The recipe for water and what to serve it with

Ok, so maybe it’s not really “making” water per se, but it’s a similar process I suppose. I guarantee that you are probably producing it right now at home without even realizing. This immaculate, mystical water creation i’m suggesting is the water that is accumulated from the condensation in your HVAC unit.

Regardless of your living situation, apartment or home, there is water that is accumulating and evaporating or running off somewhere due to the comfortable 72˚ your place is now. Now I’m not claiming that there is precious drinkable water running off into a sewer line, but there IS water that is excellent for your plants (specifically the ones not producing something edible, though I’m not convinced that it would be completely bad for those either).

At my house in South Texas, the HVAC unit produces almost 5 gallons of water from condensation in the summer months. That is a substantial amount of water. Because my condensation drain pipe comes out close to the foundation of my house, my wife and I began propping a 5-gallon Lowe’s bucket under it to collect the condensate. With that water, we could water most all of our patio plants as frequently as we chose. When our plants didn’t need the water, we poured the bucket on grass that needed it, or used it to refill our rainwater barrels during the god-awful drought that we have been experiencing.

Lugging a 5-gallon bucket filled to the brim with water everyday is a bit of a pain in the a$$, so we decided that we had to come up with a new plan for effectively using this free “made” water. This plan came together quickly and CHEAPLY when my wife decided that she wanted to add some plants to the once barren flower bed we had on the backside of the house.

Its simple really, why don’t we just have that A/C condensation just run off on to the new plants so we don’t have to remember to water them.

Water: The recipe

1. Appropriate length of 1/2″ pvc pipe (no need for schedule 40. Just the cheap stuff.)
2. Various 1/2″ PVC connectors: Couplers, elbows, end caps, hose fitting
3. Shut-off valve (optional)
4. Rubber o-rings or sealant
5. PVC cement
6. Plastic drain pan/tub
7. Shim material (wood or other)
8. Drill and bits for drilling holes in the PVC and in the drain tub

IMPORTANT FIRST WORD: Mock this rig up with your PVC pipes and fitting before using ANY cement. As I have learned the hard way too many times, once the PVC cement sets, there is no more adjusting, just frustrating cutting. Build it like Lego with no cement first. Trust me…

Though you can use a simple plastic drain pan/tub like you would have beneath your hot water heater, I chose to reuse the afore mentioned 5-gallon Lowes bucket (Since we are trying to be all conservation-y). I cut it off about 5″-6″ from the bottom to serve as my drain pan. After leveling the ground below it, I stacked a few bricks to set the pan on. This height is important because it provides the gravity necessary to push the water through the PVC drip pipe.

My drain tub has 2 main holes drilled into it (the above picture shows 3 but thats because I screwed up the placement of my run-off opening the first time). One hole is in the center of tub. this is the opening that will feed the water to the PVC. I drilled the whole large enough to screw in the threaded elbow (below).

I then drilled a small hole into a threaded PVC end cap. The small hole is important because it limits the amount of water that can seep into the pipe so that there is a slow trickle. With an o-ring or some sealant to prevent leaking where the elbow is threaded through the bottom of the tub, screw the end cap onto the elbow. Additionally, if you want a hole for run-off in the event that you need to divert the collected water away from the plants, drill another hole in the sidewall of the tub that is ABOVE the top of the water inlet that you just created (pictured below on the right side). On mine, I added a threaded PVC collar with a hose fitting so that I could divert the run-off away from my foundation. If pushing the excess away from something isn’t critical, then just leave a hole in the side of the tub and the water will simply run out the side of the tub on to the ground. The thing you should consider in allowing the excess to drain out to the ground is that at some point, it will begin to erode the soil and cause your stand/bricks to shift, making your drain tub unleveled.

Another reason for the run-off hole is due to my addition of a shut-off valve in my PVC feed pipes (below). My plants don’t need 5 gallons everyday. With the run-off hole and attached garden hose, I can close the valve and run the water off to different parts of the yard.

Finally, the actual plant watering….

Once you’ve measured the length of the flower bed (or whatever you want want to water), trim or add to your 1/2″ PVC accordingly. Using a maximum of a 1/4″ drill bit, drill a line of holes in your PVC pipe(s) to allow the water to drain out of. IMPORTANT: Drill the minimum amount of holes required to effectively water what is needed. Especially in long spans, the water won’t run all the way to your furthest outlets if you have too many holes (unless your drain tub is much higher than mine, in which case you’ve got better gravity action). You want your length of drip pipe to have smooth, slow grade down hill to the end. It is a good idea to use some wood blocks, bricks, or whatever you can find to use as shims to help you accomplish your pipes grade down. The shims are pretty important since the 1/2″ PVC is very flimsy. If the pipe sags in spots, it will inhibit the water from traveling all the way to the end of the drip pipe(s).

With the holes you just drilled facing the ground, glue your pipe to the elbow beneath your drain tub (or to the valve if you added one). Add additional drip pipe with couplers as needed and cement an end cap to the farthest end of your PVC drip pipe and presto change-0, you have a cheap, low maintenance way to water your plants.

The materials used for this project cost under $20. You can get everything you need for it at Home Depot or Lowes.