Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Rainwater usage report after one month

I've been flushing one of my toilets with rain water for a month now.  The results are in.  The flow meter says that I've used 565.5 gallons of water. 
Not all of that water was used to flush the toilet.  I also pressure washed some of the driveway and washed my cars.  That doesn't really matter though.  Using rain water means that I'm not using water from the water company.  I'm interested to see how my bill will be affected.  I just have to wait and see.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

AUKEY 14W Solar Charger

I like to go backpacking.  My backpacking trips generally only last a weekend.  Keeping phones, GPS, and other devices alive for that amount of time isn't an issue.  It will become a problem on longer treks.  Carrying backup batteries can help, but on long enough treks even those won't last.

I have a 20,000 mAh Limefuel battery pack with two USB ports.  (Amazon only sells a 15,000 mAh version now.)  I charged my phone from it for several days to get it down to 10%.  I wish I had counted how many charges I got from it.  That would have been useful information.
Limefuel 20,000 mAh USB battery pack.
To charge this battery pack on the trail I intend to use a solar panel.  I bought a 14w Aukey, dual port, charger.  I set it up in my garden at noon and pointed it west towards the sun.
Then I plugged in a digital meter so I'd have some idea of what it was actually doing.  My initial results were not good.  It was cloudy so the panel only produced 0.5 watts.
An hour later it was producing 1.45 watts.  At least it was something, but not much.
The battery showed that it was at 30% of capacity.  I was actually pleased with this.  It went from 10% to 30% in 3 hours with a cloudy sky.
Less than an hour later things were happening.  The clouds went away and the solar charger was putting out 7.66 watts.  That's nowhere near the claimed 14 watt capacity, but I'll take it.  I live in North Carolina, not the desert of Arizona.  
After 5 hours my battery was at 48%.  Assuming that it actually holds 20,000 mAh, and that the display is correct, then it went from 2000 mAh to 9600 mAh.  That's enough to charge my cell phone 3 times. 
This battery pack and solar charger look like a winning combination for the trail.  The biggest downside is the weight.  I haven't put either on a scale, but Amazon lists the solar charger at 1.1 lbs. and the battery at 12 oz.  That's a lot of additional weight just to keep your phone charged.

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.