Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Rainwater usage report

Earlier this month I attached the toilet in my powder room to my high pressure rain water system.  At the same time I installed a flow meter to measure how much rainwater I was using.  I checked tonight, and after 10 days I used 206.1 gallons of water.
The top number shows how much water was used since the pump last ran.  It gets reset by pushing the left button, or after 30 minutes of inactivity.  The bottom number is cumulative.  It gets reset with the right button, otherwise it just keeps counting.  The biggest drawback is that it only measures up to 999.  After that it goes back to 0. 

The other noticeable thing is the 1.8.  My toilet clearly says "1.6 gpf" right on it.  That's either a lie or the meter is wrong.  I guess since the water is free I shouldn't worry too much about it. 

I should also note that not all 206 gallons was due to the toilet.  I did wash my cars the other day.  I checked the meter then and had used about 30 gallons. 

I'm happy with the result, but it doesn't tell the entire story!  The flow meter only measures the high pressure water going through the pump.  It doesn't measure the low pressure drip irrigation system.  I'm saving water there too!  I just don't know how much.  I connected the flow meter to the drip irrigation line, but the flow was too slow to register. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Using rain water to flush a toilet

I've wanted to use rain water to flush toilets for quite some time.  I got a notice from my water company the other day saying that they were raising my rates.  That motivated me to plumb the toilet into high pressure rain water system sooner rather than later.

I started by drilling a 5/8" hole in the floor behind the toilet.  I hated to put a hole in the hardwood floor, but this was a lot easier than opening and then repairing the wall.
 Next I went into the crawlspace and pushed the reclaimed PEX pipe through the hole.
Then I had to go back to the powder room and connect the valve to the pipe.  I love these Sharkbite push-to-connect fittings.  They're expensive, but so easy to work with.  You just push the pipe into the opening and you're done. 
 I used a braided hose to connect the valve to the toilet.
Then it was back to the crawlspace.  I used another push-to-connect fitting to tie the new line from the toilet into the existing line.
Finally I added a warning tag to the supply line and opened the valve.  I'm pretty sure the tag is required by code, although I doubt too many people would attempt to drink toilet water.  I wanted it more for a means of advertising the fact that the toilet is being flushed with rain water.

Everything works fine.  The toilet fills more slowly than it used to, but that's not a big deal.  (The pump gets the water to 55 psi and the city water is 80 psi.)
Lastly, I added a flow meter to the pump.  This will give me some idea how much house water I'm saving by using rain water instead. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Garden Update -- August 2016

Here's the garden update for August.
Here are all of the raised beds.

I need to not grow so many jalapenos next year.  Each plant produces a lot more than I can eat.
The tomatillos have taken over this entire bed.  The other stuff I had in here can't be found.

Tomatoes and dill.
The cucumbers are going like crazy, but aren't producing a lot.
The pictures below are some of what I've harvested.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The rain water pressure tank has been relocated.

Let me be perfectly clear with this post.  I am not a plumber.  I am not an expert on building codes.  I'm making this post to show what I did in my situation.  It is not intended to be a how-to guide.  Always seek qualified professionals when making home improvements.

That said, I finally got around to relocating my pressure tank to my crawlspace.  I don't know if it was absolutely necessary (again, I'm not a plumber) but I thought that getting it out of the elements was a good idea.  It's also cooler down there so it won't be subjected to the high (90+ degree) heat and temperature swings.  Also, I won't have to drain and move it in the winter.

I used the following:
I glued all of the PVC connections and used thread sealant on the brass fittings.
The pressure tank is rated to 100 psi.  The pump that I have shuts off at 55 psi.  In theory the pump should never cause enough pressure to make the tank fail.  I didn't want to take any chances.  I got a spring loaded pressure relief valve that opens at 75 psi.  The hose connection allows me to drain the pressure tank, and the other connect attaches to the existing PEX pipe I recently ran through my crawlspace.
The above picture shows the tank in its final location.  It's against the wall out of the way near my water heater. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Garden Update -- July 2016

Things are coming along in the garden.  I'm getting a lot of peppers and tomatoes.

I don't know what happened to this plant and the one next to it.  They both turned brown and gave up.

More tomatoes.


More jalapenos.

Tomatillos gone wild.

Green peppers.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Moving rain barrel water to another location

The pump I mounted under my deck has been working great.  The one downside is that the pressurized rain water is only available in my back yard.  I frequently need water in my front yard.  The solution was simple, but not easy to implement. 

