Green Plumbing is when residential or other plumbing layouts are designed for maximum efficiency and minimum wasted energy and water. Most plumbing layouts are not planned, they just happen.
The blueprints do not show plumbing layouts, it’s left up to the person doing the actual plumbing as to how the pipes are laid out. Often the person doing the piping is un-trained and their biggest concern is getting the job done quickly. As a result, the home owner must wait for hot water longer than necessary thus wasting it.
The cold plumbing is not much of an issue. Generally people don’t have to purge the hot piping to get cold water, it’s already cold enough. The hot is another story.
Hundreds of billions of gallons wasted
Hundreds of billions (yes billion with a “B”) of gallons of water are run down the drain every year as the result of people waiting for it to get hot. Grundfos, RedyTemp, Metlund and other sources claim a savings of anywhere from 10,000 to 16,000 gallons per year for a typical family who installs a demand hot water system, which eliminates the loss from waiting.
There are over 50 million single-family homes in the U.S. and many apartments, condos, and other residences that could benefit as well. But just taking the 50 million homes and multiplying it times 10,000 gallons per year results in a theoretical savings of 500,000,000,000 gallons.
Add in the potential savings due to apartments, condos, and multi-family housing and we are talking about trillions of gallons wastefully run down the drain in the U.S. alone.
Reducing wastage reduces greenhouse gas emissions
Much of the time the water you use has been pumped from somewhere and possibly treated as well. That takes energy, and generating energy usually causes the emission of green house gases, at least if it comes from a natural gas or coal burning plant. Unless you have a septic system, your drain probably ends up at a sewage treatment plant where more energy is consumed treating it.
For the cold efficiency one has to rely on ones appliances since as noted earlier cold water in the cold piping is generally not wasted. However, the hot side of the story is one of waste and inefficiency.
Poor plumbing layouts
Since in many instances you purge the cooled off hot water from the hot lines before you use the hot fixture, you want the hot piping from the heater to the fixtures to be as short as possible. Traditionally plumbing when done with rigid pipe tends to follow joists and walls, and is piped with 90 degree elbows and straight sections of pipe.
This type of plumbing layout is wasteful of water and pipe. Make the pipe runs directly from the heater straight to the fixtures. That minimizes the length of the pipe, and consequently the amount that needs to be purged before the hot water arrives.
Point-of-use tankless heaters are green
Consider the using point-of-use tankless heaters if possible. This virtually eliminates the waste from purging and that long wait for hot water. Insulate your hot piping. You will get your hot water faster and the outlet temperature will be a little higher, so you use less hot and more cold when taking a shower. The change in ratio of hot to cold saves energy.
Whole house tankless heaters are a mixed bag. You waste more water because tankless heaters have to heat the water first since there isn’t a tank full already waiting. But you save energy, since you don’t have that full tank of hot water leaking heat into its surroundings 24 hours a day.
Demand systems are green
If you do opt for a whole house tankless heater then get yourself a hot water demand system. Demand systems such as the Metlund D’Mand System and the Chilipepper CP6000 eliminate the water being run down the drain while you wait, and they deliver your hot water to you faster, which is always nice.
These pumps only run for a few moments until the water reaches the fixture and then they shut off. With so little running time they usually consume less than $1 or $2 per year in electricity costs.
By combining a tankless heater and a hot water demand system you get the best of both green worlds, reduced energy consumption and heavy duty water savings. If you loop your plumbing from fixture to fixture, and then place the demand system at the end of the run, all of your sinks and fixtures will have fast delivery and no wastage.
Make your plumbing system green and efficient
If you are planning on building a new home, or you are remodeling an older home, then consider green plumbing alternatives to the standard practices. Keep pipe runs as short as possible. Insulate the hot pipes. If using a tankless heater install a demand system.
By implementing a green plumbing strategy you can add convenience, save water, reduce energy consumption, reduce green house gas emissions, and make the world a better place for all of us.
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