We’ve been kind of shy to discuss some of our thoughts and ideas about typical building practices. One of those parts is plumbing. It’s kind of a stinky subject as it is. I’ll leave the most noxious part of that subject to another post. This post is supposed to illicit comments and discussion regarding grey water (not sure if its grey or gray, both work) usage and deployment particularly in a cold climate.
It is a fairly common practice in warmer areas of the world to use waste water as a means to irrigate plants and shrubs. We bought some of the material found at the Oasis Design website and have used the material as a guide as we’ve designed our grey water system. In all these materials there is about 3 pages discussing the theoretical possibility of using the system in a cold climate (Milly has highlighted them all and refers to them often.) I’ve read other material such as Graywater gardening, an Australian company that focuses on water reuse, but our main purpose this first year is to get rid of water. We are not concerned at this point with water efficiencies.
With the almost 100% of imminent disaster predicted by our professional plumber we have committed 100% to this concept.
With a bunch of theoretical knowledge we’ve dug right in and have installed a very simple grey water system that will get rid of water in one location. We have much more planned where we will actually put to use the waste water but the winter is coming and we need to get something in place before we are knee deep in you know what.
Here’s what we’ve done so far.
The distribution plumbing exits the house on the south. Our hope is this will be the warmest location to help with freezing. We are making an insulated box along with filling in dirt and straw to keep the exit point above freezing.
We have dug a small trench that slopes down hill to the side our our place. The run is about 80 feet from the house.
I dug it by hand but I hear you can rent a small trencher that makes this process easier. I’ll probably do that with the other branches we have planned next year.
You can see another pipe heading to the right of the picture above. The connection value is a three way value. If the pipes do freeze I’m hoping to use the alternate pipe as backup in case I need it.
We took a clear hose and used it as a water level to figure out elevation. Kind of a cool thing. I didn’t have any ideas how they worked before doing this project. We then tied a string to use as a guide and used a 4 foot level every 4 feet to make sure the pipes continually sloped down hill on at least a two percent grade.
At the end of the pipe we’ve dug out a roughly 8’x10’ mulch basin. We did percolation tests and our soil absorbed water pretty decently and this is how big we calculated for our needs. This mulch basin will be dug out just a bit more than wood chips, grass clippings, etc. will be the cover for winter time.
Everyone tells us this will freeze over in no time. Well everyone except the people we’ve talked to that have put in a grey water system themselves. I’m more inclined to be hopeful rather than pessimistic but it’s hard not to question our sanity when we think of –40 Celsius.
We planted a tree at the end of the basin in the hopes of it using lots of water in the future. We hope it survives as it was out of water for a few days and the leaves were crunchy when we planted.
It’s been getting a daily dose of water for the past week in the hopes of helping it survive.
We covered the pipe after it was carefully set out and sloped correctly.
There is about a 10 inch fall from the pip to the bottom of the mulch basin. The theory is the water will drain after each use thus the pipe doesn’t get frozen solid as you would expect. It is also warm water coming out so that helps keep the pipe from freezing up. The drop allows the water to not sit at the end of the pipe where it can freeze more.
We are going to cover the pipe with a good layer of straw and other mulch clippings. We hear you can do this over carrots all winter so figure this will work for a pipe that has warm water flowing through it.
All covered up. We will still add insulation of some sort over the ground. We are thinking loose straw
I have two other sissy pipes as alternatives in my main pipe freeze up. I call them sissy pipes as I’m not at all confident with this experiment with grey water. I’m being a wimp and having a couple more options that hopefully will see me through until the main pipe can be unfroze.
I’ve also had my pessimistic plumber route a hot water option for my outdoor pipe just in case I need to shoot hot water down the pipe to unfreeze the mainline.
As a little project this year with this we are also going to take daily temperature readings on the mulch basin soil and record the outdoor temperature as well.
If you have any suggestions or comments please let me know or at least wish us luck.