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How to Green Your Plumbing

Guest post by John Tarantino

Greening your plumbing starts with some basic planningWho would have ever guessed that a person could go green in so many different aspects of our lives? If the recent recession has taught us anything, it taught us that we can be green and save money by consuming less and becoming more efficient with what we have. This rule of thumb definitely applies to our plumbing systems in our homes. Conserving water not only saves on water bills, but also reduces the impacts of major environmental issues such as protection of drinking water resources and protection of aquatic life. Conserving water also simultaneously reduces the need for energy in pumping, heating and treating of water.

Like many other sustainable strategies, green plumbing is the most effective way to reduce energy consumption. Green plumbing aims to achieve energy efficiency while conserving water. Since cold water does not lose or waste energy, hot water plumbing systems are the main focus when it comes to energy efficiency.

Sources of heat loss

Usually pipes in a hot water system function by fully heating after every use, which subsequently cools off. The on again, off again heating of the entire plumbing system to water fixtures wastes a huge amount of energy. If the source of hot water is far away from the point of use then one could expect some heat loss due to the length of the piping system.

Solutions:

  1. Proper Layout of the Plumbing System
    During pre-construction of a plumbing system, it is best to have an efficient layout. For example, locate fixtures and piping routes in such a way that there is minimal travel distance of water, especially from heating systems to hot water pipes. It may be best to contact a green plumber to aid in providing the right solutions for the layout of a plumbing system.
  2.  Insulate Pipes
    The longer the length of pipes, the greater the heat loss through the piping system. To reduce heat from escaping through the pipes you can have pipes insulated with a special material to help keep heat in the pipes. This helps the water to stay hotter and thus lessens the need to waste energy to reheat. It also has the added benefit of preventing your pipes from freezing if you live in an area where temperatures reach below freezing during winter.
  3.  Types of Insulation
    There are 5 major types of insulation with different levels of insulation ratings. The lowest rating type of insulation is spiral-wrap fiberglass; it has a rating of about R-1.6 but can a little complex to install. One of the more effective and popular types of insulation is foam tubing. Look for a type that doesn’t have a sticky strip. Many hardware stores offer foam tubing in various sizes for different water pipes. They easily fit on your piping with a slit found in the side of the insulation. Most sizes such as the ¾-inch pipe will have an R-4 insulation rating while a 3/8-inch will have a lower rating but still be over R-2.

Other types of insulation are self-sealing foam tubing, fiberglass-shell pipe covers and regular fiberglass attic insulation.

  • Point-of-Use Tankless Water Heaters
    Tankless heaters are effective in eliminating the need to have hot water travel long distances. Be mindful that tankless water heaters have limited temperature rise and that is why it is best to have them located near the fixture where it will be used. When a point-to-use tankless water heater is not a viable option due to spacing issues, it may be best to consider having a pumping system instead.

Green plumbing helps address environmental issues while helping homeowners and renters become energy efficient. If all households and business establishments used green plumbing best practices, it could have a positive impact on entire ecosystems. Make sure to ask a qualified green plumber to do your plumbing system to make sure that everything is designed and done properly. Remember the famous quote by Albert Einstein “We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”

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Author Bio: John Tarantino is an active volunteer in the environmental movement in Portland, Oregon. He writes for The Environmental Blog and loves spreading green news to people who will listen. 

Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by Hryck

 

 

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