Rainwater Tanks Save More Than Just Dollars …

Fresh water is one of the most precious natural resources we have on the planet, second only to the air we breathe. It’s something that most people in Western countries take for granted but, like electricity, water supply is now on the radar as a rising household cost.

And while it’s great to see the stampede to solar by so many homeowners as they seek to lower their bills and reduce their environmental footprint, without a rainwater tank system they are still flushing money down the toilet each year. Literally.

Think about it. Does it really make sense to use treated, filtered and tested drinking water to do the dishes, launder the linen or flush the loo? And the same is true for watering the plants or washing the car … 

According to Sydney Water, with a rainwater system that has been professionally installed in your home, you could expect to see a reduction of up to 40% of your drinking water supply. Who wouldn’t like to like to cut their water bills almost in half? 

So how do rainwater harvesting systems work?

You’ve probably seen all sorts of slimline water tanks in people’s yards and the massive round tanks used on farms. Such examples are ‘above ground’ tanks and are less complex than installing a subterranean (underground) rainwater tank.  However, although less visible, subterranean rainwater tanks are popular for homes with limited space to spare, or for those who are interested in the aesthetic finish of the property. Regardless, there is no reason a professionally selected and installed rainwater tank system should look unsightly! 

The tank is, of course, a means to capture and store rainwater. When it rains, your gutters, screens and downpipes are all interconnected and funnel the rainwater into the tank as opposed to just flowing into the drains and being lost forever. Often a pump is involved to help provide the tank water to wherever you want to use it; the bathroom, kitchen, laundry, garden taps etc. There are a variety of pump choices too but you’re well advised to seek professional advice about the best system to suit your home and budget.

That’s all there is to a rainwater water storage system. It’s a relatively passive system whereby it’s working its magic every time it rains, without you needing to do very much. It’s the same as saving money in your sleep …

Take note, however. Any rainwater system does require some preventative maintenance but it’s pretty simple stuff. Many people focus on the tank itself when they think of maintenance, but it actually starts before that.

  1. Keep your garden vegetation trimmed to avoid leaves and debris building up on the collection surface – ie your roof and gutters
  2. Make sure your downpipes are clear of debris
  3. Install good quality metal gutter guard to prevent debris making its way into the system*

*This is also recommended to help protect your home from ember attacks in the event of bushfires

Can I drink the rainwater?

We often get asked whether it’s okay to drink the rainwater you’ve collected. There’s no doubt that in many rural Australian areas homeowners drink the water from their rainwater tanks. But, there are considerations to make such as what the roof is made of/painted with, filtration, cleanliness of the tank and more … 

The best advice we can offer for this question is to refer to the guidance NSW Health offers.

What maintenance is required for my rainwater tank?

Other than the preventative maintenance we mentioned above, there are some scheduled requirements that we recommend. 

Generally speaking, rainwater storage tanks should be checked for the build-up of sludge every 2-3 years. Removing the sludge can be done using a siphon or completing emptying the tank and washing with a hose. A professional plumber can provide these services and they’ll also check the integrity of the pump (if one is installed) at the same time.

Note: we do not recommend any untrained personnel ever go inside a water tank. This can be highly dangerous as tanks represent a confined space and require special equipment and processes.

Another important consideration is to ensure that any installed screens are cleaned regularly to ensure your tank does not become a breeding ground for mosquitoes (or any other species of insect). Again, if in doubt, call a professional plumber to come and check your entire rainwater system. 

Choosing a rainwater tank

As you now know, it’s not just about the water tank … but, the size and style of the tank is certainly one of the important decisions to be made when designing and installing a system to collect rainwater.  The integrity of the roof, gutters, screens and downpipes are also very much in focus but they should be in good working order anyway.

The size of the tank you require is determined by several factors:

  • The average annual rainfall where your home is based. The pattern of distribution throughout the whole year and year-on-year variables are also considerations.
  • What is the surface area of your roof? This determines how much rainfall can be collected.
  • Where will the tank be located? i.e. above ground, subterranean, available space to locate the tank etc.
  • Any applicable council regulations in your area.

This may sound like a lot to think about, but a professional plumbing company does this all day, every day. They will be able to give you practical advice so that you can install a water-efficient rainwater system that helps you save money and reduce your environmental impact. Who wouldn’t want that?

 

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