April showers may bring us May flowers, so the saying goes. But they also bring out green homeowners.
As the snow and ice-covered rooftops melt with Spring temperatures warming the Northern Hemisphere, all of the water run-off has to go someplace.
The average American uses 300 gallons of water a day at home. While only 30 percent of that is used outside, just by collecting the water which Mother Nature drops overhead could save the average homeowner between 30 to 50 percent on their water bills – and about 80 percent for commercial water bills.
Most of the water we use is flushed with our waste.
According to the American government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 26.7 percent of our house water is used to keep our toilets flushing. Ironically, the next biggest consumer of water in our homes keeps us clean and fresh – 21.7 percent of our house water is used in our clothes washers followed by 16.8 percent use in the shower.
A rainwater harvesting system can be hooked into your home or businesses plumbing, and be put to use for toilet water and clothes washing, which really saves on water use, and that can drive your water bill down.
Although we’d like to think the wet stuff which falls from above is clean and pure, because of all the chemicals we pump into our atmosphere, rainwater is not fit for drinking, so you shouldn’t use it to shower, bathe or drink.
Most rainwater harvesting systems have a basic filter, preventing leaves and other small debris from entering the system. However, unless you go all out and install a water filtration and purification system as well, the stuff you collect is not safe for drinking water.
But you’ll have the greenest lawn, regardless of water shortages and their consequential lawn watering bans from municipalities – using rainwater to water your lawn will save your lawn during a hot summer, and will save on your water bill too.
Other uses for captured rainwater include washing cars, driveways and yards, watering your garden in addition to washing your clothes and in-toilet systems.
A typical rainwater harvesting system has a storage tank fitted to your stormwater drain, which captures rain water run-off from your roof. The run-off water enters the tank through a filter which removes leaves and other small objects. The storage tank is usually buried under your driveway, garden, or front lawn, and has a pump that pumps the water through a separate series of pipes that lead to your toilets and outside taps.
If you use this sort of system, there is a float in the tank, similar to the one in your toilets, which automatically triggers a valve to open and fill to a minimal level from the house’s water main so that the tank never completely empties. This way, you’ll always have water for your toilets and clothes washing machine, even during low rainfall periods.
However, the typical household rainwater harvesting system can capture about 100,000 litres of water – so you shouldn’t ever run out.
And as the snow and ice melts and runs-off this time of year, now really is the best time to start collecting rainwater – though some have been doing so all winter long.
In cold, wintry climates, you can purchase heating cables that keep your gutters and rainwater harvesting systems flowing even in the coldest of winters.
This not only helps you save water all year round, because you’re capturing melted snow and ice, but also prevents ice dams from forming, which can cause damage to your roof.
A rainwater harvesting system with all the fixin’s could run you a couple of grand to install.
But you don’t have to start with something so extravagant, you can simply buy a rain barrel for about $50 to $75 from your local hardware store, fit it underneath your gutter’s run-off, and for another $20 for a watering can, scoop out collected water to keep your plants well watered.
Every little bit helps, you and our planet, even if you’re capturing rainwater on a budget.