I’m always looking for ways to use water wisely–it’s the right thing to do for the environment and it saves money–so today I want to share with you a water-saving/reusing tip that I’ve never seen anyone else try, but which has worked out really well for me. It isn’t something for every household, but maybe it will get you thinking and you’ll come up with a similar idea for your own situation.
Our house is heated through a hot water heating system–we don’t have ducts, we have radiators in each room that circulate hot water through them. This works great in winter–a nice even heat and no air blowing around to disturb and redistribute the dust bunnies–but you can’t install a conventional air conditioning system in a house that doesn’t have ductwork. To get air conditioning our options were to tear up the house and install ducts (umm, no) or to install what’s called a ductless split air conditioner. Essentially, it provides air conditioning to one point in the house instead of running it through ducts all over the house. Our house is small so this system works just fine for us.
The day the technicians were installing it they asked me where I wanted the house to drain. “There’s a hose?” Well yes, in the process of cooling the air conditioner has to get rid of the water that forms through condensation. There’s a hose on the unit and water flows out of it when the air conditioner runs. “Where do you want it to drain lady?”
Inspiration flashed and I said right here, right where I’m going to install a hanging planter on the side of the house.
The technicians did as I asked and ran the hose out of the air conditioner and then tacked it in place, half way down the wall. I had a planter basket installed right below it and voila–a self-watering planter!
And not only does it self-water, it provides the right amount of water for the weather conditions. The hotter it is outside, the more the air conditioner runs. The more the air conditioner runs, the more water comes out and waters my planter. When the weather is cool the air conditioner doesn’t run as much, and my plants get less water. Just the way they like it.
The unit went in eight years ago, and has been working like a charm ever since.
Over the years, I’ve tried different combinations of plants, to figure out which ones work best. Because the soil stays quite damp, plants that like to dry out a bit in order to flower (i.e. geraniums) aren’t a great choice. Bidens and petunias, however, have loved these conditions.
Update (January 2021):
I was asked to contribute a unique tip to an article on “Creating a Green Home” so I shared this idea of saving this water that would otherwise be wasted. You can read the full article, which includes lots of tips for more eco-friendly living, both inside and outside your home, here.
When it’s really hot outside there is more water than the planters can absorb, and it drains out the bottom of the planters. Not wanting to waste any of my free water, I placed two metal watering cans beneath the planter.
Depending on how much the air conditioner is running, this can generate another full can or so of water each day. Which I then use to water some of my other pots of plants.
Another trick I use, not for saving water but for saving the lives of small rodents, is to put a stick in any container of water I leave out. That way, if a mouse, squirrel or other critter climbs in for a drink (or falls in while trying to get a drink) he has a way out. I remember my grandmother didn’t employ this system when I was younger, and she had a rain barrel, and well…I always leave a stick in any container of water I leave sitting out without a tight-fitting lid. The bigger the container the bigger the stick (i.e. if I have to leave the cover off of a rain barrel for some reason I make sure to leave in a big enough stick to support a hefty racoon).
Hopefully I distracted you enough with those two tricks for saving water and my tip for saving small lives that you didn’t notice all of the weeds in my driveway. No, eh? Sometimes they do get ahead of me; I’m off to deal with them now, using the techniques I shared in my previous post!