Farmhouse Energy Efficiency: Water Water Water!

This is how we do water out on the farm these days, ensuring our ducks, chooks, and garden get their sustenance straight from the sky. First project we did was to have a gutter installed on this side of the barn to take full advantage, then ordered the 1,000 gallon tank, built the base (2×4 frame filled with a ton of pea gravel!), rolled it into place (whew!) then secured the downspout and overflow (easier said than done when you get 70-80 mph wind gusts in the winter!), and finally attaching the hose at the bottom (along with a bit of quick decor!) and winding it into our adjacent garden. It also serves as an additional windbreak for our hives (the first two photos were taken last summer when we moved in so the aesthetic has definitely evolved!). So as long as you don’t walk away while filling the ducks’ kiddie pool, a full tank (which doesn’t take all that long to fill out here!) can last a very, very long time. It’s awesome. Check out the slideshow from start to finish:

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We have plans for a short fat one for the front of our house now that we’ve got a flower/pollinator garden started, but for now we’re using the smaller one we brought from Portland (which is now strapped to the side of the house after a particularly dramatic storm last winter!) that I’d painted 🙂

rain1

Inside the house, water savings is a huge priority to us as well, and every water-related device (dishwasher, washing machine, kitchen + bathroom faucets) we’ve installed are either Low-Flow, WaterSense and/or EnergyStar rated. In addition…

  • Because heating water is ridiculously expensive with electric heat, we invested in the Rheem hybrid heat pump water heater and have it in it’s most efficient 100% heat pump mode which is great for the two of us.
  • We also have dual flush toilets in our guest and half bath which only cost $99 at Home Depot, y’all, and my husband learned how to install no problemo.
  • In a few weeks, we will be installing our first ever composting toilet in our master bath (we have it in the box still, as the bathroom floor tile was just grouted today and we have other details before putting this in and venting it through the roof). This we are pretty darn excited about and while we know lots of folks do these in tiny homes and RVs, a lot of folks don’t contemplate the fact that you indeed can do that in a regular house! Will report on this once everything is in place!

The dream of course is to utilize even more rainwater and integrate it into our existing plumbing, but that’s a ways off. In the meantime, $30/mo for city water isn’t bad!

Along with the things that save water, we also embrace water-saving HABITS of our own as well, with a few key ones listed here:

  • Showering twice a week unless the weather is stanky hot. Basically, we shower when we’re truly dirty or for me, shampooing when my hair gets oily (usually around day 4)! Daily showers are actually super hard on the skin, and I’ve learned after transitioning to homemade deodorant, that the only time I have actual body odor? When I’m extra stressed!
  • Watering plants with leftover (non-salted), cooled-down water from the kitchen. This is especially true during harvest when my electric canner is working overtime. Why just pour all those gallons of water out when there are houseplants who are thirsty?
  • Kill weeds with hot leftover (salted) water from pasta, etc. Run right out to the driveway or path that always seems to spring up an annoying weed or two and douse them – the hotter the better!
  • We have never, EVER watered our lawn. It’s supposed to go yellow in summer! Keeping grass green all year disrespects the seasons and to do it, it takes both water AND chemicals. No thank you!
  • We never wash our car ourselves, and only take it to the car wash a few times a year. A hose, a bucket, etc.? None of that compares to the water efficiency of a car wash. Haven’t washed a car since high school, y’all.
  • Turning down the faucet in the bathroom. Notice how we often turn the water up to the most pressure possible to wash our hands/face/etc.? While we all know to not run it when we’re not using it, not everyone thinks about the fact that they don’t need to blast it to get the same effect.
  • And of course, we never, EVER drink bottled water. We all know better, so choosing to do so is just plain foolish. Invest in a HydroFlask and your cold water will stay cold all day. But this is not just about packaging – if you learn more about what companies like Nestle (who own many brands including Perrier, Poland Spring, Arrowhead, San Pellegrino, etc.) are doing to deplete drinking water supplies simply to sell it back in a less-healthy plastic-wrapped form (similar to what Coke has done in third world countries purchasing water rights)? You may just change your tune. PS – for those who say “but I recycle”? Plastic is not recyclable – it’s only DOWNcyclable, which means basically that one plastic bottle cannot make another plastic bottle – it can only be made into something non-recyclable. Oh yes and plastic is made from petroleum, so the more plastic in your life, the more fossil fuels you’re ingesting 🙂

What are your favorite ways to save water, both inside and outside of the house? What’s your next goal to take your water savings to the next level?

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