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Using Rainwater in Your Home

By: Jack Claridge - Updated: 6 Jun 2015 | comments*Discuss
Rainwater Water Butt Water Garden

In these times of energy efficiency and each of us having responsibility for our own carbon footprint it is important to do all we can to make changes that allow us to conserve or reuse those natural resources that are at our disposal.

One such natural resource that is often overlooked is rainwater. If you take into consideration – especially in the United Kingdom – the amount of rainfall during the average month then this represents a considerable and renewable resource that can be used in the garden or for some domestic applications.

Why Use Rainwater?

The more apt question would be why shouldn’t you use rainwater? Really there is no reason why you can’t utilise this natural commodity and put it to good use in and around your home. After all each of us as homeowners have to pay water rates every year and this is for drinking water so why not take full advantage of something that no one can legislate or charge for.

How Can I Use Rainwater?

The possibilities are not limitless but there are certainly quite a few applications that rainwater can be used for that will make all the difference. The most important of which is watering your garden. Again there will be times when rainfall is in short supply so collecting your own stock can help to alleviate the burden on your domestic water supply.

Rainwater – when collected – can be used for many difference purposes – here are just a few:

  • Watering your lawn
  • Washing your car
  • Using domestic appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines

It is important to stipulate that rainwater cannot be used as domestic drinking water and we recommend that you don’t. You can of course purchase a water treatment kit which uses UV (Ultra Violet) Sterilisation but this is expensive and therefore negates any potential savings you might make.

Collecting Rainwater

One of the simplest ways to collect rainwater is in an old fashioned bucket or barrel. You can place one of these in a location either near the side of your home or in your garden where it is likely to fill.

There are other more advanced systems such as water butts or a rainwater harvesting system – these require that you spend a little money but nothing that will break the bank.

Water Butts

A water butt is simply a large barrel than can be placed underneath or near a down pipe. A down pipe is the pipe that allows water to drain from the guttering on your roof and flow into the drains below. A simple yet effective method of collecting rainwater is to place a water butt underneath a down pipe so that the rainwater simply flows along the guttering and down into the receptacle below.

Rainwater Harvesting Systems

A rainwater harvesting system is slightly more sophisticated than a water butt although they work on a similar principle. Water is collected into the receptacle in the same way as you would with a water butt – running the down pipe into the receptacle – and then the water is filtered through a mesh. This mesh allows for leafs, debris that is carried through the air and any other garden waste to be captured whilst allowing smaller particles of debris to sink to the bottom.

A rainwater harvesting system can be attached to a tank where the water is finally stored until needed and using a pump the water can then be recycled through the water supply for dishwashers and washing machines.

This is very useful as rainwater is what is known as soft water and therefore causes no limescale which can often cause problems with filters and elements in such appliances.

Doing Your Bit for the Environment

Not only does the collection of rain water reduce the amount of water you use domestically it also helps reduce the amount of water that is wasted; this in turn is helpful to the environment as the collected water can be used to help with the growing of fruit and vegetables, lawns and flowers that might otherwise require hefty watering from domestic supplies.

In addition rainwater is – as we have already mentioned – a renewable resource that requires no energy to create it therefore cutting down also on emissions and pollution.

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[Add a Comment]
@WOODYSWILD - thanks for your comments, I'm sure they will help our readers.
GoSelfSufficient - 9-Jun-15 @ 10:58 AM
Hi folks a very basic sand fillter can be used to clean rain water, good enought for most non drinking uses . I even use one for my hens as no water on there plot ,hope this helps.PS now working on useing reclaimedcarbon from domestic water filter jugs. WOODYSWILD
WOODYSWILD - 6-Jun-15 @ 5:27 PM
@Steve - yes rainwater while fresh and uncontaminated when coming from the sky, can be contaminated from sitting in a water butt.
GoSelfSufficient - 15-Jan-15 @ 2:46 PM
Just a quick, simple question: Is it safe to use water butt rain water for washing dishes? I would have thought that since the rain falls on the roof and then into the gitter before ending up in the butt it would be most unsafe.
Steve - 14-Jan-15 @ 11:53 AM
You need to get a tap and connector pipe off that running into the house. It is about plumbing... I am about to connect up two large tanks that have been waiting empty for two years while I research a complex subject. The rainwater harvesting yahoo group is a mine of information. In Australia they sell various kits for filtering. In all systems The first filter is a first flush diverter that takes away the dirtiest water that hits the roof first and is full of dust and leaves etc. One way to filter stored waterfor clean use is through a deep sand bed. Another way is the UV filter as described in the article.
Aquarius - 24-Aug-14 @ 9:40 PM
So how do you run your dishwasher/washing machine on rainwater?
Hayley - 9-Feb-14 @ 10:32 PM
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