Did you know it takes an average size load of laundry 15 gal. of water or more to complete the wash cycle? Even with the installation of high-efficiency faucets and household appliances, the amount of water we use daily is staggering. It takes about 25 gal. of water to take a 15-minute shower, more than 2.5 gallons of water every time you flush the toilet, and who knows how many other gallons are wasted down the drain throughout the day.
It’s enough water to have captured the attention of small businesses that have been entering the marketplace offering grey water conversion kits. These kits make it easy for homeowners to save money on their water bill. From sewer tank systems to complete filtered water conversions, there are many different grey water systems to consider.
Most water agencies classify grey water as water that is discharged via a clothes washer, restroom and kitchen sinks, showers, bathtubs and other sources of water that do not contain large particles. Water coming from the kitchen sink with a disposal unit in use is not considered grey water.
To start collecting your household’s grey water, consider the item in your home that uses the most water—the washing machine. Using your kit’s instructions, divert the discharged water via PVC pipes to a holding tank either inside or outside, depending on your climate. Have the water go through a series of filters, and then use it to water your garden. The filters—DIY versions are made with PVC pipe and nylons stretched over the piping frame—collect the yucky stuff you don’t want clogging your grey water pipes.
So what makes grey water grey? The dirt that is being removed from the laundry itself. The stuff that is left behind is now being collected on a series of handmade filters. Just after one wash cycle you can see the filters catch most if not all of the dirt and other matter that comes out of your washer.
Diverting water flow from your indoor sinks and showers is another method of collecting grey water. Some homeowners can make this switch fairly easy while others in more modern homes will find it a challenge to reroute some of their plumbing. If you can do this without the cost of some major construction, great! If not, then concentrate your efforts on just your washing machine.
The most important part is to understand why you want to do this. Most likely you are doing this to make a positive impact on your surroundings. Using grey water is just one more way people who are living off grid or wanting to lessen their footprint can add to their programs.
That being said, to operate a safe, effective grey water system, you’ll need to switch to cleaning chemicals that are Earth-, plant- and pet-friendly. When choosing your laundry soap and other cleaners to use with your grey water collection system, check to make sure they are indeed safe for the environment.
There are many companies that produce products that are called biocompatible, meaning they are safe for the environment and break down easily in the soil. Products labeled with terms like “free” and “clear,” however, are not as safe because they alter their composition once they are mixed with water and other chemicals, and do not break down in the soil.
There are also other products out there that are made with a derived sodium content, which also don’t break down in the soil, leave deposits and can sometimes harm your garden and or pets. So make sure the products you choose are labeled grey water compatible. You are using a product that is designed to clean what it touches, and sometimes those chemicals are not good for our environment.
The use of well water can alter the breakdown of cleaners as well, so if you are on a well water system, ask around for the best biocompatible laundry soap or cleaners you can find. Using some of the more popular liquid organic cleaners is a safe bet because they work well and have a proven track record.
Adding a grey water system to your household is easy, cost-effective and can lessen your impact on the environment. It’s a no-brainer!