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All season rain water collection system
I love rainwater in my basement!

Recently I installed a Rainwater harvesting system on a 1200 sqft ranch home in surburban Allentown, Pennsylvania. You can likely duplicate this system in your home or business.

The collection system stores water in a basement, filters it, pressurizes it and distributes it to the toilets, garden hoses, and washing machine.

The system should save about 5000 gallons per year per person in your household (if you size the collection vessel(s) properly.)

It may sound a little tricky to install, but I have included pictures, a YouTube video, basic instructions, and a spreadsheet of all the parts/ tools you will need to take on this endeaver. You can do this with minimal plumbing knowledge!
Collecting rainwater accomplishes several positive things:

1) Decreases your water bill by around 5000 gallons per person per year

2) Decreases load on the storm system in your neighborhood

3) Decreases the amount of water that will try to seep into your foundation

4) Decreases the amount of power consumed by your water utility, indirectly allowing them to keep costs lower for you.

5) Decrease costs associated with maintaining your water softener - as less water will need to be softened

6) Increase water softness so that clothes and vehicle wash more easily &you can use less laundry detergent / soap - thus polluting less

7) Eliminates sudden temperature/pressure changes in a shower when someone flushes a toilet, uses the washing machine, or a garden hose. 

8) Increases anticipation of arriving storms - it's essentially raining free money for you to enjoy!
Fresh water will become more and more valuable as we progress into the future. Flushing a toilet with drinking water is really silly when you think about what is actually happening. Your spending money to treat water just to flush it down with waste - not logical. Our ancestors would likely look at us with head tilted wondering why we weren't using our gutters more wisely…

If you are feeling really ambitious and are able to collect the grey water from your bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, and laundry - this water can be recycled and filtered one more time in an auxillary system to supply water to the toilets and the garden hoses - though you will have to ensure that all of your soaps are bio friendly. Depending on your location, installing an inline UV sterilization filter may also allow you to use the water you collect for consumption.

Note: You should not collect the water from a kitchen sink, toilet, dishwasher as this becomes known as black water and must be sent into the sewer or septic system.
rainwater_bill_of_materials.pdf
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File Type: pdf
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rainwaterbom.xls
File Size: 25 kb
File Type: xls
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Comments

Stephen Schwartz
04/11/2011 08:24

BRET: Nice work guy.

I assume you needed extra plumbing to separate the rainwater system from the city water system? Hopefully you didn't cross-connect them - because that's illegal.

Then there's the part about your pumps requiring maintenance - and/or just malfunctioning occasionally. Also, I didn't see the costs anywhere. Plastic 55-gallon drums and a pump or two - maybe a couple of grand?

Then there's the part about 99 out of 100 folks not being able to install such a system without hiring a plumber (and maybe an electrician).

Am I starting to sound like your dad?

Anyway, it's a really "green" idea, and that's always good.

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Bret
04/12/2011 00:43

About $1000 so in parts. ROI is only a few years with a decent sized family. City water is separated by check valves. Drums were free from Sun & Earth a environmentally friendly cleaning supply company in King of Prussia. Take some skill but it was not rocket science.

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04/25/2011 14:56

Hey Bret,

The system looks good.

Thanks for the help.

Dave Anton

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05/28/2011 21:15

I saw the video. Do you consult? I'm putting in a flush your toilet with rainwater soon.

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Marc.T
12/25/2011 08:43

Hey Bret
Thank you far sharing your clever persuits to 'get off the grid'
I live in South Africa and I am busy erecting a header tank at my house, in order to plumb it in to use in the home. I have 17500litres of possible collection of rainwater and I would like to ask you a few questions.
Did you put a ball valve to separate city water, next to each place that you changed to rainwater? or did you just use ONE valve to close off the city water?
What exactly does the rain reserve do?
I live under trees and am having roubles keeping the gutters clear of leaf. What would you suggest?
Keep up the good work.
Marc

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12/25/2011 12:07

Marc:
I have a two ball valves at each fixture (toilet, hose, clothes washer),
one ball valve is for the city water, other is for the pressurized rain water.

this allows me to only run rain water to certain fixtures, such as only the toilets. sometimes i need a lot of water for laundry and don't have enough in my tanks. Even though you have large tank, i would still invest in local control at each fixture.

Ensure that only one ball valve is open at a time - or you may foul the city water which is illegal and dangerous in most places. A check valve should also be installed on the city side if you want to adhere strictly to many codes.

If you use gutter helmets, the wire basket strainers, and the rain reserves in concert - leaf issues should be minimal. you will need to clean out your gutters every few months, or at least check on them.

The marine strainer basket eliminates the fine leaf matter prior to going into the tank, but the aforementioned components will prevent clogs beforehand - then you just need to clean the marine basket monthly or so.

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Marc.T
12/27/2011 12:52

OK Thanks alot.
I was looking at your set-up again and I realised that you did it that way.
Today I got the header tank up to 5m and now we can go forward with the rest of the istallation. I spoke to a friend of mine who is a plumber, and here in South Africa we can get the solar water geysers that work of low pressure like header tnaks. SO we will install one soon, to also save on electricity bills!
Im feeling good about all of this.
Thanks again for your support.
Marc

Marc.T
12/27/2011 12:52

OK Thanks alot.
I was looking at your set-up again and I realised that you did it that way.
Today I got the header tank up to 5m and now we can go forward with the rest of the istallation. I spoke to a friend of mine who is a plumber, and here in South Africa we can get the solar water geysers that work of low pressure like header tnaks. SO we will install one soon, to also save on electricity bills!
Im feeling good about all of this.
Thanks again for your support.
Marc

Noire
02/02/2012 21:45

Can an above-ground swimming pool be installed in a basement for a collection tank? Does the water have to be chemically treated?

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Bret
04/25/2012 05:12

Seems plausible, though I would think that moisture and algae would quickly become a major issue.

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You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be really something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and very broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post; I’ll try to get the hang of it!

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06/04/2012 14:30

Bret,really like your plan,I have a building in rural TN that I plan to do auto repair in....a well here is 5K....can I use this system just for toilet,one hand sink and water to wash cars?Thanks very much Ryan

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Bret
06/04/2012 20:27

TN gets really good rainfall - you must keep the business end of the system from freezing, or risk failure in some of the components. The new pumps they sell at Harbor Freight are more robust and i think this system could handle your requirement nicely. Make sure to keep the system moving water so you get good circulation - in other words water a garden once in a while to drain the system partially.

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Jordan
03/24/2013 15:54

I made a system very similar to yours- but i have one problem-one of my npt treaded pex adapters is leaking and I've tried to caulk it 2 different times to get the drip leak to stop from the barrel- do you have any suggestions?

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Scott
09/15/2013 09:30

I have three questions. 1) Is your solenoid valve normally opened or closed? 2) What type float valve did you use in that first barrel? ie, vertical, piggy backed etc. 3) Where did you get them? I really want to build something like this. I just wasn't sure of the float valve and solenoid. I found the well pump for $300.00 and I have the barrels, check, and ball valves. I watched your YouTube video and I think this is just incredible.

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