Monthly Archives: November 2016

This Your Alternatives Window Furnishings

Window furnishings increase the privacy of your home and many are designed to increase your homes security. They provide noise and light reduction and can insulate your home against the heat of summer and the cold of winter. This article explains the different types of window furnishings available normally available in Australia and lists the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Bars and grills

Window bars/grills are an external window furnishing usually made of steel with a baked on powder-coated finish. Bolted to the outside of the window, they have been a very popular alternative in past years for elderly people, or those who live in neighbourhoods with higher crime rates, due to the strength and protection they provide.


  • Very hard for intruders to break in
  • Hard wearing and long lasting


  • Not a large benefit in terms of privacy unless coupled

    with an internal furnishing

  • Not generally considered a modern or attractive alternative
  • No other benefits e.g. noise reduction, light reduction or insulation

Blinds and curtains

Blinds are an internal window furnishing which are available in a huge range of different styles and operation types. Different blind alternatives include vertical blinds, Venetian blinds, roller blinds, Roman blinds, panel glide blinds, cellular blinds and drapes. These alternatives are generally made from polyester, aluminium or timber laminate and although they look different general serve a similar purpose.


  • Increased privacy
  • Provide excellent light control
  • Provide some sort of insulation

    against heat and cold

  • Available in an enormous range

    of colours and styles guaranteed

    to suit any home


  • Generally no added security provided from these types of window furnishings
  • Insulation benefit not as large as other alternatives


Louvres are an alternative to standard glass windows, so in essence they are both an internal and external window furnishing. Louvres comprise of thin horizontal blades which can be adjusted anywhere between opened and fully closed. These sheets are generally made from timber, glass or aluminium and come in a wide range of colours and styles. They are also available in a wide range of operations including manual and motorised.


  • Increased privacy
  • Light control
  • Aluminium alternatives provide noise reduction

    and insulation benefits

  • Wide range of alternatives in relation to material,

    colour, style and operation

  • Increased security within the home
  • Seal tight to reduce noise and disturbance from bad weather


  • Can be a costly alternative
  • Glass and wooden louvers do not provide a security benefit


Awnings are an external window furnishing which have been popular for many years now. Generally made from canvas, acrylic or aluminium, awnings come in a wide range of styles and colours. Awnings also have a large variety of operation types including rope, tape, automatic, crank or motorised options.


  • Privacy
  • Light reduction
  • Considered aesthetically pleasing by some
  • Wide variety of materials, styles and operations
  • Moderate insulation benefit


  • No added security
  • Can be inconvenient and obstructing
  • Noise/light reduction and insulation benefits not as large as some other alternatives

Roller Shutters

Window roller shutters have been an Australian favourite for many years. Usually made from insulated aluminium roller shutters come in a wide range of colours and styles. Roller shutters also have a large range of operation methods including winder, strap and motorised electric options.


  • Privacy
  • Light control
  • Noise reduction
  • Insulation against heat and cold
  • Security benefits
  • Wide range of colours and styles available


  • Not considered attractive by all
  • Can be a costly investment

Window Tinting

Window Tinting has become a more popular alternative during recent times. Window tints come in a variety of types such as reflective, coloured reflective, silver reflective, bronze reflective and non-reflective.


  • Reduce glare into homes and offices
  • Reduces UV rays
  • Provides some insulation against heat and cold
  • Increase in privacy


  • No security benefit
  • No noise reduction

Australia Buying building and owning a swimming pool

Do you really want a swimming pool?

Stick to your budget. Your kids will have just as much fun in the low cost swimming pool shown above as in the custom inground pool shown below.

Do you want to provide endless hours of fun and exercise for your children in summer? Is there a need to escape the heat? Then you should consider getting a swimming pool.

However, because swimming pools are not cheap to build, buy or maintain, there are many factors to be considered before going any further.

Budget is a huge factor, but not the only consideration. Firstly, evaluate your reasons for installing a pool. Is it to be purely for recreation? Do you have a family member who has a health condition that would benefit from swimming? What space do you have for a pool, and what problems may this space present? Will the pool be used year round? What building codes apply in your area? What extras would you like with your pool: spa, waterfall, slides? How will your pool affect your landscaping, and what other things could you do with the space that a pool will use?

Choosing a pool

First of all, make sure you know your budget and stick to it. Be confident that you can afford the swimming pool that you choose, and that you have allowed for the extras that go with a pool. You won’t have fun swimming if each time you do a lap you think of how much debt you are in!

