This is the story about my latest DIY project …… a rain barrel.
I spent a lot of time online looking at all kind of different options. From complete ready to install systems from the home improvement or specialized garden stores, most of them ugly – to used barrels, you never know what you get – to plain food grade barrels that still needed a spigot and overflow fittings – and everything in between.
I finally came across a website that sparked my interest. Veteran Compost is a business owned, managed and staffed by veterans and veteran family members. Their main product, as the name says, is compost. But they also build and sell rain barrels, that are available in original blue ($70), or painted ($150). I was very close to ordering one of their painted designs, but I did one more “google” search for individually designed rain barrel images. I found an easy method to design my own barrel. So I placed an order with Veteran Compost for a blue barrel. The transformation and installation of the barrel can be seen here:
Remember Mary and Greg, the super-smart couple who saved a bunch of money with the Riversmart program? We got back with them to talk about the solar panels on their roof and learn about another program they took advantage of – the DC renewable energy grant program. This program provides rebates to applicants to offset the cost of installing solar (or other renewable) energy systems. The program is what iniatially motivated Mary and Greg to investigate going solar. Greg told us that they “applied the DC grant funds to a one-time lease payment which is much cheaper than buying a system. The installer guarantees a minimum production level and is responsible for all maintenance/repairs.” According to the program’s web page:
Solar Thermal incentives are based on a flat rate percentage of installed system cost:
Solar Thermal (water heating) system 20% of total installed cost up to $5,000
Solar Thermal (space heating) system 20% of total installed cost up to $2,000
Solar Thermal (combination) system 20% of total installed cost up to $5,000
Rebates for solar thermal systems are capped at a maximum of $5,000 for residential and $7,000 for nonresidential. Only one REIP rebate may be requested per unique installation address, per program year.
Photovoltaic incentives are based on the combined system rating in kilowatts of Direct Current (DC) output:
$1.50 for each of the first 3,000 installed watts of capacity
$1.00 for each of the next 7,000 installed watts of capacity
$0.50 for each of the next 10,000 installed watts of capacity
Rebates for all systems are capped at a maximum of $16,500 (at 20 kilowatts capacity or greater) for each applicant site per program year.
So, does it pay off? Greg tell us “We’re saving about 25% on our electric bill after our solar installation!” Be warned, it is a long process – it took Mary and Greg about 18 months to complete. The photo above shows their south-facing roof with the solar panels. Unfortunately, their roof structure didn’t meet the installer’s standard so they had to reduce the system they wanted significantly. But in the end, they told us they are glad they did it. Great job Mary and Greg!
Joe wrote a very informative article a while back about the Riversmart program. We thought we would follow-up with a real-world example of the program at work. Meet Mary and Greg, a Brookland couple that really took advantage of the program, getting a new raingarden, a rain barrel and six trees! The photos above show their raingarden back then and now, it has really flourished. Not only does the raingarden collect, store, and absorb stormwater runoff in its soil, it is much easier to maintain than regular gardens. Just think – no mowing, pesticides, pruning, or fertilization! Raingardens also require minimal watering by their very nature, therefore cost less to maintain. Mary and Greg applied online here in March 2010. By June, a program manager came out and toured their yard with them. The rain barrel was installed that same month and the trees and rain garden were completed in October 2010. Greg told us that “the co-pays are modest so it’s a great deal”. Here is the breakdown of co-payments, they really do offer significant savings:
Shade Trees = $50
Rain Barrels = $30
BayScaping (native plants) = $100
Rain Gardens = $75
Pervious Pavers = DDOE will pay the difference (up to $1,200) between conventional pavement (concrete) and pervious pavers.
Greg added, “the program partners, Casey Trees and Greenworks, were staffed with young, friendly, motivated employees. Overall, we’re very happy with the experience and always encourage our friends and neighbors to investigate it.” Way to go Mary and Greg!
Here are some photos from Brookland’s Farmers Market yesterday. The produce is supplied by Licking Creek Bend Farm, a sustainable farm located in Pennsylvania. What a selection! In addition to the amazing produce, there were others vendors selling breads, home-made granola, pastries and more. I encourage Brooklanders to come out and support our farmers market! The market sets up every Tuesday from 4:00m – 7:00pm under the Michigan St. Bridge north of the Brookland Metro.
