Water is a very valuable commodity and as our population increases, the need for running water becomes greater. Small wastes can become large-scale problems when many households exhaust the supply. You may already be trying to preserve your water supply by not wasting water and not using excessive amounts for household tasks, but there may be more you could do. Water Butts Direct have teamed up with Thames Water to help and educate people on how to use and save their water better.
Water Preservation is a Hot Topic at RHS Chelsea Flower Show
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show has been one of the most prestigious flower shows in the world since its inception in 1912. Known for inventive displays and outrageous exhibitions, the show is at the forefront of showcasing fashion, beauty and pushing boundaries in the gardening world. 2019 was no different.
Given how this show is known for having the latest styles and trends, it was perhaps unsurprising that with the recent attention in the media focused on the environment, some of the themes centred around water preservation, sustainability and finding eco-friendly ways of living. Many of the displays were either made from eco-friendly resources, revealed inventions to help green programs across the world or were trying to raise awareness.
Making some small and affordable changes around your home can have a huge effect on the environment. These changes can help to reduce your carbon footprint whilst also saving you money.
In this post, we’ve put together our top-tips of eco-friendly changes that you can make in your home. We’ve left out recycling as you’ll likely be doing this if you’re interested in living an eco-friendly life.
A drought, especially when there’s a hosepipe ban, can put our gardens at risk. Plants can suffer and are occasionally lost and lawns could turn brown and patchy. But if you’re prepared for the summer months, you can help protect your garden in those rain-free periods.
In this post, we’ve created a list of ways you can help to defend your garden during a drought.
Harvesting rainwater is one of the best ways you can get ready for an impending drought. It’s also beneficial for all gardeners, helping you to make the most out of water that would otherwise be wasted. You’ll also save money, cutting down on your water bill.
To harvest rainwater, a water butt is the most simple method. A water butt will collect water that goes into the gutter when it’s raining. The water is syphoned off before it goes down the drain and stored in a secure plastic container. This water can then be used to water your plants as well as other things like flushing a toilet. We’ll discuss watering techniques later in this post.
For more details on what else can be done with harvested rainwater, please visit our previous blog post.
In addition to harvesting rainwater, you could also use grey water around your garden. Grey water is clean water that comes from sinks, baths, showers, washing machines, dishwashers etc. If you’re able to collect any grey water, use this to water your plants. Just be sure that the water doesn’t have anything harmful to plants in it such as bleach and avoid excessive use as well as edible plants. Once you collect grey water, if it’s not treated, it must be used with 24 hours to stop bacteria developing.
Along with water butts and grey water, you could add an irrigation system to maximise the water in your garden. An Irrigation system drastically cuts down on water waste by soaking the roots directly. They can also use water collected from the two methods we discussed, along with the mains supply, if required. An irrigation system will save you the effort of hand watering, a great benefit if you’re short on time or not a spritely as you once were.
Choose Drought Tolerant Plants
If you live in an area that’s prone to droughts, you should choose drought-proof plants for your garden. All plants need water, but some plants can still thrive on a limited amount, making them better-suited to hotter climates.
As you’ll likely know, succulents and cacti need very little liquid to grow. They store water, meaning they can survive for long periods without additional watering. They’re also hard-wearing and generally pretty low maintenance.
Another great option is a tropical palm. These come in a huge number of varieties so check each type individually before you purchase them to make sure they can flourish in your climate.
A Bougainvillea is a climber and perfect for hotter climates. This bight and colourful plants can be seen in small pots through to huge trees. Although they do love to be watered, they’re a hardy plant that can thrive without it for long periods.
Lavender is another plant known for its hardiness. This colourful perennial needs minimal water to prosper. It can also add an amazing aroma to your garden.
There are plenty of other drought-friendly plants. Just do your research before buying a species you’re unsure of.
Soil and Mulch
Your garden soil can be a key factor in protecting your yard in a drought. Thankfully, the best soil for a drought is also the best all-around soil for plants to grow in. That means, getting it right when setting up your garden is key.
There are three main components in soil: sand, clay and silt. Too much silt and sand and the water will flow too quickly through the soil. Too much clay and the ground will be too hard to work. Ideally, you want a combination of the three, especially clay and sand. This combination is known as loam and ensures the best soil for your plants. Loam is packed full of minerals and helps maintain the optimum moisture levels. You can create the mix by balancing out your soil or adding a new layer of premium soil to your garden.
