Making savings from a rainy day

Stormsaver’s Lisa Farnsworth explains how rainwater harvesting systems can help self-builders save water and reduce household running costs

For those choosing to self-build, rainwater harvesting systems are becoming a popular solution to be kinder to the planet and reduce household water bills.

While historically, solar and wind power solutions have been prominent, the water shortages are now taking centre stage in the UK. It is becoming apparent that despite having had short periods of heavy rainfall, we have to plan to reduce the strain on the mains water supply for the long-term future.

UK policies need changing to include rainwater harvesting systems in new builds which would see our country following in the footsteps of other countries such as Germany, Australia and India, where rainwater harvesting is commonplace and often mandatory. Already, the Welsh Government and Greater London Authority are taking steps towards this.

Rainwater harvesting systems are becoming a popular solution to water shortages and greener environmental policies. Recycling rainwater is a proven method of reducing water bills in an eco-friendly way that promotes sustainability, and reduces the strain on reservoirs and other water sources.

It is more important than ever to capture and reuse rainwater where possible. With hosepipe bans and inconsistent weather, water shortages are becoming daily news. Recent heavy rainfall will not have any immediate or long-term impact on our water shortage issues however, and collecting this locally is a common sense solution. It is imperative that we work together to utilise alternative sources of water that will help to preserve our planet. We can no longer take our water supply for granted.

How they work

Rainwater harvesting systems can be used by practically every household. A storage tank is installed (usually underground) and a multi-stage filtration system is used to clean rainwater for toilet flushing, irrigation, laundry and vehicle washing. Mains water consumption for domestic properties is reduced by up to 50 per cent. Installing such a system is also not as expensive as people often think; a basic residential system starts from around £2,000 and commercial systems can see a payback of less than five years.

Rainwater harvesting works by collecting rain from roofs and filtering out leaves and debris before storing the water in the main storage tank. The water is then pumped into the property to be used for non-potable applications such as flushing WCs and toilets or supplying soft water to washing machines and external taps. There is also an overflow system so in heavy rainfall the excess water can be discharged into main drains. Systems come with a small control unit which is simple to install in a utility room or garage so you can easily switch to mains water when required and vice versa. Specific systems themselves can be even more eco-friendly – traditionally a rainwater harvesting system uses a 900 W pump but there are systems available that use a 90 W pump, drastically reducing energy use and in turn, carbon emissions.

Harvesting planning benefits

When obtaining planning permission for developments and self-builds, the inclusion of eco-friendly elements can help influence planning officers at local councils. Rainwater harvesting systems are often viewed favourably when decision makers are considering the effect of a new property, as they reduce the impact on local resources.

Systems working in harmony with day-to-day living

For most people, installing a rainwater harvesting system will completely transform the way they use water without them noticing any difference from using mains water.

In an environment where consumers are worried about escalating utility bills as the cost of living increases, rainwater harvesting offers an effective solution. The investment in a system also future proofs the property against further increased expenditure – if utility costs continue to rise, homeowners need not worry as they have their own sustainable resource.

The collected rainwater itself also offers financial advantages to homeowners. Rainwater is softer and kinder to washing machines and clothes than mains water. This in turn will allow a reduction in limescale damage, meaning the washing machine will have a longer life – another added bonus. Another benefit of the water being less harsh on clothing is that it reduces the need for fabric softener, which again means money saving for homeowners and even, in the long-term, less lorry miles for detergent producers – another reduced environmental impact. Although these may seem like small or somewhat insignificant details, savings will add up over time.

For those choosing to self-build, installing a rainwater harvesting system can prove an integral part of constructing a low cost and sustainable property. In times of water shortages and drought it is important that everybody plays their role in conserving water as our water supply can no longer be taken for granted. There are proven products on the market that are proven sustainable solutions and should be considered in all self-build projects.

Lisa Farnsworth is managing director at Stormsaver