How to beat the environmental vandals

in
Mount Barker, Australia
Level 10
550 Views

One of the major frustrations with hosting is guest wastage. They are paying for it so they make sure they get value. Almost every guest will try our cheese plate, there may be a couple of cheeses on there that aren't to their liking so they will just slice or nibble a bit off and re-wrap the cheese, but it ruins those cheeses for the next guest......wastage.

They will take a 40 minute shower......wastage.

My main headache was the use of electricity! They will come in on a cold day, put their things down and go out for the day and the evening.....but only after they have wound the air-conditioning thermostat up as far as it will go so they have a nice comfy warm environment to come back to!! I had one couple from Singapore on a warm evening slept all night with the thermostat on 17c (62f) so they could experience what it was like to sleep under a doona!

I tried all sorts of gadgets, inventions, devices to try and thwart them, I even had a sensor on the cottage key-ring that would turn the air-con off when they left the property. We were experiencing energy pain. Here was one of our winter quarter (90 day) power bills......

 

energy bill Aug 2018.png

 

We were in power shock......$18 per day just for electricity and none of my energy saving devices were working effectively! The guest got snippy if we tried restrict what they were paying for, we were being seen as 'cheap skates'!

 

We put in a self supporting solar array and a small battery  and wow, did we turn the corner. Here was our October/January quarter bill for 2018 before we upgraded......

 

Energy bill Feb 2018.png

 

And here is our current account for the same quarter.......

 

001.jpg

 

We have changed suppliers but they are all similar, we have gone from a bill of $621 for the quarter to having a credit of $91.60 to help offset the less productive winter quarters . We have averaged a saving of around $700 per quarter for the last 5 quarters which means the system paid for itself in not much more than a year. I don't give a 'proverbial' how much energy guests use now, it doesn't come out of my pocket any more, and guests do appreciate the fact that they can be environmental vandals  if they want to! 

If I had charged another $20 per night to offset my energy costs my future bookings would have probably struggled so, solar is a path I would thoroughly recommend to other hosts.

 

Cheers.........Rob 

 

21 Replies

Re: How to beat the environmental vandals

in
England, United Kingdom
Level 10

@Robin4 I've always liked the solar idea but sadly the panels cost a similar amount in the UK but the electricity production and hence benefit is much reduced here so the payback is very questionable.In sunnier climes I am sure they are a no brainer especially if it drives aircon.

Re: How to beat the environmental vandals

in
Mount Barker, Australia
Level 10

@Mike-And-Jane0 

Mike, we are fortunate here in that both federal and state governments subsidize the installation of solar, and the uptake is such that we have a problem in this country. Between the hours of 11.00 am and 2.00 pm more solar power is being generated from roof top solar than the grid can handle! We are producing more solar power than the entire country requires and some states are regulating to stop the grid importation of solar during hours of peak production.

 

We are in fact compounding this problem but we have got around this by installing a 400 amp hour battery which gets first offer on our energy production after the household supply has been satisfied. This will generally take care of our entire electricity requirements both in the listing cottage and the main house for about 5 hours per day during the nighttime hours! 

So the protocol is house, battery, grid. What this means is, for a whole summer quarter we only import 98Kws of power from the grid and in that time we have exported close to 1 megawatt back to the grid for which we get 12c per Kw.

This even works well in winter Mike, even on a cloudy day we still produce around 21 Kws which doesn't meet our entire demand but, it bloody well helps.

We have 2 systems, one installed in 2011 which is rated at 1.5 Kws, and another installed in Sept 2019 which is rated at 5 Kws. 

Here is what we will produce on a good day.....

IMG20200129192528 2.jpg

 We can produce around 56Kws of electricity.

Now granted we have a lot more sunshine than you do in England but even our winter production would make this installation worthwhile......it's just that the break-even time would be another 3 years or there abouts.

 

Cheers.......Rob

Re: How to beat the environmental vandals

in
Port Hedland, Australia
Level 10

Hi Rob,

 

That's such a great outcome! Whilst my grasp of such matters is quite rudimentary, and all the talk about Kws and megawatts, grid and battery, import and export of power, has got me a wee bit confused, the ultimate message is clear - going solar has saved you tonnes of money...and it has benefited the environment generating more power than you consume. 

 

Way to go!!

 

Best,

Jason

Re: How to beat the environmental vandals

in
Darwin, Australia
Level 10

Same here @Robin4
We’ve got the maximum allowed here, 18 solar panels to the grid. We NEVER have a negative bill or credit, but it has definitely halved or less. The electricity we generate credits us around $400-$500 per three months, off our total bill.

 

That roof of ours also supports a solar hot water system and two solar panels at the other end, totally off the grid. Those two panels, off the grid are linked directly to our pool filter. The solar energy generates the pool pump and filter system most days of the year, allowing the “creepy crawly” pool vacuum to crawl around the pool, doing its thing, at no electrical cost to us! It speeds up and slows down if a cloud comes over. Quite funny to watch. We still have a duel system, so if needed, we switch over to mains power and can run the pool pump/filter overnight or during cloudy monsoonal rains.