Once your soil is in its best condition, add a thick layer of mulch on top. This will help to protect the soil from direct sunlight and keep moisture in the soil and its temperature cool. Mulch can also prevent weeds from seeding, blocking the surface of the soil. Mulch comes in different shapes and sizes so if you’re buying it ready-made, check to see which is the best for your garden.
A combination of the best soil and appropriate mulch should give your plants a much better chance of surviving a heatwave.
Weed Your Garden
Not only are weeds unsightly in your garden, but they can also be a waste of water. Weeds will steal water away from the plants, wasting the valuable moisture that could be used. Take the time to remove the weeds to prevent this from happening.
When weeding, keep in mind that the roots run deep. Don’t just tackle the part of the weed you can see, try to remove the weed entirely. This will help prevent it from returning.
Get the Watering Right
When watering your plants during a drought, avoid using a hose. Hoses are wasteful as they’re difficult to control and may lead to the water not reaching the plants’ routes. Instead of a hose, use watering cans to water the base of the plant heavily and deeply. Cover the whole area of the route rather than focussing on one spot a couple of times a week.
Never water during the heat of the day when the weather’s at its warmest. This can cause the water to evaporate, wasting some of what you put down. Stick to early mornings or evenings to ensure the plants receive as much as the water as possible.
You should also prioritise what you water. This can be done by monitoring the plants and focussing on species that you know need more water to survive. Look out for warning signs that a plant is dehydrated like wilting leaves.
Let the Lawn Grow
If you have a lawn in your garden, during a drought, let the grass grow longer to help protect it. A shorter lawn is more likely to wilt and go brown if it doesn’t have access to water. It will also be wide-open to the sun, without any protection for the grass or the soil.
If you do want to keep your lawn neat and tidy, increase the height of the blades. This will enable you to mow without cutting your grass too short.
Unlike the majority of your plants, grass can recover after a long period without water with some cultivation. Don’t worry about the grass too much, just wait for the drought to end and the rain should help bring it back to good health. If needed, simply top it up with seed and feed to bring it back to life quickly.
David Atkinson is a content creator at Silver Groves, a leading retailer of stunning quality silver home gifts. He writes about many subjects including interior design, style and gardening.
The answer is yes, but only if you treat it and collect it in the correct way. So don’t stick your head under your water butt’s tap and take a gulp. Instead, read on to find out how drinking harvested rainwater can be dangerous, and what you can do to make it safer to consume.
Why drinking harvested rainwater can be dangerous
Rainwater is likely to be pure when it starts falling from the sky, but on its journey to your water butt, there’s a strong chance it will become contaminated in a number of different ways. First, it can pick up harmful particles from the air, like dust, smoke or pollutants. Then it can pick up dirt, bird droppings and other contaminants as it washes over your roof and through your gutters. Far more than “just a bit of dirt,” these contaminants have been linked to serious health risks and should be avoided at all costs. In some cases, they can be deadly.
Despite these risks, there are many people around the world who do drink harvested rainwater, particularly in countries where water supplies are scarce. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned of the risks of drinking rainwater. In its published guidelines they state that “well designed rainwater harvesting systems with clean catchments and storage tanks supported by good hygiene at point of use can offer drinking-water with very low health risk.”
If you have one of these rainwater harvesting systems, your water should be safe to drink. So what counts as a system with “good hygiene” and how do you get one?
How to make rainwater drinkable
The first step towards creating a safe-to-drink rainwater harvesting setup is minimising the contaminants that could make it into your water butt in the first place. Start by moving (or removing) any plants and trees that hang over your gutter. Most systems will come with filters and diverters of their own, but make sure you have the best diverter you can find to catch debris, and an effective downpipe connector that filters the water. This will make your tank far cleaner, and your water much safer.
There’s still work to do, though. Even the best filters will struggle to remove microscopic parasites and viruses from any rainwater that has been collected. To stay safe from these, you need to disinfect the contents of your water butt. There are several methods you can use to disinfect rainwater. Some of them should only be carried out by experts, though, as it can be difficult to ensure their effectiveness.
Perhaps the most straightforward disinfection technique is using a UV sterilisation system. These systems shine ultraviolet light into water to penetrate the cells of any organisms in contaminating it, rendering them unable to reproduce, and therefore making them harmless.
For more information on safely drinking rainwater, visit the WHO’s rainwater harvesting page. Browse our collection today to find all the equipment you need to harvest and drink rainwater at home.
Water butts are most commonly used to recycle rainwater for use around you garden, and that’s a great way to save water and money on your household bill. However, the water you use for your lawn is doesn’t even scratch the surface of what you could be saving by having a water butt.