Research the kind of pool you want, and why. Good planning will help you minimise extra expenditures. Give consideration as to how you would like the area around the pool landscaped and factor in that as an expense. Also give serious consideration to maintenance costs – pumps, filters and chemicals are regular expenses that need to be budgeted. Filling your pool will cause your water bill to rise significantly, unless you have water tanks installed. You will also want to account for the expense of water loss through normal usage of the pool. Water restrictions in times of drought may mean having to buy in water. And don’t forget pool fencing – it’s mandatory.

Types of pool

The material that your pool is built from will determine a lot of features about it, like the frequency of maintenance and how flexible it can be in terms of design.

The three types of swimming pool to choose from are:

1. Above ground pools

This type of pool is the cheapest to buy, the simplest to install and is easy to dismantle if you move, or grow tired of it. Above ground pools can be set up with decking and landscaping to look almost as good as more expensive in-ground pools.

Prices range from $3,000 to $8,000 for the pool, with landscaping, filtering, electrical equipment and decking extra. One advantage of an above ground pool is that they don’t need to have concrete coping, which can add an extra $1200 (approximately). An above ground pool can be installed into a hole dug in the ground so that it resembles an in-ground pool. They have a steel frame and a vinyl liner. The frame should last approximately 25 years, depending on the local conditions, and the liner should last around 15 years before it needs replacing.

2. In-ground fibreglass pools

These are the second most affordable pool.

Prices for a fibreglass pool are around $20,000 – $25,000. This price is just for the pool to be placed in the ground, without filtration, electrical connections, landscaping or fencing. Fibreglass pools are manufactured off site in one piece, and then placed in an excavation on the site. Fibreglass is a durable and flexible material that can be made and shaped into a wide array of sizes and shapes. Fibreglass has a smooth surface and is algae-resistant.

3. Concrete pools

Concrete pools are often custom or semi-custom designs, and cost the most to build.

The cost of a concrete pool is varied by the interior finish of the pool. The cheapest finish is a pebble interior, followed by a glass bead interior, with tiling the most expensive option. Pebbles and glass finishes are plastered on, and then blasted off to expose a smooth, durable finish. Glass beads can come in any desired colour. Tiles are even more variable, but are the most expensive because they are labour intensive to apply.

Your budget for a concrete pool needs to be in excess of $50,000.

NOTE: Prices quoted above were researched in 2012.

Getting started with building your pool

Once you have made the decision on which pool is right for you, there are some steps you then need to take before you sign on the dotted line.

  • Shop around for a contractor
  • Obtain at least three written quotes
  • Make certain that ALL labour and materials are included as well as building permits. A written list of inclusions and exclusions is a must.
  • Ask for a list of previous customers and their phone numbers and call a few of them for a reference.
  • Don’t make a hasty decision. Take your time and don’t be pressured into signing a contract.
  • Check with the Department of Fair Trading (or the equivalent) in your state (if you are in Australia). You can do an online check of your swimming pool contractor on their website, and they also have a section on things to consider when building a pool. Well worth a visit. Here is a link to the NSW Fair Trading site: Building a Pool: Dept. of Fair Trading, NSW
  • Never pay a contractor in cash. Always use a cheque, money order or credit card so you have proof of purchase.
  • Investigate what limitations there are to your pool site. If it is close to the building it may need extra structural reinforcing. If the ground is sloping retaining walls may have to be built, and these all need extra care to ensure that they can take the extra strain that a pool will cause.

Solar energy systems for pools

When most people think of solar energy systems, they think of the large crystalline structures that are meant to collect solar energy to convert to solar power. However, there are other uses for solar energy systems. One of the more ingenious uses for this technology is the use of solar energy systems for heating pools. By using solar power to heat your swimming pool you can be sure that your morning swim will always be pleasant, less taxing on the environment and affordable.

Unless you live in a tropical climate where the temperature doesn’t drop at night you will need to heat your pool to make it comfortable for year-round swimming. Most people simply to purchase a pool cover, but pool covers only work to limit heat loss they do not heat the water. Gas heaters work well, but the operating costs of a gas heater can really add up. A low initial cost can draw pool owners to gas heating, but the costs over the life of the use of the pool can be large, and will only get larger as energy supplies diminish.

Using a solar energy systems for heating your pool can solve all of the problems mentioned above. Usually, solar energy systems are installed on the roof of your house, where there is the sunlight. Solar energy systems collect heat, which is transmitted to water stored in hoses behind the solar collectors. This warms the water, which is then circulated through the pool. This method of pool heating does cost more, initially, than other heating system, but the solar collectors and other accessories pay for themselves in a few years. If you plan to live in the house for some time, the cost will be a fraction of any other heating system. If you plan to sell the house in the near future, the solar energy system will add to the value of the house since they are considered energy savers over time.