For me, one of the biggest joys of living in Brookland is admiring the gorgeous mature trees throughout the neighborhood. We are also fortunate to have Casey Trees headquartered right here in Brookland. If you are interested in learning ways to protect our existing trees and advocate for better care and planning for newly planted trees, check out this free course offered by Casey Trees. Here is the description:
“Take action and advocate for trees in your community. You will learn what tools are available through the District’s municipal services, then hear success stories and receive advice from community members who have on the ground experience in effectively increasing tree canopy in their neighborhoods. Participants will learn about issues related to urban trees including power line conflicts and the Urban Forestry Administration Reorganization Act.
The course is offered this Saturday, August 25, 2012 from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM at the Casey Trees Headquarters, 3030 12th St NE , Washington, DC 20017. Attendees will be provided breakfast and lunch to boot! Sign up here.
Did you know that stormwater runoff is a huge problem in Washington DC? Billions of gallons of water a year rush into our sewers carrying all manner of trash, motor oil, grease, pet waste, plastics, and other pollutants, much of which ultimately end up untreated in our local rivers, watersheds, and the Chesapeake Bay. Brookland’s hilly streets and sloped lots surely contribute greatly to a problem exacerbated by the fact that much of DC is simply paved over and the water has nowhere to go and no way to soak back to natural aquifers.
While new properties built in DC are required to manage stormwater runoff, the city has a huge number of properties that were built prior to runoff becoming a concern. It’s therefore up to homeowners to help make a difference.
I just had a free audit done by the DC Department of the Environment’s RiverSmart Program, DC’s way of combating the environmental problems caused by runoff. A landscape designer visits your property and evaluates various ways of reducing runoff by keeping the water on your property and putting it to more productive uses. Their major strategies include:
Rain barrels. The amount of water that falls on the average roof in DC in a year could potentially be captured and used to water the average lawn 45 times. That’s how much water is being wasted out of our roof gutters. Riversmart helps you install rain barrels that capture water from your downspouts. When you’re ready to water your lawn or garden, you attach a hose to the rain barrel and use the water you’ve saved up. Not only does this help the watershed, but you also save money on your water bill!
Permeable pavers. A lot of water runs off your property simply because it has nowhere to go. In fact, 65% of the entire District of Columbia is impermeable concrete and asphalt that totally repels water. Permeable pavers allow water to run through them and soak naturally into the ground. They can be used for patios, driveways, or wherever you use hardscaping.
Shade Trees. Large shade trees don’t just provide valuable shade. They also have large root systems that hold soil in place, allow water to permeate, and drink up water quickly. Same goes for large deep-rooted shrubs.
Rain Garden. Our neighbor Casey Trees has a showcase example of a rain garden. It is a part of your land strategically chosen and modified to collect water from other parts of your property, including from gutters. You place plants (preferably native ones) that can tolerate very wet conditions in the garden, and then let them enjoy the extra water whenever you have a rainstorm.
Bayscaping. Used by itself or in conjunction with rain gardens, bayscaping simply means using plants that were abundant here in the Chesapeake Bay watershed prior to intervention by humans. These plants are the best suited for soaking up water and withstanding the extremes of climate we can have here. A side benefit is the restoration of natural habitats for native animal species.
RiverSmart partners with local contractors to help you install any or all of these strategies. They provide rebates and assistance of up to $1200.
For me, rain barrels are definitely on the list, and I have always been committed to using native plants whenever possible. My property already captures a lot of water naturally in a part of the garden with several large trees and growing shrubs, making some of the other approaches less practical or needed.
So come on, Brookland! Make your home a RiverSmart home. It’s easy! Just call DDOE at 202-535-2252 or fill out their online application to schedule an audit and get the ball rolling. The program is quite popular, so you can expect some weeks or months of delay before they get someone out to see you, but the environment will thank you!
All about Washington DC's Greater Brookland neighborhood