How much can you really save?
We all have to pay for the water that we use but rainwater is free, if you can collect enough of it then you have the potential to reduce your water bill by up to 34%. There are a few things that influence how much rainwater you will be able to harvest. CAT Information Service give this basic formula to calculate how much you could be collecting:
Install a water butt to reuse ‘old’ water
Reusing water sounds more difficult than it actually is, and installing a water butt in your garden is an easy way to do this. Water butts allow you to use rainwater to augment your main water supply by collecting it via your guttering and storing it in a large tank in your garden. You can use this rainwater for various things around the garden and home, including flushing toilets and watering your garden.
To use the rainwater to flush the toilet, set up your water butt to lead to the toilet cistern, which will fill your toilet up with rainwater, saving water, and saving you money with every flush.
Make sure you set your toilet plumbing up to switch back to the main water supply for when there’s no water collected in the water butt. You can do this by having using a pump to drive water from the water butt to a header tank in the loft space, which will then let gravity feed the water into your toilet cistern. Ensure that this tank has a mains water inlet, so it can be filled up if there is no rain water for a while, like during a particularly hot summer.
You can also use rainwater collected from a water butt to water your plants during hosepipe bans, which your water company may employ during particularly hot summers. Rainwater is especially good for watering plants even when there isn’t a hosepipe ban, as it doesn’t contain the chemicals found in treated tap water. Water butts tend to have taps fitted near the base, which you can use to fill watering cans, or even connect a hosepipe to.
Save energy with a smart meter and efficient lighting
Keeping a property well heated often uses up the majority of a domestic energy supply. According to Ovo Energy, a typical home in a mild climate uses between 5,000 kWh and 30,000 kWh of energy per year, and it can be very easy to use more than you think. Simply installing a smart meter in your home can help you manage when your energy is being used, so you can make a more conscious effort to reduce your energy output—for example, by adjusting the times your heater turns on and off. Even lowering the temperature by just one or two degrees can have a massive impact on your carbon footprint and how much you spend.
You should also switch to energy efficient bulbs around the house, which use up much less energy than traditional light bulbs. Lighting typically accounts for about 10-20% of a home’s total electricity bill. Of course, you should use natural light as much as possible, reducing the amount of time you need to have your lights switched on. One way you can do this involves sun tunnels, which channel sunlight into a room through openings on a roof. By creating a tunnel through your home, you can inject natural light into hallways and rooms, which may not have windows.
Sun tunnels can be installed on pitched or flat roof extensions, and can come with flat or domed glass covers. While flat covers lie flush with the roof, it’s important to remember that some of the sunlight will be lost by reflection, while domed covers refract the light inwards, therefore capturing extra light. However, installing a sun tunnel is a major project, and may require hiring a professional builder.
Insulate your home to cut down heating times
Having a well insulated home can drastically cut down on your heating bills, and reduces how much energy is required to heat your house. Since heat rises, the best place to start insulating is with the loft to trap the heat in your home for as long as possible.
Most homes will have loft insulation as standard, but older homes may not be as well insulated as they could be. Insulation can be bought from most DIY shops at affordable prices, or you can opt for natural or organic materials, such as hemp, wood, wool, or cork insulation. You can also use materials such as cotton and denim fibres, or newspaper. Improving the insulation in your loft and basement also helps to regulate the temperature of your house, meaning you’ll need less energy to heat or cool it throughout the year.
Switching to double glazing, if your home doesn’t already have it, can also help to keep the heat inside your home, ensuring that you don’t need to turn the thermostat up as high or for as long. If you only want to insulate your windows during winter, or want to save money with DIY options, you can use temporary insulation methods. This includes rubber sealing strips along the window frames, or sticking plastic shrink film to the windows to mimic the effects of double glazing.
Use natural or recycled materials where possible
As well as using natural and recycled material to insulate your home, they can also be used to furnish your home, and there are now more companies dedicated to producing sustainable furniture than ever. If you’re looking to save money, consider buying used furniture from thrift shops, charities, and even Craigslist or eBay.
Choosing wood-framed windows is also more eco-friendly, and offers more benefits than UPVC or metal frames. Although they cost more, wooden frames offer more insulation, are easier to repair, and less polluting than UPVC, which emits toxic compounds. Other natural-based products you could use around the house include switching from plastic to biodegradable bags. Whether they are to be used when shopping or as trash bags and caddy liners, biodegradable bags will break down in landfills, making them a recyclable, eco-friendly product.
