Frank Forster is the manager of the EnviroShop in Newstead, in a re-fashioned 1950s gas station in Central Victoria. He is also an industry titan, who is passionate about helping people shift towards renewables and all-electric homes and cars. With the growing demand for renewable energy, Frank believes the best starting point is to understand your energy usage and ways to improve efficiency before upgrading systems.
The EnviroShop was set up in 2014 to design and install residential and commercial solar systems, principally for grid connect, and hybrid operations. They sell energy efficient hot water systems – heat pumps – and insulation for ceilings, walls and under floor. As one of the few businesses in the area devoted to supporting people’s home builds and renovations by consulting and advising on energy efficiency, Frank has a wide array of clients such that no two jobs are ever going to be the same.
“Everyone is looking for the magic wand, but there’s usually no magic fix for anyone.” Frank says.
His starting point is home energy consults with a view to encouraging and assisting customers to transition to energy efficient all-electric homes and businesses. When clients come in asking to upgrade their energy efficiency, the EnviroShop almost always undertake a comprehensive site visit to look at their clients’ current circumstances, their facilities, infrastructure, the materials, and fabric of their house and make recommendations to make energy efficiency improvements, and how to integrate renewable energy. Frank likes to review details of the site and surrounds before moving towards whether the homeowners can change appliances or their use of the equipment they already own.
Frank says when most people are asked questions concerning their gas and electricity providers, they usually only know who their retailer is. Many clients don’t actually know much about what they’re being charged, the daily supply charges, the tariff structures, what period of time they’re being charged for electricity, when is peak and off peak and how to understand the difference. Frank also asks whether they’ve got controlled load for an old hot water system and what their level of consumption is depending on the time of year. Frank likes to encourage people to first understand these variables, to better explain their household energy use, and look to make a change with providers and plans, if possible, so they can get the best deal based upon their individual usage.
“A lot of people, their mind goes blank when they start talking about these kinds of topics because they pay their bill, often its direct debit, they don’t like how much they have to pay, but they don’t stop to kook at the detail, what makes up my bill and why am I being charged this amount for gas and electricity.” Most people, Frank says, are not given a whole lot of options in terms of tariffs and energy charges when they sign up to their retailer, but they should be asking certain questions to get the best deal for the energy they use, when they use it.
Accessing the data from smart meters is a great way to understand hour by hour usage, and then make the right decisions for your household. Learning to read and review your electricity bill, is a great way to check your energy use, and how to tailor renewable energy solutions to suit your lifestyle and home.