Plumbed in

Principle 5: Use and value renewable resources and services

The plumbing rough-in happens before the floor goes down (preferably), which is easier and cheaper to do. It starts with the 'waste water' pipes. During the process I got to thinking about how to make best reuse of water before it went down the sewer.

There are three types of reused water that I will have on site. Greywater (laundry and bathroom), dark greywater (kitchen) and blackwater (toilet).
  • Greywater is ideal to use in subsurface irrigation systems, but there is a lot to consider when designing these types of systems. By ensuring that we don't put any nasties into the water in the first place we know that anything that we reuse wont be damaging to the environment, or us. 
  • Kitchen water (dark greywater) is not ideal for sub-surface irrigation as it contains food particles, fats and soaps that can block pipes and clog the soil. This water can be filtered through a wormfarm to produce a rich liquid fertiliser.
  • Blackwater goes directly to the sewer. A composting toilet is a great solution to the 'poo problem', turning 'waste' into a rich fertiliser. I'm interested in exploring this option further. I've often said that "Humanity's greatest contribution to the planet is our shit, we just need to learn how to deal with it." Joseph Jenkins has written a lot about humanure. I got the book recently for my birthday, and am looking forward to finding the time to read it.
I am planning on installing a seven metre high header tank (water tower) into which rainwater collected on site will be pumped, giving me water pressure to gravity feed to the house. This avoids the need for a pressure pump, often used in households. Pressure pumps require electricity to work and often come on every time you turn on the tap. A header tank only needs to to topped up when it is near empty, and can be filled by a varity of methods including; an electric transfer pump, a windmill, bicycle power and direct solar piston pump. All of the water pipes in the house are 19mm (3/4 inch) instead of the standard 12mm (1/2 inch) which will allow for higher water flow.

All of the hot water pipe are insulated, which means less heat loss and less water sent down the sink while you wait for it to heat up. The water will be heated using 3 methods. Solar, wood fired and gas boosted. More about that later...

Laundry greywater pipe (in background) with kitchen dark greywater in foreground running on a separate line. The kitchen pipe runs outside the building so that water can be diverted to a possible future wormfarm, or straight to the sewer.

 Laundry and bathroom greywater run on higher line (middle of photo) than kitchen and (possible future) toilet line (diagonal), keeping greywater separate from dark greywater and blackwater

Greywater diverter (left) that diverts bath and laundry water to either the sewer or a sub-surface irrigation system (not yet installed). All internal water lines run at 19mm (3/4 inch) to allow for better flow rates using a gravity fed system. All hot water pipes are insulated (see left of photo).

19mm (3/4 inch) insulated pipework for woodfired stove wetback. Minimum lift to solar is 1 in 10, so that air pockets don't form in line. Air pockets can cause pressure to build up and vibrations in the line, reducing effectiveness of system.


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