If you think you might have a list of things you want done by Christmas, in all seriousness, please allow some time for us to get back to you, quote, and then get the job done. It also helps if you have a list of things for me to quote on or do while I’m there, because it gets harder to come back to a job the closer we get to Christmas. Tradies across the nation are collectively quaking at the sound of that “done by Christmas” line dropped into just about every domestic enquiry from here on in. I get it in on the home front as well! You know that container conversion? Christmas has been the deadline for the past year…I keep saying she has to specify just what year that is to be.

Now, if only I can slow down time between now and December 25, there might be a chance of fitting it all in – even the container. I’m already looking forward to that beer.

SUMMER DECKING TIP

If you’re working on getting your deck ready over summer and you want to have a crack at it yourself, keep in mind that if your deck has a polyurethane finish you’ll have to strip it right back. When it comes time to recoat, think about using an oil finish a it’ll be much easier to maintain going forward. Every finish has a life span and while some polyurethane products might say they’ll last four years, you then have to completely remove it to start again. Decking oil doesn’t last as long (12-18 months), but it won’t leave any kind of surface that can peel or lift. So, when you come to renovate your deck it’s a simple matter of a quick clean and a new oil coat.

The Handyman’s 12 Days of Christmas

Cameron the HandymanOn the first day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

“Toilet’s blocked again – you won’t be using it to even pee!”

On the second day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

”There’s still no water in the toilet, the bathroom light has shorted and you’ll have to use a candle to see.”

On the third day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

“The front gate is off its hinges, the dogs are down the street and I’m looking like I’ll be a busy little B@*#%!@*.”

On the fourth day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

“I hear four birds are calling in, three of them are artists, two own cats and one of them has my key.”

On the fifth day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

“Fair dinkum, doesn’t anyone make outdoor furniture that isn’t put together with Chinese instructions and an Allen key?”

On the sixth day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

”I saw six geese a-laying on the farm I was working to lay five metres of paving for a new outdoor area, before Christmas Eve.”

On the seventh day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

“Struth, I was offered seven swimming swans, six laying geese, five golden chooks, four calling birds in exchange for my Handyman fee!”

On the eighth day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

”I made a maid happy with my drilling and I told her I’d fix that leaky tap tomorra before it’s time for tea.”

On the ninth day of Christmas, the Handyman to me,

“I had nine ladies dancing in delight about the leaky tap I fixed for the grateful maid…turns out they’re all widows and have lots of jobs for me to come and see!”

On the tenth day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

Why are there ten lords a-leaping naked on our front lawn?” To which I replied, “If you can have nine ladies dancing, I’ll go a couple better…you obviously didn’t see the one hiding behind the tree?”

On the eleventh day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

“It’s the eleventh hour, we’ve had too much Christmas cheer – your eleven naked lords a-leaping need to go home so I’m ready for my nine dancing ladies who in the morning will be needing me.”

On the twelfth day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

“There are twelve drummers drumming in my head, after eleven beers drunk ten hours ago on the job for the nine dancing ladies, accompanied by the happy maid and those pesky eleven leaping lords. Shut up those bloomin’ seven swimming swans, six laying geese, five golden chooks, four calling birds and the dogs barking down the street.”

Merry Christmas! Get in early with those jobs before the Christmas cheer kicks in!

Written by the Handyman’s marketing staff over a few drinks…

Spring clean your way to a carefree summer!

Well, if it is not going to rain then the sun may as well shine and it’s certainly doing that at the moment. The wattle is out and in some cases nearly spent, and the deciduous trees are budding, which, along with the warmer days is a good sign spring has sprung. You may have been thinking about the annual spring clean as council’s kerbside clean up gets underway. It’s not just the clutter and dust in our sheds and homes that needs attending too though.

Spring is a great time to clean your solar panels and gutters so that you are not only ready to capture the best of the sunny months ahead, but in the case of cleaning gutters, you’ll be ready for when the rain comes tumbling down! Think of some of the other jobs that might need looking at while there’s someone on your roof – it’s not a spot that gets regular attention.

Some other jobs worth considering at this time of year are putting in rainwater tanks, if you haven’t already got one, and cleaning up the garden for the odd spring/summer celebration to come…or just a quiet BBQ!

Want a quote? Give me a call on 0429 879 262 and I’ll arrange a time to have a look – obligation free of course!

Summer is almost here!

Summer is almost on us and there are a few jobs you should do so you can enjoy the longer days and warmer months:
* Clean and check your guttering
* Remove rubbish from around your home
* Ensure your taps don’t leak and your hoses are in good repair
* Check and clean your flyscreens
* Make sure screen doors close properly
* Get your air-conditioning checked
* Clean the dust from your ceiling fans
* Make sure your smoke detectors are working
* Tidy up the garden, re-mulch beds that need a top up

Running out of time to do some of this? Give me call! In the meantime, stay cool – check out the great tips from Sustainability Victoria on keeping your home cool this summer – see the favourite links in the right margin. I’ve included some other useful tips and contacts below – the links of which are in my favourite links list as well:

For emergency help in floods and storms call:
State Emergency Service (SES)on 132 500

For ideas about how to prepare your property for summer check out information from the NSW Fire Brigade and NSW Rural Fire Service.