People all over the world are finding new and innovative ways of increasing comfort in their homes while reducing their environmental footprint. While recycling garbage, installing solar panels and other eco-friendly practices have become quite common, there are other equally viable ways to conserve. For instance, have you considered making some changes in your plumbing systems as part of creating a more sustainable lifestyle? If not, we have just the thing here for you. Here are five sustainable plumbing tips for your eco-friendly plumbing system.
1. An Eco-Friendly Toilet
Dual flush toilets are the most popular way of conserving water in the bathroom. This system, which was first proposed in 1976 by industrial designer Victor Papanek and implemented in 1980, uses two buttons to handle different quantities of water. And according to Plumbing Info.com, there is plenty to choose from on the market in this category nowadays.
As you may know, after careful consideration, Australia law has required the use of dual flush toilets for some time. So in Australia, they are now the norm.
Another innovative alternative revolves around toilets that have had their lids converted to a sink and faucet combo. This not only saves you bathroom space, but it also reroutes and recycles water efficiently. By using the sink water to flush the toilet, your household becomes better by the minute.
And if you want to make use of the newest technologies in the field, installing a waterless composting toilet is the ultimate environmentally-safe change. This system relies on evaporation and natural decomposition to handle the issue of human waste. However, the local ordinances in your area might not permit it, so you will need to check first.
2. Greywater Recycling System
One of the most pressing issues promoted in environmentally conscious circles is related to water conservation. Greywater can be easily recycled and repurposed for various household activities (flushing the toilet, gardening and the like) by installing a specialized treatment system.
Whether or not you need a plumber depends on the nature of the task. For intercepting greywater before it enters the sanitary plumbing and drainage system, you can do this yourself. (for example, redirecting the rinse water from your washing machine). However, if the work involves tinkering with the system itself (meaning any modifications at the pipes below the sink, basin, bath, shower), you will mostly likely need to call a licensed plumber or drainer. Check your local requirements.
3. Rainwater Harvesting
Rainwater harvesting is one of the simplest ways to contribute to the conservation of the environment and a cost-effective solution to cover the needs of the household. These systems will reduce your reliance on public pumped water and significantly lower water bills.
If you are in the market for a rainwater harvesting system, there are a few safety and practical issues that should be addressed before installing such a device. The first step is to make sure that the roof surface and design is suitable for collecting rainwater.
Preferably, the roof should have either an intersecting/overlaid hip or a pyramid hip in order to allow the water to neatly flow towards the gutters. In order to avoid the build-up of obstructing materials such as leaves and various type of debris, we recommend fitting the gutters with meshes and outlets. These devices will ensure that the water flow will not be obstructed.
As for the size of the water tank, chances are you will not need a huge one, so consider factors such as average water usage, annual rainfall, and roof design before making a decision. As a safety measure, to prevent any contaminated rainwater from reaching the main water tank, consider equipping it with flush diverters.
Installing a few flap valves and insect proof screens at the end of all pipes that are connected to the tank screen will provide proper ventilation and keep away any vermin from entering the water supply. By following these tips you can ensure that the rainwater harvesting system will function properly, and it will also save you from a lot of tedious maintenance work.
4. Tankless Water Heaters
Unlike storage heaters which require energy resources to store hot water, tankless water heaters have the advantage of providing a constant supply of hot water only when the users need it. Typically, the water is heated either by a specially designed electric system or by a gas burner.
As far as numbers are concerned, households that have a daily hot water consumption of 41 gallons (or about 155 liters) can be 24 per cent to 34 per cent more energy efficient than houses that use storage tank heaters. This translates to significantly less spent on bills per year.
Although tankless heaters are more expensive, their long life expectancy (about 20 years) and lower energy requirements will more than make up for the initial investment in the long run.The main drawback is the low flow rate, but this can be easily solved by outfitting each household appliance – dishwashers, washing machines and the like – with a device. [Editor’s note: We have a tankless water heater and the flow rate has never been an issue, except in producing a lot of bubbles in the bath, without running the cold tap too!]
You can also install several tankless heaters to cover the general household water demand. Whether or not you can install it yourself without the help of a professional depends on the model and house structure itself. In order to install it properly, there are several practical and safety factors that need to be considered, like local climate, building code and fuel type.
While it is not impossible to do it, generally speaking, hiring a specialist for this job is the more sensible option. Still, if you want to install it yourself, make sure to consult the local authorities for information about local code requirements and permits, as well as the manufacturer.
Either way you will likely need an electrician or gas fitter.
5. Solar Water Heaters
Finally, solar water heaters are another great way to generate hot water and conserve energy at the same time. SWHs are a great way to make proper use of Australia’s sunny climate and save money and energy at the same time. In addition, they also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is desirable in this day and age.
Generally speaking, you can find two types of solar water heaters on the market: active, which are outfitted with controls and pump, and passive. Active systems are, in turn, split into two broad categories:
- Direct circulation systems are equipped with pumps that transport the water through the collectors directly into the household. These are recommended for areas with a warm
- Indirect circulation systems are more efficient in areas with freezing temperatures. They are outfitted with pipes designed for heat-transfer fluids, a process that involves the water going through the collectors and a heat exchanger.
Passive systems are the cheaper option. They usually last longer and do not require much maintenance work. However, they are overshadowed by active systems in terms of energy efficiency. There are two types of passive systems:
- Thermosyphon systems are quite reliable, but their proper installation is highly dependent on the roof design.
- Integral collector-storage passive systems are best suited for areas where the temperatures rarely drop below the freezing point.
As in the case of tankless heaters, proper installation depends on several practical issues that you should consider before making a decision. You will need to evaluate elements such as local climate and solar resource, building codes and safety measures. As a result, it is best to hire a specialized contractor for this job.
One important thing to remember is to always install a backup, especially if the area is prone to consecutive cloudy days or the household demand is constantly above average. Finally, maintenance checks should be performed every five years by a specialized contractor.
Despite the fact that they have been around for a while now, eco-friendly plumbing systems have only recently started becoming more popular. By opting for these you will not only contribute to the conservation of the environment, but you will also save more money in the long run.
With an educational background in Engineering Design and growing experience in home improvement and DIY projects, Vince West is part of the team behind www.ThePlumbingInfo.com. You can see more of Vince’s work on Twitter and Facebook.