Title: Transcript of Interview with Jonathan Heck, Kyasol Green Building Solutions
Presented by: Emmanuel van der Meulen
Guest Speaker: Jonathan Heck
Date: 6th June 2017
Number of Speakers: 2
File Duration: 31:42
Transcriptionist: Jacqui Jonk
Links are at the end of the transcript.
Transcript Break Down:
00:04 Introduction to Radio Live Green Smart.
00:56 What is rainwater harvesting?
02:25 Introduction to Kyasol Green Building Solutions
04:10 What is rainwater harvesting used for?
05:02 Is rainwater harvested as is safe for human consumption or does it need to be filtered?
07:17 How do you start harvesting rainwater?
09:22 What are the advantages/disadvantages of underground and above ground tanks?
11:25 Can you retrofit underground tanks?
13:14 Underground tanks require pumping, but require electricity, how does that play out?
16:36 What filters have you been referring to and what are they used for?
18:20 Can you give us some examples of where rainwater harvesting was implemented by yourself and by your company?
19:30 Do we harvest rainwater for other uses besides domestic?
20:13 What if the tanks are empty?
25:10 Can I switch from rainwater to municipal water manually for my tanks?
27:06 Summary of above vs underground tanks.
29:35 Ways to monitor the tank levels?
31:09 Wrap Up
Emmanuel: Welcome to Radio Live Green Smart and our discussion on rainwater harvesting. I’m Emmanuel your host. Radio Live Green Smart is a forum to discuss green living, eco-conscious living; that’s the main crux. And then importantly to discuss where you see disrespect for the environment first hand bring, that disrespect to us and we will assist to find a way of addressing the disrespect. Use the contact us to report disrespect and please be clear with the information that you provide. Top
Tonight, we will be talking about rainwater harvesting which is the accumulation of rainwater for reuse at the residence rather than letting the rainwater runoff. Rainwater is collected from the roof and redirected via gravity to an underground reservoir or via downpipes from the roof directly from the gutters to a reservoir. Rainwater is used for various uses, in particular garden irrigation, flushing of toilets and for the washing machine. With further filtration of rainwater, it is safe to drink. Rainwater harvesting is one of the simplest and oldest methods of self-supply of water for households. Tonight, we have Jonathan Heck of Kyasol Building Solutions who will cover the topic in-depth from his point of view. Welcome Jonathan. Top
Jonathan: Hi Emmanuel, thanks for having me.
Emmanuel: [uh,uh] You’re welcome Jonathan and would you please introduce yourself and your company, Kyasol Green Building Solutions?
Jonathan: Ok Emmanuel, Kyasol is basically, as you mentioned a green building solutions provider, we can touch a bit later on what divisions we take care of. At Kyasol I am the technical director and also a founding partner and my main responsibility is the water sector, mainly the rainwater harvesting, storm water management and waste water treatment.
Emmanuel: Ok, interesting and how did it start? How did Kyasol start and your passion for this [um] topic start?
Jonathan: Actually it’s quite interesting, my background is electrical engineering so [um], the other founding partner at Kyasol, I used to work for him and we worked on an automation level, building automation, industrial automation with a main aim of saving energy. And with one of our visits to Germany we came across this interesting rainwater concept with underground tanks and with South Africa not really leading the industry we need to look to our neighbours, like Australia, Germany and Europe for innovative solutions and we came across this concept [um] with a few discussions back and forward we then started importing the products and in 2010 we became the partner locally for that. So, the rainwater section started off by coming across something at an expo just by accident not really, South Africa didn’t have a need for it but soon developed a need for it when we started just maybe a year or two afterwards. Top
Emmanuel: Thank you Jonathan, the next interesting topic for me is what is rainwater harvesting and what is the water used for from your vantage point what is it being used for?
Jonathan: Well as you say, rainwater collected off roofs and surfaces, ideally roofs cause there’s less contaminants there and then that rainwater can be used as is without further disinfection or treatment in areas such as irrigation, cleaning of cars, washing and cleaning indoors and outdoors flushing toilets, even laundry, everything basically, except hygienic and consumption like cooking and drinking but you can also filter it to a further extent and replace that. Top
Emmanuel: Does that mean that rainwater, as it is harvested it’s not safe for [consump] for human consumption, but with filtration it is?
Jonathan: Yeah, for sure, look on the roof there could be contaminants like bird droppings or dead animals or maybe carbon from car exhausts that came down with the rain, even metal and paint contaminants. So all of those small contaminants, which is not something that can make the water fall over but [it,it] it’s maybe not something that is hygienically healthy if you wash for instance your eyes or your face or use it in your cooking or your consumption so yeah you could install filters, sediment filters and disinfectants methods like UV or ozone to get that water to that extent, it’s definitely possible it’s just a question of whether it’s feasible to do it.
