What it was really like on the set of The Block

RACV RoyalAuto magazine

We asked the three RACV ‘stars’ what it was really like on The Block and what they thought of the show. 

Brendan Laidlaw
Brendan Laidlaw

Solar installer Brendan Laidlaw (EnviroGroup)

How much did the contestants know about solar?

Most had little interest in solar, because they were so busy with what they were doing. Wombat lives in a container, he’s an off-grid guy, so he was very interested in the technology and would ask me questions.

What do you want viewers to know about solar?

I hope viewers take away from seeing The Block that solar is a really good idea. Even straight solar without a battery, you’d be stupid not to have it. It’s just money in the bank at 10 per cent – you’re not getting that in the bank, but you will get that sort of saving, at least, with solar panels on your roof. If you spend $5000 on a solar system, you’ll get at least a $500 saving on your electricity a year. Most people will pay off a solar system in six or seven years.

What did you think of being on the show?

I enjoyed the challenge. It was high-intensity, you had to be going flat out all the time and communicate with 15 different people at all times to be sure you kept up. You might have a two to three-hour window to get what you needed doing, then stand there for that long and do nothing.

Tell us about the system

I installed five RACV Solar systems on the site, each building got its own individual system. It’s a hybrid system, designed to take the power you’d normally send to the grid during the day and store it in a battery to use later at night.

The export rate is 11 cents per kilowatt hour, buying back at a minimum 25 cents. If you can take the power you would have exported and put it in a battery, that allows you to consume more of the energy you’re generating on your rooftop.

We installed SolarEdge and LG, they’re premium products. LG Neons are up with the most efficient panels on the market, and Solar Edge is a high-quality inverter.

I can drill down to see what each panel is producing at any given time. You’ve got an app to check where your energy is being used, how much you’re consuming, how much is in your battery.

It’s a really nice-looking install – the panels are black, on a black roof, they almost vanished into the rooftop.

Why is solar important?

You shouldn’t build a new house without solar. It needs to become like your hot-water system, your internet connection, those normal utilities you have at your house. Energy independence will become a standard feature of every house, especially with batteries. It just needs to be normal and seamless, people shouldn’t have to think about it too much.

Linden Gerhard
Linden Gerhard

Plumber Linden Gerhard

What did you do on The Block?

I met with Ronnie and Georgia, introduced myself as Linden from RACV Emergency Home Assist, ran through the product, they asked a few questions back and forth. That was it, one take.

They wanted to know what it covers, how long the subscription is for, how many call-outs you get. It’s only about $210 a year and that covers plumbing – burst pipes, blockages – electrical, any power-related issues, lockouts for locksmiths, and we now also have garage-door specialists.

What was it like being on the set?

It was pretty go, go, go. There were close to 200 trades on site.

We normally come in at the end of a build, fixing the stuff that’s been buried under the ground or built over.

Why is Emergency Home Assist important?

It’s really important, particularly in an older-style home. When we get those little emergencies pop up, having eight call-outs per year really helps. Let’s say you use it once on a Sunday afternoon, I think you’re going to make up for it, given what it would cost for a plumber to come out on a weekend. Their service cost might be $350 without even picking up a tool.

What do you commonly see when you attend home emergencies?

We come across blockages. It might be baby wipes, face wipes, or make-up wipes getting flushed down the toilet. Those things don’t break down. If I was giving advice to home owners it would be, don’t put those down the toilet.

Can you avoid a home emergency?

Most things you can’t stop. But for roof leaks, say, cleaning out gutters quarterly comes in handy. But a lot of it, there’s not much you can do unfortunately.

Stacey Maher
Stacey Maher

Stacey Maher, general manager RACV Home Insurance

What did you do on The Block?

We had an opportunity to chat with contestants about under-insurance and all the things that can get forgotten when you’re insuring your home – it’s something you set and forget and don’t go back to revise over time. Did you know up to four in five Australian homeowners and renters are underinsured for their home and contents?

I met Georgia, Hannah, Wombat and Josh, they’re all very passionate about what they’re doing. It was great to see how everything’s coming together.

What questions did the contestants ask?

We went around some of the completed rooms and they asked questions like: “Would this fireplace be contents or building (insurance)?” Or: “We hadn’t thought about the lights we’ve put in – are they fixtures, fittings or contents?” They were particularly aware because they’re working to a budget.

Wombat wondered if he could insure his hat. He could – it could be insured under contents.

Why is it important to update your insurance?

You live in your house for five, 10, 15 years and you accumulate stuff without realising. If you had to start again and buy dinner plates, cutlery, shoes, bed linen, those sorts of things really add up. You tend to think about big-ticket items such as fridge, freezer, couches, and the little things can be overlooked.

People undervalue the stuff they’ve got. They might have bought something second-hand, or had something for 20 years, so how much is it going to cost today to replace that? If people aren’t sure if they’ve got enough cover, RACV has an online calculator to tally up building and contents.


RACV is a proud sponsor of The Block and gave each house a solar system, a 12-month Emergency Home Assist subscription and Home Insurance cover.

RACV Home Insurance is issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia Pty Limited ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678. Please consider the Product Disclosure Statement before buying. For a copy call 13 RACV (13 7228).

Written by RACV
November 08, 2017

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