Install solar panels to cut energy bills
Solar panels are perhaps the most well-known eco-friendly way to harness energy, however many people are still hesitant to install them due to the lack of sunshine in the UK. The truth is, solar panels generate electricity based on daylight rather than sunlight, so some energy can still be produced on gloomy winter days.
There are two types of solar panels: photovoltaic solar panels, known as solar PV, which harness energy to power household goods and lighting. The other type is solar thermal, which allows you to heat water. Both types of solar panel will provide cuts to your bills, while making use of renewable energy.
Houses with a south-facing roof will see the most benefit from installing solar panels, providing that the panels are free from too much shading from other buildings and trees.
With just a few small changes, you can turn your house into a more eco-friendly home, and save money at the same time. Whether you’re installing a water butt in your garden or opting for natural or second hand furnishings around the house, it’s never been easier to be more ethical at home.
For our full range of water butts click here and shop today for fast UK delivery.
If you’re looking to expand the range of plants in your garden, or simply add some nature and colour into your home, planters are the best option. But how do you choose the right garden planter, and how can you use them to make the most of your garden? Read on to discover our top tips for getting the most out of your garden planters.
Types of garden planters
The planter pots available from Water Butts Direct come in a range of designs and sizes, so you’re sure to find one to suit your needs. However, they are also made from various materials, each of which offers their own unique benefit to the plant life they contain, and your garden as a whole.
- Stone and terracotta plant pots are the toughest and heaviest materials for garden planters. This also means they are generally the most expensive, but also the most durable, particularly in the face of extreme weather which might knock a less sturdy garden planter over. The porous nature of both stone and terracotta planters also give your plants the best conditions in which to grow, and make attractive additions to any garden. However, it is worth noting that you should make sure to buy a frost-proof terracotta pot to ensure that it won’t shatter in cold conditions.
- Plastic garden planters are becoming increasingly common in gardens across the country, especially now that they can be finished to resemble stone or wood. A plastic planter is just as useful for growing your plants indoors as outdoors, as they are lightweight and inexpensive. However, you should make sure to remember to keep any plants in plastic planters well watered, as they are not porous, and therefore will not absorb rainfall when left outside.
- Wooden planters are most frequently associated with container gardens, providing a large, sturdy space for plants to grow. From a design perspective, they are the most customisable, and most models are made of pressure-treated timber to remove any risk of rot from exposure to water.
Making the most of your garden planter
Taking care of a garden planter is no different from looking after the rest of the plants in your garden. Potted plants need to be watered often, especially if they are outside and exposed to direct sunlight. Even after rain, it is imperative to check the moisture of the soil in your planter, in case leaves have shielded it.
The best thing about garden planters is their portability. If you can tell that the weather will become too rainy or cold for your plants to survive, you can simply move them to a covered area and allow them to wait out the storm. Most planters are also designed to protect against overwatering, as they often feature drainage holes to let out any excess liquid. However, if your planter does not feature a drainage hole, or if the existing ones do not offer adequate outflow, you should make sure to drill an additional one. Raising containers onto a cinder block or other platform will further aid against the soil becoming waterlogged.
When it comes to designing your garden, a planter can also help add some new layers and colours to your outdoor space. Smaller planters can be attached to, or hung in baskets from, the exterior walls of your property. This gives your home a subtle but effective design accent, as well as offering a fresh way to incorporate new plants and flowers into your garden.
No matter how you choose to use a garden planter from Water Butts Direct, you can be sure that they will bring your garden to life in new and beautiful ways.
To see our full range of Garden Planters, click here and shop today for fast UK delivery.
The Dangers of a blocked gutter
A historic issue with the operation of guttering on a house is and has been the build-up of debris, moss and leaves in their gutters. The main cause of this has been the standard practise of roofing contractors or DIY people of fitting what is called a bell or balloon type strainer in the top of the downpipe to prevent debris, leaves, moss from going down the downpipe. This may be done with good intensions; however, the leaves and moss collect around the strainer and block it. This means someone must climb a ladder to clean it, with the inherent danger of falling off the ladder.
Dirt getting into your tanks and barrels leads to complications as it blocks up the flow of water leading to an inefficient and ineffective water harvesting system. This is where the Gutter Mate Diverter & Filter provides you with a simple yet effective solution. Find out more today...
What are rainwater harvesting systems?
