In 1982, when David and Margery bought their little house in an ex-public housing estate, they could look out of their bedroom windows and see what everyone had worn for the week, because you could see everyone’s washing on the lines in their backyards. His love of nature was developed in early years living close to nature in Malta and the English Midlands.
You can’t do that now because David has transformed his yard into a native plant paradise. The added benefits include a multitude of wildlife and a more comfortable microclimate. Today, the house is nestled in a verdant glen which attracts local birds and small reptiles. Yes, he has some snakes, but none that pose a danger. You can feel the temperature drop as you walk in the gate and under the canopy.
As well as transforming the yard, David has made the house more climate resilient. He has insulated the ceilings and clad the external walls. When he recently added an extra room, he insulated the western walls. The carport is roofed with “SunTuf polycarbonate roofing,” which lets in the light but keeps out the heat. He has 9 solar panels on the roof and two batteries. The batteries are an AC coupled all-in-one battery energy storage system (BESS). It can help to achieve the optimal usage of renewable energy. This system can control the bi-directional flow of electric power, work under auto/manual and time-of-use (TOU) modes, and charge/discharge the battery as per the customer’s setting. This system will store surplus renewable energy onto the battery and discharge battery supply power to local loads when renewable energy is not enough. The batteries were installed as part of a trial and came with a reduced price.
These improvements have been made over time as finances have permitted. As a household appliance broke down, it was replaced by a more energy efficient and climate friendly product. When the family’s washing machine broke down, David spent a lot of time researching the most water efficient and energy efficient machine to replace it. At the time, Brisbane was in the middle of a 10 year drought and we were all learning how to get by with less water. He ended up deciding on a front loader with 4 and half star rating (out of 5). He wouldn’t suggest we take our washing down to the river and pound it with a rock to save electricity.
He did, however, mow his ever decreasing lawn with a hand mower until he wore it out and replaced it with a Stihl battery electric. Gradually, all his garden and handyman tools are being replaced with battery electric. Of course, the battery is recharged during the middle of the day from his solar panels. David uses timers to make optimal use of the solar power.
When the gas hot water system died after many years of good service, David did the research again and bought a Rheem heat pump water heater which, consumes less energy than an electric water heater. The water heater’s evaporator absorbs heat from the surrounding air and transfers this heat into the water. Even on cloudy or cold days, heat is drawn from the surrounding air. This is also on a timer and heats water from solar energy and ambient air temperature during the middle of the day. He has also installed two water storage tanks.
David has not yet made the switch to an electric vehicle, but does most of his commuting to work on public transport. When he makes field trips in his job as an environmental advisor for Energy Queensland, which includes doing surveys for protected plants so they can be avoided when new powerlines are built, he has a Nissan Leaf at his disposal. His Mazda 6 only gets used infrequently on weekends. He puts his money where his heart is — giving to charities which purchase land for conservation — Rainforest Rescue and Bush Heritage Australia. He has made sure his superannuation is invested ethically.
Many of the things David has done can be replicated by others. We can consider where to start and how to make are homes and backyards better living places for ourselves as well as for our flora and fauna.
David Barnes has worked as a landscape architect and ecologist for over 30 years and has worked the past 9 years as an environmental advisor for Energy Queensland.
- Fauna friendly plants of South East Queensland — ISBN: 0-9579291-0-2
- Wild plants of Greater Brisbane – ISBN: 9780975111628
David’s garden has been featured on the TV programs “Gardening Australia” and “Totally Wild.”