Tap into your air conditioner for free water

Concerns about water conservation have increased interest in both cisterns and rain barrels.

These devices both do an excellent job of collecting rain water from the gutters on any roof. People use the rain water for watering plants or their landscaping or even washing the car.

However, not every house has gutters, which are required to use these devices. Some people also don’t want to spend the time and money to collect rainwater.

Almost every house in the Keys does have central air conditioning, and it can be a great source of water at no additional cost. And it doesn’t even have to rain to get this wet stuff.

The pipe that drains the water that condenses from any air conditioner generally runs on to the ground through a drain pipe. Most homeowners, particularly those who live in homes on stilts, can gain easy access to this PVC pipe and, with a minor modification, drain the water into a trash barrel.

Does it work? People who use this method get about 5 gallons of water a day, and a 35-gallon trash barrel will fill in a week. The water can be used for washing the car or other similar tasks. Because it is essentially distilled water, it doesn’t have the minerals needed for landscaping or house plants but will work in a pinch.

The first step in the process is to cut the PVC pipe with a pair of cutters designed for that purpose at the level of the trash barrel. The pipe clips off very easily and quickly. Then purchase some small elbows made of PVC from the local hardware store. They attach to the existing drainpipe quickly and easily and are positioned over the trash barrel. That’s all there is to it.

The one concern about collecting any kind of water, whether it’s from rain or the air conditioner, is mosquitoes. They breed rapidly in any standing water. An excellent solution is to purchase mosquito dunks like those pictured. They are similar to the pellets put in standing water by Mosquito Control in the Keys and prevent mosquito larvae from developing into airborne kind.

Another solution that will help is to place fine mesh netting over the barrel and let the water drip through it. It’s probably best to use both techniques.