Ways To Minimize Your Environmental Impact Through Creative Plumbing

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Whether you're interested in decreasing your carbon footprint, or just want to avoid the ongoing expense of city water or sewage, you may be investigating alternative plumbing methods. If so, you're not alone -- a surprising 15 percent of Americans do not depend on public water or sewage systems. There are several plumbing designs from places like Smedley & Associates, Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning that can help you accomplish freedom from "the grid," ranging from truly rugged to comfortable and contemporary. Read on for some ideas on how you can help save the planet while also saving money.

Gathering Fresh Water 

The first key to off-grid plumbing is to obtain a reliable water source. This may be easier than you think -- even if you live in a dry climate, water is all around you. The two most common water supply systems either gather water from the ground (through a well) or from the sky (through a cistern or other rainwater collection). In many homes, these methods can be utilized with only minor changes to existing plumbing.

  • Groundwater collection

The most common method for supplying water is through an underground well with a hydraulic or electric pump. A well allows groundwater to pool in an enclosed area, while the pump forces the water upward, into your pipes. Many houses in rural areas depend upon well water, and often, this water is more pure and tastes better than treated city water. However, because this well water is not regularly tested or treated by your state environmental protection officials, you'll probably want to purchase an at-home testing kit to periodically ensure that the quality of your water remains good.

The cost of constructing a well depends upon the depth of the water table in your area -- the deeper workers need to dig to reach water, the more it will cost. Well pumps also require occasional maintenance in order to remain in good condition, particularly if your well has hard water.

  • Rainwater collection

If you live in an area that receives substantial rainfall, or would like to avoid having an electric or hydraulic pump to circulate the water through your plumbing, a rooftop cistern may be your best bet. This cistern collects rainfall, filters and purifies this water, and then allows gravity to carry it through your home's plumbing. 

If the rainfall is collected directly from your roof, you'll want to install a metal or slate roof -- the fiberglass and asphalt on traditional shingles can quickly damage your filtration system. If you choose this method, you can also install a solar panel on one of your cistern's outflow pipes to help heat the water flowing to your bath, washing machine, or dishwasher.

Disposing of Sewage and "Gray Water"

The second component to off-grid plumbing involves the disposal of waste and "gray water" -- water used for bathing, laundry, and washing dishes, which is not necessarily hazardous, but is not quite appetizing enough to drink.

  • Compost toilet

A compost toilet may sound like something you only want to use while camping -- but can actually be a pleasant-smelling alternative to the traditional flush toilet. Unlike traditional toilets, which use water from an elevated tank to force the toilet water down through the pipes and into the sewer or septic tank, a compost toilet uses peat moss or sawdust to create an anaerobic reaction with your waste.

Like other compost, this waste will quickly diminish in size and odor until the compost tank finally fills and must be emptied. The resulting compost can be used for gardening applications or other fertilizer purposes. 

  • Gray water reclamation

Another way to help your garden is to set up a gray water recycling system that will route your laundry, tub, and sink outflows to a central container to be used to water plants. This is especially helpful if you're working with a limited water supply. 

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21 October 2014

Adding a Man Cave to Your Home: Tips

I have always loved baseball, and when the world series arrives each year, I enjoy inviting my friends over to watch the games. As our family grew, it became difficult for all of our guests to fit in our living room. We decided that we needed a dedicated "man cave" in our home, but we didn't have an extra room to build it in. We thought long and hard about how we could add it, but we finally decided to turn our garage into the man cave and have a carport built onto our home to park our cars under. I have always been interested in learning more handy-work, so I enjoyed watching the contractors build both the man cave and car port. I thought I would start a blog to share what I learned during the building process to help other homeowners!