Friday, June 8, 2012

Grey water design for a cold climate

We’ve been debating what we should do for a septic system for our new house for many months now. If we lived in Arizona or California we’d have made up our minds long ago but since we live in the frozen Canadian tundra we have been worried about the prolonged –40c weather we are famous for having.

The only three options we really have is to:

  • Go with a traditional septic tank where all water and contents head into to settle and then drains out into a septic field (we are not near city sewer or water).
  • Go with a grey water system where all of the grey water is distributed out to mulch basins and infiltration pits. This type of a system would mean we’d have to have an outhouse. Just kidding. We’d utilize what is called a composting toilet so no black water is present thus eliminating the need for a septic system.
  • Combine the two where we would have flushing toilets head out to the septic system and the grey water go out to water trees. During the winter the grey water could go into the septic system.

Well the decision has been made. We are going to go mostly all in with the grey water system for this year and not putting in a septic system in our new house. We figure that if worse comes to worse we can close up the house and find a place to rent for the winter months if we absolutely get frozen in and can’t empty the sink.

But I’m more and more convinced this is the way I want to go. I don’t want to waste my water, I hate plunging toilets (seems like every house I’ve lived in has constant troubles with flushing for some reason), and after having cows composting manure doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore and I’m excited to see what good compost does for trees and bushes.

I’m also giving myself a couple of fall back options in case I do get frozen up. I have one zone planned to head out east of our house. Using a 3 way diverter value that zone can be switched to head to the south of the house where I have another 3 way diverter valve that will head South east or South West. I’m hoping that if one zone freezes over I can change it over to the other two zones if need be while I try to unfreeze the troubled area.

Also going south is where our sun is most of the winter so it should be a little more warmer than the north side of the house.

We will probably use an infiltration system on one of the zones where the water will be deposited a little further down in the soil which will hopefully help with freezing.

We’ve been using Art Ludwig’s Creating an Oasis with Grey Water as a guide. We’ve also done a bunch of research talking with plumbers and water engineers. Most of the plumbers and people who know anything about water think we are crazy. Good thing we are super naive and think we are smarter than everyone else. ha.

I said above we are mostly all in. We are actually designing the plumbing to transfer over to a septic system just in case we have troubles with the grey water system or ever decide to sell the house and the new tenants decide they don’t want to use an outhouse.

If anyone wants to learn about grey water systems on someone else’s place come on out. I’m sure you know more than we do and can be a tremendous help with observations and suggestions.

But just remember if we have troubles in the winter you may have 5 extra extended visitors through May of next year.

1 comment:

  1. Another topic of great interest! Except we don't have your climate problems, so it's interesting to read your thoughts on solutions to fit your location. Of course, we already have a septic tank, so we will (eventually) work on grey water from sinks, washing machine, tub and shower for irrigation. In fact, Dan has been setting up the plumbing for that as he does repairs and upgrades. We just have to get the rest of it in place. Another someday project. :)