Q. We seem to have water shortages every summer and my water-sewage bills keep increasing. Are there any methods or kits available to use household "grey water" to water the lawn and other landscaping?
A. Reusing grey water in homes is becoming more popular and is one of the most effective methods to stretch our limited water supplies and cut your water-sewage bills. Also, by reusing grey water, you reduce load requirements on municipalities' water and sewage treatment facilities, so fewer expensive new facilities are needed.
Grey water from homes refers to waste water from showers, baths, clothes washing and some sinks. These sources of water are relatively clean and free of chemicals. Water from dishwashers and hand washing or dishes can be used too, but it tends to contain more organic particles, grease and oils.
In the average home, more than half of the water that goes down drains into the sewer is reusable grey water, not black water.
This typically ranges from 20 to 40 gallons of water per day per family member.
It is relatively simple to use grey water to water shrubs, gardens and trees in your yard. Many companies offer complete kits and systems to capture grey water, store it briefly and then direct it to the plants.
Since grey water is still warm, freezing during the winter is not often a problem.
Watering trees and shrubs is often the preferred use of grey water because it can be piped to the roots. This subsurface watering is the most effect and efficient method for plants. The microbes in the soil immediately begin to breakdown on particles, oils, etc. and naturally purify the water.
The simplest method to use is an add-on minisink that mounts on your kitchen sink. Swing the faucet over it when you rinse vegetables, fruits, your hands, etc. The drain carries water to a simple jug or tank you use for watering. It can also run to an automatic lawn watering system.
Another simple method is called "drain out back" or "branched" grey water. With this system, the grey water simply runs out a pipe in an appropriate location in your back yard. Check your local codes about using this method.
The best grey water systems use large surge tanks to hold the grey water, subsurface drip irrigation emitters, filters and electronic controllers. These work similar to standard residential lawn-garden water systems except they supplement the city water supply with any available free grey water.
Q. My mother has a brick house that was built in the 1950s. It has real plaster walls with no insulation inside them. Is there a good method to add wall insulation to the walls so they stay warmer?
A. Keeping the walls warmer during the winter is important to feel comfortable in a home. This is particularly true with the elderly who tend to have more problems staying comfortably warm.
Unfortunately, this type of house construction does not provide much room inside the walls to add insulation. You best options are to add exterior foam board insulation or frame out and insulate the wall indoors. Although with this latter option, you will lose floor space.
XWrite for Update Bulletin No. 978 which gives a buyer's guide of nine grey water and heat-recovery water system manufacturers, sizing and payback information, system diagrams and water conservation tips. Please send $3 and a business-size SASE to James Dulley, The Vindicator, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244. For an instant download, visit James Dulley online at www.dulley.com.