The use of solar energy systems for heating pools is a time tested strategy. If you live in an area where lots of homes you may notice a few homes with pools that have solar energy systems. The only downside to this approach is that the government does not offer any financial incentives for heating your pool with solar. However, given the savings, it really doesn’t matter.

Swimming pool sanitation

Sanitation involves filtration to remove pollutants, disinfestation to kill infectious organisms, good hygiene to lessen the introduction of contaminants to the pool water, and regular testing and adjusting of PH levels, alkalinity and calcium levels.

The World Health Organisation has published international guidelines for the safety of swimming pools, including standards for minimising microbial and chemical hazards.

There are basically three different types of filters: sand, diatomaceous earth and cartridge filters. A filter is placed in-line immediately after the water pump. A well maintained filtration system is the first barrier in combatting contaminants. Preventing the entry of pool contaminants, both pathogenic and non-pathogenic, into the pool water is impossible, therefore effective treatments for sanitising the pool water is needed.

Chlorinating a pool is still the most widely used method of sanitising water. It does an excellent job, because it attacks anything organic. Because of this, it can be irritating to eyes, skin and hair. Optimum chemical levels should be maintained to adequately disinfect the water.

Salt water pools are not chlorine free pools. A salt water pool is one that utilises a chlorine generator. This produces chlorine from salt; i.e., sodium chloride. Water passes over the chlorine generator producing chlorine which is straight away converted into hypochlorous acid, which is the active sanitiser that kills algae, bacteria and fungi. The advantage of salt water pools is that chlorine does not have to be manually added to the pool, thus the owner does not have to buy, store or handle it. A disadvantage is that they consume a lot of electricity to run the system. Another is that the generator chamber has a limited life due to the corrosive nature of chlorine.

Equipment housing

Most swimming pool constructions incorporate a housing for the filtration equipment. This protects the equipment from the sun and rain, and it reduces the noise from the running filter. There are regulations in place to protect neighbours from the noise generated by pool equipment.

Extras for your pool

Extra features that can be added to pools are artificial streams and waterfalls, fountains, water slides, artificial pebble beaches, submerged seating, plunge pools, spas and hot tubs and shallow children wading pools.

A good landscaper can integrate the pool with the surroundings to expand the recreational opportunities associated with a pool. Outdoor BBQ areas and kitchens, shade areas, gazebos, garden furniture and inbuilt seating structures are all possibilities to expand your outdoor area.

Swimming pool safety guidelines

Tubular and glass pool fencing.
Images supplied by Fencing Manufacturers.

Fencing requirements

When building a pool. It is necessary to:

  • Install temporary fencing around the pool area while it is under construction
  • Inform your local council about where your permanent pool fence is going to be located, to make sure that its location meets council guidelines
  • Arrange a final inspection by your local council or private building certifier as soon as possible after the permanent compliant fence has been installed

After the pool is built, the owner should ensure:

  • The pool is surrounded on all sides, at all times, by a child-resistant fence separating the pool from the house and any adjoining premises
  • All doors and gates providing access to the pool must be kept closed at all times
  • A warning sign must be displayed near the pool

Child safety

  • If a child is missing, check the water first
  • Always watch children when they are in or near the water
  • Learn adult and infant CPR, and have an approved CPR chart in the pool area, these can be obtained from your local council, pool shop or community organisations such as St Johns Ambulance, Australian Red Cross or the Royal Life Saving Association
  • At outdoor gatherings, designate an adult to be responsible for supervising children
  • Ensure the pool gate is always closed and never propped or left open.
  • Keep trees, shrubs, pot plants and furniture away from the pool fence so that kids can’t use them to climb in

Electrical safety

Pools and electricity can be a lethal combination. Be very careful if you have a swimming pool that has a portable electrical pump and filter system where there is no protective housing. When buying pool with electrical pumps and filters you should

  • Make sure the pump and filter have an electrical safety approval number or Regulatory Compliance mark.
  • Check that they are suitable for outdoor use
  • Fit a safety switch to the house where the pool will be used
  • Arrange for a licensed electrician to install a suitable weather protected electrical power point close to where the pool equipment will be located

This Awnings for climate control

Why choose awnings for the home?

Awnings are a low-cost, low-tech way to summer cooling. They can serve two functions, to supply shade for the summer sun to control heat entry to the home, and also to offer more protection from rain and hail, to extend the life of the building structure and to offer shelter. About 40% of unwanted heat that enters the house is through the windows.

An awning is a fixed structure attached to the outside of a building, over doors, windows or walkways. Awnings were first used by the ancient Egyptians and Sumerians. The Coloseum in Rome was shaded and protected by large retractable canvas awnings.