Emmanuel: Ok, when you say feasible, in other words is it cost effective to go to that extra extent when there’s enough other uses for the rainwater?
Jonathan: Yeah, look with filters there’s obviously maintenance involved so [um] there’s frequent replacing of filters that’s required depending on the contamination of filters. There’s also a power consumption factor to it [uh] ozone and UV both use power to disinfect the water, although very small. You need to consider the fact that you are getting rainwater for free, [um] now you need to spend maintenance and electricity on it.
Jonathan: So, I would say of you not in an area that’s not water scarce then maybe use it on order to save on drinking water supply, but if you in an area where there’s very little resources then obviously cost of treatment and maintenance is not a question, you go to the full extent.
Emmanuel: Ok, so I get what you saying it’s horses for courses?
Jonathan: Yes, for sure. Top
Emmanuel: Thank you. Ok so now the question or the angle that I am coming to now is how do we start, how do we decide how and where to harvest how does one figure out that you want to start and any information you want to give listeners about that topic?
Jonathan: Yes, obviously the main thing is identifying whether it’s possible or feasible. Mainly the roof area, if you have a large roof area the more you can collect. [um] obviously location is also important, if it is desert area, every drop counts so you can still do it but um but if you start looking at a feasibility point of view then maybe good rainfall areas, big roof spaces are ideal. As a first prize, you would want to collect off the roof, less contaminants on the roof, you could also collect water from the surfaces. The surfaces also have exposure to oil fumes, chemicals, [um] excessive silt from gardens and that type of thing so it requires more filters to put in place in order for your storage tank not to build up over time and require more maintenance.
Emmanuel: So, does that mean water is collected from the downpipes if it’s from the roof?
Jonathan: Yes, yeah so it’s obviously important that your roof has a downpipe and a gutter structure, if you have something like a thatch roof its obviously more difficult to do that so via your gutters down the pipe into either an above ground storage tank or underground storage tanks. Top
Emmanuel: Yeah, that’s very interesting, now can you tell us about, now that you’ve mentioned above and underground what are the advantages or disadvantages of either the above or underground tanks?
Jonathan: Ok, I’ll start with the above ground tanks first [um] the above ground tanks are quite simple to put in place so you can imagine standing next to the building and a down pipe coming down the wall, you can basically put your tank under the down pipe just with a screen filter at the top of the tank so very [straightforwardly] and [inexpensibly] you could collect that water. The downside to above ground tanks is it’s not always possible to put it where your big collection points are. So, in the front of house you don’t want this tank due to aesthetics and maybe space reasons and that type of thing, so it becomes difficult to collect the maximum amount of roof area with above ground tanks and you need to be close to the downpipe as it works with gravity. S,o you can just imagine having 6/7 tanks around the house at each downpipe, it can become quite a problem and quite ugly as well. If we look at the underground section, the underground tank obviously cost a little bit more to put in place as you need to excavate to put the tank underground so the main advantage here is that you can bring your downpipes to the underground network and then gravity helps it flow to the lowest point of your property and you can collect the whole roof in 1 reservoir you have 1 filter point and 1 pumping point whereas if you have multiple above ground tanks you have multiple filter points and multiple pumping points so you can see there’s pros and cons on each concept. Top
Emmanuel: Yeah, now so [so] would you be able to retrofit underground tanks, the property is already built and I now want to harvest rainwater would that be a consideration at all or is it just not cost effective to do it after the event, and I am thinking about the downpipes, the collection and then the placing of the tanks etc. is that something people would be interested in?
Jonathan: Yeah, I would say a general thumb suck…
Jonathan is lost for a few seconds due to technical error.
Jonathan: I will just repeat that, I would say about 30% of existing houses has the possibility to do underground tanks the other 70% is more difficult due to paving around the house, well established gardens and features that need to be lifted and then it’s not feasible at all or maybe even practical.
Emmanuel: Ok, so from that I gather that the majority of rainwater harvesting with underground is done from the design of the house from [from] the architect, from that point. Is that usually the case?
Jonathan: Yeah, definitely more cost effective when you look at the holistic project so that when you design it in and the building takes place this type of thing is allowed for. Obviously as you know everything that’s retrofit comes with a price tag because you need to make it work. Top
Emmanuel: I understand. Jonathan then going to the next topic [um] if I formulate the question like this: when do we install underground and when above ground taking into account that the underground tanks require pumping the water, the above ground tanks don’t necessarily require pumping and now we have free water but we require electricity to pump what is your comment and so on. How does that play out?
Jonathan: Ok I’m just going to touch on the design and then I’ll go to the pumping topic.
Emmanuel: Thank You.
