Whether you'd like to be well-prepared for an extended power outage after a natural disaster or simply want to reduce your family's dependence on public utilities, you may be looking into self-sustaining water and energy options. Fortunately, advances in technology now provide you with more ways than ever before to generate your own electricity and collect and purify your own water. Not only can you reduce your energy bills significantly, you can avoid adding further strain to an already overloaded planet. Read on to learn more about your best "off the grid" water supply and purification systems.
Water collection systems
If your home already has an asphalt roof, good news -- you'll have to make only minimal modifications to install a state-of-the-art water collection system. Although you might assume that a flat slate or steel roof would be ideal for rainwater collection, these roofs can actually harbor significant buildup of harmful bacteria or toxic car exhaust or burning matter particulates. When rainwater passes over these surfaces, it takes on these toxins and must be extensively purified before it is deemed safe for home usage.
Asphalt shingles, on the other hand, don't end up with these harmful particulate buildups. They can also help filter out certain toxins and heavy metals from the rainfall itself. If you install a rainwater collection system on your asphalt roof, you'll have to perform only minimal purification of the water that is pumped into your house.
Water purification systems
Unless you live miles from civilization, it's likely that the water you've collected comes with a number of environmental impurities. Fortunately, filtering out these impurities can be relatively simple and low cost. There are a number of filters and water softeners that can help filter and purify your home's water. If the majority of your home's water supply is coming from rainwater or another outdoor collection system, it's unlikely you'll need anything more extensive than a small filter that takes out particulates and bacteria. However, if you have well water, you'll likely also want to invest in a whole-house water softener, as well water often naturally contains high levels of calcium, sulfur, and magnesium.
If you'd like a constant supply of ultra-pure water, you may want to invest in a distillation system. However, because distillation can take time, this system often isn't equipped for the water needs of a large household, and you may not be interested in distilling fairly pure rainwater just to wash your clothes or flush your toilets.
There are a number of water heaters available that not only don't take up as much indoor space as a traditional water heater, but are self-sustaining -- running independently of any power supply. Solar hot water heaters are often your best option for a completely independent water heating experience.
Solar water heaters come in two primary types -- active and passive. Passive solar water heaters are the least expensive to operate, but may not work as well if you live in a shady or cool environment. These water heaters often sit on top of your home (convenient if you have a rooftop water collection system) and are warmed by the sun's rays. Some passive solar water heaters are "hybrids" and also have a solar panel attached to them that helps provide additional heating energy (or stores up energy for shady days).
Active solar water heaters depend on a solar panel to provide the energy to generate heated water. Most active solar water heaters are tankless, as these heaters use much less energy by supplying water on demand rather than having a constant full tank of heated water. These solar panels are able to store solar energy in their cells and generally have an electricity backup, ensuring that you never go without hot water.
For more information on the type that will be best for your area, contact a water heater service.