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Put Air Conditioner Drain Water to Use

As California's drought continues, water becomes ever more precious. This summer let's dual-purpose our AC units. We can still run them to keep our homes cool. Let's also capture what would otherwise go down the drain to water our yards and gardens.

by Cameron Tinsler on January 24th, 2015, 9:02 am PST. This Ivia has been viewed 2,635 times.

The San Francisco Bay Area is about to finish its third dry January in a row. How dry? January usually brings over four inches of rain to San Francisco. This year there's been none.  

As spring arrives and area temperatures climb, many of us will be reaching for the thermostat to cool off.  Did you know a home's central AC can collect five to 20 gallons of condensate water per day?  This adds up to more than 300 gallons per month in the summer.

Redirecting this water from drains to thirsty gardens has several benefits.  Water--that the homeowner is paying to pull out of the air--is put to use rather than wasted. That's five to 20 gallons per day you don't have to buy from the utility.  And in times of water restrictions your garden can still be a lush oasis.

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About the Author

Cameron Tinsler
Novato, California, United States

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Cameron Tinsler 2 years ago

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Reed W. Solomon 2 years ago

This California drought has been such a big story- do other states/developed countries have similar problems or is this unique? 

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Cameron Tinsler 2 years ago

Florida is going through a drought, too.

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Cameron Tinsler 2 years ago

By the way, while the condensate water is technically distilled water, AC units are not built to make it safe for human consumption.  So don't drink it or cook with it.  More information is available here:  http://www.allianceforwaterefficiency.org/Condensate_Water_Introduction.aspx 

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Zachary Adam Zell 2 years ago

So I see no reason why this sort of thing cannot become essentially clean drinking water. I mean recently they have further improved the filtration of sewage water into safe drinking water. Example - Janicki Omniprocessor: http://youtu.be/bVzppWSIFU0

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Cameron Tinsler 2 years ago

The AC manufacturers didn't intend to make distilled water for drinking, so condensate may contain heavy metals or other nastiness.  And if the homeowner hasn't kept it clean, the drain pipe can get moldy.  But yes, with proper filtration the water could be safe for human consumption.

Slightly different topic, the amount of water industrial scale AC units generate (think big box stores, supermarkets, high rises) could probably fill many Olympic swimming pools each day.  As water becomes a more precious commodity, I think we'll see this water captured and put to use.

Edited 2 years ago

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Zachary Adam Zell 2 years ago

I would say this ivia is becoming even more relevant today. Where's your source for the ac water output big box stores. Some info like this would make a great update to this ivia. 

Edited 2 years ago

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Zachary Adam Zell 2 years ago

In fact if we could do a really rough estimate of the amount of industrial big box stores ac units being used we could sumize the info into an interesting stat. Ex - how many Olympic pools of ac water is produced every day  by these type of business.

Edited 2 years ago