Jonathan: On the design, obviously if you build a new house and you could get your roofs to fall to central positions, strategic positions then above ground makes more sense. You can hide it through screen walls but then you have to plan it like that. Generally speaking, people don’t plan it like that, it’s more about the aesthetics of the roof then practicality of the roof which is a mindset thing I believe. If your roof is not ideally orientated to take most of your water to 1 point then you would need to go underground to get that structure around the house to a central point. [um] considering the fact that you need to pump water to the tanks, if you above ground you have gravity on an above ground level you can fill a bucket or you can maybe drip irrigate or do a simple run off but if you going to plumb into an irrigation system or into a plumbing system like a toilet or washing machine, you need pressure. So, whether you above ground or underground with the storage you need to pump in order to have that pressure on your irrigation system so I wouldn’t say that is a deal breaker, the pumping side of it seeing that you have free water that came off the roof you could spend a bit of money on pumping the water to the points that you need it.
Emmanuel: Understood, yeah, I understand. So, I gather now that to have above ground and to have all your drainage to a single point means you will have to design your house like that whereas with underground the design can follow the original plan and then all you need to cater for is how you get from the different places around the property to get the water to the underground tank. Did I understand you?
Jonathan: Yes you 100% correct, the building stages you obviously put in a water supply around the house, you obviously put a sewage system around the house so whilst these trenches are open you just put the additional piping in to bring the rain water to a central point so yeah it is carefully planned but practically possible. Top
Emmanuel: Understood. Earlier on you mentioned filters, [uh] what filters are you referring to and what are the filters used for?
Jonathan: Well as a first step seeing water come off the roof you need to screen filter so we just call this our screen filter or our sediment filter. This is generally a stainless-steel screen either in the underground tank or on the man hole inlet of the above ground tank and this is just to prevent leaves or dead animals or solid particles to settle in the tank. If these particles enter your tank, it’s not a problem as such but it could start water falling over quicker through some rotten material or excessive build up as it needs frequent cleaning so we do a filter before we go to the tank to prevent sediments from settling into the tank. From that stage, you need to decide what you want to do with the water. If you want it to just go to the irrigation then no other filters are required depending on your irrigation points if you have small drippers or pop up sprinklers then you’ll obviously have to put something in place there but if you going to go back into the building for toilets we recommend a fine micron filter and this filter makes sure that all the dissolved dust or carbon in the water that’s not visually seen is encaptured so as not to affect the plumbing internally which is more difficult to maintain. Top
Emmanuel: I understand, Jonathan if we take it a step further where all, can you give us some examples of where rainwater harvesting was implemented by yourself and by your company?
Jonathan: Well typically residential buildings either retrofit on existing residential buildings and then a lot of the new buildings of the state that’s going up in and around Gauteng and South Africa, regions like Cape Town, Durban, Joberg and Pretoria. We have also done commercial buildings, office space, office developments where we use the water for urinals and toilet flushing. We’ve done service stations around the country also for urinals, toilet flushing and irrigation and in warehousing or logistics where there’s big roofs but not much internal consumption but then there’s washing of vehicles and this type of thing where we use rainwater to supplement. [um] I did the municipal water, all the recovered water for those washing bays. Top
Emmanuel: So that means that we don’t only harvest rainwater for domestic purposes or for residential but offices, industrial, everywhere?
Jonathan: Yes, that’s correct, if you look at it, let’s use an office for an example. If you look at it there’s no washing and showering that happens at the office so where’s the water going to? It’s either coffee machines or handwashing or toilet flushing so a lot of the water used in an office environment is actually flushed down the drain and this is drinking water that we flush down the drain so replacing this with rainwater makes perfect sense. Top
Emmanuel: I am beginning to see the bigger picture [um] that it’s not just for residents and so on. Now in terms of water when the rain out of the rainy season obviously the tanks will not last until the next rainy season, now what happens then if I’ve plumbed irrigation and the toilets into the rainwater tank but now the tank is empty?
Jonathan: Ok, yeah no, interesting question. If you in an area with good rainfall you could design a system to carry you through the dry season and there’s factors like is there frequent rain? Do you have enough roof space and is it feasible to do? I mean to design a storage that could last you 2/4 months in terms of the initial capital outlay and what you are benefiting and if that tank would ever be full is the question. So, we don’t go through the winter season, we try to harvest as much as we can in the rainy season and supplement using less from the grid so that also the infrastructure, the local dams and local facilities also have enough capacity for the dry periods. [um] in the situation that your tank is empty you have two options there. Either municipal switch over, so this is a direct switch over so if the tank is empty you allow municipal pressure to directly flow to the building, that is your first option. Your other option is to top your tank up with municipal water, so let’s say for instance you keep your tank at a 30% level so it means the whole dry season you’ll always have 30% in your tank topped up by a municipal supply if there’s no rainwater.
