One of the biggest waste products from a house is water and while some of this cannot be used for anything else for obvious reasons, there are a surprising number of ways that your water can be recycled. Such schemes are already being advertised to supermarkets and other large businesses but how can self-build homes incorporate water recycling into their designs?
Greywater is a term used to describe the water that comes from washing machines, showers, baths and hand basins. It has a cloudy appearance in many cases and is midway between white water and black or sewage water. Greywater can contain chemicals such as soap or detergent as well as microbes and even grease if kitchen sinks are included. But this doesn’t mean that it can’t be recycled in some way.
Three easy ways to recycle greywater include watering the garden, washing the car and flushing toilets. A separate system can be installed that collects the greywater that allows it to then be reused for other purposes.
There are some products that should be avoided if you plan to use a greywater recycling system. These include bath salts, bleach, caustic substances and chemical dyes as well as solvents, strong acid and alkalis. Anything that might be harmful to plants or wildlife or is corrosive shouldn’t be used in systems that feature greywater recycling.
We certainly seem to get plenty of rain these days and therefore rainwater harvesting is becoming a popular choice to incorporate with new builds and even to add to existing properties. The idea isn’t a new one as gardeners have been using water butts to collect rain for centuries and then redistribute to the garden when required.
The household systems used to recycle rainwater work in a more complex way. For example, a rooftop system can collect the rain and then use it to flush the toilet. These systems for a three or four bedroom house can cost from around £2,000 with more complicated systems being more expensive.
The ultimate and most complicated form of water recycling is that of blackwater or sewage water. Obviously, this contains unhealthy and dangerous bacteria and other nasty substances. But systems have been developed that allows the blackwater to collect in a tank and settle. Special microbes break down the solids within the tank and after around 24 hours, it then passes to a treatment tank.
After this, there are different options depending on the end product desired. Aeration can work with the bacteria in the water to break down chemicals, followed by further settling. Then depending on the quality of the water, it may be used in place of greywater.
Storing water of all classes is another element to consider with self-build properties. Often done underground, these systems sometimes use a UV disinfection unit to prevent bacterial growth in the water. New systems are being launched all the time that aim to better recycle water of all grades, meaning that in the near future, we could all be much more economical with our use of water.
Stuart Cooke is the Marketing Manager at SpecifiedBy, a construction specification tool for builders and architects.