Re: How to beat the environmental vandals

in
Mount Barker, Australia
Level 10

@Cathie19 

It's nice though Cathie not having to even think about power, the statement comes in and we just look at it and laugh. 

I don't think you will ever get a credit on your bill unless you have a battery. The problem is they give you 12c per Kw to put your power back into the grid during the day, but they charge you 38c per Kw to get a Kw of that back from the grid at night time.

I didn't put a battery in to make money Cathie, you can't, it's only a paper credit, they don't pay that credit into your bank account.....all it will do is offset future use.

But, oh my God, it's lovely not to have those bills!

 

Cheers.........Rob

Re: How to beat the environmental vandals

in
Charleston, SC
Level 10

This was one of my biggest concerns. Mine is a guest apartment and is connected to the same central unit as the rest of the house so I just set it rather cool in the summer months about 73 degrees, and in winter 70. Its extremely humid here and each heat pump that last about 10-12 years varies on how well it extracts humidity. I have the installers return to adjust the settings and having the exact right size is critical. I also installed hydronic baseboard heaters with two thermostats for additional heat if they need it. I specify in my guest guid not to turn them up over 74 degrees. (Maybe that's why I sometimes don't get the "Outstanding Hospitality?" I was worried they would want complete control but so far not an issue. I've thought of including an additional ductless heat pump but would then need to charge additional $10 a night, so try to keep it a little more budget friendly. This also makes it more open to diversity and inclustion, although I'm noticing trends when guest on a budget also try to get their money's worth, turn up heat higher than they would at home. My utility bills are very low, as its well insulated and new heat pump. Its also so humid that if guest turn it below 70 in the summer its at risk of freezing over the coils. I had this happen once when the wind blew a door open. The unit was still under warranty and upcoming guest were happy to receive a nights credit when AC techs replaced the coil. They said it was defective. Some of my neighbors have solar panels and love it. But the area is prone to hurricanes and for me insurance wouldn't cover the cost to replace them if they were damaged. Its all kind of stressful planning into the future. I installed a tankless hot water system. I think that's popular is Euorpe and love it. Three showers can be running at the same time and not run out of hot water. Water bill is only slightly higher. I don't care how long they want to take a shower. Its a challenge to keep the tips and description concise enough and try and explain the situation. I'm very clear in my listing for the space expactly what to expect. Once they are here its extremely comfortable and cozy. I might go ahead and say I would need to charge $10 more a night for additional hvac unit that isn't necessary, but have been very relieved everyone notes how comfortable they are. That's amazing how well your solar panels are working. I may install them also in a few years, and will include them if when the dwelling gets destroyed.   

Re: How to beat the environmental vandals

in
Charleston, SC
Level 10

@Robin4 wanted to add so far I really like being budget friendly for what is offered. Even guest driving luxury cars really love it and tend to be the least wasteful. What irritated me the most was families staying for two nights and running the washer dryer non stop. Must have loaded up the mini van with all their laundry and blankets from home. So I don't provide the pull out sleeper anymore, which I wasn't even charging extra for. So the wasteful ones are the outliers, and only one recent guest both turned up the heat to 74 and the only guest so far to mark me down for value. I think this can at times be cultural. I have friends who boast that everything is negotiable where they live overseas. Hopefully won't see them again, even though they said they loved it and would be back. But at the same time can't be budget friendly and get marked down for it. Although in general a more diverse range of guest seems to be the best approach as well. I was tempted to send them a follow up message but usually best to update listing description. I've also had guest complain that food was left in the fridge so don't include any food as that would be wasteful. In short if something minor is becoming stressful just don't offer it anymore. Of course that varies depending on location and access to restaurants or grocery stores.  

Re: How to beat the environmental vandals

in
Placencia, Belize
Level 10

I realize the conversation is about Grid-Assist systems with option to buy back,  via a government program. It still raises the question - is solar on its own sake worth it even if there is a choice between it and being on the grid?  Once power bills become 'prohibited' solar is the way to go, so is a case -by-case reality I suppose. 

 

    As to guests expecting and demanding to do as they want to - leave lights on, insist on A/C all day long, 40-minute showers, etc. I make it known, "here there is a cap to wishes". I show them the power meter, the water tank level, etc - they run out not much we can do.  Of course we do provide more than enough, based on the last 500+ bookings. 

      So if they want to wallow in a mindless wasteful manner and still be right inside a beautiful tropical atoll (not connected to 'society') they should think Disneyworld where everything is roleplaying and make believe. All the surrounding resorts around me play this waste-as-you-wish game, with full catering to mindless 'borrachos'. LoL

Re: How to beat the environmental vandals

in
Charleston, SC
Level 10

This months gas and electric bill. Total for January in $160.. about $30 higher than last January when I didn't have guest. So guest are using about $10-$30 in utilities each month. An additional AC unit would use a lot more power. Would also have longer pay back for solar because bills are low. Sorry for drifting off topic a bit, although its a challenge to convey to guest that they are getting a discount and the space is optimized for the best airflow and comfort. 

 

IMG_1069 2 (6).jpeg

Re: How to beat the environmental vandals

in
Greenville, SC
Level 10

This is amazing, Robin! 

