Di and Alvin Clausen, with Ruby

2 October 2013 — Sustainable homes in Victoria’s Central Highlands are being opened to the public in the hope of encouraging retrofits.

Alvin and Di Clausen’s Spring Hill home will be one of four sharing the secrets to reducing carbon footprints as part of the Trentham Sustainability Group’s Sustainable House Tour on October 12.

Ms Clausen, a former home economics teacher for 35 years, said getting involved in the tour was the pair’s way of helping people understand it was possible to retrofit a sustainable home.

“A lot of people are building sustainably but not many people retrofit,” she said.

“People need to know what they can do.

The garden shed can power the home

“And if we had built a sustainable home it wouldn’t be much different to what we have now.”

Mr Clausen, who has a background in electronics, said he and Ms Clausen first became involved in sustainability while living in the Clare Valley.

Living on 80 acres they converted their family home into a bed and breakfast after their three children moved away.

It was awarded the first Green Building Council of Australia 5 Star Green Star rating for a property of its type in 2002.

They moved to Spring Hill, in the Central Highlands in Victoria, after they lost their home “and everything” in the Marysville fires in 2009.

They had thought they would rebuild but found it was emotionally impossible.

So later that year they found a six-acre block “with great Spring Hill soil” and a mud-brick house that was just a year old.

And they started making additions and alterations.

There is now an extensive veggie patch out the back, free range chooks, loads of solar panels – even one on a tiny garden shed, a mini windmill and an aquaponics system in a hothouse.

The home’s solar panels have generated 7000 kilowatt-hours in the past two years, and were pretty much free because they had just had them installed in Marysville before the fires and were offered the rebates again.

The windows have been double glazed, others open to provide cross ventilation in summer, and there is a heat transfer system above the Ned Kelly fire, which uses a fan and ducts to send warmth from the lounge to the bedrooms.

There are even French chandeliers, bought on overseas trips to catch up with their children, with Australian energy saving bulbs.

Outside there are three dams including one spring-fed, the garden shed with its solar panel and a windmill, which tops up batteries inside that can keep the house running for 12 hours in case of a blackout.

Heat transfer

The couple says a solar hot water system will be the final step in their sustainability ambitions.

You do, though, feel they may continue on their journey.