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Saturday, 29 December 2007

Pipes and Pumps, part 1

Can you think of a more boring-sounding subject? There wouldn't be too many, but if you care about energy and water efficiency then there are some very important things to know about pipes and pumps. As with many lessons in life, I learned these things shortly after the precise moment when it would have been most helpful to know them.

The context is, of course, that having installed tanks to capture the rain that falls on my roof I needed some way to get that water into my laundry and toilet in order to reduce my consumption of externally-supplied water. In this time and place carrying water in buckets is not an acceptable solution. Pipes, valves and a pump would be required. In this post I'll show you the solution we installed.

As I've mentioned more than once, our two tanks are situated one at each end of our house and are connected by a 25mm plastic pipe at ground level. That pipe has two functions: it allows the water level to rise evenly in both tanks regardless of how much water flows through their respective downpipes, and because it runs straight past the laundry it allows water to be drawn evenly from both tanks through a T piece inserted at the appropriate point. So far so good.

Knowing my limits, I paid a professional to supply and install the rest of the solution. We had a brief discussion about my requirements, agreed to use a pump at the low end of the price/performance curve and arranged to install four taps: one on the outside laundry wall adjacent to the pump, two just inside the laundry for the tub and the washing machine and the fourth a few meters along and through the wall for the toilet.

Stop! Camera time. In this first image you can see the inlet (low foreground) going into the pump body (red). On top of the pump is the electric pressure switch (blue) which turns on the pump whenever the outlet pressure drops below a preset level. The water flows upwards through the pressure switch and out the top.

Here you can see the new pipework (black) going up the wall to the new tap (left) and still further up then through the wall into the laundry.

Next, a shot inside the laundry with the double tap arrangement for the tub and washing machine.

Finally, our modified toilet. My original plan was to have a second tap in the toilet just as we have in the laundry so that we can connect the cistern to the appropriate one as required. The bloke we hired to do the installation explained that council regulations wouldn't allow it - something about making it too difficult for the elderly or the disabled to ensure reliable toilet operation - and so we now have a permanent dual-float configuration where we merely need to turn on the appropriate tap. The tap (and float) on the left control the existing mains water supply while the parts on the right take water from the pump.

Now I shall be the first to admit that, overall, this isn't a "pretty" job - because that really wasn't a goal. The pump gets hidden under a plastic cover that's about the same colour as the concrete, the laundry is destined for eventual renovations anyway and the whole lot is down the back side of the house where nobody goes looking for aesthetic satisfaction.

So that's what it looks like. In the next post I'll go into how well it works.

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