Sunday, September 27, 2015

Rainwater Living

Our friend Jonathan is considering a rainwater collection system for his country property.  As are an increasing number of people, since strained aquifers across the country produce less quantity and quality of well water.

No drinking water approach is perfect, but for people without ready access to municipal water, rainwater is generally a lower cost choice than well water if:
1- Your household is not too large.  Rainwater collection system costs increase at a rate almost linear with household size, since their required storage tank size nearly doubles as occupants double. Well water systems don't have a significant storage requirement.
2- You can live with a large, visible storage tank above-ground, somewhere close to your house.

But even when initial cost is higher than well water, many people choose rainwater because water quality and taste is much better than well water.  Really.  No stinky sulfur smell.  No chemicals from upstream polluters.

Here are a few pics of our Wimberley rainwater system, after 8 years of use.  They show different parts of the system in sequential order, starting with the water coming off the roof and ending with it being cleaned up just before use.

This photo shows how the rainwater goes from our metal roof to the gutter to a sealed 4" schedule 40 PVC downspout.  Then underground to the tank in the distance.  Since the piping is a sealed system, gravity enables the water to flow 8 feet UP and dump into the top of the storage tank.  Since it works with no electricity, rainwater is stored even during power outages.
I didn't have a good close-by spot for an above-ground tank, so I built an arbor around my tank.  Below ground tanks are a great but very expensive solution if your property has bedrock a few inches below grade level like mine. 

Under the arbor is the storage tank and a smaller tank.  The little one serves to trap any dust, leaves, etc which are washed off from the roof, before the water enters the storage tank.
Blue light is good.  The blue is from the UV lamp, part of a system which also filters and removes smells as the water is pumped from the storage tank to our house.  UV light kills any germs which can occur when water is stored.  Storing water in complete darkness is a double safety measure. 

Rainwater negatives? Not many compared to drilled wells, but the systems do require regular changing of filters and UV bulbs.  Wells generally have less routine maintenance, but when something goes wrong it is usually costly and you can be out of water for weeks.  

I've also had a couple of problems with severe freezes since I was not smart enough to enclose my filter/UV/pump system within an insulated structure. Are you still reading, Jonathan?   If you don't make that mistake then you could have the perfect rainwater system.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Magical Dusk

Photographers love taking certain photos at dawn and dusk because of the warm glow they can achieve.  Really good photographers can even make pretty sad architecture seem downright charming at those almost-dark times.  Every once in awhile I manage to stop for a bit to really enjoy those views.  This weekend I was running back and forth between the guest house and my workshop at dusk, tediously cutting kitchen cabinet trim and wondering why I bothered to build the cabinets myself. Then I saw this view of the the guest house with some of the interior lights glowing through the windows.  Got some cool feelings of home sweet home-away-from-home, relaxing securely inside, happy friends and family enjoying the space... you get the idea.  You're invited to come and enjoy some of those beautiful times of day in Wimberley with us.  See that teak bench on the porch?  It has your name on it.