Home » Home Plans » the Lawrence Street House – Rainwater, Part 3

the Lawrence Street House – Rainwater, Part 3

Another area we are looking at to save water is our toilets and clothes washer. These two appliances probably use the most water inside the home as any other. And they are easy “targets” for rainwater use. That’s because they don’t need to use drinking water to be effective. Our thought is to also plumb our home to use some of the rainwater we collect to flush toilets and wash our clothes. 
We will likely have to balance the amount of rainwater we can collect with our irrigation, toilet and clothes washing demands. Our rooftop has the potential to collect far more than we can store practically, but we can’t practically store all we could collect (about 15 to 20,000 gallons), so we’re looking at where to hit that balance. I just received our irrigation estimates and, in our climate, we face the challenge of very wet winter months and pretty dry summer months. So the challenge is to know how many gallons is best overall for storage.
Plus, another challenge we’re facing is our clothes washer. Conventional wisdom (ie LEED points and marketing) says we should get rid of our 28+ year old Maytag washer that uses 40 gallons per load and get a new Energy Star washer that uses 15 to 20 gallons per load. HOWEVER, my question is what happens to our old washer (landfill or reuse?), we only run 2 to 4 loads per week (family of 2) and about half of those are  cold water, if we’re using rainwater for those cold water loads and we’ve never had a problem with our washer in those 28 years (The lonely Maytag repairman ads were right), does it make overall sense to replace our washer? Right now, we’re thinking it doesn’t. So we are probably going to forego that 0.5 point for LEED in lieu of what we feel makes more sense overall. 
I’d be interested in your opinions.

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8 Responses so far.

  1. Anonymous says:

    What about the power the 28-year old Maytag uses compared to a new front-loader? We recently changed ours out to a front-loader Energy Star model from CostCo – similar previous stats to you – 4 loads mostly cold per week, although we don't currently collect non-potable water, but it did make a noticeable difference to the utility bill still. And don't forget your state and utility rebates toward the purchase – that came to $180 for us!

  2. True, and that is our dilemma. If we abandon the 28 yr old Maytag, it will end up either in a landfill (not good) or someone else will use it (also not necessarily good) or it will become scrap metal sent to China for recycling (even worse). I'm trying to think about whether or not it makes more sense for someone who is using rainwater to keep this one. It's a challenge because everything is connected. And that's what makes the decision much harder than just a simple evaluation and off we go.Thanks for your perspective!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Caution against the front-loading Maytags: Apparently they have very short lives, maybe ten years, tops.Also, have you considered those combinations that use water used in the bathroom sink to flush the toilet? I saw some posts on these a while back on Jetson Green.

  4. Thanks for the caution. Actually, durability is one of my cautions on any newer machine. Where I have a 28 year track record and I'm hearing newer machines (Maytag and others) lasting 5 to 10 years, I pause.I have looked at the sink over the toilets. Intriguing. I'm not sure I'm culturally there yet. I'm making progress in reshaping my thinking, but that isn't one that has… yet. 🙂

  5. Jack says:

    “I have looked at the sink over the toilets. Intriguing. I’m not sure I’m culturally there yet. I’m making progress in reshaping my thinking, but that isn’t one that has… yet. :)”

    Really? For such as forward thinking individual I can’t imagine that you are OK w/ using rainwater to flush your toilet but not sink water. Huh. Go figure.

    • bill RANDALL says:

      Actually, Jack, it’s more aesthetics for me right now, rather than function. I’m totally fine with the concept using rainwater in a bath sink, but the current sink/toilet fare still leaves me wanting. Seems like it would be awkward, say, to brush your teeth leaning over the toilet — odd angle. Then there would be the concern with using rainwater to brush your teeth and would you then need another sink anyway. I’m simply not there yet.

      • bill RANDALL says:

        Jack: I’ve thought some more about your comments and would be curious to get your perspective on the sink/toilet combo. You know, I am still struggling with it, but would love to hear your opinion. There are a couple of brands that I’m aware of: one is all-stainless and $5,300 but the Caroma Profile has a list price of around $500. Not bad when you consider you’re getting a sink, faucet and toilet for that price.

      • Jack says:

        When I saw Popular Mechanics highlight the Caroma I thought it was a great idea, but I’m still not sure that it is meant to totally replace the ‘normal’ vanity / sink / mirror combination in the bathroom. And I agree that $500 is reasonable for all three fixtures — but there’s no way on earth I would pay $5,300 for something similar 🙂