Emmanuel: So, what then happens if I understand you, is the water it keeps on filling let’s say as you mentioned to 30% of the tanks capacity and it then keeps on servicing the irrigation, the toilets etc from the tank as 1 option or alternatively when the tank doesn’t have water it will just bypass the tank and pump straight into the house or where its used for the irrigation?
Jonathan: Yes, that’s correct, but I just want to touch on something [uh] some positives and negatives around that. Let’s take the first one as an example. Let’s say [we] the tank is empty and we switch over to municipal supply on demand which means you stop pumping rainwater and the municipal supply goes directly to the building. Now the advantage there is that you don’t require a pump to pump water as municipal water already arrives at pressure so there’s no need to pump to get the pressure so you can basically switch directly over. The negative with this is, if there’s a water outage, let’s say there’s maintenance on a pipe somewhere then you without water so this brings me to the second possibility, instead of switching direct on demand to municipal when the tank is empty, you use the municipal to top up the tank to that 30% level in this example. The negative aspect is that you will always pump to your toilets and irrigation there’s never a straight municipal feed, there’s always a pumping feed so there’s always power consumption on the pump. The advantage though is that you always have reserve supply so if there’s a burst pipe or whatever the case may be you always have reserve in your tank to continue operating.
Emmanuel: Yes, for instance we’ve just been notified that we will be without water over a 2-day period, so if we were using, [um] the keeping water in the tank [uh] we won’t be without water for that period otherwise we would be that’s how the pros and cons would be as how you refer to it?
Jonathan: Yes, effectively you creating a rainwater harvesting system and a water back up system in 1. Top
Emmanuel: I understand, oh, that’s very interesting. Jonathan assuming now the rainwater has run out and now I need municipal water is this something that I have to walk out and manually switch, when I realise there’s no water over from [um] the one medium to the other medium? Is it manual or how does that work?
Jonathan: Yeah, well there’s a couple of options [um] obviously if you go old school and put a tank under a downpipe when its empty its empty, that’s a very feasible or cheap way of harvesting water. But as soon as you start looking at it in a professional manner and you start plumbing up toilets and laundry and irrigation, a lot of things around the house you need a more professional solution so obviously as soon as the tank is empty you need water to run to the toilets, you can’t in the middle of the night at 11 o clock go outside and switch over to municipal manually in order to fill the toilet so [um] again different strokes for different folks, if this is what you want to do then for sure but we do have an option of an automatic switch over device so basically what happens is if the tank is empty the pump switches off and there’s no constant pressure from the pump. In case of a power outage when there’s no power to pump it will switch over to municipal supply so even during power outages, pump failures or empty tanks you will have the backup supply of the municipal and that automatically happens that’s an automatic switch over. Top
Emmanuel: Yeah, that makes it very convenient. [um] Jonathan so is there anything else that you would like to tell us about the that we haven’t covered now anything else anything further that you would like to tell us about rainwater harvesting?
Jonathan: Yeah, the one thing that crosses my mind now thinking about it just back to the above ground and underground we know that obviously the above ground is a little bit cheaper to implement. Underground is more practical in terms of collecting from the roof. Advantages for the underground tank is obviously aesthetics you save space in the garden, also your water when stored underground you can keep it for longer periods because there’s no sunlight, no temperature or not high temperature and therefore very little growth or very slow growth so that’s one advantage I want to add above vs underground. And then something else that I just want to touch on as well is, we talked about making the system professional and have an automatic switch over, we also have automatic filters where the filters backwash themselves so there’s no need for you to go and clean the filters yourself. It’s on a schedule and rinses once a week or once every 2 weeks depending on how bad your contamination is and that’s a self-cleaning automatic solution.
Emmanuel: Yeah, it certainly sounds as if rainwater harvesting has caught up with all the conveniences that we need.
Jonathan: Yeah, no definitely these days it’s the norm you need to create time for family and create time for work and if you live on a farm and you have time to clean the filters and switch over water supplies then for sure but if you live in the cities and there are high demands you don’t have time for these things.
Emmanuel: Yeah, so it becomes part of the household and it just flows either from municipal or from the tank itself.
Jonathan: Yeah, that’s the intention, yes. Top
Emmanuel: Very interesting. Jonathan if that is the end of it then thank you very [very] much, unless you have some last-minute thoughts?