 

Excuse me if I missed it, but I looked at your listing, and didn’t see your new solar system mentioned. I think it would be a great selling point for you to describe it briefly, perhaps in the section in which you talk about heat/cooling. There are many eco-conscious guests out there who would appreciate it, and who would want to take part in being eco-friendly on their vacation. They might book your place just because of it! 🙂 

Re: How to beat the environmental vandals

in
Mount Barker, Australia
Level 10

@Pat271 

That is a good point and I will give that some thought Pat.

I deliberately haven't mentioned it in my listing description, as @John5097  says most guests are not bad when it comes to energy use, but they are that way because in their regular lives they pay for what they use. If they had a hint that we produce more power than we use, I am sure they would be a lot more wasteful.

 

It's all very saying the power they use doesn't cost anything but ultimately, every Kw they use is a Kw I can't export back to the grid and get a credit on, so in a way I am potentially losing. 

 

The other advantage I have here is the very stable environment! We don't get hurricanes, tornadoes, large hailstorms, it doesn't snow, it gets hot, but that's what solar thrives on, plenty of sun.....there isn't a threat to the physical longevity of the system here.

IMG20191002170317.jpg

 

@Fred13 , it is maybe a bit easier for you because of your isolation Fred, you always have that big stick....once it's gone, it's gone, treat it with a bit of respect.

 

Most of us here were forced down this path through poor government planning. Not wishing to have to replace their aging power generation system the government offered huge incentives to get the electorate to produce their own energy. For those who signed up for solar before September 2011 the government guaranteed a 44c per Kw feed in tariff until 2026, which the power retailers topped up to 50c, we all rushed to get on board in one way or other.

Now, when you buy electricity at 50c per Kw, what can you sell it at!

emoji 5.png

The sensible thing to do would have been to say, 'Whatever it costs to buy a Kw from the grid we will give you to replace it'!  Instead we ended up with the most expensive power in the world. I was being charged 60c per Kw, so we were essentially forced into going down this path!

 

Thanks for the eco-friendly tip Pat  I will definitely consider making some mention of that, anything that keeps the bookings coming is worthwhile.

 

Cheers.........Rob

Re: How to beat the environmental vandals

in
Placencia, Belize
Level 10

@Robin4 I have had seven totally different businesses in my life, 5 in the U.S., 2 in Belize; all have afforded me a high degree of personal freedom, not by accident but by design. I deal in the real world dealing with humans very successfully, but whatever starts to become a hassle because I no longer have enough control over my life - I sell and do something else. 

 

We upgraded our listing radically for the last 9 months of 2020 for a reason - choice-,  we now have it. We now have offers from those wanting what we have - freedom. So now we are keeping a very critical eye on Airbnb, if it continues to do as it pleases with bookings as it did in 2020, it is time to sell and do something else, for nothing really has to be.

 

 

 

 

Re: How to beat the environmental vandals

in
Munnsville, NY
Level 10

@Robin4 ,  I would expect no less from an engineer , what a sweet setup!  So far, about the only things I could do to make our 4500, 200+ year old behemoth more efficient is replacing the heating plant and lighting and adding a semi trailer of insulation and air sealing.   It has really made a huge difference in fuel oil and electric.   Our wood pellet stove does almost half of the heating for the whole place, that really helps.  There is still more to do but every time we insulate, the beast gets easier to feed and more comfortable. 

 

I looked at solar a few years back but they wanted to put it on my roof and thats not a good choice for a 150 year old standing seem steel roof, putting panels on racks and trackers would have almost doubled the cost to almost $40K.   

 

Ive got most of the materials to put in a small wind turbine and plan on doing that as one of my first retirement project (still a couple years out).    

Re: How to beat the environmental vandals

in
Mount Barker, Australia
Level 10

@Melodie-And-John0 

John I understand your predicament, for you....and for our time of life mate, these investments need to be cost effective....;-((....neither of us want to spend money that someone else will get the benefit of.

 

My last solar upgrade was for a 5 Kw, 18 panel system and fully installed it cost me $2,845.00 AU (that is $2167.18 USD) and the battery cost me a further $1,472.00 AU! John, it is affordable here because it is so heavily government subsidized, my total investment was a bit over 4 grand and I have already recouped that outlay.

I don't have to muck around with wood, oil, coal,  gas,  peat moss........McDonalds  packaging, God isn't that a blight on the countryside. Solar requires no input on my side, it just happens...... and guests actually appreciate that I encourage them to be comfortable, use as much as they want.

 

John, my energy cost used to be my single biggest outlay with hosting, now it simply does not exist....but I will let you in on a secret, I am not going to lower my listing price to reflect the saving!

 

John, I also have a wind turbine........

IMG20180421170328 b.jpg

It's a Pravac vertical axis turbine and is connected to 2 Fisher Paykel 750 watt pancake washing machine motors giving it a capacity of 1.5 Kw/pr hour and we do use that in the winter time to help with the property energy demands.......

 https://imgur.com/a/cGv83xr

 

 

 

Cheers.......Rob

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