Awning materials

Awnings can be made from a number of different materials, can be permanently fixed or retractable, decorative or purely functional. The angle and size of the awning is important to get the best result from an awning. The right placement ensures that summer sun can be excluded from the windows, yet allows the winter sun to penetrate to warm the house.

A light coloured awning will also reflect sunlight and heat. A slight gap left between the awning and the house will help to vent the heat that builds up under the awning. Installing the awning at an angle of 45 degrees looks and functions best.

Federation awning

The awning pictured right, is a permanent structure, and can be constructed from various materials. The advantage of this type of awning is that it is set and forget, apart from painting and cleaning. The disadvantage is that you are stuck with one level of setting.

There are other awnings which can have various configurations of control. You can have the mounting arms movable and adjustable, and the awning covering removable or retractable or partially so. This will give you greater levels of control over your covering options. You also have a choice of manual or motorised controls and adjustment.

The Ventian awning pictured below left, has either fixed or movable louvres for shade control. The advantage of these is that they allow some degree of light and vision through the louvres. If the louvres are movable, this allows for more light when needed. The louvres can be of wood, aluminium or various plastics. The latter two are maintenance free apart from cleaning.

The Canvas awning pictured far right can be slid down to any position on the rods. In winter, it can be retracted back into the hood for maximum sun penetration to the home. The advantage of these is that they are light, inexpensive and easy to maintain.

Selecting the most suitable awning for your home will ensure you have the best low-cost, low-tech way to cool your home in summer.

Here Your Alternatives Hot Water Systems

Did you know that on average hot water systems make-up 31% of your total energy bill? On top of that the cost of providing instant hot water to your home is continuously increasing.According to the Independent Pricing & Regulatory Tribunal(IPART) hot water systems consume more energy than any other device within the average household. In their 2009 report IPART also predicted a 60% increase in the price of electricity from 1 July 2010 – 30 June 2013. You will have experienced some of these increases already, but further increases are coming soon.This article compares the costs, benefits and disadvantages of the three major hot water alternatives commonly available to Australians: electric, gas and solar.Electric Hot Water Systems

Electric hot water has been continuously developed and used over the last century and has been the main source of hot water in homes for several decades. In 2008 the ABS recorded that around 58% of homes in NSW use electric hot water systems.With the continuously rising cost of electricity and the introduction of the Carbon Tax, it is becoming increasingly expensive to run an electric hot water system.The government has stated that it will try and phase out electric hot water systems by 2013. This will make it harder to purchase replacement tanks and parts.From an ‘initial investment’ point-of-view, electric tanks are currently your most affordable option. They range in price from $500 to $2000, with many second-hand tanks available for less.Although costly to run, electrical hot water systems are reliable.Until recently all electric hot water systems heated water with an energy-hungry electrical element. However there is now an energy-saving alternative: the electric heat pump.Electric heat pumps are approximately three times more efficient than electrical-element based systems but the initial investment is between $1500 and $4000. Heat pumps are more efficient in warmer weather and in warmer climates.

Gas Hot Water Systems

Gas hot water systems have become increasingly popular over the last 5 years. Improvements in technology have seen gas systems, both storage and continuous, become more efficient and affordable.According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 76% of households in Melbourne are using a gas hot water system.Gas hot water requires a gas connection in the household but can also be run on gas bottles.Some gas hot water systems are considerably more efficient than others – look at their energy star rating before purchasing.Gas Hot Water Systems usually cost between $800 – $2500. The price depends on size and efficiency.Gas Hot Water Systems are not as cost effective as solar or heat pump based systems, however they are more efficient than traditional electric-element based systems.

Solar Hot Water Systems

Australia has an abundance of sunlight. Our solar insolation levels (amount of sunlight per square meter) greatly exceed those in Europe, Russia and North America. Some parts of central Australia receive an enormous 5.89 kWh/m2 per day. Australia’s solar insolation levels make solar hot water the most energy efficient water heating alternative for Australians. ( Hot Water systems can reduce the energy used to create hot water by up to 90% (when compared to electric element-based hot water systems).Solar hot water helps the environment, saving around 4,000 kg (4 tonnes) of green house gases each year.A solar hot water system can cost anywhere between $4000 – $8000, depending on the size of the tank and the number and efficiency of the collectors.There are two types of solar hot water tanks available; ground-mount tanks and roof-mount tanks.Roof-mount tanks are useful for those with limited space around the house but they can be harder to maintain and are not suitable for those with brittle or weak roofs.Ground-mount tanks are placed, as the name suggests, on the ground rather than on the roof above the collectors. This provides the panels with a more slimline look, although requires a place on the ground for the tank to be stored.