Jonathan: On that last topic on making it convenient, there’s also other tools that you can implement on this tank or this concept and it’s something like level monitoring in the tank. A lot of times the tank is outside or underground or not seen every day so you would want to know what the level is so there are simple devices that could give you like a gauge or display that shows you the level, but there’s also automation components. Just if I can touch quickly on the automation stuff so you monitor the level of the tank and then you can create graphs where you can see how frequently does it rain? How much did the tank increase in terms of percentage of approximate litre value? You can also then see from your graphs if your filters are actually clean or is your pump actually pumping and you can also set schedules or priorities so if your tank increased by x % you could run the toilets or the irrigation I mean, in drier seasons you could reduce the irrigation cycles and it just gives you a little more flexibility and control through that, through a tool like that. Top
Emmauel: Definitely and that makes it even more convenient. [um] thank you Jonathan. So that concludes our discussion with Jonathan Heck of Kyasol Green Building Solutions. Please note that where we interview or run adverts, the content is not necessarily endorsed by Radio Live Green Smart. I am Emmanuel your host and over to the music. Top
End of Transcript Top
In a smart green home, there is the option to make use of the sun to generate free electricity. With a grid-tied system, there is a back-up power supply in the event of a shortfall.
Using a heat pump, combined with a linked-loop hotwater system, hot water is immediately available in the home. Heat pumps are very efficient and need little energy to heat water. Costs are therefore reduced.
In a green home, air-conditioners and heaters are not required. With Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling, the home is fully temperature controlled at minimal cost.
Using rainwater for watering the garden, for the washing machine and to flush the toilets also saves on the monthly water bill.
And using low-flow shower heads and taps saves on water consumption, resulting in great savings for the homeowner.
In a green smart home, one is able to monitor and control every aspect.
At a glance, we see what our electricity usage is and take steps to reduce usage without sacrificing convenience or comfort.
Hot water is always on tap.
With water tanks being used to collect and store rainwater, the water level is checked at a glance, using the smart monitoring system.
The green smart home works with the environment. A full weather report including the temperature and humidity levels is always available on the app.
And with hydronics radiant heating and cooling, and with comprehensive insulation being in place, one walks barefoot and in a t-shirt in winter.
Green home prices may be higher than that of other houses on the market – however, there is a great return on investment.
Our water bill is reduced by up to 60% when rainwater harvesting is implemented. (Rainwater is used for washing machines, gardens and toilet flushing.)
Insulation of the home reduces the electricity bill. Room insulation maintains room temperature and pipe insulation reduces the need to heat up water.
And using hydronics radiant heating and cooling makes temperature control inexpensive.
With all the above savings added up, there is a great reduction in monthly living costs, and this will give a return on investment. Within ten years or less, the extra that is paid for the home is recouped in this way.
Here are some renewable resources that are used –
Bamboo: This material is sustainable and an alternative to wood. It has a lower impact on the environment but lasts just as long. Bamboo is used for flooring and counter tops, amongst other uses.
Rainwater: A green home requires a sustainable water supply. The cheapest rainwater harvesting methods are actually the most efficient, but the advice of an expert is recommended when installing such a system. A vendor with an excellent reputation provides us with the best rainwater harvesting system.
Solar energy: We’ll need to consider our needs carefully. Photo-voltaic solar panels are the most obvious method for reducing reliance on the grid – we’ll need to ask ourselves how much energy is needed for all our appliances. There are also ways to reduce the amount of energy that we’ve been using.
Expert advice is recommended here, when looking at ways to lower our requirements.
Harvesting rainwater achieves many green living principles. We’re saving potable water which is a valuable resource. And we’re reducing our carbon footprint.
Harvested rainwater is used for garden irrigation, flushing the toilets and for the washing machine.
By installing a smart device app, or navigating to the monitoring website of the smart home, green features are easily monitored and can be adjusted where applicable.
These metrics can be monitored:
- Rainwater tank level.
- Rainwater usage.
Rainwater harvesting reduces utility water usage by up to 60%, thereby saving water utility costs.
When establishing an indigenous garden, installing a rainwater sensor, and being able to measure rainwater usage, the irrigation cycles can be adjusted to closely align the rainfall with the water required by the garden, thereby using the harvested rainwater most efficiently, maximising savings and tending to a lovely garden at the same time.
There is lots of advice out there on how to cut down on your water usage and save money on your water bill. But why deprive yourself of water simply to save a few Rand? We’ve come up with four ways to save money without having to cut down on your water.
Plant indigenous plants in your garden
When a garden is filled with indigenous plants, you will barely need to water or maintain it throughout the year. Indigenous plants can withstand the hot South African summers, while still staying green during winter months. Imagine having to almost never water your garden except in drought months!
Awareness is increasing in South Africa regarding trees and plants that are not native to South Africa. These plants are often referred to as invaders. Invader plants have a way of stifling the growth of native plants by:
- Stealing moisture during dry seasons
- Taking up space and crowding other plants
- Self-seeding prolifically, not giving other plants a chance
- Growing elaborate root systems that cannot be unearthed
- Not adding any benefits to animals such as birds and insects
Another aspect to having these plants in your garden is the maintenance. Many of them steal moisture from your soil—meaning you are forced to water your garden more regularly to ensure the survival of indigenous plants. You will be required to trim these plants regularly to ensure they don’t take over. Worst of all, when seeding takes place you are left with hundreds of weeds.