I bought 100' of 1/2" Purple Reclaimed Water PEX Pipe on clearance from Home Depot 2 years ago.  I knew that someday I might need it for this reason.  I lucked out.  I paid $32 at the time.  The 100' coils have been discontinued, and the 300' ft. coils are $118. 
I attached one end of the PEX pipe to the PVC pipe under my deck.  I drilled a hole through the wall and ran the pipe into the crawlspace.  This was the difficult part.  Crawling around in 35" of space and snaking pipe around obstacles, and nailing it in place isn't easy. 
I attached the other end of the pipe to a frost proof sillcock at the front of my house.  I mounted it near my existing hose bib.  That way I could fill the rain barrels that feed my drip irrigation system when they get low.
I was tickled with delight when I turned the valve and water came rushing out.  The next step was to connect the rain barrel to the new hose bib.  I did that and immediately had a problem.  The float valve in the barrel had too much resistance and caused the pump to pulsate very badly.  (The pump comes on at 30 psi and goes off at 55 psi.)  The float valve in the picture below is rated for 1.5 gpm at 60 psi.  The pump was pulsating and shaking violently while trying to push water through it.  I was very disappointed.
My solution was to change out the float valve.  I had the one in the picture below from the rain barrel that I had next to my chicken coop.  It wasn't being used since I recently moved that barrel to my front yard.  This valve is rated at 12.5 gpm at 60 psi.  It allowed the pump to operate with out pulsating for a little while.  When the water level started to get high, the valve started to close causing back pressure which made the pump once again pulsate. 
The pump works great with sudden on/off changes in pressure.  It doesn't like gradual changes at all.  There's a solution for this.  I needed a pressure tank.  What's a pressure tank?  It's a water tank that also has a pressurized air bladder.  When a valve is opened the air pressure in the tank causes the water to flow.  As the tank empties the pressure drops and the pump turns on.  It eliminates the pulsating pump issue.

Initially I was going to get the Shurflo Accumulator Tank.  They made the pump, so why not get their tank?  It looked small, super simple to hook up, and it was only $41.  I read the reviews and saw that they only hold 10-16 oz. of water (no one was really sure of the exact amount).  That didn't seem like much of a buffer.  Luckily for me, my local Lowes had a 7-gallon pressure tank on clearance for $41.  The tag on the shelf said $88, and that's the price it was listed for at that other Lowes in the area.

The box looked pretty beat up.  When I got it out I noticed some scratches, and the manual said the pressure was set to 25 psi from the factory.  I checked it with a tire gauge and it was at 39 psi.  Someone bought this thing and returned it.  I was fine with that as long as it worked.  I put a 3/4" FPT x 3/4" FHT fitting on the tank, and attached it to my PVC pipe with a garden hose.  This is not, is not, _is not_, a permanent solution.  I'm going to move the tank into my crawlspace and plumb it in properly.  I just wanted to see if it would solve my pulsating problem.
The pressure tank worked perfectly.  I was able to fill the barrel in my front yard without the pump pulsating at all.  It never had an issue.  It would come on, fill the pressure tank, and shut off.  Then the water would trickle into the barrel with just the pressure from the pressure tank.  I'm really pleased with how it works.
My last step was to label the hose bib.  I don't want anyone to mistake it for municipal water.  It's untreated and while my rabbits and dog have been drinking it for years, it's probably not suitable for humans.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Adding more blueberries.

I like blueberries.  I think I have 10 blueberry bushes around the house, but I never seem to have enough of them.  I have several varieties, so they produce at different times.  I get berries for a longer period of time, but not a lot of them at any one time. 

Anyway, I got on craigslist and found someone selling blueberry plants for $4.  I thought that was a steal so I agreed to buy 5.

Before I got the plants I had to prepare the area.
I started by removing the lousy clay soil that I have.  I did this by digging a long trench.

I filled the bottom of the trench with rotting wood.

Then I covered the rotting wood with rabbit manure and garden soil.  Then I lightly spread some of the clay soil that I removed on top.

I planted 3 plants in this area and put down cypress mulch to help retain water.

I had two Irripans so I put them on two of the plants.  They'll help with water and reduce weeds that would compete with the small blueberry plants.

The plant in the center did not get an Irripan.  Finally, I'll be able to directly compare the results of a plants with Irripans to one without.

The other two plants went in the beds by my patio.  It'll probably be 2-3 years before these plants start producing.  They're all the same variety, so at least they'll produce at the same time.