Saving water at home with a rainwater tank

June 23, 2015

Installing a rainwater tank will save you money on water bills and provide a back-up supply for times of drought, in addition to preserving valuable drinking water. Here's how you can use a rainwater tank in your home.

Saving water at home with a rainwater tank

Choosing a tank

Rainwater tanks work by funneling water that falls on a roof through the gutters and down-pipes to a tank. Before buying, be sure to explore your options carefully.

  • Contact your local water authority and council to find out if there are any restrictions on the size or type of tank you can install.
  • Ask about rebates available to home owners who install tanks.
  • Survey your property to find the best place for a tank. Keep in mind that the tank does not have to take up a huge amount of space. Consider side passages and areas under the house or adjacent to outbuildings.

Designed to fit

Water tanks come in all shapes and sizes. Consider the following options when determining which type will work best for your home.

  • Gutter systems hang from gutters and use gravity to supply outdoor taps. They hold up to 1,500 litres.
  • Slimline tanks are rectangular polyethylene modules that slot together. They can be placed against walls and in narrow spaces where normal tanks would not fit.
  • Water fences and water walls are plastic containers that double as a fence or screen in a garden.
  • Bladder tanks, made of flexible plastic, fit under floors or decks. They can be linked for extra capacity.

Plumbing and accessories

Tanks can be placed and plumbed according to your specific needs, and a range of devices is available to help you monitor and maintain supply.

  • Ask your supplier to check that your roof and gutter materials are safe – roofs made with asbestos, covered with lead flashings, painted with lead paint, or covered with tar or bitumen are not suitable.
  • Make sure your tank is installed by a qualified plumber and conforms to local legislation.
  • Consider having your tank linked to your house's plumbing system so that it can provide water for toilets and washing clothes. Some authorities provide an extra rebate for this.
  • If you link the tank to the toilet or laundry, make sure you connect it to a mains top-up system, which maintains a minimum amount of water during dry spells, and a back-flow prevention device, which prevents mains and tank supplies from mixing.
  • Look at placing the tank above ground level (or using a gutter system) so that gravity provides all the pressure you need. But bear in mind that there are restrictions on tank height in many areas.
  • To increase water pressure in non-gravity-fed tanks, fit an electric pump. These are inexpensive and easy to use, but can be noisy.
  • Fit a first-flush diverter. It diverts initial runoff, which usually carries most of the accumulated dirt and debris, into a separate collector.
  • Buy a dipstick or level indicator to monitor water levels in the tank.
  • Add screens to keep debris, vermin and insects out. Screens should be fitted to all inlets and outlets.
  • Consider purchasing gutter shields or covers to keep leaves out and improve water quality.

By installing a rainwater tank for your home, you can make the most of rainwater in a cost-effective and environment-friendly way.

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