The benefits to having a purely indigenous garden are many. Here are a few reasons we planted them in our homes:
- Indigenous plants work well together. Because they are native to South Africa, they benefit each other; coexisting in a way that cannot take place with other plants.
- These plants are more likely to stay green all year round. They don’t mind harsh climates, as they have already adapted themselves to our weather conditions.
- Maintenance such as watering, trimming and shaping is minimal with indigenous plants. They work well together to create unity within your garden—without much effort from people.
- Indigenous plants also bring life to your home. Because they house birds, insects and small animals, your garden will soon become its own little ecosystem. Another reason why working WITH nature is so much better!
So it’s not only about saving water—it’s also about all these other benefits. Now let’s look at another way to save water…
Harvest rainwater for everyday cleaning
Installing a rainwater harvesting system on your property is an excellent investment. Rainwater is not fit for drinking, bathing or showering; but it can be used in almost any other capacity in your home. Use rainwater to flush your toilets, washing machine and your outside taps. In fact, any cleaning can be done with harvested rainwater which has been coarsely filtered.
Many people wonder whether rainwater is clean enough to use in the home. The answer is, YES! Basic rainwater collection tanks are perfect for watering your garden. But if you want to take it one step further, then a rainwater filtering system is excellent.
These systems perform three major functions:
- First of all they collect rainwater more efficiently than regular surface mounted tanks. That’s because they are installed in strategic positions which maximise collection potential.
- Second, these systems perform general coarse filtering of your water. This takes place by extracting the water from just above the surface—thereby giving you the cleanest portion.
- Finally, these systems go one step further by distributing the water to certain areas of the home. This includes the toilets, the washing machine and the irrigation system for your garden.
That’s right. If you can get your rainwater tank connected to your plumbing, you can even use it for toilet flushing! This is a system that is usually pre-installed in a ready-built green home; but if you plan on staying in your home for years to come, there’s no reason why you can’t install such a system in your current home.
As mentioned, unfiltered rainwater is not fit for consumption. But some would argue that tap water isn’t either. So why fill your water filter with tap water when rainwater is free? If it’s available and accessible, you may as well use what nature has already given you free of charge! Since most of us use water filters/coolers in our homes, there’s nothing wrong with filtering your rainwater for the purpose of consumption. Simply access your water at the source, collect it in a jug, and fill your water filter. Within a few hours you will have perfectly clean drinking water that didn’t cost you a cent!
Now you may be wondering about the price. What does rainwater harvesting cost? How hard are these systems to maintain?
Although decent rainwater harvesting systems cost a bundle, they provide a return on investment that far surpasses their initial cost. This is a viable long term option for homeowners who want to save on their utility bill.
Maintenance on rainwater harvesting systems is minimal. These systems are designed in such a way that they run themselves. And because there are no complicated mechanics to how they work, they won’t breakdown or malfunction.
Reduce the need for running your taps unnecessarily
Plumbing has slowly evolved over the decades. Today we have awesome systems which will help you save on your water bill. Although these savings are small at first, accumulatively they make a massive difference.
One such system is a heat pump. Heat pumps work in conjunction with three other systems which keep your hot water warm within the pipes. These include:
- Hot water pipe insulation
- Insulation of the tank to negate the need for constant heating
- A linked loop plumbing system to prevent waste
We’ll look at each of these aspects more closely. But first, let’s explore how having hot water immediately on tap ultimately saves water.
You may be surprised to learn how much water is wasted while you wait for it to warm up. Conventional plumbing systems allow water within the pipes to cool down within minutes of your previous use. So every time you need hot water, you have to run your hot water tap for about 15 seconds or more before it warms up.
This wastes A LOT of water! Collectively, litres and litres of water are lost. That’s literally money down the drain.
So let’s now look at the three factors that help you save money on your water bill:
- Hot water pipe insulation
When hot water flows through pipes, insulation keeps it warm. Insulation material is wrapped around pipes to ensure heat is not lost while the water sits dormant inside. This ensures that hot water is immediately accessible whenever the hot water tap is turned on.
- Insulation of your water tank
In addition to the pipes being insulated, the tank needs to retain its temperature too. By keeping the water tank insulated, water does not require constant heating. Electricity is saved and so is water—because again, you don’t need to run your tap to get to the hot water. It’s already there!
