I am going to do a few posts on waste disposal in a tiny house. Waste disposal isn't something someone thinks about unless it's not working or they don't have it. and you would think that your water that you use in your sink or your shower is mostly fine right?
This water is called grey water and will actually rot and grow bacteria
if left contained and untreated very long, sometimes as quickly as 24
hours. If left untreated and applied directly to plants in high
concentrations certain chemicals and organisms will kill plants. If
sprayed to cover a large area the aerosol bacteria produced can make you
sick. Also if it is drained too readily into the soil it can affect its
water bearing properties and kill your plants that way too.
seems like a big problem right? Well at least it's not as bad as
blackwater, which I will cover in another post. There are a few ways
that you can treat greywater so that it can safely be used directly in
food bearing gardens. however several of them are expensive and are
really meant for large scale processing such as ultrafiltration, reverse
osmosis, and distillation. The only one that I have thought of a
sustainable solution for is distillation. This is the process of boiling
water and condensing the steam to capture the water. The best part
about steam is that steam can generate pressure, pressure can turn a
turbine, turbines can create electricity, and electricity can be stored
to power your home! are you as excited as I am about this? Probably not
I'm pretty stoked.
I chose a parabolic trough because
it is easy to build and move, super effective, and you only have to
adjust it with the changes in the seasons, not hourly like with a
parabolic spot mirror or fresnel lens. Just set it east-west, angle it
toward the sun, and add greywater.
Anyways, the system
is simple, concentrate the sun onto a container tube holding the
greywater with one end coming from the feeder tank and and the other
leading to the cooling coils. The idea is to use gravity to control the
level of the water and make sure none gets into the cooling coils, which
shouldn't be a problem if you are building this correctly.
Another benefit is that you don't have an on or off switch as soon as
the sun hits the parabola it will start boiling the water in the pipe no
need for you to forget to turn anything on or adjust anything for a few
months. It will run until there is no more water in the tank or the sun
goes down, whichever comes first.
basically you start
with a tank, it shouldn't be large to discourage wastful water habits
and save space, but large enough to take a shower. I like RV graywater
tanks because they mount right to the bottom of the trailer, how nice is
that? No space to take up. If they dont already have one, you want to
install a 3/4" male thread to the tank so you can run a hose to your
distiller or to a treatment center if you choose to empty your tank that
way, it gives you options.
The next component is the
most important one, the parabolic trough mirror. This probably takes up
the most space because it cant really be folded for travel. Basically
you want a parabolic U. The idea is to concentrate all the rays you can
onto one bar, the smaller you can concentrate it the better. next you
need to make this U reflective, you can use various methods from
polished aluminum flashing [that you probably have left over from
building your tiny house anyways, a plastic flexible mirror, reflective
spray paint, cd's, hard drive platters, crushed mirrors [although I
heard alot of people have bad luck with that one :D ] anything
reflective works, the more reflective, the better it works. If you want
to polish your aluminum flashing just take a pad of the finest steel
wool you can find and start rubbing in a circular pattern, keep rubbing
until you can see your face. thats it, just lots of elbow grease. If you
want to speed the process along you can use brasso or some other
polishing agent and a buffer but where is the fun in that? Just make
sure you don't scratch the surface you are polishing. attach it to your
parabola with some tack nails or screws or even better, a bonding agent.
Dents and ripples screw up a parabola and make it harder to boil water
but its your choice.
After you get the parabola set up
and the reflective material applied find the "point" if your reflection.
Take a board and hold it over the parabola while it's pointed at the
sun, move the board forwards or backwards until you find the point where
the line is the most concentrated, if you built it right that line
should be 1/2" to 1". Mark the height of the line and drill holes to
insert your boiler pipe.
On the other end [outside the
parabola by at least a foot to make sure you dont accidently overheat
your solder joints you want to make a 90* elbow and put a section of
straight pipe at least 1 foot HIGHER than the highest point on your
greywater tank. This will make sure no undistilled water gets into the
coiling coils and contaminates your result. So the higher the pipe is
At the top of this pipe you want a U and
attach it to your cooling coil. All a cooling coil is is 50 feet or so
of flexible copper tubing, shaded from the heat, you can do shorter
cooling coil if it is submerged in water. Water acts as a great cooling
The end result is distilled water. Take a
sample of your water once you get your system running and send it to a
lab for testing, if they give you the all clear and rate it as potable,
you can even drink the stuff! Or just use it for a shower, or whatever
else you need water for.
NOTE: Distilled water tastes
flat compared to tap water, this is because almost all of the minerals
in tap water have been stripped in the distillation process.
ANOTHER NOTE: You can also use a similar setup to this to distill ethanol that you can run in many gasoline engines.
NOTE? : The size of your parabola would depend on your climate,
greywater usage, and the amount of sun you get. the general rule is
"bigger is better" but when you live in a tiny house you can only do so
much right? I mean, where are you going to store it when you move? I
don't use alot of water so my system can be quite small [maybe 3'x5']
but I have seen some systems that were 40 feet long and 10 feet wide,
your usage will be somewhere between those extremes, as for the pipe,
don't go smaller than your beam of light, so around 1" for the boiler,
the coil can be any size over 1/4"
FOURTH NOTE! I
accept no responsibility if you blow your self up doing this. check your
system on a regular basis to make sure everything is working, steam can
raise to an immense pressure of restricted, and 900* steam blowing up
on you is not a good day. so yea, be careful.