Weekly Head Voices #159: Extreme.

The view from Waterkloof Restaurant’s balcony, on a fairly perfect evening.

In theory, this edition should cover the period of time from Monday November 19 to today, Wednesday December 19, 2018.

I am very late with this post, because down here we were first busy winding down the year with all of the completion-madness that that entails, and then the vacation started starting.

It hasn’t yet stopped being busy starting.

We are now entering what the Dutch call komkommertijd, and, as I’ve just learned, the Germans Sauregurkenzeit, referring to the period when everyone has left and there’s not really anything news-worthy happening.

Extreme dining

To celebrate the occasion of the official partnership between my partner and me adding another year to its growing collection, and due to my partner’s impeccable timing and ingenuity, we spent an amazing evening at what is currently South Africa’s best restaurant, at least according to the 2018 Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards.

I would like to share three observations:

  1. The Waterkloof experience is a superbly balanced combination of location (see the photo above), architecture and interior design, art and ambience, all acting as context for the almost other-worldly culinary adventure, itself consisting of pairings of wine and perfect little dishes, the latter again artfully manipulating appearance and taste, space and time.
  2. South Africa is a country of extremes. Just the previous night, close family had been the victims in a violent but fortunately non-fatal home invasion.
  3. If you ever manage to find yourself at Waterkloof, take this advice to heart: The small dégustation menu with wine pairing is most probably more than enough. (We selected the normal. By what felt like the 15th course, we were dealing with the dilemma of having to abstain from eye-wateringly beautiful culinary creations.)

Extreme Solar

For many good reasons, we are currently seriously evaluating upgrading the house with a photovoltaic solar power system.

It turns out, as I should have expected, that there’s a whole universe of new toys and gadgets to evaluate.

We are currently looking at the following main components:

  • 2 x PylonTech US3000B LithiumIon batteries for a total of about 7 kWh of stored electricity.
  • GoodWe GW3648-EM Hybrid inverter: This coordinates everything between the PV Solar panels, the grid and the batteries. When the sun is shining, it charges the batteries, and powers as much as possible of the house, only using the grid when there’s no other option. During the evening, it powers the house using the batteries, again only using the grid when absolutely required. Due to strict rules down here in Cape Town, we are limited to inverters with a maximum output of 3.6 kW, even when no feed-in (to the grid) is planned.
  • The PV Solar Panels: I am still considering options here. I would prefer monocrystalline, and as close as possible to the 4.6 kWp maximum supported by the GoodWe inverter to maximise the amount of sun in our power diet.

As a first step, today we had a number of intelligent geyser controllers installed. These devices enable me to keep the geysers (we heat all of our water electrically down here…) off for most of the day, only switching them on an hour or two before hot water is usually required.

They look like this:

GeyserWise TSE geyser controller. I should have done this ages ago. Who came up with the idea that a water geyser needs to maintain its high temperature 24/7?

The rest of this exercise will be considerably more expensive, but  am really looking forward to being able to harvest most of our electricity from the lovely African sun!

I have one final bit of nerd-news, and it comes in the form of a…

WHV pro-tip #23972847376: If you are doing data science(tm), or machine learning, or visualization, or any other dataset-oriented work, I can highly recommend DVC, or DataVersionControl. We have started using this on one of our projects to manage different collections of DICOM images, and it works incredibly well.

Extreme health

In conclusion, I would like to mention a recent and very impressive study by the Cleveland Clinic about the correlation between cardiorespiratory fitness and all-cause mortality.

I’ll start with this quote:

In this cohort study of 122 007 consecutive patients undergoing exercise treadmill testing, cardiorespiratory fitness was inversely associated with all-cause mortality without an observed upper limit of benefit.

Let’s “unpack” that, as they say.

The researchers spent about 23 years measuring the cardiorespiratory fitness of just over 122 thousand subjects as they were running on a treadmill.

Measuring that many people gives your conclusions quite some statistical power. Also, the treadmill doesn’t lie, as people will often do, inadvertently or not, when self-reporting their fitness level.

What’s also interesting to me is that they didn’t observe any upper limit to the positive effect of fitness. Every additional amount of cardiorespiratory fitness, up to crazy levels, correlated with longer life.

The upshot of all of this is that there’s really no excuse. That one most important thing we can do to live long and prosper is to exercise.

It’s what Spock would have wanted.

Running on a dirt road in Betty’s Bay. I love running on dirt roads, although on this particular morning I was already tired before I started. The tiredness unfortunately did not decrease. I think there might still have been some virus involved, or, more probably, just standard bad vacation habits involving craft beer in the evening.

5 thoughts on “Weekly Head Voices #159: Extreme.”

  1. Great post (as always). I am very interested in your solar solution as I am currently also in the market for something similar. Without checking legalities, I estimated that 5 kV (peak) and 5-10 kWh would best fit my need.

    I was curious about your water heating: my house warms a 200L geyser with evacuated tube solar tubes coupled with an intelligent electric element. This massively reduced the need for any electric heating (solar on its own being effective for >75% of the year). Maybe this additional solar tech won’t be best for a multiple-geyser household and if you’re also doing PV, but it makes sense for me. Using solar heating + LED lighting everywhere, my total household electrity use is currently < 190 kWh per month which I think is good considering that SA households average 230 – 340 kWh per person per month.

    1. Wow, that’s damn good. I am a little pedantic and over-the-top nerdy about utility usage, and track this stuff with charts and what-not. Just checked my total usage for the last 2 years and we have an average of 9033kWh per year, or 188kWh per person per month. It was much more when we moved in. The 1kW pool pump running 8 hours a day was alone consuming a third of all usage. It has a low power mode (about 300W) and altering the running time to optimise usage while preventing pea soup made the biggest impact. Also modified the fridge and freezer settings, and using all LED lights, so pretty happy with consumption levels now. Not much I can do about the summer heat and aircon usage.
      PS: We use about 545 litres of propane for hot water per year (11.3 l/person/month), and about 19kl of water per month (4750 l/person/month). All below average for our area!

  2. Oooooo, solar… I’m very interested in your experience, please do share more when you implement. I’m especially interested in whether the 7kWh battery is enough. My household (low power mode pool pump, and 3 aircons) use between 19kWh/day in spring/winter/autumn, and 30kWh/day in summer when it’s bloody hot and humid. I think we peak at about 40kWh per day when the aircons need to run overnight, but I guess you don’t have that issue in Cape Town (we are on the same latitude as St Lucia).

    I was curious about the 3.6kW inverter limit. Seems this only relates to feed-in rules, and it took me a while to find the technical reason. Here’s a doc from the UK energy regulator: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/ofgem-publications/52353/7789-ofgem-g83-2-review-r2-pdf

    I think it comes down to DC injection from micro generation units, and the potential damage to grid infrastructure. Since the UK has the same rules, I suspect it’s the same reason in SA. Interestingly, there you also need to be at least 500m away from the nearest other solar installation, so first in best dressed! Do you have the same rule in SA?

    I was also wondering if you’d update your lighting circuits to use low voltage DC. Since LED’s are widely available and cheap, they don’t need a lot of power, and it potentially makes economical sense in the long run, as well as being safer. I’d think you could reuse the existing light wiring, so only socket refits and a connection to the battery terminals, or via a voltage regulator, no? What voltage is this lithium-ion battery anyway?

  3. Regarding exercising while tired and sleep deprived, in my experience the best approach is to not exercise for longer than 30 minutes. This usually invigorates me without tiring me out further.

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