- Linked loop plumbing
A linked loop plumbing system is another practical way to keep hot water accessible throughout your home. This again negates the need for running water to get it to the desired temperature. Linked loop plumbing ensures that water is always warm, always accessible no matter where you are in your house.
Use reputable green vendors to fit your plumbing systems
As with all industries, the green home industry in South Africa is rife with low quality materials and installers. That’s why it’s important to find reputable vendors when looking into these systems. Yes, you will pay a little more. But rather that than having to worry about problems down the line.
Here are some you may hear about:
- Leaking pipes
Leaking pipes may cause you unimaginable problems later on. Because these pipes are built into walls, floor and ceilings, they need to be of a very high quality. Low quality pipes will leak after a few years and breaking down your home to repair them is simply not worth it. And even if you don’t realise you have a leak, your water bill will be ridiculously high despite your attempts to save on water usage.
- Cheap insulation material
We’ve already seen how insulation of pipes and hot water tanks can save money on your water [and electricity] bill. But if that insulation material comes loose, it’s function is lost. Additionally, if the wrong type of material is used, your insulation won’t be as effective.
- Poor installation
When a green plumbing system is not fitted correctly, it will not perform as well. If it’s not performing the way it should, it’s not saving you money—and is therefore a useless addition to your home.
- Cheap brands
Green home components should come from reputable green suppliers. There are countless cheap brands out there and many South African installers use these brands—choosing price over quality. Do a bit of research before you get an installer out and make sure they know their brands.
Don’t be discouraged by these possible problems. Fortunately there are companies in South Africa that are serious about delivering a high quality service.
These water saving strategies are probably very different from the ones you’re used to reading about. And while they are unconventional methods, they are super effective in giving you a return on your investment.
If you’ve never considered green features as a way to save on your water bill, then now’s the time to look into it. As green home development increases, more and more of these methods will be implemented. Accumulatively, when water is saved, it has a huge impact on our planet.
It also has a positive effect on the economy since everyone benefits when water is saved! So, for saving on your pocket, your planet and your peace of mind; implement these systems wherever you can and save our most precious resource.
Today, many developers use the term ‘green’ to describe their buildings. But what are the elements that really make a house environmentally friendly? Does it only refer to using solar power for heating your water? Or harvesting rainwater in a cleverly hidden tank? Seeing as the term gets thrown around so often, we decided to give you a better understanding of what makes a home green.
If you’re serious about green living, there are six general aspects you should consider when building or buying a home. Each of these aspects possesses other smaller elements that are optional. In the end, you will need to decide which ones you can afford, and which ones you don’t really need. Here are the six we have highlighted—with a brief description of each.
Photo-voltaic solar panels are the obvious answer to reducing your reliance on the grid. But you should consider your needs carefully. How much energy would you need, to generate power for all of your appliances? Be realistic and look at ways to reduce the amount of energy you require. Ask yourself whether it’s worth investing in energy efficient appliances. Finally, work with a developer that understands how to utilise orientation, shading devices and insulation to lower your requirements.
- How much energy will you need?
Measuring the amount of energy you need is step one. Step two is working out how much renewable energy you need to generate in order to maintain your household. It’s simple math and the answers are out there. Remember to do these sums thoroughly before you add this feature to your home—or purchase a home that has it already implemented.
- Should you also buy energy efficient appliances?
Appliances that are designed to use less power can be extremely helpful too. However, this is not an option for everybody. If you have to balance your comfort and convenience, then these appliances are not going to make your life better. Living cheaply, doesn’t mean you have to live less comfortably. Rather generate lots of free, renewable power than having to lower your lifestyle.
- Should you work with a green home developer?
Green home developers have already worked with green vendors. They’ve had their bad experiences with the dubious ones and finally found teams of individuals who deliver what they promise. That’s why it can be beneficial to work with these developers for advice. If you are looking for someone to help you get it right the first time, speak to someone who’s already made all the mistakes and come out on top.
After energy, a sustainable water supply is essential for any green home. Every effort must be made to make the collection of rainwater as efficient as possible. This requires expertise in the placement of pipes and catchments. Once again, developers need to have local knowledge of the rainfall patterns in your area to ensure maximum collection.
The most efficient rainwater harvesting methods are the cheapest. Finding a way to collect as much water as possible is the trick to maximising your efficiency and your savings. Remember, the more water you collect, the more you will benefit from your return on investment.
Once again, it’s important to use a proper expert to do this implementation in your home. Working with a green home developer who knows a good vendor, or finding a vendor with an excellent reputation is the key to getting the best system.
There are many important aspects to this green feature:
- Positioning of the catchments
- Installation of the pipes
- Choosing the right collection point
- Having high quality equipment all round
Only true experts will give full attention to detail with ALL of these aspects. So be sure to speak to the right people about installing your rainwater harvesting system.
