A few days ago, I was finishing off the refurbishment of a wooden window frame. It has, on and off, weather dependant for sanding, varnishing and glazing, taken about 6 weeks. Now I was figuring that after I complete the overhaul of the other 12 larger frames ( all cottage panes ) that I would have to start again with the first one. The light afternoon shower helped make up my mind that aluminium was the route to go. But I'm straying from the path here ...

During all this relaxing home-work time ( fabulous for clearing the head and having some contemplation time, btw ), I've been pondering ways to save some of our nearly R2k monthly utilities bill. It is high, but we have 2 adults ( full day working from home ), 2 kids, and an elderly tenant in the flat ( also home all day ).

So this got me thinking about 2 main options :

1. rainwater harvesting

2. solar geyser

so I whipped out the hose (garden hose, that is) and shoved some water down the gulleys that the gutter downpipes go into.

A side note to all : if you expecting a rainy season ahead, time to start clearing out the sand and leaves from the water drainage system.

Anyway, our property has a decent slope and it turns out that all the rainwater from the flat, garage, carport, and half the house all drain out through one large blue pipe into the garden just below the level of the pool.

Great, I thought. I can place a medium sized 1000 liter tank ( JoJo tank ) and catch all the water from the blue pipe. Add a few float switches and a 50 l/min pump, and pump any water in there back up to a 4,400 liter tank behind the carport - the highest point in the property. From here, there's a good 4 meter drop down to the house, so should be able to plumb this in to the toilet cistern and use it for filling the pool, all gravity feed.

Now if you are even thinking along these lines, there are 3 types of calculations you need to do :

1. how much water can I harvest, can I store it, how much will I save on my utilities bill.

2. how much will the system cost.

3. how long will it take to recover the cost.

The first section was really exciting, as I estimated a saving of around R 200 per month on the water and sewage disposal rates. Besides that, I really like the ideal of going green.

The "how much will it cost" needed a bit of homework at the local builders supply depot. Total bill for 2 tanks ( 1,000 and 4,400 l ), pump, switches, piping, connectors, cost for concrete slab and sundries, weighs in at a bit under R 9,000

Then came the interesting bit : the pay-back / recovery :

Assuming that I am going to fund this project from my bond, I would need to pay back R 9,000 @ 8,25% interest @ R 200 per month -- a total of 4,5 years.

Now if I add the solar system at around R15k ( want to replace the 2 existing geysers with a 250 l model ), and my saving is R300 pm, that adds another 5 years repayment to the bond.

So I can "go green", but between the 2 projects, the saving of R 500 per month has to go straight back into the bond for the next 4,5 to 5 years.

Yes, I know water and power costs are on the increase so the savings will be greater in the long run, but is it worth it ? Is "going green" only an ideal for the wealthy ?

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