To get a good look at our
system construction click on this link, tirebalehouse.com, and mouse over the “In and Out” dropdown menu. Then click on the “Cisterns & Bobcat” page link (also take a look at all the great stuff at tirebalehouse.com). If you have come here from tirebalehouse.com, this post will give you more information and updates on our rainwater collection system.
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So let’s get started.
It’s February 2015 and the cisterns have been collecting rain and snow water since fall, 2013. I was amazed at the amount of water we got from just one small rain. The cisterns filled before the heavy winter snows came in late 2013. They were full up till this last spring due to the fact we have still not moved into the house and do not use the water.
However, this last spring I decided to put a small hose bib (faucet) on the 2” drain so we could use it to water our plants and the small yard. The only reason I did not do this last summer was to have the 6000 gallons in case of a wildfire. It looks like now we will have enough for all our current uses. The real test will be when we move into the house and are using the water daily.
So the good news is the cisterns are full and fill quicker then anticipated. Of course, there are a few minor problems that we had to address (so far). The main one is winter ice. We do get ice dams on the roof, and the gutters fill with ice.
However, the ice dams and gutter ice are easy to clear. Because we have this high berm covering the cisterns and the north side of the house, we can walk right up to the roof and start pealing off the ice. The gutter ice is busted up with a brick hammer and pulled out in long chunks.
We have to wait for a warmer day when the ice is starting to melt or it will not work. In addition, it’s best to keep on top of the ice buildup if you don’t want to lift 300-pound blocks.
One problem with just removing the ice from the roof and gutters is losing water the ice might have provided. That’s why we are thinking of removing the cap off the last cistern and dumping the ice in the cistern system directly. This however, may present more problems then it is worth. Will the added ice cause the last cistern to freeze completely (cistern freezing has not been a problem yet; reasons why later). Even if the cistern did not freeze as a whole, would the ice chunks melt enough to be usable before summer? It’s worth a try at least on a small scale. You can theorize the hell out of a problem, but you will never know for sure whether you have found a solution unless you get your hand dirty in the real world.
Another small problem is the “Bug-n-Critter” screen covering the 6” gutter drainpipe. This screen needs to be there year around. We are not so much worried about bug parts as we are the critters. When the dry months come every mouse, rat, and squirrel will be going for the water in the cisterns; and they won’t be coming out. We do not want dead critters filling our cisterns!
In the summer, the screen is easy to clean of bugs and plant material. However, in the winter it is buried in ice. When I remove the gutter ice, it does damage the screen and I have to rebuild it.
One thing that we did a small test with was a metal sun reflector onto the screen area of the gutter.
It did a fair job of melting the ice. When we get time, we are going to run a better sun reflector the full length of the gutters to melt all the ice and ice dams. Come back to here in the future to see if it worked.
Now many people might say, “Why not put some electric heat tape up on the roof and solve your problems?”. Well, we are totally off the grid (and damn proud of it). We have not paid an electric bill in 11 years. The sun provides use with all the electricity we need. However, a bunch of 24-hour continuous electric loads will drain batteries before they can charge. The sun has gotten us this far and I think it has a lot more to offer, you just have to put it to good use.
Pictures and more info soon.