Archive for the 'Rainwater catchment' Category

Our water usage

Water usage to date

In our July performance post I stated that we were tracking our water usage and water pump usage to calculate the efficiency of the pump. Dan Gibson asked in a comment about our water usage, so I thought I’d cover that here. He says in his comment that there are not a lot of actual hard numbers on water usage and he’s definitely right. Most estimates I’ve seen online say 50 to 100 gallons per person, which seems both excessive and vague at the same time.

We installed water meters on the main line and the inlet to the hot water tank. We have usage data starting in January when we moved in.

All values in gallons Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul
Main water inlet 1,677.3 1,584.2 1,338.3 1,373.4 1,722.4 2,593.1 3,166.9
per day 54.1 54.6 43.2 45.8 55.6 86.4 102.2
Hot water inlet 884.5 746.6 600.8 552.5 569.7 660.8 567.4
per day 28.5 25.7 19.4 18.4 18.4 22.0 18.3

A couple of notes on the data. Our shower wasn’t ready for use until the middle of February which increased out water usage in the first few months. Showers are obviously more efficient than tubs. In May, we acquired 3 dairy goats, some chickens, started building a barn and watering the garden, pushing up our usage again.

Taking these factors into account, it looks like our typical average indoor water usage is about 45-50 gallons per day for 2 adults, or 23-25 gallons per person. Our hot water usage seems to average about 20 gallons per day. Hot water accounts for roughly 40% of our total indoor usage.

The larger number in July indicates the unfortunate situation where we turned on the water to the garden and forgot to turn it off. It ran for a few hours. Thankfully we use soaker hoses, otherwise the loss could have been much larger.

We had planned to use cistern water for the garden, but we ended up moving the garden to a different location that is about the same elevation as the cistern, meaning we can’t use gravity feed. We’re working on a low tech solution to pump the cistern water up above the garden to a separate tank which can than use gravity feed. For now, it seems just as efficient to use well water.

If you have any questions, let us know in the comments.

Rainwater catchment system completed

Last year when we had the foundation excavated, we bought a 1000 gallon cistern and buried it under the future porch. It was so long ago and so well hidden that I almost forgot about it. But a few months ago I realized that this would require a bit of research to put together a simple working system that looked like it was designed to integrate with the house rather than tacked on later.

Let’s take a look at the components of our planned rain water system.

1) The Tank. We have a 1,000 gallon Bruiser. It has an inlet at the top, an outlet near the bottom and an overflow just below the inlet.

2) Gutters and downspouts. 6″ half round painted aluminum, connected to 4″ round downspouts. One on the front of the house, one on the back. There’s also a gutter on the porch but it will not drain into the cistern at this time.

3) Downspout filter. When I started thinking about how to connect the downspouts to the cistern I knew the hard part was to find a way to filter the leaves and other stuff (dead bugs and bird pooh) out, without bolting some large contraption to the side of the house. If you’ve spent any time looking around for downspout filters, there’s a lot of different solutions and products out there. Most are u-g-l-y.

The first product I found that was acceptable was the Downspout Filter from RainXchange. It appeared to do everything we needed. It’s buried so you don’t see any ugly attachments to the house, and it would filter the volume of water we expected from the roof.

However, I started thinking about how we’d actually route the downspouts to the filter. Because of the slope on the side of the house, I realized we really needed a filter that we could connect directly to the downspouts and have all connections underground. The filter from RainXchange was made to be buried under the downspout discharge. I’d need to find a way to route 2 downspouts to discharge above the filter. Or buy two and position one at each downspout, but because of the slope this wouldn’t work for the front gutter.

Shortly thereafter I found the Small Basket Filter from ConservationTechnology. They were recommended by my contractor. They unfortunately never came up on any web search for rain filters, but they had exactly what we needed. A simple filter, easily accessible from above and all connections buried. There is one inlet and an overflow at the same level. The outlet from the filter is at the bottom which connects to the cistern. The overflow is plumbed to daylight, downslope and away from the house. The lid top is adjustable in height making the depth of the filter variable. See SketchUp model view above for underground connections.

4) Connections. We originally planned to use aluminum downspout components to connect to the filter, but standard aluminum components are fairly restricted. 75 degree angles are the norm, anything else is custom. So we decided to connect the downspouts to the filter using standard PVC pipes and fittings. It won’t be pretty, but neither would the aluminum. The porch will hide most of it, and I’m confident we can find some other creative ways to hide the ugly stuff.

5) Plumbing. The cistern is plumbed to the basement so that if needed, we could add a pump. Then routed to the exterior. We’re not using frost-free sillcocks. They rely on the excess heat inside the envelope to warm the pipe, but because we have 12 inches of insulation, they would just freeze and leak into the wall. So we’re installing valves with a blowout hole so we can easily drain the pipes each winter.

Now we have a simple source of water for our future garden without pumps or the use of electricity.

September Updates

Lot’s going on this month. If you follow us on twitter (@uphillhouse) you’ll know that we now have running water! Gould & Sons came out to install the pump and water pressure tank. They drilled the well a little over a year ago in June. See the post, Drill baby, drill!. They set the pump at 300′ which should give us 12-15 gallons per minute.

Last week also saw the installation of sheetrock on the 2nd floor and basement. Taping should be completed by the end of the week in those two areas so we can start priming and painting. As soon as we get the basement primed, we can move all the tools from the first floor to the basement. Then we can finish insulating and sheetrocking the first floor.

This weekend I was able to install the shower pan mortar base and drain. We’ll be using Kerdi-Drain and Kerdi membrane, a waterproofing material from Schluter, to water seal the shower enclosure. I’m hoping to get started with the membrane this week.

We also received several deliveries last week. Our water heater arrived. It’s a 50 gallon Marathon. It’s a very efficient electric water heater and well insulated. We decided not to go with the Hybrid heat pump approach, which is a great idea but not for our cold climate and dry basement. We decided against tankless hot water approaches because we’re all electric. I haven’t done a huge amount of research but it looks like the electric tankless approach is getting better over time. This may be a good approach in the future.

And our gutters finally arrived. Warren started putting up the front side gutters today. I’m working on a post about how we’re connecting the downspouts to the rain filter and cistern under the porch. It has taken quite a bit of research to figure it all out.

Tomorrow the tub surround will be installed. And hopefully the rain will hold off long enough tomorrow to finish installing the gutters and downspouts.

We’re trying to finish as much as we can for the Green Building Open House / National Solar Tour this Saturday. Many thanks to Paul and Joanne Coons from Clifton Parks for stopping by last weekend and dropping off the open house sign. You can find their house and lots of other amazing houses on the tour at the NESEA Green Buildings or the National Solar Tour sites. Stop by to visit.


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