A home that is truly green is one that takes every part of the building process into consideration. And that includes the materials that are used in its construction. Bamboo is an example of a sustainable alternative to wood. It has a much lower impact on the environment but is just as durable. It can be used for flooring, counter tops and in the construction of shaft covers.
Having a truly green home means using materials that have little impact on the environment. We’ll use bamboo as an example here. There are three questions to ask when choosing material:
- Does harvesting this material take a lot of energy?
In the case of bamboo, harvesting has a significantly lower impact on the environment than other methods. These include cutting down large trees, mining, farming, etc.
- Will the removal of this resource from nature negatively affect the planet?
Unlike trees, bamboo does not play that much of an important role in dissipating greenhouse gasses. Bamboo isn’t a huge oxygen producer either, so removing it has a very low impact on our planet.
- Does this resource grow or generate fast enough to sustain its demand?
Bamboo grows incredibly fast! If and when the demand for bamboo increases, growing more will be quick and simple. This makes it incredibly sustainable as a building material.
Insulating the rooms
Being green is not only about harvesting natural resources for living. It’s also about maintaining what you have without needing to continually generate more. This is especially true in the case of heating and cooling your home. That’s where insulation comes in.
There are many ways you can insulate a room. For now, let’s just look at five:
- Ceiling insulation
By insulating your home’s ceiling, you ensure that warm air cannot escape. Even though your ceiling is solid, air escapes through it much easier than you realise. This is an especially useful feature during winter. Warming up a room takes time, and that heat will not leave the room so easily.
- Floor insulation
Floor insulation is another way to keep the temperature in your home constant. But more importantly, floor insulation ensures that your under-floor heating or cooling system (hydronics radiant heating and cooling system) retains its effectiveness.
- Wall insulation
Probably the most effective way to retain a home’s desired temperature is through wall insulation. This is often done by using products such as Lambdaboard within a cavity in each exterior wall.
- Window & glass door insulation
So much air escapes through closed doors and windows. In the case of windows and glass doors, even sealing the sides will not prevent air from escaping through the glass itself! Double glazing offers the solution here. By trapping the air within a small cavity in the window pane, your rooms will retain the temperature you set for them.
- Pipe insulation
A homeowner who has truly adopted a green lifestyle will always insist on pipe insulation. This has a number of benefits:
- Less electricity is needed to reheat water that would otherwise have cooled down faster
- Water within pipes retains its heat so that water is ultimately saved by not having to run the tap for long
- Pipe insulation also prevents your cold water pipes from reaching room temperature too quickly. This again saves you on having to run the tap longer when the water is required.
Consider your garden
Gardens take up a lot of time and effort to maintain. Even if you exclude the watering of a garden, there’s still the pruning, treating and mowing that goes into that maintenance. All of these things have an impact on the environment. So what’s the secret to owning a garden that’s as green as your home?
One of the biggest suggestions we put forth to our clients is the importance of planning indigenous trees and plants in a garden. Why do we see this as a green aspect? Because:
- Indigenous plants need very little maintenance
- They attract natural wildlife and birds to your garden
- These plants require very little watering
- They grow well together
- They stay green all year round—that means less replacement gardening for you
Learning about invasive plant species in South Africa is also something you can do to be a more responsible homeowner. There is tons of information on the Internet about this subject. Fortunately for the South African environment, this topic is getting a lot of attention at the moment.
As you can see, gardening is a major part of living green. If your garden isn’t green, time to get a revamp. Green, environmentally friendly gardens are an essential part to reducing your carbon footprint.
Thinking about the little things
Another truly green aspect of any home is how easy it is to maintain the little things. We’re talking about cleaning, repairing, treating, painting, polishing… all those things that require time, energy, and chemicals.
Living green means thinking ahead about small aspects of maintenance. Today there are countless options available to homeowners and developers. Let’s take a brief look at some of them:
- Low maintenance roof tiles
You can now purchase uncoloured roof tiles. This means that you will never have to paint them. It also means that they will never fade from the sun or rainfall. There are no side effects either. These tiles are durable, aesthetically pleasing and cost effective.
- Stainless steel fittings
Something else to consider is that stainless steel is a great option for certain metal fittings within your home. Stainless steel is easy to clean. It’s also rust resistant and doesn’t require chemical treatment to maintain it.
- Less lawn area
Maintaining a large area of lawn can be very expensive. It also takes up loads of energy and machine power to do so. If you want to truly live as green as possible, why not consider replacing lawn space with garden decor? This can include pretty rocks & pebbles, pavers, stepping stones, ground cover plants, gravel areas.
Retrofitting existing homes with these features can be challenging. But green homes are becoming more popular in South Africa. Purchasing a brand new green home is already an option that is available to those who appreciate the benefits of green living.