Green Plumbing Ideas

There is great interest these days in environmental conservation, and applying ‘green’ concepts to household plumbing designs is a smart idea which can lead to substantial savings of water and of money. Even if water consumption is not regulated in your local area, many steps can be taken which not only reduce your dependency on public water supplies, but also reduce your negative impact on the environment.


One step which will have a huge impact will be the use of rainwater to supply toilets and washing machines, even sinks and showers. This can be done by means of a cistern. Many older homes in the rural United States were equipped with cisterns – usually concrete tanks buried near the house into which rainfall was harvested by means of the gutter system. Homes can be retrofitted for a cistern, using an underground tank or one that sits on the surface, but during new construction or renovation are the most cost-effective opportunities for the installation of such tanks, as retrofitting costs may be prohibitive.


Another important water-saving feature that can be added to a home is a treatment system for gray water. Waste water from sinks, showers and washing machines, while not clean, is known as gray water, as opposed to black water, which is the waste from toilets and food disposals. Gray water may be collected into a septic tank, to be treated and sent to a collection tank. From there it can be used for watering lawns and plants, a supply that costs nothing, and that has been redeemed from what may have been freely gathered rainwater to begin with.


Fixtures may be added to the plumbing system which serve to reduce water flow. Low-flow toilets, water-efficient shower heads and pressure reducers can add up to mean a great reduction in water usage. Even timely repair of leaky faucets and shower valves are very important water-saving measures.


In addition to the many undertakings that lead to a reduction in water usage, there is an increasing interest in more economical means of heating water for the home. Heating water for sinks and showers is a costly expense of a plumbing system. The costs of electricity and fuel – whether natural gas or Liquid Petroleum ‘gas’ – are unpredictable, except that they are sure to rise. The typical, traditional water heater is a tank in the home that takes in cold water and heats it to a predetermined temperature, letting it out into the pipes when the hot water faucet is opened. This is a rather inefficient system, since a tankful of hot water, when not being used, will cool down, and require continual reheating.


Recent innovations have allowed homeowners to move away from the water heater tank system though, and can provide significant savings because water will only be heated when it is needed, and only in the amount that is needed.


There is a still more efficient method than either of these, and it is to use the energy from the Sun to heat your water. Solar energy collection is a mature industry, and one of the best developed implementations of renewable energy technologies on the market. A solar collector sits atop the roof and the fluid within transfers heat to the water supply, which is stored in a tank, ready for delivery to the plumbing fixtures.


While this system depends at its foundation upon sunshine, it is well known that there is no place where the Sun always shines. There may be several days – or, in some locations – even weeks, when sunshine is scarce. There is also Winter, when the energy from the Sun is decreased. For this reason, a solar heating system includes a booster, which keeps the temperature of the water at the desired level. If your home is in an area which receives a great deal of sunshine during most of the year, however, it is likely that the booster will not have to be engaged for weeks at a time, or longer.


Consumers are always looking for cheaper ways to supply their needs. While some of the ideas spoken of can be expensive to implement, the overall costs of operating with these environmentally friendly methods are far less over the course of time, and including these aspects of environmental stewardship at construction time will give you a far more efficient and more affordable option.


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