The concept of green design is gaining momentum throughout the building industry. As the demand from consumers continues to drive the effort, builders are responding with green solutions for both commercial and residential needs.
How much can I save with green plumbing?
Plumbing systems are an expensive, complex part of any home design. Whether you’re building a new home or redesigning an old one, careful planning with green plumbing designs in mind can help you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the coming years.
A green building may cost more upfront but will ultimately save property owners with lower operating costs over the life of the building. While most people think of savings from an energy standpoint (i.e., water savings through reduced flow toilets and bathroom fixtures), the savings can come in a variety of forms.
Benefits of Green Plumbing
Savings can be financial but can take on more intrinsic benefits as well. Advantages of green plumbing include improving occupant health and comfort, increasing productivity, and reducing pollution and landfill waste.
What are the elements of green plumbing design?
In every home, there are two parts to every plumbing system – water supply and sewage. There are many ways to build water conservation and energy savings into both systems, saving thousands of gallons of water and using less electricity for pumping and delivery:
- Choosing a site that is well protected and retains a natural landscape and natural water features. Rainwater tanks may be used to gather fresh water for later use.
- Use dimensional planning throughout a commercial building. Using standard sizes in piping, materials, and new products eliminates the need for custom builds.
- Design for dual plumbing. Use recycled water for toilet flushing or gray water systems that recover rainwater for irrigation.
- Use water-conserving fixtures, such as low flow showerheads and low flush toilets throughout the build.
- Install recirculating hot water systems for centralized distribution.
3 Easy Ways to Work with Green Plumbing
The easiest way to green up your home design is to start with efficient appliances.
Start with the output
If you’ve ever looked at the major home appliances – washers, dryers, dishwashers – most come with energy efficiency ratings. Modern water heaters have also been made with energy efficiency in mind, and with items like a hot water recirculation system, you can easily reduce the water you use every single day.
The next consideration to explore is how your plumbing system is set up throughout your home.
Work with the layout
Especially in today’s larger homes, it can take several minutes or more for hot water to move from a basement water heater to an upstairs bathroom. Those several minutes wasted day after day can quickly add up to thousands of gallons of water over the course of a year.
A green plumber can make several recommendations to prevent water waste, such as multiple water heaters or adding a hot water circulation system directly to your existing water heater.
As we continue to find ways to conserve water, one area that will continue to improve is the way we dispose of wastewater. It’s easy to dump everything down the drain and send it out into the sewage system, forgetting about conserving where you can. In many areas, there are laws in place to prevent separating different types of waste for reuse.
- Black water is wastewater from toilets, and because of the risk of disease and contamination, it must be handled in strict compliance with plumbing codes.
- Gray water is the water used in everyday activities such as washing our clothes or brushing our teeth. Because it doesn’t pose the same health risks as black water, gray water can be used for irrigation purposes.
Talk with your green plumber to learn more about gray water and black water, the differences, and what you can do with both. If you can’t use gray water in your area, keep in mind that it may become possible in the near future as we continue to explore more ways of conserving water.