Rainwater tanks are like solar batteries in the garage: able to bring you water when it’s not raining, now they’re getting smarter with Kingspan’s latest innovation called SensiT by measuring water consumption and flows.
A new domestic telemetry system for smart tank monitoring allowing homes and businesses to reconnect with nature. Nice one.
There’s an old Chinese proverb that says the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and the second-best time is now. A similar thing could be said about rainwater tanks.
While installation of tanks and rainwater re-use systems across the majority of urban homes in the late 1990s or earlier would have already lowered pressure on our urban water supplies and stormwater supplies substantially – we can start now and still reap the benefits.
Kingspan Water & Energy technical and sustainability manager Michael Smit says with large parts of the country currently in drought, increasing the number of tanks might seem counter-intuitive, but it is part of building resilience.
“The best time to put this kind of infrastructure in is the good years [of high rainfall],” he says.
Rainwater harvesting works as a complement to the utility-provided water system, as the best practice is to use rainwater first for non-potable uses such as toilet flushing, garden watering, laundry and showers.
In good years, that can amount to a significant saving on utility water bills. In drier years, it can result in less pressure on dam supplies.
The key message for urban water users is emptying the tank is actually a positive thing and the best way to use rainwater is often!
“The more water you use from your tank the more rainwater you can capture from the next rain event,” Smit says.
“Even in dry times it continues to rain much more than people realise and roofs collect rainwater when it is too dry to have runoff in the catchments.”
He notes that the current drought gripping greater Sydney has seen rain levels decline from the average of rain every three to five days to only two rain events in May 2019 that delivered 11mm and 4.4mm.
However, for a home with a 100 square metre roof catchment this is about 1400 litres of rainwater, more than 200 full toilet flushes or nearly 20 baths.
Track the rainwater in your tank with the new Kingspan Water & Energy SensiT sensor and app
One of the keys to being able to use rainwater most effectively is knowing how much is in the tank, and when, where and how much is being used. The old-school way of checking levels literally involved knocking on the side of the tank to hear where the water is up to.
But Kingspan has a smarter solution that can tell you how your tank is performing – the SensiT sensor and app.
You can keep track of consumption from wherever you happen to be.
It tracks rain event inflows, rainwater usage and storage volumes in the rainwater tank and puts all the data online so it can be accessed from your devices wherever you happen to be.
In addition to being able to make decisions about how much water to use and respond to weather patterns such as rainfall by
emptying the tank more quickly, it also lets you see the pattern of water usage for toilets, laundry and hot water.
“If there is a problem with your pump or bypass the SensiT will let you know in almost real time,” Smit says.
“And in the future the SensiT system can not only alert you about your system but also help you access the Kingspan service team to check your system, maintain equipment and replace elements.”
In addition to reducing potable supply use, rainwater tanks can also reduce the burden on storm water systems during high rainfall events by reducing flows going offsite.
Kingspan’s made to measure tanks with a SensiT app will give the homeowner not only a quality tank but a tank that home owners can use to understand their rainfall more effectively. We’re connecting people to rainwater.
“Rainwater harvesting is the most accessible source of clean urban water in the world, but we have lost contact with the natural systems like rainfall that can support our homes and businesses”
There’s also the resource use perspective. As Smit explains, roofs are a non-trafficable area, so the level of contaminants is low and the captured water needs little treatment except filtration for non-potable use. They are also a space that often has little function other than keeping the weather out, so turning them into a water-harvesting asset makes sense.
“Rainwater harvesting is the most accessible source of clean urban water in the world, but we have lost contact with the natural systems like rainfall that provide water and the pattern of water usage in our homes and businesses,” Smit says.
“SensiT reconnects us to our rainwater and our tanks so we can understand and utilise local water to meet local water needs.”
NSW is leading the nation on rainwater tanks – thank you BASIX
Currently, New South Wales has overtaken South Australia as the state with the highest rate water savings from rainwater tank installations. Smit says the BASIX program encourages water efficiency, and this results in almost 90 per cent of new homes installing a tank to meet the BASIX water efficiency targets.
Nation-wide uptake makes sense and would be an important strategy for long term water supply resilience in drought-prone areas.
“Australians are beautifully adapted to using rainwater tanks. Our housing styles, our roofing materials and even our backyards traditionally work well with rainwater harvesting,” Smit says.
“Rainwater tanks are a distributed supply solution, if you think a roof collects water like solar panels collects electricity, then rainwater tanks are like batteries providing water when it is not raining. This is a paradigm shift from current water services.”
“Rainwater harvesting is a major policy issue in the 21st Century.”
Kingspan has a range of tools and calculators available from their website to help measure rainfall and also design a tank.