Shower water or not?
I should have written here a few days earlier. I am actually putting the tank in an underground "room" that my father-in-law and I are building, because there is no "downhill" from our house. The tank will drain into a barrel and get pumped up from there. I'm planning to run the shower water in separate pipe straight to the barrel. The kitchen sink, dishwasher, and clothes washer however I plan to run in to the worm tank (we don't use chlorine bleaches or anything drastic for washing other than soap and sodium percarbonate). Does this sound fine?
And for the mesh at the bottom, would the fiberglass reinforcement mesh used when plastering work? It has 5mm holes and we've got plenty of it. I don't know where I'd find suitable plastic mesh otherwise.
Do you plan to pump the water from the barrel for irrigation? Of so, have you checked out Art Ludwig's "Laundry to landscape" designs? It's generally better to do something like this than to take grey water - especially laundry water - through the worm tank. The worms can handle grey water, for sure, but if you can take it direct to the landscape, you're cutting out an unnecessary step in the process. And it means you will be pumping less and hence saving on energy.
The fibreglass matting should be OK. Just so long as it's not metal which will rust.
I'm sure you've already got this planned out, but please make sure the pump and the worm tank are easily accessible for maintenance. And please send us photos and a write-up of your installation for the Projects section of the site!
I haven't seen that site, though at one point I was thinking of doing that. We don't have though really landscaping right close to the house, except the tiny front yard. The way houses are built here mostly, is that they are long and narrow and one long wall runs against the property line. The other side, we have some grape vines, but I would say that down here, it is certainly always wet 2 meters below ground, so they have roots reaching there. It might be an interesting option for warm months though-- the washing machine is against the wall to the garage, so running a pipe though that wall would take all of 5 minutes with the SDS drill.
Otherwise, my plan for the water is to pump it up to our field (most of our land is uphill from us!) where I have some swales and along the first planted black locusts, and that way the constant water will encourage them to grow. It is actually quite a distance-- 400 meters, but I need to run a water line up there for livestock anyway, so the cost of more LDPE tubing is not much compared to the time cost of making the trench, first hundred meters on the slope, I paid the person with the excavator to dig the pipe trench, the remaining 300 meters I'll be digging with the rotary plow-- there being more of a time cost. Since the tubing comes in 100m coils, there will be a T-fitting where each coil joins to allow the possibility of diverting the waste water to other trees or plantings along the way.
Even though Slovakia has some of the highest energy prices in the EU-- thanks in part to the governments need to subsidize coal mining through a tax on the electricity-- the cost of pumping water is relatively cheap. The pump that is coming uses 750W of electricity and should pump at a rate of ~20 l / minute for the given pressure and height conditions I'll have => which means 1600 liters of water per kilowatt hour of electricity. Anyway, I hope to soon be taking a trip to Germany and pick up some of the cheap used photovoltaic panels there-- 8,50eur / piece.
Right now we're putting walls on that pad. It will be 1.1m X 2.4m floor area X 1.25m height, and with an access hole to get down to the area the pump is at, as well as another situated above the IBC container to directly drop in the wood chips. I just ordered the California worms-- really fortunate coincidence was some friends visiting last week from west Slovakia, and when I showed him your site, he remembered that his relative-in-law breeds and sells these worms! 🙂
I'm taking photos of all the different steps, so when I get it done, I'll make a write up.
I added some new photos to the Google album. The worms I ordered last week couldn't be shipped because every day has been terribly hot. Right now the drain pipe bypasses the IBC container and goes straight to the barrel, it is just water from the kitchen sink for now. The first 100m of pipe are in the trench, and it took the pump about 3 minutes to pump ~120 liters of water 25 meters up the hill.
Monday I'm pushing to go chip enough brush to have woodchips to fill the IBC container, and then get the toilet installed as well, and everything waiting for the worms, who should be sent on Monday. There is a lot of work inside as well, especially as my wife decided that she wants us to do the tiling of the bathroom ourselves. She trusts us following youtube more than many of the people who would install tiles here, as often they aren't done even or else huge gaps in corners are left with an inch or two of grout to fill the gap.
Worms arrived today. I just put half of them in. It is pretty steep prices for the California worms here-- 21 Euro for 200 grams of worms ~500-600 individuals. There is a bit of compost from the garden, some kitchen scraps, and of course what the toilet now delivers on top of the wood chips. I am just apprehensive to drop the other half of the worms in, until I see the first group got along fine over night.
Photos of course in the above album.
We also had some set-back, in that on Sunday it rained really hard, and the as-yet unfilled trenches for pipes directed a ton of water down to the concrete structure and through the not-yet filled in hole in the wall for pipes. But now another week without rain, so more time to get everything finished up and covered.
Just an update-- overall its working, but I had problems with pumps before finally finding a good submersible one that can handle 5mm particles, whereas on others the filter screen would clog up from what I believe were worm castings as well as immature worms. Because the cover didn't get made last winter, and there was just an OSB board with a tarp over it, I believe winter temperatures slowed down worm activity and lead to a backlog of particularly toilet paper, which I'm still dealing with, and need to be a bit more active in checking on the worms and the system. Things were looking OK two weeks ago, and now I've found that it is again draining far too slowly.
I would say, if someone is doing this in a new renovation, not only to not put shower water through the system, but also to divert all other water. The kitchen and bathroom sinks as well as dishwasher go through the worms, partly because of my thought to add to the kitchen sink in the future a "digestor"/"disposal" -- the thing that grinds up food particles, so seemed like a good idea. Now I regret not setting the pipes up with a way to choose where that water goes, as that constant extra water is definitely reducing the efficiency of the system.
I'm faced now with the dilemma of cutting a hole in the concrete floor of my garage, under which the pipes go, or running a pipe out through the back wall of the house and around to deal with the sinks. Neither is an easy option.
At least I got the concrete covers for the "bunker" made and installed, including polystyrene foam insulation, so the temperatures in there should be better this winter.