Identifying Your Home’s Greywater Sources

Use this quick guide to hunt down the greywater sources around your home.

| April 2018

  • Greywater is the clean water waste from home appliances, such as washing machines and baths.
    Photo by Pixabay/Meditations
  • “The Water-Wise Home” by Laura Allen offers countless ways to use less water in your home.
    Photo courtesy of Storey Publishing

The Water-Wise Home (Storey, 2015) by Laura Allen examines every crack and crevice of your home, looking for ways to radically reduce water use in your home, and shave a few bucks off your water bill in the process. Allen’s guide shows you how to use every drop of water in your home efficiently, making sure nothing goes to waste. The following excerpt is her guide to identifying your home’s greywater sources.

If you’re hoping to use greywater from your existing home, you’ll find that some greywater sources are easier to access than others. If you’re building a new home, you have much more flexibility as to which sources you tap into — and where. Diverting greywater from drainpipes often requires installing a diverter valve (called a 3-way valve) that enables you to switch the water flow between the drain line (leading to the sewer or septic system) and the greywater system. Diverter valves can be operated manually or remotely, via an electrical switch. First we’ll look at the primary potential sources for greywater in a home, then we’ll discuss the details of tapping into a home’s drain system.

Clothes Washers

Washing machines are the easiest source of grey­water to reuse. The machine’s internal pump pushes greywater out through the machine’s drain hose; from there you can reroute it to the landscape without changing the existing drainpipes. I’ve worked on hundreds of laundry greywater systems, and they’re consistently the easiest and simplest of the greywater options.

In most homes, a greywater pipe begins its route toward the landscape by exiting the laundry room through the wall or floor. Think about how you could send a new pipe from your washing machine out to the landscape. Can you go out through the wall or down into a crawl space and then outside? If your house has a concrete slab foundation and your machine is in a room with interior walls, the only way to send the water outside is to run the pipe through another room in the house, perhaps hidden under shelving or along a baseboard.

It is easy to live with a laundry greywater system. There are several commonly available greywater-­compatible detergents that allow you to safely irrigate plants with the greywater from regular laundry loads. For times when you want to use bleach or wash soiled diapers, just turn the valve located next to the washing machine and redirect the water to the original drain.

Showers and Baths

Showers and baths produce large volumes of good irrigation water, although diverting it to the yard may be tricky, particularly in existing homes. The next section will help you navigate your drainpipes to identify these potential greywater sources. If you are inexperienced with plumbing, this aspect may feel confusing; consider finding a handy friend or plumber to be your reading buddy. Or, read on to develop your greywater sleuthing skills: it can be fun and empowering to uncover the mysteries of the household plumbing system.


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