There are 133 days of rain or snow per year on average in the UK, giving a total of 885 millimetres of annual precipitation. By collecting the rain that falls around a home, you can build up a reservoir of water ready to be used around the house, rather than relying on the mains supply. These rainwater harvesting systems work by using plastic rain butts to collect the water from the guttering pipes around your home, which can either be stored above or below ground.
Storing your water butt below ground helps to regulate the temperature, minimising the risk of evaporated water. Underground water butts also tend to have a filtration system in place, providing cleaner water for your home, which only needs to be checked about once a year. However, they are much more expensive to install, as there needs to be an excavation in order to make room to bury the system underground, and underground pipes will need to be fitted, which will drive up the cost, and disrupt your garden.
Storing your water butt above ground is much easier to maintain, and can be easily installed in your home as part of a DIY project. However, you run the risk of dealing with leaves or even flies falling into the water butt if the lid is not secured on. The heat during the summer months can also encourage evaporation, and potentially cause the water to turn smelly, or freeze over in the winter months. However if the collected water is used regularly, these problems can generally be avoided. At Water Butts Direct, we have a range of rainwater harvesting systems that can be either wall mounted, or free-standing. We also offer a range of designs, allowing you to turn your water into more of a feature piece for your garden.
How big should a rainwater harvesting system be?
Getting the right size rainwater harvesting system depends on what you’ll be using the water for, and how much you’ll realistically need. As a general rule of thumb, 5% of the available annual rainfall is a good starting point for the storage capacity. A water butt that holds between 1,500—2,000 litres will supply the water for toilets and washing machines of the average UK household, however you will need to keep in mind how much rainwater you’ll be collecting, and how often you’ll be using the water.
To work out how much water you can collect from your property, you need to determine how much water falls on your home. This is essentially the area of the roof on your property plan, which is similar to the size of the ground floor. You then need to find out the expected annual rainfall in your area, which you can check on the Met Office website. Simply calculate the available water by multiplying the average rainfall with the area of your roof. Bear in mind that only around 80% of this water will actually be collected, as much of the water will fall onto the ground, or may not be heavy enough to fall into the guttering in order to be collected. Some rainfall can even be lost to evaporation, as well as overflow (when there is too much water already in the water butt), which you should also take into consideration.
You should also consider incorporating a filtration system, which can remove any small contaminants such as dust, leaves, and other organic waste that may be swept into the water butt from your gutter, into your rainwater harvesting system. This makes it much easier to use directly around the house, and you won’t need to worry about removing this unwanted debris when you go to collect the water, or while it’s being pumped back into your house.
What can rainwater be used for around the house?
In the average household, around 30% of the water is used to flush toilets, which is considered wasteful due to the purification process that water undergoes before it hits a residential property. The average person can use up to 34.5 litres flushing their toilet every day, which can quickly mount up, especially in a household. Using a rainwater harvesting system to flush toilets can be massively beneficial for saving water, as well as saving money on your bills. If you’re going to use rainwater for this, ensure you have a water butt large enough to hold enough water to be economically worth it, and that the water is connected to your toilet for easy flushing.
You can also use rainwater to keep your garden and plants watered. This is particularly helpful during a heatwave, when the government may impose a hosepipe ban. The water collected in a rainwater harvesting system is free to use, and isn’t included as part of a hosepipe ban, so can be easily used to ensure your plants are kept healthy, and don’t dry out, without using treated water that is fit for human consumption. Rainwater can also be much healthier for gardening purposes, as it doesn’t contain the chemicals included in the treating of water. Simply connect your hose pipe directly to your water butt, or fill up your watering can, saving you money in water costs.
If you’ve connected your water butt to your household plumbing, you could use it to power your washing machine. Washing machines use around 50 litres of water per wash on an average cycle, which can be easily substituted for your free supply of rainwater. Rainwater is also useful when washing clothes, as it is naturally soft, eliminating the need for fabric conditioner. The soft water can also reduce the buildup of limescale, prolonging the life of your machine and reducing the risks of it working inefficiently. You simply need to add a filtration system to your rainwater harvest system, and have it connected to the plumbing for your washing machine, replacing the main water supply. Switching to rainwater for your washing machine can act as a significant saving to your water bill, as it is one of the main domestic uses of water that doesn’t actually require treating.
The soft rainwater can also be used for general cleaning surfaces around the house, such as windows and cars. This is because there are no added chemicals to the water, which tend to result in spots and streaks across the glass, provided they are scrubbed well enough. Simply collect and filter the rainwater, and use it to clean your windows and your car while cutting the amount of purified water used from your main water supply.
Explore our collection of water tanks for rainwater harvesting here.