Heyweb Reboot 2014 in Progress

It is 2014, and it is time for a change. The previous branding was put together in 2010, and the theme doesn’t take into account responsive design or improved page layouts. This is also an opportunity to do some housework on the site and do some organisation. The Heyweb Reboot 2014 is in progress.

Here is the immediate plans of the reboot program, in no particular order:

  • Update to WordPress’ Twenty Fourteen theme
  • Make use of featured content for front page of the website
  • Build an index of content to make it easier to find information
  • Rebrand with a focus on delivering SharePoint related content
  • Consolidate information on projects and experience

Apologies if things go askew. The aim is to have everything stabilised by end of April 2014.

SharePoint 2013 Preview Unboxing Part 1

The SharePoint 2013 Preview was released today, and I have had an opportunity this evening to load it up into a virtual environment and check it out.  I conducted this task as a virtual unboxing, to experience the SharePoint 2013 Preview installation process.  I recorded a screencast of this unboxing, and have published this on YouTube to share:

I couple of the key notes include:

  • Read the hardware and software requirements guide on TechNet – there are some big requirements particularly around RAM.
  • The download for the server edition of SharePoint 2013 is over 2GB in size, about double the size of the SharePoint 2010 cumulative updates.
  • I had to restart a couple of times during the pre-requisite installer, not a huge issue.
  • I get to a point in Part 1 where I am about to load Central Admin and my new site collection, and the main troubles that I will show in Part 2 is around the performance of my virtual enviornment, with RAM and disk IO being major problems.

Overall, the process was fairly successful, and I will have second part to release soon which will show further details.

Out of Hot Water (Part 2)

Last August, I blogged that our hot water system had died, and that I ended up having a Stiebel Eltron Heat Pump installed.  Six months on, time to take a look back and see how the system has been performing.

I listed a couple of requirements:

  • Larger than our existing system (140L), and from researching online, needed a minimum of 250L
  • Cost the same or less to operate (~$65 per quarter, tarriff 33)
  • Budget: $1500-2000 installed
  • Replaced as quick as possible

The Stiebel is a 300L unit, and is quite large.  Although we have not tested it through the winter months yet, we have not run out of hot water yet (this occurred frequently with the old, smaller unit).  The plumber also installed a thermal protection device, I had to max it out to 55º C for us to be happy with it.  A great idea with young children.

I was really looking forward to the next full bill cycle to see what kind of savings we would make.  Assuming that a standard electric unit of 300L capacity uses double the power of our old unit, I’m estimating hot water would cost us at least $120 per quarter.  I’m pleased to report that my electricity bill has dropped from $67 in August to $29 in January.  That’s about 32 cents per day for hot water!

The cost of the unit was more than what we wanted to pay.  Our rebates finally came back from the state and federal governments ($1200 total), and that helped soften the upfront cost.  If we save $90 per quarter compared to a similar electric unit, the additional cost of the Stiebel will be paid back within three years.

We also received excellent turnaround and service from The Solar Guys and installation was done within 48 hours.

There were also some reports online that this unit is noisy.  The hot water system is near our kid’s toy room, and I rarely hear it unless the windows are wide open.  The noise has never bothered us.

One other thing to note about the Stiebel is its performance during a recent loss of power.  With the recent flooding in Brisbane, out power was removed for about 24 hours.  During that time the hot water came out as per normal (about 18 hours after loss of power).  I was fairly surprised by how much heat was maintained.

Out of Hot Water

Buying a new hot-water system, in summary:

  • Buying decisions for big items requires rational, logical thought.
  • Set your requirements, and be flexible.
  • There will be situations where time is not a luxury to make quick decisions.

UPDATE:  Click here to read my update on the unit six months after the installation

Last week, my family & I jumped into the car with our pyjamas on.  It it had been four days since our hot water system was out of action, and we were on our way to the mother-in-laws house for a shower.  We had been through quite a few big expenses of late, and this was another one to add to the list.

Our 18 year old electric system just hadn’t been working properly, and over winter we noticed the lack of hot water.  In an attempt to use the relief valve, it got stuck and would not shut off.  We could either spend $200+ reparing an old unit, or put that money towards a new system.  We set a budget of at least $1500, knowing almost nothing about hot water systems.

Then we deducted our requirements:

  • Larger than our existing system (140L), and from researching online, needed a minimum of 250L
  • Cost the same or less to operate (~$65 per quarter, tarriff 33)
  • Budget: $1500-2000 installed
  • Replaced as quick as possible

Queensland regulations state that we must now install a greenhouse efficient hot water system, where we have reticualted natural gas available.  After quick phone call to AGL, who put me on to Natural Gas Connections (because they have the actual gas network maps…) I was out of luck.  In my conversation I also found out that once the street is established, highly unlikely that gas will ever be laid.

Not to be deterred, I had a look at bottled LPG options.  The concensus from online looking and confirmed by a friend was that 45KG bottles would cost $100 each, and I’d probably need to replace one about once a month.  With LPG gas, this would have certainly tripled my running costs.  Similarly, a larger electric unit of double the size would have lead to a larger electricity bill, and this was undesirable.

After all of this research, it had been a good two days without hot water.  At this point I was going to bite the bullet on a new full electric system.  My brother-in-law pointed me to some of the rebates that I could get from the Queensland and Australian governments, and I started my discovery on heat pumps.  I’ll let you do your own reading on these, but the conclusion was that I could reduce my hot water electricity bill to about 25% of what I currently pay, with the government helping to foot the bill.

The cream of the crop seemed to be a Stiebel Eltron Heat Pump, and had very good reviews online.  It only came in one size, 300L.  By its efficiency I anticipated a smaller bill, so far half of my requirements were met.

I found a local Brisbane company that specialised in these heat pumps, The Solar Guys, and I gave them a call.  The service was very prompt.  I had a return call within 15 minutes, and an appointment made for the next day.  The salesman turned up on time, and confirmed everything I had read about heat pumps and the Stiebel Eltron product.  Best of all, we could have one installed within two days.  Great, that was almost all of my requirements.

Of course price was going to be the killer and I was not prepared for it.  Even after selling the RECs and rebates, it came in at about $1000 more than the maximum budget we had set.  This caused a bit of agony but we put some numbers to the total cost.  We figured that if our hot water charges drop by 75% as advertised, we would save about $200 per year, with a return on investment beyond our budget in about 5 years.  I also discovered the design life is 15 years, so it may even be possible to have it pay for itself over the entire life of the unit.

Although it was a tough decision, we did not have the luxury of time to seek more quotes, look at alternatives, and come to a more considered conclusion.  My three year old did enjoy his bath-in-a-bucket using water from the kettle, but my 30 week pregnant wife was rather unpleased.  So we called up and booked it in, and within 48 hours we had an installed system, and hot water soon ensured.

Overall, I was happy with the purchase, happy with the service we received, and happy we had hot water again.  I was not happy about the time I had to research and make that decision, and that the event was untimely in our current household economic cycle.  But, if it makes me feel any better, at least I’m helping the environment and reducing my carbon footprint.