Rain Barrels

Handytank Rain “Barrels”

In the summer of 2005, a rain storm ripped through southern Ontario.  In Thornhill where our site is located, up to 8″ of rain fell in 45 minutes, causing some of the most severe flooding the area has seen.  Since then, newly constructed buildings in the area were mandated by the Town of Markham to have on site rain storage, the volume to be determined through a formula and based on the additional land coverage of the new building.  The purpose was to alleviate the load on the storm sewer system as it was at capacity.

In our case, we were required to store 2000L of water.  We ruled out a leach pit (i.e. an underground “cistern” that allows water to seep slowly into the ground) because of the costs involved, and decided at at grade storage was the most practical choice.  As we went on to investigate on certifying the house under the LEED for Homes program, we did some calculations and decided to store on site 6000L of rain water.

We acquired 6 of the 1000L slimline Handytanks, which were not barrels at all, but marine grade PVC supported by a steel frame, all of which is neatly packed in a flat box for transport.  We were able to fit all 6 of them in my Prius, to give an idea how compact they were to transport.

The 6 “tanks” are connected together to make an intertied system, and we have the entire rear half of the roof’s rain flowing to the tank via an 80′ long eavestrough.  Tanks were placed at the edge of the building, which also simplifies the plumbing when compared to an underground storage system.

In the spring, we will be installing a sprinkler system, and our hopes is to contstruct a system so that it would priority on using the rainwater before using the municipal water for irrigation.

CaGBC LEED for Homes – Points can be acheived in Water Efficiency, in Rainwater Harvesting System (WE 1.1).

Drought Tolerant Sod

Drought Tolerant Grass

Typical sod from a sod farm in Ontario consists of a 90% Kentucky blue grass and a 10% fescue mix.  As part of our goal for LEED Platinum certification, we sought out drought-tolerant turf, and was able to find a 60% Kentucky blue grass and 40% fine fescue mix from Green Horizons, one of a few local farms that grows specialty sod.

The benefit of such a mix is that during the summer season, there are lower watering demands.  In exchange, however, the shade of grass isn’t as green, and the blades not as fine.  However, this was an acceptable trade-off for us, and will also help us be more reliant on the rainwater collected by the rain barrels (see our 6000L rain storage).  As a side benefit, the thicker blades of grass gave us a more lush lawn, one that the kids loved to roll in.

CaGBC LEED for Homes – Points can be acheived in Sustainable Sites, in Basic Landscape Design (SS 2.2).

Water Efficiency

In addition to creating an energy efficient home, water efficiency is also very important as part of a greater ecological house.

Here are some of the choices we have made:

Irrigration – a 6000L rainwater collection system, to be interconnected to the sprinkler system.

Toilets – Pfister Treviso toilets, using a 3L/6L dual flush system, and earning the highest available MAP score, a rating to determine it’s ability to flush solid waste.

FaucetsPfister Bernini connection, EPA WaterSense rated, using 5.7L/minute of water or less.

ShowerDelta Dryden trims and Moen showerheads, EPA WaterSense rated, using 7.5L/minute of water or less.

Kitchen- Delta Touch2O touch operated kitchen faucet.

LG Washer/DryerLG WM3987HW, qualifying under the LEED program for water efficient clothes washer, and Energy Star compliant.

Dishwasher- Samsung DMR78 dishwasher, Energy Star compliant.

Clothes Washer and Dryer

A concept that never made sense to me was the concept of a dryer that used energy to heat the air, and exhausted that hot air out of the house.  Thing about it…  On a cold February Canadian day, you’re first paying to heat the air inside the dryer, and when it gets exhausted, replacement air has to enter the house to balance the air pressure, and you’re paying a second time to heat the frigid outside air that ultimately winds its way into the house.

In many parts of the world, a combination washer and condensing dryer  was very common, but yet the selection in the US and Canada can be counted with two hands.  Since our choice was limited, and based on prior good experience with an earlier LG model, we chose to purchase two LG WM3987HW for the house, one to put in the laundry room, and a second to put in the upstairs semi-ensuite.

The LG combination washer/dryer unit has several benefits.  For one, you don’t need an exhaust, simplifying the installation and most importantly, much more energy efficient.  All it requires is a water supply, a drain, and a standard 15A 110V receptacle, instead of the 30A 220V that a typical dryer requires.  That’s 1/4 the maximum potential draw of electricity.  Sure, the machine takes longer to dry the clothes, and as such the energy savings might not be 75%, but it is much more efficient nonetheless.

The lack of exhaust allowed us to install one in the upstairs bathroom by tying into existing plumbing, and allowed us to have a second floor laundry within the common washroom, a major convenience as we did not need to carry the laundry up and down the stairs.

The general common complaint on these all-in-one washer/dryer is that it takes a very long time to complete a cycle (3 hours 30 minutes average from start of wash to completion of dry), but we have adapted our laundry washing to be done overnight by setting the delay function on the unit to start around 4am, and in the morning we have clean clothes ready to go or ready to be folded.  The other common complaint is that the clothes coming out has a very slight smidgen of dampness as a result of the condensing drying method, but usually it evaporates by the time we are done folding the clothes.

A pet peeve:  LG is proverbially raping the Canadian public on this unit.  When we bought this unit in 2011, the Canadian MSRP was CAD$2600, and the US MSRP was USD$1679, and we ended up purchasing two units in Buffalo for USD$1300 each, so even after the NY state tax and the trailer rental, we were WAY WAY ahead than buying in Toronto.  I understand the Canadian market is a smaller market, but the price difference was just outrageous with the exchange rate factored in.  I contacted LG Canada in 2011 regarding their price discrepancy in the two markets, and their reply was:

“Thanks for contacting LG customer service. The reason why prices are lower in the U.S is because of the bigger market. That is the same for almost every product sold their. Have a great day.”

LG, this is SHAMEFUL.  You have a great product, but the way you treat your Canadian customers is atrocious.